"Don't Miss," He Said Ch. 02byKyoketsu_Shoge©
This is the second chapter of the romance and intrigue that is "Don't Miss," he said. Check back for more chapters, and please vote and comment. Any and all constructive criticisms are welcome. So, once again, I'll turn it over to your humble narrator, Alphonse. Take it away...Al.
I wish that I could tell you that we regained normalcy at Creekmount after that day, after the senseless killing. I wish I could tell you that our classmates were alive, and that I woke up in a cold sweat, finding the whole matter to have been a nightmare.
A deeper pang still, is that, if it were a dream, I would have to cope with the catharsis of having the dead back...but losing Elena.
Elena and I stood together on yet another chilly winter morning, the second of February. It was a day I still remember; because it was the day they buried Catherine. The remaining classmates were in attendance, as well as Catherine's family, Elena and I, and my brother. As the priest said the final rites, I watched my brother walk away solemnly. He crested a hill about fifty yards out, and, as we all bowed our heads in reverence, I heard the dismal dirge of amazing grace, drifting down from my brother's trumpet.
He muted the trumpet's bell, stifling the tune from full resonance. It was the first time I let myself cry in front of Elena. The acolytes closed the casket, and Elena began to tear up as well. No longer able to see our dear friend, Elena felt her last connection to Catherine break apart.
As I stood beside Elena, she reached out for me. I held her tightly, surprised at how much she was shaking as she sobbed into my coat. I wanted to say something, to tell her that everything would be alright. But, in that moment, I heard my brother let the last note linger. He held it as long as he could, but I could tell by the wavering in his note, that he too was crying.
While to this day he never admits it, and I only heard it, I'm sure that my brother wept that day. Catherine had only met him once, when he was visiting me, but the way her face lit up whenever he smiled at her was about as happy as she ever let us see her. I wish that on that baleful day at Creekmount, my brother would have been in time to save everyone, especially Catherine, because I knew that she loved him.
Elena tightened her grip on me, and I realized that she had stopped crying. She pressed her body closer, and I was reminded of how lucky I was that I didn't have to attend the funerals of two of my friends; how lucky I was that this beautiful girl could still love me after the shock and awe of that day.
"I keep thinking it's a bad dream," Elena said as we walked away from the concluded service. "I keep thinking that I'll just wake up, and the teacher would scold me for sleeping in class."
"And Catherine would laugh at you, and the teacher would glare at her," I added, replaying a regular occurrence which used to be in German class.
Elena continued, "Then I'd look over at you, and...and you'd smile, and I'd feel fine, because I would know that I was with my friends."
"I'm just so scared. I feel as though, if I were to let my guard down, they could come back. And, even though I know your brother took care of them, it's as if they're still after me," Elena said, shivering as though from an unfelt breeze.
"My brother..." I looked at the knoll where Albrecht had played the somber tune, but he was nowhere to be seen. "If I were strong...like Albrecht, maybe we wouldn't be here now."
"Alphonse, you are str--"
"No, Elena, I'm not. I'm so weak that I...I couldn't even save one life, when those men held us captive. I just sat against the wall, waiting for my big brother, like the scared little kid that I am."
I had stopped where I stood, not wanting to face Elena while I spoke to her. I stared at the grass, and it was pale; dying in winter's cold grasp.
"That's not true," Elena said. "You're not a kid. None of us are, after...after what we saw. And, you did save a life. You...you saved me."
I opened my eyes, to see Elena crouching, looking up at me, tears accenting her eyes.
"Und für das stehe ich immer in Ihrer Schuld," she said in her impeccable German, telling me that she was forever in my debt.
After a long sigh, I kneeled to join her, and responded, "Es ist so schön wann du sprechst Deutsch, Elena," complimenting her on how beautiful she sounded. We both rose, and I held her again. "However, you owe me no debt."
"Then...it's over? We just go on living?"
I motioned for us to continue walking back to my car. "I know how you feel. I feel bad about closing the book on this. But, we have to move on. The men are gone, and we have to forget about them."
"I don't think I could ever forget about those men."
"It will be difficult, but...there's no other way to live. Keep thinking about this, and it's going to eat away at you from the inside. It will haunt you. Forget about them; move on, and you can keep the hope alight in your heart."
"When did you get poetic about death?"
I didn't respond. To talk about their death...My parent's death...would be to reopen a book which I had long ago locked up.
We neared my car, and I opened Elena's door for her before getting in myself. After we started up and pulled out of the cemetery, I asked Elena where she needed to go.
"I guess I should head back home. My folks should be getting home about now," she said.
We drove in relative silence, as Elena read the funeral program over and over, as though trying to relive the last precious moments she spent near Catherine. I glanced at the program, and remembered the eulogy the priest had given.
I had always thought it odd that one who had probably met the deceased should give the eulogy. If I had given it, though, I would have been too cynical. I was eight when it happened.
I opened the thick oak front door, heavy for me at that age, and stepped inside, then dropped my schoolbag and headed for the kitchen. Usually, my father was sitting at the table reading the paper, and my mother would be washing dishes or some other mundane chore. Now that I reminisce about them, there was something pleasantly 1950's about this routine. I sat down at the table, and sensed something was off. Usually my mother would have a drink for me on the table (some cold juice in the summer, or some hot cocoa in the winter), but that day, my glass was empty. There was still some at the bottom of the glass.
Where were my parents? I looked back into the bedroom hall, and saw their door slightly open. I thought it would be clever to try to sneak up on them, so I removed my shoes, and padded down the hallway. I looked up at the walls, and it looked like someone had drawn on the one wall.
I thought back to when I had done that once. This drawing looked similar. I had taken my mother's nail polish bottle and splashed it on the wall. Boy did I get it for that one. I hoped that whoever had done it this time was being punished for it too.
Why didn't I realize what it was on the walls?
I continued down to my parent's room, and found that all the shelves and cabinets and drawers were a total mess. I thought that they must have been in a hurry to find something. Maybe my father had misplaced one of his ties again. He really liked wearing ties, and I had even offered him my school uniform tie, when he once lost his favorite tie. He laughed at my cute gesture.
I still won't forgive myself for not realizing what had happened when I saw the state of their room.
Their bathroom light was on, so I went up close to it. I knocked, as they had reminded me constant times to do. No answer. I opened the door, and found my parents...asleep?...on the floor.
Why didn't I call the police?
I looked up at the mirrored door to the bathtub, and saw that the 'nail polish' had gone there too. Except this time, it was words.
NEXT TIME. YOU TOO.
Then I tried to rouse my parents from their slumber. No luck. I panicked. Why wouldn't they wake up? I shook my mother, and tried to roll her over. Eventually I got her over, and saw that she had, what at that age I could only describe as, a big boo-boo on her neck.
Someone slit her throat. Stupid kid, why didn't you call for help?
Eventually, I got my neighbors to help me. The truth still didn't sink in till the police tape went down. My parents were murdered by a serial killer. The police said that this case fit the killer's profile; a killer who called himself Judas.
To this day, I follow news on the killer, hoping that someday they'll catch him.
"Alphonse, you missed it!" Elena exclaimed, tugging my arm and my thoughts back to the road. I had missed the exit to her house. Damn you, highway hypnosis.
"I'm sorry, Elena. I was...thinking."
"It's ok. We can U-Turn here. Just one thing Alphonse:"
"Only slightly funny, Elena."
She laughed then. It was the first time she had laughed in weeks. It was infectious, and I laughed along with her. It was odd, laughing about something connected to that day. Maybe we really could get past this.
Our giggles were on and off until we reached Elena's house, both of us seeing who could say 'don't miss,' with a more badass inflection. As I drove us down Elena's driveway, our laughs turned to sighs. "Back to reality I guess," Elena said, sinking back in her seat.
I turned to follow the driveway as it made a turnabout in front of her house.
"Elena," I began, as I shifted into park, "would you mind if I came in for a little bit? Just to sit and talk?" I had low hopes of doing anything romantic with Elena so close to the funeral, but I figured it was worth a try, what with the recent light mood.
"Would you please," she responded, with a strange mix of worry and confusion on her face.
"What's wrong, Elena?"
I followed her glance to the front door of the house.
"That door isn't meant to be open. Come with me?" Indeed, the door was half-open. I set the emergency brake, and walked with Elena to the door. She pushed the door open, and kicked some of the leaves that had blown in back out. "Could you close the door," she asked me, hanging up her scarf.
I pushed the door closed. The wind made it feel...heavy. We walked up a staircase, and I peered inside an ornate frame at a young Elena. She looked to be about sixteen in the picture, and was wearing her school uniforms.
"And here I thought it was impossible to look good in a school picture," I called to Elena, who had turned the corner into the hallway. "You look nice in this one, Elena."
Thump. It came from the hallway, and I bum-rushed the stairs and turned the corner to find Elena in a crumple on the floor. I approached her, and she looked unconscious. I gathered her up in my arms, trying to wake her. 'Elena, have you not been eating? It can cause you to pass out, you know," I lectured her, as she came to.
I expected her to regain some color in her face, but she remained pale.
"Let's get some food in you."
She merely nodded her head, and walked towards the kitchen, as though in a trance.
I lingered at the staircase again, looking into the past as I saw the other pictures of Elena. I looked down at the entrance to the kitchen, and figured she had already entered. When I reached the kitchen, Elena was already sitting at the table, staring blankly at a half-eaten muffin.
"Wow, you must have been hungry, eh?"
She shook her head.
"What? That's not yours?"
She shook her head. I shook my head in disbelief, backing up with the wall catching me. "No."
Elena looked at me. "Alphonse," she said, letting her eyes look upwards, as though upstairs.
Again, in disbelief, I mounted the stairs. I turned the corner into the hallway, and looked to my right. I t looked like Elena's bedroom. "Clear," I told myself.
"No, no, no, no, no." I turned to the left wall, and saw a splash. This time, I knew it wasn't nail polish.
"Not again, no." I bolted down the hall to the end, finding a disheveled room. This time, there was no bathroom. This time, they were on the floor, there among the discarded items from the drawers, and cabinets, and shelves.
I fell to my knees. I looked at the two figures, lying together; slashes to the throat. Then I looked past them, and beheld the writing on the wall.
NEXT TIME. YOU TOO.
"I'm sorry, Elena." It was the only thing I could think to say to her.
"You didn't know this would happen. You're not at fault, so don't apologize."
I hated seeing her like this. She wasn't sad, but she wasn't happy. She was just like this on the day of her parent's funeral. I asked her why she didn't cry, and she simply responded that she spent all her tears on Catherine.
I try not to cry at funerals. After my parents were buried, I promised my brother that I would be strong; strong like Albrecht. Albi, I called him back then. He hated that.
I drove Elena home after yet another day of school at Creekmount.
"Alphonse," Elena said, as she watched the scenery go by.
I responded, looking away from the road only long enough to make eye contact with her. "Yes, Elena?"
"Do you think...that ghosts exist?"
I looked past the road, past everything, and thought for a moment of how best to answer. "Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't," I finally said.
"How do you mean?"
"Well, sometimes I can feel my parents still watching over me and protecting me. And, sometimes I can feel them haunting me about not finding their killer. In the former instance, I like to think that it's their ghosts that are with me. The latter...well, I chalk that up to my own guilt."
"I think I must be the opposite. I feel the ghosts of those four men; usually in my dreams. They're horrible, horrible dreams. That's why..."
"That's why I was wondering if I could stay with you for a little while?"
I hesitated. She must have sensed my hesitation.
"I promise I won't be a bother. I can even help out with chores, if they need doing."
All of a sudden, my instinct took over. Instinct said, "self, here is a beautiful girl, she's of age, her ass is so high and tight that it makes marine's heads look scruffy, and those little tits of hers seem to defy gravity. Not to mention, she's looking for someone to latch onto. Vulnerable is what she is. Now is the time to strike!"
"Shut up a second," I said to my instinct.
"Excuse me," Elena said, quizzically.
"I'm sorry, not you, Elena."
I thought further. This would be the gentlemanly thing to do for her. She is seeking a strong hand to grasp hers and lead her through. Why not?
"Thank you, Alphonse. I don't think I could handle being alone in that house again."
"It's no trouble, Elena. Anything I can do to help you during this time, let it be done."
"So, when can you come over? Tonight, maybe?"
I closed my eyes, and thought. I sighed, and ran my hand through my hair. "I don't think I could do that. No, it just wouldn't work."
Elena looked downtrodden at my comment.
"No, I think you're just going to have to move in with me."
Elena's eyes lit up when I gave the suggestion. "Really!?" She suddenly realized how happy she sounded, and in an effort to seem less eager, "I mean, is that okay?"
"It's fine by me. I dislike eating alone, and Himeko doesn't count in that respect."
"Hime...ko? Who's that?"
"Oh, you'll find out. I'm sure she won't mind."
Elena stared wide-eyed at the house that came into view. "This is where you live?"
"I know. It's too big for me." In reality, I didn't like the house being so big. If I was older, I would separate the house into two, and rent the other half out, but Himeko never approved of that idea.
We stepped out of the car, and I walked up to the front door, Elena lagging behind. I swung the door open easily, and held it as Elena entered.
We discarded our schoolbags by the door, and walked inside to the living room to sit down. "Would you care for something to drink, Elena?"
"Some water would be lovely, thank you."
I nodded, and called into the next room, "one more, then, Hime."
"One moment," said a voice from the next room. Elena leaned from where she sat, trying to see where the voice came from, but saw only a stocking-clad leg disappear behind an ornate wooden hutch on which sat various silver containers.
"This house is so lovely. I'm still in a dream."
"Beg your pardon?"
"...by Cynthia Harrell. It's a song of hers." I began to sing the refrain, not very well, "'I'd give my life, not for honor, but for you. In my time, there'll be no one else. Crime, it's the way I fly to you. I'm still in a dream, snake eater.'"
"You're not a bad singer. It's a bit...A bit of an innuendo though, isn't it?"
"Singing a love song, the person you love being called 'snake eater'?"
"Not when it's a woman singing it, it's not," said the unfamiliar voice, entering the room.
Himeko stepped lightly to the center of the room, tray holding two glasses of water. I could tell Elena was surprised. Himeko was about an inch shorter than me, with skin pale as a sheet, and straight auburn hair which fell neatly to the small of her back.
"Cynthia Harrell's an octave above little Al."
"Himeko, please do not refer to me in such a way in front of company."
Elena giggled; stifling her laugh in what became a girlishly cute gesture. I made the introduction, explaining to Elena that Himeko's service was part of what my parents had left to me upon their deaths. Elena thought with a cliché finger to her chin. "Okay then, two questions left unanswered."
"Fire away," Himeko said, taking a seat beside Elena on the sofa. I watched from an armchair and was amused how similar their posture was. Straight back, legs closed demurely, hands folded in lap...yes, the signs were all here. Elena would fit right in.
"Why are you wearing a French maid's outfit? It seems a little...cliché. Not to mention risqué."
Even I took notice. Himeko's normally boring skirt and blouse was replaced by a more...lacy affair. A black blouse and skirt were contained in a white lace apron piece, which seemed to stop under her breasts, lifting and compressing them. The skirt came down to mid-calf, but what I could see of her legs seemed very alluring.
I spoke up, "yeah, why the sudden wardrobe-change? Did you know we were having guests?"
Elena looked confused. "You mean, she doesn't normally dress this way," she asked both of us.
"She's only done this once before. It was New Year's Eve, and I still think she was trying to impress my brother," I said, laughing as Himeko blushed at the last comment.
"Moving right along," Elena said, breaking the silence, "second question: why is your name Himeko? Not to offend, but..."
"Don't even try," I interjected, "I've wanted to know ever since I was eight, and she won't tell. She says it's her real name, but I don't know."
"In answer to your question, I get asked about my name all the time," said Himeko, ignoring my criticism. "Ever since I can remember, my name's been Himeko. It's not the typical white-gal name, but I like it."
Elena asked, "what does it mean?"
"Princess Child," Himeko responded.
"Enough small talk," I said, "Elena, you'll need your things, correct?"
"Oh my, I forgot. I don't have my toiletries, or...or clothes, or...I'll have to go and get everything," Elena said, beginning to panic.
"Relax." I started writing on a pad of paper that sat on the table. "Himeko, this is Elena's address. Please go and retrieve her toiletries and other unmentionables she will require for her stay with us."
"For how long will that be...sir," Himeko asked, standing and trying to regain her professional composure.