“You’re a fairy,” he said.
I almost choked on my water. Was this guy serious? From the look on his face and the fact that he was waiting for me to respond answered that question. This was officially the last internet date I was ever going on.
“What makes you say that?” I could have easily said no, but what would have been the fun in that?
He stared at me for a moment longer while he cut his meat. “Your hair is too perfect, and your skin glistens in the moonlight.”
I laughed behind my napkin. “Thank you. I’m not sure that the three hours of work I up into my hair should be what qualifies me as a fairy.”
“Also, you don’t wear any iron,” he said with a mouth full of well-done steak.
Yep. He was officially nuts. “Would you excuse me for a moment?”
I could still hear him gnawing on the leather as I made my way to the bathroom. How could this guy be that much off his rocker? I was praying the bathroom would be a multi-stall so I could hide all the way in the back while making a phone call. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about Mr. Fairy Hunter pressing himself against the door and listening.
The women’s door was the first in the hall. Why is this the one time that the emergency door is nowhere to be found? It would have been perfect to slip right out and not have to go back to the crazy man.
I opened the door to find a perfectly pristine single bathroom. This would never happen if I really had to go. I pressed myself as far away from the door as possible and called my roommate.
“So, how’s the hot professor?” Sarah chirped.
“Awful. This guy is a lunatic.” The doorknob wiggled. “Someone’s in here!”
“I’m sorry, but your date is asking if you are alright.” The sixteen-year-old hostess yelled through the locked door, clearly embarrassed.
Sarah gasped. “Oh no, he didn’t!”
I think the hostess heard my palm smack against my forehead through the door. “Tell him I’ll be out shortly.”
“I’m so sorry.” She said again before running down the hall.
I flushed the empty toilet. “You heard that, right?”
“Dude, he is batshit.” She was so excited at my bad date that I could hear her bouncing around on our couch.
“Sarah. He asked me if I was a fairy.” I knew from her laughing she was now rolling around on the floor. “It’s not funny. He was serious.”
“Okay, okay.” She was choking back tears. “So, where am I picking you up from?”
“Cafe Chardonnay.” I just realized how stupid I had been. I had a total stranger pick me up from my house, and now he knows where I live. My father will chew me out the moment he gets wind of this.
Sarah started to salivate. “Oh, Caroline, please bring me your leftovers.”
If I hadn’t had heard her car keys rattle, I would have been pissed by her request. But she was less than ten minutes away, and I didn’t want to give her any reason to be late or leave me stranded. “No can do. I’m feigning food poisoning.”
I dabbed some water across my hairline to make it look as though I’ve been sweating. I was already super pale, so I didn’t know how to make myself look any sicker besides having dead eyes.
I slowly made my way to the table. I didn’t need to fake being sick anymore. Just as I saw him, my stomach started to churn. For a moment, I thought I might throw up.
“There you are. I was starting to worry about you, Caroline.” He held out my chair for me.
Why did he have to be crazy? He was polite, and, up until now, he was able to hold a decent conversation. Sitting across from him was easy since he was mildly attractive. He was about 5’10 with small shoulders, he kept saying how he lifted weights during our skype conversation, but it seems he missed his upper body. But what annoyed me throughout dinner was his hair. I guess you can only do so much with so little hair. I would have loved to say he had a nice smile because that was the first thing that made me like his profile. But in person, when he introduced himself, there was something about his smile that just gave me the creeps.
“Yep, here I am,” I said in my wooziest voice.
“Are you alright? Here sit down.” He tried to force me into the chair.
I’m not sure how I was still standing. He was surprisingly strong. “Elliott, I hate to do this, but I have to go.”
He was alarmed and whispered, “Is it because I know?”
“No, no, not that.” I stopped myself from knocking him in the head. How could a thirty-five-year-old man believe in fairies? “It’s that I don’t feel well, and I’m not a fairy.”
Before he could protest, I was already heading to the door. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t. Even though he was strange, I felt bad for upsetting him. I wasn’t sure what was worse, getting stood up or having your date walk out on you.
The bath I ran for myself did nothing for me. I couldn’t get the last look Elliott gave me out of my head. It was a mix of betrayal and disbelief. I knew I shouldn’t have looked back, but Sarah wouldn’t stop staring at him.
“Hot beverage?” Sarah asking knocking on my door.
“Sure, whatcha got? Because anything that would knock me out right now would be highly appreciated.” But I knew that Sarah didn’t believe in pills, so this was going to be interesting.
“I promise it tastes better than it smells.” She handed over the smelly concoction. “It’s just honey, tea, and some herbs.”
“Thanks.” I tried to drink what smelled like old gym sock juices, but no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, I knew it would help me sleep. “Make sure you lock the windows.”
Sarah whined, “But it’s so nice out.”
“You’re the one who wanted to live on the first floor.” I almost shut the door before saying, “Thanks again for saving me.”
She smiled. “Now you just owe me dinner.”
The next morning was rough. I felt worse than I should have. Maybe Sarah’s tea didn’t mix well with my one glass of wine. Or maybe it was the weird dreams. Whatever it was, I was taking it out on my toast.
Zombie Sarah came out with rollers still in her hair and only one eye of makeup done. She headed straight to the coffee pot.
“You look like shit,” I said.
She gave me the stink eye. “Yeah, thanks to you and your late-night visitor.”
That unnerved me. I thought when I heard Elliott’s voice last night. It was in my dream. “No one was here. I passed out after I finished your magic juice.”
The zombie left as Sarah bolted to the front door. She stepped out and almost onto a vase of a dozen long stem roses. It was 6:30 in the morning, and there wasn’t anyone around who delivered flowers that early. Sarah picked up the card and read it.
“I think you’re going to need a gun and a restraining order,” she said, handing me the card.
Written on the back of a picture of me from earlier in the week was:
You’re the most beautiful dreamer.
“Do you have anyone you can stay with?” I wasn’t going to subject her to my stalker.
“You know I’ve been saving up my vacation time. I might as well use it now.” Sarah dumped the water and roses into our bushes. “At least the vase is pretty.”
It was almost nine before the police arrived. They would have been called earlier if I hadn’t had called my dad first. The ex-marine, now judge, did not take kindly to his baby girl being stalked. After an hour of arguing, I agreed to let him send Greg to pick me up.
“I trust him with my life.” He said when I finally gave in.
“Alright, Dad, have him here as soon as he can. I should be ready to come home by then.” I needed to come home for a visit, but not like this.
“Caroline, you’ll be breaking your lease.” He said flatly. “I’ll cover everything for your and Sarah’s new place.”
“Thanks, Dad.” I can’t say I wasn’t used to him making these decisions. I had spent my life moving with him because of the Marines and a few more times because some crazy people found out where he lived and wanted to kill him.
Sarah started packing as the police knocked on our door. After a few questions, they asked me for Elliott’s picture. I tried to pull up his dating profile, but it was gone. When I logged into my email, I saw I had a new Facebook notification. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Do you agree with this relationship change?
The cops wrote down all his information before asking me about last night. “What exactly did you hear?”
“I couldn’t really tell you. I was out cold.” I hated not having more to give them.
“I can tell you what happened.” Sarah came out of her room. “It was three in the morning, and I heard whisperings outside.”
“One voice or two?” The officer asked.
“Well, I thought it was Caroline, but I know now it wasn’t. So, I’m really hoping it was only one, or that’s going to make this even stranger.” Sarah shuttered. “I heard footsteps going past my window and to the patio. Someone rattled the door, but thank god for that stick.”
“Florida security at its finest,” the female officer joked. “Was there anything else?”
“No, I couldn’t really make out what he was saying.” Sarah was holding my hand. I was shaking.
The cops left after a nice long chat on internet dating safety. They told me they were placing an undercover officer to watch my door till Greg and I left.
I didn’t hear a knock till eleven. There was a small part of me dreading looking through the peephole. Thankfully there was only one green eye smashed up against it.
“You got to move,” I called to him.
He stepped back, and I had to give the cop getting out of his car a thumbs up.
“Sargent Macoy, you’re looking well.” I bit down on my lip to keep myself from laughing.
“Alright, smart ass, get your stuff.” He looked at my four large duffle bags and sighed. “Moving?”
“Yep, you know, dad. The first sign of trouble and I have to hide,” I shrugged.
Greg tossed one on each shoulder. “Well, maybe if you weren’t so small, he wouldn’t have to.”
“Because I can really help that.” I picked up a set of picture frames and followed him out the door. “I can still outrun you.”
We finished loading the truck before Sarah emerged from her room. “So that’s Greg?”
“Yep.” I wasn’t going to rehash everything with her when I had to spend four hours in a car with the person who broke my heart.
Greg came out of my room, wiping his brow. “Do you need to be packed anything else before the movers come?”
“Nope, everything that matters is in the truck.”
“Or about to be,” Sarah whispered.
I hugged Sarah goodbye. I knew we would be seeing each other in about two weeks, but this was the first time since freshmen year of college we would be apart. With both of us being only children, we bonded to each other. She always said I was the sister she never had, and the same was true for me.
The road trip was going to be a long one of corn, cows, and no talking. I’m not sure what possessed my father to send Greg, but the father knows best, right? Guess he forgot about the months of torment I went through after Greg sent me a Dear John letter while he was in Afghanistan.
“What’s up, little one?” He broke my train of thought.
My cheek was moist. Damn it. “Nothing. Just exhausted.”
I could feel his eyes on me and knew he was refraining from calling me out on my lie. “So tell me about your stalker. How did you meet him?”
After telling my dad and the cops the story, it just fell out. “We met online, talked on Skype for a week, and I gave him my number.”
“After only a week?” He was judging me.
If I had been driving, I would have hit the breaks. “Oh, because that is worse than a guy three years older than me grabbing my phone and putting his number in it?”
“We were in class together. It’s not like I was some stranger.” He didn’t like being compared to Elliott.
“Right.” I stared back out the window. “We talked for hours for a few nights and sent a bunch of texts. He seemed so normal. It was nice to talk to someone like that again, you know?
“I don’t.” He wasn’t looking at me. He kept his eye squared on the road, both hands white-knuckled on the wheel.
“That was your choice, remember?” I can’t believe we were doing this now. I’ve graduated from college and buried those feelings long ago.
“Caroline, we were young.” The wipers went across the windshield, wiping off the rain.
He was still a man of little words. “Yet here we are, years later, and you are still rescuing me from the bad guys.”
I don’t know how long we sat in silence because I fell asleep. I only woke when I heard the truck’s tires going over the gravel drive. All I needed next was to hear the howls of the foxhounds, and I would know I was home.
My dad’s call was louder than the three dogs. “Caroline!”
I was a bit groggy still from the ride, but I tried to muster up the same excitement. “Hi, Daddy.”
Greg was already pulling my duffle bags from the truck bed. As I gathered my pillow and blanket, I noticed he had hidden something on his dash in front of his speedometer. The thing looked like it had been to hell and back, but I knew exactly what it was. I was surprised to see he kept it.
“Greg?” I stopped him before he grabbed another bag. I held up the bulldog that was now missing a leg. “Why did you keep it?”
He snatched it back and carefully placed it back in its spot. “You need to talk to your father.”
I didn’t move from that spot. I watched them both unload the truck before stopping to shake hands and talk a bit more. What had my father done?
“Have you been to see your mother?” Dad asked as he poured me a glass of wine.
“I figured we could go together after dinner.” I liked going with dad to visit mom’s grave. He gave me the strength to talk to the cold stone.
It wasn’t till he brought out my favorite dessert did I finally ask him. “Why did you send Greg?”
“Like I said, I trust him with my life.” He served me a slice of warm apple pie.
“Even after how he broke up with me?” I watched my father, a judge who has dealt with murders and child molestation cases, become speechless. “Dad, what did you do?”
“He was going to propose, but you were only eighteen,” he stated. “You had so much going for you. I wasn’t going to let you waste your life being a military wife.”
“Are you saying mom wasted her life on you?” I couldn’t believe this. I had grown up hearing him say that serving was the greatest honor of his life.
“No, but you aren’t your mother.” His tone signaled he wanted to end the conversation.
“I think you wanted to keep me close, and you knew with me moving around with Greg that wouldn’t happen. Me leaving would have been harder than you’d like to admit.” I waited for him to stop me.”I’m going for a run.”
Pick me up. I texted Greg.
I laced my shoes as I heard my dad talking to Greg downstairs. Thankfully, there wasn’t any yelling between the two of them. I pulled up the zipper on my jacket before skipping down the stairs. I was going to plant a giant kiss right on his lips just to piss off my dad. But when I hit the landing, the voice I heard wasn’t Greg.
“Young man, I don’t want to tell you again. Get off my property before I let the dogs out on you. “ My dad was blocking Elliott from getting in.
This couldn’t be happening. I didn’t see any cars following us on our way up. How did he know who my dad was and where he lived? I never told him anything that personal. My phone vibrated. It was Greg. I did my best to make it up the stairs without making a sound.
“He’s here,” I whispered into the phone.
“Caroline, hide. If you can, lock yourself in the attic.” He sounded like he had thought this through before
“You know I hate the attic.” But I ran and pulled the steps down.
I could see Greg’s truck pull into view as a gunshot went off.
“No, no, no.” I forced myself to stay upstairs. I had to keep from pacing. There was someone beneath me. No one called my name, so I knew it was the fairy hunter.
I heard the front door slam open, but it was too late. Elliott was pulling down the attic string. The waving string probably gave away my hiding spot. I balanced myself on the window frame. If he came too close, I was going to jump.
“Don’t worry, little fairy. I’m not going to hurt you.” Elliott was holding a net in his hands.
“I’m not a fairy, you fucking creep!” I couldn’t hold back. He had ruined my life and shot my father. In what world was I not going to be afraid of him?
Elliott ran with the net, ready to ensnare me. I shoved the window open and let the frigid December air kiss my face as I fell. I quickly tucked my legs to my chest and let my body rotate. I only had a few moments to have my head and arms ready to brace for the impact of the water.
“She flies!” I heard Elliott shriek from the darkness above.
The police sirens were muffled under the water. I looked up and saw Greg smiling at me through the ripples.
“I knew you’d figure it out,” he said, pulling me from the water.
“Guess all those years of diving really paid off.” I shook a bit as we walked. “My dad?”
“He’s alive. I stopped the bleeding in his arm, but he’s going to need surgery.” He took off his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders. “Doesn’t he know that you’re a mermaid, not a fairy?”
A police officer called me over. “Ms. Crommett, we would like to take your statement now, if you don’t mind.”
I passed Elliott, locked away in the car and shouting at me. The officers shook their heads, embarrassed for him since he didn’t have the sense to be on his own. My dad groaned as they lifted him into the ambulance.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Oh, this? It’s nothing.” He hurt his arm when he tried to laugh. “I told you I trusted him with my life.”
“So you did. I could have gone my whole life without knowing that.” They shut the doors after I hugged him goodbye.
There wasn’t much to go over with the authorities. I wasn’t sure how Elliott found my father’s house, and I didn’t care enough to find out. If I never saw him again, life would be grand, but the officer had already told me I’d probably have to be at this trial.
“I promise there is no need for you to stay, officer.” Greg stood next to me, holding my hand. “I’m in good hands.”
“Are you sure? Because I don’t need Judge Crommett coming after me if anything were to happen to you.” Officer Stevens shook Greg’s hand.
Greg laughed at the look he was given. “Don’t worry, Mike. Things have been smoothed out.”
The police officers drove off, finally giving me the chance to change into something warm.
Greg called from the bathroom door. “Do you want to stay here or go to my place?”
As much as I would have loved to cuddle with him in my childhood bed like we did when we were in high school, my house was giving me the creeps. “Yours.”
Greg picked me up the moment I came out of the bathroom. Our noses touched before he finally kissed me. “You know I never wanted to write you that letter.”
I smiled. “You never did seem like the Dear John type.”
With my arms wrapped around his neck, he carried me down the stairs. We went out through the back door instead of the front. The cleaning crew was coming in the morning, making it even better that we weren’t staying here tonight.
We picked up pizza and talked the entire night. It was as if the past six years never happened. When we finally made it to bed, my phone vibrated. I ignored it since it was just Sarah checking in.
“Why did you join the military?” I had always wondered this.
“When your dad said I wasn’t good enough for you, he was right.” Greg turned the light off and kissed my forehead. “I was in college, but I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself other than be with you. So, I took a chance hoping one day your father would change his mind.” There was a pride in his voice that I had heard a million times over with my father.
“Thank you,” I said, snuggling closer to him.
“For what?” he asked.
“For being you.” I drifted off to sleep fairly quickly after that. It was wonderful to have no dreams or fears that some lunatic was going to break into your home.
When I woke the next day, I picked up my phone. There were three messages.
One was from my father sent at 9:45 am. I’m done with surgery. I don’t care what they say. I need out of here. My dad was never one to handle hospitals well.
The other came from Sarah around two in the morning. I was already well asleep by then. Hey, how are things with you and lover boy? Greg stirred next to me. He had already gone for a run, showered, and climbed back into bed. I couldn’t wait for her to really meet him.
The last message. The one I got right before I went to bed, I had to look at the time stamp four more times to be sure it said 10:00 p.m. But how could that be? The police picked up Elliott at 8:45. He should be rotting in jail right now. I opened the message to see a picture of Greg and me carrying out our pizza. The text read You’ll pay for this.
“What do you mean he made bail?” I stuttered into the phone. “That doesn’t even make sense.”
“He must have had his lawyer on speed dial because he met us at the station,” Officer Stevens informed me.
I couldn’t stop pacing the waiting room. “This is just bullshit. What am I supposed to do? Should I just sit around and wait for Stalky McStalker to show up at my door again?”
Officer Stevens let out a sigh. “Will you take the security detail now?”
“Fine.” I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having a bodyguard again. At least it’s not going to frighten off Greg like it does with other guys. “Who’s it going to be?”
“Does it matter?” he asked sarcastically.
“Has it ever?” Greg took the phone from me before I could come up with something worse.
“Your dad wants to see you,” he said before walking off.