Just found out I placed SECOND out of 30 entrants in my heat for the Short Story Challenge! Yeah! Moving on to Round 2 this Thursday, where I have to write a 2000-word story in three days.
For Round 1, I got:
Genre: Romantic Comedy (yes, I got lucky there)
Character: Figure Skater
Here’s the story:
The Stalker, the Snooper, and the Sleepwalker
SYNOPSIS: A nice guy-turned-stalker/snooper/sleepwalker decides he has to be a jerk to win the woman he loves.
Stalking implies ill intent, or unwanted attentions.
I wasn’t stalking.
I certainly had no ill intentions toward Jen, at least none from my perspective, and though my attention wasn’t wanted in the literal sense, it wasn’t unwanted, either. Jen didn’t even know I attended her skating practices with the fervor of a religious fanatic. I mean, you can’t want, or not want, something you don’t even know you’re getting, right?
So I wasn’t stalking. I was scoping out, getting a feel for things, waiting for my moment, building my courage one painstaking practice at a time.
“Dude, you’re stalking,” Andy said to me earlier today at lunch as I gulped down my California roll, keen on getting to Jen’s practice in time to see her do that twirly thing where she lifts one leg straight above her head and spins in dizzying circles. Didn’t want to miss that.
“She’s an entertainer,” I said, still chewing. “She puts on a show. What’s an entertainer without an audience?”
Andy sighed. “She’s my sister. I know her better than you do, and she’s not an entertainer. She’s an athlete.”
“Po-tay-to, po-tah-to,” I said.
“Just ask her out all ready,” he said, throwing his napkin on the table. “We’re lawyers now, for chrissake, not junior high school dicks. You’ve had a crush on her for what? Six years?”
More like sixteen, but who’s counting?
When we were ten years old, Andy’s mom dragged us to Jen’s figure skating class. We each got hot chocolate and $2 in quarters to play video games while we waited. Fifteen sweaty minutes later, Dance Dance Revolution had eaten all my money, so I wandered out to the rink.
We lived in Southern California, and I’d only been on the ice twice, so I knew how hard it was to keep your ankles from falling in. I figured book-in-her-nose Jen, who couldn’t even throw a baseball properly, was probably giving her butt some serious ice time. I leaned on the railing and searched the groups of skaters for Jen’s ratty braids, preparing to make faces at her behind her teacher’s back.
But a girl at the far end of the rink caught my attention.
She was gliding backwards, arms outstretched, a smile wide on her lips. I did a double take. The girl was Jen, her disheveled braids hidden under a rainbow beanie.
Jen suddenly turned forward, picking up the pace, and as she rounded the curve, she jumped in the air and spun. The landing was a bit wobbly, but she stayed on her feet, and her class cheered.
I cheered. I couldn’t help myself.
Even when Andy began tugging on my shirt and punching me in the arm to come watch him play air hockey, I stayed glued to that railing.
I’m still glued to that fucking railing, metaphorically speaking.
My usual spot is an out-of-the-way bench where only my eyes and the top of my head can be seen over said railing. Stalkers, no, audiences, prefer to remain anonymous.
I turn at the sound of my name, and I must look like a dog that just got caught peeing on the rug, because Jen frowns at me.
“I thought that was you,” she says, slugging back half her water bottle. “What are you doing here?”
“Me?” I say, popping to my feet and running a hand through my hair. “What are you doing here?”
Jen laughs. “Good one. Seriously, what’s up? Did you come here for me?”
I try hard not to stare at her breasts. They’re molded in blue Lycra, and man, you can tell how cold it is in here.
“No, but yeah, maybe.”
“So Andy told you,” she says, and I lift my eyes to find hers darting nervously over the crowd behind us.
“No, I mean, Andy wouldn’t. He doesn’t. I mean, we don’t talk about you—”
“Don’t bother,” she says, plopping down on the bench. “It’s okay. You’ve always been like a second brother to me, so it’s okay that you know.”
I lower myself next to her, wondering what the hell she’s referring to. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She shakes her head. “Not really. It’s just kinda scary. It’s better that you know. You can help Andy keep an eye out. It’s tough to believe I have a stalker. Feels like I’m in a movie.”
I gulp. “Andy didn’t say much. What makes you think you have a stalker? He hasn’t contacted you, has he?”
Jen shivers. “No. But my neighbors have seen this guy outside my apartment building, just sitting in his car, in a green Explorer. And when I asked the staff at the rink if they’ve noticed anyone, they said there’s a guy who always comes to my practices and wears a black knit hat.”
I think about my black knit hat, sitting on the passenger seat of my mom’s green Explorer.
“I can keep watch,” I say. “Do you want me to go home with you? In case he’s there?”
“Would you?” she says, her blue eyes round and pleading. “I feel silly asking.”
I gently pull on her arm and help her to her feet. “Grab your stuff and meet me by your car. I’ll make sure the coast is clear.”
The good news is that the coast is clear. The bad news…I’m not thinking about that right now.
I’m going home with Jen.
She opens her front door and ushers me inside. I make a big show of looking in her closets and under the bed before I declare the apartment stalker-free.
“Thank you,” she says, planting a loud smack on my cheek. “Do you have to go, or can you hang out for a bit?”
I pretend to check the time on my phone. “I have some time. I can hang for a bit.”
“Let’s see,” she says, sauntering into the kitchen. She opens the fridge. “I have water, orange juice…” and she moves to the pantry, “or tequila. And tequila. Or I have tequila.”
“Sounds like we’re having afternoon tequila,” I say, joining her.
Jen laughs. “It’s been a really rough month. First I don’t make the Olympic team, and now I’m being stalked.”
“That was completely shitty,” I say as she pours two shooters. “I watched the trials on YouTube. You were robbed.”
She licks her wrist, shakes on some salt, licks the salt, and throws back her shot. My eyes are riveted to her tongue, then her mouth, then her throat as she swallows.
“Thanks for that,” she says, handing me the salt. I take it, and our fingers brush. “It wasn’t unexpected. Moira’s only sixteen. They wanted a young team this year.”
“Still shitty,” I say, shaking and licking and swallowing. “One more.”
We each down another shot, and I feel the liquid courage course through my veins.
Jen grabs the bottle of tequila and heads to the couch. My phone beeps—a text from Andy.
Grow some balls, you pussy! And you have to tell her you’ve been hanging around her practices. She thinks some guy is stalking her for real.
“Didn’t your mother ever tell you it’s rude to be on the phone when you’re with a lady?” Jen says.
I shove the phone in my pocket. “Maybe that’s why I don’t have a girlfriend.”
She pats the space beside her, and I sit.
“Do you know why I don’t have a boyfriend?” she asks.
I grab the bottle out of her lap and take a swig. “I have no fucking idea,” I say honestly.
She takes back the bottle and drinks. “Because I’m no fun. I don’t drink, this past month excepting, and I don’t stay out late, and I don’t party. I’ve got this rockin’ body and I’m reasonably intelligent and I think I’d treat a boyfriend pretty well, but all that’s going to waste because no guy my age wants to drink green smoothies and be in bed by eight.”
“I wouldn’t mind being in bed by eight every night, if you were there,” I say. “I mean, if I were your boyfriend. I mean, if, hypothetically, we were, you know…”
Jen drinks and hands me the bottle. “You’re a nice guy. A nice guy might appreciate me, except I never go for the nice guy. I’m attracted to the assholes.”
“I can be an asshole,” I say around the lip of the bottle. “A supreme asshole.”
Jen laughs. “No way. You hang Mom’s Christmas lights. You volunteer at the animal shelter.”
“I like dogs.”
“See? No way you could be an asshole.”
This is it. Do it already! I think to myself. You can be a jerk for the woman you love!
I reach out slowly and cup a hand around Jen’s breast. She gasps. I think about squeezing tight, but there are limits to my assholiness.
“An asshole doesn’t ask for permission,” I say, leaning in. “Are you okay with this?”
“You just said an asshole doesn’t ask for permission,” she says, her breath speeding up.
“Jen,” I say, struggling to keep the plea out of my voice, but I can’t just take. I have to know she’s with me.
“Kiss me,” she says on a sigh, and we meet in the middle, our lips colliding and molding as if they were meant to touch.
Her hands are everywhere as we stumble to the bedroom. Jen giggles as I struggle to get her skin-tight leggings stripped down her legs.
“Shoes first,” she says, and I laugh.
“Right.” I pull off her Nikes and throw them over my shoulder.
Jen bends down to pull her leggings off, and I gently spin her around so she’s facing away from me. My God, I’ve never seen such a tight, muscular ass in the flesh before.
My newly grown balls tighten, and I unsnap my jeans and kick them off.
She pulls her t-shirt over her head and throws it at me. I tackle her, and we fall to the bed laughing.
I lick my way down her throat and to her breasts. I can’t believe this is happening. Now if I can just get her to lift her leg over her head–
As I lick my way between her thighs, Jen groans. And not one of those “Oh, baby,” groans.
I lift my head. “You okay?”
She pushes my head out of the way and sits up. “I’m gonna be sick.”
I hold her hair while she pukes, and I rub her back while she brushes her teeth, and we both fall asleep snoring five minutes later.
I do not stalk, and I’ve never snooped in my life, but when the girl you’ve been in love with for sixteen years gets up, butt naked, in the middle of the night to make a phone call during your first intimate sleeping, though sadly not post-coital, experience, you want to hear the conversation, right?
I silently pad to the doorway, listening hard.
“So Eric is my stalker?…Not creepy? How can you say that? He…He what? Six years? Why didn’t he say something?…You know I’ve always had a thing for him…No, we didn’t, we drank too much, and I got sick, and…”
She has a thing for me?
I take a step back to return to bed, and the floor creaks. Jen whips her head in my direction.
I don’t respond. I don’t breathe.
“I’ll call you back.” She clicks off her phone and throws it on the couch. “Were you listening to my conversation?”
My mind races. I should just say that I was worried when I woke up and found her gone. That I’m in love with her and want to hold her ‘til the end of time. That I’m sorry for stalking her…but maybe I can pull this off.
“We’re out of milk,” I blurt out. “And detergent.” I walk like a robot to the front door. “Do you need anything?”
Jen approaches me slowly. “Eric?”
“The meeting’s at eleven. Opposing council will be here. I filed the motion.”
“Honey?” Jen holds out a hand and gently lays it on my arm.
“Jen?” I say, shaking my head as though to clear the fog. “Jen, is that you?”
“I think you were dreaming,” she says, guiding me back to the bedroom.
“Sleepwalking,” I say. “It happens sometimes. I didn’t scare you, did I?”
“You sleepwalk?” she says. “I’ve never met anybody who did that. I thought it was a myth.” She leans on the doorjamb while I stand awkwardly next to the bed.
I take a deep breath. “I’m an asshole, Jen.”
She nods. “You are.”
“But that’s not really who I am,” I say, fumbling. “I’ve been in love with you since we were kids. I’m in awe of you. The way you skate, the way you go after what you want, the way you snore…I’m sorry. I just wanted to be close to you. I’m sorry.”
“You’re a stalker. And a snooper. And a sleepwalker, or was that bullshit? All you’ve done is lie to me.”
“I love you,” I say. “And that’s the truth.”
I sleepwalk through my days, just trying to get by. Oh, the bitter irony.
A month later, I get a call as I’m leaving the office.
“Eric! Oh, God, Eric! Help!”
“Jen? What is it? Where are you?”
“My place. Eric, he’s here! He’s right outside the door! Oh, God, hurry!”
“I’m coming!” I say, running to my car. “Call the police!”
“I did! They’re on their way, but he’s got a gun! Eric, he’s crazy! Ahh! He just broke a window! Eric!”
And the line goes dead.
I throw my briefcase in the car and pile in after it. I step on the gas and squeal out of the lot.
I pull to the curb outside Jen’s apartment with a screech, throw open my door, and sprint. I can hear her screaming, and I scream back.
Her door is locked, and she’s screaming at the top of her lungs. I pound on the door.
“Jen! Jen! Get away from her, you bastard!”
And then the door is thrown open.
There’s Jen, grinning.
“There he is, officers,” she yells. “My stalker.”
I look behind me, my fists clenched and ready to punch, but no one’s there.
I turn back around.
I get it.
“Fuck me,” I say, sagging in place.
Jen pulls me inside.
“If you insist.”