Cafe de Desiree

July 11, 2017

The Wanderers’ Home

My boots are tied tightly, and my hair is pulled back,

I’m ready to attack with my yellow day pack,

Nature is unwilling to let me in without a fight,

Spider webs, ticks, and honeybees give me a fright,

Roots hidden by mounds of dirt and rock unsteady me,

Then, suddenly, my route is halted by a fallen tree,

I carefully climb over the conifer and march on, alone,

I find a broken limb to slash through brush overgrown,

I begin to climb the steep hill so I can finally stop,

I know not what I’ll discover once I reach the top,

I am stronger and braver from this expedition,

But I am ready for my desire to come to fruition,

When I reach the top, my lungs begin to tighten,

My eyes water as the Sun, she sparkles and brightens,

And my eyes are met with the vastest, bluest skies,

His eyes, like the sky, penetrate my soul, those soft blue eyes,

I stand on the highest cliff and surrender to the heavens,

Like the endless sky, he wraps me in his loving presence,


In this moment, I must decide to plunge into the unknown,

Or I can turn around and make my way back home, alone,

So I undress until I am vulnerable to the world around me,

and with my body tensing and my heart fluttering, I’m free,

I plunge into the unknown, and I am numb but euphoric,

I make my out of the woods, now, but no longer alone,

Now and forever those soft blue eyes will be known,

as the eyes that saw into my wanderer’s soul,

and knew that home will only be where, together, we go



Love explained by an avid hiker…I am excited to take the plunge soon with my fellow wanderer. I said yes:)


May 22, 2016

House on Fire

Filed under: poetry,relationships — desi83 @ 8:34 am
Tags: , ,

Inspired by a night of listening to a lot of Damien Rice and thinking way too much…

House on Fire

The memories of you are woven into my skin,

and they seep into my veins and mix with my blood.

No matter how many decades it has been,

I have moments when they rush in like a flood

into my brain, and they reopen the wounds of my heart.

I can feel your breath in my ear and your hand gripping mine

like a fucking ghost that knows the worst moments to start.

You haunt me in my darkest moments just to remind,

remind me of what we both left behind.

I can still taste your kiss that was snuck in the stairwell

I can still feel your embrace as we waited for the bell

I remember every word we exchanged when we met

and how time stopped for us as others roamed

during that first day when we knew our fate was set.

Somehow our hearts knew that we were home

But I slowly destroyed that home with my fear

I slowly burned down the house that we built

and you kept trying to put out the fire,

but eventually what overtook it was my guilt ,

and you were powerless against what you didn’t know.

But I kept our photographs, and I remember home,

You made a new home with someone new

and through our ruins I continue to roam.

October 8, 2014

I want to be “in like”

Filed under: dating,dreams,life,relationships — desi83 @ 6:10 am
Tags: , ,

What does it take to have a happy, long-lasting relationship? I have yet to find that romantically. I have found this platonically. Even that isn’t perfect, but it is happy and long-lasting. My best friends…though our lives have taken us in different directions, and we sometimes make choices that frustrate each other to no end, we have a connection that is unbreakable. My best friends think I am charming, hilarious, and bitchy in a good way. I think they are hilarious, as well as smart and empathetic, and super geeky (in a good way). We have geeky interests in common, and we can talk for hours about everything. My two best friends have very different views in terms of spirituality and faith, but they both have strong values and morals, and they’re both respectful of people who have opposing viewpoints. I consider myself a new thought Christian, and I can discuss spirituality and religion with both of my friends at length without it getting heated. We are three open-minded, understanding amigas.

I want to date my friend…not literally, though. I want to establish a strong friendship with a man who will connect with me the way my friends do. Obviously, I want there to be romance and excitement, but I have learned that a relationship cannot begin that way. How could I think I was in love with someone I barely knew? I need to change the way that I date. I need to set boundaries and take control of the pace and direction of the relationship. I will not let myself be led into the type of relationship that I am not ready for ever again. I do very much want to be in love, to be happy with a partner, but being alone feels so much better than being in an unhappy relationship. I don’t necessarily have to agree with every viewpoint of my partner, but I think our beliefs should be similar, as well as our sense of humor. I hate to fight or gives me horrible anxiety. I want to be with someone who is amicable, yet also assertive and confident. I know what I want, and I cannot explain it well enough in words. I will know when I meet him, and I know that I haven’t yet.

January 13, 2014

Blank Canvas

Filed under: life,relationships — desi83 @ 7:13 pm
Tags: , ,

This is (hopefully) my last semester in college. I earned my B.A. in English in 2006. I don’t want to put into writing exactly how many years ago that was. Since then, I have held several jobs that I hated too much to turn into actual careers. I have been in too many relationships that taught me a lot of lessons, sometimes more than once, and left me feeling beaten and battered. I have pretty much lost my faith in romantic relationships for myself, but I have been a witness to countless engagements, marriages, and births amongst my group of friends. I just haven’t been able to find my path, and I keep trying to force myself to accept what is not right for me because I feel like I have to accept what is available to me. I’m just not a very patient person. I took a year to spend exploring career ideas without the pressure of having to work to pay bills. I lived with my parents for a year, and I was a substitute teacher. I would’ve gotten paid just as much flipping burgers, sadly. I did it to really explore teaching as a possible career, and I was able to try out different grade levels. I actually loved it most days, especially when I was in the elementary schools. I can use my creativity, I can connect with kids and be a positive influence on their lives, and I can feel the excitement as their brains soak up knowledge like little sponges! This summer, I will be certified k-12 (highly qualified in English 7-12). I feel like this is my opportunity to start over. I have no ties to this place anymore. I have friends and my parents, but they are not binding me here. I am going to choose a few locations in other cities, and possibly other states. I need to be in a new place, even if just for a little while. I love the mountains and the beach, and I feel like the Southeast is my home, so that narrows it down a bit. I want to visit places outside of my “home”, but for my first move away from my hometown of middle Tennessee, I don’t want to go so far that I can’t visit pretty regularly. It is comforting to know that I have this opportunity and freedom to go wherever I want. I am not bound, and I will never settle for less than what I deserve, what makes me happy. This is my blank canvas, and I can paint whatever I want with the colors I choose.

January 12, 2014

The Chase

Filed under: dating,life,poetry,relationships — desi83 @ 2:57 am

This is another inspired by another doomed love of mine

The Chase

She flies above your head just out of reach

You extend your arms and strain your neck

She’s now a star in the sky, you’re a grain on the beach

Still staring above, you decide to follow, steady and quick


You run through the crowd never noticing a face

You step over smiles, laughter, tears, and experience

You long for the promise of her beauty and grace

Never taking your weary eyes off her vaguely seen presence


Suddenly she flutters down to your outstretched hands

Her feathers brush against your beckoning fingers

You try to stretch your height to grasp her body

She continues to taunt you with hope as she lingers


You promise to love her and never leave her sobbing

She cautiously descends to your hungry grasp

You tighten your grip on her small fragile body

You don’t hear her terrified screams, perhaps?


“You’re squeezing me too tightly!” she screams

“I can’t breathe,” she cries as she gasps

“Let me go,” she utters as she quickly dies

You feel the warmth leave your loosening grasp

You collapse, and your tears begin to float her away

What you spent your life chasing, you destroyed

in your selfish need to possess your wayward prey

you’re now left in a lonely self-made void


This scene around you is not something you recognize

You’ve been staring up too long to see in front of you

The heartbreak you feel is enough to paralyze

But you decide to finally join the scene that’s in view


You wasted your time chasing something precious

But you turned it into something quite odious

Now you live your life filling the void with trifles

As a robot in the crowd, you focus on mere survival


As you wander through the busy blurry street

A light beckons you toward a dream thought obsolete

You follow eagerly seeing clearly what is before you

Then you stop because you know it is futile to pursue


She stops to watch you watch her from a distance

She timidly floats to your slumping figure

No longer in fear, she lets go of her resistance

Not possessing her, you’ve gained something bigger!

January 7, 2014

An Open-Wounded Heart

Filed under: dating,poetry,relationships — desi83 @ 6:36 pm
Tags: , ,

An Open-Wounded Heart
My heart has hardened from scars of yesterday
It no longer beats to a happy melody
You speak in verse and offer your arms to try and sway
With you it wasn’t abuse or infidelity

It was being left to wonder what I did wrong
So I tolerated those punishments from others
While my heart thumped to the beat of a lonely song
That sparkle in my eyes faded as my hope withered

And I learned to be friends with a lady called Lonely
She stayed with me during those long, sleepless nights
She generously wrapped her darkness around me
Love’s been a distant memory that’s out of my sight

Now I glimpse a flicker of light that beckons me back
I have to wonder if backwards is the right way
The hardened shell around my heart begins to crack
I welcome the pain of it, come what may

The past has left me in a pile of dust and rubble
Love and hope, destroyed and replaced by consternation
Have begun to rise again, and my doubt crumbles
I slowly open the door in anticipation

to invite you back into my body and soul
Please don’t re-open the wounds of my battered heart
Help me rediscover the faith that heartbreak stole
With you on this path with me, I go back to the start

October 8, 2013

I love you-Words that now inspire fear

Filed under: dating,life,relationships — desi83 @ 5:56 pm

To continue my obsession with the Avett Brothers, Click on their official video of “I and Love and You” before reading this.
We say these words all of the time, but they aren’t always genuine. We throw them around meaninglessly to friends who aren’t that close to us or lovers whose bodies we love and want to ravish, but would we really catch this person if they fell? No, we’d be too busy checking our facebook on our phone. We don’t really “love” most people we say those words to. Those words should mean something other than I love you…r body and the way it feels against mine. Or, I love…what I can get from you. I love…hanging out with you but don’t call me if you need help moving. So, I am now afraid of these words. I don’t want to hear them from anyone who can’t back them up, and I damn sure won’t say them if I can’t back them up. Recently a guy who I have dated off and on (we have never committed because of distance and circumstances and well, he is a commitment phobe and a workaholic), drunkenly said these words to me several times. The first emotion this inspired was fear. I didn’t know what to say. He was drunk, so maybe he just felt affection for whomever was near him. But after all these years and after many drunken stupid nights, he says these words repeatedly. I just kept saying “no you don’t”. So, he said, “Fine, I hate you.” I of course reminded him of this as well as other embarrassing stories of the night, and his reply was, “Well, I do like you. And I said I hate you because you didn’t appreciate my intentions.” He seemed embarrassed, and we proceeded to laugh about a story he told about a goat that kept getting weirder and weirder, and how he hugged some guy he doesn’t remember meeting. I am probably just being a girl about this, but I keep wondering why he is suddenly throwing around the L word, even it is in a drunken state. Hey, at least I didn’t say it back. I did realize that we do have an attachment to each other that goes beyond casual encounters or the occasional dinner date when we have the time. I remember calling him when I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t so directly involved in my life. He’s turned to me several times in the past when he needed someone to listen. So maybe there are different levels of love. I love you enough to listen to you vent about your work at 1 o’clock in the morning. I love you enough to drive an hour and a half to see you, and you love me enough to do the same. I don’t love you enough to change anything in my life so that we can see each other more often or progress any further. That is what you have to consider when someone says those words, or when you say them. How much would you sacrifice for this person, because that is how much you love them. To truly love someone is to love them unconditionally. When we put conditions on our love for another person, it limits that love. When that condition no longer applies, the love disappears.

March 23, 2013


Filed under: angst,Blogging,dating,life,relationships — desi83 @ 2:34 am

“You are too pretty to not be married. You’re not even engaged yet?” “Do you have kids? Really, why not?” Yes, these are questions/comments that I’ve gotten from well-meaning older ladies at the schools where I’ve taught recently. Five years ago it was more like “Oh, you have plenty of time, there is no rush,” or “You don’t want to settle down too soon”. Now it’s like, hey, you’re headed towards spinsterhood, get a move on. I’ve also noticed that if a person near my age is divorced, people understand that more than my being single. Even with shows like Friends, Happy Endings, New Girl, and a plethora of other shows about 30 somethings being single, the attitude is still the same. It’s time to get married and have children before your looks go and your eggs dry up. Actually, CiCi in New Girl did have that pressure and is now engaged because, in her Indian culture, it was time for her to meet and marry a suitable Indian man chosen by her parents. I got the impression that she was only into it because it was what was expected. Of course, that is another issue, and luckily my family doesn’t put a lot of pressure and expectations on me when it comes to marriage and kids. Every now and then they’ll complain about how I never date anyone they like, but that’s as far as it really goes. It’s mostly that I am feeling societal pressure, as well as pressure from every guy I’ve dated since being in my late 20s.

I don’t remember the last time I dated a guy without the expectation that the relationship could end up in marriage. Sheesh, talk about pressure. I wish I could just enjoy dating someone and getting to know them without talking about our future child’s name or where we want to live. We’ve only been dating for a few months, I don’t even know if I like everything about your personality yet! I admit, though, that I do get wrapped up in the idea at first. I think, well, I need to eventually get married anyway, and this guy wants to marry me, and he has a lot of good qualities and likes to take me to do fun things, so why not? But then I find some annoying habit he has and I realize, wow, we still have a lot to learn about each other before we can even fathom spending a lifetime together. Phew, yeah, this is a bit jumbled, I have a lot on my mind.

I’m going to Las Vegas for my 30th birthday, but there will be no eloping this weekend. I’m going to have fun with my guy, and I’m living in the present while I do it. We’ve literally had fights about hypothetical situations that would happen possibly if we were married. Then I got angry toward the end of the argument because I realized how preposterous the whole discussion was. I’m taking the shades of possibility off of my face for now so that I can just be in the present with him and get to know him much more thoroughly. Because sometimes I think I’d like to just live with my dogs and be done with it. Maybe I could find another loner who likes to just get together every couple of weeks and relieve our need for human companionship-I’m talking about playing a good old fashioned game of Jenga, get your mind out of the gutter;)

January 22, 2013

The world is not all rainbows and butterflies

Filed under: Blogging,dating,life,relationships — desi83 @ 2:55 am


Recently I had a realization that I am growing out of my idealism that people in this world are generally good and can be trusted. I got scammed out of a few hundred dollars because someone charming offered me what I thought sounded like a good opportunity. Details were left out of the contract with a footnote that read “see terms of use for more information” in tiny writing on the very bottom. I didn’t realize that I was getting locked into a year long contract that would automatically deduct money from my account every month for an entire year. It was a personal training service that I thought I could try for a month, and if I didn’t like it or didn’t want to pay for it anymore, I could just end it. Not so much, and there was a huge cancellation fee involved. Anyway, this occurance brought up memories of men who have deceived me, as well as people in professional situations or people I thought were friends. Through all of those deceptions, I still maintained that people were basically good and could be trusted. This scam, however, was like a smack in the face for me. I was extremely depressed for a couple of days, not just because I lost money (in the general scheme of things, a few hundred dollars lost won’t matter years from now) but because it was a realization that people are not generally to be trusted because people are selfish and will stomp on anyone to get what they want. I want to be idealistic and believe in love, trust, and harmony. But where does that get me? If I had my guard up and asked more questions or did more research when the trainer talked to me about joining, I wouldn’t have ended up in that mess. But because I trusted that he was helping me and had my best interest at heart, I ended up in a money pit. Another problem with that contract-it auto renews after a year. So it was like an eternal contract. It was like selling one’s soul to the devil.

In my new relationship, I find myself looking for red flags and questioning what he says and his intentions with me. It all sounds romantic and perfect, but he could leave me tomorrow, or he could be romancing someone else. I have given so much to past relationships that I have felt stripped down emotionally and completely exhausted. For what? For a guy who probably didn’t care that much in the first place because he had his issues and was looking for someone to fix them. So, now I tread lightly into this, yet at the same time I do find myself getting wrapped up in the romance of it all. I let myself fall a little bit and enjoy being happy with him. However, I still have my guard up and won’t say the L-word too fast, because there are parts of me that he has yet to see, and I’m sure he could say the same for himself. The point is, I’m sad that my belief in the good in people has gone to the wayside, and I’m just like my mother in terms of thinking of the worst case scnarios all the time.

January 3, 2013

Blood in the Snow

Filed under: horror,relationships,story — desi83 @ 6:12 am

I still don’t really know what I want to title this, but here is my story, the unedited complete first draft. Read this when you have some time, and give me feedback if you have any.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the parking lot of our apartment was her fluffy, white robe sprawled out onto the slightly snow-covered grass. What stood out, even in the darkness with only the dim street lights illuminating it, was the blood. It reminded me of her innocence; the dark blood stained the pure white of her robe. I prayed that it was just red wine or tomato soup, and in her haste, she threw out the soiled material. Maybe it belonged to someone else. I only faintly remembered that robe. It was the first winter that we were together. We had spent that last winter as neighbors without even knowing it. To think, we were strangers less than a year ago. I got up the nerve to approach the red-soaked robe. I bent down to get a better glimpse of it. It looked and smelled like blood. I was careful not to touch it. I ran into the apartment while making bargains with a God that I wasn’t even sure existed. I wasn’t taking any chances for the worst. The smell of her lingered through the house-spaghetti and meat balls, homemade chocolate chip cookies that she’d made recently, and her sweet pea body spray were the smells of our home together. “Baby, are you home?” I tried to sound casual. “Are you asleep already?” I asked with all the hope I could muster. I burst into the room with my eyes squeezed shut, as if I could cast some spell to bring her into the room, safely asleep. I slowly opened the door to find an empty, unmade bed. I remembered why it was so untidy-no more like destroyed! I woke her up to make love at seven in the morning because she looked so beautiful while she slept. I grabbed the blanket and held it, wishing it were her. Maybe she was at her parents’ house or out with her friends. I grabbed my phone and hit two on speed dial. I could faintly hear a ring coming from the bathroom. I slowly turned the knob, fearing that I’d see her mangled body slumped over the tub. I only found her phone ringing serenely on the bathroom counter. I pressed end on my phone and dialed 911. My heart knew that she was hurt; she needed me, and I had just been trying to deny the worst.

“911, what’s your emergency?” a cold voice answered. “I think something has happened to my girlfriend. Her bloody robe is in our front yard. Her phone is here, but she is missing,” I explained in between sobs. “What is your location?” the cold, monotone voice inquired. “508 Lincoln Boulevard, apartment A5,” I answered. “I’ll send an officer,” she said almost reluctantly. “Thank you,” I said somewhat sarcastically. I sat in the yard staring at the robe. That’s when I noticed the flip flop that seemed familiar lying on the sidewalk. Why had she been outside in her robe and flip flops? I gasped. “Ralph!” I couldn’t believe it took me this long to remember that the damn dog was missing, too. She had probably taken him for a short walk. I looked up and noticed her car parked on the other side of the parking lot sitting right beside the dumpster. The pieces were coming one by one, leading me to believe more and more the worst possible scenario

As I stood beside the robe, careful not to touch it in fear of tampering with evidence, I stared at her car and realized that would be a good thing to investigate. Just then, I saw the blue lights, and an officer stepped out of the cruiser. The last time I was in a scene like this, I was getting my first DUI, so I was still a little nervous around cops and those menacing blue lights. “Did you make the call about a missing woman, sir?” he asked sternly, officially. “Yes, sir. This robe belongs to my girlfriend, and I have not seen her since I’ve been home,” I stated. His eyes widened, and he pulled out a notepad and pen and began scribbling down notes. “Are you sure this belongs to her?” he asked. I’d only seen the robe a few times, but I remembered it now, just lying on the sofa a few days ago. “Yes, sir,” I answered nervously. “Do you live with her?” the officer inquired. “Yes, we live right there in that apartment, A5,” I answered, pointing to our apartment. “What is your girlfriend’s name?” he asked, suddenly looking up at me. “Callista, or Callie Stokes,” I answered. “How old is Callie?” he asked. “She is twenty-three years old,” I answered. “Describe her to me please,” the officer asked as he studied his notepad, quickly jotting down notes. “She has long blond hair, bright blue eyes, suntanned skin, and she is about one hundred and ten pounds. I think she’s around 5’4,” I described. “Okay, that just sounds like every man’s dream girl. Are you also going to tell me that her measurements are 36-24-36?” he asked. I shrugged my shoulders and blushed. She was every man’s dream girl, but she really was my girl. “Does she have any distinctive features?” he asked, shaking his head. I thought about it for a moment. “She has a Marylin Monroe freckle on her face, four piercings in each ear, and a tattoo of the Aries sign on her left hip,” I described thoroughly. “Okay, that’s something I can use in the investigation. Now, tell me where you’re coming from, since I’m assuming that you just discovered the robe,” he observed. “I work second shift, so I just got out about an hour and a half ago. That’s why I’m wearing this dirty black shirt and worn out jeans,” I explained. “Where do you work, um, what’s your name again?” he asked. “I don’t think I’ve told you my name yet. My name is Jake England,” I replied suspiciously. He looked strangely familiar. “Well, Mr. England, you may call me Detective McAllister. What exactly do you do for a living, Mr. England?” the officer asked, looking me straight in the eyes. “I work for the Volkswagon plant. I work on the production line,” I answered. “That’s not too far from here. When did you leave work, and when did you arrive at your apartment?” McAllister asked. “I left work around ten o’clock, and I got home around eleven o’clock, give or take a couple of minutes,” I answered. “Hmmm,” McAllister mumbled. “Why did it take you so long to get home? I happen to know that the Volkswagon plant is only fifteen minutes from here,” McAllister questioned. “I stopped at Buddy’s, a bar a couple of miles from the plant, to have a beer like I usually do,” I admitted. “Did you only have one beer?” McAllister pressed. “I had a couple. How does that pertain to my girlfriend’s disappearance?” I asked impatiently, trembling slightly, “Can we get back to the investigation, please?” “I am going to need a statement from someone at Buddy’s confirming your alibi,” McAllister said suspiciously. “I’m the one who called 911. Why would I be a suspect?” I asked angrily. “It’s because you’re the one who called 911, and because the spouse or boyfriend is always the first one to be suspected,” the officer explained, “It’s just routine.” I hung my head, feeling helpless. This was not happening. It was a bad dream, and I would wake up next to Callie and kiss her until she made me stop.

Is there anything else that you would like to add that could help lead us to Callie?” McAllister asked, attempting to wrap up the intense interview. “Yes, her car is still in the parking lot right beside the dumpster,” I said as I pointed toward the car. He squinted as he scribbled more notes in his notepad. “Also, her dog is missing and her flip flop is in the grass right beside the robe-just one flip flop,” I added. The officer nodded and wrote it down. Just then, two detectives arrived and began collecting the robe and the flip flop and put them in a scientific-looking plastic bag labeled “forensic evidence”. “So, from the evidence and the scene that we have before us, it is likely that Callie was walking her dog in her robe and flip flops. Someone could have grabbed her during the walk. Is her dog aggressive at all?” Officer McAllister inquired. “No, he’s just a big teddy bear of a dog,” I said regretfully. “Was anything missing from the house?” he questioned. “No, nothing was taken. It looks as though Callie could still be here, but she’s not. I’ve checked every room,” I answered. I started shaking and choking back tears. I had to keep it together for Callie’s sake. “Hmmm, normally if someone is assaulted or killed at their residence by a stranger, it is a result of a robbery. Do you know if she was in contact with anyone this evening?” McAllister speculated. “It’s a week-day, so she probably came straight home from school, grabbed a couple of beers and graded papers all evening by herself,” I answered confidently. “When did you last see Ms. Stokes?” McAllister asked. “I kissed her goodbye this morning before she left for work,” I answered nostalgically. “What time did you go to work, Mr. England?” McAllister questioned with an accusatory stare. “I work at one-thirty five days a week,” I answered, annoyed. McAllister quickly jotted down some notes then suddenly looked back at me. “Can you think of anyone who may have paid her a visit or who might be capable of hurting her?” he asked, very focused. “No one would have a reason to hurt her sir. She is a charismatic, funny, beautiful girl who spends her life taking care of children and dogs,” I answered passionately. At that, I broke into tears. I was always the calm one in stressful situations while Callie seemed to lose it at the smallest sign of inconvenience. However, this was a situation that had me imagining the worst possible scenarios. “So you can’t think of anyone who could have dropped by unexpectedly?” McAllister asked, unconcerned at my uncontrollable sobs. “Do you want a list of every person she knows or has ever met?” I asked sarcastically. McAllister’s eyes twinkled and he perked up. “Yes, that would be perfect! Include their phone numbers and addresses. Also, we will be interviewing all of the neighbors,” McAllister said excitedly. He was pumped and ready to find out what happened to Callie. Even though I still had a chip on my shoulder about cops, I was glad to have one on my side this time.

Suddenly, our neighbor Travis sped into the parking lot and swerved diagonally into the handicapped space and the space next to it. The officer and I stared for a moment, and out stumbled Travis, gripping his coat and a paper bag with some sort of bottle in it. “Is that a neighbor of yours?” Officer McAllister asked me as his suspicious glare turned to Travis. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Travis is one of the most ridiculous people I’ve ever known. He always inadvertently makes a grand entrance. “We’ll keep in touch, Mr. England. I’m going to conduct the first interview with your neighbor,” he said as he quickly approached Travis before he could duck into his apartment. “Excuse me sir, may I have a word with you?” McAllister called out to Travis. Travis kept his head down and tucked his paper bag-covered bottle into his coat. “I just want to go home,” I have nothing to do with whatever is going on here,” he mumbled. “That’s what I need to find out. What is your full name, sir?” McAllister asked, blocking Travis from escaping into his apartment. “Travis O’Hare. What is going on? You can’t give me a DUI because I’m not driving now. I’m going to get plastered in the privacy of my own freaking home!” he slurred with a drunken laugh. “I should give you a DUI anyway, or at least a ticket for public intoxication, but that is not what this is about,” McAllister said menacingly. Travis’s eyes widened and he stood stiff as a board. “When is the last time that you saw your neighbor, Ms. Callie Stokes?” McAllister asked, now standing almost nose to nose with Travis. “Man, screw that bitch. I don’t care. What the hell did she do?” Travis jabbered. “Oh she hasn’t done anything that we know of, but she is missing. I am sensing that you have some aggression toward her,” McAllister observed. “She’s batshit crazy is all I know. I haven’t talked to her or Jake since they left me at a bar without a ride, and it was because of her,” Travis explained. McAllister frantically jotted down all of Travis’s mutterings.

When did you leave the apartment today, and where did you go?” McAllister asked. “I left around, I don’t know, five or so. I went to my friend Trey’s house to watch the game. We hung out and drank some Jack, and I am just getting home,” he answered. “Could I have this Trey’s number please, for an alibi?” McAllister asked with a huge polite grin. “I guess. Say, what happened? Did somebody kill her or something?” he asked, staggering. I felt this rage rise up inside of me, and I ran toward Travis and shoved him. It was as if I were possessed by some angry ghost. The officer grabbed me and shoved me back as Travis stumbled toward me, mumbling something that sounded like reassurance to the officer. He put his hands up and said, “it’s cool, man, no problema!” He leaned toward me and whispered, “so what’d they find? Usually it’s a shoe or clothing of some sort. Leaves you with nothing but questions and assuming the worst.” I punched him in the face and fell to the ground on my knees. He looked back at me, holding his bloody face and ran to his apartment. “Mr. England, I will ask you not to harm Mr. O’Hare any further. I realize you are upset and you want to lash out, but you’re just making it worse,” the officer said trying to calm me down. I sat on the sidewalk holding my head. “How did he fucking know? Her stuff isn’t on the front lawn anymore. I don’t trust him,” I yelled. “We’ll keep an eye on him, Mr. England. In the meantime, you stay here and get some rest, and I’ll keep searching for clues to lead me to your Callie,” he reassured me. “Okay, that’s fine, thank you Officer. Just let me know if you hear anything,” I said wearily. “I’m going to call forensics here to collect the robe and check for any other evidence that may have any tissue or fingerprints out here that could be used as evidence,” he assured me.

The truth is, Travis and I were close friends until Callie and I moved in together. I still tried to keep our friendship, but it wasn’t the same. He resented her since she got angry with me every time Travis was around. Sure, he was a bad influence on me, but he was a good friend who just happened to have a lot of bad habits but not too many other friends. He was a sad sort of person. I guess I felt sorry for him, but he was also hilarious and weird in an interesting sort of way. I wondered if he could have resented her to the point of-no way. He was weird and a little socially-awkward, but he was not capable of killing anyone. He didn’t hate her that much, did he? I would talk with him the next day so he wouldn’t be paranoid of my hitting him or accusing him again. Forensics showed up, bagged up the bloody robe, and dusted the parameter for prints. They didn’t find any other clothing or objects. “Was there any sign of breaking and entering when you entered the residence, Mr. England?” McAllister asked. “No sir. It looked like Callie has been here and maybe went outside to walk her dog. I still haven’t found the dog,” I responded, curious as to what could have happened to Ralph. “We’re still going to search the apartment for clues just in case it was a friend that Callie let into the apartment who could have harmed Callie,” McAllister explained. It was all a bit of a blur. I just sort of stood there watching these uniformed strangers prowl through all of our belongings in our happy, humble home. It was surreal, like being an extra in a crime show.

It suddenly dawned on me that Callie’s windshield had been busted a week ago, with what Travis thought may have been a hammer. Her plants had gone from green and full of blooms to brown and shriveled within a couple of days. A month ago, the small angel statue she had on the patio had been broken all over the yard, and we had seen it intact just the previous night. We took the car to the repair shop where they confirmed that the windshield had to have been busted by a hammer or another blunt object. Why had Travis known what type of tool had busted the windshield, and described in such detail how it had happened? “Wow, dude, it looks like someone probably waited until it was dark, grabbed a hammer, knelt on top of the hood, and then whacked the windshield right in the middle,” he described while demonstrating with body movements. “Somebody’s pissed off at you, Callie,” Travis warned. The repair shop showed me the dents in the hood where someone probably knelt on the hood. Callie had cursed him the day before the windshield incident for barging into our apartment drunk in the middle of the day. Travis was pretty much always drunk. Could he really be capable of something as coldblooded as-No! I could not say it. Until there was a dead body and actual evidence, I could not lay the burden of accusation on him. There was a chance that she was alive until they found the body, so there may not have been a murder of which to accuse Travis.

“It’s cold in here, Jake,” Callie whispered. I turned to hold her close to me so that I could warm her. Her skin chilled my touch, and I could not get her warm. Instead, I was left feeling cold. “I can’t get you warm, Callie. I’m shivering the more that I touch you,” I responded sadly. I shook her gently, but her only response was a whimper. I was getting colder and colder as I held her tighter. “Callie!” I shouted as I turned her over to face me. “Oh my God,” I whispered. “Help me, Jake,” she uttered through frozen lips. My heart felt as if it were going to burst out of my chest at the sight of her. Frozen tears lined her face, and her lips were pale blue. “What do you want me to do, Callie? What can I do?” I panicked. I stared at her with terror in my eyes. “I’m lost, Jake,” Callie whispered. I awoke in a cold sweat. What did it all mean? Was it just the stress of the situation, or was she trying to tell me something? Okay, now I was driving into crazytown. We were not telepathic.

I was willing to consider anything a possibility at this point. I would even try to listen to frozen creepy Callie in my dreams for some sort of sign in my subconscious. I knew that Callie needed me to find her, and I was no longer going to waste time sleeping. I threw on my slippers and jacket and went outside. I pulled my jacket tightly against me as I shivered from the cold night air, and maybe a little bit from the dream. I began wandering through the front yard, searching for any clue that the detective may have missed: a weapon, blood or clothing that may belong to her attacker, or anything else that could add to the puzzle that had barely began.

I made my way to the backyard and noticed Ralph’s leash on Travis’s patio, hidden behind a bush. I crept around the outside of his apartment to see if I could find any other evidence when I heard a dog barking. That is when I lost it. I banged loudly on his door, and the barking grew louder. I heard someone scrambling around inside and finally Travis threw open the door holding a chopping knife. “What’s up, man?” he asked as he lowered the knife. His eyes were bloodshot but wide and alert. Ralph ran between Travis’s legs, almost knocking him down. Luckily, he grabbed the door frame so that he wouldn’t fall on me with a knife. “Hey, Ralphie, there you are boy!” I said excitedly as the huge golden retriever jumped on me and put his paws on my chest. Then, I turned to Travis with disbelief burning in my eyes. “Why the hell is Callie’s dog in your apartment?” I demanded calmly through clenched teeth. “I heard him scratching at my door a couple of hours ago, so I let him in,” Travis explained weakly, still holding the knife loosely by his side. “Really? When were you planning on telling me this? And why are you answering the door with a knife?” I asked, my voice getting higher and more impatient. “It is four o’clock in the morning, man, so I figured you were asleep. And you know I had a stalker awhile ago. So if I am not expecting someone to pay me a visit at four a.m., I take my ‘guard dog’ with me,” he answered thoroughly.

“When was the last time that you had an issue with your stalker?” I asked him, mostly to humor him. “A couple of days ago, someone was peeking through my bedroom window,” he began. “I would think you’d enjoy that sort of thing,” I chided. “No, man, this wasn’t a hot chick or anything like that. I couldn’t really see who it was because it was dark, but the person was wearing a green hoodie. When he saw me notice him, he disappeared. Later, I realized my pipe and and some cd’s were missing from my car. That could have been the homeless guy, but I don’t know,” Travis explained. “Why didn’t you tell any of this to the detective, Travis? This so-called stalker may have hurt Callie,” I replied angrily. “Also, why didn’t you call the police when you found Ralph?” I demanded. “I didn’t think they’d be concerned over a missing dog,” Travis remarked. Travis’s eyes were twitching, and he was shaking. I wasn’t sure if it was his temper flaring or the drugs. “We thought Ralph was with Callie, so now he is a clue in her disappearance. He may have DNA on him or something,” I calmly explained. Travis shook his head and ran his hands through his hair manically. Then he began to breath hard. Ralph was just sitting in the corner, appearing scared and confused. “I was drunk and smoking crack, so I was trying to avoid the detective. I didn’t exactly want to invite him in for a drink,” Travis replied quietly. “I thought your crack pipe was stolen?” I asked casually. “No, that pipe was for weed. I always have my crack pipe hidden where no one can find it,” Travis replied with a smirk. “Let me guess, you have it hidden under your bed?” I guessed. “Damn it. You got me. Well, don’t go trying to steal it. Crack is wack, man!” he joked. “You don’t have to tell me, dude,” I responded with a laugh. “You should stick to pot, Travis. You are crazy and manic enough without smoking crack, and alcohol makes you horribly annoying,” I pointed out. “Whoa, dude, you sounded just like Callie for a minute. And I didn’t like hearing that shit from her, either,” Travis observed. “Well, she is a smart woman,” I replied. “She was…” he replied quietly. “No not was-is! There is a good chance that she is still alive. I have to believe it,” I stated. “That did look like a lot of blood on the robe,” Travis began. “What the fuck, man?” I shouted. “Sorry, you are right, Jake. I hope they find her for your sake, and that she is okay and ready to start bitching at me again,” he replied, consoling me. “I am going home with Ralph now, and I’m going to have to speak with the detective about all of this, man,” I said, exasperated. “Yeah, that’s cool, man, whatever you have to do. Don’t forget Ralph’s leash,” Travis said as he handed me Ralph’s red leash. I stared at him for a moment calculating the possibility of his guilt.

I decided to try and get more sleep, as difficult as it was with my mind going in several different directions. I lay down with Ralph at the foot of our bed and stared at the ceiling. I couldn’t help but start mentally investigating Callie’s disappearance. What hadn’t I checked? I checked her car, Travis’s apartment, the front and back yard, but Ralph was my only clue. I jumped up and ran into the living room and snatched up Callie’s phone. I pushed the call history button and noted that her friends Jamie and Miranda had called a half an hour before I arrived home. I definitely needed to tell the detective about that. I noticed an unfamiliar number on her received calls list. There was no name with it, and it was made almost an hour before I had arrived at the apartment. So, she answered the call from the mystery caller, but she had missed her best friends’ calls. I remembered that Callie kept an address book in her dresser. So, I dug it out and flipped through it. After reading through familiar names and numbers, I discovered that the mysterious number was there with a name beside it…John Chang. Who was John Chang, and why was he calling my girlfriend at ten o’clock at night? I decided that I would call him in a couple of hours when it was an almost decent time to call someone. I stared at the ceiling holding her phone in my hand with the address book open beside me. Could this be an old boyfriend? Maybe it was a work colleague or wrong number? I looked at it again. The call had lasted twenty minutes. I strained my brain trying to remember if Callie had mentioned a guy named Chang, but no one came to mind.

I finally decided to try calling John Chang. I struggled to dial each digit, then I hung up. I was not prepared for this. What if she was seeing this man behind my back? I had to find out in case he knew something that I didn’t. If she was cheating, would I even care what happened to her? Yes, damn it, no matter what I wanted to know that she was alive and well. I dialed the number once more, and it began to ring. My heart began to pound with that first ring. Six more times it rang before it went to voice-mail. “This is John Chang, you know what to do,” said a deep voice with a southern accent. Strange, I thought Chang was an Asian name, but the voice did not sound like it came from an Asian man. I suppose that is being ethnocentric, but still. Chang, an Asian name, Chinese, I think. Then, a memory popped in my head.

“Come over here, Jake,” Callie ordered flirtatiously. “Yes ma’am,” I teased back. She began kissing my face and neck, and suddenly she started tickling me. I grabbed her and threw her on the couch and pinned her down so I could retaliate, but she started gasping for air and kicking me. It was the horrible fear in her eyes that stopped me. I stopped tickling her, but I stayed on top of her and threw my hands up. “I’m sorry Callie, whatever I did! Did I hurt you?” I panicked. “No, you’re fine, it’s just that…(she sighed and looked down averting her eyes from me) I was reminded of a bad memory when you pinned me down. It has nothing to do with you,” she reassured me. I climbed off of her, and we both sat up on the couch. “What was it, the bad memory?” I asked. “Well, the guy that I was engaged to during college was kind of abusive. I mean, he didn’t beat me or anything, but he was controlling, verbally abusive, and he shoved me down a couple of times during arguments. I still have nightmares about him, and I hate to say it, but every time that I see a muscular Chinese man, I get a chill up my spine because I think it might be him,” Callie revealed.

I knew from that memory exactly who John Chang was. I wanted to know why the fuck he was calling my girlfriend the night she disappeared with her bloody robe still lying on the lawn, or really why was he calling her at all? I looked through the rest of her call list, and there was a missed call from John on Monday and Tuesday. She hadn’t called him back, but I noticed that her text inbox and outbox were empty. Had they been texting and she just erased the messages? No, why would she ever want to talk to that jerk again? Had this been going on for awhile? I couldn’t believe that she could keep any secrets from me. That’s what I loved about our relationship. We were brutally honest with each other about everything. Why would she hide her communication with her crazy ex all of the sudden? I just needed to find this John guy to get some answers.

I threw on a sweatshirt and my slippers and searched the living room for my keys. I grabbed them out of the pile of junk on the coffee table and bolted out of the parking lot with Callie’s address book open to the page with John Chang’s information. His street name was scribbled below his name, and I knew exactly where it was. I would knock on every door until I found him. What was I going to say? “Hey, I’m Jake, Callie’s boyfriend. So did you kill my girlfriend last night?” It wouldn’t be easy,but I was going to find out the truth somehow. I pulled into the subdivision and quickly found the street. I drove into the culdesac and parked. I knocked on the first door, and an elderly woman answered the door. She said that she did not know a John Chang. I continued down the street knocking on each door that I came to. No one seemed to know who John Chang was. I guess he kept to himself-typical of a crazy abusive ex-girlfriend killer. I was about to give up when I saw a red Silverado truck pull into a driveway of a house that I had checked earlier, and no one had answered the door. I sank down in my seat and watched as short, muscular Asian man with short black hair climbed out of the truck. He was wearing tight Wrangler jeans, work boots, and a plain black t-shirt. He definitely looked like he went with the voice I’d heard on his voice-mail. He walked with his southern swagger into his large two-story brick house. The yard looked professionally landscaped, and I could see a large crystal chandelier from the glass covered/gold embroidered front door. This guy had money. He could have easily paid someone to hide a body. I was still laying low in my car, probably looking pretty damned suspicious in this neighborhood.

I inhaled and exhaled my fear slowly, and I opened my door. I rolled my shoulders and began walking up to the front door of the man who may have killed my Callie, or at least roughed her up during their relationship. I was going to have to be calm if I wanted answers. I rang the door bell, and this smug, southern-born Asian man opened the door. “Um, can I help you?” he asked, annoyed. He had this evil in his eyes. Some people just exude goodness or evil through their eyes, and you just know it by looking at them. I lost it. “Are you John Chang?” I asked, shaking. “Yeah, what is wrong with you?” he asked. It was obvious that I hated this man I didn’t even know. “Where the fuck is my girlfriend?” I shouted. “Who the fuck are you, and why would I know anything about your girlfriend?” he asked as he stepped closer to me, sticking out his chest. He was a few inches shorter than I, but he made up for it in physique. He could probably take me in a fight, but I didn’t care. “Her name is Callie Stokes, and I believe you have a history with her,” I said as I glared at him with only two inches between us. He laughed. I shoved him.

“Dude, you need to back off. I can’t fight you,” he said, but he looked like he wanted a fight. “Why are you laughing, man? Do you know what happened to her?” I asked, shaking furiously. “Callie and I have been talking. I called her a few weeks ago to see how she was. I think she misses me a little bit, and now I see why,” he said as he looked me up and down. “What have you done with her?” I growled in his face. He pushed me back. “I haven’t seen her since we split. We just talked on the phone and on facebook chat. I wanted to meet up with her, but she said she didn’t know if it was a good idea,” he explained. “Not a good idea? You abused her. You shouldn’t be talking to her or even thinking about her. She told me what you did,” I said, angry at both at them. “I didn’t do shit. She would scream and holler and push me. I had to restrain her a few times,” he clarified. “Bullshit. I’m going to tell the cops about you, Chang,” I warned him. “Tell them, and I’ll tell them you came to my house and harassed me,” he replied. I could not hold back my rage any longer. I raised my arm to his neck and pushed him into the wall with my elbow pressing into his throat. Suddenly, I was on the ground, and he had me in a choke hold. “I cannot fight you. I am legally a dangerous weapon, but I can legally stop you from hurting me. I’m going to let you go, and you are going to leave. Got it?” he asked, still holding me down. I choked out a “yes”. He let me up, and I rubbed my sore neck. “I am going to the cops. I know you are lying,” I said. “So, is she missing or have they found her body?” he asked. “She’s missing, and they found a piece of her clothing with her blood on it. I’m not looking for her body, I’m looking for her to be alive,” I said. “Well, I haven’t fucking seen her, but good luck,” he said as he slammed the door behind me. I was going to make sure he paid.

The phone rang as soon as I got into our apartment. “Mr. England? This is Officer McAllister. I just got a call from a John Chang that you were at his house harassing him,” McAllister said firmly.

He’s Callie’s abusive ex-boyfriend, I had to check him out,” I defended.

You leave that up to me and the rest of the department. You’re going to make things worse for you and Callie if you go around threatening every possible suspect. We will definitely check him out, though. Is there a reason that you suddenly thought of him?”

His phone number was on Callie’s call history. She told me once that she dated a Chinese guy who was abusive, so I put two and two together. So, I’m just trying to figure out why she was talking to someone who used to hurt her. They spoke on the phone the night she was killed.

Okay, that is definitely a lead. Next time, please call me or the department before you go interrogating people on your own. Do you have any other leads or possible suspects?”

Yes, I do actually. Last night, I found Callie’s dog. He’s an inside dog, and Callie takes him for walks a couple of times a day. My neighbor, Travis, had him in his apartment. I went over there at about 4 am to ask him about his stalker, and there was Ralph in his apartment. I’m not sure if or when he was planning on telling me that he found Ralph. Oh, and his stalker-he said there was a person peeking through his window, and Callie’s windshield was cracked recently. Also, some personal items were stolen from his car. He said the person peeking through his window had on a green hoodie.”

Okay, I’ve got all this written down. I’ll question John Chang and Travis O’Hare about what you’ve told me. In the meantime, please just get some rest and come to me with any other leads or evidence.”

McAllister hung up the phone, and I slumped down into the kitchen chair. I started thinking about responsibilities. My world stopped when I found Callie’s bloody robe. It was difficult to comprehend trying to go about life right now-dinner, taking care of Ralph, cleaning the apartment, going to work, or brushing my teeth right before I crawled into that huge, cold, empty bed. The thing is, Callie took care of most of the responsibilities. I went to work, and that was about it. She walked Ralph, cooked dinner, did the laundry, cleaned the apartment, and kept up with our finances. She was so smart and put-together. I have been in the recovery process since we met. I was addicted to opiates when we first met. I was a total mess, and she saved me with her tough love. She told me that she wouldn’t associate with me if I didn’t quit the pills. “Associate” was her word. I tried, but it’s not like someone can just stop an addiction all at once. She would find my pills and flush them down the toilet. My friends would come over to give me a fix, and she’d chase them away with her little can of pepper spray. She was determined to save me. She let me live in her apartment, but she made sure I cleaned up and paid my half. The truth is, I couldn’t afford my own place back then because all of my money was going to drugs and alcohol. Yet, for the first time in my life, I found someone who believed I could be a better person. I loved her so much that I did quit the pills, and I cut back on the drinking. Travis and I used to get wasted together all the time before Callie came along. That’s pretty much why he can’t stand Callie and why she can’t stand him. That was something I should probably mention to McAllister. I needed a pen and paper to jot down these passing thoughts.

I opened the refrigerator, then I looked in the freezer. There was nothing there that I felt like cooking. Callie would be whipping up something amazing if she were here. I found a can of beans, dumped them in a bowl, and I microwaved them. They exploded all over the microwave, and I sank down into the floor. “Callie, please, I’m a mess without you, come home,” I pleaded even though she couldn’t hear me. I grabbed some paper towels, took out the bowl of beans, and began scarfing them down. Ralph was staring at me, wanting food or a walk or both. I inhaled and exhaled, and I clipped his leash onto his collar. He pulled me hard outside, and I was struggling to keep up with him. I hadn’t taken him for a walk in a very long time. “Ralphie, slow down! Stay! Stay!” I shouted. He finally stopped to lift his leg up to pee. I took the day off work because I just couldn’t deal with it. Ralph dragged me back into the house, and I dumped some food in his bowl. I didn’t know how much she usually fed him exactly, but I figured I should just fill up his bowl.

I sat on the couch with Ralph in my lap. We watched some sitcom on television, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. I couldn’t hear what the characters said or notice what they were doing. I was floating in darkness with no one to hold onto me. I couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t just sit there in my pain and helplessness. I just needed something to take it all away. That’s when there was a knock at the door. I slowly rose off the couch and shuffled to the door. “Dude, you look like a mess,” Travis said with his junkie giggle. “I am a mess without her,” I mumbled. “Oh man, you just need to forget about all of this for awhile. I brought you a present,” he said as he whipped out a pill bottle. “Oh no, man, get those away from me,” I said as I felt a longing for those pills. My whole body tensed up with the anticipation of escaping with them. “Come on, you just need something to get you by while you’re going through this tough time,” Travis pressured me. “Hold out your hand,” he persuaded me as he gingerly grasped my arm and turned over my palm. He set the bottle into my palm and closed my hand around it. I stood there staring at this bottle, and I scrunched up my face in frustration. A single tear fell down my cheek. “I can’t Travis, she’ll hate me. She tried so hard to clean me up,” I begged. “Had you rather sit here in pain? Do you think she’d want you to go to that dark place and stay there?” he continued.

I looked at the bottle to see what it was. Loratab 10 mg. It was name brand, and it was a high dose. I twisted off the cap and dropped two pills in my palm. I kept them in my hand as I placed the bottle on the table, and I grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator. I chased the pills with a beer and sat down on the couch to wait for all of my pain and fear to disappear. “Now, you can sleep tonight, and you won’t hurt for her anymore,” he said soothingly as he sat down beside me and repeated what I had just done. We sat there, zoning out, and I didn’t even care that I had just undone all of Callie’s hard work. For all I knew she was screwing her psycho ex-boyfriend behind my back. I drifted away slowly until consciousness left us, my crazy yet faithful neighbor and me.

I woke up to a pounding on the door. Travis was in the recliner asleep, and we had a bottle of Loratab and some beer cans on the table. It wasn’t a scene that I particularly wanted anyone to see. I picked up a jacket that was nearby and threw it over my table of deceit. I rubbed my face with my hands and then through my hair. I realized that I needed to shave badly. “Hold on, I’m coming!” I yelled to the uninvited guest. “It’s Office McAllister,” the guest yelled back. Shit. “Travis! Hey, Travis, wake up. The cop is here,” I whispered. Travis began to stir, but he didn’t open his eyes. I opened the door anyway. “Jake, hey, I just wanted to come by and let you know that I talked to…is that the other suspect passed out on your recliner?” McAllister asked, astonished. “Yes, he came by last night to check on me. We had a few beers, and then he fell asleep on my recliner. Did you need to talk with him?” I asked, hoping that McAllister wouldn’t look under the jacket on the table. “First, you’re telling me that I should question him in the disappearance of your girlfriend, and now you’re having beers with him? It doesn’t look good, Jake,” McAllister said suspiciously. “What the fuck are you talking about, suspect?” Travis asked. “I told you I’d have to tell the detective that you had Ralph in your apartment and that you had a stalker. I have to tell him anything that he could use to lead me to my Callie,” I explained. “She wouldn’t come back to you now, anyway even if she were still alive,” Travis shot back. “What do you mean, ‘still alive’? You don’t know that she isn’t. Or do you?” I shouted at Travis. “Okay, guys, calm down. Travis, why don’t I talk with you outside? I just have a few questions, and then you can be on your way,” McAllister said, trying to keep the peace. “Alright, whatever,” he said. They went outside, and I grabbed the pills from the table. I hid them in the dresser drawer in my room, and I threw away the empty beer cans. I decided to shave while I was at it. I stood looking at the mirror, and I didn’t much like who was looking back at me. He was a broken, irresponsible man who didn’t deserve a girl like Callie. His eyes were hollow, empty. His face was a dull pale color with a scar on his cheek from a rough night in New York several years ago. He was a shadow of the terrible person he used to be. Callie had given him a glow upon his cheeks, a sparkle in his eyes, and a smile that made him look human. Without her, he was a lost shadow.

Jake, can I see you for a moment?” McAllister called me.

I’ll be right out,” I replied, still staring at this empty person in the mirror. I wiped off the remnants of the shaving cream and walked into the living room to meet McAllister.

I need you to get it together if you would like to find Callie. You are no good to her hopped up on God-knows-what kind of drugs and alcohol,” he warned me.

Drugs? What are you talking about?” I asked innocently. He gave me a knowing look.

Travis is obviously on something all the time. You two fell asleep together and both look like death warmed over,” he clarified.

We didn’t ‘fall asleep together’,” I corrected.

He’s not someone to turn to right now,” McAllister warned. “What business of yours is it who I turn to right now?” I demanded. McAllister shook his head.

All I’m saying is that I need you to keep it together if you want to find Callie. I spoke with John Chang,” he revealed.

What did he say? Do you think he had anything to do with it? Do you know why he and Callie were talking?” I asked all at once.

His alibi didn’t check out. So, I’m going to try to get a search warrant. Something strange is definitely going on with that guy.”

What was his alibi?”

He said that he was at a bar right after work the night Callie went missing. I went to that bar, and no one remembered him. I watched the surveillance camera just in case he just went unnoticed, but I never saw him enter the bar. Considering that he spoke with Callie on the telephone within an hour of her disappearance, he is definitely a suspect now. So, we’re going to try to get a search warrant for his house and car.”

Thank you, Officer McAllister. Please let me know as soon as you find anything. So, did Travis tell you anything useful?”

McAllister rolled his eyes. “That guy is trouble, but I don’t know that he’d hurt anyone. I’m definitely keeping my eye on him, though. Don’t let him steer you the wrong way. You need to keep your focus and be someone she’ll want to come home to.”

You’re right. I’m sorry about that. Well, keep in touch if you hear anything.”

I will. Behave yourself, and I’ll be talking with you again soon.”

I went back into the apartment and took a shower. I stood there and let the hot water envelope me in its warmth and cleanliness. I breathed in the steam, and I thought about praying. I just couldn’t, though. God never seemed to be there for me in the past, so why should he care now? I got out, dried off, and threw on some boxers and a t-shirt of mine that Callie used to wear to bed sometimes. It still smelled like her. I sat on the bed and opened the dresser drawer. I sat there staring at the bottle of pills, thinking it would be nice to sleep again. I knew that Callie would be hurt if she saw me take them. Yet, if she never returned to me, what would be the point? I put them in my hand and stared at them for a bit. I sighed, then I dumped out a couple and swallowed them. I at least chased them with water this time. I laid down on top of the blankets and stared at the ceiling, wondering if she’d ever lie beside me again. Then my thoughts drifted to John Chang. That conceited son of a bitch might have been touching her behind my back. Worse than that, he might have killed her. Strangely, it wouldn’t be as bad if he just killed her than if he got her love first. I had always thought of her as innocent, a victim in a bad relationship that anyone could have ended up with. I didn’t want to think that she could touch someone else besides me. If he did touch her, I’d kill him with my bare hands. I’d strangle him and look into his eyes as I watched him die. Just one word from the police that there is evidence that John hurt Callie, and he would be a dead man at my hand. Chang was “legally a dangerous weapon” because of his martial arts training, so I’d have to find him in the dead of night in the quiet darkness of his room while he lay unaware of my presence. I could softly walk into his room with a needle of sedative that I could get from Travis. Once he was barely conscious, I could put my hands around his neck and press down, watching as his breath and heart beat left him, and he lay limp under my hands. I fell asleep, feeling at peace with my plan.

“Jake, are we still going to dinner tonight at that new Japanese restaurant?” Callie asked. “Is that tonight?” I asked as I tensed up. Shit, she was going to be mad. “Kokoro told us the other night that his brother and sister-in-law were opening a new Japanese restaurant downtown. We told him that we’d check it out tonight. He gave us coupons. This conversation happened at Kokoro’s liquor store. Are you serious right now?” Callie was fuming, but she was still trying to control the fire that was brewing inside of her head. “I told Travis and the guys that I’d go play pool with them. I can cancel, though,” I offered. She rolled her eyes. “So, can you spot us tonight? I am running low on funds this week,” I said weakly. Now, the flames were about to start burning through me. “Are you serious? We’ve been planning this for a week. I know you can afford it because I do your budgeting every month. Where did the money go?” Callie demanded. “I don’t know, a little bit here and there? I guess cigarettes, beer, gas, you know, it just goes, money, that is,” I muttered. She rolled her eyes. “Sadly, I do factor in cigarettes when I figure your budget. I also factor in gas and food expenses. So, the money that is left, you are saying that you drank so much beer that you spent all of that money? I haven’t seen you getting plastered this week, so when did this binge drinking occur?” Callie asked while standing less than an inch away from me.

I lost it. I couldn’t handle being treated like a child anymore. “I don’t want you to do my budgeting anymore. I don’t know where every penny of yours goes, so it is not fair that you should be tracing my money,” I said firmly. She laughed. “If I stopped doing your budgeting, then how would you pay me your half of the rent? If you don’t pay me half the rent, where are you going to lay your head at night?” Callie challenged. “Look, just go by yourself or get one of your friends to go. I’ll just hang with Travis and the guys. I’m not going to spend my Friday night being treated like some juvenile delinquent by my supposed girlfriend,” I shouted. “Oh, you would love that. You get to hang out with your little boyfriend and spend money on booze instead of, God forbid, actually taking me out on a real date. That’s fine, I’m calling Eric. I’m calling a friend who is gentleman enough to take out a girl that he’s not even going to get to bang later,” Callie fired back. “I’m out,” I said as I slammed the door in her face.

I woke up to the phone ringing beside my bed. It was Detective McAllister. “Jake, we did the search in John’s car and residence. We found something kind of interesting,” he began. I was suddenly sobered up with a mix of dread and hope. “There was a girl’s jacket there. Forensics identified it as having Callie’s hair and fingerprints on it,” he revealed. “Okay, that is something, right? He obviously has lied about seeing her,” I said hopefully. McAllister sighed. “That only proves that she has been at his house at some point. They dated, he is not denying that, so I we can’t charge him with anything. It’s just a jacket, Jake. If this guy had anything to do with Callie’s disappearance, he is a master at hiding it,” McAllister lamented. I knew what the jacket meant. She had been at his house. “By the way, did you know that John Chang is actually Dr. John Chang? He’s a surgeon at St. Thomas Hospital. Let’s just say that he has plenty of money for a lawyer, and I am betting that he is getting one right now,” McAllister added. Even if there was evidence against the bastard, he could pay his way out. “Is there not enough circumstantial evidence against him to make a case?” I asked. “There is just as much against your neighbor buddy. Chang doesn’t have a solid alibi, and he spoke with Callie the night she disappeared. He knew her, and he has her jacket. You say that he was abusive, but there is no record of any abuse, so that’s hearsay. Your neighbor? He was known to have a grudge against Callie, he is a drunk and a drug addict, and he had her dog in his apartment the night she went missing. He could have attacked her, took her somewhere, and then came home right when you did. So, we have two possible suspects with circumstantial evidence, but no physical evidence actually tying anyone to the disappearance. We’ll just have to keep looking,” McAllister explained. I sighed and groaned out of frustration.

“I know this is frustrating, but Callie needs you to be strong and in control for her. Get some rest, and stay clean for her. Getting messed up every night is not going to bring her back, and if she does come back, she’s not going to want to find you drunk and high falling all over yourself,” McAllister advised. “Let me know if there is any new information,” I said, and I hung up. This was hopeless. I might never see her again, and there was nothing I could do about it. Dread flooded my body, and I could feel my blood becoming thicker in my veins, threatening to burst them if I kept sitting still. My head pounded, and my brain longed to shut down. I couldn’t handle the thoughts anymore. My eyesight became blurry from the pain in my head, and I knew I had to get rid of this rage somehow. My body suddenly took over as my brain shut down every synapse except the ones that told my feet to move and drag me to the bedroom. There, those few synapses brought my hand to the nightstand where I kept the bottle of freedom. My hand wrapped around the bottle and dumped out a few little white magic pills. My feet then carried me to the refrigerator so that I could chase the pills with my favorite bottle of mind-numbing substance. My hand then found a needle and a tiny bottle of something more mind-numbing than the pills. Then, those few little synapses that were controlling me solely by my motor functions and instincts, brought me outside and into my car. My hand reached into my pocket and brought out my set of keys. I put the key into the ignition and drove with no conscious decision as to where to go.

After I slammed the door in Callie’s face the night we had our big fight, Travis and I went to Main Street bar. I was so tired of having her judge me all the time. I didn’t feel like I was living with my girlfriend. It was more like living with a mother, and it got to a point that I didn’t want to make love to her anymore. Because who wants to make love to their own mom? I was so fed up, yet I still loved her and needed her like my very own breath. Yet, I was beginning to lose my very breath the more I was around her. I took what little money that I had left, and I spent it that night on a little bit of everything. “Whiskey, please, make it a double,” I ordered. The cute bartender smiled. “Do you have a preference of whiskey?” “Whatever will make me forget that I’m me,” I said. We both laughed. She poured some kind of cheap whiskey in a glass and slid it over to me. I downed it, then I choked. “Are you alright, rockstar?” she asked. “Why did you just call me that?” I asked, smiling and still choking a little bit. She pointed at my shirt. I laughed because I’d forgotten what kind of shirt I’d worn. “I mean, unless your shirt is lying, that’s what you are,” she called me out. “Um, sure. I’m a rock star,” I said. “Musicians are my weakness,” she said with a wink. “Alcohol is mine,” I said with a laugh. My phone began to ring, and I saw that it was Callie. I hit ignore on it and kept flirting with the cute bartender. Travis was entertaining people at the pool table with his drunken jibberish. I stayed there until about three in the morning chatting up the bartender. I can’t tell you what we even talked about, because the whiskey had filled my brain. The bar began to close, and she asked me to stay. Travis left with a guy we knew at the apartment so they could do blow. I glanced at my phone, and I noticed that Callie had called ten times. I turned off my phone, and I sat staring bleary-eyed at all the bottles of booze standing before me. Suddenly, the pretty bartender who liked rock stars was straddling me.

My blind rage took me to a very familiar neighborhood. I passed by several large brick houses with manicured yards landscaped with pretty bushes and flowers. I slowly drove through the neighborhood in which I could never hope to belong. I just wanted to get rid of the pain and the rage. I pills hadn’t helped like I thought they would. I found myself parked in front of a house I’d visited recently. I remembered the crystal chandelier that I could see from the front window, and I remembered the red Silverado truck. I parked my piece of junk car in this paved driveway, and I turned off my headlights. My blind rage that dominated my synapses took me to the front door and led my hand into my pocket where I had a flat-head screw-driver. Somehow, I was able to mindlessly pry the door open. I walked into his house quietly, and I felt for the needle and the tiny bottle of sedative that I’d kept in my jacket pocket. I took off my shoes, and I quietly walked up the stairs. Once I was on the second floor, I followed the sound of softly playing country music. The whole floor was pitch dark, so I was sure that no one was awake. I crept into the room that carried the sound of the country music, and I stood waiting for my eyesight to adapt to the darkness. I could faintly make out a figure in the dark lying on a king sized bed that could have fit three more of him. I crept up to his bedside, and I just stared for a moment. He was asleep, and Miranda Lambert was singing a song of revenge from the radio by his head:

“I’m goin’ home, gonna load my shotgun
Wait by the door and light a cigarette
If he wants a fight well now he’s got one
And he ain’t seen me crazy yet…”

I knelt down by his bedside and carefully took out the needle and the tiny bottle. I prepared the sedative and looked up at this villain who stole my love away from me so discreetly and deceptively in the night like a stealthy tom cat using his nocturnal nature as his advantage. I was the stealthy tom cat now. I was the one using the darkness to commit my crime. I stared at him for a moment, and I felt a hatred for him that I had never felt for anyone before or after this moment. I studied him, trying to decide where it would be best to pierce his skin and thus steal away his power. I took notice of his neck. He had a slender yet strong neck. It would be an easy target, and I figured the medicine would go to his brain quicker through his neck than, say, the arm or the leg. I slowly, quietly reached his neck with the needle, and I pressed down. For a moment, I saw his eyes widen, and he grabbed my hand. He squeezed my wrist, crushing the bones beneath his fingers. I howled in pain, and then seconds later, his eyes closed and his grip relaxed. He dropped my hand, and I held my broken wrist in my other hand. I grunted from the pain, but I couldn’t stop now. I had to finish my act of revenge, with or without a right hand to assist me. I decided under the circumstances, that smothering him with a pillow might be the easiest way to enact the punishment. So, I reached over his head, grabbed the pillow beside him with my left hand, and placed it over his face. I pressed down, but it was difficult to press down hard enough with just one hand. So, I picked up my right arm and placed my right elbow onto the pillow. I held my breath to stop myself from screaming from the pain. I pressed onto the pillow with my hand and my elbow, and I suddenly felt him shake and struggle against my body as I lay across him. However, because of the sedative, his struggle was weak. After a short moment, I felt his body go limp beneath me. I closed my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. I gathered the needle and sedative and put them in my pocket. I felt for the flat head screw-driver, and it was still there. I walked out of his room, grabbed my shoes from the floor that I’d left downstairs, and I knelt down to put them on. As I rose to stand up, I noticed some dirt on his pristine carpet. I glanced at his coffee table and noticed a photo of a girl-my girlfriend. I shook my head and quickly ran out of the house.

Dude, are you trippin’?” Travis asked as he met me outside of my apartment. “What? No, man, I’m just freaking out about this whole situation, you know? I don’t know where the fuck my girlfriend is. She could be dead, she could be alive and hurting somewhere, or she could have just taken off because she needed to get away from me. I just want to know,” I stammered. “It’s two o’clock in the morning. Let’s get you into the apartment and lie down to sleep,” Travis said in a suspiciously courteous manner. I unlocked my door, and Travis followed me inside. I took off my jacket and threw it over my couch, and I fell onto the couch feeling absolutely exhausted. “Do you want me to stay, man? I’ve got some stuff with me that might make you feel better,” Travis offered. I waved my hand at him. “No, no more of that shit, okay, Travis? That is why I am where I am right now. Callie is gone because of me,” I admitted. “That’s, yeah, that’s probably true,” Travis muttered. “Why would you agree? I thought you blamed everything that ever happened between us on her,” I said, not understanding his uncharacteristic response.“She was cheating on you, Jake. She was fucking that Chinese dude,” Travis said. “What, you knew she was doing it, or you are just assuming?” I asked, bolting upright. He looked down as he answered me.

“I saw her. That night she disappeared, I saw her let him into your apartment. You were working to pay the rent, and she just invited this crazy bastard into your apartment to fuck him in your bed. It was sick. You turned your whole life around for her, dude. You stopped the drugs, you stopped hanging out with me so much, you stopped flirting with bartenders, and you just became this robot for her that went to work a job you don’t like so you could come home and be criticized by this judgmental nag. I mean, you’re like, really good to her now, and this is how she repays you. She fucks some nut-job that used to abuse her. Why? Because he has money and a reputation that you’ll never have. That is the sick part. He can go around hitting women, and yet, he gets the good life. You totally change yourself into someone that you think she deserves, and you get deceived. It’s not fair. I couldn’t…I couldn’t let this go unjustified. I didn’t lose my best friend for nothing. The bitch should have at least been appreciative of you and treated you right. That? I could handle that as a forgotten friend watching you in your new life with the woman you worshipped. I could not handle being the forgotten friend watching you get swindled. It couldn’t be for nothing, you see? So, I got justice for you and for our friendship.”

What are you saying, Travis?” I asked calmly with fire burning through my eyes as I looked at him. “What did you do?” He started fidgeting and moaning. “Answer me. I killed him tonight. Did you hear me? I thought I was avenging my girlfriend’s death. Tell me I didn’t kill him without a reason,” Travis put his hands on his head and began rocking back and forth. I approached him and whispered to him. “Travis, I need you to be honest with me right now. If you love me as a friend, you need to tell me the truth,” I said soothingly.

“I stopped her. I stopped her from making a fool out of you. I watched him leave, and I saw her come out of there wearing nothing but a bath robe walking Ralph around the yard. She had this stupid smile on her face like she’d just had a wonderful time. I was outside smoking a cigarette, and I hid in the shadows in the corner between our apartments. I tried to catch a glimpse of guilt in her eyes, but it wasn’t there. Under that robe, it was just Callie, naked, covered in his smell, spit, and fluids. It was disgusting. I have never felt a hatred like that in my life before or after that moment. I felt in my pocket for my knife. You see, ever since that person started stalking me, I have been carrying a knife for protection. I approached her, and I said hello. She asked me why I was talking to her. I mean, she stole my best friend, and she can’t even be polite to me as a neighbor. So, with a stealth quickness I grabbed her neck and stabbed her several times in complete madness until she collapsed in my arms. I fell onto the ground holding her, and it began to snow. These giant snow flakes began falling on us, and for a moment, it was beautiful. I slipped off the robe, and I took her limp, naked body into my car. I took her away where no one could find her, and I got some clothes from the trunk of my car and changed in the alley. No, not an alley near her, somewhere else. I stopped at the store and got some booze and more cigarettes, and I drove back to the apartment. That’s where I found you and that prying detective in the yard looking at the bloody robe that hid her prostituting body. I took it off because I wanted her to remain exposed as the whore she really is. If you’re wondering why there weren’t fingerprints, it is because I also carried with me rubber gloves. You know me, I’m the weird paranoid guy. I’m always prepared.”

I sat in total shock as he confessed his devious crime of hate, just trying to absorb the truth of it all. I had killed because of her. He had killed because of her. Yet, I did not blame her or hate her. I didn’t know whether or not I truly regretted killing John Chang, since he did make love to and abuse my girl. Rubber gloves. I suddenly realized that I did not wear them when I murdered John Chang. The dirt on his carpet-it was probably from my shoes. There was no dirt anywhere else in his perfectly vacuumed and dusted house. Those were merely passing thoughts as I stared at Travis, trying to figure out what to do or what to think. “Where is she?” I asked as my eyes teared up. “I can’t tell you that,” Travis answered. “WHERE IS SHE?” I shouted. He shook his head. I took out the flathead screw-driver with my left hand, jumped on him, and brandished it over his throat. “Tell me now,” I demanded. “I can’t do that. If you kill me, you’ll never know,” Travis said in a shakey voice. “You know what, it doesn’t even matter. Either way she is gone, and either way you took her from me,” I said through sobs. “She was never yours anyway. She fixed you into what she thought you should be, and then she became bored with you. That’s what she does. She liked Chang because he was messed up. She thought she could change him into a better person. She had to be stopped so that you could go back to living your life as yourself,” Travis reasoned. “You killed my girl, my reason for living and breathing and enduring this stupid world,” I shouted as I plunged the screw-driver into his throat. Blood spurted out of his jugular as I stabbed and stabbed down as deep and hard as I could. His eyes continued to stare at me as I cried on my best friend’s shoulder.

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