TITLE: Shadows (Chapter 2)
By Mishael Witty
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“Keith,” she whispered, and a fresh tear trekked slowly down her cheek. She brushed it aside as she neared the ancient stone building that housed her biology lab. She practically ran down the hallway and into the classroom door, which fortunately opened to the back of the room. She took a seat at one of the back lab tables and hoped that no one would notice her.
The professor noticed her, and stopped in mid-sentence. He pushed his eyeglasses up on his nose and pointed his finger at Megan.
“Late, and forever damned,” he intoned.
The rest of the class tittered nervously. Megan felt her face flush hot as she fought back another round of tears.
“Name, please, Miss. I would like to add you on my roll; that is, if you would like to come back to this class again. I do not tolerate tardiness in my classes, as you will see on the syllabus that one of your classmates will be so kind as to hand back to you, I’m sure. Three tardies or absences in any combination – for any reason other than your death, or the deaths of your nearest and dearest, and you shall receive an automatic F. This goes for everyone in this room, and not just Miss -.”
“McCleod. My name is Megan McCleod,” Megan choked.
“Well, Miss McCleod, maybe tomorrow you will show me and your classmates the courtesy to come into class on time.”
Megan nodded wordlessly and sank into a pit of even deeper depression. This felt like it was the worst day of her entire 18-year existence. She couldn’t wait to get back to the room and talk to Liz. She needed some moral support in a big way.
Tony stood in safety under the shadows produced by the old oak tree and the awning over the steps leading down to the basement of the classroom building next to Megan’s dorm room. He had cut his 8:00 a.m. class this morning to break into the student records office before the first secretaries arrived at 8:30. There he found a wealth of information on Megan. Her last name was McCleod, he discovered. And her roommate’s name was Elizabeth Tucker. They lived in the Smith Building, Room 337.
His hiding place was perfectly situated with a view of the sidewalk down which Elizabeth must walk if she was coming back from her biology lab. She had said she was late for a biology lab, right? Yes, of course, biology.
What if she didn’t come back right after class? He wasn’t certain she would, but he suspected she would, just because she didn’t have another class until 10:30, and she would want to at least go back and wash her face after her morning’s crying jag. She was a beautiful young woman, but no woman is very attractive after they cry, and they are usually very vain and concerned about it. He would stand there in the shadows and wait, and maybe his perseverance would be rewarded.
Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, he saw Megan walking down the path toward the Smith Building. His pulse quickened as he watched her perfectly proportioned body glide down the sidewalk. Her long honey brown hair swished slightly as she moved. She was a vision.
He could hear her sing softly to herself. He didn’t recognize the song, but it was the most beautiful he had ever heard because it was coming from her lips. He wanted her. He lunged toward her, almost revealing himself in the daylight, but he stopped himself just in time. Now was not the time to blow his cover. He needed to wait. He didn’t want to worry her. He wanted to make her like him.
Megan hummed an old hymn as she walked slowly down the path toward the dormitory. Slowly, the words came to her, and she realized that the bright morning sun had been her inspiration. She smiled as she remembered that Jesus would never forsake her, no matter what the people of this world would do to her. The words filled her heart and soul, and she started singing – quietly, then louder as she neared the porch steps.
“Walking in sunlight all of my journey, over the mountains, through the deep vale. Jesus has said, ‘I’ll never forsake thee.’ Promise divine that never can tell. Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight, flooding my soul with glory divine ….” Megan’s voice trailed off, and she stopped walking.
She could sense someone’s eyes on her. She looked around, in front and behind her, and to each side, but still saw no one. Was someone watching her? Surely not. There was no one there. Maybe what she felt was the presence of God, or His guardian angels. She smiled at the thought and continued singing as she walked up the porch steps.
“Hallelujah! I am rejoicing. Singing His praises. Jesus is mine.”
She ran up the stairs to her bedroom and flopped down on her bed, reaching for the remote control on the bedside table. There was nothing on but re-runs and talk shows on at this time of day. She found an old sitcom that would be mildly amusing, and she laid back to watch it.
Suddenly, a thought struck her, and she switched off the television.
“I’m sorry, God,” she said aloud. “I was so busy figuring out what to do about Keith, I forgot to do my morning Bible reading and prayer time.”
She reached for her Bible, which was just past the remote, and flipped it open. She was still reading when Liz walked in, slammed the door behind her, and snapped the deadbolt in place. She turned to face Megan. Her face was a curious shade of grayish white that Megan had never seen before.
“Liz! What is it? Are you okay?”
“I don’t know. I just got the funniest feeling as I was walking up the stairs, like someone was following me.”
“I had that same feeling outside. I just thought maybe it was my guardian angels or something.”
“Well, I don’t think any guardian angels would bother watching me that closely.”
“You’d be surprised.” Megan grinned at her friend.
“Besides, there is a creepy guy standing out there who is definitely not a guardian angel.”
“Uh huh. Out there on the sidewalk, next to the old Timmons Building that’s hardly ever used anymore. Come and look. I bet you can see him from here.”
The two girls went over to the window. Liz drew back the curtain. Sure enough, they could see Tony standing out on the sidewalk, staring back up at them. He averted his eyes after several seconds and walked on down the sidewalk.
“See? Creepy! How did he know we would be looking at him?”
“Oh, the movement of the curtain probably caught his attention, that’s all. It is strange, though. I just met him this morning at the coffee shop.”
“You did? Wow! You get rid of one guy and pick up another at the same time. That’s what I call working it, girl!”
“It wasn’t like that. I knocked over some napkins, and he helped me pick them up, that’s all.”
“And, of course, he fell in love with you at first sight, and so now he’s stalking you.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it stalking, Liz. There could be any number of reasons why he stood out there on that sidewalk. Maybe he was on his way to a class, or back to his room, or something?”
“I don’t know. It seems kind of suspicious to me. I’d be careful, if I were you, Meg.”
“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you!”
“Speaking of taking care of yourself, how did things go today?”
Megan sighed. “Not as well as I hoped. Keith started shouting and stormed out of the shop – after he threw my engagement ring away?”
“What engagement ring?”
“The one he was going to give me tonight. He was going to propose tonight, Liz. I had to go and break up with him on the very day he was going to ask me to marry him.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you did break up with him before he got around to asking. It would’ve been much harder to handle. As it is, it sounds like he didn’t handle things very well. It sounds like we’ll have to watch out for him, too.”
“Oh, no, Liz! I just can’t believe Keith would ever do anything to purposely hurt me.”
“You are so naïve, Meg. You just automatically assume the best of everyone – just like Anne Frank, and look where it got her.”
“Liz! That’s not a very nice thing to say!”
“All I’m saying is, in this day and age, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for any eventuality.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“I’m taking steps to protect myself. I’ve enrolled in a self-defense course. We meet Tuesday nights at 6:30. You should come with me.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve never been much for physical exertion – especially violence.”
“Hey. I don’t like to be violent, either, but if it comes down to a choice between me being violent, or a rapist being violent, I’ll choose myself any day!”
“Honestly, Liz! The things you talk about. I think you’re every bit as cynical as I am naïve.”
“Maybe so, but hopefully my cynicism will pay off in the end.”
“I’m hoping that my faith in God will pay off in the end.”
“Suit yourself. I still don’t think it would hurt for you to sit in on one class with me.”
“I’ll think about it,” Megan promised.
Liz stood in the doorway of their shared closet, contemplating her wardrobe.
“Hey, you wanna do something tonight?”
“I don’t know. I thought maybe we could walk down to the movie theater or something.”
“I don’t know, really. I just thought you needed to do something to get your mind off of old what’s-his-name.”
“Who’s Tony? Oh, the solemn guy on the sidewalk. No, I meant Keith, your ex-boyfriend.”
“Oh, right.” Megan replied somewhat distantly. She was remembering Tony’s eyes staring up at her through the window - the same eyes that had captivated her just a little over an hour before. She shook her head and raised her eyes. Liz’s expression changed from wry amusement to concern.
“Hey, what’s up? You like this guy Tony, or what?”
“I can’t explain it, really. The first moment my eyes met his, I felt as if we had known each other for years.”
“Oh, no! Now you believe in love at first sight, in addition to a mythical God? Maybe I need to get you to the health center. Or maybe the nearest psychiatric hospital! Where is the nearest psychiatric hospital, anyway?”
“God is not a myth, and I am not crazy!” Megan protested.
“So you say. As for me, I think the jury’s still out on both counts.”
Megan threw a pillow at her, and both girls laughed. It felt good to laugh. Megan had only been awake for a few hours now, but already, this had been an emotionally draining day. She wanted a nap more than anything, but it was almost time to go to her next class.
“Liz, I will go to the movies with you tonight on one condition.”
“You let me come back to the room and take a nap this afternoon after lunch – no interruptions.”
“But interrupting your sleep is the only fun thing I get to do anymore,” Liz teased.
“All right, just don’t blame me if we get kicked out of the theater because your best friend is snoring all the way through the movie.”
“Deal. Well, I’d better get going. I need to go by the bookstore before class. I forgot to pack any pens from home.”
“What did you use to take notes with in your first class?”
“Blood.” Liz grinned. Megan wrinkled her nose. “No, actually, I was sitting next to this really cute guy named Jeremy, who let me borrow his pen. See, you’re not the only one meeting new men.”
“Yes, but at least I’m not doing things intentionally to meet new men.”
“Hey. It was an accident. I forgot, okay?”
“But was it an accident that you sat down next to the very cute guy?”
“Rats! I can’t just put anything past you, can I?”
“And you say I’m so naïve!”
“With men, maybe, not with me.” Liz picked up her backpack. “Anyway, Meg, I’d better be going. Meet me for lunch?”
“Sure. See you at 12:30.”
Liz darted out of the room, and Megan returned her attention to the Bible that set in her lap. She finished the chapter she was reading, closed the book, and got up to look at herself in the dressing table mirror. The tell-tale tear tracks were gone, but her eyes were still a little puffy – her hazel eyes. In a flash, her multi-colored eyes were replaced by Tony’s monochrome dark brown eyes. Megan blinked several times, trying to get the image to go away. Finally, it did.
‘What is wrong with me?’ she wondered. ‘Maybe I’m the crazy one.’
She picked up a clean washcloth from the pile on the closet shelf. Liz had left the door open. No matter how many times Megan encouraged Liz to leave everything in its place, the message never seemed to get through. Megan shut the closet door behind her and went down the hallway to the communal bathroom to moisten the cloth, so she could put it on her eyes for a few minutes.
‘I wish I had some cucumber slices,’ she thought, ‘but this will have to do.’
Tony ducked behind a tree when he saw Megan’s roommate come out of their dorm. He swore silently and hoped that she hadn’t seen him. He didn’t think so. She would be trouble. He was sure of that. She just wasn’t as nice as Megan was. The roommate looked at him with contempt, but Megan looked at him as she would a savior. He helped her pick up the pieces when she was falling apart.
Okay, so it was a little stupid to get out from the shadows and stand in the middle of the sidewalk like he did. But once he found out what Megan’s room number was, he just had to find her window. And she didn’t disappoint him. He saw her looking out at him. Was there the faintest hint of a smile on her lips? He hoped there was. That friend wasn’t smiling, though. She was definitely going to cause trouble for him, and maybe even for his relationship with Megan. He would stop her from interfering, no matter what he had to do. He had done it before, and he would do it again.
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