By: Angela Graham


Everything about the sight in front of me was wrong. Only an hour earlier, I was blowing a kiss to my boyfriend, Mark, as he drove off to work. Yet there sat his truck in his usual spot. Instead of rushing upstairs to see if he was all right and find out why he was home already, I stood frozen, staring at the white Jeep parked beside his truck.

My chest tightened at the sight. A cold shiver of dread crept up my back. The thunderous pounding of my heart rang through my ears. I recognized that Jeep. It was definitely not one I wanted to see.

I bit my bottom lip, gnawing on it when I felt Hilary’s hand on my back. Hesitantly, I looked up to meet her tight, awkward smile.

“Maybe he wasn’t feeling well, Cassandra.” She hunched her shoulders. But I could see the concern clouding her usually bright-chestnut eyes as she glanced at the Jeep and then back at me. “I’m sure it’s not what you’re thinking.”

What was I thinking? Mark was the perfect boyfriend. Five wonderful years spent in complete bliss. He was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. The man whose arms I dreamed would hold me when I was old and grey, taking my final breath of life. I was being silly, right?

I bolted up the metal stairs, taking them two at a time, toward the front door and gripped my doorknob. I was being silly but the dread that settled in my gut sent a series of doubts racing through my mind. With my feet planted firmly on the welcome mat, I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer that I’d find Mark with his infectious smile and a perfectly justified reason as to why he came back home. The knob turned in my clammy hand, unlocked, as always.

My stomach rolled into a tight, painful knot as I tiptoed through the makeshift foyer. The apartment was nothing more than a large open room with exposed brick walls. There was a tiny kitchenette and a partition separating the bedroom, which was large enough for our king size bed and small dresser.

Fear froze me in place. I needed to see, but my legs wouldn’t move any farther. They were suddenly stiff as boards with cinder blocks for feet.

Erratic thoughts of the owner of that Jeep being in here pounded in my head. Bile rose in the back of my throat. Every fiber of my body screamed something was wrong. I cleared my throat and opened my mouth, but my words were cut off by a loud feminine moan, followed by the gruff voice I was certain I would cherish until I was a little old woman surrounded with our grandchildren. “Yeah…oh, baby.”

I doubled over. The sound of his voice ripped the air completely from my lungs. As my knees gave out, Hilary’s fingers dug into my forearms attempting to hold me up.

“Come on, let’s get out of here.” She tried to help me stand, but the pain wracking my body and mind overwhelmed me.

I shook my head, tears pooled in my eyes. I fought back the urge to collapse and cry uncontrollably. It had to be a bad dream.

Anger grew inside me, temporarily bandaging my heart, preparing for war, and giving me the strength I needed to stand straight and take the short steps around the partition.

My hands pumped into tight fists as my feet led the way and stopped at the end of the bed. My lips pressed into a hard line, taking in the sight before me.

Mackenzie was on her back proving every rumor about her was true.

“Oh Mark, baby you’re so…Cassandra!” Mackenzie’s eyes opened wide.

Mark’s head shot up, to look over his right shoulder. His eyes bulged when he caught my crazed stalker glare. Cool steel filled my nerves. I didn’t blink or flinch.

He shot off the bed, shoving Mackenzie’s naked body aside, as if to make her disappear. She skidded off the edge of the bed and landed with a loud smack on the hard wood floor.

“It’s not what you think, Cassie.” He reached out to touch my arm but grabbed the pillow to hold in front of himself when Hilary stepped into view.

Mackenzie scurried around the floor, clutching the sheet to her body, trying to collect her clothing scattered around the room. Ever since high school Mackenzie Taylor had been known for only one thing: stealing boyfriends. She disposed of them as quickly as she snatched them up. It was nothing more than a game for a girl with low self-esteem and an egotistical, bitch attitude. I shot her a menacing scowl and then returned my focus back to the bastard in front of me.

“Cassandra, please.” Mark’s voice dripped with desperation as he stepped toward me. I took equal steps back, my face twisted in disgust.

“I’ll be back tomorrow to get my stuff.” My tone was cold and clipped. “Don’t be here.”

I turned on my heel to leave. The moment his hand gripped my elbow something deep inside me snapped. I balled my hand into a hard fist, exactly as my grandfather had taught me, and whipped around connecting it with his nose.