Illusions begin, p.13
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       Illusions Begin, p.13

           N.L. Greene
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  Chapter Eight

  Once back at work, Becky threw herself into knocking out the rest of her outstanding e-mails and then returning calls. There were new messages from Helen as well as e-mails from important clients that actually required their services and attention. The tasks kept her busy and her mind occupied for the rest of the day, just as she knew it would. It was busy work, after all.

  When she graduated with her degree, her parents insisted that she start from the bottom just like any other freshly graduated attorney would have to do. She may have been around the law firm her entire life, but she wasn’t really familiar with how her parents ran the office or what the day to day job was like. She was still technically ‘in training’ so she didn’t have someone else to defer all of her work to like the rest of the attorneys did. She had to do all of the grunt work herself, but she didn’t mind on days like today when it kept her occupied. In fact, it was Helen again that drew her out of her little bubble. Becky looked up with a smile when she heard a throat clearing, but immediately lost the smile and sat up straighter when she saw the look on Helen’s face.

  “What’s wrong?” she asked with concern.

  “Lance is here to see you. I wouldn’t let him come back on his own after what I think I saw the other day,” she gave Becky a pointed look but continued without further mention of the incident, even though Becky could see she wanted to. “He’s pretty mad about it. Do you want to see him?”

  At the mention of Lance’s name, Becky’s stomach dropped and her heart rate sped up and not in a good way. “No!” she blurted much more forcefully than she had intended. She knew Helen saw and probably heard much more than Becky wanted her to the other day, but she was grateful for her silence and allowing Becky to handle it herself. Although, she realized she shouldn’t be so obvious with her fear of Lance. She knew if she wasn’t careful, Helen wouldn’t hesitate to call her father. She definitely didn’t need that. She calmed her nerves and answered Helen more appropriately. “I mean, no. Tell him I have a meeting in five minutes and will be tied up for the rest of the day please.”

  “Of course,” Helen nodded, but she gave Becky one last concerned look before leaving her office.

  Becky let out a shaky breath and ran her fingers through her hair before pulling it back into a ponytail. Her fingers froze in her mess of curls when she heard raised voices coming from outside of her office. Knowing that it was Lance trying to argue his way back, she held her breath and listened intently. She felt awful for putting Helen in the path of Lances scorn, but she just couldn’t face him. She was entirely too scared of him and what he might do. Thankfully the voices quieted down after only a few moments. She let out a relieved breath and dropped her hands from her hair, not bothering with the ponytail. As she slumped back into her chair it tumbled down and around her shoulders. With her fiery hair framing her face, she was sure she looked as wild as she felt now. She had been so sure Lance was going to storm back there and she had no idea what she would have done then. When did her relatively boring life decide to turn completely upside down?

  Glancing at the clock, she decided to call it a day a little early. Since Lance had just been up there, hopefully it would be a little while before he started looking for her again and she could slip out without him noticing. Feeling a need to hurry up and carry out her newly hatched little plan, she double checked to make sure all of her work was done then packed her things up. She stopped at Helen’s desk to say good-bye but had to wait for her to finish up her call before she could tell her that she was heading out.

  Helen hung up from her call but before Becky could inform her she was leaving, Helen spoke up. “Are you going to talk to your father about that man? I don’t like the way he’s been acting lately.”

  “I know. I was hoping he would just go away, but now I’m not so sure.”

  “Someone like that doesn’t just go away. He has an ego to protect and I think you’ve bruised it. I would be very careful if I were you,” Helen warned.

  Becky was already feeling threatened by him, but hearing it come from Helen made her even more nervous. She had really hoped she was just over reacting. “I will Helen,” she reassured her then changed the subject. “I’m all caught up for the day so I’m heading out early. Is there anything you need from me before I go?”

  “Nope. You go and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I’ll see you tomorrow hon.”

  Walking the few feet to the elevator, Becky pressed the button to call for it and looked back at Helen. “Alright. Bye Helen and thanks.”

  Helen winked as the doors opened and Becky stepped on. She gave a small wave then leaned back against the cool walls as she descended. When she arrived in the building’s lobby she glanced over to see that Ralph was assisting someone. She caught his eye and gave a wave, he nodded back and then she was outside again. She slipped her sunglasses on and took a step in the direction of the subway station. Just as she moved passed the glass doors of the building, someone grabbed her arm roughly and pushed her up against the hard brick wall. She let out a squeal and glanced up to see Lance glaring down at her.

  “I thought you had a meeting,” he sneered at her, digging his fingers into her arm at the same time.

  “I…I do, I’m on my way there now,” she lied quickly.

  She could see by the look in his eye that he wasn’t buying it. He leaned in close, his breath fanning her face. “You are such a lying bitch!”

  “Lance, you’re hurting me,” she breathed out as her eyes darted around, hoping someone would notice what was happening and step in. Of course, not one person was even looking their way.

  “I don’t give a shit if I’m hurting you,” he said as he moved his free hand to her hip and dug his fingers into her flesh to emphasize just how much he didn’t care. She yelped from the pain. “Shut up!” he demanded. His eyes were blazing with an anger she had never seen before, making him appear uncontrolled and almost wild. Scared and unsure of what to do, she complied. She closed her mouth and allowed her body to relax just a fraction. As she took a deep breath, she gave a slight nod of her head. Her rational side reassured her that he could only do so much to her out here on the public street with so many witnesses. The best reaction was to hear him out and hope he let her go soon.

  When he felt her body relax and saw her give in, he smiled an evil grin down at her and flexed his fingers on her hip. “Good girl. Now, listen to me. You are going to stop acting like a stuck up bitch that’s too good for me and start doing what I tell you to do. Understand?”

  She nodded.

  “Good. I don’t like being ignored or disobeyed and I really don’t like how the entire office is talking about how you dumped me. You are making me look like an idiot.”

  “But…” she trailed off and had to fight a whimper when he squeezed her again. This time it was so hard that she knew, without a doubt, there would be bruises on her skin tomorrow.

  “I said to shut up,” his voice was deadly soft this time, his face close to her ear, and his breath hot on her skin. Her determination to see this through faded away quickly as she began to tremble in fear. There was no doubt in her mind that Lance wanted to hurt her and it was quite possible he would do it right then and there.

  “You and I are…” he began but his voice trailed off when they were interrupted.

  “Excuse me?” a man’s deep voice sounded from behind Lance. Becky tried to look around Lance to see who the person was that was unknowingly saving her, but she couldn’t. The bright sun was shining from behind him, leaving his face in a dark shadow. The baseball cap he was wearing only helped to shield his face further.

  “Get lost asshole, I’m busy,” Lance snarled back without taking his eyes from Becky.

  The stranger wasn’t deterred by Lance’s rudeness or the anger in his voice. “Look man, I just need directions. It’ll only take a sec.”

  Lance’s eyes blazed as he let go of
Becky and whirled around to face the stranger. “Fuck off man!” he shouted while taking a threatening step toward the man.

  That was all the wiggle room Becky needed and she didn’t hesitate to take advantage of it. She slipped out from between Lance and the building before running as fast as she could down the street and away from the threat. She heard Lance yell from behind her but didn’t chance a look back. She ducked and dodged people as she turned down random streets until she was sure Lance was no longer behind her. She finally stopped, completely out of breath and feet throbbing, to hail a cab. She had gone way out of her way by that point and didn’t really feel comfortable waiting for the subway with Lance possibly lurking around.

  Safely tucked inside a cab, she gave the driver her address and slumped back into the seat, taking a much needed deep breath. She wondered who the man was that unknowingly saved her from Lance’s threats and torment. The pain in her side was a vivid reminder of how much he had already hurt her before her savior had shown up. Who knows what else may have happened? That man was a blessing and the only thing she knew about him was that he wore a New York Yankees baseball cap.

  An image of the man across the street from the diner earlier in the day flashed in her head. It was a mysterious man that was leaning against the wall, with the same New York Yankees hat. Becky wondered if it could have been the same guy, but then shook her head. Everyone in New York had a Yankees hat. Hell, even the cab driver was wearing one now. There was no way she could logically assume they were the same man just by that alone. But whoever he was, she was indebted to him. She wasn’t entirely sure where Lance’s threats were going, but she had a pretty good idea. The time had come for her to involve her parents.

  Just the idea of telling the whole story made her cringe. When she broke off the engagement, she let her parents believe it was due to cold feet. She knew that was the only reason they – well her mother – still tried to set up dinners between the two families. She hoped Becky would become more comfortable with the idea of marriage and being a part of Lance’s family. Her father seemed to be suspicious though. He was always narrowing his eyes at her when she gave some excuse for not wanting to interact with Lance or his family and reminding her often that he was always there for her and would always listen.

  She felt stupid now for thinking that sparing her parents all the gory details was a good thing. If she would have told them everything in the beginning, she was sure she wouldn’t be in this mess now. Looking out the window as the other cars passed them by; she decided that she would tell them when she saw them for brunch on Sunday. It was already Wednesday evening so it could hold a few more days. Becky knew it would be better to have this sort of conversation in person and with plenty of time to discuss everything after she laid it all out on the table. Her parents were going to be furious with her, but that was a price she was going to have to pay for being so naïve.

  Arriving at her apartment building and feeling marginally better now that she had a solid plan for her Lance issues, she paid the driver and stepped out of the cab. She couldn’t help but to glance around quickly, making sure Lance had not somehow magically beaten her here. She knew how silly she was being but she couldn’t help her paranoia. With no sign of Lance, she walked toward the doorman who was patiently holding the door open for her. “Good afternoon Miss Wellington,” he greeted her kindly.

  “Good afternoon…” she trailed off when her eyes glanced just over the doorman’s shoulder and she saw a figure leaning against the building next to hers. He was quite a few feet away, but something about the way he was standing gave her pause. He was standing just as the man had earlier outside of the diner. He had his hands in his pockets, one foot propped against the building behind him, and his ball cap pulled low over his face. There was no mistaking that he was staring in her direction.

  “What the hell?” she mumbled under her breath.

  “Excuse me ma’am?” the doorman asked in concern. He noticed the direction of her stare and turned to look for whatever it was that she was looking at. When he did, the strange man pushed himself away from the wall and began to walk away. “Is there a problem Miss Wellington?” she heard the doorman ask, her mind whirling.

  She shook her head while she watched him disappear into the crowd of people, as if he had never even been there. “No, I’m sorry. I just thought I recognized that man but I must have been mistaken.”

  “You’re sure?” he asked, turning back to look down at Becky, concern evident in his tone.

  She pulled her gaze away and looked up at the doorman with a reassuring smile, “Yes, Henry. I’m sure. Thank you.”

  He smiled back at her, “You’re welcome. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”

  “You too,” she said as she patted his arm before finally walking through the open door and into the building.

  On the ride up to her top floor apartment, her mind swam with thoughts of the mysterious man she seemed to be seeing everywhere. The similarities between the man she saw outside of the diner, the man that rescued her from Lance, and the man she saw just now outside of her apartment were making her wonder. Was it the same man? Was he following her? If so, why didn’t she get a creepy, uneasy vibe when she saw him? Just the thought of Lance made her skin crawl, but for some reason she hadn’t felt threated or scared when she saw this person. Instead, she only got the feeling of being watched and now, an overwhelming curiosity as to why.

  Shaking her head and mentally rolling her eyes at her wayward thoughts, she stepped from the elevator and pulled her keys from her purse. There was no way it was the same guy. It would have been impossible for him to have followed her all day. Not only that, but if he was the same man that saved her from Lance, how could he have possibly beaten her to her apartment when she took a cab?

  Laughing at her own silliness, she unlocked her door and stepped inside the security of her apartment. Dropping her items onto the couch, she then slipped out of her now uncomfortable heels. Running from Lance in a pair of four inch heels probably wasn’t the best for her feet, considering they were killing her now. A nice long soak was what she needed. Becky made her way to the bathroom, stripping her clothes from her body and dropping them as she walked. Living alone definitely has its advantages sometimes.

  Once everything was ready, she slid into the warm water, closed her eyes and leaned back against the cool porcelain tub. After a few moments of complete, mindless silence, she lit her scented candle, started her iPod and grabbed her small notebook from the tray running across her bathtub. Then she spent the next thirty minutes writing out theories on how to solve the mysteries of the magic tricks from the other night. It felt nice to be lost in her own magical world, where the problems of reality didn’t exist and the wonders of the universe were the only things that mattered.

  Becky remained in her own little world until a shiver wracked her body, letting her know the water was now cold. Letting out a sigh, she closed her pad, blew out the candle, and turned off her music. Getting out and wrapping a plush bathrobe around her body, she padded in bare feet to her kitchen for something to eat. Settling on breakfast for dinner, she fixed a bowl of cereal and sat down on the couch to eat it. When she had arrived home and threw her stuff down, the contents of her purse had spilled out, so she started shoving everything back in to make more room. Glancing down, she spied the infamous little black business card. It was the first time all day she thought about it or the website.

  Suddenly feeling an urgent need to explore the site, she reached over and grabbed her laptop. Balancing it on her lap, she opened it up and pressed the power button. She shoveled cereal in her mouth quickly while she waited for the impossibly slow thing to boot up. Then she typed in the address, one handed, and waited semi-patiently for the site to appear on her screen.

  When it finally popped up, she began to go through the same routine as before. Eventually, the one word appeared in the middle of the screen
again, pulsating and begging for Becky to click on it. Suddenly, she found herself nervous, unsure of what was going to happen next. She set down her empty cereal bowl, wiped her now sweaty palms on her bathrobe covered thighs, and then reached to move the cursor over the word in the center of the screen. She hesitated for a second longer before she finally worked up the nerve to click the button on the mouse.

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