Chapter 12:

The girl in the mirror and the girl at the door

The Sequence of Kai

I’m woken from my dazed state by the sound of the buzzer. That means things haven’t gone to plan once again.Bookmark here

When did I get home? I don't remember. All I can recall is feeling tired. I had hoped it was more than just that.Bookmark here

The door buzzes again. If I leave it long enough, they’ll go away, they always do.Bookmark here

Now that I'm here I might as well eat. Hopefully, there's something in the fridge. I don't want to shop for the last time again. Bookmark here

I push myself off the couch and walk through the room of dirty clothes and broken glass that keeps stubbornly remaining my home. The clothes keep piling up because I never wash them, I always buy a new set when I find out I'm going to need them again. Bookmark here

I grab the TV remote on my way to the fridge. Might as well fill these moments with something. I hit the on button and throw the remote back onto the couch.Bookmark here

".... this decision by the incumbent Prime Minister has been branded ‘a reckless disregard of his obligations’ by leader of the opposition….."Bookmark here

Same as ever. What's in the fridge? Apple juice. Lots of apple juice. Not that there's anything wrong with that, apple juice is good. It does mean I'll have to go buy food though. I take a swig from the carton. Apple juice is good.Bookmark here

My attention is drawn back to the TV, the news has moved on to something that's actually new.Bookmark here

"Police have identified the man in question as 38-year-old Harry Delaney."Bookmark here

He doesn't look half bad in that picture. The lights in the back of his car don't do him any justice.Bookmark here

"Despite this recent string of deaths occurring under strikingly similar circumstances, at a press conference today, Brighton's chief of police once again refused to be drawn on the question if Mr Delaney's death was the work of a serial killer."Bookmark here

Well, that's not a very good way of describing it.Bookmark here

I wander off in search of some clean clothes, right now all that’s covering me is a tank top and my underwear, fine for a meal but not for purchasing one. Bookmark here

I want steak. Is it too early for steak? Actually, what time is it? The light filtering in through the crack in my curtains is red....... It's only too early for steak if I decide it is.Bookmark here

“…. The tabloids however have given a name to this theoretical killer. The Bitch of Brighton is likely to be the only headline you see on the top rack until-”Bookmark here

Enough of that. I lean over the back of the couch and hit the off button on the remote. As I do I hear a knock at the door.Bookmark here

Someone at my door? This is new. At least it's new relative to recently. People don't bother coming all the way to the door anymore. Bookmark here

Is it the police? Who else would have a reason to come for me and know where I live?Bookmark here

Another knock echoes down my hallway. Bookmark here

"Um hello?~"Bookmark here

Oh. Bookmark here

Well, it's not the police anyway. I suppose I should open it and get rid of whoever is there. Maybe I got a new neighbour or something.Bookmark here

I make my way over and open the door.Bookmark here

"Wahhhh!"Bookmark here

Behind it is a girl. About my height, maybe a bit shorter. About my age, maybe a bit older. From the way she's dressed you can tell she thinks she's pretty and to her credit she's not wrong.Bookmark here

"Uhhhhhhhhhhh."Bookmark here

She's averting her gaze from me behind a stack of papers she's holding in front of her face. For some reason, the top of the stack is bent and frayed but the bottom is completely fine.Bookmark here

"Something wrong?" Bookmark here

"No… I uh… just wasn't expecting you… I expected you to be wearing.... more?"Bookmark here

I guess I'm not wearing that much, why would I be though?Bookmark here

"What do you want?"Bookmark here

"It was my turn to bring you the schoolwork you've missed."Bookmark here

Oh, I guess it's Friday again.Bookmark here

"I tried putting them in your letterbox but I couldn't open it."Bookmark here

"That's because I nailed it shut."Bookmark here

"Why'd you do that?"Bookmark here

"Because I felt like it."Bookmark here

I don't recognize this girl. I don't recognize any of the girls from my class immediately anymore but, even over time, nothing familiar about her is coming to mind.Bookmark here

"What's your name?"Bookmark here

"It's Trish. Nice to meet you."Bookmark here

She drops the papers from her face and holds out her right hand with a big stupid grin.Bookmark here

"Look, thanks for coming all this way or whatever but you don't need to do this."Bookmark here

I see a tinge of disappointment creep into her expression through the crack of my closing door. She reacts fast though and jams her foot in to stop it closing.Bookmark here

"What do you think you're doing?"Bookmark here

"Will you take these, please? I came a long way to deliver them."Bookmark here

She holds out the papers towards the crack in the door.Bookmark here

“Did you not notice the pile?”Bookmark here

I gesture my head towards the damp stack of papers that have been piling up outside my apartment.Bookmark here

“Uh, no, I didn’t.”Bookmark here

“Pretty hard to miss a 3ft tall stack of papers.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, OK well I missed it, it’s not a big deal.”Bookmark here

She continues holding out the papers.Bookmark here

“Me telling you about the pile was meant to be my way of saying you should add them to the pile.Bookmark here

"OK, fine."Bookmark here

She leans down and places them neatly to the side of the pile..... without moving her foot.Bookmark here

"I want to close my door now."Bookmark here

"OK, just one more thing though."Bookmark here

She's certainly persistent.Bookmark here

"What?"Bookmark here

If it'll get rid of her, I can listen for a few more seconds. Maybe.Bookmark here

"Do you need me to do anything for you?"Bookmark here

"I need you to go away."Bookmark here

I try closing the door but there’s no immediate movement of her foot. Seems she wasn't being serious.Bookmark here

"OK, I meant something I can actually do."Bookmark here

Stubborn… I try a new tactic. If I just don't respond long enough maybe she'll just give up...... she starts fidgeting after a little while, her hands together, rolling her thumbs over themselves Bookmark here

.................. Bookmark here

.....................Bookmark here

She really is very pretty. Bookmark here

"I'm not going to pry or anything but um... it's obvious that you haven't been going to school for a while, at least not since I've arrived."Bookmark here

She fidgets a bit more and then slides her foot back from the door. Bookmark here

"It's hard being alone, so if you need anything from me, please let me do it."Bookmark here

Is this some sort of pity? She heard about what happened here from someone and feels like she has to give out this courtesy offering. Bookmark here

Maybe she's the type of shallow that makes the effort to pretend to be friends with everyone in the class, she certainly looks the type. Maybe she's even just here to get a glimpse of the weird girl who won't come to school anymore just because a couple people died, a first-hand look at what can happen if you care too much.Bookmark here

"Um......"Bookmark here

She's still here.Bookmark here

"So, is there anything you need?"Bookmark here

I open the door wide enough so that she can see my whole frame without being able to see the mess of blood and glass behind it.Bookmark here

"No, there's nothing I need but if you feel the urge to be nice to me for whatever reason, next time come with some food, I never stop being hungry."Bookmark here

"Food...."Bookmark here

She takes her smartphone out and starts typing something in.Bookmark here

"What do like to eat?"Bookmark here

"Do you really need to go this far for a joke?"Bookmark here

"What?"Bookmark here

I slam the door closed in her face.Bookmark here

"Heyyyyy...!"Bookmark here

Despite her initial protests, there's no knock on the door following them. She must've gotten bored. I don't want to risk seeing her while I'm out getting food..... There's gotta be something else around here. A thorough search of the cupboards unearths some still in date crackers. They'll do. Crackers are good.Bookmark here

I turn the TV back on, flick to a static channel and begin my wait for night to fall.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

I’m roused out of my afternoon daze by the sounds of cars being locked. The incessant chirps designed to put their owners at ease, to assure them that they really did lock up, that they didn’t just imagine it. A system for peace of mind, a system that’s a luxury of the synthetic.Bookmark here

It doesn’t put me at ease though. When the chorus of locked cars cries out, it’s the sign that says the walls beside me are done being hollow. People are returning home, people I can hurt, that’s why I have to get out of here.Bookmark here

I peel myself off the couch and get ready for work. A shower without any soap. Water in place of toothpaste. I feel blindly for clothes that are just clean enough to be taken off and then turn on the torch on my phone to do my makeup in the mirror. My last bulb blew out last week. I think.Bookmark here

Don’t look at me.Bookmark here

It can be pretty hard to do makeup one-handed, especially when the face you’re painting won’t look you in the eye. Bookmark here

Even out the corner of mine, with the minimal lighting, I can tell it isn’t working. I pull my last makeup wipe from their packet and erase any evidence of my attempt. Some guys like plain girls anyway, that’s what I’ll tell myself. Couldn’t be the desperate eyes they stalk the night for, never the desperation.Bookmark here

We’ll never look away.Bookmark here

I should really throw out this mirror, it doesn’t work anymore. It reflects elements of who I used to be and calls that who I am. Bookmark here

But that’s a lie. Bookmark here

This girl in the mirror is no more Kai than she is anyone else. A girl who wants for nothing, feels for little. Only a faint desire, a want to want. Maybe then she could be the kind of happy she thought she was, want as she wanted before, this time without the wool and false pretences.Bookmark here

I hate this girl, she’s empty inside.Bookmark here

I fix the mirror by breaking it, cracking the glass while being careful not to cut myself. That’s better, she’s pretty now.Bookmark here

Suddenly, another knock at the door.Bookmark here

Who the fuck is that? Do people not know well enough to leave me be?Bookmark here

I march through my hall, knocking over anything left to be knocked over on my way.Bookmark here

"Hi again~"Bookmark here

It's the girl from earlier. She's standing in front of the door with a plastic bag of groceries and that big smile she had earlier still plastered all over her face. No, it might be even bigger now.Bookmark here

"Is this some kind of joke? Is all the food going to be out of date? Filled with laxatives? Poisoned?"Bookmark here

"What? No! It's just… food."Bookmark here

To aid her protests she starts taking some of it out to show me what she got.Bookmark here

"I wasn't sure what you wanted since you didn't tell me, but that's fine, that's OK, cause I just got you loads of stuff."Bookmark here

"Wha-"Bookmark here

"I got some bread if you're just peckish."Bookmark here

She takes out a loaf of bread and places it in front of me.Bookmark here

"Some butter and ham to make sandwiches."Bookmark here

She keeps on placing them in a neat line.Bookmark here

"A salad if you're trying to watch your weight which, I don't know why you would be, but you know sometimes people are just like that. I got some salt too in case you're watching your weight but also want it to taste yummy."Bookmark here

She struggles for a second to balance the salt on top of the round salad container. She quickly gives up and instead precariously balances the salad on top of the salt.Bookmark here

"I got spaghetti because I like spaghetti. 3 different sauces so you have variety. Some steaks for if you're really hungry and some steak substitutes if you're really hungry but also care about animals or whatever."Bookmark here

Several times I open my mouth to ask her what the hell she's doing but every time I do the curious part of me reaches out and clamps my lips shut. It wants to see just what's wrong with this poor girl, is she really this naive?Bookmark here

"Uwaaah!"Bookmark here

She looks up and catches a glimpse of my face. I must've been wearing a scary expression.Bookmark here

"Oh my god, I'm sorry. Is this, like, something I shouldn't have done? Did you not want me to get you food? Were you not hungry? Oh, I know maybe you just never eat?"Bookmark here

"Does your mouth ever fucking close?"Bookmark here

"Yes?"Bookmark here

All I can do is give her a look, somewhere halfway between confusion and disdain. Why did she say that like it was a question?Bookmark here

"I'm sorry I can take it back with me if you want, I'll just eat it, it'll be fine."Bookmark here

She starts sliding the food back into the plastic bag. Before she finishes, I grab her wrist. She stares back up at me slightly fearful. I should've thought about this a bit more before I did it but I didn't. We've already spoken far more than we need to, I don't want to engage in these acts of charity, if that's what this is. Bookmark here

I unhook the handles of the plastic bag with my free hand and take it for myself before I let go of her wrist. Bookmark here

"I like steak. Steak is good... wait there a second."Bookmark here

I close the door and hang the latch on just in case she gets the idea to peak in... I still have a wallet, right? God, I hope I didn't throw it out. When did I last need cash anyway?Bookmark here

After a couple of minutes of searching underneath and inside everything, I find it in the pocket of a pair of jeans I wore a few months ago. They're sort of cute, maybe I should wash them. Just this pair. Bookmark here

Let’s see if she waited this time too.Bookmark here

I open the door and there she is. swinging the bag back and forth like a bored child.Bookmark here

"Here."Bookmark here

I hand her a 50-pound note and take the bag off her.Bookmark here

"I hope that's enough, I don't have anything else on me."Bookmark here

"Oh no, this is way too much! I don't have any change."Bookmark here

"Don't worry about it."Bookmark here

I take the salad out of the bag and return it to her.Bookmark here

"Take this, I hate salad."Bookmark here

Salad is bad.Bookmark here

"Oh, OK sure but this is too much money I can't accept this."Bookmark here

She tries to give me back the note, but I close it up in her hand with mine.Bookmark here

"Yeah, if that's the case then I can't accept this. Take it and enjoy your charity."Bookmark here

I turn my back on her and the situation. The food is nice but now I hope she goes away. There's a reason I don't go to school anymore.Bookmark here

"OK, I'll just use the change for next time then."Bookmark here

I snap back around and point my finger in between her eyes.Bookmark here

"There isn't a next time. I don't want to talk to you. I don't want your kindness or your charity or anything like that. Don't come here again. If you have to come here to deliver papers, add them to the pile or better yet, just throw them into the ocean for me. And if you for some reason feel you have to knock on my door again? You don't, no one has a reason to be here."Bookmark here

She doesn't seem to know what to say. Not that I expect her to. I expect her to leave. I expect her to not come near the unhinged girl who doesn't come to school ever again. I'd like to be able to rely on my expectations for once.Bookmark here

I go back inside and slam the door. She won't wait after that. I drop the bag of food on the counter and take out one of the steaks. How much were these anyway?Bookmark here

......Bookmark here

........Bookmark here

The price has been ripped off. She got 4. There's no way 50 was enough. What the hell does she want from me?Bookmark here

................Bookmark here

My suspicions are no reason to reject a good steak, after all, it might be my last.Bookmark here

She saw me in my work clothes. I hope that doesn’t get around. Last thing I need is for the school to come sniffing around again, took me long enough to get them off my back in the first place. I know they don’t care about me, but they sure do care about their image. Bookmark here

Though that’s not something to worry about if I do my job correctly tonight, that’s what I should focus on. I leave my phone to charge on my bedside locker. I wish I could just send out a text to someone and get what I needed but my particular style doesn’t lend itself to repeat customers. I’m better off not having my phone.Bookmark here

Outside I’m half expecting that girl to still be there but she’s not. In fact, she’s disappeared from the surrounding area very quickly, I can’t see her walking down any of the surrounding streets, almost like she ran away from this place. What a strange girl.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Hours into the night and I haven’t so much as been looked over by a passerby.Bookmark here

Sometimes things get slow like this, whenever there’s an occasion of some sort. Bookmark here

For instance, things ran pretty slow right up to Valentine’s day and then very fast for the whole week after. Bookmark here

What could it be today? We’re getting closer to Christmas, maybe the trendy gift is not cheating on your partner or maybe that’s a Christmas classic. Bookmark here

It doesn’t really matter I suppose, what matters most is that I’m not getting anything, that’s the real issue here.Bookmark here

Just as I’m about to get up and change locations, a man appears from down an alleyway to my right. I can feel his intense pressure from here. Bookmark here

Tall, broad shoulders, combed blonde hair all tied up in a black suit. He looks foreign, maybe some sort of banker or CEO? He comes to a stop just in front of where I’m soliciting, hands firmly sewn to his trouser pockets. He looks down at me. His blue eyes fixed on me with a vacant stare. No, those are not absent eyes, those are the deep eyes of someone used to hiding their true colours, pupils so deep your thoughts could drown in them.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

His voice is deep and smooth, the type that can convince you, the type that can hurt you.Bookmark here

“I’m looking for a certain kind of man.”Bookmark here

He shakes his head.Bookmark here

“No, no, I already knew that, you don’t have to pitch me tonight, unfortunately, I don’t have the time to engage you right now. What I want to know is why you are doing what you’re doing.”Bookmark here

His speech has a dangerous cadence to it, this guy might just be perfect.Bookmark here

“Isn’t it obvious, I need the money.”Bookmark here

“No, you don’t.”Bookmark here

“Then I enjoy the sex.”Bookmark here

“I’d sooner believe you needed the money.”Bookmark here

“Look pal, if you’re not interested-”Bookmark here

Suddenly he snatches my wrists and drags my hands out of my pockets, my face close to his.Bookmark here

“I thought I made it very clear that if I wasn’t otherwise engaged, I would be doing what I want to you right now. Because I am though, I’m going to settle for satisfying my intellectual curiosity.”Bookmark here

He tightens his grip on my wrists, he’s probably trying to intimidate me.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here? I can tell you’re not broke; I can tell you’re not that desperate, I’m acquainted with plenty of girls who are plenty of both. If you’re neither then you have to have some unique reason to be here, which intrigues me. Women who sell themselves willingly are never that interesting you see.”Bookmark here

He keeps talking on and on. He wants me to cut in with an answer to get him to stop, he’s clearly used to getting what he wants.Bookmark here

“So why are you here?”Bookmark here

“Why don’t you pay me and find out?”Bookmark here

For a split second I can feel his grip tighten even further, what’s scary is I can tell he’s not using his full strength even now, he could probably snap my wrists in two if I was anyone else. But I don’t get to find out how rough he was going to get, he receives a phone call that interrupts us and he drops me to the ground instantly.Bookmark here

“Amir, what do you want?…. I’m in Brighton… Just looking into something, might turn up big for us… I’ll be sure to tell you next time then…”Bookmark here

I can’t hear the man on the other end of the phone, but he must be even scarier than the guy in front of me if blondie seems so willing to defer to him.Bookmark here

“Give me a week, if I can’t find anything by then I’ll come back… Anything you want me to say to Paul while I’m here?”Bookmark here

Blondie lets out a sinister laugh that suggests that the caller and this Paul guy probably aren’t on the best of terms.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’ll try my best not to.”Bookmark here

He hangs up without waiting for a response before he turns his attention back to me.Bookmark here

“You’re lucky I’m a busy man.”Bookmark here

“I reckon that makes me pretty unlucky.”Bookmark here

There’s an ever so subtle change in his smile, it’s the focus of his amusement, having shifted from his earlier joke to me instead. Bookmark here

He takes a business card and a £100 note out from his wallet and hands them to me.Bookmark here

“I want to see what you can do. I’m in town for the next week, be sure to give me a call.”Bookmark here

Just like that, without any assurances that I’ll call, without so much as parting words, he’s gone. Bookmark here

He’s a dangerous man, that much is clear. What’s clearer still, is that he’s the perfect man for me.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.