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The Secrets of Another -- Part 5

The Secrets of Another -- Part 5

Jennifer reveals more than she thinks.






Contentment with life is not a feeling, but it is a decision we must make.


—Joyce Meyer



The final bell had rung, and the students of Riverhaven High School were dismissed from another day of class. The hustle of young adults moving throughout the building slowly died down as time went on, some of them finding their appropriate school buses, and others that drove their own personal vehicles left at a much more leisurely pace. Teachers either stayed or prepared to leave, some locking their classroom doors. The echoes and chatter of students faded as the minutes ticked away.

Jennifer had stopped at her locker to put some books and binders away, and to grab her car keys. She gathered the homework she had been assigned for the evening and placed the books within her backpack: History, Chemistry, and Stats. The moment she closed the locker, she turned and leaned on it for a moment. She retrieved the smartphone from her back pocket and found that there were no new text messages.

She sighed and looked up just as Katelyn and David passed by. Katelyn smiled and waved, her brunette hair with bright blonde highlights fell below her shoulders. She was slightly taller than Jennifer and had much more defined curves at her waist. David nodded to her, as he towered over Katelyn, with a large athletic build, short black hair, and those remarkable gold shaded eyes. Jennifer waved back and curled her lips into a fake smile that she knew Katelyn would detect.

With her smartphone in hand, Jennifer made her way out of Riverhaven High School and through the student parking lot toward her silver Pontiac. It was a bright and sunny afternoon, not a trace of a cloud throughout the vast blue sky. Birds chirped among the droning noise of cars and buses driving off on Main Street, and a dog barked in the distance from one of the many surrounding residential homes. As Jennifer stood at the door to the driver’s seat, she looked at her own reflection in the glass window.

I think I’ve waited long enough, she thought. I can text him. If he doesn’t reply, well . . . I guess I’ll just forget about all of it.

She spun around to lean against the car door and opened the Messages app on her smartphone. In one long and drawn out breath, she typed a text, which read, ‘Hey, William. How are you? I was just wondering if you wanted to meet up somewhere and hang out for a little bit this evening?’ She hesitated on clicking Send, her thumb levitated above the button. She questioned what she was so afraid of: Rejection? Perhaps. It was a very real possibility that he had no interest in pursuing any form of friendship with her, let alone a relationship. But is a rejection the worst thing that could happen? Of course, and so what? She held the ability to move on, to find someone new. Jennifer was used to being alone and thrived in solitude.

She clicked Send.

In the time between sending the message and stepping into the car as well as starting the engine, William had replied. She hadn’t heard a ring, as it was only by a stroke of luck that she noticed the little flashing blue light since she had placed the smartphone upside down in the cupholder beside the driver’s seat. She opened the text, and it read, ‘Not today.

She paused, at first unsure of how to respond. It wasn’t a wholesale rejection, but it came with other questions: What’s he doing? Is he with someone else? Could it truly be that he’s busy at the moment? He didn’t respond to her asking how he’s doing, either. What was he up to that would cause him to respond with something so vague and shallow as “not today?” She sighed and ran her hand through her hair as she glanced up and through the windshield as she placed the smartphone back into the cupholder. There were only a few cars left in the parking lot, as a vast majority of the student body had cleared out. She pressed on the brake, then switched gears and put the car into Drive. But just as she was about drive away, the distinct chirp of her phone rang between the plastic. A new text message from William.

Perhaps tomorrow, or in a couple of days.

Okay. Let me know,’ Jennifer replied. She didn’t know what to think, at least, not right away. The second text was reassurance that he was willing to spend an evening with her, but . . . what could he be up to in the mean time? Despite her wonder and curiosity of his activities, she didn’t long to see him. There was no ache within her heart, nor was there covetous thoughts that ran through her mind. She was calm, her inner desires held within the fabric of serenity. Solitude beckoned her; that sweet sound of quiet isolation. After having placed the smartphone down once more, she finally left the school parking lot altogether.





Jennifer had finished her final assignment for Stats and was about to begin work on History. The Wolf’s Den Café was near empty that Friday evening; the retired gentleman was there, that regular who spent every night reading the newspaper in one of the leather lounge chairs. Of course, there were a few workers as well, like that boy who constantly shot glances at Jennifer—to which she ignored. She had put a pair of earbuds in her ears to drown out all the distractions of the outside world. The simple, yet uplifting, melody of an acoustic guitar was all it took to release those societal toxins that had dug deep into the layers of her youthful skin.

She placed the History textbook before her, slid it further to the other end of the table to make room for her notebook. She took one long sip of what remained of the small Campfire Cooler and began to read the ultimately perplexing passages and paragraphs.

It was the first time since she left the school parking lot that William crossed her mind. She remembered the day they first met, how he had helped write the assignment with such ease and accuracy. There was a part of her, some miniscule wish that he was there with her. If he was, she’d probably be done with homework by now, having the rest of the weekend to spend freely. I really don’t have to finish this today, she thought. Homework can wait until Sunday, or even Monday—it is Columbus Day after all. She sighed, and closed the textbook, then returned both it and the notebook to her backpack. She glanced out the window beside her favorite table and noticed the sun had dropped far below the horizon. Not even the very tips of the branches were visible among the night sky, although a few tiny bluish stars were scattered throughout.

The door to the Den opened, followed by a gust of chilly night air. Jennifer paused and thought perhaps it was William who had entered the Café. But dare she look? She knew it quite well, the feeling of hope in her own fantasies and illusions, as though Fate were to offer everything she desired; but ultimately, to find that hope crushed under the steel boot of reality. She turned her head slightly, in the direction of the door, and waited for the customer to pass by. But they never did, and instead moved in her direction.

She looked and saw Adam King walking toward her. He is a friend of David’s. Jennifer and he only recently began to spend time together as a social group at school, typically during lunch break. His cropped hair had to be the most eye-catching feature, as it was a deep beige, brown color, like the bark of an old oak tree. He was tan and athletically built much like David, and his eyes, such a bright brown they could glow like neon.

“I didn’t know you hang out at the Den,” he said and approached the table. “What a surprise.”

“Hey,” she said. She took the earbuds out and placed them on the table. “What are you doing here?”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Haven’t been here in a few months, so I decided to stop in. You doin’ homework?”

“Just finished up, actually,” she said. “I’m probably going to head home here soon. It’s getting quite dark.”

“What is this—the eighteenth century? It’s a Friday! If I didn’t have plans with the boys already, I’d take you out. Treat you to somethin’ nice.”

Jennifer chuckled, not out of flattery but out of vexation. The type of short, uncomfortable laugh that was meant to indicate utter disdain for the idea. She held no issue with Adam on a personal level, but it was simply the thought of spending time with someone she cared little for. “Thank you,” she said. “But I’m content with my life in loneliness.”

One of his eyebrows raised and a sharp smile formed as his lips curved. “You didn’t seem to mind coming to David’s bonfire on Monday.”

His petty attempt at debating exasperated her nerves. Katelyn dragged her to the bonfire, figuratively of course, but had the decision been left solely up to her; she more than likely wouldn’t have attended. And what did it matter anyway? Less than a month ago she hadn’t said one word to Adam, as he was nothing more than an at-school acquaintance. Jennifer grinned and blinked rapidly—an innate reaction of hers as annoyance pulsated within her mind. “As I said: Content.”

“Well, the offer stands,” he replied. “I’ve got to go soon, so I’m going to grab a coffee and head out.” He turned and moved toward the counter to order himself a drink.

Jennifer sighed and rubbed her face with the palms of her hands. Regret swarmed her, wishing she could take back what she had said. Had Adam deserved that attitude or had she been a bitch? Whatever the answer, she didn’t dwell on it; as she then grabbed her backpack and stood up to leave the Wolf’s Den Café. When she opened the door, she sensed Adam watched her, but she didn’t look back.

The night air was cool and calm, the call of an owl rang from the nearby forest, as well as an orchestra of crickets and grasshoppers. A couple of cars drove by when Jennifer entered her silver, Pontiac. She started the engine, and sent a text to her mother, which read, ‘Coming home now.’ She placed the smartphone in the cupholder and drove out of the small Café parking lot.

But during that time alone in the parking lot, she hadn’t noticed the tenebrous human figure lurking in the shadows within the woods. It had watched her, observed her movements and patterns, and could even smell her, as the shallow wind carried the voluptuous scent of her pheromones. It watched and waited until her car was down the road and out of sight, and vanished into the murky brush of the night.






She awoke from another nightmare and shot up from the bed, her body drenched in sweat. She brought her trembling hands to her face and rubbed her cheeks and eyes while she attempted to keep her breathing under control. Her heart galloped within her chest, and her stomach boiled with nausea. These terrors are going to give you a heart-attack, she thought.

Images of the nightmare flashed before her mind’s eye, those horrid black eyes, among that face of such pure beauty, like something of a demonic origin. She couldn’t accurately think of the person the face belonged to, nor whether it was even male or female, as it seemed to change shape ever so slightly with each passing moment of remembrance.

She looked over at charging smartphone on the nightstand and saw the little green light flashing on and off. There was a new text message waiting for her. William drifted into her thoughts, with a sudden anxious hope that it was he who had sent her a message. At first, she didn’t want to touch it. She didn’t want to know if it was or wasn’t him. Would she risk possible contentment if it meant possible disappointment could follow? The odds neared fifty-fifty.

She pushed the blankets off her body and crossed her legs as she sat on the bed. She then grabbed the phone from the charger and placed it down on the bed before her. With her eyes closed, she took several deep breaths to cleanse the anxious toxins that crawled beneath the layers of her skin, as well as ease the already tight burden within her heart. She picked up the smartphone and pressed the button to see who the message was from.

Katelyn had messaged her. No one else. To which it read, ‘You alright? I saw you earlier. You looked kinda depressed.

I’m fine,’ Jennifer replied.

She returned the phone to the nightstand, and laid down on her back, her hands resting underneath her head to give her neck support. Her eyes scanned the whole bedroom, the room of mere shadows and darkness. The tightness in her chest had vanished, as did the anxiety in her nerves. As she laid there, wide awake, sleepless, and alone, her body numbed, as though all of the space beneath her skin had hollowed. What am I doing? she thought, as a single tear dripped from her right eye and curved around her ear. Where do I go?


This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © 2018 ― Zachary W Mahnke

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author.

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