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Damaged - Part 1

A story of tragic obsession
This story contains scenes of graphic sex and violence that some may find offensive and/or disturbing. Reader discretion is advised. All characters, events, and locations are purely fictitious.

On an early weekend morning, with a dull, grey haze in the air and before the rest of the quiet street had awoken, Alan Rosetti packed his tools into the back of his white pick-up truck, while Dean watched from the lawn.

“Sure you don’t want to come with your dad?” Alan asked the boy. “Check out the Hobo Hut? You can go play by the pond if you want.”

Dean shook his head. A gentle, cool breeze shifted his curly black hair.

Alan climbed into the driver’s seat and nodded. “So you’re gonna be okay on your own this morning? Keep yourself busy?”

Dean nodded. He had that squirrel-chasing look in his round dark blue-eyes. The beginning of autumn was a good time for that. Squirrels were out and about in frisky masses.

“I’ll be back later with some lunch,” Alan said as he slowly backed out from the driveway. “Don’t go too far, and be back here before 12:00, alright?”

As he pulled down the street, he could see Dean immediately run off with his paintball gun. Crazy kid.

The drive was a short one through the rural town to the pond, just a few minutes by car. It was actually only a brisk jogging distance away, along some country roads. Alan often walked with Dean to the woods where the pond was hidden away, but today he needed his gear and some building materials to haul over.

Following the railroad tracks, he turned off the side of the road and headed into the forest, down an overgrown dirt trail. His truck trundled and bumped along for a couple of minutes, before arriving in a small clearing surrounded by trees and bushes. He parked his truck and switched off the engine. The trail used to continue on through the forest right up to the pond, but now it was too overgrown with brush, hidden away like a memory.

His fingers still wrapped around the wheel. Alan leaned forward in his seat and peered upward through the windshield, towards the canopy of branches above him. The leaves would be changing very soon. The air was already crisp. He liked it. It cleared the mind, kept it fresh.

Alan climbed out of the truck. Grabbing his kit and slinging his tool-belt over his shoulder, he made his way through the foliage. About 25 metres in, he arrived at another, small clearing. There it was, the Hobo Hut.

The pond was just another 15 metres past the dilapidated structure, through some dense bushes towards the west.

He dropped his gear and looked at the old shack, covered with sticks and leaves. The makeshift fire pit just outside its ‘door’ was barely visible these days, though the sitting log was still there, still baring the scars of initials and profanities carved into the hard wood.

The shack itself was still hanging in there, though. It had been bandaged over the years with things like street signs, fencing, and tarp, and it had been completely forgotten and abandoned in recent times, but the structure was still relatively sound. The original architect and the reason why it had been built had long faded from the rural community’s awareness. However, the shack did serve its purpose over the years for those who were aware of it.

It never really served a purpose for Alan…until now.

“Should be a good project,” he said as he removed his jacket and strapped on his tool-belt.” A good project.”

* * *

Drummond Elementary - Grade 5 classroom

Alan walked around the empty classroom looking at the display of noodle art on the wall. Some of these kids had real talent, practically Picassos with dry pasta. He came across Dean’s picture: Bits of broken noodles haphazardly pasted onto a wrinkled sheet of construction paper.

Alan smirked. You’d think that for a kid of an Italian, he’d display better skills with his pasta.

On another bulletin board, there were little gold and blue paper and foil medal ribbons pinned onto it. Each was inscribed with a hand-written blurb.

Alan leaned in and read the first one: “Cindy McPherson: For Exceptional Hula-hooping“.

“Good for Cindy McPherson,” he thought.

“Hi Mr. Rosetti,” a voice called to him from behind. Ms. Miki Yi entered the classroom carrying a clutch of papers and folders. She put them down, sighed and said, “Sorry, the teachers’ meeting ran a little long. Hope you weren’t tempted to fix anything while you were waiting.”

Alan said nothing and returned to looking at the ribbons.

“Those are the Miki Medals,” the young teacher said walking up beside him, hands clasped behind her back. “I give them out to the kids when I notice whatever exceptional talent each of them has.”

“Miki Medals.“ Alan nodded and continued to read the different inscriptions.

“I know… a bit twee, but don’t worry, I won’t play favourites.” Miki winked, then went on.“ Each child gets only one medal and before the end of the first term, I’ll have figured out something special about each one of them.”

“What if they don’t have anything special about them?” Alan asked dryly.

Miki smiled. “Everyone has something special about them.”

Alan looked at her. She actually believed that. “Everyone’s special so no one’s special,” he remarked, turning back and peering at the medals again.

“Hmm,” Miki paused, then said thoughtfully. “I think it’s more to show how each child is special for a different reason. You ought to think more positively, Mr. Rosetti.”

Alan looked back and forth between her and the board. Finally, he shrugged and replied, “Okay.”

“Um, so if you’d like to come have a seat over here, Mr. Rosetti, maybe we can go over a few things about Dean?” Miki said and walked back towards her desk.

Alan kept a close eye on her. The slender woman in the casual grey slacks and navy blue button down blouse shuffled through her papers. She ran her fingers through her straight hair, black with auburn highlights. It was a short bobbed cut, the hair curving around her soft cheeks and chin, framing her sleek, chestnut eyes, button nose, and rose bud shaped lips. The right side of her bob kept falling across her eye as she looked down. She swept it aside repeatedly around her ear.

He walked to the student desk positioned directly in front of hers, and leaned back against the desktop.

“Why don‘t you have a seat?” She offered, smiling.

“I feel a bit silly, sitting in those little chairs,” he replied.

“Ok, well, that’s alright,” Miki said. She couldn’t decide whether or not to sit at her desk and look up at him while they talked. So instead, she remained standing. “We’ve done some initial proficiency tests for the kids just to see where everyone is sort of at for the beginning of the year. I’ve been looking at Dean’s…”

“The boy’s a bit slow,” Alan remarked.

“No… no, I wasn’t going to say that,” Miki said carefully, her soft-spoken voice remaining steady.

“Dean was held back a year in grade three, already. We all know he’s not going to cure cancer.”

“His marks aren’t really what concern me, Mr. Rosetti,” Miki insisted. “They’re fine and there are always ways of improving those. But you’re right, he is a year older than the other kids and he’s already showing a growth spurt. I’m worried that his size and the perception that he’s a bit slower might cause some stress for him in the classroom.”

“So, if he‘s that much bigger, I‘m sure the other kids would think twice about messing with him,” Alan said. His words were stern but his voice was very matter-of-fact. Truthfully, he was trying to convince himself with his own words. He knew that Dean was more teddy bear than grizzly.

Miki continued, “Well, you’d be amazed at how early an age kids can develop the group bullying mentality - but that’s just one aspect. He’s very polite to me, but he’s sometimes a bit distracted and doesn’t say much to the other kids in class…”

“He’s a loner. Like his dad: Big, strong and silent,” Alan said. He looked towards the bulletin board and nodded, “Maybe you can give him a Miki Medal for being exceptionally quiet.”

That’s what had struck Miki first about this person: The same words spoken by others would normally be spouted off with a terse or brash tone of voice. Mr. Rosetti spoke everything with the same serious demeanour.

“Mr. Rosetti…”

“Why do you keep calling me that?” Alan interrupted, turning back to look at her. “We work in the same building. It’s just that you teach the kids while I clean the toilets after them.”

Miki nodded at the school custodian, “Well, we’re talking here as teacher and parent. I thought it would be appropriate.”

“So, if we were at a restaurant together and I wasn‘t in this dull blue uniform, you’d call me Alan?”

Miki blinked, her mouth open, trying to form it into an unfazed smile.

“I’m just saying that as an example,” Alan said. “I’m a bit hungry.”

The teacher caught up with her thoughts then said, “Well, if we could go back to discussing Dean…”

Alan stood and made his way towards the exit, loosening the collar of his custodian shirt. He looked back and said, “Don’t worry about Dean. I never do. He’s a good kid with a good heart, just a bit slow. A new, pretty teacher should get his attention soon enough. It’s in his blood.”

“Mr. Rosetti, please wait!” she called to him, “Alan!”

He stopped at the doorway, shoved his hands in his pockets and pivoted on his heel to turn and face her.

“If you could just…” Miki started to say when the ring of a cell-phone interrupted her. She held up her finger towards Alan as she picked up her phone. “Just a moment, please Alan… Hello? Yes…this is she…”

Alan tilted his head to the side as he watched her. While she spoke on her phone, she picked up a brush and began to slowly wipe down the chalkboard, almost mindlessly. He blinked and squinted, a nagging, bothersome feeling of déjà vu seeping into his mind. It rattled him slightly and he gave his head a little shake to snap out of it.

“I see,” Miki said, putting down the eraser. She massaged the back of her neck, her eyes closed, and sighed, “Alright. And how much will that cost, approximately? Oh. Okay. Thanks.”

“Dammit,” Miki muttered as she ended her call and flipped her phone onto the desk. She put a hand on her hip and rubbed her forehead. It took a moment for her to remember that Alan was still there. “Oh, sorry,” she said shaking her head and shrugging, “Not the best of news, I’m afraid.”

Alan waited.

“I’ve been having some problems with the pipes in my shower at home and it’s going to cost me a small mint to get it fixed,” she sighed wearily then chuckled. “Sorry, Alan, I’m not sure why I’m bothering you with this.”

The man at the door nodded. After a moment he said, “Whatever the lowest estimate is, I’ll do it for half.”

Miki looked up startled and said, “What? Oh… no, that’s okay. I mean… can you really…? Do you know how to fix things like this?”

“Oh, I can fix many things. Hey, if I can keep this place from falling on all your heads, I can fix some pipes,” he stated and walked over to her by the desk. He took a pen from his pocket and held it out to her. “Give me your address.”

Miki looked at the pen. She reached for it and hesitated. “Really?” she asked, cocking her dark brow. “For half?”

Alan nodded his chin upward, “Yeah, and only as long as you keep calling me Alan. I’m not so comfortable with this Mr. Rosetti stuff coming from you. Doesn’t sound right.”

A crooked grin appeared on Miki’s pretty, pink lips. After a moment’s pause, she took the pen and scrawled her address onto a piece of paper. “Okay,” she said, as she handed the pen and paper back to him. “Alan.”

He looked at the paper. “The Bingham’s old house,” he remarked.

“Yeah, that’s the place. You know them?”

“Everybody knows everyone here,” he said.

As Alan pocketed the items, Miki held out her hand. He looked at it for a moment and then took it with a firm shake. It was very soft and small, but warm in his hand.

“Thanks for doing this for me,” Miki said.

“Thanks…Alan,” he insisted.

She grinned, and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Thanks…Alan.”

He continued to hold her hand and look at her with a stoic gaze. He held it just long enough for her to notice… just long enough for the slightest blush of uncertainty to appear on her face, before he finally let go.

“I’ll be there this weekend.“ Without another word, he walked towards the door.

“I… th-thanks! Thanks! Oh and by the way, Alan,” Miki called to him by her desk.

He stopped by the doorway and turned.

“I’ll work with, Dean. He‘s in good hands,” she said, smiling with genuine sincerity.

Looking back at her for a moment, Alan simply nodded then left.

He strode quickly through the hallways, distancing himself from that anxious feeling he had momentarily – unexpectedly - experienced while watching her in the classroom.

* * *

A few weeks earlier…

The newest member of the Drummond Elementary faculty stood on the front school grounds greeting the kids as they made their way in for the first day of class. Miki Yi saw so many different faces - happy, anxious, crying, laughing - it made her excited and nervous about her first full-time teaching position.

She was hoping that she wouldn’t come across as too earnest, too eager to be accepted. That was one of the traps for a new teacher. However, for her, there was the added pressure of moving from the city to a smaller, more tightly-knit community. As a young Chinese woman, she certainly stood out amongst the predominantly White-Caucasian populace. It was likely her own preconceptions, though. No one had made the slightest remark about her ethnicity other than to say how uniquely pretty she was. She just had to calm down and focus on her work, her kids.

Somehow, though, she relished this nervous excitement swelling in her belly. She loved challenges.

Taking a deep breath as the kids passed by her, she watched as one child approached the steps of the school: A solid looking boy, with dark curly short hair topping a round-ish face. His expression, in contrast to the other kids, was noticeably blank, his blue eyes just staying on the ground three feet ahead of him.

A man walked with him. He looked to be in his early 30‘s. Though he had short, curly, salt-and-pepper hair cut in a Caesar style, Miki couldn’t quite decide if he was the boy’s father. It could have been his expression - a much more focused and assured look on his sharp face than the child’s. Instantly, he struck her as a quietly handsome man, but she just as quickly shunted that unnecessary thought to the back of her mind.

“Stay focused, look professional,” she thought to herself, folding her fingers together just below her waist.

“Good morning,” she chimed as they approached her. “I’m Ms. Yi, the new Grade 5 teacher.”

The man nodded. He said, “This is Dean Rosetti. He’ll be in your class.”

“Oh, that’s great,” she smiled at the boy, her gentle, small eyes cresting, “Hello, Dean. We’re going to have a good year together.”

Barely pausing to stop, Dean continued walking past her and into the school. The man followed.

“Oh, wait, sir!” Miki called to him, “We’re asking that the parents just drop the kids off at the front, here.”

The man gave her a long look. Though his blues eyes seemed impassive, Miki felt like she was being inspected thoroughly. Her fingers tightened together slightly.

“Morning, Alan!” Mr. Helms, the school principal, stepped out from behind Miki and shook the man’s hand. “Got Dean all ready for another big first day?”

“Barry,” the man who would be Alan replied with a nod.

Miki looked at the burly, Santa-bearded principal greet the man like a long lost cousin.

“Ah, sorry, Ms. Yi,” Mr. Helms turned to her, “Some introductions now. This is our supervising custodian, Alan Rosetti. Alan, this is Miki Yi, plucked fresh out of teachers’ college. We‘re lucky to have her.”

They shook hands. Miki noted how rough his hand felt as it clasped rather tightly around hers. Again, as she smiled at him, she couldn’t help notice that his sharply angled face showed very little expression, but it also didn’t seem like he wasn’t paying close attention to her. It was definitely a perceptive gaze that was trained upon her.

“You’re the custodian?” she asked even though she had just been told so.

Alan didn’t answer. Instead, Mr. Helms piped in, “On the first day of the school year, we let Alan get Dean ready and walk him up to school along with the other parents. That’s why he wasn’t here earlier for the morning staff meeting.”

“From here on in, I’ll be here before you arrive everyday,” Alan said, “Let me know if you need anything…Miki.”

Miki nodded, realizing their eyes never separated since the moment they shook hands.

“I have to in and get ready for work now,” Alan said. Without a hint of sarcasm in his steady voice, he added, “If you don’t mind, I‘m going to need my hand back.”

Miki then realized that not only were her eyes stuck on him, but she was still holding his hand. She pulled hers back and rolled her head in an exaggerated and apologetic nod, quivering a smile. “Of course! I’m sorry, by all means!”

Miki thought his blue eyes lingered on her for a moment longer before he proceeded into the building. Likely, he was noting how flushed her face probably was at the moment.

She continued to look ahead, staring past the children as they made their way past her, but she heard the man say, “You’re right. We’re lucky to have her, Barry.”

So many new faces. So many parents to meet. For the rest of the morning greeting, she remembered only one.

* * *

Dean went along with his father the next time he returned to the old shack the following Saturday morning. The sound of construction rippled through the trees and bushes.

“Hey, bring me the hammer,” Alan called out from inside the shack. He held a sheet of pressurized wood board up against the wall.

Dean was busy whacking the bark off a tree with a metal pipe.

“Yo, Paul Bunyan!” The man whistled and called to his son again, “Hammer, kid!”

The boy looked up and smiled. He ran over to the tools and grabbed the hammer. “Sorry, Dad,” he said.

“Instead of beating a defenseless tree, how about you help your dad nail this board in place?”

Dean joined his father inside and quickly went to work. The kid knew how to pound a nail, that’s for sure. Alan enjoyed this type of work, too. Building things was a great way to stretch the mind as well as the body.

For a few minutes the sounds of hammering echoed through the forest.

“Okay, that’s good,” Alan said after a while. He gave the board a tug. It wasn’t going anywhere. He rubbed his fingers roughly through the boy’s hair. “Good job. Go fetch a few more nails and my pliers.”

While Dean went outside to get the things, Alan looked around the small shack. It was coming along well. Cleaned out, he was almost done with re-enforcing the walls and floors. Some sanding and sealant and paint, and then he just had to install the windows he had brought. From there, he could move on to cleaning up the outer walls and the roof top. Work from the inside out, that’s the way to go. Inside, then out, that’s how he went about everything in his life.

Dean returned with the requested items.

“Thanks,” Alan said to him. He looked out through a hole where a window would eventually be, and nodded towards a small pile of wild flowers and plants lying in the middle of the clearing. He asked, “You got enough flowers there for your teacher?”

The boy frowned and looked away.

“Yeah, I understand. It’s never enough,” he said, turning back to his work hammering nails. “I remember.”

The stiff banging sound chased the birds to the sky.

* * *

Later in the day, Alan and Dean drove up a short street, parked on the driveway of the house formerly belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Ed Bingham, and climbed out of the pick-up truck. The little boy had a clutch of flowers in his arms as he made his way towards the bungalow-style house.

As Alan retrieved his tool kit from the back, a large SUV slowly pulled up along the side of the road. The window rolled down and the head of a woman with a long mane of golden blonde hair peered out from the driver’s side, leaning her arm over the door. Her lips curled into a smooth smile as she raised her sunglasses and spoke, “Hello Alan.”

“Sophia,” he replied with a nod.

“You’re still going to be able to come by tomorrow to check out those pipes of ours?”

Alan nodded again.

“Please try to be on time and no earlier than 3:30,” Sophia said. She looked up towards the house and saw a pretty Asian woman greeting Alan’s son on the porch. She smiled and lowered her sunglasses, covering her narrowed green eyes. “No earlier than 3:30,” she repeated then drove away.

He watched her turn a corner, then made his way towards the house.

“Hi Alan,” Miki waved to him from her porch as Dean stood beside her.

“Hey,” he said. Pausing for a moment on the walkway, he added, “You look different.”

Miki looked down at her jeans and pink tank top. She chuckled, “Yes, you finally get to see me in relaxed mode.”

He nodded and continued walking up the stairs to the porch. “Looks good. You should dress like that at school.”

“Yeah, right,” she smirked. She gazed down the road where the SUV had just driven off. “Who was that?”

“Just a neighbour stopping to chitchat,” he said as he stepped onto the porch.

“That’s what’s nice about a town like this,” Miki smiled. “People just stopping to talk with their neighbours and friends.”

Alan followed her into the house. “Yeah,” Alan thought. “Real friendly.”

* * *

“That looks great, Dean,” Miki said looking over to her kitchen table as she washed her hands in the sink.

Dean took his time arranging the plant and flower clippings he had brought. His teacher provided a glass vase. There was a hint of pride in his usually impregnable, stoic expression.

Miki thought for a moment that she might have had an idea for what sort of “Miki Medal” she could give to Dean. Then again, “For Exceptional Flower Arranging” would probably not be the best inscription to place beside Dean’s name.

“They’re really lovely,” she said with a smile as she stood beside him.

Dean slapped his hands together to shake off some dirt, and then he climbed down from the chair.

“Can I go outside?” he asked.

“Sure. Here,” she reached for a bag of Oreos on the kitchen counter. “Take a cookie with you.”

Dean took one and then scooted out to her backyard.

Miki made her way to the bathroom. “How’s it going in here?”

“It goes,” Alan said.

“You know, you’re the first guest I’ve had in this place since I moved in…aside from movers and repair people,” Miki remarked whimsically. She giggled, nodding towards the man standing in her bathtub, “Not exactly the way I had envisioned entertaining people in my home.”

“I’m just a repair guy,“ he said. He glanced toward her momentarily then continued to work.

Miki frowned. “Of course you aren’t. We’re colleagues,” she said. She tried to see what he was doing and asked, “How does it look?”

Alan had pried off a vertical length of tiles running down from the shower head to the rim of the bath tub.

“Well,” he said, “I can cover this up temporarily, so that you can at least take a bath in the tub till I get this properly fixed. No showers for a bit. Have to check the pipes below the house as well.”

Miki winced, “How much is this going to hurt?”

Alan sighed, “I can figure out ways of cutting costs to the bare minimum, but yeah, it’ll be a bit of a lump to swallow.”

The woman shook her head and said, “I knew this was too good of a bargain when I bought this place.”

Alan stepped out of the tub and washed his hands in the sink. “Yeah, well I knew the Bingham’s - decent old couple. They loved this place, but didn’t know Jack from Jill about how to maintain a home.”

“Lesson learned,” Miki smiled softly and nodded.

“Why’d you buy anyway?” Alan asked, “Isn’t it safer to rent first coming into a new job?”

“I felt like I wanted to commit to being here,” she replied earnestly.

“How’d you end up so far out of the city?”

“Couldn’t get a permanent full-time teaching job there,” she said, “It would take years. I didn’t want to be a supply teacher either.”

Alan nodded.

“Not that I didn’t choose to come out here,” Miki swiftly corrected, “It’s the rural regions that are expanding quickly and are offering good opportunities to new teachers.”

They walked to the living room of the small bungalow as Miki continued to talk. “I’m enjoying it here. It’s peaceful and it’s only a couple of hours drive back to the city if I’m in urgent need of seeing a stage play or… bagels.”

She giggled.

Alan looked at her suspiciously. “A couple of hours?”

Rolling her eyes sheepishly, she said, “Guilty. Lead foot driver.”

They stopped in her living room when Alan asked, “So, not missing anyone back home in the city?”

Miki angled her gaze toward the ceiling for a moment as she thought. “Well, my family, of course,” she said, nodding. “My friends… we used to go out a lot. I partied sometimes more than I should have!”

Alan listened quietly.

Miki shrugged and continued, “But they understand. They knew how much I wanted to teach. I’m glad that they‘ll support me in whatever I do for my career.”

Making their way to the kitchen, she opened the fridge to grab a couple of bottles of juice. Alan tilted his head and peered inside. She could tell by looking at his expression that he wasn’t impressed with the contents of her fridge.

“I know,” she sighed. “Not exactly a hardcore chef. More like queen of the microwave oven. That’s one thing, really - I’d kill to have a 5-Star French or Italian restaurant to go to in this town.”

Alan took a sip of juice then said, “There‘s good Italian here.”

“Ooh, where?” she asked.

“Right here,” he pointed to himself.

Miki blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“I can make you real homestyle Italian food if you want.”

She leaned back against the kitchen counter, nodding. “Oh…oh, yeah. Ha, ha. Of course.”

Once again, Miki was caught off guard by one of the man’s remarks. She didn’t recall when she had begun reading innuendo in his comments. Strangely, it wasn’t exactly a bad feeling. She found his unpredictable nature to be intriguing. Shifting uneasily on her feet, she wasn’t sure what else to say, even as she opened her mouth. Then the phone rang. Quickly she picked up the receiver.

“Hello? Oh, hi Edward!” Miki said, her voice a sudden mix of glee and relief. “How are you? Yeah, I’m missing you, too.”

Alan waved to her and pointed back towards the bathroom. She nodded, then turned away as she spoke.

Turning the corner to the short corridor that lead to the bathroom, Alan quietly and calmly detoured into the bedroom. Always listening to the conversation from the kitchen, the man strolled around the room as if he were taking a leisurely walk through an art gallery.

She was a tidy person, for the most part. Her desk was covered with school papers but otherwise, everything had its place. He sat down on her bed and examined her night stand. A couple of CD’s sat beside her alarm clock - classical orchestra. There was also a paperback book on the stand.

Alan read the title aloud, “Flowers For Algernon“.

He noticed the picture of what appeared to be her parents. He stood and looked around the room and saw more photos on the walls of family and friends. He inspected them closely, considered them intently.

“Okay, sure,” Miki said after a few minutes on the phone, “I’m really looking forward to it. Yes. See you then. Bye…”

Hanging up, she turned and walked back towards the hallway to the bathroom. “Alan?” she asked, “Are you in the bathroom?”

Walking slowly down the hallway, she noticed that her bedroom door was open on the opposite side. Tilting her head, she tried to recall if she had left it open that far.

“Alan?”

Alan emerged from the bathroom with his toolkit.

“Oh! Hey,” she said, turning and stepping back slightly. “Sorry about the phone call.”

He shook his head and asked, “Someone from back home?”

“Yeah. Yeah, a guy I know,” she said shuffling on her feet.

“Boyfriend?”

Miki paused. Her creamy, pearl-coloured cheeks blushed faintly. She shrugged, “No. I mean… I‘ve known Edward for around five years. I like him. He’s… we‘re good friends.”

Alan said nothing more and moved past her. “Dean,” he called out to the backyard, “We’re pulling out. Get your butt in the truck.”

The boy ran by the side of the house towards the front.

“So, thanks very much with helping me with this bathroom thing,” Miki said as she followed Alan to her front door.

“I’ll get the things that I need today then I’ll see. Busy tomorrow. Maybe during the week, or next Saturday.”

“Oh, next Saturday is the parent-faculty picnic at the school,” Miki remarked, “You’re coming aren’t you? I mean you are both parent and faculty, after all!”

“I’m not really the picnic type,“ Alan shrugged. “And kind of busy with projects.”

“Oh come on!” she nudged his shoulder. “Dean will have fun with the other kids, and you have to see me pitch in the softball game.”

Wearing a placid expression as he thought, Alan finally spoke, “I want a Miki Medal for this.”

Miki paused. He was actually joking with her… amazing. She chuckled, “I’ll give you one for being the best at repairing broken showers.”

Alan stopped as he opened the door. Without looking back at her he said, “No. I’ll think of another one for myself.”

She smiled and nodded, said good-bye, and shut the door. She stood in her foyer for a moment, thinking, still smiling to herself.

As Alan and Dean drove away, the man thought carefully. Amongst all the photos she had chosen to put up and around her room, of family and closest friends, none of them looked like the picture of a person named Edward or a person Miki would call her boyfriend.

* *

Dean enjoyed sliding around the long, smooth oak floors in the spacious, Locke home. Although he wasn’t allowed to go into it when unsupervised, he also liked the pool out back along with the huge lot of undeveloped forest that they claimed for their property.

There was a lot to do, in and around the 5-bedroom mansion, with plenty for a young boy to distract himself for a good long time. He didn’t even need to go upstairs. Anyway, he would have just got in his dad’s way, while he was repairing Mrs. Locke’s home. Though it looked like a nice, sturdy home, it turned out the house had many, many problems his dad had to fix.

His dad was in the bedroom, along with Mrs. Locke, fixing a problem right at that moment.

Alan’s tool belt lay on the floor of the bedroom, along with his socks, pants, shirt and underwear. The problem he was looking into was a creak in the bed that just wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard he shook it.

Sophia Locke was an obliging hostess, absorbing the stiff strokes and thrusts of Alan with her own willing body. All the while, she breathlessly urged him on to do his best.

As Alan knelt on the bed, pulling and pumping hard with every muscle in his lean, strong frame, he looked down at the woman lying beneath him. He held her lean thighs at his side, bracing her smooth body as he filled her with incessant strokes. Her ample bosom, gleaming with a sheen of perspiration, shuddered with a hypnotic rhythm.

Maybe it was from the heat enveloping the two of them as they groaned and strained repeatedly, but it wasn’t Sophia’s face he was seeing. Sophia’s hair wasn’t short enough, it wasn’t black enough, her eyes too wide and light, her tan skin not creamy-pearl enough.

She couldn’t offer him a medal or make him feel special.

“Ah, Alan! You’re so good, baby,” Sophia mewed.

Alan pulled her up, and the two clutched one another on the bed. He savaged her neck with rough kisses. Sophia groaned towards the ceiling, delighted by the torrid pace Alan was setting this afternoon. But even as he inhaled her perfume and dug his fingers through her silky blonde hair, Alan was distracted. He gazed at the empty wall, even as he continued to kiss her collarbone.

With a deep, angled frown on his brow, his eyes quickly drifting away from the moment, envisioning a hidden old shack by a pond. Two people were inside. One was himself.

The other wasn’t Sophia.

* * *

17 years ago

Alan sat quietly in the classroom looking straight ahead. He always hated the desks in school; they made him feel small. He stared intently past all the other students’ heads, focusing on the chalkboard.

It made no sense to him, Grade 11 history - actually none of the classes did, not in a purposeful way. He was good in math, liked how numbers and logic worked, but he never felt compelled to display his prowess to earn insignificant letters and percentages on his report card.

Yet his eyes were transfixed towards the front of the classroom, despite the gibberish being scrawled onto the blackboard.

Ms. Jennings had a way about her, when her back was to the class, scribbling away with the chalk as she gleefully covered every last inch of that big blackboard. Alan liked the way the skirt of her dress would swoosh to and fro, enjoyed how her long, wavy caramel hair flowed to her lower back which curved from side-to-side as she moved up and down the chalkboard.

Still, it was whenever she turned around to face the class that Alan’s eyes would narrow upon her. Pretty and pristine, she always inhaled deeply after her chalkboard workout, smiling as if she had just run a mile. She appeared to be blissfully unaware that likely half the class wasn’t recording anything she had written.

No, actually she wasn’t that naïve; she had good sense to know what was what. Alan knew she wasn’t some automaton like a lot of the other teachers. She was a pure idealist and rolled freely with whatever obstacles came about. As long as all the kids were passing her class, and knew at least one thing that had happened in this country that had occurred before the last ten years, she was happy.

She knew everyone by name without pause, made a point of ensuring each individual had her attention, adjusting to the needs of each of them, making each feel special.

Alan didn’t care if she made the entire school feel special or not. To him, he felt like the only student in her classroom. He knew it.

“So then,” Ms. Jennings said, addressing the class. “Aside from the obvious reasons like the stock market crash and the failures of the banking system to protect the population, what were the other key causes of the Great Depression?”

There was a sheepish, tight-lipped silence emanating from the room.

Ms, Jennings tilted her head, smiling, waiting patiently for an answer, even as bodies slouched further in their chairs and eyes targeted downward towards the desktops.

“Anyone?”

Alan was possibly the only one looking at her at that point. Though he knew the answers, he didn’t feel particularly inclined to speak up in class.

“Brad?” Ms. Jennings called out, looking two seats back and the row to the right of Alan, “How about you?”

Brad Murphy, a pale, freckled boy with a wide frame and wiry, copper hair, remained sloped in his chair, tapping his pencil on the desktop where he had just been scrawling random expletives. He sighed derisively.

Unwavering, Ms. Jennings chirped, “Come on. Give it a shot. What were other causes of the Depression?”

The young man shot her a curt glare and grumbled, “how about your classes?”

Snickers trickled throughout the room. Staring ahead, Alan frowned.

Ms. Jennings’ soft lashes fluttered as she blinked a couple of times, and rolled her head to the other side. She maintained a firm smile on her peach-coloured lips.

“Should I add that to the list on the board?” she asked.

“Yeah, whatever. Put it up on the board,“ Brad shook his head and shrugged as he looked away. Through a crack in his mouth, he mumbled, “boring-ass bitch.”

His words didn’t make it to the front of the room. They did make it as far as Alan. He lowered his chin to his right, turning his narrowed eyes to the side as he looked back over his shoulder toward Brad.

Ms. Jennings leaned forward on her heels. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that last part.”

Alan’s hand was clenched into a white-knuckled fist as he anticipated his classmate’s response.

Brad huffed dismissively then growled, “I said….”

A sudden bell rang through the air declaring the end of the period and school day.

Amidst the instantaneous sounds of chatter and the feet of chairs screeching on the floor as they were pushed back, Brad slapped his hands on his desktop and sighed. “Thank fuck!”

Alan turned his attention back to the front of the class momentarily as Ms. Jennings announced the assignments for the next class in vain.

“Have a great weekend everyone,” she said. Then she checked her watch, gathered her things quickly from the desk and scooted out of the room. She seemed just as ready for the weekend as the students.

The last one in the room, Alan finally pulled himself up from the chair and pushed his books into his school bag. He shuffled slowly out of the classroom.

In the busy halls, Alan ignored the clamour of students released from their cages and slipped through the other students unnoticed. He made a beeline for his locker.

Throwing in some books and pulling out his jacket, he finally paused when he heard the sound of a familiar voice a few feet to his left.

“What a boring bitch!” Brad said, still loudly grumbling about the history class to another classmate. “Typical airhead, right? Sweet to look at and such a cock-tease, but boring as hell.”

His friend chortled through his nose.

Alan paused at his locker, before moving very slowly and deliberately as he slipped on his jacket.

Brad closed his locker and spat, “maybe if I stuff my cock in her mouth, that’ll shut her the fuck up.”

Alan slammed his locker shut and glared over toward Brad, but his burly classmate had already made his way through the crowd towards the exits. Even though he had lost sight of him, and the images of the other students blurred and blended together, Alan’s cold-blue eyes continued to stare with a harsh cruelty.

* * *

Sophia stirred from her light, sensuous slumber and stretched like a cat. Her sultry, curvy body ached in the loveliest way.

In the darkened bedroom, she watched as the man with whom she had just shared an afternoon delight pulled up his pants. He sat down on the edge of the bed, his back to her, as he put on his socks. The woman reached out and walked her fingers up his smooth muscular back. She loved his feel, loved his look. The man was packed ruggedly with lean, long muscle, like a sleek wolf… and he knew how to work it.

“So, you have the numbers for those people?” She asked.

Alan nodded and slipped on his shirt. He sniffed the collar. It smelled of juniper and violet, Sophia’s scent since the first day he had met her.

“Those are good handyman jobs, should pay well and keep you busy,” Sophia remarked twirling her long blonde hair with her finger. “Hopefully not too busy. And remember, I’m the only one you’re doing any bedroom work for.”

Alan ignored her tagged-on chuckle. Quietly, he picked up a used condom, rolled it in some tissue and pocketed it. “You’re gonna change the sheets?” He asked.

Sophia nodded slowly, “Yes, but no hurry. I’m sure Turner will be taking the boys out for a beer or two, after calling them in for this weekend meeting at the warehouse.”

Alan stood and walked towards the door.

“So, is that the new school teacher whose house you were at?” Sophia said to him from the bed. “Such a sweet, exotic Oriental look to her. We haven’t seen too many in our community like that. Really stands out.”

Offering no response, he buckled his belt.

Rolling onto her back, Sophia smiled sharply toward the ceiling and said, “I’ve heard some of the boys at the company and in town have noticed the new fresh meat. Oh well, they should keep her preoccupied. I‘m sure secretly she‘ll love the attention, the little vixen. All schoolteachers are closet sluts, you know.”

Alan stiffened, his back still to her.

Sophia laughed, “Oh, dear! Shouldn’t be referring to her like that, should I? How disrespectful and I don’t even know her, yet! So catty of me. Rowr!”

He began to make his way to the door.

Sophia rolled back onto her side, propping her head up with her arm. A twinge of concern etched its way into her eyes. “So,what sort of business do you have with the new teacher?” she asked.

Without pausing as he opened the door and walked out, Alan answered, “Paid job. Just working on her bathroom.”

“That’s all I wanted to hear,” Sophia thought to herself as she lay back onto her pillow. “That’s my good boy.”

* * *

“Hobo Hut?” Miki asked as she faced her class.

An excited murmur floated throughout the classroom.

She already had the students worked up discussing the topic of folk legends and mysteries. When she asked if they knew of any eerie local stories, they all spoke, practically in giggly unison: “Hobo Hut.”

“So what’s the story behind this Hobo Hut? Somebody tell me,” she said scanning the eagerly raised arms in the room, “Yes, Amanda?”

A girl with a brunette ponytail and wearing a pink-striped shirt stood up in the back. She inhaled deeply and said, “So, a long time ago – like, 50 years ago, there was a shack in the forest that a hobo had built, and he lived there on his own. He stayed there during the day and only came out at night. He ate and slept there all alone.”

Miki leaned against her desk and folded her arms, nodding. She enjoyed the giddiness in the girl’s voice. “Okay. Go on.”

“And he’d go out to the road at night and kidnap hitchhikers and bring them to the Hobo Hut,” the girl said, her mouth broadening into an excited smile. “Then he would make them drink his potions and poison, and then he would kill them really slowly with his hooks and knives and other stuff he kept in his old tool kit!”

The class rumbled with cackles and chuckles. Miki winced.

“And then he would dump their bodies in a pond! And if you go swimming there today, the bodies will reach up and grab you by the ankles and pull you under the water!”

A gleeful roar erupted in the room. The kids were practically jumping on their chairs now.

A boy shouted through the din, “My dad said that even after the hobo was killed, he heard spooky moaning coming from Hobo Hut at night!”

Many of the kids concurred wildly. Miki stifled a chuckle. Despite herself, while she tried to stay clean-minded, she had an idea what type of ‘moaning’ might have been heard. It made her blush inside to think about it.

As the kids continued to chatter excitedly, Miki smiled, enjoying their ghoulish enthusiasm. Finally, she waved her hands downward, shushing her students. “Okay! Shh. Wow, thanks Amanda. That’s positively gruesome,” she chuckled, “So whatever happened to Hobo Hut? Do any of you know where it is?”

The class shook their collective heads. “No one knows where it is,” Amanda remarked, “I think it was burnt down.”

Miki nodded, feeling unexpectedly disappointed, for some reason. She noticed a hand go up. She blinked then said, “Yes? Dean?”

Dean continued to hold his hand up in the air, his chin buried in his chest, until all eyes were on him.

“Dean?” Miki asked again.

Slowly the hand came back down. The boy didn’t say anything.

“Ms.Yi?” a gravelly voice of a young boy called out from the back.

“Yes, Darryl?”

“There’s also the haunted train tracks.”

“They’re not haunted,” another boy jeered at him.

“Well, there was that man and woman who got run over by the train a long time ago,” Darryl replied.

“That was like, only less than 20 years ago. And it doesn’t make them haunted, stupid.”

As the class broke down again into a heated debate over the train tracks, Miki continued to watch Dean, still staring at his desk.

* * * *

In the evening, Alan was back at Miki’s house to work on her shower.

“What’s Dean up to now?” Miki asked as she handed Alan a glass of water.

Alan sat down on the edge of her tub and took a long drink from the glass. He handed it back to her. “I don’t know. Chasing cars, maybe.”

Miki grinned and rolled her eyes. “You’re horrible,” she giggled.

“He’s fine. I fed him before I came over tonight, and once he’s in his pyjamas and pulls out his comic books, the kid’s not going anywhere.”

Miki leaned up against the bathroom door and nodded.

“Is he giving you trouble in class?” Alan asked as he fidgeted with a monkey wrench.

“No. No, he’s never been trouble, Alan,” Miki replied eagerly. “He’s doing fine. He‘s a really good student. I‘m quite fond of him.”

The man stood up. “Feeling’s mutual,” he said and then got back to work.

Miki smiled to herself, looking at the array of tools all over her bathroom floor. “The kids were telling me grisly stories about the town today,” she said, “Talked about the Legend of Hobo Hut.”

“Oh, yeah?” Alan said, distracted.

“They were telling me how the place was a murder shack and it was haunted by the victims of the hobo,” she giggled. “Eerie moans and groans at night and all that.”

Alan paused for a moment, staring hard into the wall. “The moaning part probably wasn’t from ghosts,” he said with a low rumble. Then he went back to work.

Miki nodded and grinned. “Yeah, I kind of figured,” she said tilting her head down to hide the blush in her face.

“Never had use for a Hobo Hut of your own when you were growing up?” Alan asked twisting the wrench around a copper pipe, “I mean, not for murdering anybody, but, you know…”

Miki leaned back, her mouth rounding open, shocked. “No!” she exclaimed and laughed, “I was a good girl!”

Alan shrugged. “Uh-huh.”

“How about you? You ever add to the legendary moaning and groaning?” she teased. She told herself she wasn’t really fishing about his personal life.

“Nope,” he replied.

That was the answer she had been pretty much expecting from him. Still grinning, Miki shook her head and sighed, “Anyway, isn’t it strange how kids get so excited about violent murder stories?”

“Just stories.”

“Yeah,” Miki sighed, “The kids couldn’t say where it was, or if it really existed, anyway.”

“Hut’s real,“ Alan turned and looked at her. His lake-blue eyes were set on her, but there was an intangible distance in his gaze, as well. He added, “The moans were, too.”

“Oh,” was all she could muster. She suddenly felt like she was leaning forward as she looked back at him, being lured in by the stories that must have lingered behind his penetrating gaze. She really was intrigued by this man. Only when he returned to working on the pipes did she feel her balance return.

She hesitated, then turned to leave him to his work. Pausing for a moment looked back and asked, “Do you mind if I leave you here and go for a jog?”

Alan continued to focus on the pipes. “Sure,” he said, “No prob’.”

Miki went into the bedroom and closed her door. How did he always do that, give her pause for thought? Why was she always curious about what he had to say? He didn’t even talk that much. And though he rarely did so, the way he looked at her…

She shook her head and changed into her running gear.

Running was a cleansing ritual for her. It cleared her head and allowed her to focus on matters at hand. She made her way along the dark streets. The thoughts of school, of family, of friends, of the Hobo Hut, were left behind as she outran them. It left her mind clean for one thought… of one man.

Miki ran hard and long into the evening, unable to outrun that singular thought.

To be continued...

Author's note: Thank you very much to T_Elle for being my best creative writing friend and her invaluable help with fixing my reckless use of punctuation in this story!

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

Copyright © This work of fiction --story and characters-- is copyright RTnorth and may not be copied or reproduced on any other site or in any other medium without the author's consent or acknowledgement. (c) 2012

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