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Maggie was someone that no one her age ever understood. She had, what her mother referred to, as an old soul. She was always highly successful at academics in school, and triumphed in every sport that she participated in. She was the envy of all her female peers through high school, college and again, in University. The challenge was, that although other girls envied her for her beauty and intelligence, they never understood her lack of belonging in social circles . Maggie simply did not have time for friends her own age.

At age 25, she began her career in architecture , even before she walked the stage to accept her Esteemed Honor, Bachelor’s Degree. She had a very detailed eye for design and logistics, and of buildings and structures. She had studied in Europe, around Paris and Rome, as part of her education, and had a creative way of caprturing design structure with her photographic and eidetic memory. She was sought after, pre-graduation, from multi million dollar, world renowned corporations. Her reputation preceded her while she was abroad.

Within months of working for a large firm, she was matched with a mentor named James. The rough-around-the-edges man was known for his over the top ideas, bold creativity, and gruff personality. He never dressed as though he was worth millions of dollars, and when Maggie first met him, she was disgusted by him. The disdain that she felt did not affect her professionalism, or her candor while she worked alongside him, but she knew he felt it.

They argued repeatedly over his ideas of how building facades should be deigned ,finishes he preferred, and his taste in restaurants. She never liked having working meals with him, as he ate unhealthy meals from fast food chains, and she preferred fresh ingredients and keeping a balance of calories. She was athletic and he had a raging metabolism, and could eat anything he wanted to, without it affecting his rigid, thin body.

During one dinner out, he questioned her age, and suggested that she make frends with his daughter. “She’s around your age, and could use a friend”, he perservered.

Maggie sat at the opposite side of the table, picking fried bits of onion off her grease laden sandwich and scraping them on her plate. She glanced up at him and sighed loudly. “I don’t have time to make friends, James. I am here to work, and to become a professional architect. I want to learn from the pros and better myself, that is all”. She went back to her sandwich attempting to scrape some of the grease off with her knife and napkin. She could feel his gaze on her and never looked back at him.

“Ok, well, then let’s get to work”, he muttered. He was clearly trying to make her feel comfortable, with no success.

Maggie guessed her colleague to be around 20 years her senior, and she did see a certain handsomeness in him, and a touch of charm, but she found his lack of style and his abrupt manner repulsive. She was a beautiful girl, with black hair draping down her back, caressing the top of her waist. She had emerald green eyes, and her face was straight off the cover of a magazine. She appeared to be completely flawless, with her athletic physique , perfectly proportioned breasts and rounded curves. She caught James staring at her often, and although he was almost cringeworthy, she found it amusing.

They spent almost 60 hours a week working within the same office, standing beside each other so closely at times, she could feel the warmth of his body beside her and could hear his breathing. He usually smelled like expensive cologne with a musk overtone, and she enjoyed it. As long as she didn’t look at him in his baggy jeans, loose button up untucked shirts, and his casual slip on canvas shoes, without socks, she almost didn’t mind him. He always kept a scruff of an attempted beard, in order to appear young and cool. The way he spoke, however, was an annoyance.

“You need to listen to me,” was one of his most common phrases. He also made demands of her such as, “Grab me that pencil”, with no please or thank you attached. It was as though he had placed her in the office as his bitch, and she would not tolerate that.

They were working on a Saturday together, trying to meet a tight deadline for a company who had conducted a call for quotes and designs. They were competing with two other companies and wanted to win. Maggie and James agreed to meet at 8 am on Saturday at the office, and she was running a few minutes late when she slid her key card into the door. As she took off her coat, James met her with a cold stare and snarled, “If you want to be good at this job, Maggie, you need to be on time. I don’t tolerate late people”. He looked back down at the drafting table and ignored her for the next 2 hours.

After the awkward silence had finally annoyed her to the point of frustration, Maggie quietly said, “Ok, James. I am sorry I was late, but I was out for a run before I left and lost track of time”. He never looked up from his sketching to appease her at all.

“There are no excuses when it comes to multimillion dollar deals Maggie. The sooner you realize that, the better off we will both be.” She stared at him for a moment, taking in the lines around his dark blue eyes, and his stiff mouth. His hair was messy, as if he hadn’t taken a moment extra this morning to try and comb it back. Neither of them said anything further until it was time to take a break for lunch.

Without asking her opinion, or choice, James took it upon himself to order pizza and soda to the office. Maggie rolled her eyes as he ordered, but chose not to cause any further conflict with him. When it arrived, they both sat quietly, as she picked off onions and soaked her crust with paper towels, attempting to get some of the oil off of it.

To her relief, James finally spoke. “ So, what do you do for fun, Maggie?”

Typically, she never liked to discuss her personal life, but given the morning of awkward silence, she let the words fall out of her mouth. “I like to run, and read, and swim. I spend much of my off time at the gym, or out on the trails. It’s always been my stress relief. What about you?”

“I golf, and watch TV. I live alone, so I spend much of my down time at home, in my condo, not thinking about work”, his lips formed a half smile as he spoke.

“Well, maybe you should start running or take up a hobby. Your fast food diet has to be hard on you, especially at your age,” Maggie grinned at him, trying to make light of the morning.

“You sound like my ex wife,” he snorted. “There’s a reason she is my ex. That is one of them”. He crumpled up his paper plate, tidied up his area, and went back to his draft table, without a further word.

“I hope I didn’t offend you,” Maggie felt almost guilty for making her comments, trying to lighten Jame’s mood. She finished her mouthful of pizza and threw the rest in the trash can.

“In order for you to offend me, I would first have to give a fuck what you say to me, and frankly, I don’t”. His tone was so matter of fact, Maggie opted out of arguing. They went back to awkward silence and stood at opposite ends of the table.

After work, Maggie decided to take a long walk, to clear her head of the stress of the project and of James’s attitude toward her. She walked in the crisp cool spring air, through the treed pathways that led to the downtown core. As she walked, she couldn’t help but remember his face, with the fine lines crinkling his brow and his eyes. He really was quite handsome, even if he was a total asshole to work with. She tried to focus on the trees and surroundings on her stroll, as she walked passed a pond full of ducks, and ducklings. She stopped and sat, momentarily on a bench, to watch them swim and duck their heads under, in search of food. Finally her focus was on something else. She took a deep breath, and exhaled loudly.

Just as she rose to leave, after a nice quiet rest, she heard a familiar voice behind her. “Well, look who it is. You’re not dressed to be out running”.

She glanced quickly down at the attire she was wearing. She was still dressed in her fitted pantsuit and kitten heels that she had worn to the office that day. She had driven home, parked her car, and couldn’t bear to go inside her lonely apartment, so she went for a stroll. James was standing slightly in front of her with a young woman, about her age, close at his side.

“This is Catherine, my daughter,” he announced, “remember I told you about her?”

Maggie extended her hand,”Yes, of course. It’s my pleasure to meet you Catherine”. The three of them exchanged small talk about the weather and the duck pond, and Maggie told them she had to go and meet someone. She made up the lie to get out of, what felt like, a very forced situation. She turned on her heel and walked away, leaving James and his daughter behind her.

Monday at the office, Maggie made sure she arrived 20 minutes early and was greeted by, an even earlier, James. As soon as he saw her, he thrust a small piece of paper in her hand and told her it was Catherine’s number. “Give her a call. She needs some friends”. When he wasn’t looking at her, Maggie dropped the paper into the trash bin.

Off and on, James, throughout the next week asked Maggie if she had called Catherine. “No, I am too busy right now with so many things, I will call her soon though.”It was making her feel pressured and trapped into making nice, with a girl she never knew, and didn’t want to know. It felt like it was becoming another issue between her and James, that she simply didn’t have time for.

While working another evening together, weeks after he had given her the phone number, James sat picking at a salad that Maggie insisted he try. He didn’t seem to enjoy it, but agreed to make an attempt. “What is your problem with me Maggie? And what is your problem with Catherine?”

The questions caught her off guard and she opted to finish chewing her mouthful before answering. “I just don’t have time for friends. I don’t like to mix work with my social scene, and honestly I don’t feel that it is my duty to entertain your daughter, James”. She sat quietly challenging him with a gaze, looking into his steely eyes.

“Ok then,” he muttered. “We aren’t friends. And I will tell Catherine you’re not interested”. His lips formed a slight pout as he pushed his plate away. She had offended him again. He had a look of frustration across his brow that Maggie was beginning to feel accustomed to.

“It’s nothing personal. I am just not a friendly person, and I don’t need people in my life right now,” Maggie tried to explain.

Without a word, James rose from the table, glared at Maggie and spewed, “Ok, well I will pay the bill and say goodnight”. He paid their server and left, saying nothing further.

Maggie sat at the table, watching his figure, as he walked down the street to their office to get his car. She could not figure this guy out. Why was it so important for her to have any kind of friendship with his daughter and why was he so adamant about making her feel bad for such trivial issues?

The next morning she awoke to a downpour of hard rain. She chose to not run outside and opted instead, to bring a peace offering of hot coffee and sweets from the bakery next door to the office. She arrived 30 minutes early, and to her surprise, James hadn’t arrived yet. She set about her drawings and plans, sipping a strong brew as she awaited his entrance.

He showed up over two hours later, and the coffee had grown cold. She tried not to show her annoyance toward him, as he came in, soaked to his skin, without a jacket on. “Wow, it’s realy raining out there,” he chimed. “Oh, and you brought coffee! What a gem you are!” She turned to look at him to see why he was suddenly so chipper.

He flipped open the lid of the coffee on his desk, without commenting on it’s temperature. He stood beside her to inspect her work. “Yes, yes, it’s coming along nicely. You have a lot of good line work here, and the firm will be pleased. Great job, Maggie!” She felt a slight tap on her backside as he praised her. She wasn’t sure what it meant, or if it was intentional, so she pretended to ignore it. She was so confused over his sudden change of attitude and composure, that she didn’t dare set him off.

They worked through the day, with him happily humming to himself off and on. He was so out of character, that Maggie found herself looking at him often, to try and see why he was so different. He was, as usual, dressed in his dishevelled work attire, even moreso since he was drenched through his clothing when he arrived.

Finally, she cleared her throat, took a deep breath and asked him calmly, “What’s with you today James? You seem so happy and different. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I am just making an observation, is all”.

The expression across James’s eyes and face flickered slightly with Maggie’s question and he sat down. He motioned for her to sit in the chair next to him. She obeyed and sat, perched on the edge of her seat, wondering why he was suddenly so serious.

“ I have something to say to you, Maggie and I need you to listen to me with an open mind”. He leaned forward in his chair slightly, weaving his fingers together loosely on his lap. “I have been out walking in the rain, this morning, and doing a lot of thinking. I know you don’t like me. I know you dislike the way I dress and the way I eat, but I know we have a great working relationship. You are very professional and I admire that. Last night, you made it very clear that you do not want friends, like my daughter, in your life”.

Maggie tried to speak, to clarify, or come up with an excuse, but James held his hand up, “Please let me finish”.

He continued, with his hands weaved loosely again. “I need someone like you in my life. As a colleague, first of all. Secondly, as someone I can rely on, and third as someone I care deeply about”. He stopped talking momentarily and his ears and cheeks turned crimson red.

“I need someone who I am attracted to as a professional, and as a woman, and I know that person can be you. I have been very attracted to you since the day the managers paired us. I know that this is not something you have thought about, or probably want to pursue, but please know, it’s ok. I just want you by my side, at work, or whatever capacity you are willing to be here in.” James took a deep breath, and stared at the floor, in silence.

Maggie fidgeted in her chair beside him, not knowing what to say. Finally, she looked at his face. She held her gaze on his profile for a few moments before she allowed herself to speak, “is this why you wanted me to meet your daughter? Is this why you are so weird about me and Catherine being friends? Did you want her to size me up for you to see if I was a good fit? She is my age, James. You are at least 20 years older than I am, and we work together. I don’t know if this could ever work, even if I was attracted to you”.

The two of them sat, side by side in their office chairs, not speaking for quite some time. Maggie looked around the office nervously from the floor to the ceiling, and back to James, trying to think of how she felt about his disclosure. She felt a mix of pity, surprise and confusion over the things he had said, and she couldn’t process them. She quietly rose to get her jacket, and without saying a word, she left the office and went into the chilly air outside. The rain had stopped and she strolled slowly down the block to a small pub. She had no idea what to do now. She sat alone at the bar, and asked the bartender for a scotch on the rocks. She hadn’t had any alcohol in years, but she felt in light of this situation, she was due for a stiff drink. Her hand shook slightly, rattling the cubes in the glass. She trembled from the damp, chilly air, and the shock of what she was just told.

As she sat alone, with the buzz of a small croud of people scattered around, and upbeat music playing in the background, she held her drink in her hand and stared at it, deep in thought. Did she like this man enough to risk her job, her sanity, or even her heart on him? Would she be happy with a man that spoke harshly at times, and who was so much older than she was? She couldn’t wrap her head around it.

She shook her head to try and straighten her thoughts and ordered a second drink and a small bowl of soup. Just as she was finished speaking with the stout lady behind the bar, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and was taken off guard. She spun quickly in her chair, and was met with steely blue eyes.

Catherine, Maggie observed, had the exact same eyes as her father. “ Hi. Can we talk?” Without waiting for an answer, Jame’s daughter sat on the next barstool.

Maggie stared straight ahead, sipping the last of her first drink. Catherine cleared her throat beside her. “Look, Maggie. I don’t know what game you and my dad are playing, but I am getting tired of him complaining about you all the time. He has been trying to work on a relationship with you, but you are one tough chick to crack. He adores you. Personally, I find it disgusting that he is chasing after someone so close to my age, but that’s not my decision. I am asking you as a fellow woman. Please don’t lead him on. Either be with him, or don’t, but don’t hurt his heart. He’s been through enough crazy women who have destroyed him”.

“Why on Earth would I lead your dad on? I am just hearing about all of his “feelings” now? I had no idea that his being a jackass to me, meant he was making some twisted attempt of flirting with me,” Maggie was trying with every effort to keep calm. “How is any of this a game? This is far from what I call a game. I have never really looked at your father as anything other than my colleague, mentor, and a pain in my ass”. She put her empty glass on the bar and stared at Catherine.

“He becomes obsessed with women, Maggie. Scarily obsessed. He doesn’t know how to talk with them, like a human being. I get that. I have seen him try and start relationships with many women since he and my mom split when I was a kid. They are always crazy, gold digging bitches who take everything he has and leave him broken. I can tell you are different from them, and so can he.” Catherine looked directly into Maggie’s eyes as she spoke. Maggie had to turn her gaze away, as her eyes were too familiar to deal with, at that moment. She shuddered.

The bartender placed the steaming bowl of soup and a scotch on the bar in front of Maggie, breaking the confrontational air between the two women for a moment. Maggie couldn’t help but feel that James was being thrust upon her, the same way that she felt Catherine was, a short time ago. “I don’t know Catherine. I don’t think it could work”. She casually stirred her soup as she spoke quietly. “I just feel that all of this is happening so fast, and that no one is giving me space or time to think about it. Just give me some time. I need to process”.

Catherine stood up and pushed her barstool back, making room for her to put her coat on. “Well, all I am going to say is that my dad worships you. Do what you want with that information, but I am begging you, please don’t hurt him. He is my dad and I hate to see him hurt. Ok?” Without waiting for a response from Maggie, Catherine turned and walked out of the pub.

Sipping her soup from a large spoon, Maggie couldn’t help but feel uneasy about the whole situation. Why were the two of them so hell bent on making Maggie a part of their family? Why, all of a sudden was it so urgent that she get involved with them? She was so overwhelmed with it all, and buzzing from the scotch, she decided not to think about it anymore and went home.

As she entered her apartment complex, she put her key into the doorknob of her suite. The knob moved freely around the key. It wasn’t locked.

She knew she had locked it as she left for the office in the morning, and a chill ran through her spine. She hesitated before going inside, wondering what, or who, she would find. She took her phone out of her bag and gripped it tight, ready to call 911. She flung the door open as hard as she could, making a loud bang against the wall inside.

“Who’s here!” she demanded loudly as she stepped on the entrance mat. She clicked the light on and looked around. No one was there. She reached into a kitchen drawer and slid a large butcher knife out, before she entered her bedroom. As she clicked the light on, she squatted and reeled her body back and forth, ready to pounce. Again, the room was empty. No mess, and no signs of anyone being in there, while she had been away.

She checked the other rooms and found nothing, and no disturbed items. Maybe she didn’t lock the door before she left, and just got lucky, she thought. She was still feeling the effects of the alcohol and the day, and sat on her leather sofa for a few minutes to gather herself. As she sat, she saw something odd out of the corner of her eye.

The closet where she stored items that she rarely used, such as tennis rackets, and small appliances was slightly opened. She knew she was not in the small space before leaving for work, so she carefully, took her knife in her hand and crept toward it. It was a small door, just off her balcony, and she rarely gave it a second thought, so when she saw bright colors seeming to glow through the crack of the open door, she knew something was awry.

“Who’s there!” she yelled as she kicked the door open. She held her knife as though it was a sword from a magic kingdom.

As the door slammed open, she blinked her eyes rapidly, unsure of what she was looking at, or how it got there.

There, in front of her, was a very large bouquet of mixed flowers in a fine china vase. Roses, lilies, asters, tulips, and miniature orchid buds, mixed with delicate greens stared at her, making her feel a mixture of delight and fear. How the fuck did these get in my house?

A tiny card was in between the rose stems. “All my love, J” was handwritten in her colleagues familiar hand script.

Instantly enraged, she held her phone in her hand, scrolling through her contacts to find his number. She had never called or texted him before, as she felt they spent enough time talking at work. She sat at her kitchen table, trying to decide what to say to him.

“What the hell were you doing in my house?” She texted

There was no response from him . She waited 10 minutes and texted him again.

“You know this is Maggie . Answer me! Why were you in my apartment James?”

Still no reply. No sign that he had read her message or that he was responding . She checked his contact info again to make sure she had the right number .

After no response over the next 15 minutes she called him. His phone went straight to voicemail .”Hi this is James. Leave a message”

She chose not to talk to his voicemail and opted to give up. She would talk to him at work tomorrow . Feeling uneasy and beyond frustrated she bolted her door and went to bed.

As she lay under her covers, she thought about Catherine and the conversation at the pub. She couldn’elpt h but think that there was something odd about the women who looked so similar to James. She was an attractive young lady, but she had an air about her that seemed arrogant. The squint of her dark eyes and the structure of her high cheek bones and stalky frame made her seem bitchy and untouchable. Maggie could never become close friends with someone of her nature, even if she was looking for friendship.

As she drifted off, she thought of James, and wondered what his excuse would be for breaking into her apartment. The entire situation was so unsettling, it made Maggie sick to her stomach, thinking of how awful and destructive this “relationship” could be. She planned to tell James that she had no interest in anything romantic with him, that they should just remain colleagues, status quo.

When she woke the next morning, a chill was felt on Maggie’s face, as she woke to her alarm clock at 5 am. Typically, she bounced out of bed and put on her running gear before work, but this morning, something seemed odd. She rose to make a coffee in the kitchen and the floor was frigid beneath her feet. She turned and gasped to herself, as she saw her balcony door was wide open, allowing the chill of the morning air to pour into her home. She knew she had locked all her doors prior to going to bed, and the hairs on her body stood on end. Once agin, she grabbed her knife and walked through her house, finding no-one there, and no signs of activity. This was starting to become very creepy, and dangerous. Who the hell was getting into her apartment, in her secure building? And why?

As she stormed into the office, she was almost surprised to see James, looking normal, working at his drafting table. He didn’t seem like someone who had broken into her apartment, or who had received her texts. He glanced up from his work, and smiled at her, “Good morning. I am glad to see you this morning. I brought you a coffee.” He gestured toward her desk where the takeout cup sat, and he casually looked back at his work.

“What the hell were you doing in my building last night? And seriously, coming back again while I slept? Are you some kind of sicko? I got your flowers! Stay the hell away from me and my apartment!” She stood staring him down, across from his work table.

He appeared startled and took a step back. “I have no idea what the hell you are talking about Maggie! I wasn’t in your building or your apartment!”

“Well, why didn’t you respond to my text messages then?” she demanded. Her breath was heaving as she tried to control the volume of her voice. She was shaking all over.

James walked over to his desk, and pulled his cell phone from a drawer. He held it in his hand and turned the power on. “I don’t make it a pactice to carry a cell phone”, he snickered when he spoke, as if she should have already known that.

Now, Maggie was angry and confused. She glared at him with her dark green eyes, squinting them half closed to scrutinize his expression further. “Then, who the hell would have left flowers in my storage closet, with a card that says, “all my love, J”? Tell me that.”

James sat in his chair, looking completely bewildered. “You will not believe this, Maggie, but I never give women flowers, I don’t break into people’s homes, and if I did leave you flowers, I sure as hell wouldn’t put them in a storage cupboard! Whoever this J guy is, sounds dangerous and I think you need to call the police!” A shadow of concern wrinkled his brow as he looked into Maggie’s face. She was trying to believe him.

“Nothing was taken, or broken, or moved in my apartment. Just the door was unlocked and the flowers were left. And then, this morning, someone had left my balcony door wide open, trying to freeze me out of my home. I have no idea what to think”, Maggie sat down and opened the top of her coffee.

“If you think it’s dangerous there, then come stay in my spare room tonight, Maggie. I promise you will be safe there. I would never let anyone hurt you”, he looked at her so sincerely, she had to look away. It actually made her heart beat a bit faster, and butterflies flitted in her tummy.

“I’ll be ok, thank you. Maybe I will have the locksmith come by with the landlord and have the locks changed,” she assured him.

“Oh, Catherine works for a locksmith company, did I tell you that? She could come by later, if you wish. I can call her for you, or you have her number.” James looked proudly at Maggie, thinking he was being helpful.

“No, that’s ok. We have contracts for those guys, I am sure, through our tenants society. I will just contact the landlord today”. Maggie stood and went to her table to try and get some work done.

She could feel James’s eyes on her back as she bent over the table. She felt a slight hand on her lower back, at the ends of her hair. He slid his hand back up to her shoulders, under her thick mane, in an attempt to soothe her. She didn’t move, and let him feel her heart pounding through her body, as she held her breath.

“James, I….” she stammered. He turned her to face him, and held her face in his hands. She felt his soft palms curving around her cheeks and touching her temples. He leaned in to kiss her and she turned her face, letting his lips touch her cheek softly. His lips lingered for a moment, and she heard him inhale her scent as he slowly backed away.

“I don’t think we can do this,” she said quietly. “It just doesn’t seem like it would end well. I do like you, and enjoy working with you for the most part, but I just don’t think it’s in our best interests, professionally to have an affair. That’s all it would end up being, is a tryst or a short lived affair. We are just two different people.” She watched his gaze as she spoke and was surprised when he smiled softly at her. His eyes shone with a glint, as he seemed to hold back tears, but he didn’t react in the quick, short fused tone she was used to. They quietly went back to work, without further discussion.

The day was filled with relief, and a new found understanding. They never spoke much, other than work related dialogue and it seemed to be easier than usual. James did remind her that she could stay with him is she didn’t feel safe at home, and she declined graciously. She wanted to get to the bottom of this mystery, and have the landlord change her locks, without the help of her colleague.

When she went back to her building, she found her door locked and nothing was open inside. Her home had a new strange feeling, however, that somehow she had been violated, and she called the landlord. She made herself a qucik stirfry while she waited for him to arrive. She felt good about the chat she had with James that day,as if a huge weight was lifted from her shoulders. She sat in front of her TV and tasted her dinner, just as the doorbell rang.

She peeked through her peephole and was surprised to see the familiar steel eyes staring at her. Catherine was there. She opened the door to say hello, and realized she wasn’t alone. Her landlord came around the corner, just as she was inviting Catherine inside.

“This young lady will change your locks for you, Maggie. She works for our contract company and I thought maybe you two would hit it off”. The old man smiled at her, and walked through the parking lot to his unit.

“Well, I didn’t know you worked for a locksmith company, Catherine. Your dad told me today. Come on in. I just had some weird intrusion yesterday and wanted to make my place safe again. It’s tough living alone, ya know?” Maggie was trying to sound casual and nonchalant.

“Sure,” Catherine muttered. She went to work, changing the tumblers and asking for Maggie’s old keys.

Maggie found it odd, that someone who was so chatty the day before, was suddenly without words. Maggie wondered if she had spoken with her father that day.

After she was finished with the balcony and front door, Catherine stood up and put her tools away in a small case. “There, you’re all set. Anything else?”

“Would you like to join me for a glass of wine or something to eat?” Maggie was really trying to be nice, but it didn’t seem to be penetrating Catherine’s hard shell.

“No thanks. I have some more jobs to do. Let me know if you need anything else.” Catherine hurried out the door without another glance behind her, or word.

Maggie shrugged as she sat back down to eat her dinner, and wondered why her new “friend” was being so distant. Maybe she had spoken to James and found out that there would be no relationship. Who knows? Maggie never gave it another thought, and got comfortable on her sofa.

As she felt herself becoming sleepy, probably from the restless night before, she turned in early, crawling under her covers and thinking about work. She had so many deadlines to meet. Now that the drama was done with James, she could focus and make every effort to impress the firm management team. She drifted off into sleep.

Throughout the night, Maggie tossed and turned dreaming of intruders coming into her apartment. She woke a few times, looked at the clock and listened intently for sounds around her. It was silent except for the quiet hum of her fridge and the occasional bump above her from people on the top floor. She dozed back off and was awoken by a soft, click. She thought she had imagined it at first, but then she heard it again. She lay in bed, her heart started pounding in her chest. She held her breath to listen, and she could swear she heard the soft sound of the front door closing. Her phone and her trusty knife were still on the kitchen counter, and she started to feel panic run through her.

Wide awake now, she sat up in bed, and cocked her ear for sounds. She could hear soft rustling around in her kitchen and considered for a moment what to do. She decided to get out of bed and open her door a crack to look into her living area.

As she opened the door, she could see the bulky image of a person in her living room, just a shadow that the streetlight across the street allowed. She held her breath and quietly closed her door again, metally searching her room for a weapon. She retrieved a large pair of scissors from her dresser, trembling and hoping the slight squeak of the drawer wouldn’t be heard in the next room.

She was hoping she could slide into the kitchen, unseen by whoever is in her house, and grab her phone to call for help. She grasped the shears tightly in her hand, and peeked out a slit in the doorway. She couldn’t hear anyone anymore. She decided to make her move, and opened the door, making a bolt for the kitchen counter.

As soon as her body had left the room, she was knocked to the ground. It was as if a quarterback needed to make a touchdown and took out the player in his path. The wind was knocked out of her and she struggled to get up. The person on top of her had a hold of her shoulders and pinned her down. Maggie couldn’t maneuver her weapon and tried with all of her strength to get this person off of her. She felt blood trickling down the side of her temple, as her head hit the metal doorstop when she was tackled.

The person on top of her was grunting as they fought, and Maggie soon realized it was a woman, She couldn’t see her face in the darkness, and the woman was freakishly strong, keeping Maggie pinned. They struggled over the scissors, and the intruder ripped them out of Maggie’s hand. “Hahahaha!” the maniacal laugh erupted from the woman on top.

Before Maggie could fight back, the woman grabbed a handful of Maggie’s long hair and cut it close to her scalp. Maggie screamed as loud as she could, and fought back tears as she felt she was fighting for her life. Winded and helpless, she struggled beneath her perpetrator, trying to grab anything within her reach. Finally her hand felt a kitten heel shoe that she had left near her door earlier, and she held it tight. With all of the power she could muster, she drove the heel into the woman’s head, causing her to yell out in pain.

“You bitch! You fucking bitch!” the woman screamed. Maggie had heard that voice before, and just as she was about to yell her name, she felt a blow to the side of her head and she saw stars flying around her. Everything went black.

She woke up, what could have been minutes, or hours later, and found herself, still lying on her floor at her entrance way. It was still black in the darkness and she tried to stand up, using the wall for support. Her head hurt like hell and her legs were weak. She steadied herself while a dizzy spell faded away, and tried to get find the light switch. She clicked it on, and frantically peered around her home, looking for the crazy bitch that attacked her. It was Catherine. She knew it. She recognized her voice right before she was knocked out, and she was terrified that she was still in her house. “Where are you, you crazy bitch!” She screamed out with a tremor.

Nothing. No one seemed to be there. Her hand went up to her pounding head, to check for blood and Maggie screamed a blood curdling sound from her lungs. Her hair was gone! It had been chopped to her scalp. She must have finished her hair cutting madness after Maggie passed out.

With trembling hands, she grabbed her phone from the counter, and pressed the emergency button. “Hello, I was attacked in my house. I know who attacked me and she needs to be arrested,” Maggie was beside herself. She sat on her sofa nervously looking around, and sobbed. Her entire life seemed to be in such turmoil. She knew she could no longer associate with the likes of James and his fucked up life. She waited anxiously for the police to arrive.

The police contacted Maggie the next day to check on her and inform her that they had arrested Catherine and she was no longer going to be a problem. She would never work in the locksmith, or probably any other respectable career again. As it turned out, she was a possibly involved in a string of break-ins that could never be proven, and every one of the victims were single women linked to James.

Maggie hadn’t returned to work at the office, and was avoiding going outside. She suddenly feared the outside world, and wasn’t ready to deal with people. She was becoming even more isolated than she had ever been.

Weeks after the attack, her phone rang. A number she never recognized flashed on the screen and she questioned if it was related to her lawyer or the arrest of Catherine. “Hello?” she answered.

“Maggie, it’s me. Please don’t hang up. “ His voice seemed to be attached to a stranger now. She considered hanging up, but instead, said nothing.

“I know you must be a wreck,” he started, “and I cannot apologize enough for what my daughter has done to you. She has destroyed me in a way that I will never forgive, by hurting you. Please know I had no way of knowing that she was capable of…..” he choked back sobs as he spoke. She heard him take a breath. “I didn’t know that she was so violent. I didn’t see how messed up she has become. There were a few women before you, who claimed that Catherine came between us, and they left me because of her behavior. I never saw her as vicious or cruel. She just wanted someone in our lives that she could look up to, and who would stay around. Her mother’s leaving was devastating for her, and she has always wanted to somehow replace her. I guess it just got too much for her to bear and she snapped. I think she has always just wanted a connection with another woman, but didn’t know how,”

Maggie couldn’t feel remorse for the monster he called his daughter, “she could have killed me.” Maggie glared at her phone as she spoke.

“She knew that you didn’t want a relationship with me. We had a drink after work on the day you told me, and she was called to work. I didn’t know she was coming to your place, I swear. I am not making excuses for her. I am trying to explain.” He sounded exhausted as he spoke, and full of sadness.

“She took all of my hair. She beat my head and I am still covered in bruises. Your daughter is an animal and she needs to be caged,” Maggie felt her body grow rigid as she spoke. She was still so angry.

“She has never had friends, Maggie. She has always been a loner, and I honestly hoped you would be her friend. I am sorry I put you in this situation. I will let you rest and speak with you again soon. Is there anything you need?” He sounded sincere, but Maggie wasn’t in the mood for his bullshit.

“Yes, you can find me a new job, a new place to live, some hair, and my fucking life back!”, she yelled. She hit end call on her phone, and threw it across the room with a scream.

How can someone be so violent and cruel to another human being? So, she had no friends! Neither did I, Maggie thought to herself. That doesn’t make it okay to be malicious and evil. Funny, how two women can have so many things in common, and yet they are worlds apart. Maggie had no friends, beauty and success. Catherine had no friends, could have beauty and chose to go the route of a criminal and psychopath.

Good riddance, is all Maggie could think to herself. Good riddance to both of them. She curled up under a blanket on her sofa, and flipped through the pages of a newspaper, looking for a new home, a new job, and a new life.

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Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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