colormemadness: (mhm yes quite)
[personal profile] colormemadness
Title: Mr. Smith
Rating: PG-13 for adult concepts
Summary: Jessica, a struggling journalist, thinks she's met the perfect man in Michael Smith. He's kind, charming, and everything Jessica could ever ask for. And she'll do anything in her power to keep him for herself.
Notes: The summary does not do the story justice. Believe me. On a side note, this whole thing is fourteen "mini-parts," but I've decided to post it into two huge parts. I'm still in the process of editing and I plan on getting this published one day.
Important: Everything here takes place in the year 2011 and is told in a nonlinear narrative.

I own everything here!!! bahahaha.


1. Thursday, February 17th

'He's coming,' the voice whispers urgently. 'You have to run!'

'He's going to kill me!' she all but shrieks, panic lacing her voice. A sob threatens to tear through her throat and she looks around wildly, trying to catch a glimpse of him, of his pale blue eyes and his wicked smile.

The streets are crowded with people. Bright lights from the various shops and buildings splatter the cloudy sky with an eerie glow, casting harsh shadows on the city below.

Black and white paper cutouts fill the monochromatic world – too sharp, too clean to be real. They bustle past each other, white on white, black on black. They're melting into each other, they're moving so fast they've become one being, one faceless figure making his way back home.

And then, amidst the black and white and the buzzing static of noise, she sees him. His lanky body is slouched against the brick wall and his dimples are showing. His blue eyes - so, so, so blue – are staring straight at her.

She gasps and tries to inhale, only to feel her windpipe constricting. Arms flailing, she tries to motion for someone to help her. No one moves; no one so much as looks at her.

‘Run,' the disembodied voice repeats. 'He's coming.'

Hands and voices. They're cackling with mirth, the hands are everywhere. She tells them to stop, pleads for them to stop, but they will stop at nothing to tear her apart and leave her lying in the streets.

She opens her eyes and they're gone. But the world is off-kilter, as if it were a picture frame that someone had just deliberately made crooked. She's standing by herself as people swarm past her, completely unaware of the turmoil that she's in. Her eyes search the streets, but the man has disappeared. She breathes a sigh of relief and turns around.

'Hello, Jessica,' says the man who's been following her for the last two weeks. He's all dimples and boyish charm.

But she knows better. His name is Lance, and he wants to kill her.

She doesn't shake his proffered hand, but he seems unfazed and reaches up to run it through his hair.

'What do you want?' she demands.

The man cocks his head to the side. 'I thought it was obvious.'

Jessica swallows a lump down her throat. 'What do you want?' she asks again.

The man flashes a smile. 'You.'

She breathes out a hysterical laugh. 'You can't kill me here in front of all these people! You'd be dead before you could even take two steps.'

He looks genuinely confused. 'Why would I want to kill you?'


'What seems to be the problem?'

‘I’m reporting a murder,' she says. The phone is slippery in her clammy hands and she presses it between her ear and shoulder to wipe her palms on her jeans. Her eyes dart nervously from the window to her bedroom door.

'He's killed someone – I can see it from my window,' she babbles. 'You have to come here now, he's getting away!'

'Miss, slow down, did you say you were reporting a – '

'He's killed someone and he's coming after me!' she shrieks into the phone. 'He just saw me and now he's walking in my direction and oh my god he has a gun!'

'Miss - '

The phone lands on the other side of the room and shatters completely. She crouches down to the floor and crawls across her room to lock the door.

He's going to kill Daisy when he gets here. He's going to kill you when he gets here.

She crawls back and sneaks a glance out the window again. The man is gone, and so is the body.

She falls to the floor and tries to remember how to breathe.



Jessica points an accusing finger at him. 'How should I know what serial killers like you think? Why am I even talking to you right now? I’m calling the police!' She scrambles through her purse for her cell phone.

'No, wait!' Lance – the man, don’t humanize the villain – sounds alarmed, Jessica notes with vicious satisfaction, but she doesn't hesitate in dialing 9-1-1.

'Stop it, Jessica,' the man warns. His voice has taken on a dangerous edge. 'Do you remember what happened the last time you called the police?'

Her thumb hovers over the call button on her phone. 'How do you know that?'

'I know everything you know.' His hands are in his pockets – the picture of nonchalance – but his gaze is still fixed warily on the device in her hands.

Jessica lowers her phone, noting vaguely that the throng of people around them is leering at the two of them. A group of girls walking by is whispering and giggling at her, and she immediately feels self-conscious.

They’re after you too, she thinks. They’re all working together!

'If you're not going to kill me then why are you following me?' she asks, turning back to face him. Everyone is watching them. Their eyes are drilling holes into her skull.

'Who says you're not following me?' he counters. 'For all I know you could be the serial killer.'

A man carrying a briefcase makes eye contact with her and sends her a glare. Jessica flinches and tries to refocus on what the man is saying.

‘I...' She trails off in confusion and looks around wildly. 'Hello?' she calls out, drawing perplexed looks in her direction.

'Where did he go?' the voice asks urgently. 'Do you know where he might have gone?'

‘I,' Jessica answers, 'I don’t know.'



2. Friday, May 20th

Clarissa Lopez doesn’t come to work for the next ten days.

‘Has anyone heard from her?’ Jessica finds herself asking frequently.

‘She’s not returning any of our calls or answering her door. But if this keeps up she’s most likely going to be fired.’

‘Maybe she quit,’ Jessica suggests one day.

The other journalists exchange uneasy glances. ‘She loved her job at the Gazette, though. She wouldn’t just quit without telling anyone about it.’
Nausea gathers and churns at the bottom of Jessica’s stomach. She clenches her teeth and wills it away.

‘Are you okay, Jess?’ one co-worker queries. ‘You don’t look well.’

Jessica smiles and waves it off. ‘I’m just really worried about Clarissa,’ she says. ‘I know I’m not as close to her as some of the other people here are, but I keep on getting the worst ideas.’

‘I know what you mean.’ A sigh. ‘This is so unlike her. I hope that everything’s okay, especially with that stalker of hers.’

‘What stalker?’

‘Well, Clarissa didn’t want too many people knowing about it, but she was getting these weird picture cutouts in her mail. This person was cutting pictures of random people out of a magazine and just mailing them to her. She thought it was a prank at first but those pictures got even more disturbing – they started sending pictures cut out of porn magazines; it was really creepy. And then there were those notes – ‘ She cuts herself off and smiles apologetically. ‘Please don’t tell anyone about this? She really didn’t want to get too many people involved.’

‘Yeah, of course,’ Jessica replies faintly. Snip, snip, snip, snip.

‘I gotta go, but promise me you’ll go home if you don’t feel well?’

‘Don’t worry about me,’ Jessica says instead. ‘I’ve never been better.’ Snip, snip, snip. That’ll show them. Why would he do that to me? Snip, snip, snip.

‘Jessica,’ someone calls, ‘Gary wants to see you.’

Panic, hot and white, flares through Jessica’s chest and momentarily wipes all coherent thought out of her head. She nods and slowly walks to her boss’s office.

He knows. How does he know?

Like a prayer, she whispers, ‘He doesn’t know.’ Snip. ‘He can’t know.’

‘Ms. Williams, please have a seat.’

He doesn’t know.

‘You’re a very hard worker, Ms. Williams, I can see that,’ he tells her, rubbing his eyes underneath his glasses. ‘But lately your performance has not been up to our work standard. Is there anything I can help you with? Are you having any troubles at work?’

‘Clarissa,’ she blurts. ‘It’s Clarissa.’

Gary pinches the bridge of his nose. ‘Clarissa’s absence has certainly been devastating for many people here, but Jessica, your poor attendance and lack of headlines have been very concerning issues for the past three weeks.’

‘I’m sorry,’ Jessica whispers, trembling. ‘I’m trying, sir.’

‘I know you are, but if this keeps up we’re going to have to let you go.’ He hands her a sheaf of documents.

‘I know, I’m sorry.’ She fidgets in her seat, picking at a loose thread in the cushion.

He eyes her critically for a long moment. ‘Why don’t you leave work early and rest? This week has been stressful enough as it is.’
Jessica offers him a watery smile and closes the door behind her. She breathes a sigh of relief and heads toward the exit.

It’s not before long until a familiar figure catches up to her and matches her rapid stride.

‘Something got you down, Jess?’ Lance inquires casually.

Jessica freezes her in steps. ‘What are you doing here?’ she hisses. ‘And it’s none of your business!’

‘I think it’s completely my business,’ he says slowly, almost menacingly. He quirks up an eyebrow. ‘Unless you want me to tell Gary about – ‘

‘That is completely out of line!’ Jessica explodes. ‘It was an accident, and you don’t see me telling everyone about your little escapade in front of my house!’ She uses her fingers to air-quote ‘escapade.’

Lance smiles. ‘You think the cops would believe you after I tell them what happened to Clarissa Lopez?’

‘You’re not going anywhere, or I swear to god – ‘

‘Jessica!’ Gary thunders. ‘What is all this ruckus? Didn’t I tell you to go home and take a break?’ He seems to notice Lance for the first time. ‘And why are you shouting?’

‘I wasn’t shouting,’ Jessica says defensively. ‘It wasn’t my fault!’

‘Everyone in Oceanside City heard you shouting your lungs out! Jessica, what has gotten into you – ‘

‘She’s deranged,’ Lance cuts in. ‘Completely out of her mind.'

‘SHUT UP!’ Jessica screams, blindly reaching out to shove him.

Lance closes his mouth.

Gary staggers back in shock. A red flush starts to creep up the sides of his neck. ‘Ms. Williams,’ he says quietly. ‘I think I’ve had enough. I advise you to pack up your belongings and leave the premises at once. Have a nice day.’ He gives Lance a curt nod and turns away.

Everyone watching their exchange quickly averts their eyes and returns to their work.

Jessica rounds on Lance. ‘I hope you’re happy, now.’

‘Not as happy as you make me, darling.’ His teeth are blindingly white. He raises a hand and mimes cutting the air with his fingers. ‘Snip.’


3. Saturday, March 5th

The woman in the mirror doesn’t look like anyone special; she’s someone who wouldn’t be looked at twice on the street. She’s of average height and of average build.

Jessica stares at her reflection with unblinking brown eyes, smooths out her brown hair and reapplies her lipstick. She takes a deep breath and straightens her shoulders before exiting the bathroom.

She takes a seat next to a dark-haired man who is anxiously tapping his foot against the tiled floor.

‘You’re going to tear apart your portfolio if you grip it any harder,’ Jessica informs the man.

He starts and whips his head around. ‘Thanks,’ he says. ‘I’m just kind of on edge. I’ve had, like, sixteen cups of coffee this morning because I couldn’t sleep last night.’

Jessica finds herself staring at his wide hazel eyes before she realizes that he’s finished talking. Blushing, she says, ‘Don’t worry about it. This is my third job interview this week, and I’m still nervous.’ She peers at the thick folder in his hands. ‘What position are you applying for?’

He practically shoves the folder into her arms. ‘Graphic designer,’ he replies. ‘I’ve mostly been doing black and white design – almost abstract art, depending on how you look at it – but I’ve been told that I have some talent. What do you think?’

Jessica reads the name printed neatly on the front: Michael Smith. She carefully tucks the name into her memory and flips through his portfolio.
‘I don’t know if it’s the type of art a newspaper like the Oceanside Gazette is looking for,’ the man rambles. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a journalist but my writing is terrible, so anything related to graphics like web design or something is close enough for me.’

Jessica returns his portfolio. ‘They would be crazy not to give you a job here.’

The man beams and Jessica is instantly drawn to his smile.

‘What are you applying for?’

‘I want to write for the Gazette,’ she replies, ‘about anything, really. Even working as an unpaid intern here would be enough for me.’
‘I’m sure you’ll be fine.’

‘I hope so. I’m not that great at holding down a steady job,’ Jessica confesses. ‘I’m not very organized.’

‘That shouldn’t matter as long as you’re a good journalist,’ he assures her. He suddenly looks alarmed. ‘Oh! I’m Michael. Michael Smith.’
His hand is firm and warm in her grip. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Smith. I’m Jessica Williams.’

Mr. Smith flushes. ‘Please call me Michael.’

She smiles and bats her eyelashes. ‘Of course.’

The door opens and a woman steps out to call Mr. Smith’s name. He looks visibly flustered and presses his portfolio against his chest.

He stands up. ‘I guess that’s me.’

‘Good luck, Mr. Smith,’ says Jessica.

-

We’ll give you a call later tonight to inform you of our decision.

Jessica sits on her couch, cross-legged, with bated breath. Her focus is fixed solely on the silent telephone in front of her. The man with dark hair and wide hazel eyes flashes through her mind like a slideshow on repeat. She thinks about the way his nose scrunches up when he smiles, the way his hands move in the air when he talks.

She thinks about the way he smiled at the interviewer, the way his hand gripped hers before the door shut behind him. The way her smug eyes had flashed towards Jessica, the way her lips curved up in a triumphant smirk.

Jessica’s fingernails are digging white arcs into her palms.

We’ll give you a call later tonight to inform you of our decision.

Jessica stays up all night thinking about Mr. Smith, about the interviewer, about the job.

In the morning her roommate, Daisy Mitchell, finds her sitting cross-legged on the couch, staring at the telephone.

It never rings.



4. Saturday, March 12th

Michael Smith. Went to Oceanside University. Single. From Oceanside City. Born on January 3rd, 1989. Works at the Oceanside Gazette as a graphic designer.

Jessica takes a huge gulp of her black coffee as she scrolls down his profile. She clicks through all of the pictures he’s in and reads through everything posted on his page.

She spends at least five minutes on each picture, taking care to memorize every minute detail, every little thing about him, from the way he dresses to the way he styles his hair.

He’s gorgeous.

‘His smile is captivating,’ Jessica agrees. She traces his lips on her computer screen and wonders what his hair would feel like between her fingers.

‘Jessica!’

Her head snaps up and she closes the lid of her laptop. Michael Smith is waving his arms over his head at the café entrance. He hurriedly weaves through the crowd of customers to greet her.

‘I saw you through the window and I just had to say hi,’ he says, taking a seat across from her.

Jessica is delighted. ‘I was just thinking about you, actually. Wondering if you got the job or not, because, y’know, you were so good!’ She mentally kicks herself for stuttering.

‘Yes, I got the job. I’ve been meaning to thank you, though.’

‘What for? I didn’t really do anything.’

‘Yes you did – if I hadn’t talked to you right before the interview I probably would have bombed the whole thing.’ He leans back in his chair and grins, tapping his foot against the floor.

‘Maybe we’ll see each other at work,’ Jessica says.

He sits bolt upright. ‘You got accepted too? Congratulations!’

She watches his eyelashes fan down, then up. She says, ‘I think this calls for a celebration.’

His nose crinkles as he laughs. ‘I think so, too.’ He stands up with his hands in his pockets. ‘How do you like your coffee?’

Jessica runs her finger along the rim of her empty cup. ‘Black.’



5. Sunday, May 1st

Snip, snip, snip.

Daisy enters her roommate’s bedroom and almost steps on a pile of magazines strewn haphazardly around the room. Upon further inspection she notices that each magazine page has a square neatly cut out from the middle.

‘Wow,’ she comments. ‘You’ve been busy.’

Jessica laughs and motions with her scissors. ‘It’s a tedious process.’

Daisy makes her way past the stacks of magazines and picks up a pile of squares near her roommate’s elbow. There is no clear subject in each picture; some have parts of people’s faces in them, or even the tip of a finger or half of an eye. Most of them are just portions of landscapes and magazine advertisements. She rights an upturned glue stick and watches Jessica cut out another square from a magazine.

‘How long have you been cutting these?’ Daisy places the thick stack of pictures next to the glue stick.

‘Not long. It’s for the Gazette.’

Daisy crosses the room and sits down on Jessica’s bed. ‘I thought we could go out to lunch together,’ she ventures. ‘I know you’re busy with your job, but it’s been awhile since we hung out and I was thinking – ‘

‘Can’t. I have work.’

‘I know, but you could at least take a break,’ Daisy presses. ‘You’ve been working nonstop ever since you got the job.’

‘That’s not true.’ Jessica doesn’t have to turn around for Daisy to see the frown on her face. ‘I went out with Mr. Smith.’

Snip.

Daisy perks up. ‘Are you ever going to tell me who this mysterious Mr. Smith is? You talk about him all the time but I still haven’t even met him.’
‘I know, but he’s really shy around new people.’ Jessica stops cutting and turns around to face her roommate. ‘I’d love for you to meet him, but I don’t want things to move too fast.’

‘He sounds really sweet,’ Daisy says. ‘He’s a lucky guy.’

A dreamy smile emerges on Jessica’s lips. She returns to her work. ‘I’m a lucky woman.’

‘Are you sure you can’t make it to lunch with me? A couple more people are going to be there and I thought you could take a breather from all this work.’

‘I’m sorry, maybe next time.’ Jessica doesn’t sound sorry at all.

Daisy stands up to leave. ‘Let me know if you change your mind, then.’

‘Close the door behind you,’ is all Jessica says.

Daisy casts one last worried look over her shoulder and swings the door shut.

Hundreds of magazine squares are glued on the back of the door and the wall. Just like the pile of pictures on Jessica’s desk, the ones posted on the wall have no discernible focus. Many are just the corners of pages; random words and letters decorate one area of the collage and one corner is made up of various parts of pictures of male and female celebrities.

She selects sixteen more magazine squares and proceeds to glue them at the bottom of the door. When she is done she stands back to admire her work.

The new addition of pictures has a different letter on each square, spelling out: C-L-A-R-I-S-S-A L-O-P-E-Z.

Taped right below the letters is a white envelope with a stamp at the top right corner. The center of the envelope is labeled with an address. The top line reads: 3 Crescent Street.



6. Friday, April 29th

‘Would Monsieur ou Madame like some wine?’

‘None for me, thank you,’ Jessica says. ‘I’ll just have iced tea.’

Et pour vous, Monsieur?’

‘I don’t drink,’ he says, a tad regretfully. ‘Ice water, for me, please.’

‘Why am I not surprised that you don’t drink?’ Jessica teases.

He shrugs. ‘Only champagne for special occasions.’ He quirks a grin when he exaggerates a French accent on the second word.

‘Are you saying this date isn’t a special occasion?’ Jessica pouts.

Alarmed, he says, ‘You know I didn’t – ‘

She laughs. ‘I’m kidding.’

Their server arrives with their drinks.

‘In retrospect I should have seen that coming.’ He shakes his head and tilts his glass in her direction. ‘Cheers.’

Fascinated, Jessica watches his throat, smooth and tan, undulate when he swallows.

‘The better to love you with, Mr. Smith,’ she murmurs.

‘Sorry, do I have something on my face?’ He swipes at his cheek with his dining napkin.

Her arm is stretched out across the table, the tips of her fingers an inch away from brushing the curve of his jaw.

‘Let me get it,’ she says. She uses her thumb to gently rub the corner of his mouth.

He smiles and presses his lips against her palm. She stiffens. Blood is coursing through her ears, pounding against her skull.

‘Thank you, Ms. Williams,’ he says formally, waggling his eyebrows.

‘It was my pleasure, Mr. Smith.’ She watches him carefully place the napkin over his lap and arrange the silverware on either side of his plate.

She watches him throughout the entire dinner. Everyone else is watching her, but for the first time, she doesn’t care.

-

‘Fourth date means sex, you know.’

Jessica is in a giddy high. Her pupils are dilated in the mirror and her face is glowing. Eyes bright, she whispers, ‘I know.’

The toilet flushes behind her. She reapplies her lipstick and combs out her hair with her fingers.

‘Mrs. Smith,’ she says out loud. ‘Michael and Jessica Smith. The Smiths. Jessica Smith. Mrs. Smith. Jessica Williams Smith.’

The table is cleared when she exits the restroom. Mr. Smith is gone.

Her phone vibrates with a received text message: I’m downstairs.

‘Fourth date means sex,’ the server says.

Jessica walks downstairs with bells chiming in her head.



7. Sunday, March 6th

Her name is Clarissa Lopez. She is of European and Latino descent and lives on 3 Crescent Street in Oceanside City. She is twenty-nine years old, single, and lives by herself. Jessica tightens her grip on the envelope in her hand. She was the interviewer who had shook Mr. Smith’s hand for a second too long, who had preened and laughed too hard at his anxious demeanor.

Jessica has no trouble finding 3 Crescent Street, but when she arrives at Clarissa Lopez’s home she is suddenly not sure if this is the right thing to do. She wonders if she should have just called her and rescheduled for another interview at a later date. She wonders if her idea is maybe a tad on the crazy side.

All those thoughts fly out of her head the minute she sees the interviewer leave her house. Jessica scrambles out of her car and approaches her.

‘Hi, Miss Lopez,’ Jessica says, her rehearsed lines tumbling out of her mouth. ‘You might remember me from yesterday, I’m Jessica Williams, you interviewed me about a job as a writer for the Oceanside Gazette, and you said you would call me last night about your final decision, but I never received one, so I was just wondering if you could give me another chance.’

Clarissa Lopez pulls off a look of alarm and vague amusement. She brushes her hair out of her face before replying. ‘I actually don’t remember interviewing anyone named Jessica Williams. Well – that’s not entirely correct – the name was on my roster of interviewees but you never showed up.’

‘What? But I was there, you told me that you would call me about your final decision.’

Clarissa furrows her brows. ‘Maybe I’m remembering things wrong – your face does look awfully familiar.’ She laughs, embarrassed. ‘I apologize, I see so many people everyday, I must have forgotten to call you back. Here, I’ll make it up to you. Why don’t you meet me at the coffee shop down the street in half an hour? Bring your resume.’

‘Thank you so much,’ Jessica says sincerely.

-

‘Let’s see…’ Clarissa Lopez briefly scans through Jessica’s resume as she raises her cup of black coffee to her lips. ‘And you recently graduated from college?’

‘I majored in journalism,’ Jessica says in confirmation. She stares at the creamy foam of her latte. ‘I’ve been able to land a few internships and jobs at other newspapers, but – ‘

‘It looks as if you haven’t been able to hold down a job for over three weeks,’ Clarissa interrupts, concern marring her features. ‘That doesn’t look good on a resume, Ms. Williams. It certainly doesn’t paint a good first impression of your work ethic either. I don’t think we would want to hire someone and worry whether he or she will quit the next day.’

‘Yes, but – ‘

‘Your credentials are impressive enough,’ she continues, ‘but do you have the necessary experience required to be a part of such a large newspaper?’

‘I’m willing to – ‘

‘How about I give you a call later tonight to inform you of my final decision?’ Suddenly the pleasant smile on her face contorts into a mocking smirk. Her eyes don’t leave Jessica’s face even as she lifts her cup of coffee to take another sip.

The conversation in the coffee shop dies down as the people turn their attention on Jessica. She feels their stares, feels them judging her every movement, every thought that enters her head. They were probably all going to sabotage her interview.

Jessica remembers the envelope burning a hole through her purse and retrieves it, carefully placing it in front of the interviewer.

Clarissa Lopez opens the envelope, and all the blood drains from her face. ‘Where did you find this?’

‘Will you give me the job?’

Clarissa looks shocked. ‘Are you blackmailing me?’

‘I’m not the one who slept with her boss to get her job.’ Jessica eyes the envelope meaningfully.

‘You’re insane,’ Clarissa hisses.

Jessica snatches the envelope from Clarissa’s grip. ‘Thank you for reconsidering, Miss Lopez, I can start right away.’


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