Some Whisper, Some Shout
Devices. Jolie’s got tons of them. Coping mechanisms that ensure she’s not falling victim to the mental illness that’s taken hold of both her brother and father. Helping the homeless gives Jolie much needed consistency. But when a stranger struts into her Jersey Shore creperie, writing cryptic songs on napkins and then disappearing, her world becomes anything but routine.
Reed can play the soul out of his saxophone, but he’s hiding something. Why else would he reveal so little about himself, or plan one secluded, albeit eccentric, date after another? And what’s in that backpack he carries everywhere? Then again, with her distressed brother missing, an estranged mother returning home, and a feisty grandmother acting weirder than usual, Jolie can’t decipher whether her suspicions are valid or dangerous delusions.
When inexplicable slashings of the homeless occur in her otherwise safe town, Jolie’s devices begin to fail.
This was it. He was it. He was my passion. My release. My freedom.
We didn’t move for a long time. I sat on Reed’s lap on the drum stool with my legs wrapped around him while he talked about his childhood and his brother. It sounded like they had a love-hate relationship, one filled with ruthless competition and battles to the bitter death. Sports, board games, anything they could bet on. Vinny was always determined to win, but Reed, a year younger yet a touch stronger, usually came out ahead.
While he spoke, Reed rested his forehead against mine, or peppered my cheek and shoulders with kisses. His memories were goofy and pleasant, but there was also an underlying sadness. I didn’t ask, but assumed it was because Vinny didn’t speak to him anymore.
Eventually, it was time to go. There was only so long we could sit on a stool. We gathered the garbage and headed toward the front door.
I scanned the room.
“Your sax and your bag. Where are they?” This was the first time I’d seen him without them.
“Oh, they’re outside,” he pointed. “In my car.”
Before we reached the door and Reed unlocked it, I could have sworn I saw a tall, dark shadow glide past it. When Reed opened the door for me, no one was there.
“Did you see that?” I asked.
“I think someone was outside.”
He turned his head in both directions. “I don’t see anyone. Must have been your imagination.”
I flinched at his words, but he couldn’t know how they’d bother me. I shook away the thought.
He motioned his hand in front of us. Parked two feet away was his navy SUV. “I have to move it soon. Alternate side,” he answered, as if in response to my silent question about why there were no other cars on the block.
Except for one…a black two-door sedan.
A door slammed. The tinted windows prevented me from seeing inside, but my heart raced as it pulled out of its spot and flew down the road. I turned to Reed to see if he thought it was strange that someone would be here after midnight when no stores were open and there were no homes around, then speed away like a bat out of hell. He just took my hand and walked me back to my car, noticing nothing strange.
I tried to be subtle as I scratched my neck and over my chest. I tried not to let him hear my quick, clipped breathing.
I did not imagine someone watching me in that store. I did not fabricate a car pulling away like they were caught spying on me.
It was not all in my mind.
It couldn’t be.