Cellular Apologies

Day 16 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

A stranger asks to borrow your cell phone. You agree. She turns away and talks on it for a moment, then faces you once more. “I’m sorry,” she says, eyes red. “I’m so sorry.” Then, she runs away.

Why do I get this feeling that I’m being followed?  I know it sounds ridiculous, but the feeling is strong.  I turn around and see that nothing seems amiss.  I start walking again, but as I pick up speed, I hear my steps being matched.  When I slow down, the same thing.  I stop and turn around again.  This time I am met face to face with a girl in her mid twenties, about my age.  She is frowning.  Spooked, I turn back around and continue on my way.   I try to ignore her, but I still feel her presence behind me.

I duck into a coffee shop hoping to lose her, but she follows me in.  I am flustered and confused, so I decide to approach her.  “Excuse me, but can I help you with something?” I inquire.  Her face turns red as she asks if she can borrow my phone.  “It’s important,” she says, a bit angrily.  I pause, not able to grasp what is going on.  I should say no, but I am feeling that she is in distress so I just hand over my cell phone without any questions asked.

I take a few steps away from her so she can have some privacy and she turns away.  After what seems to be about a minute, she turns back to me with red eyes, hands me my phone, says, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” and runs out of the shop.

What the hell was that all about?  I am left standing there stunned until I realize that she never broke the connection with whoever it was she was speaking with.  I put the phone up to my ear and say, “Hello?”  “Hi, who is this?” replies a male voice.  A familiar male voice.  “umm, Dad?” I answer.  “Michelle?  What are doing?”  What am I doing?  I should be asking him that.

What I don’t understand is why a strange woman would follow me, ask to use my phone and then call my dad.  I’m guessing it isn’t a coincidence.  “Dad, why did that girl call you?  How does she know me?  I’m really confused and I would like it if you would shed some light here.  I have to admit to being a little freaked out right about now.” I say.  “Calm down Michelle, she’s just a friend.”

“Calm down?  Dad, she was visibly upset.  You need to come clean right now.  Who is she and why was she crying?  Please, don’t lie to me, I’m begging you.” I feel on the verge of tears as well, out of sheer frustration.

I hear him sigh on the other end.  I have left the coffee shop and am walking down 5th Avenue.    I’m feeling the need to move.  “Honey, that’s Cleo.  Oh God.  Please…okay, I was seeing her,” he explains, “but I ended it with her last week.  I’m so embarrassed to say this, but it seems she is stalking me.  She keeps calling me and showing up at the office.  I don’t know how she got you involved.  Please.  Can we keep this between us?  Pumpkin?”

My dad is a creep.  I mean, I love him.  But he is a pathetic excuse for a husband.  My poor mother has accepted the fact that dad cheats. “He can’t help it,” she says, “he loves me, it’s just that he needs more than what I can give him.  I’ve just learned to look the other way.”  I don’t know how she can live like that.  Because of him, I’ve grown leery of men.  I’m not sure how I can trust them.  His infidelity has been going on since I was a teenager.  Probably even longer than that but I was too young to figure it out.

“You know what dad?  What you do with your life is your business, but please don’t bring me into it.  I don’t need your lovers knowing who I am.  Why was she following me?  How does she even know who I am?  She’s half your age, dad.  She’s young enough to be your daughter.  It’s a little freaky.  And if she’s stalking you?  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  Look, I have to go, I’m just about home.  We’ll talk about this later.”  I hit the off button and put my phone back in my pocketbook.

I live in a walk-up on the lower east side.  I’ve never been so relieved to be home, the last hour has been a bit harrowing.  I walk up the three floors to my apartment, stop to search for my keys and open the door.  I’m about to fall onto my couch from exhaustion when I think I hear and see something.  It’s getting dark out so the apartment is full of shadows being thrown from the street lights.  I flip the switch for the lamp.  I drop my bag and take a step back.  “Cleo?  How did you get in here?”  She’s holding a knife.

I turn and run as fast as I can for the door.  Unfortunately, she is moving faster than me and grabs me by the hair.  All I keep thinking is that my life is going to end if I don’t fight for it.  I throw myself around and grab at her arms.  She’s strong, but so am I.  We both struggle for what seems like an eternity.  Suddenly, I hear my dad’s voice, “Cleo, drop the knife or I’ll shoot.”

Surprisingly, she does as he says.  I run and hide behind him.  I am suddenly transported to when I was a small child and we were visiting Santa in the mall.  Except this isn’t Santa, this is a deranged ex-lover.  The ex-lover of my dad’s, who is married to my mom.  Although I am extremely angry at him, I am relieved he is here.  I hear the sirens outside getting closer.  In a few minutes this will all be over.  “By the way,” he says, “I never told her about you.”

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