It was summer that year when he asked me to do it. Sprawled out in our bed naked, clammy and our hearts racing, we stared at the ceiling. The thought of buying our house two years ago crossed my mind. A distant dream that we chased until we got up against its heels, gripping it and holding it tight once we were close enough. Like most married couples, we had dreams that meant a deeper love and a longer life together. Aspirations that meant normalcy and what I hoped would be enough for him. It wasn’t enough.
“Audrey, what do you think?”
“What do you want me to say Jett? I just can’t believe you are asking me to do this.”
Jett turned his head away from the ceiling to face me. Moving his fingers through my bangs, a move that won me over on our third date, I closed my eyes. I was living in a reality where nightmares ripped through dreams with its claws and where eyes, only watching at night, lurked in the shadows.
“Audrey, it’s the only way and you know it,” Jett said.
My eyes stayed closed, “We can try something new.”
“God keeps giving me chances and I have no idea why. I can’t control it and you are the only person who can help me. You are my best friend Audrey.”
He was right. I was his best friend, his only friend. Six years ago I was dragged to a Christmas party and that’s where I met Jett. Knowing nobody that night, I leaned against the doorway and watched the guests sip on their eggnog around the Christmas tree. Going out to social gatherings where familiar faces were nonexistent, where my very presence in the room seemed to brush against the faces of strangers forcing them to stare, was not a favorite of mine. So, when I looked over and saw a man reading Junky near the fireplace, everything around me ceased to move or breathe.
“Audrey? Are you listening?” Jett interrupted my thoughts.
“I’m sorry. Just thinking about the first night we met at that Christmas party,” I said.
“That was a horrible party until you showed up. I’m glad I was dragged over there in the end,” said Jett.
I turned to look at him. His head was on the pillow and he was staring at me. I would never understand it. Looking into his blue eyes, there was light and an innocence that I even believed in. But I knew better and no one else did. He was everything I ever wanted, well, almost everything. Intelligent and an avid reader. There was no one that could make me laugh as hard as he did. Jett was loyal and honest. We really loved each other and found companionship in one another but his condition was not forgiving. Not even love can overcome some demons.
He leaned over and kissed my forehead. “We both know it’s too late. There’s nothing else we can do. I can’t let you get hurt Audrey.”
I loved him and hated him. I had searched long and hard for someone to spend my life with and I found him. Why God enjoys dangling happiness in front of us only to strangle it to death has always baffled me.
“Why do you do it Jett? Why?” It was the first time it came out that way. A direct question to the demon that lived behind those blue eyes, the eyes that stayed awake at night.
“I can’t control it. It’s like the human urge to survive. A person who is starving will do what it takes to get food even if they don’t know how to kill an animal, their instinct will push them to do it. It’s a power that exists in all of us but it’s only realized when we’re close to death.”
“But you aren’t close to death Jett. You aren’t in a situation where you’re fighting for survival. Look at your life. You have everything you need right here.”
“I know. That is exactly my point. My mind doesn’t know the difference. I only feel the urge to survive and the one thing that fulfills that urge is-”
“Stop it. We can get help,” I knew it was too late but denial begged for a chance and hung on by a thread.
“Audrey, you know it’s the only way. And if you won’t help me, I will figure it out on my own without you. But I love you and need you.”
I wondered how I got here and why I stayed. It took one year of dating before I realized that Jett was different. This was the kind of different that lived in the shadows and watched over you while you slept. The type that, when alone, you could feel prickling your skin and breathing right against your face in the dark.
At first, I thought he was cheating. So much now, I wished that’s what it was. There were many times I woke up in the middle of the night to an empty bed, turning over to see his side abandoned. Empty sheets all alone and mourning for something I had no idea about. I did what most wives would do, one night I followed him.
I often ask myself if I regret following him but futile questions only lead to solitary confinement of the mind. There’s no erasing what you find out, there’s only surviving it. Jett and I both knew what was best but I wasn’t ready. Who is ever ready to say goodbye?
Expecting another woman is what I prepared myself for but that night, there was nothing that could prepare me for what I would see. I stayed close behind him but far enough away that I was just a blur of the outside world to Jett. Parked with the lights off, I watched from my car as he walked down an unknown driveway, to the back of this house that I had never seen. Anger was tempting me to get out of the car too soon so I fought it, waiting for a few more minutes. I always wonder what would have happened if I didn’t wait. Could I have saved Jacklyn Myer, age thirty-four, resident of 658 McLurney Drive?
I must have waited around ten minutes before getting out. Three in the morning meant a desolate, quiet street where street lights couldn’t save anyone. I moved slowly while my heart did the racing. I had no plan of what I would say when I caught him in bed with another woman. I realize now, it wouldn’t have mattered if I knew exactly what to say or do because when the Devil’s involved, everything ever known was actually never known at all. How can you understand something that never existed in the first place? The one thing I do understand is that Jett and I love each other and always will.
Jett’s voice brought me back to the present, “Please say something Audrey.”
So I did, “Can we just lie here for a little longer?”
Laying on his back and staring up at the ceiling, I rested my head onto his chest. He rubbed my head and moved his fingers through my hair. My eyes closed as memory went back to 658 McLurney Drive. The cold pavement breathed petrichor into the air, numbing my lone face in the 3 a.m. fog. Only highway cars drifting by could be heard. 658 McLurney Drive was fast asleep and from the outside its windows seemed to be at peace, curtains closed and as still as the house itself.
I followed the same path as Jett. Creeping past the side of the house, I listened for any sound. I listened for the moans of another woman but was only met with the sound of my own feet. Crickets buzzed nearby. I wondered if nature was trying to warn me or stop me. I didn’t listen. Humans rarely listen to nature’s pleas in time to be rescued.
A door on the side of the house beckoned me to try it. My hands turned the knob and I was let in with ease. I turned to face the door and using two hands I closed it to not make a sound. Before I could turn around to absorb my surroundings, a voice from behind me broke the silence of the sleeping house, “Audrey? Why are you here?”
When I turned to face Jett, I expected to find him in his underwear with frazzled hair touched by passionate fingers of a stranger to me but a lover to him. I was wrong. She was a stranger to him too. Before turning to face him I said, “I could ask you the same thing Jett.”
I turned to face him and what I found brought hands around my neck, squeezing the life right out of me. Jett was in his underwear. The hairs on his chest were soaked and sticking to his skin. Holding his hands down with palms facing me, they were drenched in blood. He stared into my eyes and he looked sorry for what he had done. I couldn’t speak as I scanned his body and watched the blood reflect off his skin from an outside light. There was one thing I will never forget in that moment. The look in his eyes. He was at peace. I had seen that look in the past, when he would be gone overnight for work. I always thought it was another woman but as he stood there covered in blood, I realized it was not just one woman. There were many.
“Audrey, you’ve always known I was special. A different kind of special,” he said, the beast inside 658 McLurney Drive.
Silence again and then it was broken by the sound of my gulp, a swallow of hope that I would wake up from this nightmare. What if it’s nightmares that we live in everyday and dreams come true only when we die?
Everything else about Jett made him perfect. With it, love always brings along tragedy but aren’t we supposed to hang on to love once found? I knew I would. I wasn’t going to let this get between us.
“What about us?” I said.
“That is a question that you have to answer. I can’t stop. It’s the one thing that eases me,” Jett said.
“Would you ever hurt me?”
“I don’t think so. I know you and love you. It has to be real when I do it. I live to see the terror in their eyes right before I take their last breath.”
The words moved down my spine and chilled my body. When I found out that the person I loved the most was a monster that prowled the night, I left 658 McLurney Drive and let him finish what he started. I left because I wasn’t going to give up on my husband. But here we were, years later, our love deepened and so did his urges.
My eyes opened and I could see the oak tree from our bedroom window as he spooned me. Back to the present moment, the last place I wanted to be.
“Are you ready Audrey?” he said, whispering into my ear.
I squeezed his hands around my waist. He got up and signed the letter on his desk. You would think a monster who preys would be able to kill himself but he admitted to me long ago that he couldn’t do it. He wanted to kill himself in the same way he killed all those women. I stepped up onto the chair and we both stood together on it except the rope was only around his neck. One last kiss. I pressed my cheek against his and moved my fingers through his hair one last time.
“I love you Audrey,” he said.
“I know. I love you.”
I got down from the chair, pulled it out from under his feet, walked away, and never looked back. I did it for love. I did it for Jett.
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