I woke up to the warm sun on my face. It was the start of a normal day in Newlberry. The same people and same weather. I had to go to my same old job. I worked as a secretary for our small town’s biggest corporate office. It wasn’t all that great.
“Good morning, everyone!” I exclaimed as I walked in the office.
I only got a few sideways glances. I sat at my desk, ready for the uneventful day ahead. Nothing ever happened in our town, and nothing would change that. I watched outside to see the clouds darken. A storm rapidly moved in. The rain went from a drip to a dump. It was odd to see a storm this heavy. I squinted my eyes to make out a dark figure growing closer to the office doors. I couldn’t make out who it was. An unfamiliar man walked through the doors. Everyone around me quickly left. It seemed they knew who he was.
“I’ve been watching you. And you intrigue me.”
I swallowed, my mouth went dry.
“I’m not that interesting.”
“Funny,” a flicker of a smile, and a gaze that never wavered. “Uninteresting people generally don’t have to say that.”
I had to get out - right now. I took a step closer, and was mesmerized. I got lost in his icy stare.
“What are you trying to hide?” he murmured in my ear, sending chills down my spine.
I stumbled backwards. I didn’t know who this man was or how he knew me. I was terrified. Today was supposed to be normal and uneventful.
His eyes were cold and lifeless as he stared at me.
“You have no idea who I am, do you?” his voice pierced the thin air.
I thought he was being sarcastic by his tone but his penetrative eyes said otherwise. Fear shot through my body like a dagger.
My voice trembled, “Am I supposed to?”
His sardonic laughter filled my head. He grabbed my arm in a tight hold. I was too terrified to make a sound. I looked around with fear and saw nobody was near. Where did everyone go? Everything suddenly went dark.
I woke up with a headache. I observed my surroundings. The strange man was driving and I was in the passenger seat. I tried to speak but couldn’t.
“Ah, finally. You’re awake. You passed out back at your office. I had to carry you, and that was kind of difficult,” he chuckled mockingly.
I cleared my throat. I needed to say something. Anything. I saw an unopened bottle of water and reached for it. I could feel his eyes searching for something. But what? I ignored him and snatched the water. I didn’t care what he would do. I was parched. I gulped the cold water and it was refreshing.
“Who are you?” I mumbled dryly.
“I’m the one who runs this town. Everyone listens to me. I’m the boss of the boss. The man upstairs, what you’d like to call me.”
I sat up in my seat before speaking again.
“What does that have to do with me?”
He smirked, “I have been watching you, Saleh. Your work, schedule, everything. I know there’s something you’re hiding. And I tend to find out.”
A lump formed in my throat. How did he know I had a secret? How did he find me?
“I’m sure you have many questions. I’m afraid I can’t answer anything else,” he pulled over. “We have something to discuss.”
“What?” I said coldly.
I looked around and saw nothing. The only thing around us was desert. Nobody has used these roads for years. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
“You know something I don’t. That irritates me. Why? Because I know everything. I know everyone. I know every single detail about our small town. No-one has ever left with me not knowing something about them. I tend to keep it that way. So, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.”
I stumbled with my words, “You want to know the one thing no-one ever did? The one thing I didn’t want anyone to know. I can’t.”
He sneered in disgust. I could tell he wasn’t going to let me go before he knew. I longfully sighed. It pained me to remember what I did. I regretted it so much and bringing back the memory hurt.
“You really need to know?”
He ran his fingers through his hair, “Yes. I need to know or I can’t keep this town in order and under my control.”
The painful realization hit me like a boulder. He had control over everyone, yet no one knew much about him. Why was he in control?
“I’ll tell you. If you answer something.”
“Sure. Seems fair enough,” he calmly said.
“Why do you get to know? What happens if I don’t tell you?”
There was an uncomfortable silence as he turned to face me.
“I am the founder of this city. You wouldn’t exist without me,” his expression turned dark. “If you don’t tell me, I will get inside your head. I will find out. No matter the cost.”
I gulped. I wasn’t only scared for myself now, I was scared for my family. My friends.
“I had an abortion,” my voice trembled and I began to shake. I began sobbing.
He looked at me with a different sort of longing now. He seemed to be hurt by my words as he turned his gaze to the window.
“Is something wrong?” I asked between sobs.
He spoke in a whisper, “My wife had an abortion. She didn’t want me to know it wasn’t mine. I am still hurt by it. I still miss her. I wish she didn’t do it. I wish…”
I looked at my hands. I knew what he meant.
“Wishes won’t change reality. I’m sorry.”
“I know how painful it is. I know what it’s like to be awake at night, wishing. Just wishing things were different. I know,” I sadly explained.
“I’m sorry, too,” he stated.
I smiled softly, “Why?”
“For taking you. For hurting you. For making you recall a painful memory. For being evil. For being this way because I didn’t get the life I wanted. I guess it’s time to take you back.”
I gently touched his shoulder. I could sense his sorrow. I knew his sorrow. I knew regret. I knew pain. It was all too familiar.
“Hey, I'm always here for you. You know where to find me,” I winked.
We drove off laughing despite the pain. No matter what life throws at you, there’s always someone who knows how it is. There’ll always be someone to talk to. It’s just a matter of you finding each other. Be hopeful despite the bad.