The Green-Eyed Stranger

Submitted into Contest #37 in response to: Write a story about someone who keeps coming across the same stranger.... view prompt

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Mystery Suspense Drama

The wind blew my hair topsy-turvy, and with the first splash of rain, I dashed into the coffee shop, papers in my hands escaping.


“Let me assist,” a deep voice said. I looked up into cold green eyes half-closed beneath thick brows. A thin nose ran down the middle of a narrow face. At the bottom was a neatly-trimmed goatee.


I was frozen. There was something familiar about him, but I didn’t think I had seen him before, at least not in person. An actor? He was creepy, in any case. I snatched my papers from his hand and turned to the counter to order something. I felt his eyes on me. Should I ignore him or stare back at him? I squared my shoulders, deciding to face him. But when I turned, he was nowhere to be seen.


~~~


“Harold is hilarious.”


“Is he? How so?” I was sitting across from my friend, Marielle, and we alternated dipping our tortilla chips into sinus-clearing salsa.


“Yeah, one time he pounced on a chicken while screaming for joy. For an old guy recovering from a leg wound, he sure could move fast!” 


I laughed. “You sure love your jo--” I stopped. Across the room from me, in one corner, sat the very same man I had seen yesterday in the coffee-shop. He was eyeing me from above his tall drink.


“That man...I saw him yesterday,” I whispered. “He’s staring at me.”


“Well, you’re kind of staring at him,” she said with a shrug. “Maybe he thinks you’re cute.”


“It’s not that kind of stare,” I insisted, frowning. “Maybe we could eat somewhere else.”


“You’re not serious.” Marielle said, waving at the bowl of chips.


I stood up.


“You are serious.” Marielle gaped, but followed me out the door after we both left a tip.


“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t sit there and eat while he watched. There’s just something about him . . .”


“You’re the boss, applesauce.”


Usually my friend’s rhyming sayings made me smile, but not this time.


~~~


Two hundred more words to write before it hit the brief. “C’mon. You can do it.” I drummed my fingers on the table. I was a small-town journalist, but I loved to write. At times. Creating an article about a baseball game was not my top favorite.


I heard the doorbell ring. Just the break I needed. I jumped up, nearly stepped on my lounging black cat, and went to the door. Instinctively, I looked through the peephole.


Green eyes, long nose, goatee. I started trembling, locked the door, and turned away. Back door: locked. I rarely unlocked the windows, but I ran my eyes over them just in case, not daring to get too close to them. I imagined those eyes looking in.


I felt like calling the police. “Get a grip, girl. He might be harmless.” But to follow me to my home? It was bordering on stalker status.


~~~


Later that afternoon, I gingerly opened my mailbox. No bomb erupted, but there was an envelope without any stamp and just a simple address printed in one corner, no name. It must have been left by him.


What weird things would he have written? Did I even want to open it? I tucked it onto a shelf, undecided. As I worked, that envelope glared at me. White flag or red flag? I clenched my jaw. There was no reason not to open it that I knew of, and I needed to see it or it would drive me crazy!


I opened it with a shaking finger. Poisoned letters weren’t a thing, were they? I shook my head. Why would anyone want to poison me, anyway?


I unfolded the lined paper and read, “Hello. I’m Marvin. I don’t know if you recognize me or my name, but I would like to talk with you in person. I know you’re scared of me, and I don’t blame you, but I only want to find a link to my past. Please meet with me this Saturday at 9:00 A.M. or your convenience at the coffee shop where I saw you lose your papers.” There was a phone number after that. My brow furrowed. He sounded quite normal. Was he to be trusted?


~~~


I smelled his presence before I saw him. Some oriental cologne, perhaps, of heady spices. He was getting out of his car at the same time I was. He actually smiled at me, but it was a distant smile. He opened the door of the coffee shop politely, and I walked by him, my insides churning.


“I’ll pay for your drink,” he said.


I ordered something with caramel and whipped cream. Large, since he was paying.


His was a simple black coffee. But if the drink was simple, the man was not.


“Did your dad ever mention me to you?” he asked, green eyes intense.


“I-I don’t think so.”


Marvin’s jaw worked from side to side. “I was dead to them,” he murmured. “Even if I was a brother.”


I frowned. “What?”


“I was your father’s youngest brother.”


My mouth dropped open. That explained the vague familiarity. He did have my dad’s nose.


“Maybe you don’t believe me,” he said. “Check your old family albums. There must be a picture of me somewhere.”


“He did mention a brother who, he said, died.” My voice was a whisper. “I never took much interest. My dad and I weren’t close.”


“Yes, I heard about his death. I’m sorry.”


I nodded absently. Why had this man been banished to death while still alive?


He answered that next. “It’s still not easy to talk about, and I was afraid you’d be just like him. I don’t think you are.” He gripped his hands together over his steaming coffee. “I fought with his best friend who was . . . doing drugs. Well, there was a hill behind our house, and when we were fighting, he tripped backwards and fell, hitting his head on a rock at the base of the hill. Frank didn’t witness the scene, so he thought I did it on purpose, or staged it to look like a fall after bashing his friend’s head in. And he told that to the rest of the family, too. Police investigations showed it to be an accident, but Frank wasn’t convinced. What about you? What do you think?”


I blinked fast. “I don’t know. It’s . . . crazy. But not beyond my dad to act like that. Why didn’t you contact me sooner, or a different way?”


“Honestly, I was afraid. I had tried to reconcile with my brothers before, and they ignored me. I didn’t know what they might have told you about me. When I heard your dad had passed away . . . I thought it was my chance. But I wanted to study you a bit first to see what you were like.”


“You scared the living daylights out of me.”


He laughed, rubbing his neck. “I know.”


~~~


Uncle Marvin was not the creep I first thought him to be. We grew to be friends, commiserating over past hurts, learning to move on.


When I told Marielle the news, the first thing she said was, “Far out, brussel sprout.”


And I smiled.

April 18, 2020 03:29

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1 comment

Karen Kinley
00:24 Apr 23, 2020

Melissa, there were some things I really liked about your story. Your dialogue works very well, for one. And you had some good lines: "White flag or red flag?" (about the letter)...I loved this! And "His was a simple black coffee. But if the drink was simple, the man was not." ...Fabulous! Be careful with your description; make it meaningful. I felt like there were a lot of unnecessary adjectives tossed in here. Keep writing!

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