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Thriller

Can you keep a secret?

That sounds simple. Like you’re going to be dished out a nice scoop of gossip. It sounds interesting, intriguing, beguiling. Yet, still comes the pain. The struggle. The tears. All because of a secret. A secret that broke me.


*


It was a long, long tiring day. My back and head and neck all ache because of the strain. From the morning rush hour to volunteer work at PetLife to running the soup kitchen at a charity event to the constant hustle of the never-ending workload, with upcoming meetings, events, and projects on everything from sales reports, production finals, and budget analysis. Being a finance representative was the job I always dreamed of, but on days like this, it wears me down to the bone.


I have finally finished the last touches of my marketing paper. I lean back on my office chair and sigh, a dull headache throbbing behind my eyes. Am I overworking? This past month has been overwhelmingly trying for my nerves. But with the underemployment, my extra work was necessary for the company. And I couldn’t stop the soup kitchen or PetLife, it would be cruel to quit after working there for so long. And despite the eternal exhaustion, I loved working.


Of course, now was not the time to revel in work. I felt like my nerves were splitting into mush, and my muscles were numb from the running around from office to office. I sighed again, and stretched, more than ready to check out and melt into my next three days off.


As I’m walking down the block, my phone vibrates.


I miss you. Coffee later?


It was my cousin—and brother-figure— Norman Quillow. Of all the people in my family, he was the one I was closest to. Not only did we have similar interests, he was also kind, funny, and a very good listener. He didn’t call me out on mistakes, criticize my decisions, or mock my problems. Even my slightest anxieties concerned him, and he always made it better with ice-cream and movies. So despite my weariness, there’s no way I’d turn him down on anything.


You bet. See you later at Java

**


I had showered, ate, and changed before meeting Norman. Feeling rejuvenated, I walked briskly to our favorite café, Java Coffee. Everything from the fairy lights to the graffiti to the most delicious cinnamon buns made that place was Norman and I’s sanctum.


As I strolled, I smiled at the warm, radiant sun, with puffy cream clouds far, far away across the horizon and the distant tweet of a bird or two. The stream of cars on the road was very thin, surprisingly, and springtime’s orchids and petunias were pretty in their pots. The weather was very fine; clear, sunny, with a cool, pleasant breeze. I can tell it’s going to be good day.


I finally reached Java. The place was as fresh and inviting as always. At our tiny table by the neon fountain was Norman. I beamed at him then gave him a warm embrace.


“Hello, Angie, how’re you?”

“Good, good. Busy day, quite tiring, actually.”

“Oh yeah? Why don’t you sit down and tell me all about it,”


Then came what usually does. With my favorite macchiato(which he so kindly remembered and ordered for me) I began talking about my day, and the conversation whirls from everything, to soup flavors, to iguanas, to YouTube, to movies, to our feelings and then silence. It wasn’t the awkward, immensely uncomfortable silence where you rack your brain for something to talk about. It was a familial one where you could say nothing yet still say everything. Norman and I had that connection because we were closer than siblings.


“How’s Loraine?” I asked. Loraine was his wife. It’s no secret his marriage had always been an unhappy one. Their four years together was full of constant arguing to fighting then silent treatment to public embarrassment. Why they didn’t divorce, no one knew. I, personally, think it's because of the money. Norman and Loraine weren't exactly what you'd call financially stable.


“She’s okay, I guess,” He said with a sidelong glance. But I could tell from his clenched jaw it was otherwise. I put a hand on his wrist. Few months ago, he said that the he remained with Loraine because he thought he couldn’t get with anyone else. His confidence was broken that way. And in spite of my reassurances that he was a kind, charming, handsome, strong man, nothing would change his mind.


He sighed, and stared at his fingers. No. There was something else now. Something specific that hurt and worried him. When I asked him what, he sighed again.


“Angeline, I think…” He started, then leaned in. His eyes were clouded with sadness and anxiety.


“I think Loraine’s cheating on me,” He said quietly.

I was taken aback. I didn’t know their marriage had reached that point. It was shocking as well as saddening to hear. I waited for him to continue.


“She always takes her phone calls somewhere else if I’m there, and she’s always giggling anytime I actually hear her talking on the phone. And yesterday…” His expression droops, and he massages the bridge of his nose. I rub his arm comfortingly, feeling terrible. He was such a good person. He didn’t deserve such sadness.


“I was cleaning our bedroom, and I found all these necklaces and bracelets and perfume of hers I’ve never seen before. At first I thought she bought them, but her credit card was declined a few weeks ago, and if she took money from me, I would’ve known about it. So…”

He didn’t need to finish. I got up and went around the table to put my arms around him. My heart broke for him.


“I’m sorry,” I said. I wished I could make it all better, so I tried.


“Movie night at my place? I think you could use it,” I offered and smiled.

He tensed and stuttered, as if I had asked a nerve-wracking and flustering question. It was very unusual. He was never this nervous with me before.


“No.” He said it so fiercely I was afraid I had in some way angered him.


“I want to be alone.” I could tell it was more than that, but I didn’t want to press any more of his marriage buttons. Norman was very emotionally extreme. When he was happy, he was really happy. When he was sad, he was really sad. When he was angry, he was really angry.


“What is it?” I still ask, concern taking over.


He hesitates, then shakes his head to himself. “Nothing, I'm just… upset,” I hug him one more time, trying to push away the block of dishonesty he slammed at me.


So I bought him a cinnamon bun instead and switched the subject. He was much more relaxed afterwards, for some reason.


***


I was home, enjoying a bowl of American Dream with Netflix playing on the TV. It really was a good day. As soon as I was home, I pulled up a soothing, hot bath, dabbled a tea tree oil face mask, ate a lot of comfort food, and watched TV. What a good day. It was night time, a beautiful, creamy full moon, my favorite kind of moon.

I hit pause on my show, and took my bowl of ice cream to the window seat to look at that pearl orb in the sky. Outside, on the next house was my new neighbor who had just moved in, Eric. He was single, surprisingly, judging by the lean, muscled build, striking blue eyes, and whole ‘bad boy’ vibe. I was never one to be swooned by men, but Eric was a near miss.


He was there, on his porch swing, and with a woman. I squinted at them, surprised. He was stroking her hair and occasionally pecking her lips. But I was a thousand times more surprised when I recognized the dirty blond hair, blue blouse, and greenish eyes. That was Loraine, my cousin’s wife!

I was furious. I was angry enough seeing my poor cousin’s heart break. But to watch it happen from my own window? That was too far. I got up and put on my jacket, ready to clobber Eric and Loraine.

As I walked to his fence, he snags her hands and pulls her inside. Disgusting, I think.


But I stopped short before I even got to the door.


A jagged, piercing, brain-rattling scream cuts open the sky. It was a scream that will haunt me until the day of my death. Then a defeating crack. A gunshot.


The screaming continues, then is abruptly cut short by another shot. My legs suddenly break from the cold feet and I dash to the door and slam it open. That sight before will never stop giving me nightmares.


Eric and Loraine, both half-dressed. One with a shot in the head, the other in the heart. Their blood continues to cover the throw rug, streaming from chest and forehead to the ground. My American Dream struggles to stay in my stomach.


But I’d stare a thousand bloody, mangled bodies than to see the third person in the room. Brown eyes. Dark hair. A smile I always cherished and actually saw today. Dressed in black and a smoking pistol in his hand, still extended in the air.



Norman.



He was smiling. The damn man was smiling. A bloodthirsty, sadistic, bone-chilling ear-to-ear grin. I shivered, and he must’ve heard my sobbing gasp. His face twisted into appall, grief, and worry, all chasing after each other.


My eyes welled with tears. The blaring sirens outside were too much.

The red and blue fluorescent lights in the background were too much. The two bloody, dead bodies were too much. The resounding scream and bang was too much. I felt like I was going through a sensory overload over a single fact swirling around and around.


My best friend is a murderer.


So when the black stars took over my mind, Norman’s clear words went through my ears, clear and definite, wafting through my conscience.


“Can you keep a secret?”








August 21, 2020 15:56

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29 comments

Doubra Akika
00:12 Aug 22, 2020

Another great one, Saron. You asked for editing reviews so here you go... Just a few suggestions Being a finance representative was the job I always dreamed of, but on days like this, it wears me down to the bone. I have finally finished the last touches of my marketing paper. And I couldn’t stop the soup kitchen or PetLife, it would be cruel to quit after working there for so long. I felt like my nerves were splitting into mush Not only did we have similar interests, he was also kind, funny, and a very good listener. See you late...

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Saron Mengistu
05:39 Aug 22, 2020

DOUBRA. YOU. Are. An. ANGEL!!! Thank you a thousand times for this. Your truly are darling!! All of these are going straight to my story. Also. One more thing I need your help with. Any ideas for a title?

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Doubra Akika
10:08 Aug 22, 2020

Sorry! Where I am it was 4am😂. But I see you came up with something else. I liked this! And it was my pleasure

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Saron Mengistu
10:16 Aug 22, 2020

It's perfectly okay!! You know, I was putting in the edits you gave me when I got the idea for title. So in a way, you did help me with the title!!

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Doubra Akika
11:40 Aug 22, 2020

That's amazing! I'm happy I could help. Whenever you're free, would you mind checking out my story? I would love your feedback!

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Saron Mengistu
15:00 Aug 22, 2020

Thank you again, Doubra! I would love to see your story. I often enjoy them.

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Keerththan 😀
03:36 Aug 28, 2020

Wow!!!!! The ending was so thrilling. Loved it. Waiting for your next.... Would you mind reading my new story "The adventurous tragedy?"

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Saron Mengistu
06:09 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you for your kind words!! I'll definitely check out your new story.

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Taryn Holmes
23:50 Aug 26, 2020

I got sent this story from the Critique Circle thing, and i'm so glad I did. You're an amazing writer. Not that i'm an expert or anything, but I really appreciated the way you were able to broadcast the emotions of the characters, I had real chills reading the ending even though I thought I would be ready for it. The only technical critiques I was going to include actually got addressed by another reply, so again, great job. :)

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Saron Mengistu
04:24 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate that you took the time to read my story a leave a review. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, even though I had a SERIOUS bout of writer's block with it. However, it's not called the critique circle for nothing. Do you think there's anything I can improve here? I'd really appreciate feedback on what I can work so I can improve my writing in the future. Again, thank you so much:))

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Taryn Holmes
16:29 Aug 27, 2020

Okay, I read it a couple more times to look for critiques, and here's what I have. You're line at the beginning, "Yet, still comes the pain." Implies that the pain is coming from the gossip kind of secret instead of this totally different one. So maybe clarify just a bit more. Also, you classified this story as a Thriller and Suspense but most of the story is just the main character having a sort of regular day with a blast of suspense at the very end. Maybe weave in some more suspense so that the reader feels nervous before the actual ni...

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Saron Mengistu
16:48 Aug 27, 2020

Hello again!! Yes, I was very unsure about that sentence. Like what THE HELL do I do with it confused. I wish I changed it. Really appreciate it! I'm so so grateful you reread my story so much. Makes me feel happen😊 Thank you again, Taryn(do you mind if I call you that? I love it btw, so pretty)

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Taryn Holmes
17:45 Aug 27, 2020

Absolutely you can call me that, and thanks for the compliment :) I totally understand the struggle of not being able to iron out a detail, it can be very frustrating. But I'll definitely have to keep reading your stories because you're such a good writer.

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Saron Mengistu
17:49 Aug 27, 2020

Your most welcome, Taryn😉 I could use your advice more often for my stories!! I'm so flattered you think that ☺️☺️ You're a darling Taryn:))

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Saron Mengistu
04:28 Aug 27, 2020

Thank you so much for the kind words. I super appreciate you taking the time to read my story and leave me a review. I'm so glad you like it, and that you think I'm a good writer😊. Thank you again, and stay safe:))

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22:13 Aug 24, 2020

Wooooow this is so good!!! I really liked it, amazing job! 🤩

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Saron Mengistu
05:53 Aug 25, 2020

Thank you so much!!!

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12:22 Aug 25, 2020

Of course ;) P. S. Would you mind checking out my story ‘the Choosings—Part 1’? Thanks!

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Saron Mengistu
14:12 Aug 25, 2020

:)) thank you again. I would love to read your story.

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14:48 Aug 25, 2020

Thanks!

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B. W.
15:48 Aug 24, 2020

I like this, this is a really good story. I'm not one to really give advice and i never really find anything wrong with any of the stories i see, but you still did amazing with it. 10/10

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Saron Mengistu
16:34 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you so very much!! I really appreciate your kind words. I would still appreciate critique though. Do you think there's anything I can fix here? I'd love as many reviews before I can't edit it no more:))

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B. W.
16:38 Aug 24, 2020

No problem ^^ i just think its good though, im not sure if i saw anything wrong with it though. So far you've made just a couple of stories so i guess my advice to is to keep working and doing your stories, as you continue to make them you'll get even better than you already are

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Saron Mengistu
17:17 Aug 24, 2020

Thank you a thousand times for your kind words. I will most certainly keep on writing. So should you, by the way! I liked your story 'Goddess's child story'. I'll be leaving a review soon. Thanks again!!! ;))

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B. W.
17:19 Aug 24, 2020

Still no problem with it ^^ and yep you don't need to worry ill also continue to write stories :) alright, im excited to see what ya have to say for it :)

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Saron Mengistu
15:59 Aug 21, 2020

Hello readers. Okay, I need you's people's help. I had this story running through my head all week. But I procrastinated and didn't write it until a few hours ago. (I probably shouldn't have also stupidly written another crazy story on piranha teeth, but what's done is done,) The title is terrible, and I feel horribly rushed. I will need all the reviews to edit it before my brain explodes. Thanks again people!!

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Doubra Akika
00:14 Aug 22, 2020

I just uploaded mine today, lol! Procrastination had me this week as well, but I managed to write something as well. As it turns out, procrastination and writer's block isn't a good combination. I think the title's fine or maybe I just can't come up with something at the moment,

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