Clark sighed and crossed his arms, hooking the door edge with his right foot.
“This can’t keep happening,” he said in a gentle voice, fighting off the urge to invite her in.
It wouldn’t help.
“I know,” she sobbed, rubbing the tears with the heel of her hand as she shook. The streetlight flickered, casting a strange grey hue on her face. She smelled like petrichor and mothballs, a faint odour of cedar chips coming from the paisley pink dress.
“I just miss you so much, you know?” Her eyes flicked up to meet his, and his shoulders began to hunch upwards, the hair on the back of his neck slowly rising as he tried to swallow the lump in his throat.
Her eyes were bloodshot red, making the blue of her pupils vibrant.
“Jessica, I can’t help you.” He said gently. His fingers ached to brush back her long copper hair behind her ear, like how he used to.
They had been an attractive couple in high school, with her pale skin, wide blue eyes and long, wavy copper hair and his tanned, muscular length, sun-streaked hair, and warm brown eyes.
His hair was white at the temples and he was lean rather than trim. His eyes were tired and framed by deep worry lines and wrinkles.Time had not been kind to Clark and neither had Jessica.
Her petite hand rested briefly against his doorjamb before she flinched back again. The back of her flat dropped off her heel as she leaned forward towards Clark, almost like she was magnetically attracted to him.
He knew better than to lean forward.”Why did you leave me, Clark? I was all alone.
“The plaintive question, delivered in her querulous voice made him recoil slightly, as he gripped his arms so tightly his knuckles turned white.
“You left me first.”
He remembered it like it was yesterday. They were on their way to a graduation party of their friend Rebecca and a tire blew on his dad’s station wagon. He hadn’t been able to safely exit the highway, and his abrupt swerving flipped the car. Jessica had screamed so loud…
He insisted on being at her bedside every single day in the hospital, holding her slender hand almost lost among the tubing as a machine fought to make her breaths for her.
Every single day, he was pushed in from his wheelchair, until he began hobbling in with the help of crutches, and a cane while his legs slowly recovered.
Jessica came out of the crash with severe spinal cord injuries, a nasty head wound and a serious loss of blood. She fell into a coma shortly after she was operated on and for the longest time, it seemed like she would never wake up.
Until she did, for one day, her tired face smiling briefly at him before her eyes closed one last time.
“I came back. I’ll always come back for you.” Her voice was more sinister now, a slight wheedling tone to it.
He blinked at her, as her face elongated slightly and she hissed at him almost reflexively, the delicate nails on her fingers being more claw-like.
“You shouldn’t come back for me anymore,” Clark told her, trying not to move back. Jessica didn’t like it when he walked away from her when she was talking.
She also didn’t like it when, after five years of grieving for her, he had gone out on a date with her former best friend Rebecca. It had ended in quick, furtive sex in Rebecca’s car and a slight sense of embarrassment afterwards when they agreed to just be friends.
Rebecca had been insistent she was being followed, and Clark hadn’t listened.
She was found in her car, stabbed to death with barely any blood left in her, although the police hadn’t been able to figure out what happened to her blood.
Clark had moved, shaken by the events in the little town he had grown up in. He ended up in Toronto, dating an older woman named Annie who let him move in three months into their relationship while he studied for his masters.
Clark found Annie in the bathtub in July on the same day he had flipped the car those five years ago. Her blood was unaccounted for as well.
He stopped dating completely and became career-focused until he got the news his dad had suffered a heart attack. Clark moved back home to take care of his dad until he passed away. His mother joined him shortly after and then he was left alone in what used to be his childhood home, grief-stricken and an orphan at 25.
Then Jessica came calling.
Every year on their anniversary in September, she showed up on his doorstep in the twilight and begged him to let her in. Every year, strengthened by some intuition, he didn’t understand, Clark never did. He knew. After a few minutes of conversation, Jessica would become enraged and vicious and threaten him.
Her teeth would seem longer, her eyes redder than they should be from crying and something would say to him -Something would say in the back of his head, in a scared, low voice, “That is NOT Jessica anymore.”
Her fists slammed against the doorjamb and she made an awful wailing noise.”Please, Clark. You’re all I have left.” Her sniffles dried up, and she looked at him, right down into his soul and smiled cruelly.
“I’m all you have left too.” She snarled, her fingernails cresting into the doorjamb and her teeth digging into her lower lip.
Clark stared at her, his heartbeat pounding in his ears, as he thought of how lonely he had been for the past 13 years and how right this monster-that-looked-like-Jessica-but-wasn’t-Jessica was.
He heaved a big sigh and dropped his arms.
“I think you might be right,” he said softly.
“You know I am.” Her voice purred in an obscene way that made the hairs on his arms stand up.
Clark looked down at the dark green carpet of his childhood home, then looked back at his high school sweetheart, framed in the doorway by streetlight.
“All right,” he said hesitantly. “You can come in.”The last thing he saw was Jessica swooping across the threshold and then there was the pain.