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“Hey gorgeous. Just thought I'd reserve you for tomorrow. We can grab lunch tomorrow, yeah? Call me back tomorrow if I don't first. Have fun doing whatever you're doing, Tils. Love you.”
My phone beeps, telling me the message is over. I sigh and throw it down on my bed. Sam clearly said that he'd call about lunch. And it's three in the afternoon now. That's way past a decent lunchtime.
Something's not right.
Sam never forgets about me and he is always on time. He hates being late for anything and the guy has a memory like an elephant. Even when his parents were getting divorced and the stress on him as the family's eldest was insane, he was always perfectly on time for me and he always called first.
Something is definitely not right.
I sigh and pick my phone up off my bed and flop onto what Sam has dubbed, my ‘boyfriend beanbag’.
I speedily type in Sam's number and wait for it to ring. It rings thrice before sending me to his voicemail. I sigh and start talking after the beep.
“Hey Sammy. Where are you? Just wondering, because you said you'd call... Anyways, call me! Love you.”
I hang up the call. After a minute of blank staring at photos that Sam has taken of me with his polaroid, trying to convince me that I can be a model, I pick up my phone again.
“Hey, Sam. Where are you? You said you'd call... Please, Sam, I'm worried. Love you”
I leave several more messages – all of which I say pretty much the exact same thing in. “I'm so desperate,” I groan. Nevertheless, I pick up my phone and dial his number again. Leaving him another nosy message which I'm hoping will come across more as ‘cute, worried girlfriend’. Giving up, I stare blankly at my phone in my hands, not sure what to do.
I stare at the phone and it stares back at me, a small green light flashing back at me from the corner of it. My phone and I continue to have a stare down when suddenly, the light turns orange.
“Oh my god! He texted! Yes! He texted!” I scream out excitedly, a grin instantly spreading across my face. I open my message inbox and am greeted by a message from Voicemail, rather than a message from Sam. My face falls and I call my voicemail with violent, frustrated jabs at the phone keys.
“You have one new message. First message. Left at: eleven thirty AM.”
I stare at the phone, confused. Why is it so late? VoiceMail is run by computers. Computers are punctual – just like Sam.
“Phone system failed. Message delivery delayed.”
Seriously? How does a phone system fail? This is messed up. I'm pulled from my mental grumblings as the message begins to play.
All I can make out in the first ten seconds is that the phone was shaking around somewhere and then it dropped with a thud. The rest of the message is muffled, but the message is still clear. Two soft voices talk to each other and then I hear a scream. A scream that sounds a mix of pleasure and pain, suspiciously like the kind of scream you would hear from the bedroom. I can recognise it as Sam's scream, although I've never heard him like that before. The call drops and the message is over.
My face heats up with pure rage. He cheated on me. He's probably still with whoever it was in the call and they're probably making out in some dirty motel. Disgusting.
I dial Sam's number again and wait for the call to go through. Again, I'm sent to voicemail.
“Samuel James Roland. We're over. You're a dirty, lying cheating a**hole and I never want to see you again.” My voice rings clear, my fury perfectly audible in my voice. Suddenly, all my anger leaves me and is replaced by sorrow. “How could you do this to me? I love you. You know that. But at least dump me before you move on. Don't make me find out like this. Oh and another thing. You said you'd call. What life-changing thing happened between yesterday and today that changed your mind? Or maybe your amazing memory is failing today. We've been together for four years, Sam. I've wasted four years on you. We're over, Sam. Over. We're through. You're no longer my boyfriend and I'm no longer your girlfriend. We're over.”
I take a raspy breath as tears threaten to spill from eyes. “This isn't like you, Sammy. Good bye.”
I hang up the call and flop back on my beanbag from my previously tensed position. I train my eyes on the ceiling, praying for the tears not to spill over. I squeeze my eyes shut, willing for the liquid to go away but when I open my eyes again, my eyelashes are heavy with tears.
That's not like you, Sam. You wouldn't do that to me. To anyone. You're better than that. You know what it's like to be cheated on. You know the effects cheating has on people. You said you wouldn't do that. You said you weren't like the others.
That wasn't like you.
“That wasn't like him,” I mumble through my dry throat. “He said he wouldn't do that.”
I think back on the recording that I heard, the scream. The scream of pain. Of terror. The scream that I've wrongly misread. By so much.
“S***,” I utter my first real cuss. “I was way off. Cr**. No. I don't want to break up with him. I love him! And I trust him. And he wouldn't cheat on me. No. He can't hear that message. No!”
I keep muttering to myself before my actions catch up with my thoughts. I pick my phone up again and type in Sam's number faster than I ever have, reciting it under my breath as I go.
“Please pick up. Please. Oh please pick up, Sammy, I need to tell you-”
I reach voicemail and instantly start talking, my words coming out so fast they join together.
“I'm so sorry I doubted you, I know you wouldn't cheat! I lo-”
The phone beeps. “This number's voicemail is full. Messages cannot be left. Good bye.” Another beep sounds and it hangs up on me.
My eyebrows furrow in confusion. Did my message go through or not? I rethink what the phone just said to me.
The voicemail is full.
“S***!” I swear again, the second time ever. “My message didn't go through! No no no no no! Sam! I need Sam. I need to find Sam!”
I sprint down to the front door and pull my thongs on, grabbing the doorframe with one hand as I skid through the doorway. I sprint down the driveway and make a mad dash out onto the street, pushing past people as they get in the way. I sprint down the sidewalk, panting but not letting myself stop. I breathe shallow breaths, my lungs burning for more oxygen.
My thongs slap the pavement, painfully dragging against the space between my toes. I take a few more leaping paces when the plastic breaks in one of my shoes, ripping out of it. Without stopping, I pull the shoes off and throw them into the bushes. I can't afford to slow down.
I turn the corner and the park where Sam and I walk his dogs comes into view. My route is to cut through the park which'll bring me to Sam's house on the other side of it. I turn into the park, grabbing a tree for balance as I nearly topple over.
I run through more of the park, reaching a more secluded area near Sam's house. A tree comes into view on my right and what I see there makes me stop dead in my tracks and fresh tears flow freely down my face. I stumble forwards from my abrupt stop before I robotically turn towards the tree.
My eyes soak in the horrifying sight and rooted to the spot. My eyes zero in on a smiling yellow yo-yo as I begin to shake. His phone lies open on the ground, replaying the last voice message I left. Bucketing tears, I let out an ear piercing scream.
“Earlier today, eighteen year old Samuel Roland was found brutally murdered,” the TV news reader reports. I slam my fist on the remote, turning the TV off.
My eyes stay fixed on the large black screen. A stream of tears flow from my eyes — tears that haven't stopped since I found Sam's body six hours ago.
Within that time, I've been questioned by the police, offered condolences, given looks of pity and then finally left alone. At eleven, my mother offered to stay with me but I left to supposedly sleep.
I would attempt sleeping, if I didn't have such a disturbing image tattooed in my head. All I see is Sam. How I found Sam. Sam's body.
All I can see, is Sam's lifeless body, hung from a tree. The bright yellow smiling yo-yo wrung around his neck, mocking me as it smiles at me — basking in the fact that it killed the man I love.
A tear stained his cheek but his eyes held no emotions, being completely blank and flat – so unlike the sparkling blue eyes I'm used to. The last message I left kept replaying from his phone and fresh tears flow down my face as my words echo around my head.
‘We're over,’ I'd said. The last things he heard from me were those two words. He loved me as much as I loved him. If I heard that from him, I would lose my will to live. But Sam unwillingly lost his life and my words were used against him as some kind of cruel torture.
“I'm sorry, Sammy. I love you,” I whisper. “I'm so, so, unbelievably sorry, Sammy.” With that, I promptly burst into tears again and sob freely, my whole body shaking.
My phone rings from my beanbag, asking me to move and pick it up. I hesitantly do so, dragging my feet the three steps from my bed to my beanbag, flopping on the ground and pulling the phone to my ear. My tears never stop as I answer the phone with a shaky 'Hello'.
“Hello, Tils,” Sam's voice greets cheerily on the other end. Albeit his voice has a darker tinge to it, but it definitely sounds like Sammy.
My jaw drops and my tears quickly begin to dry. I begin to talk, my voice cracking, “S-Sam? Sammy? It can't be you. I saw you. I saw your body.” My voice wavers again as my tears start again. Using all the steength i can muster, I speak my next two words. “You're dead.”
Sam chuckles. “Ah, Matilda, always so innocent. I'm not Sam.” He breathes out and I know he's smiling.
I double take and rack my brain to figure out the identity of the man on the phone who sounds so much like my Sam.
“Such a shame, the death of my dear cousin,” the man continues, laughing. Rage builds inside me at his laughter. The man pauses, giving me time to gather my thoughts.
He said his cousin. He called Sam his cousin. Sam had two cousins. One passed on after a battle with cancer. That leaves one more. One more cousin – a man who is meant to be locked up. A horrified gasp escapes my lips as I remember just who Sam’s remaining cousin is and what he had done.
“Ah, I see you've remembered me,” the man chuckles. “I almost thought you'd forgotten me, but that would be forgetting my charm and looks, both of which are unforgettable.”
I grind my teeth. “You... Ben. Murderer. Sadist. You're a psychopath.”
“Oh you're so cute, Mattie!” I growl at the nickname. “Yes, people have called me that. I was put in a hospital for two of those things. And you know what that's told me?”
I squeeze my eyes shut, not wanting to know what he'll say.
“You have to play dirty to get what you want in this world. And do you know what I want, Mattie?”
I hold my breath, hoping — praying — the answer I have in my mind is wrong.
“I want you.” On his side, the phone clatters onto pavement and I hear a crunch followed by a horrible electric squeal.
All I can do is sit on the floor, shaking with fear, two images in my mind. One of Sam's lifeless, bloody body and the other of Ben's face, a sinister grin spread across his face, much like the Cheshire Cat. My mind replays my harsh message to Sam, but over that I hear three words echoing over and over in my mind.
‘I want you.’