Wicked Game (Pt. 1)

Wicked Game (Pt. 1)

A Story by Clifford
"

*Warning: Mild language* A college student returns to his hometown and becomes entangled in a diabolical game with only one way to win: survive by any means necessary.

"

Wicked Game

Part 1

 

Just as Josef was about to turn in for the night, his phone beeped. Just once. Just that stupid single beep that never failed to drop more work into his lap. He paused, standing half-risen from his desk chair. With a sigh, he dropped back down. He picked up his phone and squinted against the bright light. His shoulders slumped. He tipped his head back and stared at the ceiling for five breaths. He really needed to block that tramp's number. Not that doing so would deter her (as Josef had learned from experience). He had long since run out of patience for Mary Alger.

            They met in elementary school. They quickly became friends, with the two going to each other’s houses and making up a special knock for their “club meetings”. It was enough for Josef, but it was clear Mary wanted more. Josef gently declined, and she took it well. Or so it seemed.

          As the years went on, Mary's schoolgirl crush on Josef turned into a near obsession. In elementary school, she trailed him on the playground and, on occasion, tried to follow him home. In high school, she signed up for all the classes he joined. She flirted maniacally with him. She spread rumors about the two of them dating. Josef was a nice guy; he tried to let her down easy. He tried being nice to her - he really did. He said he just wasn't interested. But he couldn't get through that thick skull of hers. She kept coming on as strong as ever. When finally Josef snapped and told her, in no ambiguous terms, what he thought of her, suddenly she was the poor victim. He didn't have to be so harsh on her, they said; she just had a crush on him. That was no reason to hate someone.

          It was sickening! Mary could just bat her eyes and make people believe whatever she said. His image suffered that year. He figured Mary hoped that making him an outcast would somehow drive him into her arms.

            Josef was relieved when he got his diploma and left that rat hole of a town. He expected to find bliss at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where no one he knew went. Thank God. It was perfect. For a year. He was this close to a mental breakdown three months ago when his sophomore year started and he heard that all-too-familiar knock: ­­­tap ta-ta-tap tap.

            Rubbing his tired eyes with his left hand, Josef opened the text.

 

Check your email. You will want to see this.

 

            Josef clenched his teeth. He squeezed his phone hard enough to make his knuckles turn white. He exhaled through his teeth and started typing his response, then paused. Something was different with this text, somehow. It was more direct, lacking in Mary's typical suggestive undertones. There were no winky faces, no emoticons, no innuendos. He exhaled and put his phone down. He thoughtfully ran his tongue over his teeth. He shrugged and rebooted his laptop. He typed his password and reread Mary's text while he waited for his screen to load. He shook his head as he put his phone back down and checked his email. He had twenty-four messages from just this week, two of which were unread. Really, people? He checked his email not ten minutes ago. He had one from Mary, of course. It was preceded by a message from Roxanne Rikki, received six minutes ago. Josef clicked on Roxanne's message. His anger returned after skimming the content. Jesus Christ, he thought, can't these people get anything done without me? It was almost three in the morning! Why were they even awake?

            After typing up a short but maddeningly polite response to his lab partner, Josef opened Mary's email. Josef paused. Wait a second. He never gave Mary his email address. He sighed, not sure why he was surprised.

            Josef has tempted to skip the email and settle on flipping Mary the bird when they next met. That is, until he read the subject: Linsey Axelson. His heart rate quickened. His hands quivered lightly. His mind emptied immediately. He immediately read the rest.




Hello, Joey. I know you have a habit of pretending not to read the emails I send you, but you will want to get back to me on this one. (Was that hook okay? I know you've always been the expert on writing essays. I wouldn't want to bore you with my crappy writing ;) )

            Do you remember that one girl that went high school with us? The one who was two grades above us? The one you were only mildly obsessed with? The one you haven't seen in four years? Does that ring any bells? Yeah, her. What was her name again? Luna... Leila... Lauren... Ah, right. Linsey. Linsey Axelsson, wasn't it?

            Anyways, I, Mary Rose Alger, am cordially inviting you, Josef Cardwell Forst, to a party. I know, that seems kinda childish. But this will be an event to remember. For one, the aforementioned Linsey will be there, as well as her twin younger siblings (You remember them, right? You should; they were in our grade). Kinda lame, I realize, but in order to get the oldest sister there without suspicion, I needed to make a high school get-together and invite all of the Axelson children. A few other friends of ours from high school will be there, such as Gary Monroe, Carl Benston, Hillary Tagris, Jakub Leroy, (you know, your man crush) ... a couple others.

            By now, I suppose you're just wanting to know the date and place and be there. It's at that really sumptuous office building a few blocks away from where we went to high school at. As for the date... Well, aside from the two of us, I mean ~_^. it's on my birthday. January 28th. A Saturday! How convenient is that?

            Be there or be square!

 

 

          Josef was suddenly sixteen again. His heart fluttered again. He reread the email about twelve times, each time his eyes lingering on the names. Today was the nineteenth. The party was just over a week away. This seemed so. . . weird. He spent years dreaming of meeting Linsey again. He lost countless nights thinking about any possible opportunity he might have. And how, halfway through his sophomore year in college, just when he was starting to get his life together, his worst enemy calls him up and just hands him the one thing he wants the most?

            He replied to Mary's email.

 

            How many times have I told you not to call me Joey?

 

            A minute later, Mary sent him a text. It was a smiley face.

            Josef didn't sleep that night.

 

Josef walked quickly across campus. His gaze was downcast and his shoulders were hunched slightly. He accented each step with a slight stomp. He paid no heed to the dozens of people he shouldered through. A tall, pretty girl with her brown hair in a braid called his name, to which he didn't respond.

            Josef slammed the door behind him. He kicked through the garbage littering the floor. That was the worst exam he had ever taken. He couldn't focus on a single word he read. Every time he started to write something down, he would think about that one time in tenth grade when Linsey said she liked Josef's shirt, or in band class when Josef and Linsey were both part of the Dixieland group for the concert. He had to wing most of the test, which would undoubtedly lead to him getting a big fat F in a course in which he was already struggling to stay afloat. . . Thank God the day was over.

            The bed sunk beneath Josef as he flopped on it. He let out a low moan. He didn't even care he was still in jeans and a stiff T-shirt. He just lay there, letting his thoughts make stakes of his brain. No matter how far he seemed to stray, he would always return to the mental image of that contagious smile, of that adorable voice, of that infectious laugh. A few times, he caught himself laughing along to the mental recordings. A few times, he wasn't sure if he was laughing or crying.

            The sound of the door opening jarred Josef, his eyes snapping open. He shook his head and looked up. When did he doze off?

          Beau closed the door behind him and looked at Josef, his head cocked slightly. His shaggy blond hair dangled down past his lower lip. His tan skin was taught with lean muscle. He was holding his backpack strap with his right hand. His left was tucked away in his pocket.

            "Hey, man," Beau said. His voice was a solid baritone that made Josef jealous. "Were you asleep?"

            "Ugh." Josef pushed himself up and groped around his nightstand for his phone. He pressed the power button, examined the screen, and set it back down. 8:20. "Um, yeah, I think so." He laughed once. "Finals just really took it out of me, you know?" He ran his hands down his face.

            "Uh, yeah, I can get that," Beau said. "But. . . I don't know - you're constantly complaining about your insomnia." He paused. "Actually, I don't think I've ever seen you sleep before. You always stay up working until like five in the morning. You okay?"

            "Yeah, sure. Just. . . Yeah, tired. I guess my sleep cycle is finally catching up to me."

            Beau examined Josef for a moment. He shrugged. "Okay." He sat down on the edge of his bed. He slung his backpack off his shoulders and onto his bed and started riffling through it.

            "Didn't you have that presentation with Katherine?" Josef asked absentmindedly. "How did that go?"

            Beau pulled a single sock out of his bag. He glanced at Josef. "Fine." Beau sniffed the sock. "Ugh!" He dropped it on the floor in front of his bed. "Kat is just a doll, as usual."

            Josef chuckled. "Did she, uh, drop anything this time?"

            "Nope. But, damn! She gets so nervous standing in front of people. I would feel sorry for her if I wasn't her partner."

            "What? Why does that matter?"

            "Because Professor Assclown takes point off if you stutter.  I'm pretty sure Kat made us drop a letter grade. And it's just embarrassing behind in front of everyone when your partner is stuttering." Beau shook his head. "Jesus Christ. How hard is it to just talk?"

            "Oh, ease up on her. She's just shy." Josef coyly raised an eyebrow. "And anyway, I'm sure she wouldn't be so shy around you if you would just. . ." he trailed off and raised his other eyebrow, smiling slyly.

            "Oh no," Beau said. "We are not getting into that. Kat is just. . . just not my type."

            "Oh, of course." Beau suddenly became very interested in his wristband. Josef sighed. "Sorry. I know you don't like talking about that stuff." Josef paused to yawn. "You know, I saw Kat on my way back here."

            Beau kept his gaze locked on his wrist. He swallowed slightly. "Did you?" His voice was monotone.

            "Mhhm." Josef closely monitored Beau's expression.

            "How'd that go?"

            "She said hey. I ignored her."

            Beau frowned. "That's rude."

            "Yeah. I was in a bad mood. Finals, and all that. I do feel kind of bad."

            A thought started pulling at Josef's attention. He opened his mouth, then closed it. Beau was scratching the back of his head, his cheeks slightly red. Now was a good a time as any. Josef shrugged. "Hey, Beau."

            Beau recognized Josef's tone and looked up. "What's up?"

            "I've told you about Linsey before, right?

            Beau pursed his lips. "Only about fifty times. Dude, you seriously have to let her go."

            Josef looked down at his feet. "Yeah, I-I know. But, uh. . . You know Mary Alger?" Josef looked back up. "She's throwing a party, and she invited me. Obviously. Guess who else she invited."

            Beau's mouth formed a small o. "Nuh uh."

            "Yeah." Josef found it hard not to smile.

            "And she's gonna be there?"

            "Yeah. Or, at least, that's what Mary said."

            Beau exhaled. "You should know better than to trust anything she says."

            "I don't know, man. Something feels different this time. This isn't a game."

            Beau scrunched up his eyebrows. He crossed his arms. After a few moments, he spoke up. "Nope."

            Josef cocked an eyebrow. "'Nope'? Nope as in, ‘nope, it isn't a game’?"

            "No. Nope as in, you can't go," Beau said with simple but absolute confidence.

            Josef crossed his arms and smirked. That settled it. If Beau said Josef couldn’t go, then he absolutely had to go. "Sure I can. And I'm going to."

            "You really shouldn't. It'll just be torture being so close to her. She probably won't even remember you."

             Dude. I love her. I haven't seen her in four years! No way am I missing this."

            "Yeah, exactly. You haven't seen her in four years. She's not going to be the same person you remember. And neither are you!"

            "I know," Josef said dryly. Beau started to talk, but Josef held up his hand. He took a breath in, exhaled. "I. . . I hate that I feel like this."

            "I know," Beau said. "That's totally femme."

            Josef laughed despite himself. "No. Well, that too, but I mean talking like this makes me feel so dramatic. I'm turning twenty in a couple weeks. I'm supposed to be, like, mature or something by now." He lay back.

            "You are dramatic," Beau's voice rang out. Suddenly something wet and soft landed on Josef's nose. He sprung up, grabbing at his face. He closed his fist around it and held it in front of his face.

            "Dude," Josef said. "Did you just throw your sock on my face? Why is it green?"

            "I've been meaning to wash that for a while."

            "You're sick." Josef tossed it back at Beau and rubbed his hands on his pants.

            "Just a little," Beau responded familiarly. There was a beat of silence. "How do you think you did on that business report? You've been bitching about it all week."

            Josef groaned.

 

Mentally kicking himself, Josef reached out and tapped the girl in front of him on the shoulder. She turned. She raised her eyebrows and smiled, revealing slightly crooked teeth. Her mahogany hair was pulled into a tight bun supported by numerous bobby pins. Her striped shirt was cut disgustingly low. He placed his hand on her shoulder blade and guided her out of the small crowd, stopping by the side of the library.

            "Hey, Joey!" She shifted her weight to her back foot and pivoted slightly. "I thought I might be seeing you." Her eyes dropped to a spot just below Josef's eyes before quickly darting back.

            Josef took a deep breath, then let it out.

            "Oh, relax!" The girl said. She placed her hand on Josef's chest. "You're always so tense."

            Josef stepped back, making her hand fall. He didn't meet her gaze. "Is she going to be there?" His voice held no inflection.

            The girls crossed her arms, pushing on the bottom of her modest chest. She opened her mouth, then just sighed. "Yeah. She'll be there."

            Josef cocked an eyebrow. "Really?" He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. "She will? You're sure?"

            She scowled. "Yes, I'm sure. I would know. Because, you know, I've kept in touch with her these past few years. We’re friends. She wouldn’t miss this. You should of thought about keeping tabs on your beloved. But no, you were too afraid to ask for her number. You were always too afraid to do anything."

            Josef pressed his knuckles to his brow. "I really wish you would stop bringing that up. I was sixteen."

            Suddenly, she threw her arms up. "I wish you could just do something with me without me having to bribe you. It would be real nice if we could just hang out or talk or go to a party or something."

            "We've had this talk, Mary. If you have to bribe me, you should know you're not wanted."

            "I bet you know all about not being wanted, don't you?" Josef looked at the ground and rubbed the sides of his nose with his index finger and thumb. "Yeah, whatever." Mary continued. "See you there, I guess. I know I won't see you before then. A little friendly chat every once in a while is too much to ask, I guess." Mary turned around. "You're welcome," she said over her shoulder.

            Josef watched as she walked away. He sighed, his breath forming a small cloud, and turned around. He stuck his hands in his pockets as he walked back to his dorm.

 

A week later, Josef lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling. Beau was tapping away on his laptop, idly jabbering about the new semester, to which Josef offered generic responses. At one point, Beau sighed. "So. You going tomorrow?" he asked in a monotone voice.

            "Yes, mother," Josef replied.

            "Why?" Beau asked for the thousandth time.

            Josef didn't immediately respond. "Because I want to see her."

            Josef could feel Beau disapproving stare. "You're such a sap."

            "I prefer the term ‘hopeless romantic’."

            "Yeah, well, whatever you call it, you're just wasting your time."

            "Yes, you've said that already."

            Beau looked up from his screen. "Look. I know you're getting annoyed by me always bringing this up, but you really don't need to that party, or whatever it is. You don’t need her. And besides, you're never going to get over Linsey if you keep mooning over her."

            "It's swooning, dude."

            "No, it's not. Mooning." Beau pointed two thumbs at himself. "English major - right here."

            "What? No. Swooning."

            "Moon," Beau said. "To moon is to desire - "

    "Pretty sure that's wrong."

    "That's not the point! You're like an abused puppy; you just never get off her. There are so many girls out there, man. A lot of them are here, on campus.”

            "I don't 'get off her' because I don't want to.” He went quiet for a moment. "She's my first love. You never get over something like that. When I dream of where I'll be in ten years, I always picture myself with her. You know, having kids, a couple pets, a nice house in the country . . . I can't picture myself with anyone else. It's just. . . I don't know. We're soul mates - or something."

            Beau stared blankly. "You sure you're not failing your psychology courses?"

            Josef lazily flipped Beau the bird. Josef took out his phone and checked the time. "Aren't you going home for the weekend?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be leaving pretty soon?"

            "Oh come on," Beau protested. "I don't smell that bad. And yeah, I'm leaving right after I finish this response pa- "

            There was a knock at the door.

            Beau closed his mouth, stood, and walked to the door. Josef kept his gaze locked onto a bump in the ceiling. He watched, enamored, as the bump expanded, becoming rectangular. It grew into a tall, slender silhouette with billowing shoulder-length hair, caught in freeze-frame. It slowly came to life, turning toward him and walking forward. Each step brought it heart-wrenchingly closer. Soon it was life-sized, standing before him. It bore into him with beautiful pale brown eyes. His heart caught in his chest as he stared back.

            Slowly, it reached out its hand, cupping his face. Its head inched forward, coming toward his face. It stopped tantalizingly close. Its breath brushed against his lips. It started edging even closer. . .

            "Joe!"

            Josef jumped. Beau stood next to the bed. Kat stood by the edge of the room, leaning against the doorframe. She was strikingly beautiful, as always, with her startling electric blue eyes and her thick wavy hair spilling over her shoulders. 

            "Dude," Beau said. "Clean out your ears."

            "Sorry," Josef muttered. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

            Kat frowned. "Josef?" she asked. "Are you okay?"

            "Fine." He stood and edged past Beau and walked to the door, making a show of looking at his watch. "I have. . . Uh, I have something I need to go do." He made himself chuckle and put on a devious face. "I'll give you guys some privacy. See you later."

            Kat stepped out of the doorway to let Josef leave. He felt eyes bore into his back as he made his exit. He picked up his pace and didn't stop until he reached the parking lot. He hopped in his car and slammed the door.

            It was there that he finally let out his breath. His pulse hammered in his neck, and his mind raced even faster. After a minute, he pulled out his phone and composed a text to Beau.




Went out for a while. Be back soon. You'll probably be gone before I get back. Have fun.




            Josef turned the key in the ignition. Hands shaking on the wheel, he backed out and pulled out of the parking lot.

            "Home sweet home," he whispered to himself.


© 2017 Clifford



Author's Note

Clifford
I'm going through a phase of recreating every abandoned project I've ever had. This is another one. I figured it was the right time to tune it up and hopefully have it complete in time for Halloween. I welcome any and all comments/suggestions/critiques you have. I've made a number of improvement from the last version, but if you've already read this story at some point, don't feel obligated to read again.

My Review

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Featured Review

The strongest part of your story is the way you use dialogue & mannerisms in a way that feels very true-to-life for these young adults. I can just hear & see them, all the way along. Also, you do a good build-up to this upcoming party, such that the reader is really eager to see what happens there. My only bump was at the end, when Kat shows up & Josef talks about leaving them alone together. I had not gotten the idea there was a "thing" between Kat & Beau, so I had to re-read the whole story to see if I missed something earlier in the story. Otherwise, good storyline & excellent pacing (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

2 Weeks Ago

There wasn't a "thing" between Kat and Beau but Josef sort of implied/teased Beau about there being .. read more
barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

Maybe I'm being too literal. Your suggestive intention works just fine at the end!



Reviews

The strongest part of your story is the way you use dialogue & mannerisms in a way that feels very true-to-life for these young adults. I can just hear & see them, all the way along. Also, you do a good build-up to this upcoming party, such that the reader is really eager to see what happens there. My only bump was at the end, when Kat shows up & Josef talks about leaving them alone together. I had not gotten the idea there was a "thing" between Kat & Beau, so I had to re-read the whole story to see if I missed something earlier in the story. Otherwise, good storyline & excellent pacing (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

2 Weeks Ago

There wasn't a "thing" between Kat and Beau but Josef sort of implied/teased Beau about there being .. read more
barleygirl

2 Weeks Ago

Maybe I'm being too literal. Your suggestive intention works just fine at the end!
This was scary.. an innocent read turns into a bloody game. I would even be sobbing "home sweet home." The flow keeps one reading and the suspense... Josef is a strong character you have built. the dialogue is tight and self explanatory.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks for reading, Mirror. I wouldn't say things have gotten bloody just yet, but I appreciate you .. read more
This reads well. Short and longer sentences, and easy dialogue. You depict a very real situation, and then comes the 'vision'. I am anticipating trouble! I look forward to reading the next chapter.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Clifford

2 Weeks Ago

Thank you for reading, Astri. Glad you enjoyed.

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Added on October 25, 2017
Last Updated on November 4, 2017

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Clifford
Clifford

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