Short Stories

I Am Your Fan

Your image has been tormenting me during the day haunting me in my dreams at night

It was a summer evening; the sea breeze was blowing away the heat on the island, leaving the air a pleasant temperature. Shoppers going in and out of the shops, cafes and bakeries filled with customers, streets packed with people, mostly walking or moving in a leisurely way. With the cool air brushing their skin, watching people displaying themselves in the open air, who wants to hurry back to a heated house?

Dene was on her way back home after visiting a friend. It was Sunday; there were no classes at the night school so she had time to do what she wanted. She wasn’t in a hurry like the rest of the people. Although mum’s place was comfortable in the physical sense, her step-father’s presence was another story.

“Hello Dene.” A voice stopped her.

Jerry, a boy from her night school, stood in front of her. 

The night school was privately operated and set up to help those who needed to work to survive and could only study at night to get their high school certificate. The academic level was not ideal. The majority of the students had to work during the day so after attending the night classes, they had hardly any time left to study. Some of the students had not been able to get into the usual government or private high schools; this kind of night school became their last chance to finish up their compulsory education.

Dene had never noticed Jerry until Ashley had showed her jealousy. Her remarks weren’t received nicely by others in the school. Dene didn’t feel the need to react to them but she noticed that Ashley was crazy for Jerry. Dene didn’t understand what Jerry had to offer to get Ashley’s attention? He was skinny with four limbs like sticks. On the top of the body was an emotionless face; there wasn’t much in his brain either. He wasn’t working during the day; the only reason he was in night school was he couldn’t get into the normal high school. Ashley was in the same category as Jerry, that’s why Dene didn’t pay much attention to her gossip. She didn’t have enough time to do the things she wanted to do; getting into a childish game was not on her to do list.

“Jerry?” Dene looked at Jerry. Even with his smile, it still was not a nice face.

“Yep. Where are you going?” Jerry asked, looking down at his feet. He mumbled, “Can I buy you a drink?”

Normally she would smile and say “No thanks” and walk away. She never noticed him for a reason, that reason was still valid. She would rather go home and read. Sitting down with someone to have a drink and talk sweet nothings was a waste of time to her. She wanted to read as many great books from around the world as possible before she became an adult. Not those romance novels but the great books like the English Sherlock Holmes, the Russian Anna Karenina and the French Maupassant’s short stories.

Jerry said, “I’d like to talk to you.” She felt pity for Jerry’s awkwardness.

“Maybe just a quick one,” she said, hoping Ashley wouldn’t be happy.

Jerry led her to a nearby restaurant. At a small table sat a stocky man.

“Oh, you already have company. Maybe we can have a drink some other time.” Dene tried to politely retreat.

The stocky man stood up. “I am not a stranger. I’m your fan. Please accept my humble existence.”

Jerry pulled the chair out for her to seat down. “Dene, this is Eden. Eden, this is Dene.”

Eden was much older than Jerry. They couldn’t have been friends; Jerry wasn’t very comfortable with him either. Once she sat down and started to talk, Dene found Eden was not really bad company, at least better than Jerry.

Dinner was soon delivered to their table. Dene found it odd, like it had been pre-arranged.

“Staff know me well here, they know what I like”, Eden said.

“Figures”, Dene thought. “What a boring life, always eating the same thing.”

“You are a hard lady to catch.” Eden couldn’t take his eyes off her. She didn’t feel right but she thought that with lots of people around, what could go wrong?

Eden was certainly attentive; not overboard, but less would have suited her better.

“My name comes from the Bible, where Adam and Eve were walking around the Garden of Eden, naked, due to their innocence. The Garden of Eden is considered to be mythological by most scholars, did you know that?

God made Eve from a rib of Adam; that means Eve belongs to Adam.

Eden and Dene both have two Es, one D and one N. Move my name’s first E to the end of my name – it becomes your name. Coincidence? I think not! It was a sign that we are meant to be together.” 

Dene had faced fans on the street many times. Her self-protective instinct was to deny who she was, avoid eye contact and quickly move on. Now she spoke as little as possible, looking for the opportunity to leave them when the chance arose.

Dinner didn’t last very long. Dene thanked Eden and Jerry and expressed a wish to go home to study. Jerry said good night and left.

Eden offered to drop her off on his way home.

Dene didn’t want to spend more time with Eden. She wanted to walk home on her own.

“Don’t do that.” Eden grabbed her hand and held it tightly. “The night isn’t over yet; you and I have unfinished business!”

She knew she couldn’t fight him, he was physically strong.

“I know someone who was stalking you for many years. He knew where you lived, what you did every day, what you wore every day….”

“Why was he stalking me?”

“He’s a maniac. His brain is filled with an excessive and single-minded zeal; he uses his fanatical energy in devotion to you.”

“He doesn’t know me.”

“Oh he does. You would be surprised he knows you so well. He’s watched your movie many times, memorised all your movements. He knows how you tilt your head, how you smile, how you blink your eyes, how you run, how you walk.”

Dene realised she was in deep trouble. She had only acted in one movie and it hadn’t been a big part. As a matter of the fact, she hadn’t even enjoyed the role and had no intention of being in another movie – there were better things to do in life.

“He’s had a crush on you ever since he saw you in the swimsuit. I have to admit, you were stunning; your legs absolutely out of this world.”

“That’s very nice of you, but really Eden, they were camera and editing tricks.”

“Show me your legs.” Eden’s manner quickly changed to arrogance.

“Definitely not”, Dene answered assertively.

Eden was taken back a bit, he didn’t expect the gentle Dene would talk back to him so abruptly. “No one ever dared to say no to me, not even my sister-in-law. I want you, that’s all there is to it. You are not going home till I am done with you. I have waited for this moment for a long time. If you want the easy way, be cooperative; otherwise, you are the one to suffer, not me!”

He grabbed her wrist so tightly, she thought he would break it.

“Help me, please help me”, she shouted out loud.

Suddenly the crowd moved away. No one wanted to interfere. No one cared if there was someone in trouble, even when they could clearly see that a man was holding a young woman without her consent.

Some may have turned a blind eye to a man physically abusing a woman, rationalising that he may have been disciplining her and no one should interfere with other people’s domestic affairs.

Some may have reacted a bit too slowly, as if they were watching a drama on television, without any emotion, with Eden and Dene the actors and they the audience, waiting to find out what the ending may be. They watched Eden put his hand up to call a taxi, then push her roughly into the vehicle, listened to her powerlessly pleading; not one of them willing to help the helpless young lady. 

Once in the taxi, Dene knew that was her last chance to ask for help. She pleaded with the taxi driver to help her. She said her family would reward him with plenty of money.

The middle-aged driver showed some sympathy. 

Eden didn’t want any interference. He shouted at the taxi driver, “Do your job; this is not your concern. If you help her, your children will have no father. If you go to the police, I promise you that you and your family won’t be here to see next summer.”

The taxi driver turned to Dene with fear. “Sorry lady, forgive me.”

All her hopes gone, Dene finally broke down and cried.

When the taxi stopped, the driver didn’t even collect the fare, disappearing quickly into the darkness.

Eden dragged Dene to an old, dark, accommodation building and knocked on the foyer door. An equally tired-looking middle-aged woman let them in without saying a word. Dene saw the chance and tried her luck on her:

“Please help me, call the police, please!”

The woman didn’t even move her eyes, like she was there all on her own. She emotionlessly placed a key on the desk.

Eden dragged the screaming Dene up the steps. The room was very small with no window, just a double bed with a tiny bathroom, nothing else.

By now, Dene knew that she was going to be raped. No one was there to save her. If she didn’t come up with any ideas, she would be sorry for the rest of her life.

At first, her instinct was to physically attack her assailant but he pulled her arms apart as if the action was a mere irritation. In the process, her clothes were torn, her arms bruised.

He took his jacket off.

“Don’t touch me”, Dene shouted. “I’ll kill myself if you touch me.”

He sarcastically laughed, “Using what?”

“I’ll hit my head on the wall and bite my tongue at the same time. With my dead body, you’ll be sentenced to death. Do you think it’s worth it?”

“I have been waiting for this moment for a long time, Dene. Face it, you were meant to be mine, why fight it? You might enjoy it. Look, I don’t believe there’s any man you have slept with who would have the same enthusiasm and intense, uncritical devotion for you like me. I don’t just have a simple crush on you; you are my idol – my one and only idol. Your image has been tormenting me during the day, haunting me in my dreams at night. Every morning when I open the newspaper, you stare at me and tease me with your smile. Half the page is always occupied by you; I cannot escape your image. In the evening when I turn on the television, you are staring at me and teasing me again. I just can’t get you out of my mind.”

She thought it better to be nice to him, make him realise she’s another human being like him, not an insignificant face in the advertisement. She wiped the tears away from her face, controlled her voice to a much lower volume, as if she was speaking to a friend, not shouting or angry as with an enemy.

“I have never slept with any man.”

“All models, actresses, singers, dancers are sluts; they sleep with every man and any man.”

“I’m not an actress or a model. I did a few jobs to earn some money and pay my expenses. I never even saw myself on television; my life is working and studying.”

“Really? You are so famous.”

“You might think so, to me I’m no more than a worker and a student.”

“You never???”

“I’m still a virgin. I believe in being married first. If you insist, you have to marry me first.”

“You wouldn’t want to marry me, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t but if I have no choice other than to kill myself, I would.”

Eden couldn’t handle the thoughts. He walked into the bathroom.

Dene saw the opportunity, she quickly and quietly sneaked out of the room. Once outside, she looked for places to hide and ran to the first. When the way was clear, she ran to the next. Each stop was a heart pounding experience as she needed to ensure that Eden was not following her. She was too afraid to simply run down the empty street. It would have been far too easy for him to spot her. The new day was breaking. No one was in the street, no vehicles, not even a cat or dog. After a few turns, she started to run for her life, her legs couldn’t carry her fast enough. She didn’t remember how long she ran, nor how far, all she remembered was the fear inside her powered her all the way home.

Her open-minded mother suggested that she find a way to make Eden apologise and pay for the cost of the damaged clothing.

She talked to Hector who had no idea how to handle such a situation but he did know someone who had dealt with underground people for years. The street-wise guy could advise what to do.

Colin came from a well-educated family. All were achievers in an academic way but not him. He had mixed with the wrong crowd when young and had never lifted himself out of the bad circle. When his family migrated to America, his criminal record kept him behind. Although he didn’t have a fixed income nor address, he had inherited the family brain.

He listened carefully to all the details, asked questions to fill in the gaps. Then he said:

“He might (or might not) have some underground connections. You certainly didn’t escape from him, he let you go, and that’s a big difference. He wanted you badly like those crazy fans, then he found out you are not like the rest of the models. You earnt his respect, he didn’t know how to end it, so he walked into the bathroom giving you the chance to leave. If he had wanted you, he could have come after you but he didn’t, did he?

Yes, I could arrange some people to find out who this Eden is, make him apologise to you, pay for what he has damaged, if that’s what you are after. My opinion is that he didn’t really hurt you, he didn’t rape you, not even physically assault you. You could treat this as a life lesson and put it behind you and move on. My dear, you are so lucky to have got through the ordeal with only the loss of a dress and a few small bruises.

Let’s talk about revenge. If you make him apologise and pay for the damage, you make a fool of him. He can take revenge too, you know. He doesn’t have to do a thing himself, just give your details to a group of rapists; they come to you together, there’s nothing you can do to get out of that situation.”

Dene had no idea life could be so nasty. She thanked Colin for his advice and in that instant decided to put everything behind her.

Hector volunteered to go to the night school and accompany Dene home by bus every night without fail.

The night school vice-principal Mr Lacy was informed of what happened by Dene. He kept an eye on her and the rest of the students for the remainder of the year until they graduated.

Life continued as it was. On the surface Dene went back to her usual routine. She refused to let a fanatical fan destroy her good image of living, although the kidnap experience left a bad imprint on her mind for a very long time.

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