I’ve got to run to work here in a second, but while I was ransacking the house looking for my INDY tax forms, I found one of my old flash drives. I was really stoked to find it because since I’ve been home my computer crashed & I lost all of my stories from my last semester. Thankfully, this flash drive had some of them on it!
December 9, 2007
Derek has kind eyes. I watch him shift on the sofa and hold the soup bowl close to his chest. His big brown puppy dog eyes contradict everything I know about him. He’s so gentle; he really is. His long lanky right leg is crossed over and resting on his other lanky leg’s knee. He is staring at the television with such intensity that I almost think for a moment that he could burn a hole in the screen. My heart aches for him, but it shouldn’t.
“You done?” Derek stands up and brushes some cracker dust from his jeans while holding the soup bowl with the other hand.
“Yeah, thanks.” I pass him my bowl and tuck my short skinny legs underneath myself. “I can do that if you want. I don’t mind.”
Derek had walked over to the sink and started to rinse the bowls free of their noodle contents. “I got it. You sit there. I need for you to stay where I can see you.”
I guess I should tell you that I’m here against my will. Derek is my hostage-taker. The man with the kind brown eyes who just fed me warm chicken noodle soup is holding me here against my will, and yet, I’m the one who feels sorry for him. I want to go home, don’t get me wrong, but part of me thinks he’s not doing this to hurt me. He just needs someone. That someone just happens to be me, I guess.
It had been a Friday night, four nights ago to be precise. My roommate, Shannon, set me up with a blind date with (yup) Derek. Derek just moved to Charleston and started working at her office about a month ago. They had made small talk in the mailroom a few times and she decided that we could be good for each other. I’m new to the area too. I moved down here about two months ago, after I lost my first big girl job after college.
“Caity, we’re eliminating your department. We’re so sorry.” Sure they were. Shannon and Aaron, her husband, insisted that I come stay with them saving me from an indefinite veg on my parents’ couch, which I’m certain would have spun me into a perpetual state of the in-between.
I had shown up for the date first with the expected butterflies in my stomach that come with all first dates. The butterflies, however, were especially huge this time. I had never been on a blind date before. I had only heard horror stories about them, but I was lonely, and I trusted Shannon. The hostess led me to a table, and I ordered a cosmopolitan to calm my nerves. About twenty minutes and a cosmopolitan later, Derek showed up. He was gorgeous! His dark hair was cut short, and his French blue button down was neatly tucked into his dark slacks. I was certainly impressed, and I had sent Shannon a “thank you” good thought. My butterflies had flown away.
“I have to run into town. You know what that means,” Derek said. Yes, yes, I do know what that means. I stand from the couch and walk into the bathroom. “You know I don’t want to do this, but I can’t trust you yet.” Derek hands me a magazine, shuts, and locks the door from the outside. He only keeps me locked away when he’s not home and at night, so it’s really not so bad. I get to watch TV with him, he feeds me, and he lets me shower. He even has a selection of sweat suits, three to be exact, that I can change into each day. He’s not all bad.
The date got off to a good start with great conversation and even a few laughs. Derek was really charming, and he kept flashing his sparkling teeth at me. Everything was great until…
“So what brings you to Charleston?” I asked.
“Well, I moved here from Savannah, Georgia about a month ago. I’m originally from Indianapolis. My father, two brothers, my sister, and I all moved to Georgia after a drunk driver killed my mom on my sixteenth birthday. I went to school at UGA and worked as a bartender up until my move here. I guess this is my first real job.”
“Oh my, I’m so sorry about your mom.” I had shifted awkwardly in my seat and gave him my kindest, saddest eyes that I could muster up.
“It’s okay. It was a long time ago. Sure, I miss her sometimes, but I’m a big boy. I can handle it.” Derek had flashed me a sad smile. I saw something flare up behind his big, sad, brown eyes. My stomach had twisted into knots after his lack of hesitation to share such an intimate detail on a first date, and things grew awkward for a few moments, but we got past it after a few timid statements and a couple nervous laughs.
I can hear the TV from in the living room. He usually leaves the TV on when he leaves. I think he feels bad deep inside for locking me alone in the bathroom. The news channel is on, and I hear my name.
“Caity Thompson is a twenty-four year old Caucasian female who went missing on Friday, September 14th. She was reported missing on Saturday evening by her roommates, Shannon and Aaron Anderson, when she never returned from a blind date. Her last known location was her residence at 6:45 PM before she left for her date. Caity was supposed to meet a man at Vickory’s located on the corner of Beaufain Street and Coming Street. If you have any information on Caity, please contact Crime Stoppers at 843-554-1111 or America’s Most Wanted Tip line at 1-800-CRIME-TV.”
They are looking for me. I knew they would be. It shouldn’t be long before they trace down Derek’s apartment, and I’ll be out of here. Surely they have Derek’s address, phone number, and all of his other personal information at his office. Oh, they are going to find me! I’ll be okay then. I’ll just keep being kind and obedient, and soon the police will come busting through his front door and rescue me.
Oh, but what’s going to happen to Derek? He hasn’t hurt me. He just wants my company. He’s lonely and sad. They won’t understand.
We had left the restaurant with full stomachs. It was actually my idea to head over to Light. It was a new bar a few blocks away that was on top of one of the stores downtown. That’s one thing I love about Charleston. The concept of things on top of other things wasn’t one that I had much experience with. If something was a store, it was a store. If something was a bar, it was a bar. There weren’t many (if any) buildings like this in Raleigh. I felt so cool suggesting it too, knowing he hadn’t ever been there (or at least I assumed that he hadn’t). We left our cars where they were. Mine was on King Street, it was the only place I could find a spot, so I walked the three blocks to Vickery’s. His car was right in front of the restaurant, but it was a beautiful night, so we decided to just walk.
“How far is this place, huh?” Derek had a bounce to his step, and he placed his around my shoulders.
“About four blocks. It’s not bad, I promise.” I felt safe and comfortable underneath his heavy arm. For once I was part of one of those couples I had watched with envy almost every night since I’d been here.
Light was packed. The bar was full, and the dance floor was the host of several drunken girls grinding on their claimed men. I set about a search for an open booth while Derek retrieved us drinks from the bar. I was happy. Things were going perfectly.
“I brought you some ice cream. I hope chocolate is okay,” Derek says while he unlocks and opens the door to the bathroom, freeing me.
“Chocolate’s perfect, thanks.” I follow him into the kitchen where he has several grocery bags littering the counter tops. “I can help you put the groceries away if you want.” I start to reach into a bag.
“No, no. It’s okay. I bought you a movie. You said on our date that Casa Blanca was your favorite, right?”
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that.” I look into his deep eyes and see sadness. I remembered the news broadcast and almost feel sad myself. Soon I will be leaving him, and soon he will be alone again. Soon he’ll be in a lot of trouble. I hope they understand.
“I know, but I wanted to. Why don’t you go get comfortable on the couch? I’ll put the movie in and bring you your ice cream.”
God, are you kidding with this guy? He’d be perfect minus the whole hostage situation. My heart is so sad for him.
I sipped my cosmopolitan. “So, you came from a pretty big family, huh? It’s just me and my sister, Kelly.”
“Yeah. My mom and dad always wanted a lot of kids. But family isn’t exactly a good first date conversation topic. I’ve already bummed the date enough with my mom’s story.”
“No, I don’t mind, really.” The alcohol swooshed in my brain. I could have listened to him explain the dewy decimal system at this point, I really didn’t care what he was saying; his voice was incredible.
“Well, I’ve just had a rough family life, that’s all.”
“Well, what happened?” I knew I was prying, but I had lost all sense of judgment at this point. I guess that’s what the mix of cosmopolitans and a couple bottles of wine will do to you.
“Well, I already told you about my mom, and that’s why we moved to Georgia, but my sister passed away shortly after my mother’s death.”
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry! That’s terrible.” Between my impaired judgment and my attempt to be heard over the music, I was yelling. “What happened?” I probably should have known better than to ask.
“Well I guess she didn’t ‘pass away’ because she killed herself. I came home from going out with some friends my senior year and found her in the foyer. She hung herself.”
“Oh my God. That must have been awful for you. I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. I don’t even know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. At this point, I’m used to it, which is sad, but it’s true. Enough about this though, I’m bumming you out—not really what I want to do on a first date.”
“Yeah, you’re right, that’s more of a second date kind of thing, huh?” I attempted to make a joke and lighten the mood. Derek twirled the little bit of beer that was left in his mug, and then he gulped it down.
“Do you want to dance?” He caught me off guard with this. Something about him just didn’t give me the “I’m the dancing type” kind of vibe. I looked at him coyly and smirked.
“Of course, I would love to dance.” Derek took my hand and helped me up from the booth. The alcohol surged through my body. I felt incredible. Derek lead me to the dance floor and pulled me close and started swaying. He put his lips close to my neck. I could feel his breath sweep across my skin.
“Can I keep you?” He whispered.
The credits of the movie are scrolling across the screen, and my favorite song from the movie is seeping from the speakers. My empty ice cream bowl is sitting on the coffee table. Derek is in the other room and comes walking in.
“Movie over?” Derek went to reach for the power button on the television.
“Can you wait? I really like this song.” My stomach tightens knowing I probably shouldn’t have said anything.
“Oh, yeah. I’m sorry.” His response catches me off guard. Why does he have me here? He isn’t treating me badly. In fact, he’s treating me wonderfully. Derek takes my bowl from the coffee table and places it into the dishwasher.
“Do you want steak or chicken for dinner?” Derek calls to me from inside the kitchen.
“Oh, uhm. Either is fine.” Suddenly I have the feeling of comfort wash over me. I am comfortable here. I am happy here. I really shouldn’t be. I should want to go home. I am someone’s hostage. I am Derek’s hostage. He is holding me here against my will. I should hate him, but I can’t. He just needs someone. I can be that someone, I guess.
The song ended and we made our way back to our booth. Derek excused himself to use the restroom. I checked my cell phone, but it was dead. When Derek came back to the table, he was carrying another beer for himself and another cosmopolitan for me. For a moment I pondered whether or not I should have another. The moment passed and I decided it couldn’t hurt.
The alcohol blurred my vision and altered my hearing. I could have sworn Derek just asked if I needed him to take me home or if I wanted to stay at his place.
“What’d you say?”
“I asked if you needed me to take you home.”
“Oh, well, are you ready to go? I thought we were having fun.”
“We are. You just seemed tired is all.”
I could see that. I excused myself to use the restroom. When I got in there, the girl I could barely see in the mirror looked nothing like myself. I wobbled and steadied myself by grabbing the counter top. I tried to freshen up by tucking my long blonde hair behind my ears and wiping the mascara from under my green eyes. The purple metallic top I was wearing accented my breast perfectly. Things were going great, and I was pretty sure Derek really liked me.
When I got back to the table, Derek was nursing his beer.
“You okay?” He asked with concerned eyes.
“Yup, perfect. Can we stay for just one more drink, though? I’m just not ready for the night to end. I’m having a really great time.”
“Sure, I’m surprised. This date is going much better than I anticipated. I’d never been on a bind date before.” Derek was standing to go back to the bar.
“Neither had I.”
Dinner was really good. He cooked chicken with a cream sauce and rice. We are sitting on the couch watching Seinfeld after we cleared the table and washed the dishes. It is getting late.
“Are you okay, Caity?”
“What do you mean?” I shift my weight on the couch and turn to look at him.
“Are you happy here?” His question makes me think. Am I happy here? Well, no. I’m not happy here. I’m being held here against my will by a guy I thought I could really like.
“Well, you’re being very nice, if that’s what you mean.”
“That’s not what I mean. I mean, are you willing to stay here?” Why is he asking me this? No, of course I’m not willing to stay here. I’m not willing to stay with a man who won’t let me go home. Does he not see that this is wrong?
“I don’t know. I would like to go home. I miss my bed and my roommates. I miss seeing the outside world.”
“I understand, but I can’t let you go yet. I still want you here.” I think about the news broadcast again. Why haven’t the cops shown up yet? Why isn’t there someone beating down Derek’s door and breaking me free?
“It’s time for bed. You know what that means,” Derek said. Again, yes, I know what that means. Derek grabs a few pillows from the linen closet and two blankets. I follow him into the bathroom. I lay one blanket down on top of the tile and place the other on top of it. I toss the pillows onto the floor and turn to face him.
“Good night?” I look into his eyes, and I can see his heart. It’s breaking.
“Good night, Caity. All the women in my life always leave me; please don’t leave.” Derek leans in and brushes his soft lips against mine. For some reason, tingles flow through my veins. They are quickly replaced with rage. How can he think that I would just stay here? I want to go home. At least I think I want to go home. The police will find me soon and I wont have to make that choice. They’ll set me free. But they’ll take Derek. They won’t understand.
My head was full of fuzz. I could barely see in front of me, and I felt a bit nauseous. I had definitely had too much to drink. I hate when I do that to myself. Derek was staring at me. I looked up.
“What?” I brushed my hair from my face.
“Oh hush, no I’m not.” I shifted in my seat and looked down.
“No, really. You’re beautiful.” I felt my stomach twist and my cheeks burn.
“You’re drunk!” I slurred my words and giggled.
“Actually, you are.” Derek smiled and reached across the table. “You wanna go home?”
“Yup. I’m ready. Let’s go!” I stood up really fast, and I fell to the ground. My world went black.
I lie down in my makeshift bed. I stare at the popcorn ceiling and try to remember what it felt like to not be here. It has only been four days, but it feels like weeks. Shannon and Aaron must have called my parents. I wonder if everyone is worried. They must be. I’ve been gone for a while. I think about my sister. She is in her freshmen year at Elon. I wonder if she’s at home now. Have my parents told her? They must have, it’s all over the news. She probably cries at night thinking I’m dead. I wonder if they all think I’m dead. Oh, I hope they don’t think I’m dead. I’m alive. I’m fine. It’s really not as bad as they must think. Shannon must be beating herself up. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her; I’m sure that’s what she’s thinking. I wonder if she sits in my room and cries. I wonder if she smells my pillows and sobs thinking she’ll never see me again. I’m here. I’m fine. I’m alive.
When I woke up, I was in a bathroom. My eyes felt swollen and I immediately felt nauseous. I pulled myself up to the toilet and threw up. I stood up and rinsed my mouth at the sink. I looked into the mirror and saw my rough reflection staring back at me. Oof. Last night must have been rough if I spent the night in the bathroom, I thought. I wondered if I threw up all night. That’s when I saw the note on the counter.
You’re at my apartment. If you’ve tried the door, you’ve seen that it’s locked from the outside. Please don’t be scared. I’m not going to hurt you. I just can’t let you go home yet. I want to keep you.
“What the fuck!” I said it quietly to myself first, and then I screamed it, “What the fuck! Let me out of here!” Derek came to the door, and I could hear him unlatch it from the outside. I lunged at him and started swatting.
“Let me go! Let me leave you asshole!” Derek caught my arms in the air with his strong hands. His grip was hard, and it hurt.
“Clam down, Cate, clam down.” Derek pushed my arms down against my sides.
“I will not calm down! Let me go!” I tried to wiggle my wrist free from his grasp. I failed.
“Why don’t you come sit over here and have some water? I have some Tylenol too if you have a headache.”
“What? You want me to drink water and take some Tylenol? What part of I want to go home don’t you understand? Let me leave!”
“I can’t do that. I promise, you’ll feel much better once you eat some breakfast and take some Tylenol. I have some biscuits in the oven. They’ll be ready in a few minutes. Why don’t you take the medicine and a shower? I have some sweats laid out on my bed if you want to be more comfortable. There’s shampoo and soap already in the shower. When you’re done, we’ll talk.”
I could use a shower, I thought. I ripped my hands from his grasp, glared at him, and walked away. I took the sweats from his bed and walked back into the bathroom.
After my shower, I ran my hands through my hair and pulled on his oversized sweat suit.
“Hey, feel better?” Derek was standing at the kitchen table when I walked out of the bathroom. He had set two plates, two cups, and two sets of silverware on the table. What was this guy doing? Does he not realize he’s holding me hostage? What the fuck.
“Yeah, I guess. We need to talk though. You have to let me leave.”
“I know you’re scared, Caity, but you have to understand that I can’t let you leave right now. I need you here. Maybe you’ll understand over time.”
“Over time? How long do you expect me to stay here? People are going to be looking for me. What you’re doing is wrong.”
“I see that. I just can’t be alone right now. I need you here. Please, we had a good time last night. I’m not crazy, Caity. I’m not going to hurt you. You have to trust me.”
“I can’t trust you, Derek, you’re holding me hostage!” Suddenly I felt bad for him. I could see the hurt in his eyes, and I backed off. I took my seat at the kitchen table and ate the biscuits and eggs he’d cooked. I didn’t say another word. People would look for me and I would get found. I won’t let him kill me. I’ll be fine. I have to be.
I wake up, rinse my face with hot water, and knock on the bathroom door. I wait. Derek comes to the door, unlocks it, and greets me happily.
“Good morning! Did you sleep okay? I’m sorry you still have to sleep on the floor. When I can trust you enough, you can have the guest bedroom.”
“Good morning, Derek.” I feel more confident than normal today. I know, I just know, the police will find me today. I’m not even scared anymore. Part of me is just sad. I’ve kind of enjoyed my time here, as crazy as that sounds. It’ll be a good story to tell one day, I guess. And Derek really isn’t all that bad. I kind of like him, as weird as that sounds.
We eat breakfast, I help him with the dishes, and I go to sit on the couch.
“Wait, don’t get too comfortable, Cate, I actually have to leave for a little bit.” I think for a moment about how it is that he is able to walk the streets of Charleston and no one recognizes him. Wouldn’t they have put his picture on the news by now? He is the last person I was supposed to be with.
“Oh, okay.’ I stand from the couch and head towards the bathroom. Hopefully he’ll leave the news on. Maybe they’ll have a live feed when they go to search his apartment! Oh, how exciting! My rescue will be all over the TV. Derek follows me to the bathroom.
“I bought you this yesterday.” Derek hands me the newest Nicholas Sparks book. “I hope you haven’t read it already” I hadn’t. In fact, it only came out a few days before our date. He really must have listened to me on our date. He was getting it all right. “I’ll be home in a few hours. You’ll be okay?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Derek leaves the bathroom, shuts, and locks the door from the outside. I press my ear to the door and hope that he doesn’t turn the TV off. I hear his footsteps move towards the front door. Yes! He left it on. Oh thank you Jesus, he left it on.
I wait. The news anchor is talking about the mad cow epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Who cares about mad cow? I need her to hurry up and get to my story! Surely, they will be coming to find me today. Surely they have found out all of his information by now.
“Caity Thompson is a twenty-four year old Caucasian female who went missing on Friday, September 14th. She was reported missing on Saturday evening by her roommates, Shannon and Aaron Anderson, when she never returned from a blind date. There is a suspect, Derek Washington. Police go to search his apartment. Emily Street has more on the story, Emily?”
“Yes, Sally, I am standing here outside of Derek Washington’s apartment complex. As you can see, there are several police cars in the parking lot. Neighbors are concerned. It was only yesterday afternoon when the police went to search Mr. Washington’s apartment and found it empty…”
What? Empty? What do they mean his apartment is empty? I’m in his apartment! I’m here! There’s furniture, and pictures on the walls, and stains on the carpet. What do they mean it’s empty? No one came here yesterday. What do they mean? Suddenly it all came flooding back.
“I’m supposed to be subleasing my apartment in Georgia, but I wasn’t able to find anyone to take over the lease, so I haven’t even moved everything out yet. I figure for right now I can use it as a vacation spot until someone takes over the lease or it just runs out…”
Holy shit, I’m in Georgia.