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The Game


Paul Arnold

He had watched her for weeks. His mind felt strange to him now, but that’s all he could remember for sure.

You’ve watched her for weeks.

That’s all it told him anymore. He knew what she ate in the Common’s, he knew what classes she took, he even knew what perfume she wore. That day, she’d slowed down enough for him to have caught up with her, and he breathed in her scent as quietly as he could, but he savored it. She slowed, and he’d bumped her lightly.

She had excused herself with a small smile, a good smile, and had gone back into the flow of students. He had smelled her, and it made him shiver inside.

He sat in his room, smelling stale cigarettes and his own body. He didn’t want to watch tonight. He wanted to stay home, he wanted to feel normal again, and to be able to make decisions for himself again.

You’ve watched her for weeks.

“That doesn’t matter,” he whispered to the empty room. “I don’t have to watch anymore. She doesn’t need me to watch, and I hate what I see.”

Yes, there was that one time, but-

You’ve watched her for weeks.

“And I can stop now.”

But his mind laughed.

Birds sang. It was fall, and hundreds of birds seemed to dive and whirl in the air. They were coming South. South was warm and good; South was all they knew.

He would have understood.

He sat on the stone. It was cool outside today, cooler than in weeks, but it felt good. It even got cool here in the south, but not as badly as it had where he grew up. In it’s own way, that too was good. He never thought he would miss the cold until he left it behind.

His cold sandwich left crumbs on the ground, and birds greedily picked among them. He smiled. He was good looking, wore glasses, and girls always loved taking him home to meet their parents, or to their dorms to meet their friends. Sometimes there was sex, others not, and it was always good for him, because it never mattered anymore.

Here she came. She walked with her head down, holding books in front of her chest, and wearing a backpack, which he recognized. He smiled, and it was still a good smile. But his eyes were blank.

The birds would have understood.

She walked by him, and his nostrils flared. The wind carried her secret scent back to him. It spoke of nights with dresses and back seats; of nights full of raised voices and love. She paid him no mind, he was far away enough, and nondescript enough to go unnoticed when he wished. It was only when one looked at his eyes did one mark him, did one think to themselves “What a nice boy.”

Things always seemed to work out for him. That wasn’t so bad, given the alternative, really. He just wondered why he was always given the good things, why he never had to work for good will.

But those thoughts carried him deeper, to the place where he padlocked and cemented over the past. And it would not do to let such thoughts out here. Those thoughts led to blood on pavement, to teeth lying in the gutter, and he knew better. Instead, he thought about the future.

It was good.

He watched the girl again tonight. He couldn’t let it go, and his mind wouldn’t keep quiet about it, and after he yelled and yelled, he went down and opened the padlock. He chipped away the cracking cement. The past never let him alone. So he sat. He thought. He remembered.

Then he was here. He was watching again.

He watched as she pulled off her shirt, and lay it on her bed. He watched as she walked around her room, tidying up for the next day. Tomorrow was Saturday, and the man would be there. He hated the man. He knew he could kill the man, but he was afraid.

His fingernails bit into his palms, and he breathed regular again. He turned his eyes back to the window. Back to the girl.

She had removed her bra, and was walking around with her breasts exposed. His jaw clenched, but he bit back the curse that wanted to throw itself into the cool air. He knew her, how she liked to be without a shirt. How she loved to show her breasts to the one who she knew would love her. She loved.

He watched.

You’ve watched for weeks.

“Yes. I have.”

Is that all you want to do?


Is that all you think she wants you to do?

“I…I don’t know.”

Shouldn’t you find out? Mightn’t you ask, and find out?

Of course! He could just ask her! It was that simple! He could walk in, and just ask her! Ask her if she wanted his hands on her breasts, his mouth on hers, he could just ask!

He walked around the back of the house, and quietly took out his keys. He had a copy of her own. He had…

You found it…

…and had made his own copy. It was a quick matter, and it was returned before she knew. Otherwise, she would have changed it.

He opened the door, and held his breath. It was warm inside, and he feared she would feel the cold air. But the lights were off, and he closed the door. It made a sound, but it was small. He sighed, and put the keys back in his pocket.

He walked carefully through the den, then through the dining room, walking slowly and meaningfully. If her door was locked…

Then you’ll break it down!

Then he would think of something else. It was no matter, really. He would ask her, she would tell him, and it would be good.

He was at her door. He hadn’t dared try the knob yet, he was happy to just hold his head against the wood. She wasn’t asleep yet. That was good, she wouldn’t be as alarmed.

The knob was cold steel in his hand. It turned.

He smiled.

The door knocked against the back wall, and she was on her bed, her arms stretched out, looking at him.

Smiling at him.

The sheet was below her heavy breasts, and her beautiful pink nipples were full.

She smiled again.

“You’re here,” he said dumbly.

She nodded, and her hands went under the sheets. “So are you.”

The light was low, and his mouth was far too dry. He worked his tongue in his mouth, trying to get back his moisture, but her breasts held his eyes.

“I’ve been waiting for you. I knew you would come, and I knew that you would wait. I knew you would be cautious.”

It was his turn to nod his head.

“And I also knew that you watched me. I liked it.”

Her hands worked under the sheets. One came up, the other didn’t. The One beckoned him.

She was good.

He moved to her, and saw something move to his left. He swung around, and saw The Man there.

“You!” he said.

“You!” The Man said.

He charged The Man, and The Man charged back. He hit the man as hard as he could, and The Man shattered. He fell and stared stupidly at the shards beneath him.