The end of the work day had always been hard for me. Between the stresses of protesters and my boss breathing down my neck to smile at every person that walked in to the clinic my head seemed to throb with no forgiveness. I couldn't help but question if that niggle was actually my mother turning in her grave. You didn't grow up a good Catholic girl and end up working in an abortion clinic without feeling at least a smidgen of guilt. The only plus was both my parents were gone and didn't have to bear the shame back home of explaining what I did to make a living.
Tired eyes, I fumbled getting my keys out of my purse slightly cursing under my breath. The horrifying sound of metal on metal made me jump as I turned toward the empty lot to see nothing in particular. Normally we walked out in pairs with the current political climate and everyone and their brothers hating us for providing a health service but the argument that coat hanger abortions should not be a standard was never a sufficient argument for the Neanderthals that stood watch over the clinic like some sort of moral knight in shining armor. I couldn't help but find their hatred for me funny given they knew nothing about my actual job - I simply had to be the product of Satan and surely I was going to hell. That might be so, but I had bills to pay and right now the devil was paying them.
As my eyes adjusted to the street lamps I scanned the lot all the way out to the street but saw nothing. Foolishly, laughter trickled from my mouth as I stepped forward to speak to the nothingness around me.
"Hello? Is there anyone there?"
Outside of the echo there was no other sound. In fact, the lack of any other sound sent a chill right through me as I turned on my heel and headed back to my Taurus with my keys now firmly in hand. Normally there were plenty of night sounds - cars driving, horns honking, sirens blaring - but tonight there seemed to be a shroud covering the lot that was too creepy to ingest. Once in the car I found myself laughing again.
"Way to go June Bug, you really know how to get yourself worked up."
The steady purr of the engine and the soft lights of the dashboard reassured my tired mind that it was all in my head. Time to go home. The drive always felt like a trek since you have to head out of the city limits and in to the desert to get to my little one bedroom trailer in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't much but it was all mine. I had purchased both the property and the trailer with the money my folks left me when they passed and even though it wasn't anything close to as lavish as what I grew up with I was happy with my surroundings. Friends were hard to come by and really people in general were disgraceful so I could count on one hand how many people I actually called friend and still have five fingers left over. Living in isolation was not really the best choice for a young woman but Palm Springs wasn't a hell raising kind of town and outside of the current political situation there had never really been issues.
The desert air was satisfying and as I drove toward my lonely property I started to hear the sounds of the night again. Crickets, wild animals, and dogs barking all created a rhythm of familiarity that brought comfort to my soul. No other cars were around which was typical of my drive given how far off the beaten path I lived but it didn't stop me from being a mindful driver and periodically checking my mirrors. Suddenly my heart leapt from my chest as a gasp escaped me; my voice was shrill and nearly piercing.
In the rear view mirror I could see the shadowy frame of what could only be a man sitting in my car. Instinctively my foot went to the brakes and before the car even came to a complete stop my seat belt was off and my hand was on the handle. I knew my cell phone was in my pocket because I could feel the weight resting against my thigh. The plan was to dart as far away as possible and pray to the God I no longer served there would be a signal to call the police. Before that plan could come to fruition his hand was on my shoulder. It was cold to the touch and as he leaned in to the light I dared not look at him but there was a pull to do just that.
His eyes were like two black orbs and even though his features were handsome he was too foreboding to be considered anything but dangerous. When he cleared his throat I tensed even more if that were humanly possible. A smile peeled back his lips and again the thought that he was attractive stabbed my brain - Ted Bundy had been considered attractive as well and he was a fucking serial killer.
"Are you going to hurt me?"
I couldn't force my voice to anything more than a whisper but I could see they only made his smile grow larger.
"Hurt you? Oh no, Juniper dear. I am not going to hurt you at all. In fact, the exact opposite; I am here to elevate you to a whole new level. You are the chosen one."
He knew my name, like my real first name. Heart racing I tried very hard to not show the panic on my face though I knew it was difficult to hide my expressions. Everyone called me June or June Bug but no one ever called me Juniper. Not since my parents died. How did this stranger in the back seat of my car know that and what the hell was I being chosen for?
The words were thick as black-strap molasses which only made it more frightening because that thought matched the stranger's dark, piercing eyes.
"Indeed. It saddens me that you do not remember me but then again you were very young the last time we spoke. The night you were promised to me. I am just coming back for what is mine and I must say I am pleased to find you living the way you are. You saved yourself just as I asked you to all those years ago."