Work should’ve been something I loathed. In fact, after the first few weeks, it was. That is, until someone new moved into town. He worked alongside me, and even if it was just some greasy spoon fast food joint, with him at my side, work was more enjoyable. As one of the few women who worked there, most of the young men (with the exclusion of that handful of fruity types) with eight-hour shifts would often try to make small talk with me. Though I was flattered by the efforts, I can’t say I was truly impressed with any of them by a long shot. At the age of 20, I wasn’t really too thrilled with the idea of flirting with acne-ridden teenagers or anyone who happened to have a house arrest bracelet on. I spent a lot of my time simply smiling and pretending to be oblivious, just hoping they’d leave me alone.
However, when the new guy, Scott, started working at that lame little burger joint, he made things just that much easier. Although he was nice to look at, I didn’t try to make any advances. I worked as his trainer, and as we spoke, I came to realize he was quite charming and had a great sense of humor. I found it ironic, as he told me his father worked at a morgue. His father moved because lately, a few mysterious disappearances had occurred in the area and that made him uneasy. He had moved with his father since he could never quite scrape up enough money to pay rent for his own place, and I could understand that, not to mention, his father needed some help with the bills. I was in the same situation not too long ago. Not long after we started to work together, we would talk after breaks and sometimes just hang around together after work, both of us just getting fountain drinks and free employee meals.
Everything was going great for a while for me. Scott made work easier to put up with. But of course, just like every other time things seem to be going well, bad luck brought me down. A torrential downpour began, and living where I did, flash floods weren’t too unheard of. And just my luck… I lived on the bottom floor, and I had to collect my things before it could get any worse. I loaded them into my car and drove to work. I didn’t sleep worth crap, mostly because I was sleeping in the front seat of my sedan. Of course, when my coworkers saw how I looked when I came to work that day, the only ones to put the moves on me seemed to have their judgment impaired by some sort of substance, be it alcohol or something far more illegal.
Scott asked me what was wrong with utmost sincerity. I explained that I was sleeping in my car because my apartment would be flooding. I should’ve known where this was going already. He suggested to me that I go over to his place and meet his dad and we could simply explain that the lower floor of the Elmridge apartment complex had flooded and I needed a place to go. After work, we both did just that.
Arriving at his house, only one light was on. He explained to me that when his dad wasn’t at work, he usually had his nose buried in a book or he was doing something in the basement. He told me that everything would be just fine if I abided by one simple rule: Stay out of the basement. It struck me as odd, and before I could bother to ask, Scott spoke up. “Honestly, Crystal, he even tells ME not to go to the basement, so even if I wanted to tell you why not to go down there, I have no idea what he’s doing.”
I trusted him to be honest with me, so I just agreed to avoid the basement, despite the curiosity that kept nagging at me. Now that I look back on it, if I ever would’ve known what was going on down there, I would’ve just stayed with my friend Jessica, even if her house did reek of dog urine from all eight of her mutts.
Scott’s dad was something else. Putting it nicely, he was quite the character. He knew his son would be coming home about this time. The door was answered by a rather spindly looking man. He was pale, but judging by his choice of work, that didn’t surprise me at all. His hair was lighter than Scott’s, a dishwater blonde with a few grays that he didn’t bother to hide, and he had the same blue eyes. Circles rested under those eyes, as if he had suffered many a sleepless night. Well, he had been a single father for quite a while. The stress of raising a son alone and the lack of a wife to rest beside might be a just cause for a tired appearance.
“Hey, Dad,” Scott greeted his father warmly. “I brought someone along, I hope you don’t mind.”
“A girl?” his father rhetorically questioned just before I stepped in.
“Yeah, this is Crystal.” I waved meekly. Meeting new people was never my strong point.
“Hm…” It felt like I was being scanned over like some sort of object. If Mr. Charles looked over every woman like this, no wonder his wife divorced him. I went ahead and started explaining.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Charles,” I extended my hand in offer of a handshake, but instead of shaking my hand, he just gave a nod. Scott and I went to speak at the same time and I only told him to continue instead.
“Crystal doesn’t have anywhere to stay right now, Dad. The bottom floor of the Elmridge complex has completely flooded, so I was wondering if she could stay here until she either has another place to go or that problem is resolved.” I almost could FEEL how hard Scott was trying to work the puppy-dog eyes on his father. It was awkwardly silent for a moment. I probably could’ve caused a racket by dropping a sewing needle. Then we got our reply.
“Fine,” Mr. Charles responded quietly. He then made direct eye contact and it made me feel pretty nervous, as he’d dodged it until that moment arose. “But listen to me, girl. Stay out of the basement. I don’t want anyone snooping around down there.”
That serious tone to his voice had me a little spooked. “Not a problem, Mr. Charles.”
For the first time, the man’s tired face lit up with a smile. He looked a lot more pleasant when he smiled, and now the resemblance between Scott and his father was much clearer.
“Um, I have a question,” I spoke cautiously, still not quite ready to be bold.
“Yes?” he answered.
“Victor. Please,” I suppose this was his best, if not awkward, attempt to seem friendly.
“Oh, um. Yes. Victor. Could you tell me where I can sleep? I’m pretty tired. Last night I was stuck sleeping in Hyundai.”
“You poor thing. Scott, could you show her the guest room? I had it prepared in case I could patch things up with your mother, but I’m afraid things aren’t going so well,” Victor sighed, seeming rather disappointed. I have to admit, at that time, I felt pretty sorry for him, “Oh, and Scott?”
“If you wanted to bring over your girlfriend to stay, you should’ve just told me. I was your age once, too, young man.” I felt a lecture coming on. As if the accusation of me being paired with his son wasn’t enough to embarrass me, the mention of condoms and whatnot just about had my jaw dropping to the floor. He lowered his voice as I stepped out to grab some things from my car, but I heard him anyhow.
“Scott, my boy, understand that I want you to be happy in life, and if one day you decide to take a bride… I don’t want your marriage to split like it did for me. You shouldn’t, nor will I let you, settle for anything less than perfection.”
“Alright, Dad. And it’s okay. Crystal is just my friend.”
When I brought my things back to the house, Victor’s face bore a rather smug grin. I always hated that sort of look. My father would get it, too sometimes. I think everyone is familiar with that kind of smirk. That “father knows best” kind of look is rather irritating, especially when you KNOW what you’re talking about but they refuse to believe you.
“Well, go ahead, Scott. Show her to her room,” his smirk was still present. I just kindly pretended not to notice. “She does remind me of your mother in a way. I think it’s her eyes. They’re hazel, right?”
“Yeah,” I responded, not giving it much of a second thought. Scott continued to lead as we headed up the stairs.
“Sorry, Crystal. He’s a little strange sometimes. He’s been divorced from Mom for twelve years, now. I have to admire him sometimes, though. He still says that she’s the only woman for him and he’s been trying to get her back. Apparently, she hasn’t remarried, either. I don’t really know, though. I haven’t spoken to her in a very long time.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I didn’t really know what else to say.
“Don’t be. I didn’t know her very well. The divorce happened when I was nine. I don’t really know why they separated, but I just don’t ask. I’ve brought it up a few times, but Dad usually just retreats to the basement in a bad mood when I do.”
Scott opened the door to a room that was rather empty, but nicely furnished. A queen sized bed neatly made with floral-print blankets waited invitingly. Most of the things in the room were lavender and white. A white, old-fashioned alarm clock sat on the nightstand. I knew when I needed to wake up; those bells would have no problem jostling me awake.
“Well, make yourself comfortable, Crystal. There should be some breakfast ready in the morning,” Scott paused awkwardly.
“Oh. And sleep well,” he added.
“You, too,” I managed to respond before he closed the door.
I changed into some of my more modest sleep clothes. I would’ve felt awkward putting on a revealing night gown in someone else’s house. There was absolutely nothing sexy about flannel pajama pants and an oversized black t-shirt with a few bleach spots on it. Anyhow, I didn’t want Scott’s dad to think I was some harlot that had come to steal his son’s purity or anything. It wasn’t like Scott wasn’t attractive; it’s just that I try not to set my thoughts on someone until I’m absolutely sure that the interest is mutual. That probably explains why I’ve only given about four people a chance, as I’m currently close to my mid-twenties.
I turned on the lamp on the nightstand and opened the drawers. I was pretty curious about what would be in them, mostly because I did want to know a little more about Scott’s mother. In the top drawer, I at least got a glimpse of what she looked like.
A much younger Victor was beaming widely, standing next to a woman in a wedding dress. She was nothing short of beautiful. Her hair was a dark brown, similar to her son’s. It fell down in waves that cascaded past her shoulders. Her eyes were a warm hazel, and as Victor had said, they did look awfully similar to mine. She was smiling as well. It did make me wonder what caused them to spilt, as they both seemed so happy in the picture. In that drawer, there was also a calendar. The photographs inside were of butterflies, so I simply made the assumption that she liked butterflies, but that wasn’t unusual. A couple of books were placed in there neatly, too. It seemed like she enjoyed medieval fantasy, although it was an unusual taste for an adult woman. I shut the drawer and turned off the lamp. I fell asleep wondering if she was hoping for her own happily ever after with Victor.
A rapping at the door woke me before the alarm clock could. When I first woke, I was in a confused state as I had forgotten where I was for a moment. Then I remembered that Scott and his father were kind enough to take me in until things settled down and I could either return to my apartment or find a new one.
“Hey, Crys, are you hungry?” Scott asked through the door. Those words made me shoot out of bed in an instant.
“You know it,” I said the moment I got out from under the blankets. I was used to having instant waffles from a toaster in the morning or microwaving a breakfast burrito, but something smelled wonderful. My hair was still a little messy, so when I opened the door, I could see a look on Scott’s face that only suggested he was holding back laughter. Embarrassed with my own eagerness for breakfast, I just paused.
“You know what? I’ll be down in a minute.”
Scott gave a light chuckle and nodded. “Yeah, it looks like your hair went to a wild party and left you behind.”
“Gee, thanks a lot,” I sarcastically responded, only returning to the room to dig a brush out of my bags. After smoothing out my hair and getting my work clothes on, I tied it off in a ponytail. It had become such a routine to me to do this every morning. Whenever I had a day off, it felt strange because I didn’t have anything to prepare for.
When I came downstairs, already dressed in my burger jockey gear, as I always called it, Scott was sitting at the table, as well as Victor. A couple of pancakes waited for me on a plate.
“Oh, thanks! It’s been a while since I’ve had a good breakfast,” I said, sitting down quietly.
“My son is quite the cook, Crystal. He’s been doing this sort of thing since he was about twelve or so,” Victor proudly spoke.
“You did this, Scott?” I asked, using my fork to split the pancakes into smaller pieces. He only nodded modestly. We all ate breakfast with some pleasant conversation about preferred seasons. A few comments were made about my impeccable manners, though in all honesty, I know my mother basically trained them into me with promises of dessert early in my childhood. I explained this and some laughter resulted. Afterwards, Scott and I brushed our teeth and I put on my makeup. I was momentarily teased for making silly faces while I applied my mascara. Since my car had been emptied out, I drove us to work. Scott randomly spoke.
“I miss her.”
“My mom. I know that Dad kept the picture of her in the drawer. The room you’re in is pretty much how she always wanted hers. She loves lavender, or at least that’s what Dad tells me,” Scott was staring out the passenger window.
“Yeah. I did notice the lavender. And the picture,” I answered.
“You know, sometimes I hope she’ll come back. At least then Dad wouldn’t be so… Well, obsessive.” When he mentioned that, I did realize how often Victor mentioned Yvonne. Scott’s favorite season was spring, like Yvonne. I liked rainy days, like Yvonne. Yvonne liked blueberry syrup on her pancakes. Yvonne liked her eggs best over medium. He did seem pretty obsessed, or maybe that’s just what missing someone so desperately can do to someone.
The rest of the drive to work was silent. The air felt a little tense. I think we both felt pretty sad for Victor.
Once we got to work, it was like any other day. A few of the guys asked Scott some awkward questions, thinking that something “interesting” was going on. It was clear to tell what they were insinuating. Scott blatantly told most of them that even if something did happen, it was “none of their damn business” and they should be focusing on working instead. The day went pretty well except for the invasive questions. I really was almost ready to slap the hell out of Alyssa for asking me so many stupid questions, but I managed to contain my temper. Apparently, my annoyance was ever-so-clear to Scott as I took an order at the window.
I grimaced with some rage, glad that the person at the drive-thru was talking into a speaker instead of seeing me face-to-face. “That’ll be nine dollars and forty six cents, please.” I approached that window to take the payment. I tried to withhold laughter, poorly masked as coughing, when one of our less competent employees had to deal with a drunken customer. Then, the time came for Scott and me to head back to his house.
“Did you see that?” Scott snickered. “Jason looked like he was going to PUKE. I bet he never smelled any alcohol that strong at church camp.” I laughed as well.
We both knew that Jason was one of those churchy types. He wasn’t mean to anyone, but he was incredibly naïve and a few cards short of a full deck. As we headed towards his house, the subject of the basement arose.
“What do you think he’s doing down there?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I wasn’t kidding when I said he doesn’t even tell me. Crystal, sometimes I wonder, too,” Even though it was getting dark, I could tell what look he had on his face. Just a glance at him under the street lamps illuminating the road suggested it to me. His blue eyes glimmered with mischief.
“Oh god, you don’t think we should…”
“Yeah. I think we should check it out for ourselves, Crys.”
I knew that was a bad idea.
“So he keeps the key to himself and whenever he’s down there, he locks the door so nobody can get in,” Scott continued.
“So what should we do?”
“You don’t have to do anything, really. I just don’t want to go down there alone,” Scott noted.
“Are you scared or something?” I teased.
“Nah. But what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t want to share whatever secret he was hiding. Don’t you want to know, too?”
“Well…” I could either say the smart thing or the honest thing at this point. Of course, I decided to be honest instead of smart this time, and I regret that decision.
“Hell, yeah, I want to know what’s down there!”
That elicited some laughter. “Yeah, I thought so.”
“I do have to wonder something, though. How are you going to get the key?”
That mischievous look resurfaced. “I don’t need a key.”
For the rest of the drive, Scott explained to me that he had some experience with picking locks. While he was living in a bad neighborhood, he explained that he fell in with the wrong crowd and ended up sneaking into some places by picking locks. By doing so, the little pack he was with stole a few items and sold them and split the profit. Well, that didn’t last long. They all got caught, with the exception of Scott, who bolted, and ended up in juvenile detention. Victor knew nothing of this and I wasn’t about to say anything. After all, Scott’s bribe of waffles in the morning and any movie along with a large pizza of my choice was enough to keep my mouth shut.
That evening, we knew Victor was down in the basement doing… Well, whatever he did down there. He had work the next day, and both of us knew that he’d be pretty busy by then. Scott and I plotted together in what was meant to be Yvonne’s room. We’d both call in tomorrow while we were on the way to work, and while Victor was away, we’d sneak back to the house and bust into the basement to see what exactly was going on. We both knew his dad was hiding something, and we were both eager to know what it was. When Victor came up from the basement, he greeted his son and me with friendly behavior. That night, I made dinner.
I made stir fry; Victor and Scott loved it. Victor said that it had been a long time since he had stir fry and Scott claimed that it was even better than the stuff they had down at Golden Wok. I was pretty flattered by the compliment. Victor didn’t go on and on about Yvonne so much this time, but he kept trying to tell his son after the meal that I was a keeper. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself a little. This family seemed to be pretty warm, really, even with the lack of a mother figure. I was beginning to feel a little guilty for the plan that Scott and I had schemed up. That night, after Victor returned to the basement, Scott and I retired to bed.
In the morning, after my shower and full preparation, I came downstairs for waffles. These were the waffles of the oath I made to Scott. I placed comical importance on them. At least I thought it was funny for the time being. After breakfast, we started to head to “work”. Since Victor didn’t pass the restaurant we worked at on his way to work, we pretty much just drove around the area. The flood was finally starting to clear up, so I knew I could probably head back to my apartment soon, provided the landlord would actually do anything about the flood damage. If not, it would be time to start scoping out new rental property.
Scott and I waited in comfortable silence. Both of us were as curious as kittens when it came to what secrets that basement held. Sometimes I wish I would’ve turned down that chance at mischief, but knowing what kind of danger I was in, I think it saved my life as well.
We started to drive back to the house, and all remained quiet. Sometimes, I wonder if Scott knew that going to that basement would be a life-changing experience.
Once we were inside, Scott grabbed a paperclip and picked the lock to the basement door with astonishing expertise. He jiggled the handle and the door opened with an ominous groan. The tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and a little chill ran up my spine. I still have trouble to this day admitting that I was scared of going down there, but I’m finally coming to terms with that.
The stairs creaked beneath our footfalls. Scott first grabbed a diary and we began to flip through it. I normally didn’t like the idea of nosing around in someone’s personal journal, but I just had to know. I’ll summarize it, just for simplification.
The entries began with how Victor spoke of his love for his wife. Eventually, she grew displeased with his career choice, finding it morbid, wishing he would get another job. He refused, so she decided a divorce was in order, despite the fact that the two had a son. They did divorce, but however, Victor still continued to pursue Yvonne in hopes of winning back her heart. That didn’t go as planned. It seemed as though he was stalking her. She fled from him. She tripped while fleeing and it struck her head, causing her to fall unconscious. Much to his dismay, it was discovered that she was comatose. After this, he kept her in the basement, hooked to a life support machine that would keep her alive until she would wake. This drove Victor utterly mad, which brought us to a more disturbing part, which I will quote verbatim.
“My darling Yvonne and I didn’t have the happily ever after that I expected. I don’t want my son to suffer the same heartbreak that I have. I want him to be happy. I want him to have perfection. I want him to have everything he could ever want in a woman. Nothing less than perfection will do for Scotty. He is the only product remaining of the love that Yvonne and I once shared. He will have perfection, even if I have to make it, myself.”
My hands trembled. Now, flipping through the diary only led to short and frantic entries about young women and newspaper clippings about some bodies going missing. Scott was watching over my shoulder. One of his hands dug its fingers into my arm in nervous tension. I dropped the diary in shock when I found one particular part.
“Today, Scott brought home a girl named Crystal. The perfect woman for my son would have hazel eyes, just like his dear mother. Crystal’s eyes would be perfect for the lady I shall present to my son. She’s almost ready…”
“No. No. No…” I started to ramble, shaking my head.
“Crystal,” he shook my shoulders. “Calm down. I know what we have to do.”
“Scott. He was going to fucking KILL ME.”
“Crys… Yeah, I know. But we need to find the evidence. I love my dad, but… I can’t just let him get away with this.” I felt stupid and helpless. I was just sitting there; feeling like all of my energy had been torn from my body. He picked up the journal.
“My dad always writes in the back of the notebooks he gets first. That’s where he puts all of his computer passwords and such, so I’m almost 100% sure that there’s something important in the back.”
Scott was right. 25-19-28. It was the password to a combination lock.
We shambled around the basement for a little longer until we found the locked door. Scott entered the combination and the lock opened with a satisfying click after a single tug.
The room inside was kept pristine. Yvonne lay torpid, unresponsive to just about everything. Her heart was barely even beating. We were fairly sure that her head injury might’ve put her into a vegetative state. A sheet was thrown over a large rectangular object, and of course, in my stupid curiosity, I pulled it off.
A woman that seemed to be sewn together out of an amalgamation of parts from other girls was frozen within what seemed to be a glass casket. She was by no means alive, but it looked like she could be brought to life easily. I did, however, notice that one thing was missing. Eyes. A jar filled with fluid rested nearby, and I could only feel my knees growing weak. I envisioned my own eyes floating in that liquid, knowing that would’ve been my fate if I hadn’t come down to the basement. I let out a terrible wail. I heard Scott dialing his phone.
“Hello? Yes, I’d like to report a crime. Yes, I’m at the scene. I’m afraid this has been happening for a long time and I wasn’t aware until just recently. Yes. I can give you my location. I’m at 459 South Sycamore Drive. Come as soon as you can.”
I was sobbing. It was such a bizarre feeling… Knowing that everything you thought about someone was wrong. It’s hard to describe. I felt so foolish and confused. I was met with an embrace from Scott. He was attempting to comfort me, despite being in this wretched cellar. I just rested my head against his shoulder until I stopped crying. The police arrived swiftly, only taking up evidence.
Victor was arrested the minute he got home. I’m not sure what happened to the “patchwork girl” as I called her, or Yvonne. After we were all tried in court, it was proven that Scott and I were completely innocent and Victor was taken away to the penitentiary after being judged to be mentally unstable. We were both afraid to visit him, but we did hear from the doctors that he called every woman he ever saw “Yvonne”. He must’ve totally snapped.
Scott and I… We couldn’t stay there anymore. We moved away together, but after what we had been through, we had a strange kind of attachment. I suppose once your family wants a friend dead and you were the one to save them, you become inseparable.
Today, we’re engaged. We fully intend on marrying within the next year.
Though Victor did totally snap, perhaps he would get what he wanted.
Everyone’s idea of perfection is different. I might not be perfect, but Scott thinks I’m pretty god damned close.
Written by Shinigami.Eyes