My first years of college were the best times of my life. I finally had freedom and the cloud of lethargy that had tangled itself around me my last year of high school had cleared. I was finally out of that tiny dorm room I had been forced to share with a girl I couldn't stand and now I was moving into an apartment with my best friend just fifteen minutes of walking distance away from our campus. It was a ten story old brick apartment with eight other rooms on the floor. We were apartment J 8. It was a big apartment with two bedrooms, a bathroom that both of our bedrooms conntected to, a livingroom and a kitchen with a dining space. All the floors, besides the tile in the bathroom, where a creaky dark wood and all the walls were white, except for the yellow wallpaper in the kitchen.
Caroline and I immediately made the apartment ours. We had both been artistic in high school and between the two of us, had enough artwork to cover the stained walls. One thing the two of us couldn't agree on though, was whether to put curtains up. She argued that we didn't have the extra money to spend on something like curtains, and we were ten stories from the ground, so privacy wasn't an issue. I argued that the apartment looked bare and I would feel much less paranoid if she let me put them up. She eventually gave in. That night, we took the time to look over our schedules together only to find that our last class of the day, a literature class we both decided to take because we enjoyed reading, was a class we had together. We could walk home at night together without worrying about anything happening to us.
That night, the two of us decided to sleep in her room because of the humidity. My bedroom window was stuck and wouldn't open no matter how hard we tried, which was strange, because that was where the fire escape was and we'd probably burn to death if there was a fire because the damn window wouldn't open. I slept peacefully and in the morning, Caroline and I fought over who would get the first shower.
My classes went well and it was hard to believe at the end of the year I would get my Psy.D and would never have to attend another boring lecture that didn't have to deal with my major again. Right before my literature class, Caroline and I met up at Starbucks and headed to the classroom together. To my surprise, it was a very small room that could hold up to fifty students, which was incredibly small, considering almost all of my classes were in grand lecture halls. Out of the fifty seats, only about thirty were occupied.
Dr. Willhelm was our professor for the year, and when he entered the room, a gasp escaped my throat. This man had been my honors literature teacher in high school. I knew he was still attending classes at another university while educating us, but I didn't actually believe he was going to become a professor at a university. Then again, a person can achieve a lot in five years.
Because I was in the front of the room, he recognized me at once.
"Maria Steinman, what a pleasure seeing you here." He seemed surprised that I hadn't dropped out of college yet.
"How are you...doing?" He chose his words carefully. I told him I was well. He didn't say a word to Caroline, probably because he never had her as a student while we were still in high school.
"I'm very pleased that you chose to keep up with your studies, Miss Steinman." He said sweetly. "May I ask what you're majoring in?"
This shocked him furthermore. "You never cease to amaze me, Miss Steinman. If anyone can offer a sympathetic ear and a very wise word to the troubled, it would be you."
My senior year in high school, I had been pulled out and held in a psych ward from September till mid October. August had been a rough month for me. On top of my boyfriend of three years breaking up with me and immediately moving on to another girl, my mother had a heart attack and died two days after Jack broke the news that he was dating a girl from the neighboring school. With my mother gone and my father in prison and my brother already fourteen years dead, I was to be sent into foster care. I had just turned sixteen that June. I panicked and that night at my aunt's house, I managed to get a hold of extra stength tylenol and my cousin found me collapsed over my bedroom in a pile of vomit. After I came back home from the ward, my aunt sent me to therepy and soon gained custody over me. When I returend to school, I was treated like an outcast, but I managed to still graduate in the top ten of my class, right behind Jack.
Dr, Willhelm continued with the class, and I stared intently at him. He had always been an attractive man. He had been born and raised on a farm, which resulted in tanned skin and callused hands. He was always thin because not only did he run everywhere, he was the school's cross country coach. His blonde hair was still just as full as ever. He had aged well in the last five years. He was in his mid thirties and still looked twenty six. When I looked over, I noticed someone was staring at me and I immediately looked forward. I could still feel eyes burning into the right side of my face. After class, I stopped to speak with Willhelm.
"You look amazing, Maria. I'm so happy you managed to turn your life around." He said, upon noticing that I hadn't gotten up to move.
"Are you still living with your aunt?"
"No." I said softly. "I'm staying in an apartment with Caroline. She looked too much like my mom, you know. It was so sad to stay with her."
"What about your father? Is he still in prison?"
"He got in the middle of a prison fight and was stabbed." I shrugged. While I hated my dad, he was the only parent I had left. I had gotten the news my third year of college. I couldn't help but to feel sad. "I guess he, my mother and brother are all together now. I miss them terribly." I picked up something on his desk to fiddle with so he couldn't see my sadness.
"What you're doing with your life is a wonderful thing, Maria. They would be proud to see that you're such a smart and beautiful young woman." Our gazes met, and all the feelings of lust I had for this teacher as an adolescent came flooding back. Those chilly blue eyes...Suddenly he awkwardly cleared his throat. "Can I help you, sir?"
I turned to see the kid who was staring at me all of class hovering by the door. His hair was black and greasy, he looked as if he hadn't slept in days. His skin was a sickly pale and his eyes were the most frightning shade of gray. "Your roommate left." He said in a husky voice, and walked away. I shivered. What a strange man.
"She was supposed to wait for me." I groaned, shaking my head. "It's quite dark and we were supposed to walk back together."
"Let me escort you." He said, grabbing his coat and his keys.
"Isn't your wife expecting you?" I asked, remembering his pretty little wife. She really was a doll.
"Divorced two years ago." He murmured, walking out of the building with me. "Shall we walk? I very much enjoy catching up."
As we walked, I talked to him about my life and he told me about his. He had a son now, but his wife gained custody of him in the divorce. He was four, now. He dedicated his time and life to his job. When we made it to my apartment, I asked him to come upstairs with me, he accepted my offer. Caroline left a note on the dining room table for me. "Went out with Tyler for drinks. XO -Caroline." I set it in the garbage and offered Dr. Willhelm some coffee.
"Maria. Call me Adam outside class hours, please." He smiled that dazzling smile. He stayed the night with me that night.
Things went like this for a month. I found myself completely and hopelessly infatuated with someone for the first time since Jack. I was happy. We continued our torrid affair and I found myself enjoying his class more and more. I loved acting as if I was just a student in his room and them ravishing me as soon as we got home whispering "You don't know what you do to me in that room. Arching your back and biting your lip, acting like you're so intent on learning literature."
That night, when I was laying curled up in him, I noticed the smell. It was coming from the kitchen and smelled like a dead animal. When I got to the kitchen, I noticed Caroline standing there too. "Do you smell that?" She asked, brown eyes wincing as if she had noticed something. "The wallpaper is starting to peel off the wall too. I'll call matainence in the morning. Maybe a pipe burst in the wall. I went back to bed, dismissing it. We were so busy that week that we forgot to call in about the smell until Friday. All that week, Adam and I would lay in bed, trying to ignore the smell and the scratching noise that now accompanied it.
Friday morning, Adam called in sick and Caroline and I stayed home from classes. The repair man came in early that morning and peeled back the wallpaper. The drywall in that one spot seemed thinner and when he poked a little hole in it, the smell amplified and I covered my mouth.
"I know that smell." He said darkly. "Call the police." His voice softened as we said this. The police arrived quickly, a total of four officers and the police chief.
"That's definitely the smell of corpse." The chief said. "I'll call back-up. Who knows what could be behind this wall." He took his night stick and clubbed at it, caving the wall in. What I saw made my eyes water, There was a whole other apartment on the other side of my kitchen wall that could only be accessed from the second stairwell that usually stayed blocked off. There was a living room and kitchen setting available. A middle aged man that had dirty blonde hair and a beer belly lay in a recliner, his whole stomach ripped open and his entrails showing. Before I could stop myself, I vomited on the floor. A woman hung next to him. Her body held up by a noose. Her eyes had been gouged out and her mouth cut into a smile and her hand had been placed on the man's shoulder. Her fingernails ripped off. From the light that was produced by the static on the television I could tell she had strawberry blonde hair like me.
In front of the television, a little boy was propped up by a crate. I didn't want to see how the little boy was mutilated. I let out a strangled cry and backed away. A husky voice came from the dark corner of the livingroom. "Don't you like it?" It asked. "I made it for you, Maria. You wanted your family back. Look. A loving mother, a drunken father, and a little brother." That man that was in my literature class stepped out, his clothes stained in blood. He held a knife and he had a psychotic smile plastered on his face.
"All that's missing is big sister. But she's away at college..." He stepped forward, knife raised. "Come on home, Maria." In a swift moment before the police could react, he sliced my cheek and arm in a flouish. He had been going for my throat, but I dodged it and put my hand up to protect myself. I saw my blood spray the carpet beneith my feet and the shot of a gun ring in my ears before I fell to the floor.
While in the hospital, after the surgery to fix the giant gash in my cheek and stitch up my arm, the police chief came to present to me why this man had done this. What I got was a packet of photographs. Some where taken at various places around campus. Me walking to Starbucks or Subway, walking to classes, getting in my car. But the majority were taken from my bedroom window, and these were the ones that made me turn bright red. There were ones of me changing, making love to Adam, sleeping, eating, studying with Caroline, doing my hair, doing my makeup. I pushed the photographs away and couldn't look the chief in the eye. "We found a journal too, Miss Steinman." He murmured.
I read the first entry.
I saw the girl from my dreams. But this time, she wasn't in my dream. She was real. Maria is her name. And it is a beautiful name. She aspires to fix the broken of the world, and that makes her even more beautiful that she wants to try. What she doesn't know, is the insane aren't broken, they just know more than they should. Maria is perfect, but she is sad. Her family is dead, as I overheard her saying to the professor. The professor isn't good for her, I can tell by the way he looks at her. I cannot let him have what is mine.
Then he began to speak of the murders, picking his victims by what he has heard in my personal conversations about my family. He never heard anything about my brother, so when he killed off a child, he had hoped he had got it right. He talks of following me, of wanting Adam dead, of reuniting me with my family. This man was sick. I pushed the journal away and told the Police Chief this man was better off dead.
I looked at my patient list for the day. Maria Steinman, 23. I walked a little faster, hoping that this pataint wasn't the Maria Steinman that I had dated in high school. When I opened the door, I found a girl restrained to the bed, her red hair dirty and all over the place, her blue eyes wide and looking at the ceiling, her lips slowly moving, speaking of a man who wouldn't leave her alone. "What happened to her?" I asked the officer standing at her bed.
"Her roommate called the police after smelling rotting corpse in the kitchen. When we broke through the wall we saw her sitting in the middle of the floor with the bodies of a dead man, woman, and child. LSD and heroin were found in her system. She cut herself open in various places. She had been missing for about a month. Something in her must have snapped, because she seems to think that someone else did this." He shook his head. "What a pity. She was going to be a psychologist too."