Jasmine by Aakankshya Shrestha
Jane Brown heaved her last sigh of the day as the last of the high school students left her classroom. Being a teacher was not an easy job. She preferred the quiet life of an artist; sadly, it did not help pay her bills. With a graduate degree in art and literature, she was qualified to teach English to high schoolers. She still sold her pieces when she could under a fake name, of course. Art had always been her passion. Even though she left everything else behind from her old life, she could not give up art.
She packed her bags and was about to leave when she looked at her phone and realized it was 7 April. A flashback of holding a plane ticket dated the same only three years ago. She had not even realized it but it had been exactly three years since she had moved here. Three years of peace. She wanted to celebrate the occasion.
She arrived at her apartment building with her favorite wine and cold cheesecake in a bag. She walked up the flight of stairs, to her apartment at the third floor. She inserted her key to the lock only to find that the door was already open. She was certain she had locked it when she left. With shaking fingers, she pushed the door fully open and turned the lights on. She did not have to look inside for the intruder. There was a message for her. Hundreds of jasmines littered all around her place. They were on the couch, on the tabletops, on her shelf, on every surface and not even one on the floor. It looked like it had snowed jasmines. As she took the image in, the sweet smell of the flowers hit her. Her bag fell down from her grip involuntarily. She could feel her lunch churning in her stomach, her throat dry as paper. She knows whom it is from; he has found her.
Patient report: Jane Brown 22|F
Jane has finished her graduate degree in arts and literature recently. She is currently staying with her parents, is an only child. She is a victim of stalking. Her high school boyfriend Brett was too possessive of her and liked to keep her with him at all times, though he never harmed her physically. After realizing that the relationship had become unhealthy she decided to break up with him and then he started stalking her. After starting university, he kept pursuing her around her house and left her gifts and notes for almost a year. Especially white jasmine flowers, which used to be
her favorite. After repeated police complaints, one day it suddenly stopped and Brett disappeared.
She seems depressed; has lost interest in socializing and is not currently involved in a romantic relationship and she does not want to discuss it now. She stays indoor most of the time reading books and painting. She likes to keep her curtains closed at all times. She talks about the time that Brett stalked her as The Incident.
She seems anxious and paranoid. There are paint marks on her sleeves.
We have finally been able to discuss her relationship. She says she has not been in a serious relationship with anyone after Brett. She finds herself comparing each male person with the physical features of Brett. She thought that Simon, the person she had been seeing for two weeks looked eerily like Brett. She thought that it could be Brett in disguise and stopped seeing him but now realizes how paranoid she must have been. In senior year, after Simon, there had been two other guys- but after the first date, they seemed to lose interest and avoid her. It has affected her confidence. Her nails are short and stubby, and she keeps chewing her lips, showing signs of anxiety. Severe trust issues.
Last session, 20 March 2014
At our last discussion, Jane had decided to join kickboxing classes to resolve pent up anger issues
. She looks much healthier today. She says she wants to move to a new place and start a quiet life on her own; “there are too many reminders for her here.”
We discuss more her mental health and she seems relieved to be able to let go of her anger. She had not realized the anger she had cooped up. She says Brett had ruined her life until now, but now she wanted to take charge of her life and start anew somewhere else. She looks more polished than other days, no sign of paint in her sleeves and her nails are bright pink. Her hair is pulled back in a braid and her earring matches her dress color. She seems quite optimistic.
When Alice came home to her apartment, next door to Jane at six o’clock, she found her outside her apartment door kneeling on the threshold. Jane had barely moved since she had arrived almost an hour ago. Jane came back to her senses only after Alice shook her repeatedly. Her straight black hair has come loose from her braids and surrounds her bloodless face even her lips are almost blue. Her eyes have the look of a wild animal caught in a trap, feral and helpless at the same time. Her worst fears have come true. He has found me again.
Jane looks at Alice to find her staring at her fresh room décor. “What happened in here?” she asks.
“It’s him. He left those for me. He has found me.” She replies meticulously whispering each word as if saying the words aloud will make it more real. “Are you sure?” Alice asks looking at Jane. The look on her face is more than enough answer. “Come on. You are staying at my place tonight.” Alice helps her stand up and guides Jane to her apartment.
When they had first met, Jane was sure she would never be able to confide her history to another soul but Alice was persistent, to say the least. After her graduation, instead of looking for some job in the city she was looking for a quite suburb to disappear. The first person she befriended upon arrival was Alice. She was fresh out of med school working as a nurse. Both were just starting on their career paths and it was an instant friendship that both of them cherished. Even though sometimes they were exactly the opposite of one another. Alice was rather outgoing whereas Jane rarely went out. Especially not on dates, she had never been in a serious relationship after The Incident.
Inside, Jane found herself wrapped in a blanket and with a hot mug of a chocolaty drink in her hands. After coming back from a phone call Alice says, “There, now I am not going out for tonight. You drink that and then straight to bed.” Jane is grateful that Alice does not try to talk about the Jasmine incident and Brett. She must have known that she was terrified of talking about it. However scared she might be, it was happening to her and she had to deal with it- but not tonight. Let her hold it off for as long as she could. She would deal with it, first thing in the morning. Just not tonight.
Before the sunlight enters the room, Jane wakes up. She is ashamed of herself. She had thought she was stronger than this. She is stronger than this. She will deal with it. She walks to her apartment and opens the door, picks up her bags and begins to remove the wilting flowers. The smell does not revolt her as much as it had yesterday. After cleaning up, she decides to go about her daily routine, a morning jog.
In the middle of the forest, she can feel someone behind her before she hears the footsteps approaching, it is Paul. “Hey, did not see you in your apartment last night. You did not pick up any of my calls either.” He looks at her, a hint of worry in his face, “where were you?” Jane does not know what to say. She and Paul had gone out on a few dates and it was clear that he liked her, more than liked her, at least according to Alice. Still, Jane was reluctant to start a new relationship, afraid that he
would be back. As it turned out, he had found her.
“I was not feeling well and slept over at Alice’s” she replies starting to continue her slow jogging pace. He kept up his pace beside her. They had done this together for a month now. Paul Stinson was a strikingly good-looking guy. He heavily built and over six feet tall. His dimpled cheeks and green eyes would have any sensible girl swooning over her feet. Especially if he tried to be charming, and he had with Jane but she just could not bring herself to let anyone else inside the walls she had built around herself. Thick, invisible iron walls that she kept up at all times.
Paul’s constant jogging pace kept her company and she liked having someone close by especially now that he
was back. She thought about reporting to the police but she had no evidence. They would just call her paranoid. Those flowers would have no trace of him anyways. He was always careful to leave no tracks; she had learned that from her experiences.
As both of them were coming to the end of their routes, she stopped in her tracks, her eyes wide in horror at what lay ahead. It was medium sized, brown teddy bear and held a note in its red bow tie. She stared at the familiar teddy. It was the same, the exact replica of what she had in her room. Suddenly the air around her became too thin to breathe, her legs turned to jelly and Paul has to help her stand. “Whoa… Easy there. What is that?” his voice somehow calms her. She does not have to look to know it is another gift from him. “You look like you saw a ghost Jane” he looks at her concern leaking from his voice.
“It clearly is something, but you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.” He steadied her and gently tugged on her arm. “Let’s just get you home.” She jogged her way back with him not looking at the ominous bear a second longer. She liked that he did not press the subject anymore. By the time she reached her apartment, she was almost back to her normal self.
“I would like to see you get inside.” He says and without waiting for a reply follows her to her door. “Hey! Finally, you are back. I was scared to death, I almost called the cops.” Alice calls out from her door.
“God, sorry I was not thinking clearly.”
“Clearly” Alice replies relieved.
“Hello Alice, Good morning to you,” Paul says in a joking tone. “Hey handsome,” she says in the same tone.
“So, have you decided to tell the cops about him?” Alice asks, right in front of Paul. “The cops about who?” Paul asks obviously confused. The panicked look on Jane’s face tells her that she had not been planning to tell Paul. “Opps… I thought that you guys were totally dating by now.” Alice says with an apology written all over her face. “Oh come on. You have to tell me now.” Paul insists. Jane knew that he would not give up until he knew the end of it. After an awkward silence, all of them follow Jane back to her apartment.
One hour of extremely uncomfortable narration by Jane with help from Alice, Paul is up to date on her situation. Strangely, it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She wanted him to know what had held her back. It had been a long time since she trusted anyone enough to tell about this. At her confession, Paul looks like he had finally found answers to all of his questions.
“So this guy is stalking you again?” Paul asks. “That means that teddy was left by him. No wonder you were so freaked out.”
“What teddy?” Alice asks.
“There was one on our way back, same as the one I have in my room.”
“We should tell the cops.” Both Alice and Paul say at the same time.
“Also your cell phone, you should probably get rid of that.” Reminds Paul.
“Been there, done that.” Jane had done that last night.
After one long hot shower and some coffee, Jane finally felt ready to talk to someone. A detective Elena Tanner had arrived after Alice had called. She approaches and sits down in one of the armchairs opposite to Jane and Alice. Paul had gone back to his apartment for a shower as well.
After an hour of intense conversation, detective Tanner had been brought up to date to the situation. She had made a call half an hour ago and had sent someone to collect the discarded teddy to run some tests. “You’re absolutely certain that it is Brett?” The detective asks.
Jane only nods. “We haven’t seen him for certain though.” She adds as an afterthought.
“It could also be someone trying to scare you, who knew about your past.” The detective explains and jots something again in her notebook that she has been scribbling in the past hour. “There is nothing you can do at the moment. We have to wait him out now. I am going to do my best at trying to track him down.” The detective assures Jane. She only nods and turns her focus back to not start biting her nails and tapping her feet restlessly.
After the detective had left, the girls decided to watch a movie. They had nothing else to do in the gloomy Saturday afternoon and it would keep their mind off other things. Jane had fallen asleep next to Alice and a knock on their door jolts her awake. Paul enters the room holding two movie tickets and a huge grin on his face.
“Last time we talked, you promised me a date this Saturday, Jane Brown.” He announces looking expectantly at Jane’s unsmiling face.
“This is hardly the right time Paul, with the stalking and all.” She replies.
“That is exactly the reason I want you to go.” He explains, “It will help you keep your mind off of things.” He looks so hopeful holding those movie tickets.
“Yeah, you should totally go.” Alice joins in in the persuasion. If nothing else, it would keep her mind off things, Jane agrees reluctantly.
Jane heard the bat hit her head before feeling the mind-numbing pain in the back of the head. The world tilted and she felt the pavement hit her flat in the back. Through half-shut eyes, she sees Paul fall down and hit the pavement beside her. She touches the back of her head with her fingers and sees that it covered with red; blood and her eyes flutter shut of their own accord.
She feels her hands tied the gag on her mouth and the restriction of movement in her feet before opening her eyes. She takes in her surroundings. She is in a room with only a dim yellow bulb as the source of light. Clearly, she is in some kind of abandoned house; the walls are faded peach as far as she could tell with the poor lighting. Her hands tied to the hands of the chair with ropes so tight; her hands are starting to feel numb. There is no sign of Paul.
“Hey, honey. Glad you are finally awake.” Comes a voice from the darkness. The familiar endearment sends a chill down her spine. Oh god, it is him.
“Do you know how long it took to find you?” the voice continues. Jane strains her eyes to look for the source of the sound. Finally a silhouette, it could only be Brett. “Finally we can be together.” He continues.
“Oh and if you are wondering about your new boyfriend don’t worry I left him behind, he doesn’t have to die with us tonight.”
He approaches and Jane can see that he is wearing a ski mask to cover his face. “Oh! Is that shock in your eyes honey,” he says sarcasm lacing his voice. “Trust me this is the only way we can really be together.” Jane is beyond terrified. She sees Brett pouring some kind of liquid all around the room. The smell hits her then. It's petrol. Of course, it is. Damn it. This psycho is going to kill both of us.
Jane tries frantically to get the ropes loose but it is hopeless and she knows it. He continues splashing her and himself with petrol. No. She had so many places she wanted to visit. And Paul… Her parents! How would they cope with this?
Her thoughts are running wild.
All of a sudden, there is a bang and the lighter falls from Brett’s hand before he could light it, thank god. Someone throws a chair at Brett and his body hits the ground down hopefully unconscious. It’s Paul.
Jane had never before been so grateful to see another human being.
“You’re alive. I was terrified. That was one sick bastard.” He says in a single breath. He quickly gets started on freeing her.
“Thank god you’re here. How did you find me?” she says relieved.
“You’re dripping with Petrol. Let’s get you out of here.” He says hurriedly. Both of them make their way out of the thrice-damned room. Jane can hardly keep straight on her feet. Jane recognizes the place, which had been an abandoned chemical plant.
As soon as they are out of the house, a huge blast knocks both of them off their feet. She can feel the heat of the blast behind her. Paul stands up first and carries Jane bridal style. Jane can barely hear anything Paul is saying, but it looks like he is asking her if she is okay. She only nods.
Jane wakes up in a hospital room. As soon as she opens her eyes, Alice and Paul come into view. “Janey you’re awake!” Alice says excitedly. She gives her a smile. Paul is still dressed in the same clothes from the blast. Detective Tanner enters the room holding an evidence bag.
“Do you recognize this?” she asks holding an evidence bag containing the somewhat melted remains of a locket with a diamond charm.
“Yes, that was my one year anniversary present from him- Brett, which I returned back to him after the breakup.” She would recognize that locket anywhere.
“Detective what happened at the fire.” She asks.
“The body was too far burned to be able to identify him.” The detective replies, “Though that locket made it clear enough it was him.”
“He is dead.” Jane states. Even though it was not a question, the detective nods and leaves the room.
Paul pushes a stray hair from her face and looks at her with a smile.
“You are safe now.”
She cannot help but smile back.
“I promise our next date won’t be as bad.” He says.
Paul Stinson returned to his apartment. He went down to his basement and removed his contact lenses; the smoke had started to make them itch. He made his way through all the stacks of paintings and turned on the lights in his bathroom. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. Funny that a little bit of plastic surgery to create his dimples and contact lenses to hide his blue eyes could make him a different person. Also all those years he had spent going to the gym regularly to build his body. Even he sometimes believed he was a different person. He had to change to belong to her and that was what he did best. He adapted. All his efforts had finally paid him.
He desperately needed a shower and had to get rid of all the stuff he had stored down there. All those paintings were done by Jane (he had brought every single one), the extra jasmines, his spying equipment, the gasoline jars and latex gloves. Thinking about Jane brought a smile to his face.
It had not taken him long to track her down. This time it was easy to stay back and watch her because she was not trying to date someone. When she was in the city, it was actually quite troublesome to track down all those guys, who had tried to approach her and take care of them. One time he had even been successful in being Simon and had gotten near her but Jane was about to see through the facade. She was too paranoid. That was when he realized, he had to adapt and he did. All that time waiting and plotting had finally given him results and he was satisfied.
Now he no longer needed all these stuff. He could bury the baseball bat that his partner had used to fake kidnap him and Jane. Ex-partner, now that he was dead. He almost liked the guy, he had played his part exceptionally well and was ready to do anything for the right amount of money. Too bad, he could not leave behind any loose ends. He even had to leave his locket behind. He could have timed the blast a little well; they were barely out of the house- but he was in a hurry and it was only good luck that she had not seen the detonator in his hands.
He hopped into the shower looking forward to spending the rest of the night with his