Shannon parked her bike in the rack next to her favorite diner in town. “Claire’s” was the closest she could get to her mother’s home cooking. Locking her bike up, she took off her backpack and rummaged in the front pocket for some money. “Hummm” all she could find was a few dollars and some change. She thought to herself, “This will buy me a piece of Claire’s homemade pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee- it tasted just like her mothers.” Her mouth started to water and her stomach growled. She was a student at UC, Berkeley. Money was scarce, and Shannon had to do what she could to make a few extra bucks since her daddy had her on a strict budget. “What daddy didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him,” she thought, smiling.
Shannon pushed open the door to the diner with her backpack hanging off of her shoulder. She waved hello to Claire who was across the room. Claire said loudly, “Good morning darling, have a seat.” Shannon looked for her favorite booth and threw her backpack in the seat across from her. She awkwardly pulled down her shorts they had creep-ed up on her bike ride and slid into the seat. She loved to look out the window and people watch. Living in a college town definitely made life more interesting she thought as she ran her fingers through her curly unruly bleached hair. Her tanned skin glistened as the sunlight streamed through the large picture window.
She pulled out her Philosophy textbook and opened to the lesson they would be going over this morning. She glanced at her phone and set an alarm for 45 min. With her nose in her book she didn’t notice that Claire had come up to her table. “Always studying, you must be an A student?” Claire said. Shannon just looked up at her and shrugged her shoulders. “What can I get you this morning?” said Claire. “A piece of pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee please,” Shannon said looking up from her book. “That’s it dear? You will waste away to nothing!” Claire said. “That’s it, thank you,” Shannon replied. Shannon had noticed that her clothes were starting to hang on her slight frame. The bike riding kept her fit and trim. She knew she wasn’t eating enough. She would have to do her night job again no matter how humiliated she felt, but the money was good and the tips were the icing on the cake.
Claire returned with the pie in one hand, coffee in the other. “Thank you” said Shannon, “I just love your pie.” “You’re very welcome,” Claire said with her usual warm smile. Clarie was the picture of a perfect mom; the kind you could see on TV shows in the 1930’s… Shannon thought to herself as she shoved in the ice cold pumpkin mixture into her mouth, stopping to savor every bite, sipping the steaming black coffee in-between bites. As she looked out the window she noticed a navy blue sedan with black tinted windows. “Hummm that car looks familiar,” she thought. Where had she seen it before? Suddenly she remembered and a chill ran down her spine. She had seen it in front of her apartment! “Weird,” she thought. “Was someone following her? No… it couldn’t be,” she shook it off. “I have been watching too many mysteries.”
Shannon’s alarm went of on her phone. She knew she had better get to class. Professor Lang would ask her to leave if she arrived late to his class. He told all the students it was rude to show up late. She quickly paid her bill at the front register. With her backpack on she was ready to roll. “Funny,” she thought, the blue sedan was gone. “It must have been a fluke.”
Shannon arrived at class five minutes early and she grabbed a seat in back of the room. Her friend Terry sat down next to her. Terry said, “Hey I know you are short on money.” “Yea what about it?” said Shannon. “Well I just heard of a new place that is opening up, and they are looking for cocktail waitresses” Terry said, “Oh ok where is it?” Shannon replied “Just down the street from your apartment,” Terry said. “Ok thanks, I will check it out after class.” said Shannon, “Did you tell me the name of it?” Shannon felt distracted thinking about the exam she would take later in the afternoon. Terry said, “It’s called the Cattlemen’s Lounge.” “It’s not the kind of place I think it is, is it Terry?” “Well another friend told me she made $500 in tips in one weekend.” Terry answered. What did she have to do to get to earn that kind of money in a couple days? A hush fell over the room as the professor started to take attendance.
After class the professor asked her to stay after, he needed to talk with her. Shannon waited for the classroom to empty. She got out of her seat walking towards the professor and waited until the last student left. Professor Lang motioned for her to come forward. He handed her an envelope, “This was brought up from the office, they said a friend of your family left it for you.” “Thank you,” said Shannon as she took the envelope and slipped it inside her backpack. She had no time to open it now, she was running late for her next class.
English was her last class of the day, relieved that she had finished the test. It was difficult concentrating when all she could think about was the envelope. After exiting the classroom Shannon sat down on the bench and lifted her backpack up, pulling out the envelope. She felt the warmth of the sun on her back as she looked at the envelope with her name neatly printed on the front. She carefully opened the seal on the envelope, inside was a paper folded in threes, she pulled it out and unfolded the paper it revealed five new twenty dollar bills. She was stunned, who in her family would do this she thought? The paper holding the twenties had a note. Her mouth dropped open as she read it. She felt a cold sweat come over her. The note said, I miss seeing you at Candy’s I hope you will come back, you don’t know me but I have been watching you. I want to take care of you. It’s going to be OK.
Shannon’s hands started to shake and tears filled her eyes. She quickly wiped them away as they fell on her cheeks, she realized that she was being followed and watched by someone she met at her last job. She shoved the money and the note back into the envelope and into her backpack. That explained the blue sedan with the tinted windows. Her mind was racing with pictures of men that she met at her job. She was only a waitress, and when she was approached by her boss to be a dancer, she never went back. She was terrified, getting up from the bench she felt weak and lost her footing and fell. Her backpack tumbled onto the grass and she hit the concrete sidewalk. Pain ran up her leg as she doubled over on the sidewalk. Terry saw her and ran to her aid. “Oh wow your leg is bleeding our you ok?” “Yea I just lost my balance,” Shannon said, choking back tears. Terry helped her get up and she sat down on the bench again.
Terry questioned her friend again, “Have you eaten anything today?” Terry probed. Shannon said, “I had a piece of pie this morning.” “Thats all?” said Terry “It is almost three in the afternoon. Come on I am buying you something from the cafeteria.” She helped her friend across the campus. Shannon didn’t protest, as she limped across the grass.
Terry had Shannon sit down at a table as Terry grabbed a tray, picking up a couple of salads, chicken tenders with barbecue sauce, a couple of brownies and some waters. She sat the tray down, Shannon said, “Wow this is a lot of food.” The two said very little to each other, they were both famished. As they finished the last bites of the food, Shannon chugged down the water it was so cold and refreshing. “I am so lucky to have a friend like you.” Shannon said. “Ahh thanks,” said Terry, “thats what friends are for” she said with a smile. Terry was a little older then Shannon and from the moment they met she thought of her like a big sister. Terry was from a small town in Iowa. Her long sun bleached brown hair was a perfect complement to her bronze skin tone. Her boyfriend Randy was their comic relief. They were the perfect college couple and they gave each other the space when needed.
Even though her and Terry were good friends she just couldn’t let her know about the stalker. She felt ashamed, “Why did she work ever work at that club?” Her father wouldn’t have approved of her working at a place like that. Shannon was from a small town in New England. Both of her parents were conservative, she could never tell them about this, they would make her come home. Should she go to the police? She didn’t know what to do at this point. Shannon shivered at the prospect. Terry asked her “Are you cold?” Shannon said, “Yea maybe a little.”
“I had better get to that restaurant you were telling me about and try and get an interview.” Shannon said. “You need a ride?” Terry asked. Shannon loaded her bike in the back of her SUV. The whole time Shannon keep looking in the side mirrors to see if the blue sedan was following her. After arriving at the restaurant Terry waited while Shannon went in to fill out the app and turned it in. The manager looked it over and asked if she had any waitress experience. He caught himself as he glanced down at the bottom of her app. He looked up and looked her over, “You will work out just fine, can you start the day after tomorrow?” Now Shannon began to second guess putting her last job on her app. She felt the manager’s creepy stare as she walked out.
Shannon got back in the car. Terry said “How did it go?” “Great, I got it,” Shannon said in a monotone voice. Terry teased, “Well don’t get too excited about it!” as she laughed out loud. “It’s just a job,” Shannon snapped back at Terry. “Terry, would you mind turning here and drop me off behind my apartment building?” Terry thought, Boy, she is acting strange today. “Why?” Terry said, “Are you hiding from someone?” “Don’t be ridiculous, it’s just easier with my bike,” Shannon said. She was so fearful that she would see that blue sedan again.
Entering in the back, she pulled her bike up the stairs and down the hall to her apartment. Pulling out the her keys she fumbled with them and looked behind her as she opened her door. She gasped, “Oh my god!” She dropped her backpack on the floor. Sitting on her kitchen table was a bouquet of red roses in a white crystal vase. She looked around the room terrified. He had been in her apartment. There was no note this time, just the roses. She slowly walked around the apartment. She felt violated as she entered her bedroom she put her hand over her mouth and let out a muffled scream. There was a rose on her bed. She looked around in horror, he had been through her things. Was he still here? She ran to the window, no car out front. How did he get in her apartment? She picked up her cell phone and called her landlady. “Hello, this is Asheville apartments, Jan speaking.” “Hello Jan this is Shannon, in 211, did you notice any strangers in the apartment building today?” “Well yes I did,” said Jan, “I let the cable man come in, he said you needed a repair on your system.” “What did he look like?” said Shannon, frustrated. “He just looked like a repairman, dear. To tell you the truth they all look the same, why is there a problem?” “Please don’t let anyone else in my apartment unless I tell you they are coming!” Shannon said, and hung up the phone. She was so angry with her. How could she let a complete stranger enter her apartment?
She knew at that point she needed help. She called the local number for the police, as the phone started to ring her hands started to shake. “Berkeley Police department, officer Wilson speaking.” Shannon spoke up, “I would like to talk with a detective.” “Ok ma’am, I will connect you with detective Karen Thomas.” The phone rang again several times, “Hello this is detective Thomas, how may I help you?” Shannon hesitated and then proceeded to tell the Detective the whole story. “We need to meet” said Karen, “Could we meet in an hour at your apartment?” “Sure,” said Shannon, “just to let you know he has been watching my apartment.” “I will park in the back in an unmarked vehicle. See you in an hour,” said the detective.
Shannon was pacing the floor of her apartment. Time seemed to come to a halt as she waited for the Detective. There was a light tapping at the door. Shannon looked at the clock it had been forty-five minutes. She must be early, thought Shannon as she opened the door quickly. “You are early…” she started to say as her mouth dropped open. There he was standing right in front of her. “Did you like the flowers?” he asked as he walked through the door. “Who are you?” said Shannon, “Get out!” she demanded and started to scream. He put his hand over her mouth and told her to sit down, at that moment the detective walked through the door with her gun pulled. “Is this the man Shannon?” “Yes it is!”Shannon shrieked. “Put your hands behind your back!” said detective Thomas. He just looked at Shannon and said, “I could have taken good care of you.” “Shut up!” said the detective, as she took him out in handcuffs. “I will get in touch with you Shannon.” She just nodded blankly in shock and disbelief.
Shannon could no longer go back to the places she went before this happened. Although she missed Claire’s. She knew she needed a new normal- whatever that was she wasn’t really sure. She still looked over her shoulder every once in a while, she knew she was going to be OK. Maybe that was her new normal just OK.