Obsession – Chapter One
by Dreams in Pink
əbˈseSHən: a continual thought, concept, picture, or urge which is experienced as invasive and not proper, and results in significant fear, distress, or discomfort.
New York, USA. 2015.
Serena slumped back in her seat as she removed her headset, tossing it onto the desk with a frown. The laptop hummed in front of her, and she glanced at the tiny clock in the corner the screen; six minutes. She sighed, blowing the golden bangs from her forehead, and began tapping her fingers against the arm of her chair. With each foot firmly placed between the plastic legs, she swiveled back and forth, eyes fixed on the collage of photos that lined her cubical, momentarily reliving each happy memory.
Her gaze fell on a family picture that she had tucked behind another photo, and she carefully pulled it out. Her heart sank as she traced a finger over the happy faces. It had been taken on their last family vacation over seven years ago. Her brother had begged their parents to take them to Disneyland, and they had surprised him for his birthday with the trip. He had been ecstatic, and insisted on dragging her on every single ride and roller coaster. Serena felt the lump rise in her throat; now was not the time. She gently slid the photo back into its hiding place, and quickly wiped away the tears that had welled in her eyes.
Being pulled back into reality, her attention darted to the monitor which had her inbox up and open, with a new message bolded at the top. After much debate and another consultation with the clock, Serena decided to open it.
I long for the day we meet again. This time I will make you mine.
The blonde scowled, the corner of her lip twitching with discomfort as she quickly deleted the note. She had become accustomed to awkward e-mails and trolling messages – that was the online world, after all.
“Tough day?” a voice asked, accompanied by a head of wavy copper hair popping up over the cubicle wall.
“Yeah,” Serena replied, receiving a sympathetic smile from her companion. “I had a lot of really angry teenagers today,” she explained, her brow knit with worry. “I just wish I could do more for them, you know?” the blonde added. It had been a mere eight months since Serena had graduated from college with a degree in social work. She had struggled to find a job, eventually landing herself work at a company that ran a help line via telephone and Internet.
“You help them more than you know,” her friend reassured her. “And just wait until you launch that new project of yours next week,” she beamed, excited for Serena’s upcoming opportunity.
Being among the youngest in the company, her boss had decided to use her as the face of their new project: an online blog offering tips and advice to those who sought it. Although apprehensive about how much help she could truly offer, her friends and co-workers assured her that she was the right woman for the job. She was caring, kind, and empathetic. Whether she knew it or not, Serena had a gift; she made people feel important. She could get a true understanding of a person from mere moments of conversation, and yet she always tried to see the best in everyone she met. She could read people.
“Thanks, Molly,” the blonde smiled, “Are you coming to the club tonight?” she asked, wide-eyed and hopeful.
“Can’t, I have a date,” Molly grinned wildly; she had been waiting all week for tonight.
“Details. Now,” Serena demanded, an excited spark leaping to her eyes.
“I actually met him online,” Molly whispered, leaning in over the cubicle wall. “On that new dating app, Coquet,” she explained, checking over her shoulder to ensure no one else was listening.
“So you haven’t met him in real life?” Serena cocked her head to the side.
“Not yet,” the redhead replied, “Come on, grab your purse, and I’ll tell you everything I know about him on the way out!” Molly giggled, her head disappearing momentarily as she ducked back into her work space.
Serena did as she was told, remembering to shut down and close her laptop before leaving for the day. The two girls walked to the parking lot, arms linked as Molly gushed and Serena listened intently.
After saying their goodbyes, Serena walked briskly to her car, digging her keys from her purse. She looked over her shoulder suspiciously; parking garages always made her feel uncomfortable. The click of her heels echoed throughout the damp underground, and she heard Molly’s vehicle start in the distance, which only made her quicken pace. Making it safely to the sanctuary of her silver sports car, she hopped in and locked the doors.
Serena made her way through the streets of New York as quickly as she could, music blaring and patience growing thin. After what felt like hours of traffic, she had finally made it home, and pulled into her parking space. She trudged up the stairs of the apartment building having made a personal pact to avoid the elevator – she needed the exercise.
“Welcome home,” her roommate hollered from her bedroom upon hearing the front door slam. “You have fifteen minutes!”
“For what?” Serena shouted back, dropping her purse on a chair, and rummaging through the fridge for anything akin to a healthy snack. “Hey Luna,” she cooed, bending down to pet the black cat that circled her feet.
“We’re meeting the girls at the club at six,” her roommate replied, emerging from her room, brushing her long, sun-spun hair.
“Six?” Serena repeated incredulously. “Who goes to a club for six?”
“Five girls who have some serious catching up to do before the party begins,” she wiggled her eyebrows mischievously, “besides, it’s my club, we can go there whenever we want.”
“It’s your and Raye’s club,” Serena corrected, receiving nothing but an eye roll for a reply.
Serena and her roommate, Mina, had been living together for the past seven years as her parents had taken Serena in after the accident. The girls were nearly twins in appearance, both with luscious blonde locks, sparkling blue eyes and legs that went on for miles. Mina Aino was living out her dream, and had worked her way into the tightly knit modelling world. Despite a love for modelling and fashion, she knew investments were the key to stable success, and she therefore had made her first investment alongside one of her dearest friends, Raye Hino.
“Ten minutes,” Mina sang, standing in front of a long mirror as she decided on a hairstyle for the evening.
“I’m ready,” she answered, sitting at the breakfast bar as she devoured a cup of yogurt.
“You are not going out in your work clothes. Go change,” Mina ordered, pointing down the hallway. “And stop eating, Lita is bringing dinner.”
With a heavy sigh, Serena slid from the stool and padded down the hall to her bedroom. She glanced at her bed, with its fluffy white duvet that was beckoning to her. She considered, momentarily, faking sickness to stay home, but knew that Mina would be relentless.
After much deliberation she had decided on a short, black, ruffled skirt and a simple cream coloured tank top. She pulled her hair from its ponytail, and shook it out, allowing her golden mane to fall around her shoulders. With a quick touch-up of her makeup, Serena grabbed her jacket and boots, and was ready to go.
“Happy?” she twirled for Mina, who grinned in approval.
“That’s the spirit!” she beamed. “Ready?”
“Are you driving?” Serena asked, zipping up the side of her boots.
“No, we’re taking the subway,” Mina answered, ignoring the look of disdain that crossed her roommate’s face.
“You just want to see your new ad up,” Serena snorted, fully aware that humility was not listed as one of Mina’s assets.
“Pretty much,” she admitted, slipping on a pair of sunglasses, and smacking her freshly glossed lips.
Serena attempted to pull the leather jacket more tightly around her body, as they walked through the crisp, windy streets of the city. Their jaunt on the subway had been relatively uneventful, despite Mina’s insistence that Serena take a photo of her standing next to herself – as was tradition.
The girls reached their destination, entering through the large, steel door and traipsing down the dimly lit stairwell that was lined with exposed brick. The stairs opened up to a large dance floor, which during hours was illuminated with black and neon lights. Tables and stools stood around the edges of the room, their chrome legs stretched and polished. Opposite to the entrance was a platform stage, highlighted by a large screen. To the right sat the bar, which glowed a translucent white, and across the way on the second floor was a wide DJ booth.
“Where is everyone?” Mina wondered, her voice echoing in the nearly empty space.
“They’re coming at 6:30,” Raye called from behind the bar, placing five glasses on the counter.
“Then why did you tell us 6:00?” Mina frowned, as both blondes hopped onto stools.
“Because it’s 6:25 and you just got here,” Raye replied pointedly, her cherry red lips curving into a sly smile. “So, what’s your poison?” she asked, brow raised.
“Long Island Iced Tea for me,” the model ordered, adjusting her ponytail with a quick pull.
“I’ll have a Cosmopolitan,” Serena added, placing her purse on the counter beside her, and curling her ankles around the stool’s legs. “Are you bartending all night?” she asked, watching intently as Raye mixed their drinks, her wine coloured highlights illuminated by the iridescent light.
“Just until Chad gets here,” she shrugged, shaking a silver canister in each hand.
“You know he’s pretty much obsessed with you, right?” Mina said, taking a sip of her freshly made cocktail.
“He is not. He’s just a sweet guy.”
“Who is obsessed with you,” she insisted, Raye only huffing in reply.
Upon hearing the door slam and the click of heels against the metal stairs, Serena leapt from her seat. “That must be Lita and Amy,” she cheered, running over to greet them.
With hellos finished and the drinks poured, the five friends moved to a table in the corner of the club. They had made quick work of the homemade pizza that Lita had brought, and were catching up on a week’s worth of gossip. As the evening progressed, the club began to fill with people who knocked back drinks, and crowded the dance floor. The air grew thick as oxygen mingled with sweat and perfume, sticky strangers grinding to the beat, releasing their pent up stress.
“There are so many hot guys here tonight,” Mina exclaimed, returning to the table breathless and rosy-cheeked. “You guys have to get out there and dance!”
“All in good time,” Lita laughed, shaking her head – Mina would never change.
“Hey, have you guys heard of that new app, Coquet?” Serena asked suddenly, avoiding eye contact as she swirled the straw in her drink.
“Who hasn’t?” Mina answered, downing a glass of water.
“You’re not on it?” Raye said, surprised.
“You guys are?”
“I’m not,” Amy interjected, holding her hands up to show her innocence.
“That’s only because you’ve been in the same relationship forever,” Mina noted, crinkling her nose at the thought of being tied down so young.
“How else do you meet guys nowadays?” Raye wondered, thoughtfully cocking her head to the side. What did people do before the Internet and dating apps?
“Why, are you thinking of trying it?” Lita questioned.
“No, but you know Molly? She’s meeting a guy from there tonight,” Serena explained, shaking her head vehemently.
“Nice!” Mina clapped.
“Why don’t you give it a try?” Lita suggested with a shrug.
“It’s weird,” Serena frowned, diverting her attention to her bright pink nails.
“No, it’s what everyone does now,” Raye corrected her, her voice abnormally sweet as she winked at a man seated a table over.
“Come on Serena, it’s been weeks since you’ve gone on a date!” the blonde whined, her face flushed with alcohol.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Serena muttered.
“It is,” Lita patted her on the back.
“Give me your phone,” Mina ordered, palm outstretched expectantly.
“Mina, I –”
“Give it to her,” Raye demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. Serena scowled, and pulled the thin device from her purse.
“Thank you!” Mina sang, as she began typing furiously, Raye peering over her shoulder, and offering support. Serena sighed, earning a sympathetic smile from Amy who watched the entire scene bemused – she had never been happier to be in a relationship.
After a few minutes of humming and debating, Mine and Raye turned their attention back to their friends. “Done,” the raven haired beauty chimed.
“What did you do?” Serena asked warily, feeling a warm blush creep up the back of her neck.
“We set up a profile for you,” Mina informed her, showing her the app on the bright screen.
“It’s fun,” Raye stated, “we’ve set it up so that it only shows people who are close.”
“So just go through the photos and if you see someone you like, swipe up,” Mina explained, demonstrating the action on the first few potential suitors, quickly dismissing them all.
“Then they can text you, heart you, come over and say hi or send you a drink if you’re at the same club,” Raye instructed, counting each action as she listed it. “Remember, no picture, no reply. Guys without photos are creepy,” she added, illustrating the last point with the shake of a manicured finger.
“Great, thanks,” the honey-blonde grated through a sarcastic smile, turning off the device and shoving it into her purse. Lita and Amy stifled their laughs, while the partners in crime fumed.
“Fine, we’ll get you started,” Mina snapped, grabbing Serena’s bag and fishing out the phone, despite her friend’s protests.
“Whatever happened to just meeting someone in real life,” she mumbled under her breath, lips pursed into a pout.
“Okay, how about this guy?” the blonde asked, both girls watching Serena for a reply.
“He’s… over there,” Raye added, pointing to a lean man standing two tables away.
“He’s cute, I guess,” Serena shrugged. Mina swiped up.
“He’s not my type,” she shook her head.
“I mean he’s attractive, but –” She was cut off as his picture slid upwards, and another came on the screen. “Guys, I really don’t – ”
“Yes or no?” Raye said impatiently.
“Ooh, how about this one?” Mina did a sweep of the club, finding her target,” he’s way better looking in real life.”
“Yikes, that’s an unfortunate photo,” Raye stated, eyes wide and lip curled.
“Why would you choose that as your profile pic?” Lita gawked, as both her and Amy moved to join the huddle around the phone.
“No,” they agreed in unison.
Hidden by the darkness of the club, and lost in the crowd, he had finally found her. He watched intently as they giggled and teased the petite blonde. Her veiled smile, however, did not go unnoticed – not by him. He yearned to get closer, to hear her sweet voice, and inhale her intoxicating scent, but he knew he had to wait. First, he had to prove himself. She had to choose him. She would choose him.
“He’s cute, blonde hair, green eyes,” Mina grinned, glancing to her friends for approval.
“No,” Serena replied flatly. “Hey, I said no!” she protested, as Raye flicked the photo up in a frivolous display.
“You just said no to be annoying,” she bit, eyes narrowed at Serena who sulked. Hadn’t they done enough swiping for one night?
“Oh! She got a text!” Mina squealed, the four girls leaning in to read the message. “You got a text!” She handed the phone to its owner.
“What? From who?” Serena asked, curiosity piqued. Despite her hesitations, it was hard not to feel flattered. “Serenity Moon? Really guys?” she shook her head, seeing the profile name her friends had chosen.
“It sounds classy,” Mina defended the name.
“It makes me sound like an escort,” Serena stated plainly, brow furrowed.
“A classy escort,” Lita joked, earning a playful punch from the fiery woman beside her.
“Are you going to go over there or not?” Raye wondered, glaring in anticipation.
The blonde looked down at the screen.
Meet me at the bar, and I’ll buy you a drink. M
The message was simple and to the point. Serena chewed her lip in thought, as she casually checked the bar for the man in question, glancing between the photo and patrons until she had found him. He was cute. He seemed friendly enough.
“Oh for god’s sake, just go,” Amy yelled, snatching the phone and putting it down on the table, out of Serena’s reach.
“Amy!” the blonde cried; wasn’t she supposed to be the reasonable one?
“Just go and get it over with. It gets easier the more you do it,” Lita said sincerely as she re-tied her thick, chestnut ponytail. “And really Serena, what have you got to lose?”
“Drink this.” Raye shoved a shot glass in front of her.
“Fine,” Serena submitted, briefly hanging her head in defeat, before downing the liquid courage. With a quick primp to her hair, she fought her way through the crowd on the dance floor, and timidly tapped the man on the shoulder.
The four remaining friends watched Serena for a short while, attempting to read lips and guess meanings behind gestures. Before long they grew tired of their game, and the conversation turned to worst first dates as Mina animatedly performed an overly dramatic reenactment. Deeply involved in Mina’s tale, no one noticed Serena’s phone go missing from the table.
“Well, thanks for the drink, Matt” Serena said, flashing a charming smile.
“Anytime,” the man grinned, “can I call you sometime?” he asked, shyly running a hand through his short, auburn hair.
“Sure,” she agreed, taking his phone and typing in her number.
“So?” Mina’s eyes sparkled excitedly, as Serena trotted back to the group.
“He was nice,” she admitted, a small smile gracing her pink lips. Matt had just gotten his license to practice law, and moved to the Big Apple. While they didn’t have a lot in common, he had been easy to talk to, attentive, and courteous – all qualities Serena valued.
Raye grabbed the drink in front of her, downing it in one gulp. “Who’s next?”
“Let’s see if I got any other messages,” Serena suggested, almost excitedly. It was fun when men you found attractive responded in kind. “Where’s my phone?”
“I swear it was just here,” Amy panicked, eyes darting around the table nervously.
“Are you sure you didn’t take it with you?” Lita wondered, as they frantically searched for the missing lifeline.
“Found it! It must have fallen off the table,” Mina held the device up triumphantly. “Hey, wanna make a bet?”
“What is it?”
“I bet you I can get more numbers tonight than you can,” Mina stated cockily, initiating the challenge.
“You’re on Aino,” Serena accepted, as the two girls broke out their phones and hunted for their next victims.
The rest of the night was spent with drinks, dancing, and strangers. Inhibitions melted away, as the music blared around them, lights blurred into a kaleidoscope of colours, and names and faces collided into fragmented memories. By the time they called it quits, Serena had collected an impressive sixteen numbers, with Mina trailing by two. The roommates bid farewell to their friends, and hailed a cab, wanting nothing more than the solace of home.
Piercing eyes had tracked every move Serena made.
There was something different about her; something different from all the others. It was the way she moved, and the melody of her voice. Her eyes sparkled that much more, and her hair shone even more brightly. This Serena… this Serena was perfect. Lips curved into a wicked smile; this time he would win.