As Aaron walked into the house from the garage, his phone buzzed. He smiled and got a warm feeling in his chest when he saw it was a text from Hannah. "Miss u already. I feel like a silly schoolgirl." He chuckled and texted back. "You are a silly schoolgirl. ;-) But, yes, I miss you, too."
He headed to his bedroom. It wasn't even ten yet, too early to go to bed, but he figured he might as well get an hour or so of reading in. He'd been hard at work on early revisions of his latest novel that he'd neglected his "to-read" pile — both physical books and those on his e-reader.
Before he made it to the bedroom, his phone buzzed again. "Swooning cuz u miss me 2, but you weren't supposed to agree with the silly part! LOL" He actually did laugh out loud at that and replied only with a winkyface. ";-)" He leaned against the door frame of the bedroom and wrote a new text. "Is The Burger Joint okay for tomorrow night? Also, don't forget to text me the address where you want me to pick you up."
He hoped she knew what The Burger Joint was. It wasn't a dive or fast-food restaurant like the name suggested. They served gourmet burgers with any kind of topping one could imagine, plus a half-dozen different choices of fresh-baked buns. They also had top-notch fries and onion rings. It all added up to his favorite place to eat, and if it wasn't so lovingly fattening — at least what he liked to order — he'd eat there every night. Ah well, it was a better treat when he saved it for special occasions. Like tomorrow night.
"I <3 2="" address="" am="" any="" burger="" but="" didn="" forward="" incoming.="" it="" joint="" look="" more="" night="" p="" possible="" t="" the="" think="" tomorrow="">
He laughed, glad she was happy. He also laughed at himself for finding her texts, with their spelling shortcuts and extra exclamation points and all, cute. That stuff usually drove him nuts, and he took care to always craft his messages with perfect spelling and grammar (besides the occasional emoticons, which he enjoyed). He realized he was the oddball in that regard, that the bulk of society was fine with text-speech, but he stuck to his guns. Would Hannah corrupt him, or would he rub off on her?
The text with her address came a few seconds later, and he found she lived in Anaheim, probably in the ritzy Anaheim Hills section, judging by the street name, though he wasn't positive. He'd plug it into one of the map sites in the morning to find out for sure. Either way, she wasn't that far from him.
"Got the address. How about I pick you up at six tomorrow evening? If not, you choose a better time." After sending that text, he walked into the bedroom, but froze after a few steps. Jenna? He looked around, positive he sensed her close by. She wasn't there, which was no surprise, her being dead and all. Hannah's latest text buzzed on his phone, but he didn't check it right away. With the hair on the back of his neck still standing at attention, he wasn't ready to drop his guard.
He let out the breath he hadn't been aware he'd been holding and laughed. He'd felt Jenna's presence before, like this, usually when he was pining for her. Tonight it must have been because of Hannah. His subconscious felt guilty.
"So I met someone tonight, Jenna," he said aloud. He knew she wasn't actually here, but he liked to talk to her. It eased his mind, comforted him. "Her name is Hannah, and she actually reminds me a lot of you. Not physically, but in some of her mannerisms, in some of the things she does." He stopped and chuckled. "She's really young, though. Eighteen. Can you believe it? Half my age. Should be creepy, right?" He shook his head and thought about it for a few seconds. When he continued, his voice was low. If he'd actually been talking to her, she might not have heard. "But it's not. It feels right. I don't know why."
He walked into the bathroom, flicked on the light, and almost screamed as he looked in the mirror. Jenna's corpse stood upright in the bathtub, blood spilling out of her wrists, dripping over the lip of the tub into pools on the floor. The wall behind had bloody, smeared hand prints, as if she used it to help push herself up. Her dead eyes looked right at him, past his eyes, and into his soul. This all reflected in the mirror, but when he spun to see, neither she nor the blood were there. He looked back to the mirror and saw the same — white porcelain tub and light blue tiles on the walls. No corpse or gore. He gave a shaky laugh and went to sit on the bed. Guilt. That's all it was. He wasn't ready. Maybe he'd never be ready. He turned his attention back to his phone, set to text Hannah that they'd need to cancel, when he saw he hadn't yet read her last text.
"6 is wonderful!!! See you then!!!"
He sighed. Yes, six was wonderful, and he did want to see her. "Sorry, Jenna. I really like this girl. I owe it to her, to me, to see where it leads." He groaned. How could something seem like both the absolute best and worst choice at the same time?