“There are two creepy guys at my apartment complex.”
It was a slow morning at the office. Lyndsay figured her coworkers would appreciate hearing about her adventures as a nineteen-year-old in her first apartment. The other two women were pretty old...early thirties with babies to diaper and lawns to mow...obviously in need of a little excitement in their lives.
“You found them already?” Janice said, “I’m impressed.” She winked at the hygienist, Isabel, who was handing a file over the counter.
“You can’t miss them!” Lyndsay insisted, “One of them constantly hangs out at the pool fully dressed even in August. He actually looks kind of normal. Like, he’s cute and stuff, even though he’s kind of old.”
“Ew, gross,” teased Isabel, “like twenty-eight?”
“You know what I mean. Older than me.”
“So what makes him creepy?”
“He just stares at me all the time when I’m at the pool. It’s so unnerving!”
Janice winked at Isabel again.
“You like it.”
“What? No, I don’t!”
“Then why are you blushing?”
Lyndsay swiveled back to her computer, clacking away violently on the keyboard. Janice stifled a laugh and tried to make amends.
“You said there were two creeps?”
Lyndsay whirled back around.
“Yeah, the other one lives below me. With his mom. I think his name is Manuel. He seems to be, like, my age but I think he’s retarded or something.”
“You mean he has Down syndrome?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“What’s he done that’s creepy?”
“Well, hello, he’s just weird. And every time I come home, he runs out to tell me about a new video game or his karate class or blah, blah, blah. AND he smiles constantly. It’s annoying.”
Janice rolled her eyes but Isabel spoke up.
“He sounds sweet. You’d better be nice to him, Lyndsay, or I’m going to kick your butt.”
“Whatever!” Lyndsay laughed, “I’m always nice. I smile...as I hurry past.”
Lyndsay made it up the stairs to her small apartment undetected by that kid, Manuel. Maybe he was at his little karate lessons, she thought as she struggled to turn the key in the lock. The stupid thing was getting harder to open in this humidity. Once inside she pushed against the door, trying to turn the deadbolt. The door was too swollen. Drained by the heat, she gave up, tossing her keys and shoulder bag onto the breakfast bar by the entryway.
She would call the office about the door after she peeled off her sweaty scrubs. Just inside the threshold of her bedroom, she kicked off her shoes. Before she could even pull off her socks, a strange feeling prickled across her skin. Not a throw pillow was out of place, not a hairbrush was askew but she knew someone had been there. She turned around. On the wall, beside the light switch was a note, penciled right onto the dingy paint, “I like you.”
Fighting down the sick, scared feeling that churned in her gut, she decided to be furious instead. She would march straight to the office. Who cared if that creep did have Down syndrome? He should know better than to invade someone’s home.
Pounding across the floor into the living room, she stopped short. The tall, narrow window beside the front door was filled with a figure silhouetted by the late afternoon sun. Her immediate instinct was to yell that she had seen his sick, little note and that he was in big trouble. Then she realized the shape in the window was not the short, round figure of the boy from downstairs. The silhouette shifted its weight, blocking the sun. In the second it took her eyes to adjust, she realized the man from the pool was peering in, his hands cupped around his eyes, forehead pressed to the glass.
She remembered that the door was unlocked. He probably just wanted to ask her out but she slipped quickly to the door and, pushing against it, fought to turn the deadbolt. To her horror, the door began to slowly push back. She tried to plant her feet on the tile entryway but as he pushed harder, her socks slid across the smooth surface.
“Hey, stop!” she heard herself yelling.
With a final thrust, the door was thrown open and she was knocked against the breakfast bar. He took one step in and leaned back against the doorframe, smiling.
“Hi. Are you busy?”
“What do you think you’re doing?” she shrieked, “Get out of here or I’m calling the cops!” She grabbed her purse from the breakfast bar and began to dig for her cell phone. He gripped her wrist with one hand and wrenched the purse away with the other. He tossed it out the door. He had her by both wrists now and dragged her closer. Her eyes were at the same level of the red stitching on his sky-blue work shirt, New View Apartments.
“Didn’t you read my note? I said I like you,” he breathed.
She could smell his words, minty fresh but vile. She turned her face away but not before noticing his perfectly straight, white teeth. It occurred to her to knee him in the groin but her shaking legs were too weak to hold up her own body let alone inflict pain on a grown man.
Lyndsay suddenly saw her own purse swinging into view, catching the man in the temple, knocking him off balance and revealing behind him the boy from downstairs. Manuel went through a series of whistling-sharp arm movements before he flew at Lyndsay’s assailant with pummeling fists and a few precisely aimed kicks. When the man fell unconscious to the ground, Lyndsay and Manuel stared at each other.
She grabbed her phone from her bag and dialed 911.
“Please, don’t leave until they get here. Um... you’re, like, my hero. Thank goodness you take those karate lessons.”
“I teach them, too.” he beamed, “You should come to my class.”
“Sign me up.”