It had frightened him to watch her. While it never occurred to him that he shouldn’t be watching her, only that it frightened him. He wasn’t afraid by what he felt, when really that should have been what frightened him the most, it was living her life that kept him up at night.

Watching her from a far doing the things that made her happiest – reading, writing, driving around, taking hikes through the local mountain ranges, going out with her friends, drinking at bars, dancing with strange men, men who were her friends, all men who were older than she was. All those things and more gave him a sense of unrest, a sense of weary, a sense that she was putting herself out there too much, giving the world too much of herself, and certainly – he assumed – giving too much of herself away to the men around her.

Ricky was angry and concerned. Delilah was usually home by now. It was 6:30 pm on a Tuesday evening. Tuesdays were not art class days, those were Wednesdays.  Tuesdays were not volunteer days, those were Thursdays. Tuesdays were not date night, those were Friday nights. Tuesdays were not gallivanting with friends night, those were Saturdays. If she had been home, where she was supposed to be, but on the couch in her lounge pajamas watching tv, doing a craft, reading, writing, baking, or cleaning while the laundry was in, then it would be Sunday. But she wasn’t home. Delilah was not home on a Tuesday at 6:30 pm, and Ricky was pissed. And worried. And trying to break into her phone to see where the fuck she could have gone.

His friend Arnie was an incredible hacker. Both in the online security breach sense, and in the breaking and entering of physical locations sense. He had conversationally explained how a person could easily break into a phone or a laptop, even an email account and run through it like a corn field in Iowa. Sure, the hacker could get lost in information, but if they knew what they were going in the phone for, it would be more like a corn maze, and less of a field. Ricky could throat punch Arnie for ever saying this way easy. Ricky just wanted to see Delilah’s calendar. Maybe something had come up. He knew she had already left work. His building was across the street from her office. That may have been because he chose his shops new location based on her work address, or it could have been coincidental that due to a number of break-ins in the building the old business moved out and he got the rent substantially discounted. Either way, Ricky took it as a sign of fate. It was fate’s way of leading him to his destiny. His destiny named Delilah.

But now on a Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm when she should have been at home making a cup of tea, changing into her lounging pajamas queuing up her favorite show of late checking the mailing as the opening credits ran she. Was. GONE.

Ricky held back his infuriation and wondered if he had seen anyone else either with or following Delilah lately. Perhaps they had tried to take or hurt her. He would stop anyone who tried to steal her away from him, and if they hurt her, even the tiniest scratch, he would dismember and kill them. Whether or not she was ready to accept the relationship he had packaged ever so neatly together for her was a matter of timing – her timing. Having someone else play cat and mouse with his Delilah was playing catch with hand grenades. It wasn’t possible. He kept such a good eye on her, always keeping her out of trouble even if she didn’t know it. There was no way he would have allowed anyone else to pluck her from her own life. Even if she had thought she wanted to be plucked by anyone, he had always been there to show her how unreliable these people were.

Sure, they might have kept calling or coming around if he hadn’t scared them away, for a little bit at least. None of them were the long-haul types. The ones who stuck it out the good times, and the bad. The ones who did paid attention to every detail to ensure that they could provide Delilah the right type of environment to keep her forever happy.

Ricky pitched his laptop across the room. It wasn’t working. He was better than Arnie in many regards, but not hacking. He thought about asking him directly. She was his friend. Well his neighbor. They had spoken a handful of times. Well, she had said hi to him and talked with his dog. But it was meaningful. What she and Cocoa talked about was important stuff. Cocoa was a beautiful girl. She was one of the prettiest pitties he or Delilah had seen. She was also a good girl. In fact, Cocoa was probably the best-behaved bitch he knew, including Delilah. Who again, was missing from her condo at 6:50 pm on a Tuesday night.

Maybe she wasn’t missing. Maybe he just couldn’t see her. Perhaps she parked her car in the visitor’s lot instead. Or maybe she had finally gone to replace her taillight that some angry and overzealous, but good-looking man, broke when a less attractive, taller, beefier man left her condo on a Saturday night. Fridays were her date nights, not Saturdays. Saturdays were for her friends. Why Delilah had thought to cancel on her friends for a giant lugnut was beyond Ricky. Especially when it seemed so clear that when she didn’t give it up all the way he took out her taillight with his giant fists. Men like that bag of douche couldn’t be trusted. Maybe her car broke down on her way home from work.

Ricky thought about his options. He could drive through and around the various routes she usually took to see if her car was stalled out or stranded on the side of the road. He could be her hero, the gifts of Chance and Fate. He could break into her home and make sure she hadn’t fallen on one of her adventures climbing up the countertops to the cabinets, or in trying to replace decorations from holiday specific and winter to winter and love, or in doing any of the other asinine things that caused him worry but also adoration to watch her do. He could also call Arnie and see if he could help in any way to track down Delilah. Ricky wasn’t keen on either of these ideas. He had been planning to visit Delilah’s home one day, but only in pursuit of getting her key to make a spare for himself. Not to find her potentially dead or worse, with someone else, forcing his hand in both of their deaths. And Arnie, while great had too much fun hacking. What if he found things that invaded Delilah’s privacy. What if Arnie couldn’t stop and went too far into her life – what if he became part of it instead?

His phone said 6:58 pm. If she wasn’t home by 7:07 pm Ricky would get involved. He wasn’t sure what he would do just yet, but he would do something. He had to, for Delilah. Ricky went in and got Cocoa harnessed up to go outside. The worst-case scenario he could say she was pulling him toward Delilah’s condo and it put Ricky on high alert. Best case scenario Delilah would not be the kind of trash breezing through the streets of life and would return home as he was walking Cocoa.

Cocoa lead the way up the path heading away from Delilah’s house. Ricky pulled her back the other way. He couldn’t let the calls of nature distract Cocoa from her adoption-card. Cocoa had been adopted after hearing Delilah jabbering away on the phone about how badly she wanted a pit bull of her own. Ricky looked at his phone again it was 7:10 pm. His nostrils were flaring. His blood was boiling. His skin felt as though it would peel back from anger. He nudged Cocoa in the ass with his steel toed boot making her howl at Delilah’s door. Stomping up to it Ricky began twisting her door knob and lightly banging. Cocoa howled again this time from the excitement.

Ricky heard a car pull up. With a savage look in his eyes he saw it was Delilah’s car. She was still backing it into her spot. Suddenly he began backing away pulling Cocoa toward him trying to calm her down with a treat. Ricky walked around the back of Delilah’s building, following the path that would put him directly facing her car. She had bags of groceries lined up on her arms and still had a few in her back seat. “Want some help?”  Delilah greeted Cocoa and accepted Ricky’s offer. Taking some of the bags from her arms, he touched her skin. Cocoa was a good dog on her own, and it wasn’t her fault that Delilah had strayed to pick them up groceries for dinner. When he got back to his own condo he would give her a special treat – Cocoa had done good. So had Delilah, in the end. And so had Ricky. Everything was lining up as he had envisioned it.  

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