Take My Heart
The heart is what I want. It's meaty flesh the only thing that satiates my desire. Plump and tender, full of love; juicy.
I watch as she goes about her day. Laundromat, grocery store, riding the bus. I am there. She really should check her surroundings more often.
She makes a reservation for dinner with a friend. The reservation should have been for three. I will eat as well.
I see her there, choosing an outfit. Silly girl, it doesn't matter.
Her path to the restaurant crosses the train tracks. Now is the time.
Oh won't you be my Valentine?
This Can’t Be Happening
This can't be happening to me. I take a moment to scan the upscale dining room I find myself in. The hard wood floors, the intimate tables for two, the soft, candle-like lighting at each table. I know I don't belong here. If all the Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Burberry, and Fendi I see filling the room doesn't make that perfectly clear, the people wearing and carrying them do. I know I saw the guy at the nearest table on the cover of Forbes last week. And his dinnermate is undoubtedly a Victoria's Secret model.
My heart catches in my throat as my eyes settle on my date. Her chestnut hair shimmers as she tosses it over her shoulder. The red, form-fitting dress she wears is modest, yet it accentuates her feminine curves. She enters through the doorway at the far end of the room. When her eyes meet mine, I am instantly transported to the beaches of the Florida Keys. Perhaps it's just my imagination, but I am certain that all eyes in the room follow her as she walks, hips swaying. I feel the envious stab of those eyes hit my back as she places her hand on my shoulder and sits opposite me.
"I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long." Her voice is as soft as I imagine her curves to be.
"No, not at all," I lie.
Glancing at my watch, I realize she had only stepped away from the table three minutes ago, but once the image of her filled my mind, every moment she was out of sight felt like a lifetime.
A slight smile curls her lips as if she read my mind and caught me in my lie, and my heart flutters.
"Should we share a dessert?" she purrs.
A brief moment of panic shatters the image of her that has replaced all other thoughts in my mind as I imagine what the bill for this meal is going to look like. The menu didn't list any prices, never a good sign for my limited bank account.
Her finger finds my hand on the table and gently caresses.
My anxiety melts away, "Sure, let's do it!"
A bead of sweat trickles down my spine as I hear my choice of words. I pray she hasn't picked up on the unintended double entendre. The twitch of her lips and slight tilt of her head tell me she has.
"I mean, dessert. Let's do dessert. "
I didn't know it was possible for her to be any more beautiful, but the way her face lights up at the notion of dessert proves me wrong. I have to willingly force my mouth from falling open at the glory that is her smile.
"I think I saw chocolate cake on the menu," I offer.
"I had something else in mind."
I realize she must dine here fairly often as she signals for the waiter. My anxiety over the bill returns because I assume she is going to ask for something off menu for dessert and I can't fathom what that will cost.
My anxiety is replaced by perplexity when she tells the waiter that we will have nothing else this evening.
"You don't want dessert?" My confusion clear in my voice.
"Oh, I most certainly do. I just don't want something to eat. I want to do something for dessert. Something... bad."
Her words smile on my heart and I realize I will do anything this woman wants, and it frightens me.
"Sure, sure," I stammer as if this makes perfect sense. Eat dessert? Who eats dessert? Dessert is an action, Everyone knows that.
I pull my wallet from my back pocket and open it. I partially slide out my debit card, but, after a second thought of the menu and the nonexistent prices, I opt for a credit card instead.
"Is Discover okay?" I hold my card toward the waiter, but he doesn't take it.
"Okay, Visa then." I return the card to my wallet and search for my Visa.
"That won't be necessary, sir." The disdain in his voice is as clear as it is in the look on the waiter's face.
"Oh?" Incredulity colors my words.
"Of course not!" He nods to my date, "Miss Bradley, and her guest," he practically vomits the word guest, "do not pay."
"Thank you, Phillipe." She lays a hand on the waiter's arm, turning his gaze to her.
I feel a stab of jealousy as her hand lingers for what seems a moment too long.
"Certainly, Miss." Phillipe gives me one last stare before walking away, making a wide berth around me as if there is a stench coming off me, and it is catching.
"Well, he is interesting," I say as I stand and help my date into her jacket.
She places her arm through mine and we glide towards to the exit. I say glide because I don't feel my legs moving. All I feel is the fleeting contact between us. The warmth of her arm in mine penetrates my soul. I never want to let go.
"What did you want to do for dessert?" I ask as I hold the door open for her.
"Something we shouldn't. Something forbidden."
I pull the collar of my coat up around my neck and give a shiver, indicating the cool in the air, but I'm not cold. Far from it. I just wanted to hide the blush creeping up my face from her words.
"Sounds like ff..fun," I say, tripping over my tongue. "My car is just over here. Unless... unless you want to take separate vehicles?" Anxiety strikes me again as I hope I haven't presumed to much by offering to ride together.
"No, we can ride together in that car." She points to the back end of a vehicle that is sticking out of the alley beside the restaurant.
I walk towards the car and am surprised to see that it isn't even as nice as mine, which is saying a lot. My car is ten years old, but it's clean and I keep up with the maintenance. I expected her to drive an expensive new car, but this is dirty, dented, and older than mine.
I head towards the passenger side of the vehicle, and so does she. I smile awkwardly as we both stand at the door. When I open it, she seats herself inside. I guess I'm driving her car.
I work my way around the front of the car and realize it is already running. This car doesn't look new enough to have an automatic starter, but you can have those installed. I hadn't even noticed her start it. When I climb in, I realize I was right. This vehicle doesn't have an automatic starter. The keys are in the ignition.
"Has this been running all night?"
She only smiles in response. I assume she didn't expect to stay long. There must have been something in my dating profile on the app that made her feel she most likely would need to make a quick escape. I take some pride in the fact that she didn't.
I back out of the alley. Emboldened by my new found pride, I let my hand graze her shoulder as I put my arm on the back of her seat to look out the back window.
"Where to?" I ask.
"Give me your phone." Holding her gloved hand out to me.
I unlock my phone and give it to her. It is still open to her dating profile, her eyes linger there for a moment before looking at me.
"I just wanted to make sure I would recognize you at the restaurant." It was a lie. From the first time I saw her profile, I hadn't been able to get her face out of my mind. The photo was still on my screen because I kept looking at it, unable to believe a woman like that had asked me on a date.
She pursed her lips coyly and closed the dating app. She began searching through my phone. She settles on my navigation app, clickes a few buttons, and sets our destination.
"There, all set," handing the phone back to me.
I begin driving, following the vocal prompts. When the route starts to become familiar, I glance at the phone to check our destination.
"This is where you want to go? I work there you know, and it's closed right now."
"I know you work there. You mentioned it on your profile." She holds up her phone and my dating profile stars back at me.
"I did? I don't remember that."
She just smiles and nods as she lowers her phone.
Trying to make small talk, I say, "I like your car."
"This isn't my car. I don't even drive. "
"So we just stole a car?" I ask with a laugh.
"No. You did. I'm just along for the ride."
I look at her, hoping to see a hint of the joke on her face.
"I told you I wanted to do something bad." She smiles.
Her smile relaxes me. It's an odd joke, but I go with. "That's true, you did. I'm glad I could oblige."
We both laugh at the joke as we drive on.
We arrive at the museum I work for. I planned to park in the employee lot of the museum, but as I begin to pull in, she puts a hand on the wheel and tells me to park down the street.
"I enjoy the walk... with you." She lowers her eyes as she says the last part.
"No problem. I would love to walk with you."
I avoid the lot and park a good distance down the street. The longer the walk, the better in my opinion.
"The museum is closed though. We won't be able to see any exhibits," I say as I park the car. "Maybe just a walk. There is some beautiful architecture we can look at, and the garden beside the museum isn't locked at night."
I get out and open her door for her. The look on her face tells me I have let her down.
"I'm really sorry. I would lose my job if I brought you inside."
"How would they know?"
"There are cameras."
We have started walking towards the museum, but she is keeping a space between us.
"Couldn't you turn them off?"
"Well, I don't know."
She steps closer to me and puts her arm through mine. I feel a rush of heat run through my body at her touch.
"I suppose I could. I am the head of security."
Her face lights up and my heart soars, "That would be amazing!"
I stop walking as a thought occurs to me, "There are cameras at the entrances. They will see us enter. I can turn them off when we get inside, but I can't erase them."
Her face falls again. "Isn't there anything you can do?"
I think for a moment. I want to find an answer and make this woman smile again.
"If you wait here, I will go in alone. The camera will see me enter alone. Once I get inside, I'll turn off the cameras and call you. Then you can come in without being seen. What is your phone number?"
I was very proud of this idea. Not only would it make her happy and get her into the museum without losing my job, but it would also result in me having her phone number. To this point, all of our communication has been through the dating app.
"Great idea!" She takes out her phone and pauses, "Except my phone is dead."
"I will just come back out and get you," I quickly offer. I don't want her smile to fade.
"Okay, I'll wait here." She nods at me expectantly.
"I'll be right back," I say as I head off to the museum.
I enter the museum through the employee door using my keys. Once inside, I make my way to the security office only to find the door standing open. How could I have been so stupid? Joe, my night watchman, is on duty. He is sitting in the office eating a sandwich, looking up at me in surprise.
"What's up, Boss?" He asks around a mouthful of ham and cheese.
"Ah, I ah, have some paperwork and things I need to finish before Monday and I wasn't able to get them done before quitting time yesterday." I lie for the third time tonight, dropping my keys on the desk.
"Oh, nothing I couldn't do for you?"
No, it's employee reviews. Yours in fact." Joe straightens and coughs at that.
He wipes chewed ham and cheese from his lap, "Sure, yeah. I guess I can't do that. I'll just watch the monitors and stay out of your way. Or I can go do my rounds."
I need Joe out of here so I can bring Emma in. "That won't be necessary. I have a few other things to do as well. Why don't you cut out for the night? I can finish up here. Don't worry about punching out. You are my best guy Joe, you deserve a little extra paid time off."
"You sure, Boss?"
He is already standing and packing up his things.
"Great, thanks. I'll see you Monday, then."
Joe leaves the office. I follow his path on the security monitors. Once I watch his car leave the lot, I shut down the cameras and head out to get Emma. When I reach the door, I realize I forgot my keys in my haste to see her again. I prop the door open with a wedge we keep nearby.
"I'm sorry that took so long. There was something I had to take care of first." I don't tell her about Joe, because it was a dumb oversight on my part, and I want her to be impressed.
"Were good now, though? We can go in?"
"Yes, as good as gold." Why did I say that? I don't speak like that. This woman has me very flustered.
I extend my elbow to her, and to my delight, she takes it with a flourish. She even rests her head on my shoulder. I have never felt this way about someone I just met. We walk like that the rest of the way to the museum.
We enter through the same employee entrance I had propped open. Apparently, I was in too much of a rush and didn't force the wedge in tight enough, because the door has slid closed. Luckily for me, the door dragged the wedge with it as it closed, so it prevented the door from closing fully when it hit the threshold.
I pull the door open as if nothing has happened and follow her in. I give her the same tour I have seen the guides give countless visitors. I don't know as much about the exhibits as the tour guides, but having worked here a long time, I know enough.
"Well," I say, "that is everything."
I enjoyed the tour as much or more than she did because she held my arm through the entire thing.
"There's nothing else?" Letting go of my arm and stepping away from me.
"Those are all of the exhibits we have on display right now."
"What about not on display?" A small crease appears on her brow. It is the first imperfection I have noticed.
"Not on display? I don't understand."
She slides in close to me. I can feel her pressing against my chest. "There must be something you don't have on display yet?" A coquettish smile playing on her lips.
"Well, I suppose we could go to the archives, but it is just a dusty basement and everything is boxed up. Unless..." I trail off as an idea forms. "Come with me." I boldly take her by the hand and hurry off to the warehouse.
"These just came in yesterday. We plan to display them in a few weeks. They are very rarely displayed in the United States."
I don't know why the idea hasn't occurred to me sooner. This was the most exciting thing in the museum. I find the crate I am looking for and tell her to step back as I pop the lid off. It come off easily because we just inventoried the contents the day before.
"These are incredible," I say as I pull out the first item.
"What are they?"
"These are the royal jewels from the Kingdom of Brunei."
I hand her a diamond encrusted necklace that must weigh five pounds. Her eyes go wide with amazement as they take in the sparkling spectacle before her. Mine do the same, but I am watching her eyes, not the gaudy necklace.
"It's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!" She gushes, and I can't help but agree.
"What else is in there?" Handing the necklace back to me.
"So many things."
I show her tiaras, bracelets, rings, and earrings. She holds and studies them all. I marvel at her. The final piece I show her is another necklace. It is thin and feels fragile. There are diamonds, emeralds, and rubies inlaid along is fine silver arch. Her hands give a slight tremble as I place it in them.
"It's incredible." Her words are breathless and barely audible. There are tears in her eyes as they meet with mine. "Will you put it on me?"
I was helpless to those eyes. "Yes."
She hands it to me and turns her back to me, lifting her hair to reveal her slim, flawless neck. My hands give a tremble of their own as I place the necklace on her and close the clasp. I run a finger along the length of her neck as I remove my hands.
"Beautiful." I hadn't meant to say it aloud, but I couldn't help myself.
She turns back to face me. One hand gently touching the jewels at her throat, as she gazes at the necklace.
Her eyes raise to mine. There is a sincerity in her voice that I hadn't noticed was missing before as she says, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" I laugh nervously.
"For this." A sternness I wouldn't have expected her capable of enters her voice, "Now!"
I hear footsteps behind me and feel an aching crack at the base of my skull. And then, only darkness.
I awaken to the museum's alarm blaring in my ears. I don't know how long I was out. Frantic, I look around the room, but there is no one there. I am alone. I try to remember what happened and where I am. I remember my date with the beautiful Emma Bradley, but I can't figure out how I ended up here.
I become aware of where I am. This is the warehouse of the museum where I work. I fall to the floor as the events crash back to my memory. The museum! I brought her here! I showed her everything, including the Burnei jewels. I stand and spin, taking in the room. The crate with the jewels is standing open behind me.
I rush to the crate and find it empty.
"Emma!" I bellow. "Emma!" I run through the museum calling her name, but she doesn't respond. I stop so suddenly I nearly trip when I recall Emma's last word to me. "Now!" I feel the back of my head. My hand comes away bloody. She wasn't speaking to me then, but to someone else. Someone must have entered the museum when I propped the door open and went to get Emma. That's why the wedge was moved and the door was partially closed. They must have bumped it when they entered. In order to remove all of the items from the crate, they must have carried in boxes and a two-wheeler.
Emma had said "now" right before I was hit. She was in on it! That is why she made me come back and get her! So her accomplice could enter the museum while I was gone. An image of Phillipe enters my mind. I need to check the video and call the police, so I sprint to my office. I open the computer to pull up the video as I pick up my phone. I drop the phone when I see a blank screen before me.
I turned off the surveillance. There is no video record of the crime. The only video available is of me driving past the hotel in a stolen vehicle, entering the museum alone, sending Joe home, and then a video from this very office, of me. Turning off the surveillance.
I am still bending over the surveillance system when I hear a man yell, "Freeze!"
I look up from the computer and stare down the barrel of a police officer's gun and directly at the end of my freedom.
This can't be happening to me.