Michael Prescott: Shiver

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Michael Prescott Shiver
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Shiver: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Michael Prescott



For two weeks he’d been watching her. Every day, when he came in for lunch, he sat in the front of the restaurant, near the window, so she would be the one to take his order. Sometimes he hesitated over his selection of dessert, just so he could look at her a little longer.

Today he’d decided to make his move. Almost decided. The truth was, he couldn’t decide. He wasn’t sure what to say. He’d rehearsed a hundred possible approaches, but none was quite right.

She stepped up to the table, her apron rustling prettily, its lace frill catching bars of mote-dusted sun. Terror surged through him and receded, leaving the calm certainty that he would not do it today. Tomorrow, maybe. Yes. He would do it tomorrow.

“ ’Afternoon,” she said with a smile as she flipped open her notepad.

“Hello,” he answered, then instantly regretted it. “Hello” was all wrong-too formal-“hi” was what he’d meant to say. Dammit, he’d practiced saying “hi,” and now he’d blown it. She must think he was some kind of jerk. She must think-

“You come in here a lot, don’t you?” she asked.

His heart sped up. She was talking to him.

Making conversation. She’d never done that before. He didn’t know how to respond. He gave it his best shot.

“Uh-huh.” That wasn’t enough. “A lot,” he added.

He was making a fool of himself. She would start laughing at him in a minute, and then the other patrons would stare. Maybe they would laugh too. Laugh and point. He fought the urge to bolt from his chair and escape into the crisp winter sunlight.

“My name’s Kathy, by the way.”

He’d known her name, of course; it was embossed on the blouse of her uniform. He’d passed many hours late at night hugging his pillow and whispering that one word-“Kathy, Kathy, Kathy”-his voice husky with longing. But even so, he was stunned to hear it from her mouth, offered to him as a gift.

He knew he had to answer. What would a person say?

“That’s a very nice name,” he tried.

She giggled.

Her laughter cut him like glass. He was sure he’d messed up. And he knew why. He should have offered his own name in exchange for hers. That was what people did. They told one another their names.

“I like it,” she said.


“My name. You said it was nice, and I said I like it. You know.”

“Oh. Yes.” He was trying to concentrate, but the images kept getting in his way-soundless heat-lightning flashes of her body entwined with his.

“Although I always liked my sister’s name better. Eleanor. Isn’t it nice, the way that just sort of flows?”

“Yes,” he said again.

Suddenly he wanted her to stop talking. He wanted her to go away. It was too hard, sitting here and fighting for calm with her breasts inches from his face, the smooth skin of her cleavage exposed in the vee of her blouse, the smell of her hair invading his nostrils and making it difficult to breathe.

“There’s a poem with that name in it,” she said. “I remember it from school. This guy who’s dreaming about his lost Eleanor.”

He blinked. She was thinking of “The Raven,” wasn’t she? Poe’s lost Lenore. Not Eleanor. Lenore.

Suddenly he felt superior. She was the one making mistakes now. He could laugh now, if he wanted to. Laugh at her ignorance.

He decided to do it today after all. To take the opportunity she’d provided him, while he was feeling strong.

“Listen,” he said quickly, rushing the words out before his confidence could evaporate, “I’ve been thinking of seeing that Robert Redford movie, Out of Africa, the one that’s up for all the Oscars. It’s playing at the Rivoli. And I…”

This was no good. He’d rehearsed these words, but they sounded wrong here, in front of her. False. Inept. His momentary illusion of superiority had vanished. So what if she didn’t know Edgar Allan Poe? She knew plenty of other things. She knew what it was like to be naked with another person. She knew how it felt to kiss open-mouthed, to share tongues. She knew about all the wet secret things that went on in the dark.

“Well, I thought… I thought if you wanted to…”

His fear was escalating. He felt sick. He could imagine himself throwing up right here in the middle of the restaurant-the bright splash of vomit on the floor-screams, then laughter- Kathy backing away with disgust in her eyes.

No. Come on. Stay in control.

“… on Saturday night… maybe we…” His voice trailed off. In his ears it was a whipped dog’s whimper.

She frowned. “This Saturday? Oh, jeez, I wish I could, but I can’t.”

Fear fisted over his heart. She was turning him down. Rejecting him. He’d known it was possible, but now it was real. She didn’t want him.

“Okay,” he said tersely, wanting only to end this conversation immediately.

“It’s just that I’ve got something planned.”


“Look, maybe some other time…”

His chair scraped back. He was on his feet. He had to get out.

“You’re taking this all wrong,” she said.

“Just forget it, all right?”

She spread her hands. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

Oh, she was sorry for him now. Poor little baby-that was what she was thinking. Pathetic little half-man. How sad that such a miserable loser had deluded himself into believing that he could ever take her out on a date. How pitiful he must be in his lonely apartment with his face pressed to the pillow whispering her name.

He brushed past her, then turned.

“It’s lost Lenore,” he told her. “Not Eleanor. You stupid cunt.”

He slapped her hard across the face, and she fell to the floor in a graceless tangle of limbs, and then he was running out of the restaurant into the cold clear daylight before anyone could stop him.

At first it was only a fantasy. A pleasant daydream, unusually vivid. He would stop whatever he was doing and run the images like a filmstrip in his mind, filling in details one at a time, revising as he went.

Her eyes would be very wide, bright with fear-no, he couldn’t let her see him. A blindfold, then. Yes. He would sneak up on her from behind and knock her unconscious, then quickly blindfold her and bind her wrists with rope. Uh-uh. With tape. Heavy strapping tape. Better. Then he would put her in the front seat of his car… no, in the rear. Not seated, but stretched lengthwise. Perhaps her ankles ought to be taped too.

All right, start over. First knock her out, then blindfold her, then tape her wrists and ankles, and next…

The fantasy occupied his mind for months. Winter yielded to spring, and spring to summer. He changed jobs several times. He did not return to the restaurant. He kept expecting his daydreams to fade away, as other, similar reveries had gradually lost their power to move him in the past. But even when dry leaves scraped the sidewalks and Halloween pumpkins began grinning at him from shop windows, he remained haunted by the vivid pictures in his mind, as clear as movie close-ups, and by the sounds, soft and secret and erotic.

Her body slumped in a chair, tied down with clothesline, in the musty, cavernous basement of the abandoned factory. Her shoulders jerking as she came to. The sudden flush of panic in her cheeks, the squeals of protest muffled by the gag in her mouth. Her head whipsawing in a futile effort to shake off the blindfold. Her taped wrists twisting helplessly behind her back. The pop-pop-pop of bursting buttons as he peeled open her blouse. His hand on her breast, massaging gently, gently.

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