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Chapter 11 by Kunal Sharma

Hot steam swirled around the tiny pale blue bathroom yet her feet flinched as they touched the cold ceramic tiles. Tara reached for the damp towel hanging behind the door dropping used and dirty clothes that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine for weeks. She stood there shivering for a few moments as the water droplets fell around her. Taking a few steps towards the mirror Tara wiped her hand across its surface revealing red puffy eyes that stared back into hers. She was exhausted and her attempt to wash away the last few hours had done little to ease the tension in her neck and shoulders.

Leaving tiny wet footprints from the bathroom to Rob’s bedroom, Tara searched for something clean to wear. The last time she was in his room was almost exactly a year ago. If she tried hard enough maybe she would be able to find the puddle of puke she had left behind along with her self respect after she had aggressively flung herself at Rob that night and he turned her down as gently as he could. Something about her being vulnerable after a funeral. Something about giving herself time to feel her mother’s loss. The next thing she remembered was crying in Nadia’s car. Then her lap where time appeared to stay still. After Tara’s mother had succumbed to a long 3 year battle with cancer, Nadia was the closest thing to family she had left. The sides of her mouth tugged into a small sad smile as she remembered their first encounter. As luck would have it, it seemed the student accommodation at their local university had quite the sense of humour to pair together two girls who couldn't be more different. Yet, they both found themselves in their little shared kitchen that first semester of university with no plans on Valentine’s Day. Two bottles of champagne later (courtesy of Nadia’s black credit card) the two girls covered everything from their past relationships, secrets they hadn’t repeated even to their closest friends and their hopes and aspirations. They were inseparable ever since. 

It was a little past 9 pm; only a couple of hours since Rob had left. Tara’s leg tapped anxiously against the table. Absentmindedly, she moved the cursor on Rob’s computer clicking at files not really noticing the names until her eyes landed on a folder titled Naddy, Rob’s nickname for Nadia. This feels intrusive thought Tara, cursor hovered over the files ah screw it. She double-clicked. Photos of Nadia covered the screen. Nadia laughing. Nadia pulling a funny face. Nadia lost in thought. Maybe photos Nadia wasn’t even aware were being taken. What the…. What kind of creepy shit is this? Thought Tara leaning in close to the screen. Either he’s just weirdly in love with her… or is he in on this whole mess? He believed my story so easily earlier today.. Tara rubbed her fists against her eyes in frustration until she saw spots. She didn’t know what to believe anymore. But, if he genuinely had something to hide, why would he just leave me here with access to his computer? Wouldn't I be back in that apartment with Nadia?

As the thoughts in Tara’s head fought with each other, a familiar notification bell rang out interrupting them. It was from her secret messenger. There was no text, just an attachment. Tara’s heart was beating out of her chest as she clicked the video link. For a few moments the screen was blank. Then all of a sudden there she was. It was her from earlier today at the park. But in the video she was walking right up to the silhouette. She stood there for a few moments, reached down, and then sprinted away out of view. Someone had recorded her and doctored the footage. Right as the video ended, there was another message. Turn on the news.

Tara scanned the room for the remote and leaned to pick it up. Her hand touched the residue of many meals as she pressed down hard on the overused button to turn on the TV. Come on come on come on Tara muttered under her breath. Oh shit. Flashed in bold across the screen were the words Breaking News: Body found in Byde Park. Tara recognised the red mass of hair instantly. It was the man from the park. He was dead. Tara watched the news uncover over the next few minutes in complete shock. No further information other than Aaron was a 43-year-old male who had been infected and was in the last stages of Budlyt and his body had been found at that exact park bench a little earlier today. His body had been discovered by a passing drone.

Her phone buzzed on the table. We’ll be in touch.

About the author:
Kunal is a 19 year old student at the University of Bath studying International Management. Born and brought up in Dubai, Kunal can mostly be found on a football pitch, has the cutest 3 year old chocolate lab and wants to pursue a side gig as a music producer. He wants to eventually move to and settle down in New York.
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