The Stranger (part 7)

This is an interactive story. I’ll be writing short bits and then asking for input from readers about where it should go next.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Emily stood at the entryway to the building with the address from the back of the condom. It was 7:57 pm. She was right on time, as usual.

The door opened directly into a stairwell, which meant her destination had to be on the second floor.

She took a deep breath, wrapped her hand around the straps to her purse, holding it securely over her shoulder, and walked inside.It was narrow, hardly wide enough for two bodies to pass, and there was a badly battered wood handrail.

Emily noted a strong scent of piss and weed, both of which turned her stomach. She bit her lip and continued upward, eyes wide open, willing herself to see into the darkness above.

The stairwell turned sharply in an L shape, and Emily wondered how anyone could have gotten furniture up it.

Voices began to filter down, muffled laughter and the bass of music. It sounded like a party, and when she finally took the last stair, she saw that her first inclination was probably correct. People milled about in the hallway: scantily clad young women hanging on the arms of much older men. She felt guilty for assuming they were prostitutes, but given their appearance, she was likely right.


She heard a shout from the left, and in the open door of what appeared to be an apartment, she saw Charles.

“You came….I’m so glad…” He rushed to her side, took her by the arm, and guided her into the apartment, which, to her relief was actually quite beautiful, furnished sparsely, modernly, with large works of art both on the walls and stacked, leaning against columns throughout the large open space. Very industrial, she thought.

“What is this place?” Emily inquired.

“It’s my brother’s studio.”


“Yes…since he’s effectively kicked me out of my own home to entertain his latest floosy, I’m stuck here, floating amidst the flotsam and jetsam that are his people,” he paused briefly, taking her arm and leading her into another room, devoid of people.

“I’m actually surprised you came,” he said, looking at her with all the guilt and shame of a dog who’d chewed the couch while she was away.

“I wasn’t going to. But, I figured you should have a chance to explain.”

“I know you heard what he said…Virgil…and I know what you must suspect. But, it’s all a misunderstanding, really…”

Emily raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips, “Oh really?”

Charles closed and locked the door, waving his hand toward a comfortable looking couch by a fireplace.

“I really do own the theatre…but Virgil and I have been arguing over the ownership of that apartment for months now. It was actually in my ex-wife’s name…and…well, she left me for my brother and when she died, she supposedly willed it to him. But…there are legal issues…and it wasn’t hers to give, as it was initially part of a trust. I simply let her stay there because it was easier than fighting. We’ve been in and out with the lawyers since last February.”

“Good lord…what a soap opera!” Emily’s eyes widened in surprise…and yes, a bit of judgement. She sighed deeply, “So tell me Charles, why should I believe you? And why should I stay here to listen to more of your explanations?”

Charles also sighed.

“Emily, I”m not a young man. And yes, I have a bit of circus-like baggage to contend with when it comes to my pain-in-ass brother and spiteful (though dead),” he crossed himself and looked briefly heavenward, shaking his head in exasperation, “ex-wife. But, I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that there is something between us,” he paused and looked directly into her eyes, “Something good.”

Emily pulled the condom from her pocket and placed it on the coffee table in front of them.

“Then this is not how you should ask me out.”

“I was going for edgy?”

“It was certainly edgy…but I’m not edgy. I’m an old woman.”

Charles shook his head and smiled, “Oh…Emily. You are not an old woman. You don’t give yourself enough credit. When was the last time you did something surprising…out of character…just a little bit scary?”

Emily waved her hand dismissively and looked away, blushing against her will.

“Seriously, Emily…when was the last time you felt the tingles of risk? The pull of adventure? Lust?”

She could feel the energy rising between them. The question hanging there, waiting for her to answer.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it,” she admitted.

Charles tsk tsked and shook his head, folding his bottom lip under the top one.

“Everyone should feel that at some point in their life, Emily.”

“And you believe I should follow you into that, do you?”

“I do.”

Once again, Emily found herself breathing in deeply, inhaling courage from the air.

“Well…I’m gonna need a drink then, Charles.”

He smiled a deep Cheshire Cat grin.

“That’s a good girl.”

Emily twinged a bit at the terminology, but Charles exited the room to find her a drink, leaving her to glance more carefully around the room. And what she saw there, in the dark shadows, took her breath away.

This is an interactive story…so help me continue. I have my own ideas about what might be in those shadows, but I’ve left it hanging here intentionally to see where you might lead the story. 


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