Candace was tired of her humdrum life nothing ever happened in Morganville, small town farming community in Ohio. She knew all the kids at her school, none of whom warranted wasting her time on them. Of course she and Bobby Mills were a couple a year ago, but like all good things it ended. Candy, as her friends knew her, lived alone with her mom, her father, a victim in the Gulf War, she missed terribly. Candy had been daddy’s little girl, and his death broke her very existence.
She visited his grave daily, to talk, just like they talked when he was there. The thing Candy missed most was his hugs, daddy always gave the most wonderful warm hugs. Nothing could ever harm her when she was safely tucked into daddy’s arms. Candy followed the well worn path to the gleaming white granite maker, American flags on either side. Plopping down in front of the exquisite carved stone, Candy’s slender fingers traced her father’s name, and the words beloved father and protector of freedom.
“Daddy, I’m here….are you there I never really know. I only know when I’m here my heart doesn’t hurt.” Candy said out loud, as there was no one there but her. The conversations were always one sided, but today as she neared the end of her visit, something strange happened.
“Well, daddy I love you, I hope you don’t hurt wherever you are, and I pray you hear me when I talk to you. Bye I’ll come by tomorrow.” Candy dragged her hand slowly over the top of the cold stone, turning her back on the only love she truly knew in her 17 year life.
Looking up finally her heart froze, and fright invaded her being, standing before her on the path she needed to walk, a tall lanky stranger. Candy had never seen this person before, and she came everyday. He didn’t appear threatening, still she was guarded, as she was alone. Daddy always said, “beware of strangers, Baby Girl.” Should I speak or try to walk past? Daddy help me please.
The figure suddenly moved aside on the path, and actually spoke first, easing her turmoil. “Hi, sorry if I startled you. Your dad?” he asked softly, he had a gentle trusting voice. Stepping closer out of the sunlight, Candy was able to see the features of his handsome tanned face. He had blue gray eyes, dirty blonde hair, he appeared older his voice deeper than the boys at school. He was wearing faded blue jeans, complete with a couple random holes fraying, a tee shirt advertising a band she actually enjoyed as well. “Hi, yes….um I’ve never seen you here before.” Candy stepped a bit closer, still guarded her arms stiff by her sides. His smile put her fear to rest, it was a hauntingly wonderful smile, not unlike her father’s had been.
“No, it’s hard for me to come here….hurts too much ya know?” the stranger replied, Candy felt she should introduce herself. “I’m Candace Shaffer, Candy, to my friends.” She stretched out her hand to shake his, although he didn’t take it oddly, and she let it fall back to her side.
“Hi, Candy, I’m Graham….and um sorry I don’t like shaking hands,” Graham explained shrugging, his eyes intense as if they were peering deep into her soul, Candy shivered feeling shockingly exposed, almost if she were standing there naked. She could not explain the feeling, a sense of urgency, of curious excitement, she should be wary, yet she wasn’t.
“You cold, you shivered…um are you walking? I’ve got a car, I could drop you home if you’re cold.” His invitation seemed so innocent, and sincere Candy decided to accept.
Graham’s hand extended taking hers in his, his hand was warm, his eyes trusting. Candy allowed him to put her into his car, it was sporty, a Camero, she thought, painted black with blood red pinstripes running along the body. Graham put in a CD letting it play while he drove, funny he never asked where she lived.
They made a quick stop at a convenience store, Candy could have gotten out and walked home, it wasn’t far, but she trusted Graham, and felt no fear with him. He handed her an opened soda, Pepsi Cherry, How does he know I like Cherry? “You opened it?” Candy asked puzzled. That smile, what was it about that hypnotic smile of his?
“The cashier dropped it, I opened it so it wouldn’t spray you, drink up.” Graham took a large swig of his soda, so Candy took a drink, it was refreshingly cold, and seemed sweeter than she recalled, she took another drink, and another.
As they drove, Candy felt suddenly strange, her vision seemed to blur, the tree tops seemed to blend, shades of green, and shadows flickering. She felt as if she were floating, drifting with the wind, like her soul and body had somehow separated. Looking at Graham, his smile deepened, “Comfy Candy?” he chuckled. Candy realized something was wrong, as movement required an effort, she had no control of her limbs, she tried to scream but nothing emerged from her lips but a pathetic murmur, “Help me….”