Every Breath You Take

A short story by Jeannette Miller Mickenham, 2019

It was 1983. The night air was crisp. Lisa pulled her green denim jacket tight around her as she approached the rear entry of Atomic Records. She should have worn something warmer than her neon green tights, black spandex skirt, and layers of pink tank tops but comfort often took a back seat to looking cool. It was 11 pm in the dark, creepy alley behind the store. She should have brought her friend Heather with her for back up in case this guy was a weirdo; but getting Heather out this late at night was hard with her strict parents.

Lisa looked around. The city was strangely quiet on a Saturday night in Los Angeles. Part of Lisa was nervous about meeting an older guy she barely knew after hours at the record store, but the other half of her was curious about his connection to the music industry. She figured if he didn’t open the door in the next five minutes, then he probably forgot or was shining her on. She was only 16. What would guy like him want with a girl like her?

            Just then, Lisa heard the dead bolt on the door click loudly in the quiet night and some keys jangling as the door cracked open. She turned toward the door to see a dark-haired guy with glasses stick his head half-way out.

            “Cool. You came. You look nice.” Stephen said smiling at Lisa. He opened the door a bit wider to get a better look.

            “Yeah, thanks.” Stephen was cute. No. He was gorgeous like Christopher Reeve in Superman. Sharp jawline, dark slicked-back hair, and piercing blue eyes. Lisa had a thing for these handsome guys hiding behind nerd glasses. Even in the shadowy dark, Lisa could see his features were mesmerizing to her. It gave her goosebumps to hear he thought she looked nice.

            “You alone? I figured a girl like you might bring a friend for back up or something. You know, in case I’m a weirdo.” Stephen said making Lisa feel a bit silly for thinking it earlier.

            “What?” “No. I mean, yeah, I thought about it, but…” Lisa stammered.

            Stephen laughed. “It’s okay. I’m kidding. Come on. We only have the studio for a couple of hours before the alarm system turns on and I want to play the new Police album for you.”

            “You got it?! Synchronicity! I can’t believe it! I want to hear it so bad!” Lisa squealed with excitement.

            Stephen liked when young girls squealed. It reminded of why he chooses them so carefully. “Well, then, let’s get this party started. Come on in. Wait. Did you park where I told you?” Tow truck drivers patrolled the area around midnight and if she parked where he told her, the car would get towed for sure. He wanted to make the night last as long as possible.

            “Yeah. The parking lot right over there.” Lisa pointed to her car safely parked under the street lamp. Her dad told her to always park under the light so she could see if anything looked out of place at night. Stephen had told her the same thing. She liked that. It made her trust him.

            “Alright. Good girl. Don’t just stand there. Come on! The Police are waiting.” He gently pulled Lisa inside. Lisa froze. She looked up at Stephen. It was dark in the back of the store. She could barely see him in front of her but she could feel him close. Her heart began to race as she realized no one knew where she was. She was locked in a dark store with a guy she barely knew. She felt his hands touch her shoulders. She closed her eyes. She felt his body lean in close to hers. The store was quiet except for the hum of electricity coming from the other room. Lisa heard the door close and lock behind them. “You can’t be too careful. We don’t want to be disturbed.” Stephen whispered. As they stood there in the dark, Lisa wasn’t sure what to do or say. She began to speak when-

            “Lisa,” Stephen whispered, “I’m really glad you came tonight.” He could feel her body begin to tremble as he closed the gap between their bodies. He could smell her hair. It was freshly washed. She had prepared herself for him.

            Lisa could feel his breath on her face as he leaned closer to her. Her heart raced faster. Be cool, she thought. She wasn’t sure what to do so she whispered back, “Me too.”

            As Lisa was about to open her eyes, Stephen kissed her softly on the lips. She felt an electricity down to her toes she had never experienced before. Her whole body tingled with anticipation, fear, and excitement. She had kissed a boy before tonight but it was different. The boy from school kissed hard and wet. Stephen’s lips were soft and mushy. His kiss was so gentle and dry. She opened her eyes as Stephen pulled away.

            “Come on. Hold onto me. I’m going to lead you through the dark to the studio.” He turned away from her and with his left arm behind his back, he began to walk through the dark store. Lisa didn’t really care about the darkness anymore. She felt safe with Stephen. “The lights are on a timer, or something, I think. It’s okay. I know the way. I have lights in the studio.” Lisa wasn’t the first girl he brought to the studio. He could find his way with his eyes closed if he needed to. The owner of the store knew he brought girls there for a little fun but didn’t ask questions. As long as Stephen brought him the latest albums before anyone else, Stephen could do whatever he wanted there.

            Lisa closed her eyes and let Stephen lead the way. She was excited about the new Police album. Her friends would be so jealous when she told them she got to hear it before anyone else. The way Stephen spoke to her and held her made her feel like an adult. Maybe this was the beginning of a new relationship. An older boyfriend with connections. She liked the excitement of being in the dark. She had no idea what he had in store for her.

            After winding around the back of the store, Stephen stopped and opened the door of the studio. Lisa looked in and saw lit candles on some of the tables. It looked so romantic. Her heart started to race again. Kissing was one thing, but what if he wanted more? She was a virgin in every sense of the word. Stephen had walked ahead of her toward the record player. He turned and saw her frozen in the doorway. Her eyes were big and wide. Just the way he liked it. The candles always made them nervous.

            “What is it? The candles?” Lisa didn’t respond. “Don’t you like them? I can find something else if you want.” He always had to reassure them about the candles.

            “No.” Lisa finally said. “No, they’re pretty. It’s nice.” She wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince, herself or him.

            “Come in then. Sit over here on the couch. Let me put the record on and then I have something for you.” He slipped the record out of the sleeve, placed it on the player and set the needle on track seven.

            As the sound of the drum and bass began, Lisa removed her jacket, sat down and closed her eyes. It sounded simple. She heard Sting quietly begin singing, “Every breath you take…” As Lisa soaked in the song, she felt Stephen sit beside her. He held out a Rolling Stone magazine. “Check this out. Turn to page 26.”

            Lisa took the magazine and turned to the page. It was a review of the album. Written by a guy named Stephen. “Cool. He has the same name as you.”

            Stephen chuckled. He liked this part. “What? No, I wrote that. That’s me. How do think I get the albums earlier than anyone else? I have to write the review don’t I?” It wasn’t really him but the girls never figured out he was lying and as far he knew, the real Stephen Holden hadn’t been falsely accused of anything. He held up a baggie of rolled cigarettes. “You ever smoke pot?” The joints were laced with Quaalude dust to keep the girls from remembering too much. He had used straight pot once but it took too long to get the girl stoned and she talked the whole time. He liked Lisa. She was firm, tight, and her skin was soft. She smelled good and he wanted to get closer.

            Lisa had never smoked pot before but she didn’t want to seem uncool. She tried cigarettes once but didn’t like the smell it left on her clothes. “Sure.” She heard it relaxed you and gave you the munchies when you smoked it, so she thought it wouldn’t be too bad.

            “Cool.” Stephen took a joint and put it between his lips. He lit the joint and sucked it just enough to get it lit. The Quaalude dust was sprinkled a little farther down in the joint so he could take a couple of tokes for show. He took a drag off the joint, turned to Lisa, and motioned her closer. She leaned in and Stephen kissed her, blowing the smoke into her mouth. She coughed as he pulled away. Stephen laughed, “Hey, you gotta hold it in longer.”

            “Sorry,” Lisa laughed and choked. “I wasn’t ready. You distracted me.” She felt stupid. She thought about leaving but the music held her. She took a drag off the joint. Lisa felt the burn of the pot in her lungs and she tried holding her breath while she looked around. Lisa exhaled.

            Stephen watched her. He could see her beginning to relax. He rubbed her leg with his hand. A couple more drags on the joint and she’d be ready for him.

            “So you’re a writer?” Lisa was feeling fuzzy. Her head began to feel heavy and her eyes wanted to close. Her cheeks felt warm. She could hear the music crescendo and Sting singing, “Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace…” Lisa felt lost but she didn’t care. Her legs were heavy.

            “Sort of. I’m an author. I write books about the psychology of music.” That part was true. He had published a book on the psychological effects of music on teen girls. His excursions were research; although, he didn’t include details about the girls. His hand slowly began moving up the inside of her thigh. Lisa’s eyes were closed. She moaned. Stephen knew she was almost there. He lit a joint without the dust, took a hit, and kissed her. Exhaling and pushing the smoke down her throat, Lisa moaned but didn’t resist. She was ready. He got up and went to the video camera to make sure it was still recording. It was. He took the plastic tarp from his bag and spread it out on the floor.

            “You’re so pretty, Lisa.” Stephen whispered kneeling in front of her. After slipping off her shoes, he picked her up, and gently placed her on the tarp. He slowly ran his hands along the outside of her legs, under her skirt, and grabbed the waist band of her tights. “We’re going to have so much fun.” he said. As he pulled her tights down, Lisa started to moan. She could feel something happening but her eyes felt so heavy and in the candlelight, she couldn’t focus on Stephen. She tried to move her legs but they wouldn’t do what she wanted. Stephen lifted her tank tops over her head and carefully arranged her arms down at her side. Her skin was soft. So pure and clean. He wished he could have more nights with her but he couldn’t risk being caught. He caressed her skin and saw goosebumps appear. He ran his fingers down the space between her young breasts toward her belly and pushed her skirt up. Seeing her white cotton panties as an invitation. He was going to remember this night for a long time.

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