* * *
I’ve watched her since the beginning.
It’s funny, but I don’t really remember much before her. It’s as if I could split my life into two halves. Before her and after. I remember my life with my parents, and I remember getting into college, but it’s all gray before her. Until the day I saw her, there was no color. But once my eyes landed on her for the first time, it was like when Dorothy landed in Oz and she opened the door. The world went Technicolor, and she was my very own Glinda the Good Witch.
I was twenty-two years old the first time I saw her. She was seventeen and competing in a state-level high school math competition.
Yale University asked me to represent them as a student judge, and I nearly declined. The state of Connecticut is small but houses one of the greatest Ivy League colleges in the country. One that makes becoming a standout almost impossible. I was among the top 1 percent in my class as a senior at Yale, with a major in statistics.
The only reason I’d accepted the invitation was to play a part. Many expected me to follow in the footsteps of my father, and I wanted them to believe that, but my end goal was a little different than anyone knew. I was on the path of revenge, but playing a part would help me on that path. Rubbing shoulders with the same men my father did, even if it left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Agreeing to judge the competition was life-changing. The bitter taste in my mouth altered that day. A sweetness took over. I wanted it. Needed it.
I’ll never forget the way she looked, so confident and sure of herself. I watched her from a distance, like you would a lioness in the wild. I didn’t approach her and I didn’t disturb her, but I never once took my eyes off her.
I found out later she was being sponsored by her high school so that she could attend the competition. She had no family and was being raised in a group foster home, so her school funded the trip. She was smart, and they wanted to see her succeed, which she did.
I saw so much in her as she competed. She knew all the answers and was absolutely sure each time. She trusted her instincts, and they didn’t let her down. There was so much potential in her just waiting to be unleashed. I wanted to sit down and have her tell me everything, anything, as long as she talked to me.
She swept the competition and won first place in her division. I was strangely proud of her.
When she walked out of the hotel ballroom after the competition was over, I let her go. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. But I knew that if I went after her too soon, or too fast, she would run. Not only was she too young for me, but something about her told me she was the kind of woman who came along once in ten thousand lifetimes.
This wasn’t to be rushed. It was to be savored.
I may hate my father, but I’ve learned from his mistakes. I’m going to use those mistakes for my own advantage. He’s smart but sloppy at the same time and it’s been showing. But I know if you want something, you work hard for it, plan out all the details to make it yours.
From the beginning, I knew that she would be my greatest achievement, so the day I let her go, I set down a path for her.
A path to me.
No one knows it’s been me behind the curtain, pulling the strings. I’ve constructed everything in our lives so that at the perfect moment, I could have her.
The time has come.
* * *
“Jesus, that thing is hideous.” Paige scrunches her face in disgust as she continues to run on the treadmill. She set it up in the living room first thing when we moved in. Her long auburn ponytail bounces behind her with each stride. She’s been on it for thirty minutes now and hasn’t even broken a sweat.
When we lived together in the dorms, she always went to the gym at the university, which she hated. I’m guessing it was because guys were usually hitting on her. If it’s anything like when we go out, I’m sure there were a few trying to talk to her. But this is just a guess because I’d never gone to the gym with her, nor would you ever see me on that treadmill. I don’t run, unless I’m running late, which I never am.
“What? It’s cute,” I protest, pulling the pink fuzzy blanket to my cheek, rubbing it against my skin. “And it’s so soft.”