The Invisible Enemy
In this new suspense thriller by Steve Jaffe, The Invisible Enemy, current events explode on the fictional page in a terrifying ride toward the ultima
The Stranger I Came To Love - 1st Chapter

Marc thought again about Nora. He always thought about his wife incessantly. He always pondered about things he had no control over, and kept his obsession in overdrive. His thoughts constantly ricochet against each other wondering, if he were just a little bit kinder to her, maybe more respectful, even more tolerant, his marriage would be better. That’s what Nora kept telling him anyway. Unfortunately, he never got it right.

But the most important complaint of all, the one nagging grievance that floated inside his mind that would make Nora just love him for who he was, could only happen if he just learned to be more loving. This was Nora’s biggest wish for him to accomplish. He believed her and so, he tried, ever so hard, to be more loving. It was the carrot his wife dangled each day in front of him and Marc truly believed by loving her better she would become more loving and kind to him. He was certain of it.

It made such good sense…from his point of view that is—tit-for-tat, you scratch my back, I scratch your back, figuratively speaking. And, when those thoughts filled his head, his heart raced wildly, he became quite excited, imagining how her supple breasts would feel in his hands, how warm and soft they were and how her lips would taste…he was getting very aroused at the thought of intimacy with Nora.

He wanted to wake her up, make love to her, but then the excitement evaporated as quickly as it came. His reality struck and he remembered how hateful her eyes were when they met his. It was his downfall those eyes. He see how a person’s soul in and Nora’s soul was that of Satan.

Now, Marc’s mind was on fire as he gazed at Nora. His rage exploded within. He did not blink. His breathing became rapid, making him a little lightheaded. This had become his ritual, each and every morning to sit on his communal bed and stare at Nora while she slept, allowing his thoughts to run wild.

He envied her in a perverted sort of way. Not because she was a warm caring human being, but because she could just sleep so peacefully within seconds of her head hitting the pillow. Experiencing Nora day in and day out forced him to accept as truth that people who were self-centered, egotistical, and downright nasty could sleep peacefully, and Nora, his wife of twenty-five years had become the poster child for: Be a bitch and get a good night sleep—no drugs needed.

He believed that people like her were blessed with good sound sleep because they had their soul removed at an early age due to a mutated gene. They were manipulators with political smarts, creating scenarios that got others to worry about them and thus, the other humans lost sleep each and every night because they worried about people like his Nora.

Peaceful sleep each night had become difficult for Marc, as his cynicism for Nora occupied his mind. Her provocations were escalating toward him and his disgust and contempt for her had begun to grow to new levels—and for the first time that scared him.

Empty flashbacks of another life took up much of his days and evenings. If he wasn’t listening to Nora talk about herself and her insignificant problems, it was the vague memories of a past that scared him.

For the briefest of moments, each day, something familiar, that déjŕ vu sense, that disagreeable familiarity, tempted him with a glimpse of a distant memory. Any morsel of hope he felt would quickly vanish before he could grab onto it and fill-in the many missing pieces to his confusing past life. From Nora’s point of view, he was just a little too crazy and should stop trying to remember things that did not exist and focus his attention on her and how to make her life better.

Nora was the trigger to his flashbacks—he was sure of it. Just the sight of her or hearing her piercing shrill of a voice, or her special way of pressing his emotional buttons, would send his mind into overdrive. Once she started her attack, Marc would get a nanosecond of a memory and then, whoosh, it would be gone, leaving him empty and confused. He reasoned that he was blocking out a traumatic event…before he married Nora. Oh how Marc envied people who remembered their past, their history in such detail, but he was not so lucky. P.N., pre-Nora was a blank slate as if he never existed.

Each morning Marc would awake, assume his position on their bed with the confidence, a constipated look of sorts, that this day would be the one that would trigger the floodgates of locked away memories and answer all of his questions.

He would come so close at times, like when he’d enter a room only to forget what he was looking for, or going to do, and he’d have to walk backwards to the beginning of his thought to recapture it. So like every morning, Marc just stared at Nora, hoping he would be able to remember, remember what he did not know, or just remember what his brain was trying to get him to recall. Today his morning had begun once more.

His frustrations magnified when their friends…Nora’s friends…heard how Marc watched over his wife each morning, something she bragged about regularly, believing he was romantic and caring. But no one knew Marc’s real reason, just Nora. She was the keeper of the key that could unlock his Pandora’s Box of memories.

The flashbacks had started when they first began dating. They have continued throughout their marriage. At the beginning they didn’t bother Marc, even the strange recollections of a life that seemed distant and lost. He reasoned that it was his guilt from losing his foster parents during high school and then not trying hard enough to make his marriage work. Marc had always tormented himself with self-doubt, flailing his mind constantly with so many “what ifs”. When Nora complained and battered him emotionally, he looked within his soul and hurried to make changes that would please her. Each time she’d demand more and each time Marc would grow unhappier, as he conformed to the image Nora demanded.

Even though he was only wishing for a better life, his thoughts never stopped spinning inside his head that he’d one day have a life with a woman who had passion, one who really loved him for who he was. They had no children to bond their marriage, but Marc was a man of principle and his word and took his marriage vows seriously.

After twenty five years, his wretched life had started to unravel his emotional well-being. He was now waiting for his pardon from his prison sentence to a woman, more a warden, than a loving wife. As he stared at Nora, he was overwhelmed, to say the least.

His penetrating eyes were not the only ones focusing on Nora. Marc could feel it. It had been happening for quite sometime. It gave him the shivers. He abruptly turned his head to the sliding glass window that separated their bedroom from the backyard. And, like the previous times he had felt the presence of someone else, it once again, proved to be false. Marc closed his eyes, squeezing the pillow that was resting on his lap, his grip getting tighter, and as the pressure became more intense, so did the feeling that someone else was in the bedroom with him.

* * * * *

Brad’s cold eyes stared at Nora, keeping his distance. It was not his time, always waiting, always watching, and hoping he would be given a sign from the woman he loved to end Marc’s life. He was impatient, but knew that Nora knew best.

Brad loved Nora, in a perverted sense. They had a long violent history together, but her marriage to Marc, was a necessary alternative for all of them. It was part of their perfect plan so that Brad could disappear and become invisible from the police.

The plan was that they would remain apart until Brad felt he could return and Nora had completed her part that involved Marc. However, patience was not one of Brad’s positive attributes and it was running out quickly. He knew Nora could not be trusted. She was a self-centered bitch and he knew she’d have to be out of the picture one day. But, he needed her for now so he could return and assume his life once more.

He had prayed that Marc, would step up to the plate and do the deed, but Marc was a weak, wimp of a man, too sensitive and too good natured. He glanced at the letter. The time had come to jog Marc’s memory and put him back on his journey to recovery. Brad knew that once Marc had his memory, Nora would be history.

* * * * *

Marc looked up, catching a glimpse of his bare chest in the wardrobe mirror. He was an athletic man who prided himself on staying fit. He was also a man of few words and many controlled emotions. He hid his melancholy through denial. He kept his temper under check, even though he understood he was masking a hidden personality that he sensed was about to explode against Nora.

A violent rebellion had crossed his mind on many occasions, even during her blissful sleep. However, the days crept on with no action, as the real Marc continued to fight to exist inside his tormented mind. He still believed he needed Nora in his life, at least until he could figure out how to bring to the surface a past he knew nothing about.

Their marriage had become superficial since he had said his “I Do’s”. How unusual he thought, as he gazed over at Nora that a husband and wife could put across their shell of a marriage in such a warm, loving, and positive manner, and hide their true feelings so elegantly, as their abrasive emotional conflict danced inside the wall of their home. Nora had a way of creating emotional debt for Marc after each argument she’d create. They happened mostly at the times when Marc wanted sex.

There were infrequent times, when Nora would show her loving side toward Marc. These bursts of affection happened only at social gatherings witnessed by their many acquaintances, making them the “perfect couple”. She’d do this as a game. She knew how Marc melted from her outwardly loving gestures. They would give him hope that for at least one night he’d receive the passion he so desperately craved. However, when they would return to the sanctuary of their home, away from prying eyes and Marc prepared for his starved love making—Nora would explode into a rage and get upset about trivial things. Car keys not in the right place, not screwing on the toothpaste cap tight enough, even looking at her while she removed her clothing would create a screaming frenzy that would evaporate any passion that was left inside Marc’s heart. Sex had now become mercy fucking, love making when Nora sensed Marc was going to bolt.

One-on-one, Marc and Nora had no life together. He was a married-single man. Deep within his subconscious there was something that kept him drawn to her, it just wasn’t making sense anymore.

He always believed that Nora had wanted to marry someone else. She always complained about how her high school sweetheart Brad Stevens had been the love of her life. But, over the long years of their marriage Marc had come to believe that it was his ability to make a comfortable living that kept Nora married to him.

Their marriage was filled with a suburban social life that kept Nora in the limelight and Marc in the shadows. He would have loved to have had children. Nora on the other hand had no energy except for herself and her vanity.

Marc with his clean-cut features and powerful build, combined with his innate calmness, projected an air of strength, controlled energy and confidence, which was totally the opposite of how he felt inside. He was a pedantic man, always fussing over minute details. He knew it drove Nora up-the-wall. However, it was the only button he knew how to press to feel in control.

He couldn’t count the times he fantasized about being a widower, being in the limelight, watching Nora’s casket lowered into a deep grave. Sadly, it was just a fantasy that was consumed by his daily nightmare of being the husband of a mean spirited bitch. Marc’s powder keg of emotions kept building day after day and was a time-bomb ready to explode.

On many occasions he would count to ten, hold his breath, and walk away, unable to confront the important issues that spun out of control inside his head. He had hopes that he could turn the corner one day. That day, he prayed, could not come soon enough.

His eyes remained riveted on Nora in her blissful state. Today, his emotions had sunk to an all-time low. A distant voice was calling him, echoing inside his head, to take action once and for all.

As he continued to gaze at Nora, his pathetic life continued to flash in front of him. He glanced at the clock on his nightstand. It was 6:28 A.M. and within minutes his serenity would come to an abrupt end.

He held his breath, his eyes closed tight—the pillow gripped firmly in his hands, praying that Nora would sleep forever and grant him the greatest gift: solitude and peace.

He made his hand into an imaginary gun, bang, bang he mouthed the words, blowing gently on the fantasy plume of gunpowder escaping his finger. “Maybe one day, if they ever put into law a battered husband syndrome defense,” he thought. “Not likely. Men continue to be the bastards women make us out to be. Who’d believe me anyway? Our façade of a marriage is perfect,” he thought, his frustration building.

Marc knew he was a lost soul in search of some excitement, some passion, and most of all, someone to share a happy life with. There was a major part of his life that was missing since high school. He just couldn’t remember being a teenager. It was as if he had popped out of an egg and became Marc the teenager.

He was not the type of individual who blamed others for his troubles, but his memories traversed only as far back to when his foster parents died and he had begun dating Nora. She had become his historian, constantly telling him about how his foster parents were extremely demanding. He tried to believe they had good intentions, but without his own memories he was at Nora’s mercy. Nevertheless, she explained how they robbed him of his teenage years, sheltering him from the few friends he had.

He heard stories from Nora how his foster mom, a certified home care nurse, would impart her worldly wisdom on him, which from Nora’s point of view was the foundation that made him the weak man he was today.

However, somewhere deep within his heart he believed he had loved his foster parents. He tried to ignore Nora’s take on it, but she was persistent and very convincing, telling him how he always gave in to their desires to protect him from drugs, peer pressure, and the imaginary violence that loomed outside their home. How could he not believe her when he did the same thing with Nora?

“They made you a weak person, something less than the man I thought I’d married,” she’d tell him over and over again. “Grow a pair, it might turn me on.”

Emotionally battered, he had given up on his dreams. His todays were not building for any happy tomorrows. It was the safe thing, the only thing he had control of and the easy way out. He relegated himself to becoming everyone’s doormat.

Marc sucked in a trembling breath feeling his hopelessness once again blanket his body. He knew, like every morning, that as long as he was married to Nora, he had no future and no happiness.

He sighed, looking at the inanimate object that was his wife, the large pillow clutched tightly in his hands. Marc’s mind seemed to drift to a far away place, a familiar place, the illusion of having previously experienced what he was thinking. He felt a sense of happiness, but like in a dream, it was sketchy and indistinct.

He raised the pillow up against his face; the tension in his arms caused his heart to pound. “Do it,” he heard a voice say. “I can do it,” he whispered.

What seemed like slow motion, the pillow drifted toward Nora’s face, eclipsing her from his view. His heart was racing, his eyes were squeezed tight, a single tear rolled down his cheek. Soon it would be over.

Without warning, a squealing car alarm startled him from his aggressive thoughts, causing his body to become limp and the supportive voice to vanish.

Nora popped straight up in bed.

Within an instant she began demanding of Marc with her high-pitched voice to put a stop to that incessant noise. Like every morning, Nora awoke without a smile or even a good morning, just a harsh scowl and a machine-gun barrage of demands for him to jump up and accomplish.

Massaging her scalp with her perfectly manicured fingernails, she turned her eyes away from Marc and in rapid succession, spoke.

“Is my coffee ready?”

“Where’s the paper?”

“Were the cats fed?”

She swung around and placed her bare feet on the soft shag carpet and pounded the mattress. “Where the hell are my fucking slippers?” she yelled.

His shoulders instantly hunched, his face turned beet red, as he dropped the pillow and jumped off the bed in search of Nora’s pink bunny slippers. The devil had awoken.

Another day had begun for Marc.

* * * * *

Brad tried to contain his laughter. He had seen this same scene for the last three weeks. “You’re one miserable coward,” he mumbled. “This is not going to be easy,” he said, disappearing into thin air.

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