Fiona Donnelly committed her first act of larceny in fifth grade. The long pay line at the local Rite Aid provided an opportunity to slip the Hershey bar with almonds into her coat pocket, while she waited to pay for the Coke. She did not have the money to buy both, and upon completing the task, she grinned. Her success left her feeling high like never before. She took what she wanted and had gotten away with it.
That act set her life of crime in motion, and soon she graduated to popping a lipstick or a bottle of nail polish in to her bag or pocket when she wanted something she could not afford. That kept her satisfied for a few years, and by ninth grade, she learned something even more startling. She could steal people, too. Fiona took immense satisfaction snatching her first boyfriend from his unsuspecting girlfriend, and it gave her a thrill like no lipstick or candy bar ever could.
Brendan McHale, a junior and the star of the football team belonged to Megan Downey, also a junior and head cheerleader. Everyone knew them as the golden couple until Fiona lured him away with little effort. Curious about sex any way, and with a desire to get the whole virginity thing out of the way, she did the deed with Brendan behind the bleachers on the football field after a Friday night game. A first for both of them, it was awkward and clumsy, but Fiona knew the lily white Megan wouldn’t consider it, and she believed the fact that she did made her special. She felt strong and desirable, using what the Good Lord gave her to please a boy, and she loved that feeling.
“You’re nothing but a whore!” a sobbing Megan shouted to her in front of her locker the following Monday. “How could you do this to me?” Upper class men rarely spoke to freshmen, and Fiona held the upper hand in the conversation. Apparently, word traveled through the high school halls about the secret tryst behind the bleachers, and she was kind of happy about it.
Fiona shrugged at Megan’s accusation. “I didn’t do anything to you,” she said standing tall, towering over the petite cheerleader. “I don’t even know you.” She enjoyed the power.
“You stole him from me!” Megan shot back. “You are a thief!”
Calm and rational, Fiona did not flinch. She looked at Megan with a cocky grin and said, “He is the one you should be mad at, don’t you think? You should consider that before you blame me for something he did to you.”
Fiona loved the new world where she had power and attention. Her four years of high school flew by with her standing as the most popular date ever to grace the halls of Wyomissing High. She had lost the girlfriends she had made along the way because they said they did not trust her, an absurd rationalization really, but she learned to live with it. It stung a bit four years later, when most kids went off to college, leaving Fiona behind. Her family could not afford to send her away, and she learned a little too late about scholarships and grants, but she hoped to begin Penn State the following September. She wanted to be a lawyer one day, a career that paid well for someone who could twist the truth and put up a mean argument to get what they wanted. Until then, she would work in the same Rite Aid she used as her personal accessory closet for the past six years. Working behind the pharmaceutical counter on the weekends and behind the cash register up front three days a week, made it easier to take what she needed.
As she walked up the stairs after a pleasant lunch with Jenny, checking her phone for missed calls for the hundredth time that day and wishing it to ring, she remembered those high school events. Her mood felt shaky because of the allegations against Doug, and the months she spent getting close to him, molding him into a perfect mate. She hoped they were not true, but with the slightest bit of doubt, she feared what would follow. It happened whenever uncertainty popped into her life, and no matter how hard she tried, she’d remember that fateful night that made her flee her hometown and scurry to Philadelphia. Then she would remember the man at the root of it all, and how much she despised him.
The day she met Gilbert Crawley, she worked the cash register. He looked innocent enough, standing in line to pay for a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bag of cheese doodles, which he explained he would eat while he watched television alone in his room at the Holiday Inn. At first she thought he offered too much information, but then she realized he was trying to impress her.
“I’m here on business for a few days,” he had said. “And have to stay through the weekend.”
Fiona took in the six foot, four inch beast of a man in front of her feeling thankful that there were no customers left in her line. She did not get to see many young men in suits – denim and work boots clothed most of the men in her sleepy town – and the expensive navy blue number he wore worked well on his athletic body. His jet-black hair moussed to perfection, and crisp blue eyes were the cherry on top of a delicious sundae.
“My name is Gilbert,” he said extending his hand. “Gilbert Crawley.”
She looked at him feeling intrigued, but playing aloof. “We may not live in New York City, Mr. Crawley, but there’s plenty to do around here for entertainment,” she said as she shook his hand like a business acquaintance.
He smiled, flashing straight white teeth, making her awkward about her bottom snaggle tooth in front that curved over the other one in front.
“I wouldn’t mind having a tour guide,” he said. “Would you like to join me for lunch or dinner tomorrow and show me around?”
Oh, yes he had piqued her interest. It had been too long since someone had paid any attention to her, making her fear that those who knew her spoke the truth. She was too promiscuous for her own good. “I don’t even know you, Mr. Crawley. Why would I do that?” She spoke slow and deliberate to tease him and to extend the game they were playing.
“Call me Gilbert, please,” he said. “That way it will be as if you do know me, Fiona.”
Taken back for a moment, she wondered how he knew her name, but then realized she wore a name tag on her blue cashier’s vest. “All right, Gilbert. However, it doesn’t change the facts. What if you’re a serial killer or nerd or something?”
He laughed. “I’m neither, I assure you. I’m a guy looking for a little pleasant company while he’s in town.”
Fiona figured him to be about 25, and wondered why he would express interest in a small town girl who had just turned 19. He had the freedom to pick someone closer to his age in one of the local bars or the nightclub in the hotel. However, he wanted her, and that usually worked. She smiled. “I suppose it wouldn’t be too terrible,” she said. “I work tomorrow afternoon, but I could show you the hot spots on Sunday.”
He smiled and nodded. “Are you free for dinner tomorrow night? It’s cruel to make me wait until then to see you.”
Bold, smooth and full of himself described his behavior that day, and it made her shudder to realize how he thrilled her then, and worse, that she agreed to meet for dinner the next evening.