I bolted upright in bed, a shuddering gasp escaping my quivering lips as my eyes sprang open.  I reached for my throat, grasping at the hands that had been there just moments before, the hands that had been trying to strangle the life out of me in my nightmare, but of course they were gone.  I slowly, nervously, glanced around the room, checking to make sure I was really safe in my own bed, to make sure there was no one in the room with me.


I almost leapt off the mattress when I saw her sleeping silently beside me.  I was so used to sleeping alone I wasn’t expecting to find another body in my bed, and when I did it took me a couple of seconds to remember who it was.  That recollection, however, chased away the savage remnants of my bad dream and filled my body with joy.  I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed down at her, for never in a million years did I imagine that she of all people would ever share my bed, would ever feel love for me.


She looked so tranquil, so angelic as I gazed down at her.  She was still, motionless, silent, sleeping peacefully for probably the first time in over a week.  Part of me wanted to wake her, to see her roll over and look up at me with love in her eyes, to see that smile spread across her face when she saw me, but I just couldn’t do it.  She needed to rest and I was content simply to watch her slumber.


After all, watching over her was what I did best.


I smiled to myself, lying back down and allowing my head to sink into my pillow.  Six years.  It had been six long years since the first time I laid eyes on her, and every day since then I had fantasised about holding her in my arms, about loving her the way I knew she deserved to be loved.  Not once in all that time had I ever imagined that I would stand a chance with her.  Not once.  We weren’t even in the same league.


I wouldn’t say that I was unattractive.  I got my fair share of attention from women.  My body was toned and lean.  As a teenager I’d been overweight, but from the age of about fourteen I’d taken up running every morning and working out at the local gym once or twice a week.  I didn’t have the broad shoulders or bulging biceps that women seemed to like, but I could stand naked in front of a mirror and not be embarrassed by what I saw.  On a good day I was even quite pleased with the way I looked.


It was my face that really let me down.  It was bland, plain, the sort of face that didn’t really make an impression either way.  Everything about it was average.  My ears were neither too big nor too small, and they didn’t stick out too much or appear as though they were pinned back.  My eyes were about the right size and about the right distance apart, though their lacklustre grey colour often made them appear lifeless.  My nose was about the right size, my mouth was about the right shape, I had just enough cheekbones and a chin that was neither too sharp nor too round.




When I was at school, one of my friends used to call me “magnolia”; that mundane shade of cream paint used on walls to give them a neutral feel, a colour that people could neither love nor hate, that most people would barely notice.  I suppose I was lucky not to have the sort of face that made women shudder with revulsion, but even a hint of imperfection would have helped, would have made my face a little more interesting to look at.


Sighing heavily, I rolled over, propping myself up on my elbow and gazing down at her in wonder.  I didn’t understand how anyone so beautiful could love someone like me.  Of course, I knew there was more to love than just physical attraction, but even beyond my looks I was nothing special.  I had inherited the house I lived in when my mother died, and there was no outstanding mortgage on it, but beyond that I had no money.  I worked as a freelance software programmer, and while I was good at my job my income was hardly spectacular.  Indeed, there were months where I barely earned enough to live on.


As for my personality…well, I liked to think I was a nice guy, polite, considerate, but I was also aware of my inner flaws.  I was painfully shy, moody at times and I certainly wasn’t the funniest guy around – in fact, I think I murdered just about every joke I ever told.  The few girls who had ever taken the time to get to know me, who I had found the courage to actually speak to, invariably came to think of me as more like a little brother than a potential lover within a very short period of time.


Of course, I’d always believed that the right girl was out there for me, a girl who would love me for who I was, a girl I would even be happy settling for, but never had I believed that the woman I had coveted for all of my adult life would ever give me a second glance.


I smiled again as I realised that she was really lying beside me.  Megan Tyrell, the Goddess I’d first spotted from my bedroom window when I was just seventeen years old, the woman who I’d fallen madly in love with before I’d even known her name, was finally mine.  It didn’t seem possible, but somehow it was real.  Somehow she had looked at me and found something worthy of her love.


I closed my eyes and lay back, wondering once again if things could have been different for both of us if I’d had the courage to tell her how I felt earlier rather than coveting her from afar.  Deep down I knew that everything had happened at the right time, in the right way, but still I couldn’t help but imagine what life would have been like if I’d been brave enough to approach her sooner.  I could remember the first time I saw her as if it was yesterday.  The image was burned permanently into my memory, and ever time I closed my eyes after that day I could recall it with perfect clarity.


It was a Friday, a little after five-thirty in the evening.  I’d been in my second year of college, studying hard for my A-Levels.  I’d had no coursework to do that night, just a small amount of work for my Maths class.  I’d been rushing to get it finished, intend on having it done before my mother called me for dinner at six o’clock so that I could eat my meal knowing that I had the entire weekend to relax.  I was concentrating hard, my attention focused on the work in front of me, but then, for some reason I still can’t fully explain, something caused me to look up, to look out of my bedroom window.


My bedroom was at the back of my mother’s house, a large double room with a nice view across our back garden.  Either side of our garden there were tall bushes and trees that obscured my view into the neighbours’ gardens, but which also afforded me a degree of privacy.  However, at the end of our back garden, a short thirty feet away, there were no trees, no bushes, just a solitary fence a little over six feet high, and beyond it another garden belonging to the house that backed onto ours.


Megan’s house, as I came to think of it.


For as long as I could remember, an elderly couple had lived in that house, and all the windows had been covered by lace curtains.  Never had I been able to see inside any of the rear windows of the property from my bedroom – not that I’d really wanted to – but that winter evening I looked out of my bedroom window and found that there were no longer lace curtains obscuring my view.  Instead I found myself gazing into the brightly lit back bedroom at a vision of unadulterated beauty.


OK, so she was sixty feet away, so I couldn’t see her in any real detail, but I could see enough.  I could see she was a woman with long, flowing black hair and a slender figure.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make me want to see more.


Before that day, before I saw Megan, I had just two passions in my life – computers and astronomy.  I knew that it was wrong for me to point my telescope at her bedroom window, to spy on her, and at the time that sort of behaviour was completely unlike me.  To be completely honest, if you’d asked me what I thought of peeping toms just five minutes before I saw her, I would have labelled them all as perverts, but one look at her was all it took for me to set aside my morals, my values, and succumb to my teenage hormones.


I suppose, in a way, I’ve always regretted spying on her that day, but I also know that if I could go back and do it over, I would not change a thing.  When I looked through that telescope at the beautiful young woman just sixty feet away, I felt as though I was looking into heaven itself and seeing an angel.  Yes, I know that sounds corny, but that is truly how I felt at the time.


She may not have been everyone’s idea of the perfect woman, but to me she was the embodiment of perfection.  Her hair was as black as the night itself, full and luscious, flowing freely to the middle of her back.  Her skin was creamy, smooth and, as far as I could tell at the time, completely flawless.  Her body was trim, her stomach flat, her breasts full and round, her buttocks curvaceous without overwhelming her hips.  She was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.


It was nearly four months before I saw her up close, a random encounter on the pavement near her house that saw me falling over a fence and into her neighbour’s front garden, but that brief meeting allowed me to see her up close for the first time.  Her eyes were green, but unlike any shade of green I’d ever seen before.  To call them emerald green would be to do them an injustice.  They were softer, and yet more vibrant, than any emerald on the face of the planet.  That day I also discovered that she was slightly taller than me, perhaps by as much as a whole inch.  For some men I expect that would have put them off, but for me it only made her seem more attractive.


Over the course of the nine months between the day I first saw her and the day I left home to go to University, I did my best to find out everything I could about her.  I never approached her, of course, never spoke to any of her friends directly, never set foot in her house, but between the Internet and my mother’s appetite for gossip I managed to find out almost everything I wanted to know.


Her name was Megan Olivia Tyrell and she was exactly three years, three months and three days older than me.  Her parents had been killed in a car accident during her first year of University and she had abandoned her studies to raise her younger brother, Rory, who was almost ten years her junior and nearly seven years younger than me.  She’d been the oldest of three children, but her younger brother, Mark, had died before his first birthday.


Like me, she had a scientific mind, though her aptitude was Chemistry.  Like me, she liked to go running, though while I preferred to start my day with a long run, she preferred to run immediately after getting home from work.  Like me, she seemed to live a fairly solitary life, working by day as a secretary at a local estate agency and spending her evenings at home with only her younger brother for company.  It was rare for me to see any friends around her house, and I certainly didn’t see any trace of a boyfriend.


She’d moved to the house behind mine almost eighteen months after her parents’ death.  Her brother had not been happy about the move, but she’d been unable to keep up the mortgage payments and Council Tax on the four bedroom house she’d grown up in and so she’d relocated to a smaller property.  To appease her brother, she’d given him the largest of the three bedrooms in their new home, also located at the back of the house – like hers, like mine – and she’d spent the first five weeks in her new home helping her brother to decorate the room until he was perfectly happy with the look.


To me, she was perfect.


Yes, I know I was initially attracted to her because of her looks, but the more I got to know about her, the more I was convinced that she was my soulmate.  She was everything I had ever wanted in a woman.  She was kind, gentle, generous, nurturing, patient and intelligent.  And yes, she was beautiful.


Those nine months I spent finding out about her on my computer and watching her through my telescope were probably the happiest of my life.  In the evening I would turn off the lights in my bedroom and watch her and her brother.  Obviously I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but still I would laugh with them when they laughed, cry with them when they cried, and sleep only when they were both tucked up safely in bed.  I may have been sixty feet away from them and they may not have even been aware of me, but watching them I actually felt part of a family for the first time in my life.


I sat up in bed once again as I began to think about my own family.  I swung my legs off the mattress and twisted my body until I was sat on the edge of the bed, then leaned forward staring down at my feet.  For some reason my stomach always tightened whenever I thought about my parents, my extended family, my childhood.  It wasn’t as if my upbringing had been particularly traumatic, but even so, whenever I thought about it I felt a knot form in my stomach and that was invariably followed by a dull throbbing in my temples.


I never knew my father, but because I never knew him I can’t claim to have missed having him in my life.  I suppose a father figure would have been nice, but I coped perfectly well without one.  My parents were married when I was conceived, but by the time I was born my father was gone from the house and from my life.  I’m not sure if he even knew that my mother was pregnant.  All I knew, based on what I overheard during my one and only visit to my maternal grandmother’s house, was that my mother had returned home one evening early on in the pregnancy and found my father in bed with another woman.  I presume there was some kind of confrontation, but either way my father left home that night and never returned.


My mother worked hard to raise me, working two jobs in the early years before finally being promoted in one of those jobs and being given a salary she could survive on.  She took over the mortgage for the family home and paid it each month without failure.  She always managed to put a hot meal on the table each night and made sure I never needed for anything.  To say I never wanted for anything would be untrue – there was plenty I wanted as a kid that I didn’t get, but who can honestly say they got absolutely everything they wanted as a child?


The only thing I truly lacked was my mother’s love.  I know she loved me.  I know that beyond any doubt.  However, I can’t remember a single time when she actually said it and I can’t recall ever being held or kissed by her.  She showed me affection in her own way, but she was a very cold woman, incapable of demonstrating her emotions.  She was a very prim and proper woman who lived her live to a strict schedule.  She would rise each morning at six o’clock.  She would wash, dress and prepare breakfast before waking me at seven.  By eight she would leave the house, taking me to school, until I was old enough to make my own way there, then heading on to her place of work.


Each evening she would be home at five-fifteen sharp and would immediately begin preparing dinner.  After our evening meal she and I would get the daily chores done – wash the dishes, take out the rubbish, clean and tidy where necessary – then she would go through any mail that had arrived that morning, pay any bills that needed paying and spend the rest of her evening either watching television or, more commonly, reading a book.  Each night she was in bed by ten o’clock. 


Her routine only varied on the weekends.  On Saturday she would allow herself an extra hour in bed, but then she and I would both get up at seven.  The morning would be spent on the household chores and the afternoon would be spent at the supermarket restocking the kitchen cupboards.  In the evening I would study in my room and my mother would relax downstairs.  On Sunday my mother’s small group of friends would come to visit, all arriving promptly at eleven for morning tea.  They would sit around and gossip for a couple of hours before returning to their homes, after which my mother would prepare our Sunday roast.


It was a regimented existence and I knew my mother needed that order, that stability, in order to keep going, to ensure she could do everything she needed to do, but that amount of control was tough for me to handle, particularly when I was young.  Even so, it wasn’t until I looked through my telescope and saw how Megan and Rory lived that I truly realised what I’d missed out on, and those nine months spent watching them were the happiest months of my life.


Of course, all good things must come to an end.


I stood, walking around the bed and over to my bedroom window, to the window I’d spent so many evenings staring out of, watching Megan as she cooked, as she put her brother to bed, as she slept.  I glanced over at my telescope, regarding it as most people would regard a dear friend, smiling as I recalled the hours of pleasure it had brought me.  It almost hurt to think about that last summer, the six weeks between the end of my A-Level exams and my departure to University.


I’d applied to University before I ever encountered Megan, and until I finished my exams and realised that I would have to leave her, that I would have to abandon my evenings spent watching her, I never wavered in my decision to continue my education, to pursue my ambitions.  I’m sure every student considers what they’ll be giving up when they think about going to University.  They think about their home, their parents, their friends, and even the things they thought they wouldn’t miss like their school, but for me there was only one thing I was reluctant to give up.




Sure, I would have missed my mother, but I wouldn’t have missed the life I had with her and so I felt sure I could cope without her.  Sure, I would miss the comfort and security of my own bedroom, but I felt certain I could recreate that somewhere else.  The only thing I knew that I would miss, that I could not find elsewhere, was her.  Watching her had enriched my life in so many ways, changed me as a person, as a man.  The idea of walking away from it, of not being a part of her life, of not watching over her every night, terrified me.


Every night during August I sat up and watched her sleep.  Sometimes I even looked in on her brother as he slept.  By the middle of the month I had taken to watching her during the day, too.  It was riskier as I knew she could have seen me if she looked my way, but with the aid of a cardboard box and a pair of scissors I managed to fashion myself a crude “hide” to conceal my activities.


It was near the end of August, less than ten days before I was due to leave for University, that I decided I had to talk to her, had to find out if I stood a chance with her.  I’d come to accept that I couldn’t put my life on hold in order to just spy on her, to watch her.  If I was going to give up on my dreams, my ambitions, it had to be for something more.  I had to tell her how I felt and see if there was any way she could possibly return my love.  If she could, I would happily abandon my plans and be with her, but if not I would leave and try to never think of her again.


I don’t remember what day it was, but I suspect it was probably at the weekend as it was before noon when I left my house.  My entire body was trembling before I even set foot outside my own front door, and before I reached the end of my driveway beads of sweat had formed on my forehead.  It was a two minute walk around the block to Megan’s house, but it must have taken me the better part of an hour to get there.  Three times I turned around and walked all the way back home, but finally I made it there, made it to the front of her house.


I honestly thought I was going to throw up as I walked up the path to her front door, and by the time I reached it I was ready to turn and run away.  If I hadn’t been on autopilot by that point I would almost certainly have fled, run back to the safety of my bedroom and hid there, watching her from a safe distance, but my body acted of its own accord, reaching up and pressing the doorbell.


I waited in breathless anticipation, sweat running down my face, my body shaking, my stomach churning, praying that she was out and at the same time hoping she wasn’t.  It wasn’t Megan who opened the door, though, but Rory.  The short, brown haired boy cocked his head to one side the moment he saw me, regarding me with a mixture of amusement and suspicion.  I tried to smile at him, but I don’t know if I succeeded – all I know is that his frown deepened immediately.


“Can I help you?” he asked, stepping back, keeping hold of the door so he could slam it quickly if he needed to.


“Uh…” I began, struggling to form words.  “Um…” I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, tried to calm my nerves, and finally managed to ask, “Is this Mr and Mrs Brown’s house?”


The boy shook his head.  “Sorry,” he answered.  “I don’t know any Mr or Mrs Brown.”


“Thanks,” I said quickly.  “I mean…um…sorry to bother you, I guess I’ve got the wrong address.”


“No problem,” he shrugged, pushing the door closed and effectively extinguishing any notion in my mind that I would approach Megan and confess my love to her.


I sighed, turning from the bedroom window and gazing down at my sleeping beauty.  Maybe she wouldn’t have rejected me if I’d had the courage to speak to her that day.  Maybe she would have seen something inside of me and fallen madly in love with me.  Or maybe she would have laughed in my face and sent me away.  All I know is that at the time I needed the dream more than the reality.


I pulled the curtains closed and crossed the bedroom, smiling once more at the angel sleeping in my bed.  I was tempted to just crawl into bed beside her again, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get back to sleep, and if I lay beside her waiting for her to wake up then sooner or later I would grow impatient and do something to help her back to consciousness.  As hard as it was to leave her, I crept softly from the bedroom, pulling the door shut behind me and walking down the hall towards the bathroom.


Outside the door to my mother’s bedroom, I hesitated, staring at it.  Part of me wanted to open it, to see her room, but I wasn’t ready to do that.  I had accepted her death, but that didn’t mean I was ready to say goodbye to her.  She had died in her sleep, in her bed, and in the three weeks since her passing I hadn’t set foot in her bedroom once.  I had seen her body, I had attended her funeral, I had watched her coffin being lowered into the ground, but there was something about actually seeing the place where she drew her last breath that terrified me.


Perhaps I was scared that if I actually entered the room I would actually feel something, for since her death I had not shed one single tear for her.  In fact, the only thing I felt when I thought about her death was gratitude.  I wasn’t grateful that she was dead, but it was her death which, in the end, brought Megan and me together, and for that I would be eternally grateful to my mother.


After I left for University I returned home infrequently.  For five years I would stop by for an afternoon on my mother’s birthday, and for Christmas I would arrive home late on Christmas Eve and be gone by lunchtime on Boxing Day.  Somehow, during those brief visits, I managed to resist the overwhelming urge to check in on Megan, to spy on her through the telescope that still sat next to my bedroom window.  I refused to torture myself by looking at her, by letting myself feel a part of her life once again, but throughout my time away at University, and in the two years after I completed my degree, Megan was all I thought about.


I would dream about her at night and during the day I would find myself daydreaming about a life with her.  Sometimes I would just be sat in front of my computer and I would find myself staring off into space thinking about her, wondering what she was doing, trying to imagine what changes might have occurred in my time away.  I refused to allow myself to see her, to remind myself of what I was missing, but the memory of her was so powerful that nothing I did would allow me to escape it.


I had relationships with other girls during those years.  Well, three girls, and none of the relationships lasted for more than a month.  With each girl I invariably ended up comparing her to Megan, counting the ways that she wasn’t the woman I truly wanted to be with until finally I would break it off and go back to my solitary daydreams.


Maybe if I’d had the courage to tell her how I’d felt, to accept her rejection, I could have moved on and allowed myself to have a proper relationship, but because I had never experienced that rejection I couldn’t help but think that maybe there was still hope.  Even a vague glimmer of hope was all I needed to deny myself anyone but her.  I was slowly coming to the conclusion that I needed to return home, to see Megan again, to tell her how I felt, when I got the phone call telling me that my mother had died.


I reached out, brushing my fingers against my mother’s bedroom door, toying with the idea of pushing it open before dropping my hand back to my side and continuing into the bathroom.  I was sure that the day was close when I would be ready to enter my mother’s room and say goodbye to her, but that day had not yet arrived.  I closed the bathroom door behind me and walked over to the shower, reaching it in and turning it on before stepping over to the mirror and gazing at my reflection as I waited for the water to heat up.


My mother’s death had been a shock for me, mostly because she was still a young woman, just fifty-four years of age.  She’d died in her sleep, her life claimed far too soon by a massive stroke.  At least her death had been a painless one.  I’d been living in Bristol, not far from the University I’d attended, when my aunt called me to deliver the bad news.  At first I had refused to believe it, and then, when I did accept that she was telling the truth, I found myself reluctant to return home.  As much as I’d like to pretend otherwise, Megan was predominantly the cause of my hesitation.


While I’d come to realise that I needed to go back, to tell her how I felt so I could move on one way or another, I had been getting used to the idea slowly, planning for the time when I would eventually go back and get it over with.  I hadn’t expected fate to grow weary with my dawdling and force my return, but what choice did I have.  Sure, I could have managed my mother’s funeral from afar and driven up just to attend on the day, arranged for others to deal with the house, but it was my responsibility, and if there was one thing my mother taught me it was not to shirk my duties.


I waited until the following day to return home, using that time to pack as many of my belongings as I could.  I knew, deep in my heart, that once I arrived home there was a good chance I would not be leaving again.  I would either resume watching the object of my desires from a distance or I would find the courage to talk to her, to tell her how I felt, and unless she made it perfectly clear that there would never be a chance for the two of us, I would remain there, hoping and watching.


It was late in the evening by the time I arrived home, nearly ten o’clock, though it had been my plan to arrive much later, a plan foiled by uncharacteristically clear roads, allowing me to make good time.  I was hoping that I would arrive home after Megan had gone to bed, so that if I did give in to my desire to watch her there would be very little for me to see.  Once again, fate was not on my side.


Under the circumstances, and considering I was feeling emotionally vulnerable following my mother’s death, I think I showed remarkable restraint.  I unpacked my car and carried everything upstairs to my bedroom.  I unpacked my suitcase and put all of my clothes neatly away in my wardrobe.  I dismantled the computer I’d used as a teen and replaced it with the superior model I’d brought with me from home, then spent a few minutes checking that everything was in working order.  Finally, I went downstairs and fixed myself a large mug of coffee, sipping it slowly as I made my way back to my bedroom.


Only then did I reach for my telescope.


It was gone midnight by the time I looked into Megan’s house, and to be entirely honest I had no idea what I would find there.  I didn’t even know if Megan still lived there.  All I knew was that I had to see her, and if she had moved I think I would have curled up on my bed and wept like a child until morning.


Megan’s bedroom was dark, but the curtains were open and I could see that her bed was empty.  The room was pretty much as it had been the last time I saw it, just a little more disorganised, a little more untidy.  I could see a number of Megan’s personal belongings – the snow-globe she kept on her dressing table, her robe hanging on the back of the door, a picture of her parents beside her bed – but I could see no sign of her.


I abandoned the telescope for a moment, staring at the house through my bedroom window.  It was almost completely dark.  There was a dim glow downstairs, probably from the light in the hall at the front of the house.  I remembered that when Megan was out in the evenings she often left the hall light on to dissuade potential burglars from attempting to break into her house.  Upstairs also appeared dark, at first, but as I looked more closely I could see a light in Rory’s room, a white glow coming from the left side of the bedroom, near where his bed had been.


Returning to the telescope, I looked in on the boy I had come to think of as a little brother, hoping that I could catch a glimpse of him.  His room had changed in so many ways.  Though it was dark, I could tell that the walls were no longer the dark shade of blue that they had been five years earlier, but instead they were now a brighter colour, though I couldn’t tell exactly what that colour was.  His bed was no longer against the left wall of his room, but instead now inhabited the far wall, directly opposite the bedroom door.  Where his bed had been, there was not a desk, and on that desk an item I was more than familiar with – a computer.  The white glow that had caught my eye was coming from the monitor, and in front of it, sat in otherwise complete darkness, was Rory.


He had changed so much in five years, though that was only to be expected.  No longer was he the short, almost childish-looking eleven year old I remembered, but rather he was a tall and rather handsome young man who was, if I remembered his birthday correctly, just a week shy of turning seventeen.  I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him.  He was wearing what looked like a pair of pyjama bottoms, a light coloured fabric that was almost invisible against his pale skin.  His torso was bare, and though I could only see his profile he looked to have the athletic physique I had dreamed of attaining when I was his age.  His hair was longer than it had been, almost shoulder length, and while I was not a fan of longer hair on men, it actually seemed to suit him.


I felt a buzzing sensation inside me as I gazed at him.  Don’t misunderstand me – my feelings towards Rory were akin to the love one brother would feel for another – but as I watched him I felt an excitement building in the pit of my stomach.  For the first time in five years I felt as though I was back with my family, and there was so much I had missed, so much I had to catch up on.


When he was eleven, Rory liked planes.  He would sit in his bedroom for hours on the weekends building plastic model planes, and then he and Megan would hang those planes from his bedroom ceiling.  Though it was dark, I could see that there were no longer any planes hanging in his room, but that was only to be expected.  After five years he had changed, his interests had changed.  I was looking forward to getting to know him all over again.


I turned my attention from my “brother” to the computer in front of him, adjusting my telescope to allow me to focus on the screen.  At first I couldn’t make out what he was looking at, it was just a blur of reds and pinks, but slowly the image came into focus.  Still I wasn’t completely sure what kind of site he was on, but given the amount of pink flesh I could see I had a fair idea.  I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered how I had spent many an hour at his age surfing the Internet looking for images of women who could temper my youthful yearnings.


I jerked back from the telescope as Rory clicked on one of the images, opening a larger version.


I’d been both right and wrong about what he was looking at.  As I’d suspected, Rory was looking for pornographic images on the ‘net, but the images he sought were not of women.  I suppose I had no real right to be upset about it, but I was.  It wasn’t that I had any problem with him being gay, but rather I was upset because I didn’t know about it, because it didn’t form part of the fantasy I’d created in my mind.  I guess it was the first time in six years that my preconceptions about Megan, about Rory, about the life I’d imagined, had truly been challenged.


I looked through the telescope again, looking at Rory, at his monitor, watching him as he found image after image of naked men, of men having sex with other men, of men orally gratifying other men, of men manually gratifying themselves.  With each image the fantasy I’d created in my mind seemed to slip further and further away.  For the first time I realised that while I knew a lot about Rory, about Megan, I didn’t actually know them.  I wasn’t a part of their lives.  I was nothing to them.


For the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be truly alone.


In that moment I knew that something had to change.  I couldn’t spend the rest of my life watching them.  I either had to be a part of their lives, or I had to walk away from them forever, and the only way I could do either was to go to Megan, to tell her how I felt, to see if there was any chance that she could ever love me the way I loved her.


I paced back and forth in front of my bedroom window, my mind racing, my body filling with fresh determination.  It was the right time, I knew it.  Fate had brought me home in order to show me that it was time for me to act, to show me that I could wait no longer.  I felt strong inside, as though I could do anything, because even the idea of rejection was more appealing than the thought of forever being apart from her, of always being on the outside looking in.


Had it not been so late I would have marched around there right away.  OK, so I was fairly sure that Megan was out, but even so, I would have gone there, I would have sat with Rory, I would have waited for her to return and then…what?


I stopped my pacing and thought about it.  What was I going to tell her?  Was I going to say that I’d been watching her from my bedroom since I was seventeen, that I fantasised every day about being a part of her life?  What was I going to say that would make me sound like some crazed pervert?  Obviously I couldn’t tell her the truth, at least not right away, but I knew I couldn’t lie to her either.


I sighed, shaking my head and slumping down in the chair beside my telescope.  Even though I had the necessary confidence, finding the words to express my feelings was going to be more difficult than I thought.


I was in the process of coming up with the right words, toying with various ideas, when Megan’s bedroom light came on, and all thoughts of talking to her were banished from my mind.  I stared through the window open mouthed, an aching pain building in my heart, tears forming in my eyes.  I didn’t need to look through the telescope to see her, or the man that walked into her bedroom behind her, who took her in his arms the moment the door was closed.  I didn’t need my telescope to see that I had waited too long.


Reaching up I wiped the mirror clear and gazed into my own eyes.  The memory of that day, the day I found that Megan had found someone, still burned.  I hated the idea of him touching her, of anyone other than me touching her.  She was mine, not his.  He had no right being there.  He didn’t…couldn’t…love her the way I did.


I shook my head and moved away from the bathroom mirror, walking over to the shower.  I didn’t need to reach inside, to feel the water, to know that it was hot enough – the thick cloud of steam that had filled the room while I daydreamed told me that the water was hot enough.  I stepped inside, wincing briefly as the hot water pummelled my bare flesh, but I adapted to the heat quickly and within minutes was grateful for the soothing spray.  I could feel my muscles relaxing, feel the grime washing from my skin, but in my mind I could still see the image of my love entering her bedroom with another man.


Though it tore at my heart to do so, I watched them for most of the night, only abandoning my telescope when the sun began to rise.  That night was one filled with a mixture of emotions; excitement, anguish, lust, revulsion, love and hatred.  I watched as he undressed her, my groin responding favourably to the sight of her bare breasts, but any desire I felt was quickly quenched the moment I saw his hands touch them.  I was filled with joy when I saw her standing naked, saw her soft mound of pubic hair, her gently sloping buttocks, but that joy was extinguished the instant he carried her to the bed and buried himself inside her.


I watched as he pounded into her, tears streaming down my face.  Never before had I known pure, unadulterated hatred, but as he rolled off her, his spent organ flopping against his thigh, I think I could probably have killed him.  I could have choked the life out of him with my bare hands, hammered his face with my fists, broken his bones one at a time just to hear him scream in pain.


The only consolation I felt was when, while he was having sex with her, I happened to glance into Rory’s bedroom.  He was still sat at his desk, but he’d turned the chair around, facing the window, his eyes on the wall that separated his room from his sister’s.  On his face I saw an expression of anger.  His hands were clenched into tight fists, his white knuckles visible even in the darkness.  For whatever reason, I knew in that moment that Rory and I shared a similar hatred for the man who Megan had taken to her bed.


Rory stayed up most of the night on his computer.  After a few hours of looking at pornographic images, interrupted by three or four lengthy masturbation sessions, he finally closed his Internet browser and played a game on his computer instead.  I couldn’t tell what game it was, but it appeared to be violent, bloody, and thoroughly enjoyable to him.  I only wished I could have been there, sitting beside him, keeping him company as he played, so that I didn’t have to think about Megan and the man who slept beside her.


When finally I crawled into bed I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, but even as I lay on my soft mattress wrapped tightly in my duvet, I couldn’t stop thinking about Megan.  I wasn’t angry at her for finding someone.  She had no idea how I felt about her, no idea I even existed, and she deserved to be loved, to be happy.  I couldn’t begrudge her that.  The man she had chosen, though, he was somebody I could hate.  Sure, he was tall, his body was firm and muscular, and his stylish clothes suggested he had the means to support her, but there was something about him that just wasn’t right, something that disturbed me.


As I lay there I found myself wondering how long he and Megan had been together.  I found a few minutes of brief hope as I considered the possibility that he was just some random guy that she had picked up at a club, but I couldn’t believe that.  It wasn’t just that the Megan in my mind wasn’t the sort to have a one night stand; it was also the look on Rory’s face.  He knew the man she was with, and he hated him.  Something was very wrong and I needed to know what it was.  If nothing else, I needed to know if Megan was truly happy with the man, if she was planning to spend the rest of her life with him, for if she was I would have my answer and I would be able to walk away without ever having to say a word to her.


Over the days that followed I did everything I could to find out about the man who shared my angel’s bed.  My task was not a difficult one.  The following day I rose early and parked across the street from her, determined to follow him to work, hoping that it would provide a starting point for my enquiries.  In the end I didn’t just follow him to work, I followed them both.  Megan was still working as an assistant in the estate agency and the man she had chosen as her partner was also her boss.


It took me less than a day to identify him as Hugh Sinclair, and less than an hour of searching on the Internet told me most of what I wanted to know about him.  His father had actually set up the estate agency, and Hugh had taken it over when he retired early due to ill health.  He was good at his job and he worked hard, but he was far from a model citizen.  He had a reputation as a bully and had twice been arrested for assault, but he had never been charged with a criminal offence.  He was a respected businessman, but not a respected man.  He had a good credit rating, plenty of money in the bank and he took home a six-figure salary.


I hated him.


My hatred for the man, for Hugh Sinclair, only grew when I discovered that he was more than just Megan’s boyfriend – he was her fiancé and they were to be married in the spring.  I couldn’t believe it.  Finally I had plucked up the courage to tell the woman I loved how I felt about her, and she was already engaged, already in love, already looking forward to a life with someone else.


I watched them constantly; or, at least, as much as I could whilst planning my mother’s funeral and finding out everything I could about Hugh Sinclair.  Every night he fucked her on her bed, leaving the lights on until he was done just to taunt me.  With the exception of one night, when he was already asleep, Rory stared in anger at his bedroom wall as Hugh Sinclair pounded his sister on the other side of it.


As I watched I saw more going on between Rory and Hugh, things that made my stomach tighten and yet also filled me with hope.  I watched in the evening as Rory was washing the dishes.  I watched as Hugh approached him from behind, leaning over him, dropping a mug into the sink and whispering something into his ear.  I couldn’t tell what Hugh said, but whatever it was disturbed Rory greatly, as I saw on his face a mixture of misery and rage as his future brother-in-law turned and walked away from him.


The following night I saw Rory walk into his bedroom clad in nothing but a towel, his body still wet from his shower.  I was about to look away, to respect his privacy, when his bedroom door swung open.  Based on Rory’s reaction I could tell that Hugh hadn’t knocked, that he had just barged straight in, and based on the expression on the older man’s face I could see Rory’s discomfort amused him.  I watched as they talked, and while I couldn’t tell what they were saying I could read their body language easily.  During the few minutes they spoke Rory slowly moved towards the far side of the room, clinging tightly to his towel, never taking his eyes off his sister’s fiancé.  Hugh, on the other hand, seemed completely relaxed, sitting on the edge of Rory’s bed and talking easily to him, though I could swear there was a hint of menace on his face as he spoke.


There were other incidents, minor altercations, over the course of the week leading up to my mother’s funeral that gave me fresh hope.  I could see that Rory both hated and feared Hugh, and that the older man was doing everything he could to intimidate him.  I could also see that Megan was completely oblivious to what was going on, seeing only what she wanted to see – the love of her life and her little brother getting on fine.  In her world, everything was perfect.  In Rory’s world, he was living in a nightmare.  And in Hugh’s world, he was king of his own little castle.


The day of my mother’s funeral was a traumatic one for me, and I passed through it in a bit of a haze, not really paying attention to what was going on around me.  I honestly don’t remember dressing that morning, or driving over to the church where the service was to take place.  I have a vague memory of shaking hands with an endless procession of people after the funeral, but I don’t remember any of their faces or anything they said.  I vividly recall watching my mother’s coffin lowered into the ground and dropping a solitary white rose on top of it, but beyond that I remember little about the day.


I suppose to the other mourners there my behaviour would have seemed natural.  To them I would have appeared to be a grieving son too numb to react to what was happening around him, but the truth is that with the exception of those few seconds when my mother’s coffin was lowered into the ground, I don’t think I thought about her once.  My mind was too busy contemplating another dilemma, trying to decide what I would do after my funeral – return to my flat in Bristol or stay in my childhood home.  And the answer to that dilemma depended on whether I was ready to give up on Megan, abandon all hope of ever having a relationship with her, or whether I was willing to take a chance and see if we had a future.


That night, after the funeral, I made my choice.  Grabbing my bags, I loaded them into my car and drove back to Bristol, arriving in the early hours of the morning.  For the next week I worked tirelessly to pack up my remaining belongings and ferry them over to my mother’s house.  I suppose if I’d been thinking clearly I would have hired a van and completed the task in half the time, but instead I made more than a dozen trips back and forth before returning one last time to inform my landlord that I was moving out.


After giving my landlord notice and paying my outstanding rent, I decided that I wanted to spend one last day in Bristol, a city I had come to love, to think of as home, but as I walked the city streets they felt foreign to me.  By late evening I realised that I no longer had a place there, that I belonged with Megan, and without her I belonged nowhere at all.  I had planned to spend one last night in my flat before leaving, but instead I grabbed the last of my things and drove back that night, hoping all the way that there would still be a chance for me, for us, praying that I could find some way to rid her of the cancer that was Hugh Sinclair and convince her that I was the man she really wanted to be with.


And that same night I found all the ammunition I needed, and wished I never did.


I shuddered at the memory of what I found when I returned to my mother’s house that night, shook my head to rid myself of the image that formed in my mind, but it wouldn’t go away.  I shut off the water in the shower and stepped out, snatching a towel from the rail and wrapping it around me.  Slowly I moved over to the toilet, lowering the lid and sitting down, lowering my head as once again nausea took hold of me, though this time it was induced by a very real memory rather than some unidentifiable emotion.


I didn’t want to think about it.  I didn’t want to remember what I saw.  Even more, I didn’t want to remember what I did, what I felt, what I thought at the time.  I wanted to shut it out of my mind and just crawl back into bed beside Megan, but I couldn’t.  The memory was too powerful.


I arrived home late that night, close to midnight.  I’d been exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open as I walked through the front door, so tired I even left my few remaining belongings in the boot of my car, deciding to leave them there until morning.  All I’d wanted was to climb the stairs and crawl into bed, but once I reached my bedroom I found that the lure of my telescope was just too powerful.  I’d gone over a week without seeing them, without looking in on them.  I needed to see Megan and Rory, to chase the feelings of loneliness from my heart.


If Megan was in she was nowhere to be found, but Rory was there – Rory and Hugh.  I was paralysed as I stared through the telescope, unable to move, unable to think, unable to react.  I wasn’t even sure what I was really seeing.  Or rather, I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing.


Rory was naked, face down on his bed, Hugh on top of him, fucking him the same way he had fucked Megan that first night, only Rory didn’t seem to be a willing participant.  The fact that Hugh had Rory’s arm pinned behind his back, an elbow pushing the boy’s face into his mattress, was bad enough, but when I saw Rory’s face…  Never in my life had I seen such an expression on another human face.  His soft, handsome features were contorted in a look of anguish, pain, humiliation, anger…so many different emotions.  Tears poured from his eyes as he lay there, powerless to prevent what was happening to him.


I wish I could say that I charged around there right away, kicked the front door down and rescued the boy I had come to love as a brother, but I didn’t.  God help me, I didn’t.  Perhaps if I had, things would have been different, but instead I reached for my camera, zoomed in to capture as much detail as possible, and snapped off a series of shots.  I could have done anything to stop it.  I could have called the police and had them round there in minutes.  I could have called the house itself – I had the number.  I could have gone around there.  There were a thousand ways I could have rescued Rory from what was happening to him, but instead I took photographs, captured his pain in my digital camera, snapping away until Hugh was done, until Rory was curled up on his bed in a sobbing broken heap.


I took pictures until Hugh left Rory’s room and turned the light off behind him, and then I ran to my bathroom and threw up.


That night I lay in bed thinking about what I’d seen, about what I’d done.  I tried to justify my actions in my own mind, telling myself that I was too shocked to react appropriately, that I wasn’t completely certain of what was happening, that if I’d called the police I would have needed evidence anyway, but the truth was I saw an opportunity to get Hugh Sinclair away from Megan, to open the door for me, and I took it.  Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe not.  All I know is that as I lay in bed that night I knew that I couldn’t let it happen again.  I couldn’t let him continue to hurt Rory.  Even if it meant confessing to spying on them, admitting that I’d stood by and done nothing while Rory was raped, I had to make sure that it never happened again.


Of course, knowing that you have to do something and knowing exactly what you should do are two different things.  The first thing I did when I got up the next morning was download the pictures from my digital camera to my computer, and then print them off on photographic paper.  Once I had all the images printed I sat by the window and looked at them, stared at them, hoping that somehow I was mistaken about what I was seeing.  I cared about Rory and I didn’t want to believe that he was capable of betraying his sister by having an affair with her fiancé, but that idea was still preferable to what I thought had happened.


The pictures left me with no doubt.  There was no other interpretation.  The anguish in his face was too apparent, impossible to deny.  As much as I might have wanted to find some alternative explanation, if only to assuage my own guilt, I could find none.


All morning I stared at them hoping the sight of his tears would inspire me, would offer me a solution.  I considered mailing the photographs to the police along with Megan’s address and a typed statement of what I saw, but I knew making the tip anonymously wouldn’t help.  It would take the police five minutes to work out where the photographs were taken from once they set foot in Rory’s bedroom, and in the time it would take the images to reach them and for them to react I had no way of knowing what else Hugh might do to him.


I considered going to the police directly, showing them the photographs and telling them what happened, but my behaviour had to be illegal and as much as I wanted to help him I also wanted to minimise the risk of getting myself in trouble in the process.  Besides, even if I took the pictures to the police, I would still have to convince them that a crime had been committed, that I wasn’t just some nutcase who had downloaded some images off the Internet.


The police needed to be involved, of that I was certain, but it was to Megan I needed to go.  I needed to give her the pictures directly, tell her what I knew and hope that she didn’t judge me too harshly.


The instant I made the decision to go to Megan, I didn’t hesitate.  I put on my shoes and coat and, taking the photographs with me, I left the house.  Throughout the ten minute drive into town, to Megan’s workplace, I tried to think about what I would say to her, how I would explain how I had come across the pictures.  I considered lying to her, telling her that I just happened to be passing the window and saw what was going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I needed her to know the truth.


I parked around the corner from the estate agency where she worked and climbed out of my car.  In spite of the bitterly cold wind, my forehead was damp with sweat before I’d taken more than a couple of paces from my car, and by the time I was walking down the road towards the office where she worked I felt sick.  More than anything I wanted to turn and run, to go back to my car, back home, to hide away and pretend I’d never seen anything, but I knew I couldn’t.  Though the idea of Megan looking at me like some kind of pervert terrified me, the idea of Rory being hurt again was even more horrific.


As the estate agency where she worked came into view, I paused, leaning against a nearby lamppost, taking a series of long, deep breaths.  I wasn’t delaying going to her, telling her, I just needed a few moments to prepare myself.  For years I had dreamed about the day when I would talk to her, make her aware of my existence, and now that day had arrived I was terrified that I was going to throw up.  I closed my eyes and tried to focus, tried to quell the butterflies in my stomach, the trembling in my legs, the…


“Are you alright?”


I jumped as a hand gently brushed my arm, jerking it away and spinning around.  “Megan!” I gasped, stunned at seeing her standing in front of me.


“Yes?” my raven-haired beauty replied, a frown creasing her delicate brow.  “I’m sorry, do I know you?”


“Yes…I mean no,” I stammered, shifting awkwardly.  “My name’s…Jeremy.  Jeremy Clifton.  I live i-in the house…my house…um…it’s the one directly behind yours.”


“Oh,” she smiled patiently, giving my arm a gentle squeeze.  “Well it’s nice to meet you.  I need to get to work now, but maybe you could pop around sometime and…”


“I was coming to see you,” I said quickly, grabbing her arm before she could move away.  “I need to talk to you.  It’s important.”


“OK,” she frowned.  “If this is about Rory…”


“Rory…yes,” I nodded.


“Look, if he’s been playing his music too loud again, I’ll try and talk to him, but I can’t promise it’ll do much good.  I’ll deal with it right away if I’m at home, but if I’m out then…”


“No…no,” I said quickly.  “It’s not about that.  No.  It’s…um…it’s…your fiancé, Hugh…he’s…”


“What about Hugh?” she asked, her eyes betraying her emotions.  She was afraid, convinced she was talking to a crazy person, that I was a danger to her.


“He raped Rory,” I said, my voice a little louder than I intended it to be, my words attracting the passing attention of others nearby.


“What the hell are you talking about?” she gasped, pulling her arm from my grip.  “If this is some kind of joke it’s not funny.”


“Here,” I said, pulling the pictures from my jacket and handing them to her.  I didn’t think she was going to take them at first, but then she looked at the one on top and I saw something inside her break.  The moment she saw those photographs, she knew that I was telling the truth, and it was as though her entire world came crashing down around her.


We walked to a nearby bench and sat down there while she looked through the pictures, tears streaming down her face before she even reached the third.  As we sat there I told her everything, from the first time I saw her to the events of the previous evening.  At first she seemed afraid as I told her how I’d been watching her, but when I explained that it started when I was a teenager and that watching her and Rory made me feel less lonely, she seemed to relax a little.  When finally I finished talking she told me that we needed to get Rory and then go to the police together.  I offered to drive her home, but she refused my offer, opting to take her own car while I followed in mine.


At first Rory denied that anything had happened, calling me a liar and a pervert, but then Megan showed him the pictures and he broke down.  He told us that four months earlier Hugh had walked into his bedroom without knocking and found him looking at a gay porn site.  He said that Hugh had become immediately enraged, dragging him from his chair and hitting him, calling him all kinds of names before forcing Rory to orally gratify him.  The rape I’d witnessed had been the third such attack since that day, and each one seemed to grow more violent.


Together the three of us went to the local police station to give our statements.  I was questioned for almost three hours by two officers, mostly about my voyeuristic habits, but in the end they let me go, telling me that Megan had refused to press any charges against me.  When I stepped out of the interview room I found Megan and Rory waiting in the corridor for me.  Rory could barely look at me and just muttered a thank you I knew I didn’t deserve before staring down at his feet.  Megan, however, had a little more to say.


“Thank you so much, Jeremy,” she’d said, taking my hand in hers.  “I’m truly grateful for what you’ve done, for coming forward and helping my brother, but I hope you know I’m going to be closing my curtains in the evening from now on.”


“I understand,” I’d said sadly.  “What’s happening with Hugh?”


“He’s being arrested now,” she answered.  “If I never see that son-of-a-bitch again I will die a happy woman.  Anyway, I need to get Rory home.  He’s been through a lot today and this is only the beginning.”


“If either of you need anything…”


“We know where to find you,” she smiled, but there was something in her eyes that told me she wouldn’t be calling on me.


 I rose from where I sat on the toilet and slowly made my way out of the bathroom and back down the corridor, all the while thinking about what had happened the previous evening, the night everything changed.


Megan kept her promise and kept the curtains at the back of her house closed at night, and even for much of the day.  Rory was another matter.  That first night his curtains were closed, but the following night, when I looked out of the window, his bedroom curtains were wide open and there was a note taped to the glass.  Using my telescope I was able to make out the single word on that piece of paper.




Though I couldn’t see Megan anymore, I continued to watch Rory, though not as frequently as I had before.  I knew that it was time to move on, to accept that Megan and I would never be together, to get on with my life.  Still, it didn’t hurt to wean myself away slowly, and Rory provided me with a way to do just that.  He knew I was watching him, of course, and even waved at me a couple of times.  If anything it just made me feel worse, though, knowing that I had won his affections but would never be able to be a real part of his life.


It was on the fifth day that everything changed.  I’d spent the evening downstairs, for a change, engaging in one of my mother’s favourite pastimes – watching television.  Ironic, isn’t it.  To escape my obsession with watching real people, I chose to watch fictional characters in some contrived comedy show.  By eleven o’clock I was ready for my bed, and slowly made my way upstairs.


I hadn’t planned to look in on them.  Then again, I never did.  It was just like a reflex action.  I walked into my bedroom and moved directly to the window, gazing across the gardens and straight into Megan’s bedroom.  At first I found myself smiling when I realised her curtains were not closed, but the moment I looked through my telescope I realised that something was amiss.  I couldn’t see Megan, but I could see Rory.  I could see him lying on his bed, naked, his face bloody, his body limp, a large knife protruding from his chest.


I can’t honestly say what happened next.  One minute I was staring at my little brother in abject horror and the next I was scaling the fence at the back of my property, propelling myself over and into Megan’s back garden.  I don’t remember what it was I used to smash the patio doors at the back of her house, only the sound of the glass breaking, shattering into a thousand pieces, and then racing inside without a single thought for my own safety.


I vaguely remember that the front door was ajar, a pane of glass beside it broken, but at the time it barely registered.  I ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time, charging without hesitation to Rory’s bedroom, hoping, praying that he was still alive.  I remember opening the door, bursting in and seeing him there, lying on the bed, but after that it all went blank.  After that I can remember nothing until the next morning, until I woke up beside Megan. 


She remembered it though.  She remembered everything.  She remembered how I’d run to help Rory and found him alive and well.  Sure, he’d been stabbed, but it had been nothing more than a flesh wound.   She remembered how I’d found Hugh, their would-be killer, on the landing and tackled him, punching him over and over until his body became limp.  She remembered how I’d found her lying on the bathroom floor, how I’d carried her from the house, back to my own home, before returning to fetch Rory.  She remembered it all.


She even called me her hero before telling me that she loved me, that she would never leave me.


I hesitated at my bedroom door, glancing left towards Rory’s bedroom, wondering if I should check in on him, but I decided against it.  He’d been through a lot over the past few months and he needed his rest.  Besides, it would be morning soon enough and time for me to change the bandages on his chest and head.  I would get plenty of time with him then.


I opened my bedroom door and stepped inside, gazing down at my angel as stared silently back at me.  I walked towards her slowly, my desire for her obvious as I approached the bed, as I leaned over and planted a kiss on her icy lips, as I ran a hand over her pale, frigid flesh.


“Are you cold?” I asked her softly as I climbed into bed beside her.  She said nothing in response.  She didn’t need to.  We didn’t need words to communicate with each other.  “In that case I guess I’ll just have to warm you up, my beloved,” I told her, pulling the duvet over us both and rolling on top of her.



Many thanks to my beloved, Alicia, for editing.