The Boy Next Door - Pt. III: Welcome Home
Updated: Feb 6
Can Greg be trusted? What happened to her parents? Is it Nina or Essie?
Based on true events
October 2021 – Logan, Illinois
Nina’s phone rings again– it’s Dr. Edwards.
“Where have you been?! I’ve been calling you for an hour!” Dr. Edwards angrily-whispered through the phone.
“You really don’t want to know,” Nina replied in a groggy tone. Dr. Edwards continued,
“I came to check on your parents like you asked and… Well, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but we have a problem.”
“I don’t know if I can take any more unexpected news today,” Nina responded.
“It might be good news, since your parents treated you like crap,” Dr. Edwards said.
“Are they dead?” Nina quibbled.
“That, I don’t know. The house is empty and there doesn’t seem to be any foul play. Nothing seems out of order either. Maybe they’re on vacation or something?”
“My parents… vacation? No way.”
“Well, I’ll keep looking around and give you a call back if I find anything.”
“Ok, thanks.” Nina hangs up the phone. She looks at her hands in disgust. Colorful chunks of expired lunch. The sight of it makes her nauseous so she heads back into the house.
“Hey Greg, I–”
“One second,” Greg whispers as he covers the phone. He continues in a jolly tone,
“Hey, let me call you back when I have more information… Ok, talk soon!”
“Someone’s excited,” Nina murmurs.
“I just had to make a call to someone from the old neighborhood. He remembers you and is excited to see you… today.”
“See me? Like this? Today? Are you crazy?” Greg laughs and begins walking toward Nina. He comes to an abrupt stop after taking a few steps in her direction. Greg swiftly covers his nose.
“Ooooo,” he shrieks.
“Ooooo is right. And whoever you were on the phone with is going to smell this too. So I need to go home… now.” Nina turns around and starts walking towards the door.
“Wait! You can clean up here. My mom has clothes that can fit you.” Nina stops walking and turns around.
“This is my first time in your house and you want me to get naked and put on your mother’s clothes?”
“Why you gotta make it sound like that?” Nina turns around and walks through the front door.
“I didn’t mean it like that!” Greg grabs his keys from the living room and follows Nina outside.
Loganville Community College Campus
Greg parks in front of Nina’s building and she immediately opens the door and jumps out.
“Essie can I–”
“That’s not my name,” she quickly rebuttals.
“You can’t deny those pictures."
“Look, I know you–”
“What do you know? Huh? You just met me! You don’t know shit! One fucking picture does not define my entire past or who I am. My name is Nina, always has been and always will be!” Nina shuts the door and walks toward the entrance. Greg rolls the window down and yells,
“There are more pictures to prove I’m right! See you tomorrow! Oh, and welcome home!” Nina ignores Gregs comments and keeps walking away.
She enters her room and quickly closes the door behind her. She throws her backpack across the room and presses her back against the door. Nina slowly slides down the door until she is sitting on the floor. She sits there lifelessly as a tear runs down her cheek. A second and third tear follows the first, then all at once, the tears flow down her face. She lets out a big wail and begins to weep profusely.
“Who the fuck am I?” She eventually pulls herself up, takes a shower and returns to her room where she quickly falls asleep.
Two hours later, she is awakened by her phone’s ringtone. Nina rolls over and ignores the sound. The ringer stops for a few seconds, then begins again. This time she rolls over and ignores the call. She rolls back over and silence is restored. Less than 10 seconds later, her phone beeps six times in a row. Nina grabs her phone and reads the message:
“Answer the phone.”
“This is urgent.”
“Get on the next flight.”
“Check your hidden duffel bag pocket.”
“We need to speak with you.”
The phone starts to ring again. She quickly silences the ringer, but stares at the unknown caller text on her screen– wondering who it could be. The call ends and she receives another message:
“The GODDAM phone.”
Her phone begins ringing for the third time. She stares at the unknown caller name, contemplating if she should answer. Nina answers the call and puts the phone to her ear. Silence fills the room, but Nina’s face speaks nothing but fear. She opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. Then she hears a woman’s voice,
“Bobby’s Dinner on me, tomorrow night. Come alone. Don’t tell a soul.” the woman says, then hangs up. The voice brings a smile to Nina’s face because she knows that voice better than any in this world.
Nina jumps out of bed to check her duffel bag. She unzips the hidden pocket and finds a credit card in her mother’s name. She gives the credit card an emphatic hug as if it were a person, then jumps up and begins filling her duffel bag with clothes. While frantically throwing clothes into the bag, she sees her wallet fall out of her pants. She picks it up, opens it, and sees the photo from the Logan family album. She holds it up next to the photo she keeps in her wallet and examines both for a while. Nina closes the wallet, puts it in her pocket and keeps packing. Once her bag is packed, she calls for an Uber and heads to the lobby of her building.
Nina walks swiftly to the front entrance in hopes to not be seen, but hears a voice.
“It’s awfully late for you to be heading out miss. 1:42 AM, and here you are…doing what exactly?” said a white haired, caucasian woman with thick bifocals sitting behind the desk.
“What happened to Linda?” Nina replied.
“She’s off for the night.”
“Linda? Off? She never takes a night off.”
“You’ve been on campus for two minutes, how would you know her work schedule?” the lady responded.
“How do you know how long I’ve been on campus? And what’s your name ma'am?” Nina asks as she walks towards the lady. Nina tries to get a better look at her, but the lady turns in the chair to face the opposite direction.
“That’s not important, but your safety is so, if you’re going to leave, I need you to sign out here,” says the lady as she drops a big binder on the desk and flips to the last page.
“Since when do we have to sign out of–”
“Look her girlie, enough with the questions. You don't have to tell me where you’re going, but you need to write something on this paper.” The lady leans over the desk and notices Nina’s duffel bag. She continues,
“That’s a big bag for one night. He must be special.”
“Yes, they both are,” said Nina.
“Both? Wow, it’s always the innocent looking ones.”
“My parents! Not… some guy or girl.”
“Hey, no judgment here. I was your age once. Where’s home?"
“What a nice place. I’ve never been, but would love to visit someday.”
“You should.” Nina says before seeing her Uber’s headlights flash as the driver pulls up in front of her building. She quickly writes in the binder and runs out to the Uber.
“I hope you enjoy your family time!” The lady yells as the door closes behind Nina.
Nina stares out the window as they pull out of campus and notices a familiar car in the parking lot. She sits up and takes a closer look. She recognizes Greg’s car and can see him lying in the driver seat sleeping. She quickly sinks in her seat as they drive by.
“Everything ok, miss?” the Uber driver asks.
“Get me to the airport as fast as you can sir,” Nina responds in a slightly frantic tone.
Bobby’s Diner, San Antonio
Nina sits alone in an empty booth, anxiously turning every time she hears the little bell above the diner’s door ring from someone leaving or entering. She used to dread the sound of the bell and complained to her mother about it every time they visited–
“Why does the busiest diner have a bell?” she would ask. The old memories helped her relax. She dropped her shoulders and let out a deep breath. Nina sat back and smiled as she envisioned more of those moments. Her smile turned to laughter as she began to day dream and no longer heard the sound of the bell. Moments later she heard a voice.
“Stay alert Nina.” The voice startled her as she sat upright and opened her eyes. Her body filled with joy as she leaned forward in preparation to lunge towards her mom, but was met with a stern demeanor and a forceful, cold hand placed on top of hers.
“None of that right now Nina,” her mom responded with a paranoid look. Nina looked over at her father who shared the same paranoid expression.
“Hi dad,” Nina whispered before receiving a slight nod from her father. She continued, “Can someone tell me what is going on?”
“Did anyone follow you here?” said her mom.
“No. Why would someone be following me?”
“Be quick, we don’t have much time.” her dad said.
“Listen Nina, there’s a lot that we have to tell you about your life. A lot that you don’t know and why we’re all unsafe right now.”
“The reason we started this family business is because of Loganville, but I'll tell you right now, that town is not what you think. We know first hand because we grew up there… and that’s where we… met you."
“Met me? What do you mean met me?”
“Just listen Nina,” Her mom pounds the table and customers nearby look over with concerned expressions. The customers slowly return their focus to their food and conversations and her mom continues.
“We met you in Loganville, and knew your family… The Logans. Denzel, your father, Melanie, your mother, Rob, your brother and you… Nina. Well… your birth name is actually–”
“Essie,” Nina rebuttals in a somber tone.
Her mom and dad are shocked by her response.
“Who the hell told you that?” her dad whispered. Nina reaches into her purse and grabs her wallet. She pulls out the picture from the Logan family album, and the original picture she has. Nina places them side-by-side on the table.
“Greg showed me the Logan family album–”
“Greg?” Her parents give each other an alarming look.
“Nina, please listen, Greg is not–”
Two bullets are FIRED into the diner.
Nina ducks inside of the booth and covers her head. Everyone screams and begins running out of the restaurant and taking cover below their tables. Nina opens her eyes while under the table and sees both of her parent’s feet sitting still beneath the table.
“Get down here!” Nina screams towards her parents. They don’t respond. She slowly peaks above the table.
Nina lets out a SCREAM.