The thing about promises, I thought to myself, as I meandered down the harbour with my hands in the pockets of my puffer, is that no one actually keeps them. It was the dead of winter, and I guess I was the only one irrational enough to venture out onto the harbour. The wind from the ocean was cold and harsh, but despite my layers of clothing, I was still freezing. Actually, I believe I’ve been frozen for quite some time now. 


We couldn’t stop laughing. The golden hue of the sun warmed my back as you spun me around and around in circles, and even though I was breathless and dizzy, your hands on my hips kept me stable. Secure. Safe. 


The harbour looked so different last year, that it’s hard to remember those moments without looking back through a tainted lens of betrayal and doubt in retrospect. 


“We’re going to live here one day. Just you and me,” you said, your eyes a crystal hazel in the sunlight.

“You promise?” 

“I promise.”


You were standing in this exact same spot, facing the sun so I wouldn’t have to. I was 18 at the time, and you were 20. We had a bright future ahead of us filled with colourful possibilities. At least, that’s the image you painted for us. I stopped at the street piano, battered, graffitied and so out of tune that even the seagulls knew it. 


“Then your left hand goes on F, A and C, like this.” You were at my house, and I was teaching you a song on the piano. 

“Wait, what was the chord before that again?” you frowned. 

I proceeded to go through the entire first verse again. We hadn’t even reached the chorus yet, but I liked how determined you were. It was one of the many things I loved about you. 


I hadn’t even realised I’d sat down on the piano bench until my fingers started playing the first few chords from muscle memory. The discordant notes shattered the silence, merging with the sound of the ocean waves.


“I promise to get everything right this time.” you said seriously.

“You promise?” I stifled a smile.

“I promise.”


A thousand and one “I promise”s, and yet I should’ve noticed something was wrong from your evasive replies about your family and your past, but I guess I just assumed I knew everything about you until the moment that proved I never really knew you at all.


“Hi there Isabelle, my name’s Officer John, I’m one of the police officers at Melrose Police Station. Thank you for coming in today. Now, I’d just like to ask you a few questions.”


I had received a phone call earlier that day, but I didn’t know why I was there. 


“I’m sure you’re familiar with the name Zachary Ford?”


“No sir, I think you’ve got the wrong person,” I replied, feeling more at ease. So this was just a simple mistake, I thought.


Officer John smiled. “Ah, then he must’ve gone under one of his aliases.” He grabbed a printed sheet of paper from his clipboard and turned it around on the desk. “Do any of these names ring a bell?”


I was about to object before my eyes were drawn to a name at the bottom of the page. 


Isaac Grayman. 


No, it couldn’t be. 


“He was arrested for first degree murder and theft this morning.” began Officer John, probably seeing  the denial on my face. 


“This isn’t my Isaac-” I started, but trailed off when Officer Jones turned a second sheet of paper towards me. Brown hair. Hazel eyes. Square jaw. There was no doubt that this was the Isaac I know. The Isaac I love. So why did it feel like I was seeing him for the first time? 


Suddenly, everything clicked.


“Isabelle,”  said Officer John softly, bringing me back to the interrogation room. I hadn’t even realised I was crying. “Do you know why you’re here?”




I was going to be his next victim.


Written by Julya Yang and edited by Muskan Singla. Published on 30/7/2023. Header image by Emma Li.

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