It wasn’t that I was an all-time nervous jitterbug, but a romantic encounter has always been out of my comfort zone. And when that romantic encounter was with a stunningly beautiful lady like Alicia, I suddenly became all thumbs.
I worked as an investment banker at a top-tier private equity firm. I joined the firm right out of college and have been steadily rising through the ranks ever since. I spent my entire childhood being kicked out of the houses of many of my relatives. No, I didn’t fancy that over living at my own house with my parents but after they both were victims of a violent psycho killer at our house, that surely didn’t seem like a viable option. That incident left significant marks on my psyche as you can very well imagine, rendering me unable to form any close relationships. Until I found Alicia that is.
I know, I must sound like a teenage boy with a huge crush, not at all you would expect of a 35-year-old grown man. But, that’s just how special Alicia is. She joined my firm a few months ago. When I strolled in the office on the day of her joining, I could sense a disturbance in the force. People were unusually chatty for a Monday morning and my best friend at the office, Matt, was grinning from ear to ear.
“A new girl just joined today. You have got to see her, she is breathtaking!”, he exclaimed.
I laughed out at his expressions and reminded him that he was still married. Then I quickly made way into my cabin, ready to tackle the mountain of paperwork that I was sure to find piled upon my desk.
To my utter surprise, my desk was squeaky clean. Never before in my 10-year career had that happened on a Monday morning. I dialled my boss from the intercom, asking if he had planned on relieving me and forgot to inform me.
“Golly no! It’s the new girl Alicia. She came into my office and requested to be assigned to you. Guess, she made an impression on you”, he said with a belly full of laughter.
Impress me, she did. I emailed her to express my gratitude and requested her to join me for lunch later in the day, at the restaurant across the street, to welcome her. I got a quick confirmation from her and I spent the next few hours on calls with some of my clients.
Lunchtime came and I strode across the street to the restaurant. That was when I realized that I had never actually seen her and was wondering how I would recognize her. I needn’t have worried though because as soon as she arrived, I felt the same energy as I did that morning. And when I saw her, Matt’s description of her seemed pale in comparison.
As I saw the tall, beautiful and elegant woman smile at me and extend her hand, it was as if I was struck by lightning. My entire corporate career was built on my ability to charm my clients by my words and actions. And today, I seemed to have forgotten all of that.
By God’s grace, I was able to shake her hand and mumble some greetings, a demeanour which continued throughout the whole lunch. I didn’t even had any idea as to what I had ordered but thankfully, she took care of that. She was a talkative person and she kept telling me all about her life, her childhood, her college, her career, and her dreams. I must have made all the right noises as never did once her smile falter.
After I was able to get a handle on myself, I thanked her again for her help with the paperwork. She graciously accepted it and explained that she researched a bit and she considered me the best banker in the office, hence her request to work with me. I felt blood rushing to my cheeks as I blushed, probably for the first time in my life, and I hoped to God that she didn’t notice it.
Soon, it was time for us to head back and once we were back at the office, she thanked me for the lunch and flashed her bright smile one last time before sashaying back to her office. I returned to my cabin to finish off a presentation but it proved to be a challenging task, as work was the furthest thing on my mind the rest of the day.
The next couple of months could only be described by one word: torturous. She continued to work with me on various clients. We worked to the bone, putting in late nights, sometimes even going through more than 36 hours without sleep.
All through these long hours of work, we grew closer. She started sharing more intimate details of her life with me. She told me that her parents passed away in a car accident, a long time ago. She also told me about her previous relationship which ended when she found out that her ex was cheating on her with her best friend.
“A cliché, I know. But that filled me with so much toxicity that I had to leave that city and I came out here”, she said in a quiet tone of voice. She gave a sarcastic laugh before continuing, “The funny thing is I came out here to make some new friends but I all I have done is bury myself into work. If I were to disappear tonight, nobody would even miss me probably.”
I tried to cheer her up, reminding her how well she had been doing in her job and that she had left a considerable impression on many of the people working at the firm, including me. She looked at me and smiled at that, causing another bout of butterfly dance in my stomach. We had a moment as we looked at each other, I was sure of it. And all I wanted was to tell her how I felt about her, about how I wanted us to be more than friends. But I was again frozen on the spot, unable to utter a single word out of my mouth, and the moment passed.
There were several more times when I came really close to telling her about my feelings. Like this one time when we were having lunch together and she was telling me a story about how she used to be a bully at school. I told her that we all go through phases in our childhood, but I was sure that she is a good person.
She gave a little laugh before saying coyly, “How can you be so sure? Maybe I am a serial killer on the loose?”
Thankfully, the waiter chose this moment to bring the check so Alicia was not able to glance at my face, revealing my true feelings at her last statement. I never told her about my parents, I have never told anyone in the office for that matter. So she couldn’t have known.
There were many more such painful moments, throughout the year. All of whom, I consistently missed. I was just thankful that Alicia was unaware of my predicament, otherwise, I would have been unable to bear that misery. Alicia picked up different areas of work throughout the year, but she always maintained our friendship. We continued to have the occasional lunch together at that restaurant. She continuously prodded me about my life, my childhood, all the questions which I tactfully avoided. I wanted to share my past with her, but not as just a friend.
As the year came to an end, so did her employment contract. I was sure that she would renew it and hence, I was shocked to find out that she wasn’t going to.
“I am going abroad for my masters. I have gathered much valuable experience here and it’s going to make my career. There’s nothing left for me here. I am going to start a new life. I am actually catching the first flight out tomorrow morning”, she told me when I asked her about it.
I was crushed. I was not content with having her just as a friend but now even that was coming to an end. That’s when I decided to reveal my true feelings to her. It couldn’t hurt now, could it?
I watched her say her goodbyes to everyone as I went down to the basement parking to wait for her. I wanted a quiet place where no one would disturb us and the deserted parking lot felt just perfect.
I saw her exit the elevator and approach her car. I also saw the shock on her face as she saw me standing by the car.
“I was looking all over for you! I wanted to say goodbye”, she exclaimed as she came to a stop near me.
I told her as to how I wanted a nice quiet spot for us to talk and that I had something rather important to tell her.
She was intrigued by that. “What happened? Is something wrong?”, she asked with a little anxiety in her voice.
I hummed and hawed a little before finally gathering up the courage to ask her out for a date. What followed that could only be described as a perfect night.
We went up to a cabin in the woods which my parents used to own. I had always imagined that when I found my perfect woman, I would take her there.
It was at a very secluded location, away from the bustling city. Once we arrived, I carried her inside in my arms like a husband carrying her newly wedded wife across the threshold. I place her on a chair at the dining table and got busy in the kitchen, preparing dinner for both of us, which I quickly brought out and laid it on the table.
Alicia didn’t say anything from her mouth, but her eyes spoke plenty. I told her to wait for just a few more minutes. I was missing one last thing, a final touch. I went out, behind the cabin, to a huge rock and started digging near it. I was sure I hid it there, but years had passed since and I wasn’t sure. But at last, I found it and immediately went inside to show it off to Alicia.
As I entered the cabin, I again marvelled at the beauty sitting in the chair. She was sitting quietly in the same position I had left her in.
It might have something to do with the fact that her hands and legs were tied, and her mouth was gagged. She was still glaring daggers at me, as she had done the whole ride up here, even when I carried her to the cabin.
My cheek was still bleeding from the scratch she had given me at that parking lot after I tried to bind her. It would have been smoother if she had just agreed to come here voluntarily instead of slapping me in the face when I asked her out to my cabin for the night. Then again, it wouldn’t have been so much fun.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as according to everyone at the office she has left for a different country and there was no one there expecting her, so no one that would miss her.
Her level of activity increased as she saw me enter the cabin again and tried shouting through the gag. All of which died down as she saw me carrying an old rusty blade.
The look of defiance in her eyes quickly changed to one of horror as I placed the knife in a plate on the table.
I sat down in a chair beside her and started undoing her gag. While doing that, I explained to her how we were surrounded by nothing but miles of forest. So, screaming would do nothing but annoy me.
After her gag was undone, she said, “Please, leave me. I will go far, far away. I will never tell anyone about you.”
I explained to her that she was very much mistaken as I never wanted her to go away from me.
I smiled at her, caressing her gentle hair before explaining to her as to what I had planned, “You see Alicia, in life, people leave you. As long as people have their ambitions or dreams, at one point in life, they are bound to split from your path. And if you try to enslave them, they lose their true being.”
I got up from my chair and picked up the rusty knife from the table and continued, “That is the reason I had to kill my parents. You see, I came home early from school one day to listen to them discussing sending me to boarding school. I couldn’t bear to lose them. So, you know what I did? I picked up this knife from the kitchen and…..”
My voice trailed off as I paused to plunge the knife in her heart and watched her head hit the table with a thud before continuing.
“….. now they are with me forever. As are you.”