“I wanted to figure him out.” I had opened the floodgate and had no choice now but to wade through.
“I thought you were one of the clues.”
I was wrong. Dead wrong. But now it was too late to do anything, and I was going to have to face the consequences of my actions.
Or was I?
“It wasn’t always like that though,” I murmured looking at the torrential rain drumming against the window in a frenzied battle with my heart.
Watching the whipping wind and exploding raindrops, I wondered if this was divine intervention? The wild weather created the perfect backdrop for this situation to play out. Even a Hollywood Director could not have created a more sinister scene.
I knew I had to control my panic - and start talking. Daniel’s reflection in the window, however, made me want to rather face the murderous storm.
I turned to him slowly, frantically trying to organise my thoughts, but the swirling words in my head were making me dizzy. Deep Breath. Just keep breathing.
“Daniel, please let me explain.”
I faltered at the dangerous expression that moved like a thundercloud over his face. I cleared my throat and tried again.
“I never intended for this to happen. Of course, I didn’t! Let me start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
I gave a watery smile at my weak attempt at humour – but this was no time for Julie Andrews.
The smile was not returned.
“I met Nick through mutual friends a few months ago and was … uh … intrigued. You know what he’s like - amusing, interesting, charming! At the end of that evening, I was excited and just knew our paths would cross again. I made sure they did - quite a few times.”
I paused to take another deep breath to slow my cascading words.
“Time moved on – and sadly, so do people.” A wry smile here.
Still nothing from Daniel. I waded in further.
“Nick moved to Cape Town – you remember his promotion? I was terribly disappointed that I would no longer see him regularly. By now we had developed, a deep connection and the, uh, energy between us was intense. I thought it was mutual! So, when I didn’t hear from him at all – not one word - I was confused and - honestly - very surprised.”
Here I allowed myself a sardonic smile: “Maybe it was my ego, but after a few days of complete silence, I began to feel rather … hurt, which morphed into extreme annoyance, and finally – as much as it pains me to admit it now – intense anger. The more I thought about it, the angrier I felt.”
Even in this predicament, I could feel the heat of that anger smouldering through my panic.
I lifted my head to look him squarely in the eyes. The memory of that enraged compulsion was giving me strength. I forged on, ignoring the brewing mania in his eyes.
“Of course, the anger was easier to deal with than the disappointment and hurt, so I channelled all my energy into that. I needed another way to get to him, and social media being the go-to tool for all badly intentioned obsessives –
Another wry smile here.
“- I found a way. I found you.”
A crash of thunder ripped through my story and we both jumped back from the window instinctively.
Moving away from the ferociousness outside, I poured us both a generous whiskey. Neat - the way we like it - better to savour the hidden undertones. I threw back my head and swallowed it in one burning gulp.
Daniel continued to wait.
“It’s obvious that you guys are good friends, and so I decided to find out more about you. As I said – I wanted to figure him out and thought you were one of the clues.”
At his darkening expression, I blundered on.
“But you turned out to be so much more than that! I swear I didn’t know in the beginning that my trail of information gathering would ultimately lead me to you. To us. To our life together.”
I was desperately trying to get myself out of this exceptionally perilous position, and it seemed to be working. Daniel’s sneer was softening slightly, and he drank his own whiskey with one toss of his head.
Keep going Blaire … just breathe and think. Stay on this track.
Daniel, however, knows me as Claire - a much prettier and sweeter name. Claire conjures up visions of skipping through fields of sunshine-yellow buttercups in a straw hat with rainbow ribbons. Perfect for what I needed to achieve.
Just one simple letter change and I was a whole new person! Essential for creating a new Facebook account on which to befriend Nick’s good mate … Daniel.
In the end, it was a surprisingly simple exercise. Create the account, find some easy targets to add as friends (old school and varsity contacts - they wouldn’t even remember if I was Blaire or Claire back then), and wait for some roving eyes on the take, to find and befriend me. Some stolen moments (and memories) from other peoples’ walls – and presto! A whole new life - and person - created. Quite the power rush.
Daniel was an obvious choice.
I found some random mutual friend and used him as my starting point. I had to be patient and let the process flow naturally, to avoid any suspicion. Not easy, when Nick seemed to be living the charmed life in Cape Town. I couldn’t understand why he had chosen those vacuous-looking women over me!
But then, I would close my eyes and breathe, and focus on our perfect connection. He would come round. Soon enough, he would remember too, and we would be together forever.
I could almost taste the tropical coconut and pineapple sweetness of our shared pina colada as our toes found each other in the warm silky Mauritian sand, and our heads bent closer and closer until ….
But wait! I was getting ahead of myself.
A slight shake of my head brought me back to that stormy moment.
Things had been going smoothly with my new ‘boyfriend’ Daniel, and we were about to head off to Cape Town for a weekend with his good mate Nick.
Finally! My chance to see Nick again, and to re-establish that electric connection.
And Nick’s opportunity to realise his enormous mistake in letting me go (and, in fact, ignoring my many calls and messages - and even blocking me on WhatsApp!).
Granted, I may have gone a tad overboard, but he would understand when I explained that I only wanted to hear his voice. That same voice that seeps into my dreams at night and – let’s be honest - my waking moments too.
Unfortunately, I had not counted on Daniel being one of those emotional girl-guys that share all their feelings and thoughts with their good mates! I thought I would get away with it all until our arrival when I would coquettishly (or rather ‘go-gettedly’!) look up at Nick from under my wide-brimmed hat with a flirtatious smile and wink and give a sultry “Surprise!”.
It suddenly occurred to me that I had not factored in what would happen to Daniel at that point.
I had pictured the scene so many times since Daniel had accepted my friend request! Nick would sweep me into his strong arms, twirling me around whilst I held my hat in place, as I threw back my head, laughing with total abandonment and joy. He would reach for my hand, and we would run off into the sunset together.
Only now Daniel had ruined my entire plan. I was expecting my story with Nick to begin with a warm golden sunset – not an icy storm lashing my dreams to pieces!
It seemed, however, that I had now found a safe passage through this storm. I just needed to placate Daniel enough to still get us to Cape Town for the weekend.
“Daniel, I must admit that my intentions were less than pure, in fact downright wicked. But please understand that as I got to know you, I realised how much I was enjoying your company. The more time we spent together, the more I forgot my original intentions – and the further the memory of Nick faded into my past. I chose you, Daniel. You, and the life we have started to build.”
Finishing my impassioned speech, I even managed to wipe away a tear as the grand finale.
I almost took a bow.
Daniel poured another whiskey - only for himself I noticed nervously - and again downed it in one shot. He cocked his head to the side, clapped his hands slowly, and menacingly said:
“Oh Blaire – yes, I do know your real name - that is my favourite performance yet! I have so enjoyed your scenes as they have played out. From the moment I knew that all my efforts were for nothing, and you were only using me to get to Nick, I have been curious to see how far you would go with your little charade. Unlucky for you my darling, I am the better performer.”
His lips parted in a macabre excuse of a smile on the words ‘my darling’ and he grabbed the back of my neck, roughly jerking me towards him.
“You don’t remember me at that braai, the night you met Nick, do you? Yes, I was there too. Watching you closely. It was easy to stare with your focus being so intent on him.”
The pressure on my throat was intensifying and I was starting to feel dizzy again.
“If you had not been so blinded by your ridiculous infatuation the next few times you saw him, you would have seen that he was only trying to find a way to extricate himself from your obsessive grip. Poor Nick was so relieved to take my advice and move to Cape Town to get away from you -”
Blankly I wondered if Daniel always had such an evil chuckle.
“- leaving you bewildered and unhappy and needing a shoulder to cry on. Of course, I made sure you found my shoulder.”
A theatrical sigh, contradicted by the black mania in his eyes.
“But in the end – nothing I did was enough to make you forget about him. All those hours I wasted watching you, following you, loving you from a distance. I even came off second best to that bloody hedge outside your window many a dark night.”
My horror increased. I had thought all those feelings of prickly unease back then were just a side effect of my own bad intentions!
“Good girls go to Heaven, but bad girls don’t go to Cape Town!”
With those words, he threw me down hard onto the floor. My head hit the ground with a loud crack like thunder, and the room started to undulate in waves around me. The rushing sound in my ears drowned out the howling of the storm.
As the dark oblivion closed in around me, I heard his fading voice in my ear, “My Claire Bear, I will see you again soon. Wait for me at the setting sun.”
And then … it all ended.