The Cycle (V)

*I like doing segments of the same story for my prompts.  Maybe they will equal something like a whole novel one day.  More likely I’ll have to hack away at them, cutting and pasting until I get a useable short story.  Today’s prompt (“I’m being followed”) is courtesy of BareKnuckleWriter.   I just started following her.  I think I’m gonna like ‘er! 

The Cycle (V)

Many criminalists, and probably most anyone else who a longstanding career in most any aspect of criminal law enforcement, would probably agree that a woman should follow her instinct in regards to “bad feelings.”  If you feel like you’re being watched, you likely are.  If you think you’re being followed, it pays to be paranoid.  As the great author Joseph Heller once said, Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.  

Kurt Cobain agreed, and look how he ended up.  He chuckled at his own tasteless joke with evident self-approbation.

The women he had followed had no idea they were being watched.  When he finally approached them, disarming and all smiles, they had no idea they had likely seen him before.  He took no great pains to avoid being seen.  That was how you got noticed.  Someone trying to hide behind a hoodie or a menu, or surreptitiously slip into a doorway appeared suspicious.  His great talent was blending in.  He knew he was too classically handsome, too good-looking, to go unnoticed entirely all the time, but he had perfected the art of looking nonchalant or preoccupied.  Too busy to notice anyone, let alone be approached.

Even still, every once and a while, a woman would approach him.  Not usually the one he was observing, thankfully, but some clueless, brazen bitch who had no idea that the inconvenience of her advances far outweighed any minute ego boost which he might derive.  Yes, sometimes the shyer ones would just try to catch his eye, offer a tentative smile.  But then there were the ones who practically sauntered over.  Try to buy his coffee, make small talk, perhaps actually thinking they would leave with a phone number or a date.  He was usually able to shut them down quickly and effectively, without hurting their pride too much– a wounded woman would remember him– but he always had to abort whatever mission he was on so as not to draw any further attention.

Even those instances where he’d been “spotted” did not concern him greatly.  He’d had plenty of practice over the years, plenty of time to perfect the art of the hunt.  There had been plenty of times when he’d followed people just to see if he could.  There had been many times when he had no intention of doing anything but following.  He didn’t consider it time wasted.  Rather he thought of himself as an actor learning a part.  Like those prissy Hollywood types they called “method actors.”  Only he didn’t get so involved in his work that he wanted to go home and swallow a bottle of pills or drown in a bottle.  He liked his work.

And after his work became less random, more focussed on what came next, he began to be more selective about the object of his attentions.  When he finally moved on to phase two (what he was scarcely aware that he mentally referred to glibly as “the meet and greet,”) he was pleased to discover an unintended result of his “blending in.”   Often the women he engaged had in fact noticed him, but were largely unaware that they had noticed him.  Sometimes they said things like, “Do I know you? You look so familiar…”  The fact of his having been an unobtrusive presence in the background of their local grocery or coffee bar had resulted in a sort of false sense of familiarity, of which his targets were not consciously unaware.  In his efforts to learn master his craft with minimal mistake or misadventure, he had unintentionally perfected the art of being present just enough to be familiar, but not enough to be creepy.  The end payoff was that the women were often easier to lull into a false sense of security.  Their early warning systems, their “bad feelings,” had essentially been short-circuited.

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The Cycle (II)- Schadenfreude

*the following short fiction excerpt is a combination response to Rarasaur’s Prompt for the Promptless and answer to the interest shown by some readers on my short story The Cycle. Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

The Cycle- Schadenfruede

She could remember when she had loved him, been enamored with him.  She remembered it in the way one sometimes remembers a dream, like a detached observer.

…Their first meeting, on the back patio of the bar where she and her friends from work had gone after the dull and seemingly interminable company party…  The tentative anticipation and exhilaration of finally meeting someone who could potentially hold her interest for more than a few weeks.  She remembered his dark good looks and his easy charm.  The electricity of their first kiss.

Even now, she could remember his effect on her.  How she had lusted for him and had to force herself to wait even the short week before they fell into bed together in a furious tangle of limbs.  Now, the thought of her lust for him sickened her.  She felt nauseous and ashamed, disgusted by the memory of his face, still handsome and seemingly unaffected by his time in prison.  Disgusted that she had fallen for him, even though, objectively, she could still remember why she had loved him.

But mostly she was disgusted that she had been so completely and utterly fooled by him.  She felt used and stupid.  She felt responsible, as if, in her stupidity, she had somehow been an accomplice to his crimes.

Because now, casting a harsh eye back over the past ten years of her life, she could clearly see– she should have seen– that something was wrong.

He had handled her too easily on too many occasions.  They had fought little throughout their courtship and marriage.   He always seemed so considerate of her feelings, even when her fears or feelings may have been irrational.  He always knew the right things to say, or when to say nothing.  She could see now that what she had taken to be easy-going, what she had thought was just his generous nature, insouciance, had really been an expertly veiled sort of scorn.  The smug bastard had let her have her way simply because he could.  And he enjoyed being able to manipulate her so easily.

Once they had been together for a while, once her trust in him was complete and unwavering, he had enjoyed free rein to pursue his other...hobbies.   He had complete control over her, and she hadn’t even known it, because he had never harmed her, never threatened her, or even said so much as an unkind word to her.  

Now she found herself on some level wishing, perversely, that he had hit her, insulted her or belittled her…given some sign of his true nature.  His abuse had been so much more insidious.  It was in his contentment and pleasure in the  role he was playing– the doting husband–  and in his wife’s utter ignorance.