Eyes Wide Open

I am beginning this post with a tidbit of a short story/novella I am working on called “Unfinished Business.”

Beth laughed to herself a bit nervously as she parked her car.  It wasn’t dawn yet, but she could see the foreshadowing along the horizon.  He had chosen a waterfront warehouse because it was…prosaic.  And he knew Beth would think so as well.  Unfinished business, that is what he had said on the phone, his accent thicker than she remembered.  Meeting him was probably not wise, but after all this time, curiosity had clouded her judgment.

What makes a sociopath exactly?  After reading several books and studying the subject at length, Beth still felt as if there was a crucial piece missing from her understanding.  Movie and television portrayals were so two dimensional and predictable.  And one cannot interact with a television screen.  However, he was not only a sociopath, but a highly intelligent one.  It was too good an opportunity to dismiss.  And despite the coldness in his voice on the few occasions when she had poked a bit too closely at the hornet’s nest, Beth felt certain he would not harm her….physically.  And the other types of harm had already been done.

Eric wasn’t yet at the designated meeting place, but then Beth had known he would not be.  It was not in his nature to be the one waiting; that was Beth’s job.  It stung a bit, this knowledge that he again had her waiting, but she was not really surprised.  He would control the outcome. That would be essential.  Especially since Beth knew that her understanding of who he was – and wasn’t – had surprised him.  He did not like surprises.  She wasn’t certain how long he would have her wait, so she took out her iPod and placed one of the buds into her left ear.  And then, instinctively, Beth scrolled down to the song that made the most sense: Depeche Mode.

            Less than a year had passed since their first conversation.  They had known of each other through the avenue of technology but had not interacted.  And then one afternoon, after Beth had written something particularly astute and witty, Eric had sent her a message: “Intelligence is very attractive.  If I lived in Nashville I would take you to dinner.”  The message had flattered Beth, and it had not occurred to her at the time to wonder how he had surmised her location.  She was a bit of an open book, even in cyberspace, so she assumed that she had given enough clues that someone could deduce her whereabouts fairly easily.  Besides, Nashville was a large area, and that fact afforded her some sense of safety.  She had replied a thank you, along with the remark that she was sure he would be an excellent dinner partner.  And with that, it began.
            Their first emails and messages were friendly, innocuous, if a bit flirty.  Beth had been impressed with Eric’s quick wit and the way he seemed to understand her.  He was keenly observant.  After her acrimonious divorce several years earlier, she had not gathered the courage to date much, and she wasn’t completely sure she was able to attract the kind of man who would capture her interest.  But as her virtual friendship with Eric grew, she became more and more confident that she was, in fact, an attractive woman.  And that the man whose interest she wanted to capture was him.  And with his usual perception, Eric seemed to not only understand, but to reciprocate.
            “Belle, I would like to hear your lovely voice, and I am intrigued to know if you have a charming southern accent.  May I call you when you feel comfortable?”  That had been Eric’s first step toward leaving the virtual world.  And looking back, Beth chuckled again at his use of the word when…when, not if.  At the time the confidence he displayed attracted her even more.  “Yes,” she had replied.  “I would love to talk with you as well,” and she had sent him her number.  Their first phone call had taken place later that evening.
            “God, where is he?” Beth asked herself aloud as she sat in the car.  Keeping her waiting a bit was one thing, but she did have things to do.  She had wasted enough time with this man, and she had already begun to rethink meeting him.  Her mind told her that no matter how charming he attempted to be, she was immune to his advances.  Her heart knew better, and that thought annoyed her.  Beth yanked the ear bud out of her ear a bit too forcefully and sighed. “Alright, my charming little sociopath.  I will begin walking toward the warehouse.  You have five minutes, and then I am done.”  Beth stepped out of her car, pressed the automatic lock, and began walking toward the first warehouse.

“Hello belle,” Beth heard the voice before she saw him.  He was standing casually at the corner of the warehouse, smiling just slightly.  And even though she knew to be guarded, Beth was struck again by his presence, and it surprised her.  

He wasn’t all that intimidating or even overly handsome, objectively speaking.  About six feet tall, lean build, not muscular, his brown/gray hair cut very close and slightly receding.  His ever-present sunglasses were perched on his somewhat sharp nose.  Just the hint of unshaven jaw line, something he knew Beth liked.  And yet she always felt something in her heart drop to her stomach when she saw him.  For a moment – and only a moment – Beth felt that familiar ping-pong in her chest.  Then she remembered what had brought her here, and her gaze became as cool and detached as his was.

“Hello Eric, and my name is Beth.”  She walked past him into the empty warehouse and sat down on a discarded wooden box.  “So why am I here again?”

He walked in and pulled an old folding table over next to her.  Leaning against it, he lit a cigarette.  For a few minutes neither of them spoke.  Beth wrinkled her nose at the smell of the smoke even though he was polite enough to blow it away from her.  “Ah yes,” he smiled, “You do not appreciate this habit.  I had forgotten.”  He dropped the cigarette onto the floor and extinguished it with the toe of his shoe.

“Very charming, as always,” Beth remarked.  “But you didn’t forget.  And I have other places to be today.”

She saw the flash then.  That bit of ice from his eyes that managed to make her shudder for just a second or two before he recovered himself and smiled again.  He stood then and offered Beth his arm.  “Walk with me.  The fog on the water is lovely.”

“Eric, I am not walking with you.  I am not riding with you.  I am only here out of curiosity.  You will say what you need to say, and I will go about my day….and my life.  And you will not be in it.  Neither will the rest of them.”

At this, his smile disappeared, and he grabbed her arm, pulling Beth up roughly to face him.  “I am afraid that is not how this day will go for you, belle.  And as for the others, you have nothing to say to them, nor will you.  Because you will not be leaving this waterfront.”  He paused and chuckled a bit at her expression.  “I’m disappointed, Beth, that you did not see this coming.  Did you really think that I would let you leave?” 

Yes, I am one of those people who will put you in my novel if you tick me off – lol.  But sadly, the inspiration for “Eric” came from someone who knew I was vulnerable, who knew how to say the right things, and who ultimately taught me what to watch out for when deciding whether or not to trust.  I was lucky.  I could have been hurt much worse emotionally.  And I want to share a bit of what I learned when it comes to ferreting out who is Dominant and who is…..not.

I had known Eric casually through an internet forum.  When he heard I was separating, he became…attentive.  He was very strong, authoritative, flattering, and seemed to “know” me.  He was basically a very good observer.  He was smooth, worldly-wise, and he knew how to woo.  He told me what I wanted.  No that was not a typo that was meant to be “told me what I wanted to hear.”  He told me what I wanted.  It was like being….hypnotized in a way.

There is no need to go into ALL of the gory details……but suffice it to say I allowed him to disassemble all of my barriers and boundaries.  I was extremely personal and intimate with him and trusted him implicitly.  So when I discovered that he had been “wooing” several women on the forum where we met in exactly the same fashion….I was crushed.  I still remember the out of body feeling I had reading the post of the woman he finally “chose” proclaiming their months of interaction and undying love.  I stumbled to the bathroom and threw up.  Then I cried.  Then I wanted to die.  Then I kicked myself six ways from Sunday for not knowing better.

It could have been worse.  He could have been more than just an emotional predator.  The point is….my vulnerability, my desire for SOMEONE….made me ignore red flags and those checks in my gut.  If you are longing for a Dominant in your life, my advice is….know yourself first.  Keep your logic in the forefront, even when your feelings are screaming to jump in feet first.  Take time.  A Dominant who is worthy of your trust will take the time to gain it.

My wanna-be married his choice.  I hope he steps up to actually become what he presented himself to be.  For her sake….and her children.

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