Cry Baby by Sonia Kilvington

If you get there first, it’s very difficult for a woman to accuse you of stalking. Following women about, that’s for amateurs who haven’t done their homework. If you follow a woman into a café or restaurant, or are seen loitering around her apartment, alarm bells will ring. She will spot you, may confront you or even call the police, and this is the last thing that you need. It has to look like happenstance, a casual encounter not a something you have been working towards for months. You need to do it overtly and discreetly, checking where she goes, what she does how she acts differently with each of her friends; during which time you are searching for a small crevice through which you can insert yourself into her life. But it can’t just be some random woman, it has to be someone very special and you could say that I definitely have a type: I need someone who reminds me of my mother.

She is entering the restaurant now, as we speak, the one she goes to with her friends the first Thursday of each month. I don’t look at the door, I can resist that temptation because I can feel her presence without looking. I glance surreptitiously at the hazy reflection in the opposite the window. My seat was not chosen by accident – It has the best view of the bar too. My breath catches in my throat, I almost dare not too look too closely, even at the reflection,… but yes, thanks to the patron saint of romantic love, she is wearing her blue floral dress tonight.

I would have waited if she had been wearing the black one with the swirls or the green one with the tiny polka dots. It would have been extremely disappointing, I agree, but I have enough self-control to wait. But heaven be praised, I don’t have to do that tonight as the dress says yes. Tonight is the night that she is going to be mine. I don’t feel any self-speculation or doubt; when I believe something is going to happen, it’s almost as good as if it already has. I am so certain that I have control.

I pretend to be looking around to catch the waiter’s attention, as I flash my eyes past her body quickly, while she is still stood at the bar. Her hair is soft, a dark blonde, slightly wavy at the sides. It looks as if she has been trying to straighten it again, but the finished effect is only partially successful. My mother had soft flyaway hair, in the photograph. The one in which she is wearing the blue dress. I wish I could remember her more clearly, but my memories are vague and fragmented. For a long time I thought I could remember her in the garden at the house where we lived. The safe place, before the orphanage. The sun was shining, her face was smiling and she swooped down, enveloping me in a deep embrace. I can’t remember the exact details of her face, but I seem to recall tracing the outlines of the flowers on her dress with my chubby little fingers. There was a distinct smell to the dress too; it was soft, female, motherly.

She arrives roughly around the same time for each meeting with her friends who order florescent coloured cocktails with jaunty paper umbrellas at the bar, which they drink before being seated. Their routine rarely varies. The other three girls are with her as usual, but I not going to tell you about them as they are of no interest to me. She is all that I can see. Even in the space of single second the scene is imprinted perfectly on mind, capturing every vital detail.

I learnt long ago not to stare for too long as I read somewhere that we have retained an unused animal sense in our brains, which alerts us to predators watching us from behind. I sense the validity in that, because if you stare at a woman for longer than a few seconds, she feels it and turns around. I don not want that right now. Our meeting needs to look natural.

I close my eyes while pretending to look down at my menu. My mind follows the line of her soft porcelain skin, upward from her ankle to the hem of the dress. The dress is so perfect. I save the last few milliseconds to savour those wonderful blue swirling flowers, the subtle strands of forget-me-knots, surrounded by softly lilting lily of the valley. When I open my eyes I wipe away a single tear from my left eye, I don’t know if this is caused by passion or grief, or maybe the delicious intermingling of both. It is a remarkable thing to actually feel something, and I envy the others, for their emotional capacity, while pitying their innate stupidity, at the same time.

She is eating her meal right now, giggling between mouthfuls of pasta. How much I would dearly love to enfold her in my all-consuming rapturous gaze, as I need to possess her and know that she is completely mine… but she will be, very, very soon and until then I must contain my desire and wait. So I sit here, at my table, pretending to eat, to drink, to breathe, just like all of the others, who are only obsessed with themselves and their pathetic little lives. Their voices are so loud, do they really think they are so smart, so entertaining, so interesting? The banker, the housewife, the cheating husband out with his new whore.

I see a room full of stereotypes, people who never had to remake themselves from scratch like me. Such poor, pathetic creatures; they can’t know anything. I can tell just by looking at them that they haven’t experienced the kind of suffering that transforms you completely, while it contorts your soul. It would feel good to teach them all a lesson, but I know this is a dangerous distraction, when suddenly my thoughts begin to tunnel an underground seam towards the orphanage and the darkness that lays in wait for me there, and I know I must stop this immediately, but the effort makes me feel nauseous. I take a huge, premeditated breath, like an experienced diver, before plunging from the end of a dangerous cliff. I fight the deadly thoughts back into retreat, slamming the lid back down on the dark box where they live.

Wait… I can’t hear her exact words, but I think she has just told her friends that she is going to order some more drinks. After their meal they all move towards the comfortable worn leather sofas at the edge of the bar. This is my cue, so I sit on the stool closest to the spot where she stands when it is her turn to get a round of drinks. By the time she arrives I am ensconced with a whiskey in hand: meet mister casual flashing a charming smile. She smiles back a little awkwardly, unsure if she wants to respond, the corners of her mouth quivering just a little. I move as if I’m getting down off the stool, bumping into her oh-so-accidently, spilling a little of her red wine. This is a little risky I know, but thankfully none of it splashes onto her dress. I need the dress to be perfect.

“I’m so sorry, please let me replace that for you?”

“There is no need” she says, glancing quickly over to her group of friends, who seem to be preoccupied in their own conversations.

“It’s the least I can do – won’t you join me for just a minute?” I ask softy, flashing my most charming and seductive smile.

“Well just for a minute then,” she says smiling back now, her blue eyes matching the colour of her dress. I’m not entirely sure if this is a good indication or not, because in the only photo I have of my mom wearing her blue floral dress, she is squinting, the sun in her face, and I cannot see the colour of her eyes. They could have been blue but the truth is that I can’t remember so clearly… in order to maintain my concentration I try to push the image in the photograph out of my mind. I can’t risk thinking too much about her now. I have to concentrate, stay in the moment and make a positive impression on this woman. She tells me her name is Sylvie, although that hardly matters. Fortunately she is naturally chatty, which is a bonus as I don’t have to do so much work, just keep buying her drinks, giving her compliments and treating her like she is the most important person in the world. Women like Sylvie need to feel special as they generally don’t get much of that sort of attention, and they soak it up like sponges. I am careful though, not to overdo it, not to stare too much at that intoxicating dress. I cannot give myself away, not so soon.

*

Two of Sylvie’s friends are leaving and are waving to her from the door. The third is sat on one of the comfortable leather sofas under an old black and white photo of a faded baseball star. The owners must assume that these old black and white prints give the place a sense of history, add a little class to this very average, slightly shabby venue. I wouldn’t have chosen this place myself, but women, like Sylvie, seem to like it here. I sigh as I hear the feint slur in her voice, it is music to my ears. Soon her resistance will be lower and then I will make my oh-so-romantic move.

When I sense her resistance is low enough I swoop in for a kiss and slowly stoke her back as she responds, willingly. Women like Sylvie, they really go looking for men like me. They don’t know what they are dealing with, of course, they are stupid enough to think they are going to find “mister right, mister let’s get married and have three children”, if they hang around long enough in a place like this. It’s laughable and pathetically sad, but I must admit that when I first left the orphanage I wanted to be ordinary, just like them…

I had tried really hard to get a regular girlfriend, but no one stuck. I read manuals on sexual technique, although it made me feel a little nauseous, and self-help books about obtaining the perfect relationship. Sometimes it lasted for a couple of dates, if they didn’t want sex straight away, and once it even lasted for a couple of weeks. But they all complained in the end. Saying there was something “missing” and of course they were right, as that something was me. I can watch other men and then pretend to be them, but this wears thin after a while as I can only replicate and repeat. Even the dull, ugly girls, or the ones that I sense don’t like too much intimacy, get tired of me in the end. So a relationship of any duration has, so far, been out of the question. The only reason I am working on Sylvie is because of my overwhelming attraction to the dress: without that she would mean nothing to me.

I imagine the sheer sensual joy of holding her in my arms wearing the blue floral dress. Many men go on to marry women who remind them of their mothers, so I don’t see any real problem with my attraction. My mother, who died, is far more beautiful to me than anyone else; other women will only ever be a makeshift imitation, so it not as if I’m kidding myself or being naïve about this. I can’t actually remember anything physical about my mom. I was a child and didn’t care what was under her dress. It was more a sense of feeling safe and wanted, while I was with her, which I recall. But she abandoned me at five years old. Then the terrible times began.

I didn’t have many possessions to take into the orphanage and what I had they took off me, but not before I snatched the photo of my mom and hid it my pocket before they could steal that away too. For years, I kept it hidden under my mattress, stealing forbidden glances of her soft focused face at night when everyone was asleep: tracing the outline of her blue dress with my fingers. The days there, were a nightmare, the bigger boys teasing and taunting me for crying for my mom. It wasn’t my fault that she was dead, but somehow it felt as if I had failed, like being motherless was my fault. Sometimes I would get angry at her for leaving me and at other times I would just sit alone on my bed and cry. The other kids called me the cry baby and hit and kicked me when no-one was looking. I could have reported them to the staff, but I was quick to realise that they wouldn’t have done anything to stop it, even if they had known what was going on. Jimmy Waldron, an older boy, reported one of the bullies for kicking a kid almost unconscious, but nothing happened to the vicious bully, if anything, getting away with it only made him worse.

*

I kept the drinks flowing freely all night with Sylvie, it was expensive to buy shots, but the payback was obvious – it made her drunk much more quickly and I didn’t want to give her enough time to change her mind. I had been watching her for quite a while now, and I knew that she had a dangerous habit of lowering her morals as well as her knickers, after a few too many, and I was counting on that tonight. Not that I actually cared much about the sex. I would avoid it if I could. It was more for her than for me. I have read that many men get some sort of an emotional release from it, but I have never felt the need for that myself. The only thing I really need is to take that blue dress in my arms, to trace the fine lines of the forget-me-knots with my fingers, to kiss her pink little rosebuds and bury my head in the sweet female aroma of her lily of the valley.

*

Sylvie’s apartment was much as I had anticipated, tidy but a little bit shabby around the edges. She worked as a dental nurse and her wages were probably not that great. I didn’t bother to find out, although I could have done, if I had really been interested in that, but quite frankly, that just wasn’t something that concerned me. Everybody needs to have some privacy right? There was some cheap red wine in her humming old refrigerator, so I poured out a couple of large glasses and handed one over to her. She was really drunk, and maybe she would even pass out, if I was really lucky. Then I could put her to bed, and spend the night touching her dress, but my fantasy began to unravel as she lunged suddenly towards me, kissing me hard on the mouth. I didn’t appreciate her trying to take control like that.

I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to pay my dues and give her sex, as she was becoming annoying and it wasn’t as if she had done anything special to deserve it. It would be very tedious for me; I had tried it once before, checking to see if everything worked and to find out if I could do the stuff in the manual. I had actually managed most of it, but I hadn’t enjoyed it much at all, if I was honest, but what else could I do in the circumstances? As long as she kept the dress on, I thought I would be able to perform if I had to, but as she staggered towards the bedroom, she started pulling the dress up towards her bare neck. I grabbed hold of her and we both fell backwards onto the soft, waiting bed.

“I’m stuck inside this thing,” she giggled, “help me off with this, will you?” Her voice was slurred but playful, still imagining in her gross naivety, that this was what I wanted too. But the thought of her without the dress, all fleshy and sweaty, made me feel quite nauseous.

“No baby, leave it on,” I murmured as I smoothed the dress back down over her satin slip.

“I want to take it off, it’s hot and uncomfortable,” she said. “Don’t you want to see me naked?” she teased, but I didn’t appreciate the way she made it a rhetorical question. Her nakedness was not something I wanted to see, and she was definitely not the one in control here, and I needed her to understand that. So, I dived on top of her, pinning her down on the mattress, finally running my hands all over that sensual dress, luxuriating in the smell of hot, aroused skin, which had gathered in the creases and crevices. I kissed her hard to try to stop her from talking, I thought she wanted this, but she still wasn’t happy. I could sense it.

“Let me take of this damn dress!” she demanded, while pushing her way out from underneath me.

“Leave it on,” I hissed back, pinning her wrists above her head, like this was some kind of kinky game that we were playing.

“No! Get off me, not like this!” she said, and I slapped her hard to shut her up. She was seriously ruining the moment. After all planning and preparation to create my fantasy. This proved to be a big mistake as my charming guy cover had been well and truly blown. Sylvie tried to scream, and I tried to gag her vile, nagging mouth with my hand, but she bit me so hard. I jumped back in shock, and her arms flailed around until she managed to grab a hold of the lamp on the night stand, and she swiped me viciously across the back of the head with it. She probably imagined I was some sort of crazy rapist, but to be quite honest with you: nothing could have been further from the truth, that night. I didn’t want to rape her. I just wanted to make love to the dress.

“Sylvie! Stop! Stop!” I pleaded, trying to introduce some sanity into the situation. “I don’t want to hurt you. Everything will be fine if you just leave your dress on,” I said breathlessly, trying to regain control of her. It was a simple request and I couldn’t see why she didn’t appreciate that, but she just kept on shouting. “I won’t hurt you, I just want you to leave your dress on,” I repeated impatiently as she didn’t seem to take it in, the first time around…

“What sort of fucking pervert are you? This is not right!” she spat back, her eyes wild with an indescribable emotion.

“Who me – what are you talking about?” I asked, totally freaked out now, as no one had called me that since the horror of the shower incident at the orphanage…

“Pervert!” she screamed, again and again and the memories of that time came crashing back from a locked away place somewhere deep in my unconscious. In that second I felt I was back there, feeling the cold, smooth tiles, rammed up against my wet cheek as the big boys each took their turn inside of me. I passed out at some point between the third and fourth kid, and the last thing I could remember was the image of my mother’s sweet face, smiling down at me. I watched the soft glow of those dancing flowers as I slipped away from the pain. When I awoke I was alone; I felt like I was nothing but a sobbing, crumpled rag on the bathroom floor. Cry baby… Cry baby… Cry baby…

“They were the perverts, not me!” I screamed back at Sylvie: I was inconsolable, now. Even the sight of her dress couldn’t calm me down.

She was shouting and sobbing, almost delirious, and I just couldn’t get her to stop screaming. She was reaching out for the lamp again, so I pulled it away from her, the thin white cable flexing though my fingers.“ Stop it! Stop it!” I pleaded, but she wouldn’t listen. I desperately needed her to quieten down, so I slipped the flex around her throat for a moment, thinking the shock would do the trick…

Her complexion had turned the colour of forget-me-knots and her blue eyes were bulging in a most unattractive way as her throat made nasty little rasping sounds. It was painful to listen to her, but what choice did I have? I couldn’t risk all that screaming again. It was disgusting to look at her too, acting like this, in that beautiful dress, which I was praying that she wouldn’t soil as that would be a complete disaster. I was relieved when she finally became quiet and still.

*

BIO : Sonia Kilvington is a journalist, short story writer, poet and novelist, living in Cyprus. She is currently published in the international noir collection Exiles, and has written two crime novels, The Main Line Murders and Buried In The Hills.

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