I’ll Be Watching

Alexandra Barnes

In some love stories, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. In others, the story ends when boy loses girl. In some rare love stories, boy won’t let go.

A certain type of man doesn’t appreciate the woman who loves him until she leaves him. If she was simply making a point, that works. Perhaps he will look around his empty apartment, seeing the space in the closet where her clothes once hung, and realize what she means to him. With luck, he will beg her to come home and she will have made a lasting impression. He will change. But say she has grown sad and sick of being belittled and neglected and she really means to leave. She loves him more than she loves herself, but loving him has diminished her. Maybe she’s seen other people in love who make each other happy. She knows he’s bad for her. He has promised to change before and he cannot. She has to leave him. He’ll be certain he can win her back.

Perfectly sane people can act completely insane given just the right provocation. A man with a very bright future can risk it all, thinking he’s just letting the girl he loves know that he still cares. She will hide on the floor of her apartment so he can’t see her as he stands under the streetlight below her window. She will think he wants to kill her. Perhaps he’s hit her before. He will seem like a stranger. He will stand there for hours.

Walk up to the man under the lamp. Point out to him that standing on a deserted street in the middle of an autumn night, staring at a woman’s window, is not rational behavior. He won’t believe you. Crawl across the floor to where the woman sits, huddled by the phone, crying. Explain to her that she practically lived with this man for three years; he still cares for her and just wants her to know. Tell her to go to bed. She will stare at you with haunted, streaming eyes. She won’t be able to.

She may find a nice fellow who tries to help her through this hard time. She will lean on him, sitting in his apartment sipping tea, asking him if her life will ever be normal again. She will fall asleep on his couch, exhausted and feeling safe. She will be the damsel in distress this young knight has been waiting for. He will tenderly cover her with a blanket and wonder what it would be like if she loved him. In the morning, she will clutch at her heart and begin to sob with terror as she finds a note from her old boyfriend on the windshield of her car.

“I could have smashed it,” it will say. “But I still love you.”

In a normal, sunny, logical world, these two people will never speak again. But their world will be a much darker place. It will make no sense. They will meet in public places, speaking friendly words while sharing longing glances. He will call her “buddy” and it will break her heart. He will tell her he has a new girlfriend and is moving on. She will see other men but she will be dreaming of him. He will stop seeing other women and follow her. She won’t know.

One particularly low night, a New Years Eve, in fact, she will get home from a date and call him at his office. It will be after midnight. He will still be there, waiting for her. They will have a tearful, passionate reunion.

“I couldn’t bear to think of you alone,” she will whisper.

She will know by morning that it was a mistake. She will be racked with guilt. The hunt will be on again.

She will move three times in six months, trying to find a place where he can’t find her. He will enjoy the challenge. He will find her every time. At first, he will frighten her. After a time, she will come to expect him. She will almost look forward to his wry expression as he shows up at her door. He will knock and she will answer, smiling sadly. It will become a mournful game. They will hug and he will leave. They will be veterans of the same war, sharing a bond which will never be broken.

For her, it will finally end when he follows her in the darkness to her new boyfriend’s apartment. As he tries to break the door down, she sits inside and cries. He will be convinced he’s lost her. The tension of the past months and the belief that it is really over will make him snap. She won’t let her boyfriend go outside. He will agree for her sake, and decide not to call the police.

“He’s already lost you,” he will explain. “Why ruin his career, too? He’ll get tired eventually.”

The two of them will sit together on the sofa. He will hold her tightly as she trembles.

The man outside will pound on the door, screaming her name and rattling the bars on the basement windows. He will finally grow tired and go back to his car across the street to sleep. She will cry herself to sleep.

Her new boyfriend will quietly let himself out, walk across the street and see his rival snoring in his car. He will stop for a moment, thinking. He will walk to the front of the car, unzip his pants and pee on the hood of the metallic blue BMW. He will zip up his fly with a satisfied smile and go back to his girl.

The rising sun will find a lonely man sleeping in his car. He will wake, look toward the apartment where she sleeps, turn the key in the ignition and drive away slowly into the gray morning.

Alexandra Barnes

. . . is a writing teacher and a former journalist. Two novels are currently making the agent rounds and a sequel to one is in progress. Her work has appeared in Gator Springs Gazette, The Rose and Thorn Literary Ezine and "Long Story Short. She lives in Connecticut.