Saving Sylvie – Short story or Novel?
What happens next? Any thoughts?
Night of the Narcissist.
“He adores you but frankly he’s a bit of a smug bastard” I said, looking her in her blueish eyes. I said bluish because there is a sort of greyness there. Almost an absence of eye, a space or depth like you sometimes get with the blind. But Sylvie is far from blind.
You rightly suspect that I am in love with her and am trying to undermine her belief in every man she meets so that she will eventually realise that I am her true other half. Basically by elimination.
Why don’t I just tell her so?
“Well he has a right to be” She says, “He has his own company!”
“Meaningless” I say contemptuously. “‘Management Consultancy’! That’s what people say when they’ve been made redundant from the civil service. Or social work.”
She laughed. “Well his last job was in his da’s rubber firm!”
“Rubber? What did they make? Condoms?”
“Silly,” she said. Slightly annoyed. “No. Tyres. The company was bought by the Koreans. Not his fault. Besides he has a fabulous body!”
“Ah,” I said, “of course. Gym bunny. Abs addict. Terror of the triceps”.
Just then Chris returned from the loo. “Everyone alright?” He asked, and there was something so smug in his tone I desperately wanted lo launch my fork into his eye. “We having dessert are we?” He had no doubt whatsoever that Sylvie was perfectly safe with me and that was so insulting. Why would he think I was incapable of being his rival any way whatsoever?
“Yes”, Sylvie said. “It’s a chocolate cake day for sure! Are ‘we’?” She had certainly inserted a single quote mark around the “we”. The gentle irony of that gave me a tiny thrill – she too had reacted to his smug comment.
“It’s my sugar free day darling” he said. “you knew that” he pushed the menu aside like an insult.
“I’m having profiteroles” I announced rebelliously.
Sylvie caught my eye for a fraction of a second. A shared conspiratorial victory.
The invisible spaces between us were rearranging.
“Darling,” he said, leaning forward and engaging her eyes, his hand covering hers on the table, “are you sure? You remember your little resolution?”
Involuntarily she snatched her hand from under his. “Oh my ‘little’ sugar resolution? No, I don’t remember that at all.” This time our exchange of glances was almost overt.
“Damn!” He said. His pocket was chirping. Birdsong. “Sorry darling. Must get this.” Phone leapt into his hand, to his ear. “Yes I know, no, fine” he said to the mobile. Then, covering, “sorry darling. Client.” And strode toward the balcony, muttering into the instrument.
“It’s his fucking ex- girlfriend”, Sylvie said, “she wont let him go”
“He said client.”
“Yes I know”, she said and sank into quiet glumness, disturbed only by the ordering of the deserts.
The desserts arrived and still he hadn’t.
“Let’s kill him”, she said.
“Don’t be silly!” I laughed as I stabbed a profiterole with a savage fork.
“That could be one of his balls” she mused.
“And that ” I said as she sliced into the chocolate cake with knife and fork, “could be his ass!”
“He says he loves me,” she said. “I think he might.”
“Oh wake up Sylvie. He’s a narcissist, He’s controlling you! He wants you to dance to his tune. Once you do, he’ll dump you!”
Instantly I realised I had gone too far. The shadow that crossed her face said this: you do not trust my judgment. You underestimate me.
“Sorry”, I said. “But it’s the truth!”
Chris emerged from the balcony. “Ready darling? Got the bill? Don’t worry we’ll pick it up on the way out. Bye James, good to meet you.” A peremptory handshake and with every indication of petulance from both, they were gone. Leaving me staring at my last profiterole.
“He dumped me!”. It was two months after that meeting at Les Escargots. I hadn’t seen her or heard from her, apart from the odd You Ok exchange of texts, since that evening. In the old days we were trapped to each-other on WhatsApp for hours in the evenings. She had shared almost everything with me, for some reason seemed to trust me since we had met as colleagues at KBH. But since that meeting with the Chris, nothing. Which was fine. We no longer worked together and to be frank I rather needed to get over my hurt. And let’s face it, jealousy.
I have always been better at being a friend than a lover. I’ve always preferred food to sex, what the hell.
Perhaps that’s why I am a virgin at twenty eight.
She says I am probably gay. Well, if I am, I’d happily make an exception for her…
It was 7pm when I had the call on my mobile. Her voice had slivers of anger and a cushion of shock.
“Really,” I said, attempting to inject just a little surprise into my voice. My temptation to use ITYS (I Told You So) rejected. “So. Why?”
“How come every time you’re not sure what to say next you start your next sentence with ‘so’?”
“Everyone does that. So tell me why?” I pushed the Mac aside and tried not to look at my next move in my chess battle with the machine.
“Because he’s a fucker!” she said. “Because he’s an asshole! Because he fucked his ex at my flat, while I was at the conference!”
“Huh?” I was properly surprised. I knew he was repulsive – but that repulsive? “how did you find out?”
“Uh – why wouldn’t I see a used condom in the bin? Under a scrunched copy of the Times? Which I thought, I told him to recycle his fucking Tory paper. So I took it out to put in the recycling. And there is this horrible pink rubber thing dripping cum underneath…”
“He said he wanted babies with me! God James, what if I’m pregnant?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when. So what happened – did you confront him?”
“He got home almost the same minute – there I am, Times in my hand, staring into the bin, there he is at the door, staring at me staring at the bin. Everything all right darling he asks me. No I say, point to the bin. He looks.”
“Wow. Great scene.”
“Then he says, I swear, he says, ‘yes, it’s a condom. Are you coming to the O2 with me tonight or not. It’s Comedy Central night.’”
“What?! What did you do?”
“I threw the bin at him!”
“You didn’t…” feigned disbelief. This was exactly what I could imagine her doing.
“Yes I did. Covered him in fag ash and tissues and dribbling cum. He was furious!”
“Well done! And then?”
“And then he told me I am a screaming hysterical bitch. He always wanks into a condom he said. Saves mess! And he dumped me…grabbed his stuff. Stormed out like it’s all my fault! Oh James, why do I feel so…fucking…miserable?”
“Do you want me to come over?” hopefully. The White Knight with chocolates and kisses….
“No I fucking don’t – oh sorry James I don’t want it to sound like that. I just need to be by myself. Think it over. I mean, why does he have to wank when he has me? I don’t believe him! She was here. I know she was.”
“Oh boy…” she’s sobbing and it’s horrible. Then “I mean, maybe just maybe it’s true? He’s OCD enough to use a condom for a wank.”
“How can you believe him?” I ask, exasperated. “I told you he’s a narcissist. He can never admit if he’s done wrong. He will always blame the other person.”
“I’m going out,” she said. “I need to walk.”
And that was the last time I spoke to her, three days now. No answers to texts. Nothing on Whatsapp. Her Facebook, Snapchat, nothing’s happened.
She has disappeared.
What should I do?