Best Laid Plans

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Chapter 21

A few days have gone by since my break up with Dominic. For the most part, I am functioning well enough that I’m eating. Though, I’m not able to keep down most meals. I cry off and on, especially when I have little reminders of the life I lost. Yesterday, I scrolled through the photos on my phone and deleted all of the ones of me with Dominic. I haven’t decided what to do with the pictures of Ludo. He was a big part of my life before I met Dominic. I wish he could remain part of my life without Dominic. Cora and Kingsley are having me over tonight for dinner. Cora had called me earlier today to invite me. I was hesitant at first, but she insisted. Ultimately, I decided to attend, because it will be a good distraction for me and I can see Kingsley and watch how he treats Cora. I’m going to be mindful of every little thing he does and see if I can spot any subtle signs of his misplaced anger.

My lease is coming to an end in my small apartment and I now have to either make a drastic life change and move, or extend it and stay in this lonely place that’s now haunted by memories of me and Dominic. It might be a healthier choice to move and start all over. I need to start getting ready for dinner so I go to my closet and pull out a sweater and my nicest pair of jeans.

I’ll throw on booties and call it an outfit. I put some makeup on to conceal the dark circles that are now under my eyes. I gaze at my vacant eyes and sickly face. I need to stop moping around. This is not healthy. I plan to call out of work tomorrow morning and sleep in. Hopefully that will help counter this daze I have been in. My phone rings and when I look at the caller ID, a sick feeling surges through me. It’s Dominic, again. He has been calling me since Friday night, but I can’t talk to him anymore. I’m not in a strong enough state of mind to talk to him. I’m afraid I’ll falter and take him back. I hit the deny call button and let it go to voicemail.

I walk out to my car and notice the static in the air and the musty smell. Rain is on the horizon. We have a storm rolling in. I look up and notice the ominous dark, grey clouds covering a pink and purple sunsetting sky. A familiar, eerie feeling tickles the back of my neck. Someone is watching me. I turn around and I am alone. I need to get to my car and lock the doors, so I hurry to the parking lot. I hear shuffling behind me and as I quicken my pace, I hear the shuffling pick up its pace. I’m being followed. I turn quickly and again, no one is behind me. “Odd,” I think to myself and I get in my car, lock the doors, and drive straight to Cora’s house. During my drive, I continuously check the rearview mirror for cars that might be tailing me. I let out a sigh of relief when I arrive at Cora and Kingsley’s house.

As I park and swiftly walk up to their front door, I still have the feeling that I’m being followed. I turn frequently to see if someone is behind me. I knock and find myself a bit inpatient. Usually, either Kingsley or Cora opens the door immediately and swoops me in. I try knocking again, but there is no answer. “Strange,” I think to myself and I ring the doorbell. The air outside is stale and sticky. I can hear thunder in the far distance, but I know it’s coming closer. Our first storm of the year is coming in tonight. The weatherman forecasts flooding and landslides based upon the amount of rain predicted to come in with the storm. I listen for sounds in the house and unsurprisingly, their doors and windows are pretty sound proof. I pull out my cell phone and dial Cora’s number.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Lucy. I’m at the door,” I tell her.

“Ah, sorry, I am taking a bubble bath. I’ll send Kingsley down,” Cora tells me. She’s in the bath? She must have lost track of time or forgot that she invited me over tonight. I’m not sure which, but before I can theorize, Kingsley opens the door and guides me into the house.

“I apologize for the delay, Lucy. Cora is taking a well deserved, relaxing bath. I lit candles for her, and we were chatting about our day. She went out shopping with a girlfriend of hers today. Candace. Have you met Candace?” he asks, but I pick up a vibe that he doesn’t actually care if I’ve met Candace or not. I smile and shake my head to indicate no, I have not met her before. Now that I think about it, Cora has never mentioned Candace in passing. Most likely because we have never crossed paths and Cora doesn’t waste her time talking about people who she knows I haven’t met before. She told me once that if she has to explain a person or event in great detail for me to understand her story, it feels like a waste of energy, so she would rather not talk about it. It seems like she has a whole different life that I know nothing about.

“Fancy that, me neither. I’ll mix you a drink. What would you like to drink tonight?” Kingsley asks.

“A glass of wine is fine,” I answer. I’m afraid if have anything too strong, I’ll spend the night crying over Dominic. Being here at their house is flooding me with memories and emotions. The last time they had me over, I was with Dominic celebrating our blooming relationship and utterly, head over heels in love. I was naive then to his cheating. When I think back on our time spent together, I wonder if he felt any guilt for his actions. Did he love me? Surely, he would never have cheated if he did. I feel tears well up in my eyes, I blink them back in hopes that Kingsley doesn’t notice as he hands me a glass of wine. I need to stop thinking about Dominic.

Cora descends the stairs in a white silk robe and when I look a little too closely, I realize that’s all she has on. “Hi Lucy! Please excuse me for a minute as I get myself dressed. I don’t know if Kingsley told you, but he surprised me with a lovely, relaxing bath. I feel like I just left the spa. I lost track of time. I will make myself presentable and join you for a drink. Is that wine that you have?” She calls out to Kingsley, “Darling, please mix Lucy and I extra dirty martinis. She needs something stronger than a glass of wine.” She looks back at me and smiles. I can see that she is trying to help me make the most of our night, so I smile back and finish my wine. She returns up the stairs to get herself properly dressed.

The majority of the night is spent laughing as Kingsley regales us with humorous encounters with celebrities at work. He has the most interesting stories. Some celebrities are eccentric and their needs and requirements when house shopping is absurd. While listening to Kingsley’s stories I glance over at Cora to read her reactions and try to scope any micro expressions that might be more telling of their relationship. Has Kingsley hurt her, again? Is she still wearing a bandage to cover the bruising? Cora has worn long sleeves all week which stopped me from being able to snag a peek. It must be fine, because I’m not reading anything that tells me otherwise. Then again, I do question my intuition sometimes. It sometimes steers me wrong. Then, my phone rings. Seriously? Dominic again! He doesn’t stop. I notice Cora peeking over at the screen and I deny his call and put my phone back into my purse.

“He’s still calling? Luce, do you think he is stalking you?” she asks with concern.

“Stalking? Do you mean actually following me?” I’m flabbergasted.

“Yes, you keep saying you feel like you’re being watched. The way Dominic can’t seem to let you go and continues to call despite your obvious denial of his calls, he seems… desperate. And a person in a desperate state could morph into an extreme state, like a stalker. You should consider a restraining order. While you’re at it, block his number.” She reaches over and takes my phone out of my purse and hands it to me. “Trust me. Block him.” I take a deep breath and I hit the block number option.

Blocking his number felt both freeing and nerve-racking. It seems so set in stone. Even though I know I can unblock him at any time, it simply feels permanent.

Could it be Dominic following me? I change the subject because I’m too creeped out to think about it any longer.

As the night goes on, I grow sleepy and decide to call it a night. Kingsley asks for me to stay and enjoy a night cap, but Cora agrees with me that it is time to call it a night. They walk me out to my car and we share our goodbyes.

While driving home, this feeling of being followed starts creeping up on me again. I check my rearview mirror and see headlights gaining speed behind me. I suddenly have a flashback of Dominic telling me that if I ever feel like I’m being followed on the road, I should drive to the nearest police station and call for help. An officer could come out and meet me, but I’m not sure if this situation needs to escalate to that point. I divert my route and make a sudden left turn. I check my mirror and see that the car behind me made a left turn, too. This could be sheer coincidence, but I’m not sure enough to write it off yet. I make a right and the car makes a right. My heart starts pumping faster and I need to find my bearings. I call Cora in hopes that she can talk me through this.

“Hi, Luce, did you forget something?” she asks.

“Cora, I don’t know what to do! I think I’m being followed . I’ve taken random turns to test the other car’s direction, and it’s still following me,” I say in a panic.

“Take a deep breath. It’s probably a coincidence, but do you think it’s Dominic? Maybe his anguish has gotten the best of him. Maybe he snapped. Try taking another turn and see if the car takes that third turn with you. If it does, drive straight to the police station. If it doesn’t, drive home and get some rest. I’ll stay on the phone with you until you’re home if you would like,” her voice is calm and reassuring. I take one more random left turn and the car continues going straight down the road.

“False alarm! It isn’t following me. I don’t know why I let my nerves get the best of me. Do you really think Dominic is the stalking type? I sure hope not. I know how those stories play out. Thank you for staying on the phone with me. You don’t have to talk to me for the rest of my drive home. I must just be exhausted from these sleepless nights.”

“No problem. Get rest, dear sweet Luce,” and with that she hangs up the phone. I’m now left alone with my thoughts in my quiet car on the dark road lit only by my headlights. I recognize the truth of Cora’s suggestion earlier tonight that Dominic may not be running on a full tank right now. She’s right, despair can consume a person directly into madness.

I get home and park my car. I grab my purse from the passenger seat and hear my phone ringing. Thinking it’s Cora checking in that I made it home safely, I answer my phone. “Hello?” but there is no response. I pull the phone away from my face and realize the call ID says Unknown. “Who is this?” I can hear breathing on the other end, but that’s it. I listen closely for background sounds, yet I don’t hear anything. I take a shot in the dark and say clearly and sternly, “Dominic, I know it’s you!

Delete my number from your phone and stop calling me. It’s over and I have nothing left to say. Leave me alone.” I hang up. I can feel the tension in my shoulders and just as I’m about to get out of my car, my phone rings again from an unknown caller. I throw caution to the wind and answer the phone one last time, “Stop calling me! I’m going to the police tomorrow and filing for a restraining order. I’m serious, you’re being a stalker, you freak!” And just like that, I hang up and think to myself, it’s finally over, at long last, I am free.

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