Joan sat on the edge of her bed, her head still reeling from the short time she had spent with her neighbour. She wasn’t one to get involved. She wasn’t one to get emotional. She wasn’t one to develop friendships or relationships unless she could get something she needed out of the person.
People were simply pawns to her, instruments that she could manipulate and use as she needed to achieve the end goals she wanted. To Joan the ends always justified the means, no matter the collateral damage that was inflicted along the way; it was always for the greater good whether or not the people on the periphery saw that. But something was different this time, Kate was different, and Joan didn’t know what she wanted.
She couldn’t understand what was going on inside her head as her brain tried to steer her in the usual direction for how she would manage situations that could be potentially compromising, and her heart battled against it to just let the situation be what it is, promising that everything would work itself out. She didn’t know how to handle the ocean of emotions she was finally feeling, it had been so long since she had allowed herself to feel anything.
After returning home from having a wine with Kate, Joan had prepared her dinner, listened to the classical music she loved the most from the antique record player she owned, cleaned her house up and showered in hopes of calming her head but still it raced. It was at odds to who she was, her mind was battling with something she had rarely had to experience before; the possibility of feeling actual emotion and connection with another human being and being subjected to the whims of her own heart.
In her hands was a mobile phone that could never be traced back to her. It only ever dialled one number. That number shone up at her now from the activated screen as she sat in the darkness looking through the window to Kate’s house as she tried to make a decision that could change all of her future encounters with Kate.
“Think, think, think,” she said to herself and tapped her index finger to her forehead once with each word she spoke. She wanted her father to tell her what to do, she wanted his guidance as to the best way to deal with this situation, but she knew what he would say, she knew his disappointment would run deep if she were to emotionally compromise herself for something as silly as lust. She didn’t want his advice really, simply his approval of the happiness she had felt sitting there with Kate earlier that night. But she knew it would never come. She was merely another foot soldier to him. She always had been.
Across the road the lighting situation was changing as she looked out through her bedroom window. The front porch light went off, the hallway light stayed on, a dim light in what Joan assumed was the bedroom flicked on. Kate was getting ready for bed. Joan imagined her neighbour changing out of the light blue denim jeans and plain white tee shirt into a thin strapped singlet with just her underwear as she snuggled down into the warm, fluffy blankets with a different book and read by lamplight. Her short brown hair would be strayed across the pillowcase, her legs together, knees up as she laid on her back and got swept away into a fantasy of some sort. Something with elves and dragons.
Joan had only stayed for the one drink with a slight top up but she had desperately wanted to stay for another. Her brain told her she wasn’t informed enough about the situation yet, don’t get in too deep, don’t let her in until you know the dirt, something to hang over her head if you ever need it. Be in control. It was her father’s teachings of life and she heard his voice in her head as she fought the battle inside herself as to what action she must take now.
Control the situation Joan. Treat everyone as an opponent. Don’t be the loser at the end of the game.
Joan didn’t even know Kate’s last name. She didn’t know her past, where her family lived, her work or how she attained that small white scar above her left eyebrow.
The phone screen timed out and went black and with a tap of her finger she activated it again and stared at the number.
One phone call and within a matter of days she would have all the information she wanted.
But something was holding her back. Her frustration grew as she tried desperately to comb the deepest recesses of her brain to figure out what it was that was holding her back. She had never hesitated to make a call like this in the past. It was always a simple decision, it was always just another move on the chess board of life in the direction of winning, and Joan always won. But it was so different this time, because of Kate, because Kate was different.
‘Emotion.’ That was the word whispered into her brain with her father’s deep and raspy voice as she settled on the conclusion. ‘You are becoming emotional about the situation. You can never win when emotion is involved.’
“I can be emotionally involved and still remain in control,” she spoke out loud to herself in the dark room as a vision of her father appeared by the window.
‘Emotion will only serve to fail you.’ The hallucination of her father was meters away from her but she heard him speak right in her ear, whispered words of his own philosophies to control the world that Joan would entangle in. She looked at him and his image was blurry, but still the look of disappointment upon his face was evident as he told her all the ways she was failing in life.
“My emotions do not control me, I control them.” Joan knew she was fighting a losing battle with the man, she knew all too well the lengths he had gone to in his own life to remain in control of the situations he had found himself in. Joan had seen the carnage and destruction he could bring down on people who got in his way. Even the people he loved, or was supposed to love.
‘You cannot control your emotions Joan; you have proven that with the terrible things you continue to do. You must rid yourself of emotion and control the situation.’
“No, no, no.” Her long black hair flicked around and the gray strands sparkled in the moonlight that shone through her window as she shook her head at the insinuation. She knew it was a waste of time trying to convince him otherwise, her father always could see right through her and nothing less than complete emotional emptiness was all that would ever make him happy. “I only do what is necessary,” she spoke to him with venom and conviction as he continued to taunt her from inside her own head.
‘Then make the call.’
Her finger activated the screen once more and she pushed the green button.
“I need information on someone,” Joan spoke to the person on the other end of the line with ice cold clarity. “I have a first name and an address, that’s it. I need a history: work, family, medical, any information you can find. No, don’t follow her or make any kind of contact. No I don’t want any kind of surveillance. I just need to know details for now, her last name, complete history, where she came from, what her last ten years looked like. Yes, that’s fine. I’ll have the money when you have the Intel, you have one week.”
The conversation was brief and to the point, no point wasting time where it wasn’t necessary, she had been using the same man to do her dirty work for many years now and they had a thorough understanding of the process.
Something deep inside Joan’s stomach felt heavy as she hung up the phone and turned her head back to the window.
But her father was gone again, and Kate’s bedroom lamp light was turned off as well as all the other lights in the house, and Joan was left alone in the bedroom to feel the stab of guilt for what she had just done as she looked out through the window to Kate’s dark home now illuminated only by the street lamp at the end of her driveway.