Let me preface all of this by just telling you a little bit about myself. It won’t change anything that happened, but maybe it will help you to understand why it happened.
I won’t go so far as to say that I was starved for affection. It was more like there was a miasma of loneliness that pervaded every aspect of my life. I know that doesn’t make it sound any better, but that doesn’t make it any less true. At work I had colleagues. I’ve noticed that fellow psychiatrists are not the most empathetic and friendly people because a hard day of work saps it out of them. In my social life, I had acquaintances. I had a cat in my apartment, but Tuke was hardly a companion. He just existed to be fed and typically avoided me in all my attempts at interaction. As for my romantic life, let’s just say my that was nonexistent.
The closest thing I had to a real friendship was Hedra Carlson. We lived in the same apartment right next to each other. After a long day of listening to other people’s problems, I would slip out onto the balcony and have a cheap cigar, the brand/quality didn’t really matter to me. (What can I say, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.) Every now and then, Hedra would come out on her balcony and we would chat about day-to-day life and she would fix herself a martini while she listened to my day and I would puff away on my cheap cigar while she told me about hers.
Hedra was the nearest approximation I had to a friend, but we were still pretty distant. I never visited her apartment and she never came over to mine. We didn’t get too personal with our conversations. We kept it light and relatively uninvolved. The feeling of loneliness started off as something small, but it slowly grew into something insidious and uncontrollable. It was that feeling of isolation that made me desperate. That was the reason why I created a profile on a dating site and how I first met Claire Bartel. To be completely honest, I wish I had never met Claire or agreed to go out on a date with her.
Unfortunately I did. We met for dinner at a nearby restaurant. It wasn’t a fancy place, but I did enjoy the food the last time I was there and thought it was a relaxed enough environment for a first date. For lack of a better word, she was petite. She was about five foot six and she had her blonde hair cut short. She was cute, although she was a little on the thin side. The moment I saw her, I felt like I had met her somewhere before, but couldn’t quite place it. We greeted each other and then went to a booth for our date.
I don’t like to over-exaggerate, but the only way I can think of to describe our date is the word catastrophic. It was bad from the get-go, when I ordered a burger and she berated me for ten minutes straight about the horrors of factory farming and a carnivorous lifestyle. I returned saying that the human body is adapted to eat meat, which is why we have canines and molars in our mouth. I joked that I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat leaves and whatever the hell tofu and soy was. She was not amused.
The date only went downhill from there. In one of the many awkward moments during our date, I tried to figure out where I knew her from. We didn’t shop at the same places, we didn’t live near each other, we didn’t even eat at the same restaurants. I kept guessing until I finally realized the answer. The revelation was not a pleasant one. I knew her from work. She was a patient of one of my colleague’s. I had seen her coming into the building every once and a while. When I finally guessed on where I knew her from, the date went even further downhill.
We went our separate ways. I think she was ashamed that I knew that she was getting therapy. I assumed that she had gone in for treatment regarding a possible eating disorder. She was skinny and seemed like the kind of girl that would have a lot of anxiety about it. I tried to still be gallant and just before we parted ways for the night, I gave her a hug and inadvertently caught the overpowering scent of her perfume. It smelled like she had dumped an entire bottle of lavender-scented perfume on before going out. I told her I would call her, but doubted I would due to the general awkwardness that hung in the air between us like a poisonous cloud.
I didn’t call her, I thought it was the best thing for both of us. Maybe things would have ended differently had I called her a few days later. Even if it was just a courtesy call to let her know what she already knew; that we weren’t hitting it off and it would be best if we went our separate ways. I didn’t make the call and now I regret it everyday.
The fifth day after our date, the side-view mirrors on my car were smashed with what I assumed was a baseball bat. At first, I assumed that it was some neighborhood kids taking out some pent-up emotions out indiscriminately. I called the repair shop and scheduled a repair. My theory didn’t hold water as the next day; all four of my tires were slashed. It could possibly be random vandalism from kids, but why would they select my car twice especially when there were nicer cars on the lot? This was someone who had some personal vendetta.
I went through a mental list of any possible enemies I might have made over my life, but I came up short. I hadn’t angered someone so much that they would want to slash my tires and smash my side mirrors just to get retribution. It was then that I wondered if this act of vandalism had been the work of Claire. I decided to ask Hedra. The next time we were both out on the porch together and I was having my cigar and nursing a surprisingly large scotch on the rocks, I decided to get some advice from her.
I asked her, “You remember how I told you about that shit-show of a date I had about a week back? I, uh, think she may have a screw loose.”
I told her everything even the part about recognizing her from the psychiatrist’s office. Hedra leaned on the separator that divided our balconies and listened carefully to everything I told her. She took occasional sips from her martini as I told her about what had happened to my car and I confided in her that I thought Claire was the perpetrator.
When I was finished, she said, “Looks like your girl isn't all there in the head. She seems to have “Fatal Attraction” for you, huh? I think she doesn’t like to be ignored. My piece of advice to you is to talk to your work buddy that had a session with her and see what kind of crazy you’re dealing with.”
I decided to take her up on the advice and scheduled a lunch meeting with my co-worker. We were both busy at work so that was the only real time we could meet without having to cancel any of our sessions with patients. We sat and chatted for a bit before I broached the topic of Claire Bartel. I told him that I had gone on a date with her once and was curious about her mental health.
He stiffened noticeably upon hearing mention of Claire’s name before he began, “I don’t mean to pry into your romantic life, but if you have any intentions of dating her; I would suggest seriously reconsidering.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sorry, but doctor-patient confidentiality.”
It took some cajoling, but I eventually managed to convince him to tell me, “She has some pretty severe abandonment issues due to dysfunctional family life when she was younger. That all culminated in a violent episode when her boyfriend dumped her. We’ve been meeting once a week for about a month now. I can’t give you anymore information on what goes on during our sessions, but I will mention that her current emotional state is unstable. She is a danger to h-” he cut himself off before he divulged any more details and I let it go. I had heard just about enough.
I thanked him for the information. We went back to work and I continued my sessions with the patients I had scheduled. Unfortunately my mind was preoccupied and I wasn’t able to effectively listen to my patients, which is the most important part of being a psychiatrist. When I went out to my car at the end of work, someone had written in red lipstick: “Bastard!” I tried removing it, but I only succeeded in making worse by spreading it out and smearing it across my windshield.
When I got back to the apartment, I picked up the phone and dialed Claire’s number. My finger hovered indecisively over the call button. Calling her could exacerbate the situation or help ease tensions. I decided I had nothing to lose. I pressed the call button. The phone rang twice and then she rejected the call. I wondered if she had chosen to ignore my call. I dialed again and this time the phone only rang once before she disconnected the call.
This wasn’t good.
Two days passed and I spent the majority of my time at work on the lookout for Claire. I didn’t see her and on the second day, I assumed that she had eventually moved on to terrorize someone else or found another romantic interest. There was no more vandalism to my car. On the third day I was almost certain that the hard part had passed and now everything would be smooth sailing. That night I went home to find my cat, Tuke lying on my kitchen table split open and disemboweled.
She had wrung his neck first so he didn’t suffer. That was the only merciful thing she had done. He had been split open with one of my kitchen knives, which I immediately threw away as there was no way I was going to clean it and use it ever again. Tuke had been strung up like an animal would be for dissection. It was her! I could still smell the lavender scent of her perfume in the air. She had been in my apartment. I did the only thing I could do; I called the police.
I pieced everything together while I waited for the police. She had probably seen me at work one day and tailed me home or she could have possible followed me home the very night I dropped her off after our date. I don’t know how the hell she got into my apartment, but I know it was her! Who else would use that much lavender perfume? Claire Bartel was obsessed with me and whether she wanted me or hated me for not calling me back was no longer important. She was dangerous.
The police arrived and I explained the entire situation to them. The male officer dry heaved when he saw my poor cat gutted on my kitchen table. The female officer cast a side glance at her partner that seemed to scream, ‘Rookie.’ She took all of the information and promised that they would visit her tonight and question her about her whereabouts. They left and I began the painful process of cleaning up the remains of Tuke. I was too shocked to even cry, I knew once I had him buried and in the ground, I would probably dissolve into tears.
It was late so I decided to put Tuke into a plastic bag and I would bury him tomorrow. I sealed the bag and wondered what Claire was doing right now. I imagined her rocking back and forth in her house, clutching a knife, and frothing at the mouth with madness. I went to sleep with that mental image festering in my brain. I woke up to the sound of Claire tearing apart my apartment.
I grabbed the only thing that I had that I could use to defend myself against her. While I did that, I heard her rampage as she took out her rage on my apartment. I took a deep breath and went out to chase her out of the apartment. She was in the kitchen, looking over her handiwork. She whirled away from the dead cat in the bag as soon as she realized I was in the room with her. She looked genuinely shocked, maybe she assumed that I would have stayed at a hotel for the night after the break-in. She brandished the knife and I raised my pillow in response. I really needed to pick up a bat or something for home defense. Her eyes were wide and she seemed genuinely scared at being confronted.
“You sick fuck!” she growled.
“Me?! You’re the one who broke into my fucking apartment and started tearing shit up!”
I gestured at the door she had kicked in, the curtains she had torn, and the table she had flipped over. I pointed back at her and she defensively raised the knife as if the mere gesture was like a slap to the face. We began trading volleys of shouts and curses.
“You sent the police to my house!”
“You killed my Goddamn cat!”
“You started calling me at all hours of the night!”
“You wrote ‘bastard’ on my car with lipstick!”
“After you keyed ‘cock-tease’ into mine!’
“Just leave me the hell alone. I’m not interested in psychopaths. I didn’t do any of those-”
Claire stumbled back into the oven with a hole in the side of her head. She looked confused as she probed the newly formed gunshot wound with her hand. She slumped down to the ground as blood and a grayish matter began to seep from the wound. I could only watch in shock as she began to twitch on the ground like she was receiving electro-convulsive therapy. Hedra lowered the smoking revolver and whimpered:
“I-is she dead? Are you okay? I heard the shouting, I got my gun, and crossed over on our adjoining balcony. I saw her shouting and pointing that knife at-”
I didn’t hear the rest as the stress and trepidation that had been building up all week evaporated in an explosive and cathartic instant. I broke out in a sob that wracked my body and left me doubled over. I wavered, feeling like I was going to sink to the ground. She crossed the room and steadied me by wrapping me up in a bear hug.
I wept in her arms. They were tears of relief, the madness was over. Claire was dead. She had completely lost it, breaking into my apartment, threatening me. Hedra whispered soothing words that I couldn’t quite make out in my deteriorated state. After a few minutes, I had managed to regain some control of my emotional state and that was when I heard it. I managed to make out one phrase as she held me tight to her chest.
“I love you.”
It was then that I realized that Hedra’s perfume smelled like lavender.
Written by EmpyrealInvective