I am in his bubble, and he is in mine
Whether I like it or not...
"Oh, for God's sake!!"
My pile of magazines go flying off the edge of the sofa, when I accidentally kick them with my foot. It's only a small annoyance, but it's one too many annoyances tonight. I reach to pick them all up, then re-position myself across the sofa, propped up with cushions, half sprawled and feeling fairly relaxed, considering.
I lean over to the wooden coffee table, where my half-drunk glass of white wine sits beckoning me beside my empty bowl of pasta. It was on offer at the little supermarket: only £4.99 a bottle. I am nothing if not classy. I smirk to myself. at how damn hilarious I am.
What I am not smirking at is the evening news, with its alarming headlines of 'Virus Spreading Fast' and 'PM will be announcing national lockdown shortly.' My good mood from earlier today has fast taken a nosedive, and I pick up my phone, thinking who to text and talk to about all this strangeness.
First, mum. I ring her as I frequently do, and we have a good chat, putting the world to rights. She is not really worried about catching covid, despite her advancing years; she is more irritated by the lockdown threat, as she had been hoping to visit me and my partner Alex next weekend. It was all pencilled into the diary and everything.
I message Alex, who has heard about the ominous spread of the virus and witnessed for himself the subsequent bombardment of news stories that were by now impossible to avoid. He is a much calmer person than I am, and is truly my rock in times of anxiety, especially during situations where things are way out of anyone's control.
He is on his way back from work now, stuck in mile-long tailbacks along the motorway. He messages only whilst his parking brake is on; he always is careful like that, and I am glad that he is not a reckless person. I feel safe with Alex, plus he keeps himself safe; safety and security are what we are all needing right now to keep us sane through these unprecedented times.
I idly flick through the channels, and ponder all these weird phrases that weren't really in our vocabulary a few weeks ago and now suddenly they are tripping off everybody's tongues...
All two-word phrases that wouldn't have felt appropriate to say before, and now it was all we heard and all we said. It was as if we had learnt a new language and were all still grappling with the newness and strangeness of the sounds.
I dislodge myself off the sofa, stretching and groaning as I stand to clear away and rinse my dinner things. There is half a bottle of white left; I pour another small glass, then put the lid back on the bottle and pop it in the door of the fridge. I am determined that I won't allow all this weirdness and anxiety to make me an alcoholic!
I connect up my phone to the Bluetooth speaker, hearing the familiar soothing chimes as it connects, then select a favourite playlist: 80s Feelgood - why not indeed, I need a bit of feelgood.
My phone chimes; Alex has replied back:
Hey baby. Traffic a shitter but will be back as soon as. Need anything from supermarket? May as well stock up a little. There is talk of work from home for now, so we may get more time together (yay, she says hehe).
Love you x
He always knows how to make me smile. I know this because of how often I smile at his texts. We've been together five and a half years, living together for four - and he still manages to surprise me, which I reckon is a rare gift in a long-term relationship.
I tap out a response:
Drive safe babycakes. I need you back here, missing you and want your arms around me. All this covid shit is freaking me out. Rang mum - she fine. Can you grab us milk, loo roll, pasta, and a LOT of chocolate for me please? Love ya x
I put down my phone and wander aimlessly about the flat, moving my body and singing a bit to the tunes I love. It is starting to get dark, and twilight is turning rapidly into night-time. I go to draw the curtains in the front lounge.
A middle-aged man is stood opposite the house; I can't really make out his features in the darkening night, but I recognise him instantly, as if by instinct; my skin starts to crawl, and my pulse quickens. Amazing how one person can have caused so much stress to me over the course of several years. I quickly draw the thick curtains, and just as they close in the middle, he slowly raises his hand to wave at me.
I’m drinking my wine and staring into space. I hear the songs playing, but it’s as if my brain has completely zoned out. That balding head, those vacant pale eyes. I am shaking, and I hate that I am grasping my wine like an amulet, using it as medicine to keep me calm. I need Alex to be here now, NOW. I text him, knowing it’s unnecessary but desperately needing reassurance:
How are you getting on? Let me know when at supermarket xx
My mind takes me back to traumatic times, many years ago, when that weirdo first appeared in my life and began stalking me. It began at the gym; him smiling widely at me across the swimming baths with those vacant eyes, trying to start up conversations with me at the vending machine. I used to respond politely, then bolt out of there. He had always given me the creeps. He started appearing more frequently in other places, until one day he turned up outside my house; turned out he had followed me home without me knowing, to find out where I lived. I was single at the time; this was a few months before I met Alex.
I find myself pouring more wine; my hands are shaking. I turn off the music; I find I want to be able to hear clearly. I’m compulsively checking my phone for Alex’s reply. Shit, I'm a mess.
I remember how this man, Simon, his name was, was so persistent, so terrifying in his obsession with me. I had never told him my name, yet he knew everything about me. That my name was Lorna; it felt bad enough that he knew that. I wondered how someone who looked so innocuous could be so frightening. Even when I firmly told him ‘No,’ he disappeared for a bit, then reappeared back in different places. It was as if he had gone away and regrouped, formulated a new way to pursue me. It was as if I hadn’t said no; he had erased that data, as it was not relevant to his needs.
Every women’s worst nightmare. Even once the police were called, they couldn’t do anything, because he hadn’t attacked me, hadn’t laid a finger on me. I had to start logging every incident, every sighting of him. Dozens and dozens of them. My life had become a game of ‘Where’s Simon?’ Every moment of every day became tinged with unease, with fear. Every happy event, every lunchtime with friends, a birthday dinner with my mum, became ruined, because I would spot him and start to shake. I would drink, and not be able to touch my food. Maybe it wasn’t him; maybe it was someone who looked like him. I had felt like I was going out of my mind. I went back to the police again and again, begging for help. I even had counselling.
It all had felt so unfair; I had barely even spoken to the man, I had done nothing to encourage him, yet my life had become closed; I’d had to shut myself down, limit my activities for fear of seeing him. I had wondered at the time if it made him gleeful, triumphant when he didn’t see me after all. Or did it enrage him?
My phone chimes with a text, making me jump out of my skin. Alex. THANK GOD, I think to myself. His reassuring response:
At shop. No probs, I’ve got the bits. Big queues, it’s been a bit crazy here, but won’t be long. Heading out to car now xx
I reply: Rush back, need to talk to you xx
I hadn’t seen Simon for several months now and had dared to start breathing again. Alex had been amazing at the start of our relationship, when I had tearfully told him about my stalker, and he had reassured me, and vowed to protect me.
I had started to hope that maybe he had got bored, moved on. Or maybe he had just got better at hiding and following. How long had he been stood out there tonight? Was this the first day he was stood out there?
I dare to peep out through the curtains, my heart thudding, and I feel like I will throw up if I see Simon’s big round moon-face smiling at me again. My stomach lurches as I brace myself to look; he is gone. I debate whether to call the police again; this is new and terrifying, as he has not yet been here at this house; the house me and Alex upgraded to a couple of months ago. To my knowledge anyway.
I go into action mode, grasping my phone and making sure the front door is locked and bolted. I do the same with the back door, feeling like a lunatic but taking all the steps I feel I need to, to feel safe until Alex gets home. Every minute feels like an eternity, and I’m muttering under my breath come on Alex, come on… I draw the curtains all over the house, upstairs and down, and draw the blind in the bathroom. I can feel myself shrinking down into trauma again, and I hurriedly message Alex: Please hurry x
I chant and mutter as I grab the biggest kitchen knife we have in the house, and plonk myself back down in front of the news to find out the covid updates, to try and feel normal for a moment, but also I am desperate to distract my panicked mind. I try to breathe in and out normally, as I watch our PM announce lockdown measures as from tonight. Scary. I message my mum and a couple of close friends, and feel a bit better for all of us sharing our shock together. I check the time: where is Alex? He should’ve been here by now…
On impulse, I ring him. I need to hear his voice. No answer: maybe he’s driving and doesn’t have the Bluetooth set up. In that case he should only be a couple of minutes away. I listen to a few seconds of his voicemail for reassurance. I go and peep out of the front curtains: I crane my neck to peer left, and then right; still nothing that I can see.
The PM is talking about ‘staying within our bubbles.’ Well, Alex is my bubble and I am his, so that is okay. We can drop food parcels over at his mother’s if need be, as she is on her own. My mum and dad are pretty active and should manage okay, we can help out if need be. I’m so glad they live close by. I feel for all the people living alone, scared, confused about the lockdown, worried about where they can go and whether they will be able to get supplies. I’m SO grateful for Alex, my rock, my boulder.
I turn the television down slightly when I hear Alex’s car pull up on the gravel drive beside the house. “Thank God, thank God…” I mutter to myself, and it really does feel like a prayer, despite me not being religious. I think about his amazing scent and those strong arms, that moth-eaten sweater that he won’t throw out, and I hug myself and feel very silly with the knife beside me. Oh well, he’ll understand… he knows what a psycho Simon is, and he knows what I’ve been through…
When I hear Alex’s footsteps but don’t hear the jangle of keys for the front door, I get confused. I wait. My phone chimes. It’s from Alex:
I AM HERE. I NEED TO TALK TO YOU TOO.
Weird use of capitals, and the door still doesn’t open. The phone chimes again. I am starting to feel sick to my stomach. I pick up the knife, though I do not realise I am doing it. I read the message with trembling hands:
LORNA. I HAVE BEEN PATIENT LONG ENOUGH.
I HAVE EVERYTHING WE WILL EVER NEED. YOU WILL NOT NEED ANYONE ELSE.
GO TO THE CURTAIN.
I take the knife with me, and I think that I will have a heart attack. This cannot be happening, this cannot be happening…
I look through. I see a light, across the road. The glimmer of a phone screen. Alex’s phone. Simon is stood there, in the exact same place he stood before, typing me another message. He looks up at where I am standing, and the light from the phone illuminates his grin and makes it truly nightmarish, like a ghoulish clown. I am starting to scream to myself: NO NO NO…
I AM NOW YOUR BUBBLE.
AND YOU ARE NOW MINE.
Stay safe everyone...
About the Creator
A mum, a friend to many and I love to explore dark themes and taboos in my writing. I am an optimist with a dark side...
Hope you enjoy! I appreciate all likes, comments - and please share if you'd like more people to see my work.
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