I didn’t have to wait long. Friday night I was settling to watch a DVD I’d rented, with a beer by my side and a packet of chips, when the phone rang. I checked the caller ID before I answered and saw ‘private’. That meant either my friend Elaine who used a silent number since a rather unfortunate persistent ex-boyfriend saga a year or so back, a stranger, or Gabriel.
I may have been imagining it, but I’d swear I got a slight electric shock as I picked up the cordless receiver. In any case, in that moment I knew for certain who it would be. He had a rather lovely, mellifluous voice which what sounded like a trace of an European accent, though I might have been imagining that last bit. He just sounded ‘expensive’ in some way.
“Peter, it’s Gabriel here. I received your delivery.”
“Good, I wasn’t sure if the address would be bogus.”
“I have no need to hide in such a crass manner.”
“No, I can imagine,” I said wryly, “You have better ways to hide.”
I thought I heard a slight chuckle down the phone. I wasn’t sure whether to be pleased he appreciated my humor or frightened by how smug it made him seem. Was he just indulging me?
I decided that attack was the best form of defence.
“Good little party trick really, but it’s a bit more serious than that, isn’t it? At least it is for Natalie.”
“It’s very serious,” he replied slowly, “What is it you want Peter?”
“Nothing really, except to help.”
He laughed quite openly and audibly this time, derisive.
“Do you expect me to believe that?”
He didn’t sound offended or even shocked. He sounded vaguely intrigued and amused. Guess he wasn’t used to being discovered and this might intrigue him, or he felt so above me that he could pursue my line of thought without real care or concern.
The thing is, though, beyond that he just sounded normal, like any normal person. Not like some partially invisible freak, or some monster from a child’s nightmare. It made me quite bold, that sensation he gave off, that sense that he was more normal than not. Whether that was remotely true, of course, was entirely another matter I had no way to gauge in the moment, so I stumbled on.
“Perhaps not, but I sent the film to you, it hasn’t been sent to funniest home videos yet, if that’s what you think I’m about…”
“That could change,” he replied, with measured, silky tones.
“That won’t change. Natalie is a friend. I don’t care about you really, but I care about her.”
“Well, how could it be otherwise Gabriel? I don’t know you. We haven’t met. But, that isn’t the point of any of this. I noticed you wanted to meet Natalie, or it seemed that way. She wants to meet you. She’s rather lonely, I suppose you can imagine.”
“It seemed that way. I could see how she would be..”
“Yes, and you’ve tried to meet her, haven’t you?”
“If you expect me to play with you and deny everything that you have clearly shown on your film you are in for a disappointment Peter. Obviously I have. You know that. So do I. My question is, what is it to you?”
“Nothing, I’m curious about you, and she is too, and I’m curious about both of you. It’s a pretty interesting thing you both do. But I think you know more about it and you’re more in control of it and I think that might help her, and she’s a friend. That’s all really, that and curiosity, as I said.”
There was a moment of silence on the phone. I could feel him considering my words. I wished for a moment this wasn’t over the phone, and that we were talking face to face. Then I remembered the nausea I felt in Natalie’s company when she was anxious and I thought better of it. I felt he could make himself invisible around me if he wanted, triggering all those unpleasant disorienting symptoms, so I was safer by far talking to him over the phone. Presuming he couldn’t do it electronically as well….
“Curiosity killed the cat Peter.”
“Is that a threat?”
He laughed, this time more deeply. Something seemed to slither down the telephone line. It chilled me, making me think he could perhaps ply his effect across distances and down electrical currents. I felt vaguely repelled, wanting to hang up, but I couldn’t when I was this close.
“Not at all, couldn’t resist. Nor can I resist your offer, which is what it is, isn’t it, Peter? You’re offering to facilitate a meeting between Natalie and I?”
“Absolutely, that’s right.”
“Then I happily accept your invitation. In fact, I extend one, to both of you, to come to lunch with me, here, tomorrow, away from any eyes or distractions other than our own..”
Wow, that was easier than I thought. And so hospitable! You’d think we were casual business acquaintances arranging a pleasant business lunch. Still, it was what I wanted, so I wasn’t going to argue with ease or allow that to frighten me in some other new, fresh, inventive way.
“Perfect Gabriel, but I must confess, I do have a threat to make to you.” I said, bolder than I actually felt. He seemed to know, because I heard the irony in his voice. I felt like an ant, threatening the boot that was about to tread down upon it. Watch out, I’ll bruise your sole!
“Oh, and that is?”
“Don’t hurt Natalie. She’s such an innocent and I don’t think you are at all. Well, neither am I, so don’t even think about it.”
He laughed again, warmer this time.
“I’d never think of it Peter! I’d never hurt my own kind!”
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved