The Hypnotist's Love Story(11)

by Liane Moriarty

“Well, not everywhere. The last time we were at the movies.”

“Maybe she just happened to be there.”

“Maybe, but she tried to get into the same restaurant, and then she left a letter on his car windscreen, which he didn’t read. Apparently she waits around the corner from Patrick’s house and follows his car. He said if he’s going somewhere different, he’ll often lose her, but if it’s a regular place, like the movies at Cremorne, it’s easy for her to work out.”

“Good Lord.”

“I know.”

“This must be awful for you. It’s ruining that wonderful time at the start of your relationship. You should be gazing moonily into each other’s eyes, not keeping a lookout for his crazy ex.”

“I don’t mind. Actually, I find it sort of interesting.”

“You freak.”

Ellen laughed at Julia’s decisive tone and stretched luxuriously. It was a Saturday morning and they’d just been swimming at their local pool. Now they were lying on white towels in the billowing heat of the sauna. Ellen’s legs and shoulders ached from the swim. Julia always made her swim harder and faster than she would if she was on her own. She could feel beads of sweat sliding all over her body: down her back, into her cle**age. She let her hands rest lightly on her thighs, and felt sleek and slippery and sensual. There was no problem practicing mindfulness when you were at the start of a relationship. It happened automatically. All that sex. All those chemicals zipping through your body.

And all that appreciation. That was what was so wonderful about falling in love. Patrick appeared to highly approve of every new thing he learned about her body, her past, her personality. It made Ellen not just sexier but funnier, smarter, nicer, kinder, all round lovelier. She was invincible! Her life seemed to flow and ripple in exquisite harmony, as if she’d achieved enlightenment. Her clients were sweet and grateful, her friends adorable, her mother not at all frustrating. (“So when am I going to meet him?” she said on the phone, her tone warm and pleased, sounding just like a normal mother presumably would.) Whatever grocery items Ellen wanted were always right on the shelf in front of her; traffic lights turned green as she approached; her car keys, sunglasses and purse sat obediently and conveniently on the hall table. This morning she’d had just one hour to go to the bank, the motor registry and the dry cleaners and she’d done it with time to spare, and every person she’d dealt with, even at the motor registry, had been charming. She’d had quite an emotional conversation with the bank teller about the weather. (The teller was from the UK, and thought that Australian winters were “divine,” and Ellen had felt tearily proud, as if she, in her invincible state, was solely responsible for the Australian climate.)

If only she could bottle this feeling and make it last forever. It couldn’t last forever, her rational mind knew that, but her heart, her foolish heart, was chirping, “Oh, yes, it can! Why not? This is who you are now! This is your life from now on!”

“I would never humiliate myself like that,” said Julia.

What? Oh. The stalking thing.

“Well, I guess she just can’t let go,” said Ellen. Right now, she was filled with gentle compassion for all of humanity.

Julia snorted. She was lying on the bench opposite Ellen, a towel wrapped like a turban about her head. She had a long, lean, athletic body and crazy blond curly hair and she hovered right on the edge of being extremely beautiful. Whenever Ellen walked along a street with her, she saw men’s eyes involuntarily flicking back to Julia for a second appraising look. Unfortunately, Julia’s beauty seemed to attract a certain type of man, the sort who appreciated quality and was prepared to pay extra for it. The problem was these men constantly upgraded their computers, their cars and their women. That was their nature. They were dedicated consumers, excellent for the economy. After nearly five years of marriage, Julia’s husband, William, had decided it was high time he upgraded to the latest brand of woman: a twenty-three-year-old brunette.

(Ellen always liked to think that the sort of man she herself attracted was automatically superior to those who chose Julia because they didn’t let the billboards determine what was beautiful. They weren’t superficial; they were individuals. Sadly, she couldn’t really back this theory up when her relationship history was just as disastrous as Julia’s.)

(Really, when she dug deep, she saw that her whole theory was just her way of making herself feel better because the majority of men didn’t feel the need to give her that second flick of the eyes.)

(Although William had been a dreadful prat.)

(To be honest, she had been quite fond of him in the beginning.)

“Where’s the woman’s self-respect?” snapped Julia. “Just move on, for God’s sake. She’s making all of us look bad.”

There was a real edge to her voice, as if she was personally offended.

“You mean she’s making women look bad?” said Ellen. “It’s normally men who do the stalking. It’s good. She’s showing women can stalk just as effectively as men.”

Julia made a pfff sound. She sat up, leaned down with one long arm and picked up the ladle lying next to a bucket of water. She threw it on the hot rocks. There was a boiling hiss and the sauna filled with more steam.

“Julia,” gasped Ellen. “I’m suffocating.”

“Toughen up,” said Julia. She lay back down and asked, “What’s this girl’s name?”

“Saskia,” said Ellen, breathing shallow breaths of the hot, heavy air. She felt shy saying it out loud, as if it was a celebrity’s name.

“Have you actually seen her yet? Or have you seen photos?”

“No. He never tells me he’s seen her until after she’s left. I’m desperate to see what she looks like.”

“Maybe she’s a figment of his imagination, and he’s the crazy one.”

“I don’t think so.”

Patrick wasn’t crazy. He was lovely.

“So I assume he ended the relationship.”

“He just said that it ran its course.”

“So he broke her heart,” said Julia sternly.

“Well, I don’t—”

“Still, it’s no excuse. It happens to all of us. Patrick should take a restraining order against her. Has he done that?”