The Hypnotist's Love Story(6)

by Liane Moriarty

Ellen watched his hand. It was a lovely hand. Big square-cut fingernails.

“OK, mate. Listen, you might have to tell me the rest tomorrow. I’m being really rude to my … friend. OK. See you in the morning. Waffles, of course. Yep, definitely. Night, kid. Love you.”

He hung up the phone, switched it off and put it back in his pocket.

“Sorry,” he said. “He wanted to tell me every detail of this movie he’d seen. Gets that from me, I’m afraid.”

“Really,” said Ellen.

She was feeling a shot of intense pleasure at the back of her skull. She loved the way he talked to his son, so casual and funny and masculine and loving. She loved the fact that they were going to have waffles tomorrow morning. (She loved waffles!) She loved the way he said “Love you” so unself-consciously.

A waiter took away their plates, balancing them on his forearm. “Was the pork belly all right, sir?”

“It was fine.” Patrick smiled up at him. “Just wasn’t as hungry as I thought.”

“Can I tempt you with the dessert menu? Or coffees?”

Patrick raised his eyebrows at Ellen.

“No thank you,” she said.

“Just the bill then, thanks, mate,” said Patrick.

Ellen looked at her watch. It was only ten o’clock. “I’ve got some nice chocolates at home,” she said. “If you want to have coffee at my place. If you’ve got time.”

“I’ve got time,” said Patrick, and his eyes met hers.

Of course, they never bothered with the coffee and chocolates. As they made love for the first time on the clean sheets, there was a sudden flurry of hard rain on the roof, and Ellen thought briefly of Patrick’s stalker, and wondered where she was right now, imagining her standing under a streetlight in the rain with no umbrella, raindrops sliding heedlessly down her pale, tortured (beautiful?) face, but then all the interesting sensations of a new lover filled every corner of her mind and she forgot all about her.

Chapter 2

At my age most of my friends are in long-term relationships, and in my line of work I don’t have the opportunity to meet many new potential partners. I guess this just seemed like a fun way to make some new friends. I’m a romantic, but I’m also a realist.

—From Internet dating site profile of

username: Ellen68

Ellen walked barefoot along the beach early the next morning, her trousers rolled up to her knees so she could let the waves break around her ankles, thinking about Patrick (she loved the name Patrick, nothing namby-pamby about it at all!) and everything that had happened the previous night.

His son. (So cute!)

His crazy ex-girlfriend. (Intriguing! Although also possibly somewhat frightening. She wasn’t sure.)

His body. Goodness, she had thought, as if she were a swooning heroine in a Regency romance, when he unbuttoned his unassuming striped business shirt. Just thinking about his chest gave her a shot of pure lust and she pressed two fingers to her tender lips, grazed from all that kissing.

He had left right at midnight. Like Cinderella. He said that although his mother was staying at his place to look after his son, and would have gone to bed in the spare room, he always felt as if he was somehow taking advantage of her if he stayed out too late.

“I hate doing this. Of course, if we—you know—I’ll be able to let her know I’m staying overnight,” he’d said as he buttoned his shirt back up over his caveman chest.

“It’s fine,” Ellen had said, her voice thick with sleep. She was happy he was going. She preferred to lie in bed and think about him, rather than have him actually there and worry about what her hair looked like in the morning.

“I’ll call you,” he’d said when he kissed her good-bye.

Her phone had beeped with a text message at six a.m.

When can I see you again, please? I think you’ve got me hypnotized!

Which was cheesy. But extremely lovely.

So it looked like it was happening. She was at the beginning of something new. Here we are again. She took a deep breath of salty air and it caught in her throat. For a moment she felt the weight of all those previous disappointments.

Please let this one work, she thought pathetically.

And then, with more spirit, Come on now, I deserve this!

Ellen had been in three long-term relationships: Andy, Edward and Jon. Sometimes she felt like she was always dragging the memories of these relationships along with her, like three old tin cans on a string.

Andy was a freakishly tall young banker. Their three-year relationship always seemed vaguely fraudulent to Ellen, like they were just pretending to be in love and doing a really excellent job of it. When Andy got an overseas posting, neither of them even mentioned the possibility of Ellen going with him. The whole affair left her with the same sense of grimy regret she felt after eating McDonald’s.

Edward was a sweet, sensitive high school teacher. They fell deeply, profoundly in love and became one of those couples with a clear path ahead of them incorporating children and pets. And then, for complex reasons that were still not clear to her now, and to everyone’s shock, the relationship suddenly imploded. It was quite exquisitely painful.

She met Jon on her thirtieth birthday. So OK, she thought, this is the one. The real grown-up relationship. He was a smart, articulate engineer. She adored him. It wasn’t until after he’d pulverized her heart that she finally noticed he’d never actually adored her back.

She’d always thought of these failed relationships as, well, failures. But it occurred to her now that perhaps they were actually essential steps in a predestined journey leading to this very moment on this very beach. To a green-eyed surveyor called Patrick Scott.

She thought of Patrick’s ex-girlfriend, his stalker. Saskia. An unusual name with its hard, spiky little syllables. Ellen rolled the name around in her mouth, like a strange new fruit. Saskia would not appreciate knowing that Ellen’s heart was filling with tremulous hope right now.

Ellen kicked out at the water in front her, sending up a spray of icy droplets. Well, really, what sort of person was this girl? Had she no pride at all? Ellen cringed at the idea of her ex-partners knowing she ever spared them a thought.

When, in fact, the three of them were always lolling about in the back of her mind. Every time she got out of the car she automatically slid the driver’s seat back for Andy’s long legs, a habit left over from the years they’d shared a car. Every time she cut a tomato she thought of Jon, because he’d once told her cutting crossways made it juicier. Every Boxing Day she remembered it was Edward’s birthday.