Before the Storm painting by Linda Harper, photo courtesy of Gallery A, Taos, New Mexico
For the "arch-nemesis" prompt for Sunday Scribblings, I didn't want to write a piece, as I don't like to dwell on negativity. But in the spirit of continuous participation in Sunday Scribblings, I've decided to write an abbreviated version of this tale.
This is a true story about a woman whose jealousy and deep-rooted feelings of rejection caused her to deliberately manipulate the lives of three people - with dire consequences.
Margaret, the master manipulator, looked innocent enough. She was a tall, slightly overweight redhead with a loud and lively personality. She was married to an affable Israeli, with whom she had three children. To all outward appearances, they lived happily in their nondescript condo near San Francisco.
Margaret earned a good salary selling long-distance phone services to businesses in the San Francisco Bay area. And she drove a red BMW, courtesy of her wealthy Jewish father in Seattle. When we met through work, she was very friendly and talkative. Almost immediately, she suggested I should meet a long-time friend of hers. She said his family was originally Greek, but he was born in South Africa. He was handsome, charming and smart - and a single father to a then 14-year-old daughter. When she said she had dated him several years earlier and they remained friends, a warning bell sounded in my brain. As I had no intention of meeting her friend, I ignored it.
Margaret phoned several times, wanting to meet for lunch and asking if she could give my phone number to her friend. I said no, but finally took his number and told her I'd think about phoning him. Meanwhile, she'd had her boss at work telephone me, ostensibly to discuss business. I was abrupt with him, as I'd been called out of a meeting to take his call. But he kept phoning - seems he was intrigued by my voice. Early one morning he showed up unannounced at my office, saying he had to meet me.
"Antonio" was originally from Guatemala, drop-dead gorgeous and relentlessly charming, the kind of man that constantly has women swooning at his feet. While I was flattered by his elaborate attentions, I'd already been around the block (around the world) a few times and knew better than to succumb to his obvious charms. We flirted a bit, laughed a lot, had lunch, a few more phone conversations, had dinner, a few delicious kisses, but that was it.
Margaret was eager to learn all about my relationship with Antonio, as she was attracted to him (but knew she didn't have a chance). I told her Antonio wasn't the kind of man I wanted to be involved with, other than as friends. Further, I wasn't the kind of woman to kiss and tell. She said Antonio wouldn't give up so easily. "He'll have to, because we're going nowhere," I assured her. So she switched tactics, again insisting I phone her friend.
One Monday evening in early February I was feeling discouraged by the lack of suitable men in my life. On the spur of the moment, I phoned Margaret's friend "Gavin." I was struck by his charming accent and his sense of humour. We talked for 45 minutes, then made plans to meet four days later for lunch in San Francisco.
I decided to look at the whole thing as a lark. Imagine my surprise and delight when Gavin turned out to be not only handsome, charming, smart and funny, he was single, sexy and available! And he was seriously interested in me. We went out several times, fell madly (mad being the operative word) in love, took a romantic trip to Gualala and Mendocino and (rashly) decided to move in together. We were delirious with happiness.
Margaret expressed much enthusiasm for our union, seemingly on a relentless campaign to cement our relationship. Once Gavin and I moved in together, she would meet each of us separately for lunch, ask personal questions and slant these conversations when recounting them to the other party. For instance she would phone Gavin - who knew about Antonio's attraction to me - and suggest Antonio had asked her "When is she going to leave Gavin? She should be with me; she's too good for that guy." Gavin would never tell me any of this, but started acting suspicious of my every move. The seeds of doubt had begun to take root.
One Saturday morning Antonio showed up at our front door, driving Margaret's car. When I answered the door, Antonio threw his arms around me and wouldn't let go. When he saw Gavin standing in the hallway, he said he was babysitting Margaret's children while she was out of town (!) and they wanted to see me. They all trooped in and Antonio made small talk with Gavin, who glowered with barely-concealed fury while I made tea. Once Antonio and the children departed, Gavin exploded with rage and accused me of having an affair. "It's obvious that he's smitten; he keeps phoning you (how did he know that - I never mentioned the calls) and hanging around your office. And now he's even come to our home and thrown his arms around you! You must be having an affair!"
To cut a long painful story short, Gavin never got over his groundless jealousy and possessiveness. Margaret constantly fed him tidbits to make him wonder about my loyalties. Meanwhile, Antonio gave up on me and dated a nice young hairdresser. Guess who introduced them? That's right: Margaret, the matchmaker. Eventually Antonio married the hairdresser.
But Gavin persisted in his accusations, his belief that I was secretly carrying on with Antonio. He listened in on my phone calls, played my voice mail and answering machine messages and read my diary. Once he even telephoned my boss - who was out of town at a conference - to ask about my whereabouts. Gavin was a man possessed!
In the end, it became intolerable. No matter what I said or how many times I denied that anything was going on with Antonio - I hadn't even spoken to the man in months - Gavin refused to believe me. Margaret kept dispensing regular doses of fairy tales. She fed similar silly stories to Antonio's new bride, making her question Antonio's fidelity.
Margaret was enjoying the results of her machinations - she felt powerful. Not only was she claiming her revenge for Gavin dumping her all those years ago, she was getting even with Antonio for rejecting her advances.
After Gavin's paranoid fears made it impossible for me to stay, I moved all the way across San Francisco Bay to get away from him. Margaret started phoning me, as well as Gavin, full of false apologies and remorse. By this time both Gavin and I had uncovered the full extent of Margaret's treachery and her devious games. Alas, the damage was permanent: the trust was lost and our relationship destroyed. And Margaret didn't care about our feelings - she was concerned only that we'd tell her husband what she'd done.
Still, Margaret wasn't finished pulling the puppet strings. She told Antonio that Gavin and I weren't together anymore, because I couldn't forget about him! Her motive? She hoped Antonio would leave his bride to woo me - all because he hadn't been attracted to Margaret!
Needless to say, I changed my phone number and severed all ties with this shallow, twisted woman. But at least three people suffered at her hands. Someday this deeply unhappy, bitter woman must pay the piper.