Oh, darling, you’ve cut your throat. There’s a splatter of blood on your clean shirt. I noticed your hand begin to shake when you saw me in your shaving mirror. There is no mistake. It is your beloved Camille. I am standing here, right behind you.
I know it is only a few short months since we met, but I feel as though I have known you forever. Remember the extravagant, glittering party at the Ethiopian Embassy? You in your formal tuxedo, so handsome and sure of yourself, representing your global internet company – and me, almost an afterthought, as Valentine realised he needed an escort at such an important gathering, he being the Ambassador’s eldest son.
Having been rushed around the boutiques for that exquisite gold evening gown, I was on his arm, trying to give the impression that all the grandeur was second nature to me, and yet I was so nervous. Valentine was trying to ease the tension by making me laugh, threatening to introduce me as his diplomatic baggage. It was then I looked up and saw you.
You stared so hard it was embarrassing. I tried to look away but it was impossible. I felt mesmerised. You came over, not to speak to me directly, but to ask Valentine if we might dance. I remember thinking how courteous you were. Valentine smiled and said yes, of course. But then he would, being the dearest man in all the world.
Oh, how we danced! You, so silky smooth, surprised that I, coming from a third world country, could hold my own. I’m sure you thought we couldn’t even read and write – Valentine and me.
You were arrogant even then but I didn’t see it. You tried plying me with drinks, until you were politely informed that Muslim women don’t touch alcohol. Then you had the cheek to suggest we might go back to your hotel together, just quietly slipping away, but you reckoned without the watchful eyes of Valentine’s bodyguards, who politely but firmly escorted me back to the party. I was so relieved. You were completely out of my league.
I forgot about you after that. My modelling career was taking off and I was busy travelling from one location to another. I thought it was a coincidence when we bumped into each other at the airport, but I should have known better. There was a hunger in your eyes, a passion that I did not know how to deal with. You frightened me a little, Alex, yet I found myself wanting you, needing you, just as you intended.
Of course, you knew Valentine’s bodyguards would not be escorting me that day. They thought I would be safe in a group. You and your contacts, controlling anything and everything, business or pleasure. That was how you attained your position in your company, wasn’t it? Cold, calculating, no matter whose toes you were treading on. But of course, lovesick me, totally overcome by your charm and tenderness, saw only what you wanted me to see.
You took your time, there was no rush, you said. So confident! Life became a whirlwind of delights. Dinners, theatre tickets, flowers, all the courtesies that make a woman feel cherished.
When my modelling assignments took me away from you, I thought you would complain. Instead, you were ahead of me. At the airport in Rome you had porters and taxis waiting. In Brussels you hired a limousine and pretended to be my personal driver. When Vogue sent ten of us to Venice, you hired a fleet of gondolas for the evening and provided champagne and food hampers for us all, photographers included. They praised you to the skies, everyone saying how wonderful you were, how lucky I was. You kept me on Cloud Nine, not letting my feet touch the ground. We were the gossip columnists’ dream. I was so naive.
Then came that magical evening in Paris, when you asked me to marry you, placing on my finger that exquisite diamond ring. I was so deliriously happy, felt so safe and protected. When we made love, you were so gentle, telling me I had the most superb body, lithe and graceful, surprised and pleased to discover that you were my first real love. That was when you gave me your silver cufflinks with the diamond dolphins, because I admired them so much.
When we arrived back in London I immediately called to see Valentine, to show him my engagement ring, but he already knew. We’re soul mates, you see, born and brought up together, with a depth of feeling that goes far beyond ordinary love.
He was concerned for me, warning me to be careful. He was unhappy at the speed with which our emotions were travelling, advising me to stop and think and to make quite sure of my feelings. But of course I was so ecstatically happy, I didn’t listen. There were no shadows on my horizons. Not then, Alex – not then.
It was the evening we attended your company’s annual dinner when I sensed a difference in your attitude towards me. I was wearing the lovely soft cream and gold evening gown you bought for me in Paris, remember? As we arrived, me on your arm, I couldn’t fail to notice the gasps, the almost audible whistles, the over-friendly greetings, as you introduced me as your fiancée. I laughingly accepted their flattery, it was fun. They were nice people, but you – you changed. Your face hardened, you scowled, gave short, snappy answers. For a moment I thought you were jealous.
Then you introduced me to the president of your company. A big man, almost overpowering. I saw the look in his eyes. Oh, he was pleasant, perfect manners, the usual small talk for a few moments, but his body language said it all. He did NOT approve!
What you didn’t tell me then, of course, was that you had been offered a seat on the Board, a non-executive director, controlling African markets. Nor did you tell me that part of the deal included having a wife, a woman who would be the perfect hostess. I couldn’t then understand what the fuss was about, or why you were so aggressive. When you finally got around to giving me an explanation, it came like a bombshell, out of the blue. Your company was not prepared to accept a mixed marriage. I am Ethiopian. My skin is black – you said! You were so cruel, so hard. You knew the company’s rules. Why then, did you ask me to marry you?
It was your ego, wasn’t it, Alex? You decided you were so highly thought of you could get away with anything, especially as I was an up-and-coming model on the front pages of all the leading magazines. That was why you had taken so much trouble over feeding the gossip columns, of making our affair so public. You said you were helping my career. You lied! Neither did you tell me the president had called you into his office and told you not to bring me that evening, but to terminate your affair if you wanted to keep your job. No wonder he was so icily polite.
I was angry, humiliated. I cried, telling you how much I loved you, but it made no difference. I returned your ring and said I was going back to Valentine.
That was my big mistake. You thought I meant we were lovers. I tried to explain that we were soul mates that ours was a different kind of love, far beyond anything physical, in the ordinary sense, but you didn’t even want to understand. You shouted that if you couldn’t have me, then nobody would.
I didn’t see the knife in your hand!
I hated the way you stripped everything from me, leaving me with no identity. After wrapping what you once called my lithe and graceful body in that old, stinking car rug, you drove down the bumpy track and hurled me into the quarry. How could you do that? You said you loved me. Oh, Alex!
You thought I was gone for good in that cold, dark place, with its bare, overhanging trees and the smell of stagnant water. How did you know of it, along that deserted road going nowhere? A place from the past, perhaps? Well, it certainly is now. After you destroyed my belongings, you told everyone I had broken our engagement and returned to Ethiopia. No-one believed you, especially with Valentine holding my passport.
I am with Valentine now and always will be, as his spiritual guide. Through me, he is now a shaman, as is his father and grandfather. When he goes home his people will regard him as a wise and respected man.
In return he has secured for me a certain justice. Do you remember the silver cufflinks with the diamond dolphins, Alex? Valentine was keeping them safe for me. He has had one placed inside that dreadful car rug. You see, I didn’t go all the way down into the quarry, after all. The rug caught on an outcrop, preventing me from falling into the water, but of course you couldn’t see that in the dark, could you? The other cufflink is now under the carpet in your car, together with some mud scrapings and leaves from the quarry.
It was the Ambassador who reported me as a missing person. Now, acting on an anonymous tip-off, the police are at this moment, recovering the shell of me. They have found the cufflinks and in just a moment, will be knocking on your door.
It is such a shame you won’t be able to make it to the top of your company, darling, but I shall be with you, just as I am now, talking to you in your shaving mirror throughout the long years ahead.
You will never be lonely, Alex. I will make sure of that.
By J. M. Plaskitt