"I'll always be with you," he says, as his fingers trail across the back of my hand.
Kate Brennan (not her real name) is a freelance writer, an apparently powerful, sensible woman with plenty of savvy about how the world works. But her encounter with Paul shook her self-confidence and her sense of security to the core, damaging her in ways she never dreamed possible.
I shudder and work to keep my face from displaying any feeling. I close the window, lock the doors, and drive away.
Paul was the brother of a friend, attractive and charming, with a lot of ex-es. Soon after he met her, he said to Kate, "I'll see you again." It surprised her. And it turned out to be true. In many ways, Paul was her ideal companion. He was ostensibly independent and wealthy and lived in a lush, if rather bizarre, apartment. He offered, even begged Kate to let him take care of her
- to buy her a new car, to send her to graduate school - offers that were flattering, but excessive.
Day by day and month by month, Paul and Kate became a couple. She moved in with him to see how that would work, whether she could give up her autonomy enough to commit to marriage. They had shared and separate therapies, aimed at curing Paul of his sexual obsession,
one that often made him unavailable to Kate and at times made her refuse to have him near her. And Paul worked away at Kate's guilt, constantly reminding her that she had problems, too, as though his sexual sickness was somehow her fault. Her memories of an abusive alcoholic father plagued her, making her feel vulnerable, giving Paul more power.
Paul's father was brutally murdered, and Paul's inability to let that go - and the reasons for it that were gradually revealed, why it happened and how Paul might have been abused and permanently ruined by his father
- began to form something like a lover's triangle in the relationship. Paul's father's pictures were everywhere, as much a part of their involvement as the veiled threats that Paul began to make when he felt Kate slipping away.
One day he asked her if she would feel nervous knowing he kept a gun in the house. Often he asked the same simple question,
calculated to make her feel fear. And succeeding.
One day Kate made a professional speech. She was worried she'd botched it and Paul confirmed it by telling her, "I've seen you do better, lots better." One of many cruel defeating remarks, that one cut her to the quick. Despite her fears of what he might do, she finds the courage to move out, occasioning the scene described above. Because though she is no longer living with him, Paul wants to ensure that he is still a presence in her life. Always.
This book will chill and perplex any intelligent woman who reads it. How could Kate be so dumb, we want to say, all the while knowing that we have, have had, or might encounter a Paul in our own lives
- a man who seems so perfect, whose little flaws seem so insignificant in contrast to our need to be loved and adored.
"Kate Brennan" has given us a road map out of hell, though she herself is
still haunted and hunted - "as long as Paul lives, I believe he will stalk me." Women, read this book. Take warning.