Daphne By Michael Mann

People are creatures of habit. I noticed these things as I gazed out from my kitchen window, that overlooked the busy city streets. The people. Their patterns.

07:42 the businessman walks by my window. Wearing his suit on his commute to work, rushing for the morning train, that by my calculations he would usually just make.

08:13 The group of teenagers, in their school uniforms. The boys showing off, like primates throwing their own shit. All to impress the young girls who are already far more mature, yet not old enough to know it.

08:24 The mother with two children clinging to her leggings as she dragged them off to school.

Then she walks past my window.

08:45 her blonde hair swishing in the light, morning breeze. Who was she? This angel in the morning haze of smog and car fumes.
I take my phone from the kitchen table and check my apps. Plenty of Fish? Bumble? Tinder. She was on Tinder. Her name?

Daphne.

Daphne is twenty-seven, likes long walks on the beach and her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Whether that is because she relates to the themes of the tragic and inevitable loss of childhood or that life is a meaningless puzzle, we are all destined to figure out. Maybe it’s because she likes the pictures. Tinder can tell you everything if you let it.

She doesn’t say much else on her dating profile, but the pictures leave you wanting to know more. Pictures of past holidays on the beach, showing off a tasteful bikini as she poses against the setting sun. A picture of herself wrapped up in warm layers, in a snowy setting, it’s a tight cropped picture, but you can see the remains of an arm around her shoulder, an ex no doubt.

I watched her walk by my window. She was confident. She was perfect and she knew it.

I swiped right.

She doesn’t match with me immediately.

The next morning, I sit and wait.

07:45 the businessman is later than usual; he will miss his train. No doubt be in trouble with his bosses.

08:13 the primates screech and shout as they lumber by.

08:24 the mother is tired today, but then, so are the children.

My phone on the small glass coffee table in front of me lights up with a notification. A match. Daphne.

I click on her Tinder profile, less than one kilometre away. She must be close by now, and like a vision she walks past my window. Her light blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. It swishes as she walks.

“Hi.”

It’s a simple beginning of a conversation, but it’s expected. I watch her as her face is looking down at her phone, something has made her smile. I made her smile.

The messaging begins simple enough. Pleasantry exchanges.

She was good. So was I.

She worked as a receptionist at a local law firm. I studied.

She liked dogs. I preferred cats.

Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. I already knew that.

Conversations like this happened throughout the day. Gathering small facts about one another. Slight flirting through typing on an electronic device. This was what romance is today. She liked me. I could tell.

Day after day, she walked by, like clockwork, and we messaged. We became friendly.

We exchanged numbers. We texted. We spoke on the phone. Her voice was a symphony of angels. She was perfect.

We arranged to meet, just a coffee. A simple first date. I thought she would like that given her love of tea parties in fictional tales. It would be perfect.

Daphne came into the coffee shop and she smelt like vanilla bean and sandalwood. She smiled. I greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and a dozen red roses, a true sign of my love. I could see in her expression, she was thrilled. She blushed and I saw her looking around at the onlookers. She didn’t have to say anything, but her eyes spoke a thousand words. I was a true romantic. I made her laugh. She touched my hand as she reached for her coffee cup. She liked me.
The date didn’t last very long as she said she was on her lunch break. I escorted her out of the coffee shop, like a true gentleman. We embraced. This was my moment. I leaned in for our first kiss of many, but she pulled away. I shouldn’t have done that.

“What are you doing?” She questioned. “It’s the first date.”

What was that supposed to mean?

I stepped back. “Oh.”

“I’ve got to go to work.” She gave me back the roses and she turned to walk away.

I walked home, furious. I threw the roses into the bin.

Daphne led me on. She lured me into that date like some harlet off the streets, praying on an eligible bachelor like myself. How was I so blinded by her beauty to see past her plan.

No. Not MY Daphne.

I texted her. Asking if I did something to upset her. If it was my fault.

She liked me, and I knew she did. All this was an overreaction.

No reply.

Maybe her phone has lost its charge? Maybe she didn’t have a signal at work that afternoon?

Three days go by without a single reply.

Monday morning, and I watched the world at my window.

07:40 the businessman is early today.

08:13 just two of the teenagers today. No boasting or showing off to be made as the girls had clearly grown tired of them.

08:24 The mother with two children, this time one in a pushchair, must have made things easier for her.

I had twenty minutes before Daphne would be outside my window. Now was my moment to confront her. I had to be smart. I quickly grabbed my takeaway coffee mug and filled it to the brim, I needed to look like I wasn’t waiting. Slipped my jacket on and waited outside.

08:45 and there she was. Swinging her perfect blonde hair, it was down that day. Flowing past her shoulders. She had curled it. She was making an effort. Was it for me? Was she hoping to bump into me? She didn’t know where I lived. Maybe she was going to tell me she was wrong and how she loved me. We would embrace. Kiss. Make love on my doorstep as we wouldn’t be able to contain our passion. I would treat her like my queen. We would travel the world, tasting exotic teas in India and France, where I would confess my undying love to her on top of the Eiffel Tower and make her my wife. Our children will have her eyes but my smarts. I’d even let her have a dog.

Our lives were going to be perfect.

Her head was searching her phone screen, no doubt writing her reply to my messages from the weekend. No matter her excuse, I would forgive her. Who wouldn’t?

I put my head down, pretending not to notice her. As she got closer, I smelt her usual vanilla bean and sandalwood smell. As she walked past, I barged my shoulder into her and spilled my coffee all over her.

“Watch where you’re going!” She said looking down at her soaked coat, and then to me. Her face, shocked.

“I’m so sorry!” I began and helped her to brush off the coffee. “Daphne?” I asked. Like I didn’t know it was her. “It was my fault. Look, I live just here, come in and let’s get you cleaned up.”

“I shouldn’t.” She said now taking out a small tissue from her handbag to dry off the coffee. “I’ll be late for work.”

“Nonsense.” I said taking her by the hand. “Besides, you can’t go into the office soaking.”

“I guess.” She followed me inside.

“The bathroom is just down the corridor if you need it.” I offered as I took off her coffee-soaked coat.

“Thanks.” She saunters off to the bathroom. Her hips gave a gentle sway. She was teasing me. Daphne still loved me.

I clutched onto her coat and inhaled her scent. I felt my heart race as Daphne was in my flat. I looked up to see if she was looking, but she was already in the bathroom. She had left the door open slightly. Was she inviting me in?

I quietly approached the bathroom. I could hear the tap running in the sink, the door was ajar. I could see Daphne soaking her blouse with a wet sponge. The water soaking through the white cotton, I could see her laced black bra. that she had taken off her blouse and was soaking it in the sink, my coffee had clearly soaked through. She was teasing me.

I walked in and gently traced her bra strap further down her shoulder with the tips of my fingers. She was startled.

“What the fuck are you doing?” She turned around to face me, dropping the sponge into the filling sink.

“Don’t act like you don’t want this.” I gave her a kiss and held her arms.

Our first kiss.

I felt her struggle as she pulled away from me. “Why are you doing this?” I asked. “I love you.”

“Stop.” She said through pressed lips. The water from the sink overflowing onto the tiled bathroom floor.

“Don’t struggle.” I gripped hold of her tighter and kissed her deeper. She had to love me. Her fingers dug into my forearms. She was enjoying it. I could tell. The water spilling over onto the bathroom tiles began to puddle, it was wet. She was excited. We slipped. I felt my grip loosen and heard the crack onto the sink bowl.

When I got myself up from the bathroom floor, I saw the pool of blood and it wasn’t mine. Her eyes were wide open but not looking. Her perfect blonde hair swimming in the pool of blood and water.

I sat up and looked at her. I felt the tears begin to roll down my cheeks.

“Not again.” I cried.

2 Replies to “Daphne By Michael Mann”

  1. Another amazing short story, leaves me wanting to read more again Michael , I’ll look forward to more, your so talented 😊

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