There was no Eureka moment. No smoking gun. Instead, there was a nagging sense that she was just too good to be true.
When she first came into my life, I was in a dark and sinister place. She, by contrast, was full of light. Her smiles were easy, her laugh casual. She was as happy-go-lucky person who didn't wear down easily, or obsess to the nth-degree, or take things terribly seriously, as I did.
For several months, this is how it was, and I took things at face value. I didn't try to peel back the sticker, because, frankly, I didn't need to know. I wanted a distraction, attention, care. I needed to be loved. I wanted her.
She had various nicknames. This wasn't unusual. Frankly, I have been called various things myself - mainly in the heat of the moment - but hers didn't seem out of the ordinary. It seemed she had a name to reflect certain moods, or capabilities. I knew her as, "Carey". Some people called her, "Kat". Hardly unusual, I thought, although I didn't know quite what to make of, "Jacqueline". That seemed a bit random. Her hair was blond, not black. But, as I said, when you get what you want, you tend not to question the supply.
Gradually, though, she began to change. It began subtly. Perhaps, a slight irritation with the way a waiter spoke to her, the cadence in his voice, the carelessness of a colleague, or the clothes I happened to be in ("Is that what you're wearing?"... "No, I just put these on to amuse myself"). I figured it to be a phase. Everyone has their ups-and-down. Why should we be any different?
This didn't improve. No, it got worse. She became highly critical of everyone around her, especially myself. I didn't need this. I told her so, but she wasn't interested. One day, I felt more testy than usual. She'd criticised me and I told her that she wasn't all that she pretended to be. The real Carey, Kat, or whatever, was not someone to sweat the small stuff. "But, you..." I said, "You're a pariah." Was that a word too far?
"Take me as I am, or not at all!" She said.
"Who are you, really?" I wondered.
"I'm whatever you want me to be," she smiled. "Except, that will never be the real me."
I haven't seen her since.