There is always one person who makes you question ethos about life.
And not in the profound way that resonates with you forever. The bad self-serving way where that person confuses everything you know about life. And love.
The problem is they always seem to find you when you’re at your most vulnerable. You know they’re bad for you. You know they’re bad news the moment they walk into your life. You should tell them where to go, but you don’t.
That’s when you invite them to stay.
For me, it was the day I met the Bad Man, I knew.
It happened when I should have been cleansing myself of narcissists and egomaniacs. Some would argue I went searching for him. They would be right.
Sometimes I think the Bad Man caught me when my head wasn’t entirely on straight. When my confidence was at rock bottom. I didn’t realise he saw a girl floundering through life and knew the right moment to take advantage. Then sometimes I’m sure he was as confused as me.
My life turned upside down when the Bad Man entered my life, and sometimes I wondered if I’d ever recovered.
When you know, you know…
Life Was Complicated
The first time I met The Bad Man was at work. My days as a hotel receptionist at The Peterson were different now I was working as a shift supervisor. I had graduated.
Most shifts I bunkered down in the back office. Watching the security cameras, counting the money and supervising the deliveries.
I wasn’t single, but my relationship with Anthony was hanging on by a thread. People were telling me he wasn’t happy that I was the supervisor. Telling him what to do, while he was still playing with the valets in the ‘front yard’.
Anthony never said it to me, but I guess I should have known. He never congratulated me on the promotion. That was a red flag.
During our troubled romance, I was trying to be invisible at work. Do my job, get paid and leave. But with Anthony, who loved to socialise with everyone, I was a conversation starter.
There wasn’t a person working at the hotel that wasn’t spying on me and reporting it back to him. What I was doing was on everyone’s lips.
Side note: I know you think I’m lying. I know this sounds conceded and arrogant and absurd. But it actually happened. I even caught a porter taking a photo of me while talking to one of the male managers. He sent the photo to Anthony, proclaiming ‘‘he possessed the proof I was cheating’. What cheating, I still don’t know. It was disgusting.
And Then Came Monday
Monday’s were quiet at the hotel. Guests would leave in the morning, and we wouldn’t experience an influx until closer to the weekend. It would be the perfect day to introduce the new staff to the hotel gauntlet.
Abbot Patterson was running the back of the house at the time the Bad Man started. Abbot was Peterson royalty. He had completed a tour of every hotel in the Peterson chain across the country. They assigned him to the Melbourne location to expand the marketing division.
Sometimes I wished I could have been as shrewd as Abbot was towards his work. There wasn’t an executive he hadn’t bribed, or a conquest (professional or otherwise) he couldn’t overcome. An injection of his confidence I could have used during this time of my life.
But only a minute dose.
Unfortunately, if you crossed Abbot, you could wave goodbye to your career in an instant. For a while, I was his pet project, but with Anthony lurking around, he kept his hands off me.
The restaurant chain, his current employer, should be wary. They wouldn’t know how much he is stealing from them, or how much of their stock he is using as bribes.
But that’s for another day.
This Monday morning started like every other. I inspected the incoming delivery, signed off and assisted with some heavy lifting. We were always one man short. I spent an hour in the safe room, with the money and expensive items that guests didn’t leave in their in-room safes.
Finishing up the last of the filing and counting, Abbot exploded into the room. A thousand dollars in five-dollar notes left my hand and went flying into the air. I wasn’t expecting him.
“There is a new manager I would like you to meet. Do you have a sec?”
When he asked permission to occupy your time, it was clear the meeting was significant. Abbot wanted my full, undivided attention, and he wouldn’t accept any less but compliance. “Sure do.”
I stood up from the desk, straightened myself and exited the room.
I walked out of the safe room straight into Abbot. He was waiting keenly on the other side of the door, ensuring I couldn’t dart away or avoid the meeting.
There was the Bad Man, a lanky framed figure in an ill-fitting blue that hung in all the wrong places.
His hair was short and curled like the saltwater had kissed it and left it glowing. His tan was real, the bronzed hue shimmering under the fluorescent office lights. I remember the stubble across his chin, wondering when was the last time he stepped close to a razor.
I couldn’t decide whether his unconventional looks made him attractive or repulsive. Even when he smiled, with the most mischevious grin, I couldn’t help feeling confused. But despite any initial physical attraction, he was impossible to ignore. The confidence oozed from him. The sparkle in his eye. That way he looked at me. The way he looked straight through me.
Anthony didn’t look at me like this, I mused. And that realisation was all it took.
Without even learning his name or hearing him speak, I repeated to myself:
‘He will be trouble’
The Moment Sense Faded Into Oblivion
“I would like you to meet the Bad Man — ”
Let me interject: Abbot didn’t call him the Bad Man, though he should have come with a warning. He said his actual name, proudly and boldly, but I can’t think of him any other way.
“ — He’s here to take on the auditing counts, which means a quicker process for you. You will work well together.” If this were a movie, this would be when you would insert clips of us working well together. Laughing as we counted the money together. Clinking glasses at staff drinks. My legs wrapped around his body. Us sneaking off to secluded locations for secret rendezvous.
The Bad Man extended his hand to mine and beamed. As he leaned into me, I caught the faint smell of two-day-old cigarette smoke, and I liked it.
I wanted it.
“It’s lovely to meet you.”
Abbot recited the Bad Man’s professional biography. His experience at the other locations, how they handpicked him for the Melbourne location. But I didn’t listen.
I couldn’t concentrate on any of the words floating through the air. I had mislaid every one of my logical senses that helped me function like a normal human being. I could smile and nod, but there were mere reflexes.
I was well out of my depth.
The Instincts I Shouldn’t Have Ignored
Sometimes you get a feeling about people you can’t ignore. You can’t describe the feeling, you can’t put words to the emotions flowing through you when you meet them.
All you know is that there is something there, for good or evil.
For the years after our meeting, I tortured myself. I chastised myself for not accepting or acting on those gut feelings. I hadn’t addressed that weird sense deep down that told me to run away, forget we’d ever met, forget he ever existed.
I wonder if I could go back in time and give myself that warning.
What would my life be like right now?
Would it have all worked out, or would the Bad Man still have crept into my life some other way?
The Big Deal?
I know what you’re thinking: what was the point of that story?
‘All you did was tell us about a time you met a man and had a bad feeling about the experience? Big deal!”
Right now, he doesn’t seem so pernicious. So what’s wrong with having an unfounded hunch about someone you just met?! It means nothing, right?
Well, I don’t call him the Bad Man because he was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I wish the story ended there. I want it to be that simple, that straightforward, that dull.
Unfortunately, with the men in my life, it was never that straightforward.
See you the next time I open the Little Black Book…
Oh, hey there! Welcome to The Little Black Book!
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. My want is for a better opportunity for writers, especially fictional, in an increasingly technology dominant world. I write the stories that have formed my life and comment on the experience along the way.