Emotions can be fickle beasties, and can grow a soul of their own, puppeteering your body into unbidden giggles or spontaneous frowns. They can slink and sidle onto the visage, commandeering your countenance without providing the major general with a moment’s notice, and manifest freely as thoughts without a filter—unless you teach them not to.
I have always suffered the side serving of emotions that flow close to the surface and threaten to erupt with inconstant, fluttering whims and wildness. I wear my emotions on my sleeves, as some say. I see it as disrespectful for an unknown entity to take possession of expressions, causing you to gurn throughout pleasantries or eye-leak at small creatures. At times, my emotions have dominated me.
Why is this a problem? You ask.
Andrew is a top class manipulator, heading the game, and He will take any, and all, information He can gather to churn into His processes. Ruby Red’s phrases sat like stubborn bloodstains:
He is dangerous. He is fire.
The day I show Him weakness is the day I give Him power over me—and I fear this very much. I am learning strategies to deal with Him better as time goes on, but as Ruby Red so easily recognised; I do not have the repertoire of skills to deal with a man like Him. I feel I am left with little choice if I am to continue to work for Andrew, however this paragraph may end, and if I am to have the chance to turn my question marks into full stops.
It has finally come to the point where I must learn to meet Him at His game, at least partially: fight His fire with my own. I hope this does not tarnish my integrity, or sear my sensibility; I do not wish to commit emotional duplicity without discrimination, but instead utilise this skill as a carefully directed tool. Wasn’t it some lad with sticky fingers who heard ‘with great power comes great responsibility’?
During The Abduction I learnt I could pace myself and calm my responses using my Confidence Techniques. I wondered whether emotions and expressions could be trained also. I am not only talking about mastering the art of the poker face, but forging fresh tears and true smiles—the real ones with the serviette creases.
I found out first hand, that yes, they can.
If you are interested in how I achieved this, read the bullet points below, if it is not of interest, please skip on. I won’t be offended, but I may eye-leak at you a little.
- Learn to step back from a situation and take a breather. I use my Confidence Techniques or remember my Dad’s excellent advice to see the bigger picture.
- Focus on the last thing that elicited the chosen emotion, considering all its angles, not just the ones on the outside. Boil it down to its bare essentials.
- Learn to extract this feeling from within on cue. This takes time and practice, and can be frustrating at first.
- Test your skills.
- Once you have mastered this, you may wish to begin studying people’s body language and the effects of it.
“Decaf tea, no milk, no sugar. Thanks.”
The barmaid at the B&B forced an end-of-shift smile circled in bruisy-blue rims. I sympathised, hoping my beverage would warm me to wakefulness.
As the barmaid lifted my mug, she held it by the rim.
She held it by the rim!
The rim I was hoping to drink from but no longer can. The rim that was dishwasher sanitised, and now is not. You may call me fussy, you may say ‘germs are everywhere,’ and despite knowing this, I still cannot accept the bacterial seasoning of another’s fingertip forestry trimming the rim of my tea cup. Now I would have to find another receptacle to pour the contents into or hand sanitise the edge. I know I could ask her for a clean mug—I could, but I won’t. Yes, I am one of those people.
I sank into a threadbare antique settee; disappearing childlike into its springy depths. Sitting at half-height, armrests at neck level, I realised three fairly humiliating things:
- I was unable to reach anywhere to put my thumping hot brew. It was one of those mugs made for china dolls with handles the size of thimbles, and my fingers were already uncomfortably sizzling.
- The rocking and sudden force I would need to exert to get me out of the chair would spill the contents of my thumping hot cuppa over this expensive antique chair—and me. At this time, I was not sure which was of greater importance.
- The anxious receptionist we met on arrival, the unfortunate pool table for Andrew’s power plays, had taken the seat opposite. She placed herself deliberately, but picked at her nails, betraying her unease.
Right hand shrieked blistered warnings, caused by the scalding cuppa with china doll handles, but I was trapped in a bubble of my own politeness, my own upbringing. With my free hand, I picked my nails also: mimicking others’ actions forms a connection between two people and can make your interlocuter feel comfortable around you. I hoped this would speed up the encounter.
“You seem a nice girl, a good girl. So I have to tell you this.” She said, making salty dances with her eyes.
I couldn’t vouch for all that, but I wondered what she might say. “What is it? You can tell me,” I said, wishing to move the conversation on, for the increasing discomfort.
“Don’t tell Him. Please?” She whispered.
Please, the afterthought. It is catching like a virus—but this time so different, infused with fragile, anguished strands.
“That man you’re with. He is dangerous. I just had to tell you. Be careful. That’s all.”
She clasped her shaking hands together and made a move to get up.
My fingers burned so much I could no longer feel them. I am guessing that is not a good sign.
“Wait,” I called. “What have you seen?” As I turned to speak to her, I spilled a third of my still near-boiling brew onto my lap. I winced.
She wiped me down with her apron, and bent forward to take my tea mug, whispering in my ear. “The maid found a loaded gun in his suitcase.”
A loaded gun?
This is highly unusual in this country. Not even the police carry guns, and normal people have to go to some considerable lengths to get hold of one.
Why does He have a loaded gun, and what does He have planned to do with it?
The barmaid brought out fresh tea in a new mug. At least one problem was solved. The receptionist was nowhere to be seen.
Two small blisters raised on my thumb and forefinger—the least of my worries. What would He do if He found I knew about the gun? His reactions are erratic at best; He cannot find out. My Expression Training would be indispensable. I hope He does not find my attempts translucent. Now I fear this night, sharing a room with Him, a great deal more than before.
I thumb the card from ‘T’; a quagmire resting in my pocket. Do I need the protection she offered? Is it an honest proposal? I thought of the money, and wondered whether this was nothing more than an empty bribe. I wish I had not taken the money—what was I thinking?
At the time, it never occurred to me, this implied the maid was rooting inside Andrew’s suitcase—and then admitted it to the receptionist. What kind of sideward establishment had Andrew brought us to? I wondered whether my suitcase had also been turned inside out.