When I woke up this morning I had disappeared. This might not be what you think, I hadn’t gone missing, I hadn’t been abducted. I was here in my bedroom; I could see the bed I climbed into last night and I could feel the now cold sheets. I still existed but I wasn’t here physically. The molecules which made up my body had vanished. My bed provided evidence I had slept in it, it was unmade and tangled up with the duvet were my creased-up flamingo print pyjamas. I could see, and touch things, I just seem to have misplaced my physical body, quite a careless thing to do I suppose.
You would be right in thinking I should be alarmed, probably on the verge of hysteria at having lost my body, but unexpectedly I felt serene. Not that this is the kind of scenario I expected, it’s not something you could possibly be prepared for. Despite the many unanswered questions, I felt calm. I had lost my muscles, all my internal organs, my blood, my flesh and bones, all the essentials you needed to function as a human being, and all this overnight.
I got out of bed and wander around my flat. The confusion intensifies. I can feel the carpet underneath my feet, the strong scent from the vase of lilies I pass by hits my nose and I can hear the low hum of traffic passing on the main road outside.
So, here I am, I still exist, I am naked and bodyless in my flat with my senses intact, I just appear to have lost my outer shell, my physical being is no longer here.
Many people wish they had invisibility when considering what superpower they would like, but I don’t feel very powerful at the moment. Confused and bewildered but not powerful. Do I stay at home and just hope my body comes back? Should I tell someone, ask for help? Do I hope that this is temporary and has been caused by a cosmic space collision which has thrown energy and matter into disarray and everything will crash back into place in a couple of hours? Or have I died? Have I entered oblivion? Am I having an out of body experience? Is this a breakdown? Has this happened to more than just me? The whole of London could be full of naked confused people wandering around trying to work out where their anatomy has gone.
As I stand trying to comprehend my situation, I hear my mobile phone ringing in my bedroom, I race to try and pick it up out of habit and stop dead in my tracks unsure if I can pick it up or what to say if I can answer. When I see it’s Callie calling, I let the answer machine pick up, I was supposed to be meeting her for lunch today.
As soon as the voicemail notification pings, I attempt to pick up my phone, which I can, and I listen to the message. As my mind races with excuses as to how I can get out of this I bite my non-existent lip. I’ll have to claim I’m sick, which I suppose I am. I may not be visible, but I can press buttons and can speak, I will have to lay it on thick. As I pluck up the courage to call Callie I practice speaking in a raspy voice, I can feign a bad cold, I have done it enough times when calling into work sick.
“Callie, hi it’s me.” I can hear my fake croaky voice as I stare at nothing in the mirror. This is my usual chatting on the telephone position. Staring at my reflection and inspecting my skin or being disappointed with how dull my hair looks. Today I have nothing to inspect.
“Oh hi, I was just calling to make sure you’re still ok for lunch today?” Callie’s bright and perky high-pitch voice fills my flat through the speaker phone.
“Sorry, I’ve been meaning to call,” I pause and insert a cough for dramatic effect “I feel terrible, I think I’ve caught that awful cold Liam had.”
“Oh honey, you do sound dreadful, go back to bed and we can rearrange.” Callie’s understanding tone made me feel guilty but what else could I do? “Is there anything you need?” she asked.
“No!” I answer abruptly and take a deep breath. “I’ve taken a cold cure and think I just need to crawl back into bed,” I deepen my voice and breathe heavily through my mouth, in an attempt to make it sound like my nose is blocked.
“OK you do that,” she says soothingly “and I’ll give you a call tomorrow to see how you feel.”
“OK thanks, bye.” I end the call and continue to stare at my non-existent reflection.
“What on earth?” my bodyless voice asks nobody.
An hour later I am sat on my living area window seat looking out on to the busy street below, I was watching people going about their normal lives. I suddenly feel a pang of sadness wondering if this is my future, watching people from my flat window for all eternity. The feeling of serenity didn’t last long, what does my future hold if this state is permanent. I hold my hands up inspecting, well nothing, when I hear my flat door open.
“Leah it’s me!” I hear Liam’s voice from the hallway. Yes, I know you’re probably thinking ‘Liam and Leah’ and isn’t it confusing having similar sounding names. We have had several conversations with strangers about our similar sounding names and yes it has caused confusion.
I stay static not daring to move an invisible inch waiting for Liam to enter the room, my non-existent stomach was churning wherever the hell it had decided to hangout today.
This could go either way I suddenly think to myself, if he can’t see me at least I know this isn’t in my head, but then if he can he’s going to wonder why I’m sat completely naked in my bay window. It’s just occurred to me the whole high street might currently have a good view of my bare boobs!
“Is she here?” I hear a second voice; it’s female and sounds like Callie.
The door opens and they both enter the main living area of my flat. It is Callie and she’s clearly brought supplies; I can see the local pharmacy logo on the bag she’s carrying, she has a bunch of flowers as well. How sweet, I smile to myself, or at least I think I’m smiling.
“I’ll try the bedroom, she might have gone back to bed.” Liam walks past me and then carries on to the bedroom, he gently knocks on the door and gently pushes the door open.
“Nope.” He comes back into the living room, again walks past me. I’m relieved I don’t have to worry about Saturday shoppers getting an eyeful but equally scared that this is actually happening, Liam can’t see me. “How strange,” he adds as he walks over to Callie and then he puts his arms around her.
Wait, what’s going on? I let out an involuntary gasp and slap my hand over where my mouth should be, not that it’s going to do any soundproofing.
“You see, nothing to worry about, she hasn’t a clue, she isn’t avoiding you because she knows anything.” Liam kisses Cassie on the top of her head.
“I’m getting paranoid, I just feel so guilty.” Cassie steps away from Liam. “We can’t carry on; my nerves can’t take it. We either tell her or we’re over.”
Liam pulls Cassie back towards him and kisses her, within seconds they’ve collapsed in a heap on my sofa. My fiancé is on top of my best friend kissing her and pulling at her clothing, Cassie makes a few half-hearted attempts at opposing this impromptu cheating session but no, they’re soon going for it.
“Not here.” She moans as she pulls Liam’s t-shirt over his head. “What if she comes back?” she asks between frantic enthusiastic kisses.
“Hello!” I silently mouth and wave my arms in the air “I’m here!”. I jump back as I realise I’m very close to them and this is a performance, I don’t want a front row seat for. I creep into my bedroom and perch on the end of my bed trying to make sense of what I’ve just witnessed. Liam and I have been looking at wedding venues and I’ve known Callie since primary school.
Within seconds Liam and Callie have followed me bursting into my bedroom, I recoil as their naked entangled and now fully exposed flesh hits my bed in a mess of scrambling limbs. I quickly retreat to the corner with my back to them. I cover my ears in a pointless attempt to drown out their afternoon of passion.
After what feels like a lifetime it’s finally over. My world has come crashing down around my non-existent ears with a soundtrack of my fiancé and best friend panting in ecstasy.
“We shouldn’t have done that, she’ll know.” Callie jumps out of bed and goes into the other room and starts to collect their discarded clothing. “Get up before she comes home from wherever she’d rather be than having lunch with me.” I look around to eyeball the woman who just had sex with my fiancé in my bed who was now attempting to take the higher ground.
“You go and I’ll hang around, I’ll put some clean bedding on,” he sighs sounding inconvenienced “I’ll come up with a reason why.”
Liam gets out of bed at a leisurely pace, putting the thought in my head he might want to get caught. Maybe he likes the thrill of his adultery being exposed or maybe just wants to get out of this relationship and doesn’t want to be the one who ends it. I silently watch him strip the tainted sheets from my bed.
I jump as Callie returns to my bedroom. “I’ve tided up in there and I’ve left the flowers and everything, so you have an excuse for letting yourself in.”
“OK thanks, that’s why I love you Cal, always looking after me.” Liam sickeningly winks at her.
If I had a stomach and oesophagus I’d vomit on the spot.
“But you really do need to tell her, I know you want to wait until you’ve got the partnership at work, but I don’t think I can carry on lying.” Callie sounded whiney and I noticed Liam pulled himself up to face her and frowned.
“Cal, you know her git of a father won’t promote me to partner if we split up, so I have to stay with her until I get the promotion. Once I’m an equity partner he can only get rid of me with good cause and dumping his daughter isn’t one of them.”
I gulp from my cramped position in the corner, I feel a sense of queasiness in my non-existent stomach and am struggling to hold the tears back. If I cry, they’ll hear me. I quickly move into the living area and pick up the vase Liam and I bought on holiday together in Barcelona, I manage to pick it up and smash it by flinging against the wall. As much as I’ve damaged my own home it relieves some of the anger I’m feeling.
Both Liam and Callie come racing in to see what has happened.
“What the hell!” Liam exclaimed as he sees the shattered remains of the vase.
“Do you think she’s been back and heard us?” Callie is staring at Liam, her eyes wide and her bottom lip looks to be trembling.
“She can’t have,” Liam says as he looks from the wall to the door. “She would have thrown the vase at me not the wall and we would have heard the door slam.”
Liam looks solemn for the first time since he arrived and perches on the edge of the sofa arm. “You had better go and I’ll tidy up, I’ll say I knocked the vase over and hope she doesn’t spot the dent in the wall.”
“What if she’s waiting outside for me?” Callie sounds genuinely scared and looks to Liam for some reassurance I’m not waiting outside ready to pounce and tear her apart limb from limb.
“Don’t be silly.” He grabs her hands and pulls her towards him planting a long kiss on her double-crossing mouth. “Just go, I’ll sort this mess, and I’ll call you tonight when I get home.”
Callie reluctantly leaves the flat and I’m very tempted to follow her, just to poltergeist the shit out of her if nothing else, but I also don’t want to leave my lying, cheating sack of weasel pee of a fiancé in my flat. I watch him slowly sweep up the pieces of shattered china and then go back to putting clean sheets on my bed. He then helps himself to a bottle of beer from the fridge and stands looking out of the window. “Where the hell are you Leah?” he mutters to himself.
As soon as he has finished his stolen beer Liam decides to leave, he writes a note and it’s only as he’s scrawling on the back of some post which arrived this morning, I realise he hasn’t once tried my mobile. He can’t be that concerned about where I am.
As soon as he leaves the flat and I hear the door click shut, I crash onto my knees collapsing under the weight of my pain. I howl as the harrowing agony and hurt of the afternoon crashes out of me through salty fast flowing tears. I groan between sobs, my feeble voice questioning what I’d done wrong, what had I done for the two people I loved most in the world to betray me? I must have been laid on the cold hard floor sobbing for a couple of hours when I finally lifted my misery-soaked and exhausted body from the cold hard floor. I shiver as I look at the goosebumps on my naked arms….my arms, I can see my arms! I have skin and bone and my hands are back!
I pick myself up and as I glance in the mirror, I can see my burning tear stained and blotchy face looking back at me, the sadness in my sore red eyes turning to confusion, I could see myself again.
I look around the room and take in the bag and flowers exactly where Callie left them. I also notice she has left her scarf on the arm of the sofa in her scramble to leave, so it did happen, it wasn’t my imagination. I slowly walk to my bedroom and look at the badly made bed before grabbing my dressing gown. I’d been concealed under a veil of invisibility, something which yesterday I would have declared as nonsense, not possible. I didn’t believe in magic or witchcraft. Confused I sat on the edge of my bed and ran my hands up and down my arms and legs to make sure I could feel I was here.
I jump again as I hear my landline phone start ringing, there’s only one person who calls me on this. I move quickly and pick up the phone.
“Leah it’s your Dad.”
“I know.” I reply, “You’re the only person who calls me on this number.”
“Erm, are you home? I wanted to call in, erm, I need to speak to you about Liam.”
“Yes, of course, is everything ok?” I ask meekly wondering if Liam had reported my disappearance to my Dad.
“I’d like to talk in person, he’s not with you, is he?”
“No, no, it’s fine come over.”
As soon as I put the phone down, I jump in the shower and once I’m dressed try and cover my still red and tear streaked face with make-up.
My Dad arrived not long after I was ready, I was so happy to see him. My life was falling apart but I knew my Dad would always be a steadfast solid influence.
After we’d shared pleasantries and I’d been asked several times if I was ok because I looked peaky, we both sat down at the dining table. With an air of disappointment Dad placed a large pile of papers in front of us. He sighed and took my hand before he started his explanation.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this but as you know we were looking at promoting Liam to partner, so I asked HR to do a bit of digging, just the usual due diligence but unfortunately a lot has come to light.” My Dad sighed again. “I’m sorry but it was brought to my attention that Liam was sacked from his last company for money laundering, on top of this we now know he falsified his employment and academic references when he joined the firm.”
“Oh, Dad I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry, I’ve met with the board and we have no choice but to terminate his contract. But I wanted to speak to you first, I didn’t want this to come between us.”
“It won’t.” I put my hand on top of Dads.
“I’m too trusting. Maureen in HR raised a red flag about him when he first joined, and I just dismissed her concerns. He was your boyfriend, I thought I could trust him.” He looked down and shook his head.
“Dad, it doesn’t matter, I’ve been meaning to speak to you about Liam anyway.” I lied and hoped desperately I looked sincere. “I’m not happy and have wanted to end it with him for a while, I just didn’t want to make it awkward at work for you.”
“Oh, what a mess, he’s not going to be happy. Sacked and dumped in the same week.”
I shrugged “He shouldn’t have lied.”
Dad stayed for another drink and we decided to open a bottle of wine, I desperately wanted to tell him what had happened, or what I thought had happened, but I knew how ridiculous it sounded. I still didn’t believe it myself.
After Dad had gone, I plucked up the courage to first call Callie, she didn’t answer so I left a voicemail saying she’d left her scarf in my flat when she’d popped over to have impromptu sex with my fiancé. I then called Liam who also went to voicemail, thanking him for the flowers and paracetamol and suggested he might want to give Callie a call.
I then poured a second glass of wine and waited to see who called backed first.