Braxton had forgotten about his stalking days until he spots Azaria after 5 years in Paris
| Stalk Home
Braxton’s peaceful amble along the river Seine with Belinda, his fiancée, was disrupted when he spotted Azaria. Azaria’s magma-red hair tumbled down her shoulders as she leaned back and fell into the arms of a stranger with filthy nonchalance. The transformation in Azaria’s appearance might have fooled most of the people who had ever known her, but not Braxton. The fact that Braxton only saw Azaria after 5 years didn’t matter. He would recognize those features even if he spotted them standing miles away from her; he was used to following her from a distance anyway. The stranger who was now holding Azaria looked like a quintessential Parisian with his tousled hair, cosmic smile and indifferent yet charming dressing sense. Belinda almost noticed Braxton gazing at them with his mouth wide open before he started faking a yawn and turned around to proclaim that he was ready to retire for the night. Belinda did notice that something was suspicious about this sudden change in mind; 2 years were enough for her to figure out when he was being furtive. There were a few secrets yet to be revealed pertaining to the past lives of this couple, this was one that Braxton could not afford to disclose. Needless to say, Belinda was completely unaware of her fiancée’s stalking addiction in the past. That whole episode was deleted from the mini-series of relationships that Braxton had narrated to her before they got engaged. “It’s not stalking that I am addicted to, it’s Azaria” – One of the obnoxious defensive statements that Braxton used to throw at his therapist back in New York City started flashing in his mind as he convinced Belinda that it was time to walk back to his apartment in downtown Paris. The actual reason, of course, was that he wanted to follow the couple he just spotted and find out where they were going next. Braxton was hoping it was one of their apartments that they were heading back to, he was also hoping that they did not share an apartment. “Let’s take the longer route home this time”, he lied to Belinda as he followed them maintaining a distance of around 35 meters. Professionals might be out of practice, but the talent sticks no matter how distasteful it is.
Belinda’s visit came to an end the very next night and she flew back home to New York City. “I’ll miss you Rax, visit me soon” read her last text before she took off, as Braxton wondered whether that would be her final visit even though he had 6 months left for the termination of his contract with his French client – Braxton was a renowned architect. There was a hint of concern in Belinda’s face when he dropped her off, but Braxton took no notice of it. He was overcome by that familiar queasy feeling which ran through his body as he turned his car around and drove straight to 84 Rue Lauriston. He had managed to figure out their address and to much of his disappointment, they did live together. The most astonishing part about all of this was that Braxton did not have an iota of remorse or guilt reliving this situation after all these years. Azaria had no clue that she was being followed back then, and he had no intention of letting her discover the same this time either.
Since Braxton was a contracted architect and was allowed to work flexibly, he managed to figure out the key hours during which the man Azaria lived with could be followed and monitored closely. One morning, Braxton managed to enter the gates of the headquarters of the company the stranger was working for. He could not take the risk of getting into the main building as a result of the tight security system, but he did manage to catch the name on the badge of the stranger – Augustin.
Braxton could not take a call on Augustin’s appearance since he never knew him but the transformation in Azaria’s appearance coupled with the ongoing surreptitious affair intrigued Braxton to a great extent. The problem, however, lied in the fact that Azaria never left the apartment without Augustin. As a result, Braxton had to follow only Augustin on weekdays, but he did get to stalk the couple on weekends.
Anyone else who would have known, met or even followed Augustin just on weekdays would have been under the false impression that he was single – The man had a monotonous lifestyle with a fixed and disciplined schedule. Every morning began with a visit to the local coffee shop, “Oberkampf”, where the customers as well as the staff recognized him because he was a regular. The warm cookies fresh from the oven, the complimentary tea samples, the pretty waitresses and the smiling faces all around the café made it a neighborhood attraction. This was followed by a train ride to the office headquarters where he worked for around 9 hours. The evening would conclude by a 30-minute session at the residential fitness center after which he would head home to the apple of Braxton’s eye and repeat the schedule the day after. Every alternate weekend, the couple would visit the same coffee shop together and have an evening snack/coffee while Augustin would chat with some of the locals. Braxton knew what his next step was.
A month into following the couple, Braxton entered the quaint little coffee shop for the first time. It did seem like an overly friendly spot welcoming him with a series of warm smiles. He almost felt bad pondering his future intentions. He gave the exact same order as Augustin – Medium coffee with 2 sugars + 1 cream accompanied by a banana nut muffin. His internal review was that the people were more appealing than the food. This went on for 20 days with him getting into the shop every day 15 minutes before Augustin walked in and leaving 10 minutes after Augustin walked out thereby making sure that Braxton’s entrance and exit go unnoticed by the stalkee. He also stopped following Augustin to work for those 20 days because that schedule never changed – Braxton needed to complete his architecture project with his own client before he could execute his ultimate plan. He would never enter the café on alternate weekends because he could not risk being physically close to Azaria. Whenever he did see her from a distance, he could tell with certitude that there was something amiss about her. Was it fear? Was this new lifestyle forced upon her or was it actually a voluntary choice? He needed answers and he was going to get them soon. 3 weeks from the day that Braxton first walked into the coffee shop, he officially became a part-time server.
Since Braxton had the personality and ability to turn the charm on with his customers as well as fellow staff members, Braxton was soon loved by everyone around him a month into working at Oberkampf – This included Augustin. Braxton went by the name “Azhar” at the café and he tried his best to serve Augustin’s table as much as possible. The familiarity in his service coupled with that name having a similar ring to it as Azaria made sure that he was not a server who was forgotten by Augustin. The initial steps of the plan were deemed to be successful in Braxton’s mind when Augustin asked him about his whereabouts to make plans for an upcoming weekend. It was time. Apparently, Augustin wanted Braxton to meet “someone”. “Who is she?”, asked Braxton in a tantalizing manner with a soft shoulder nudge and a wry smile. “Azaria”, blushed Augustin. “Hopefully, she will be my fiancée by the end of next month”.
Business at Oberkampf was going well as usual, but the manager of the café wanted to expand his customer base. “Azhar” (Braxton) was the chosen one to lead the marketing campaigns for his manager and conjure up some creative ideas for new products that would make every Parisian want to visit Oberkampf. Soon enough, Braxton became a popular employee and every customer that came in would always love to interact with him. This gave Braxton the freedom to choose which tables he looks after, what coffees he personally makes, and the flavors of tea that the customers would sample. The stage was set.
D-day had arrived on the Sunday that Braxton/Azhar had been waiting for. All his hard work boiled down to a few minutes on that specific day. It was going to be the first time that Braxton would be working at the café when Azaria would be walking in with Augustin. He decided to stay behind the scenes and put himself in charge of making the medium coffee. It could not go wrong. The couple walked in, had their complimentary tea samples and eventually took their usual table. Azhar now had people working for him at the café so he would get to choose the person that would be serving the love of his life. He would get to choose the person that would be serving his wife…
Braxton was married to Azaria 6 years ago in New York City. This was 1 year after Braxton had stalked her religiously. All of her likes, dislikes, friends and family members were etched in his memory by the time he met her at her favorite bar. During their “first meeting”, he impressed her with all his researched knowledge related to topics that he knew she was interested in and asked her out for their first dinner date. It was only a matter of time before she thought that they were “made for each other” and she agreed to marry him within 3 months of their first meeting. Everyone around her found the timeline and the coincidences coupled with the similarities between the two of them to be pretty bizarre but when they saw her happy, they decided to act like it was not very unusual. However, similar interests cannot be faked forever. 9 months into the marriage, Azaria noticed that there was something off about Braxton and they started to fight very often. She even threatened to leave him at one point – He reacted by pointing a kitchen knife to her throat and his face had turned into something that Azaria had never seen before. As a result of this, the timing was too convenient when Azaria was kidnapped a week later. There was a ransom note with an amount and a location specified, but no one showed up when Braxton arrived at the specified spot. Everyone including Braxton was convinced that Azaria did actually get kidnapped though. She did not complain about her personal problems or discuss them with anyone in her life. She could have genuinely left him if she wanted to and she took absolutely nothing from her personal belongings. She seemed to have actually been kidnapped on one fine evening in New York City. 3 months into the search, Azaria was presumed dead by the police department. Every soul had given up, but Braxton always had a feeling that all of it was too anticlimactic. He would always glare at that same kitchen knife which he would use to spread butter on his toast and regret that threat every evening thereafter.
Back at Oberkampf, he stared at a kitchen knife as he spread butter on some toast for Azaria and prepared the coffee for Augustin. At that point, Braxton realized that there was no other server around him at the cafe that morning. The manager was incessantly yelling “Azhar’s” name to make him serve Augustin’s table. This was not a part of the plan. The manager charged into the kitchen and asked Braxton to immediately serve their regular and respected customers. Braxton wiped his perspiring face and carried the coffee, the muffin and the toast to the table. His hands were endlessly shaking as he neared Azaria. No amount of preparation could have saved him from this moment. All the months of planning, and for this? As he lay the tray on the table and almost pranced away from it, Augustin held his hand and turned him around to introduce him to Azaria. Braxton let out a quick smile and skipped back inside the kitchen praying for a miracle. As the coffee neared the lips of Augustin, Azaria slapped the cup and the saucer away from him realizing what she had just witnessed. However, it was too late, and Augustin was already foaming at the mouth.
The complimentary tea sample was a part of Braxton’s latest marketing campaign and it had already done the job of poisoning Augustin right when the couple had walked in and tasted the samples. Planting the right poisoned sample for Augustin was planned and executed well by Braxton, the coffee was the backup that needed to work on Augustin only if the tea sample had not been picked up.
Azaria was furious and hurled insults at a perplexed looking Braxton who stood behind the counter. All the months of planning went into Braxton figuring out how he could save his wife from the kidnapper, but it turned out that he was delusional as ever once again when it came to Azaria. He was confident that she was being held captive and he had confirmed the fact that she never left the apartment without him. The only feeling that Braxton was able to rightly gauge was the perpetual fear that he saw in Azaria’s eyes. The fear, however, had nothing to do with her current life as Braxton had convinced himself to believe. On the contrary, the fear had everything to do with her past life catching up with her current one at some point which, as it turned out, was justified.
The manager rushed out of the café to call an ambulance as Azaria looked infuriated and went on to narrate the series of events that took place. Unbeknownst to Braxton, Azaria had made inquiries around all the cafes and restaurants she visited on a daily basis in New York city and showed the employees a picture of Braxton to ask them if they had seen him before. She personally took it upon her to carry out an investigation and find out if there was something wrong with Braxton and his past. There were multiple employees who suggested that they had seen Braxton on a frequent basis all year and there were also a couple of employees who had caught Braxton staring intently at Azaria while he was at those cafes and restaurants. The employees never brought it up with Azaria because they saw the couple get married soon after. Azaria’s suspicions started materializing a week before she got kidnapped. She was held captive for 6 months, but the kidnapper (Augustin) did not want to let her go because he had never seen or met anyone like her. Augustin fell into an immediate trance and was in love with Azaria almost instantly. It took six months, but she eventually realized the difference between someone who pretended to love her by faking their own personality and someone who was passionate and genuine. As abnormal as it was, she was eventually enchanted by how Augustin took care of her and the respect he gave her even after kidnapping her. There was a peculiar and unfamiliar amusement that Azaria found in such a chaotic situation. She felt dangerous and safe at the same time. 6 months later, Augustin gave Azaria the option of leaving him and going back to her normal life because he wanted to give her the life that he thought she wanted right back to her. It was Azaria who chose to live in the madness that Augustin had introduced into her life. Her recent marriage history also put her in such a vulnerable position. She was in a situation where anyone else who would have displayed tons of genuine and unfiltered affection would have won her heart over. Any stranger just had to be better than Braxton. That was enough for Azaria to reciprocate her feelings. There was no way that a kidnapper and his victim would be able to enter New York City after 6 months and lead a normal life as a couple. They started to love each other so much that they decided to fly to another country, change their identities and lead completely new lives that had absolutely no connection to their previous ones. The rest, as they say, is history.