Norman first noticed Cinnamon Dupree at Walter H. Eastman High School. He quickly became infatuated, obsessed. He set out to learn as much about her as he could. He took candid shots of her with his phone as he followed her around campus. He would draw her likeness in his sketch pads – over and over again.
For her part Cinnamon tended to give Norman a wide berth. She might have sensed something was a little off about him. She might have had good survival instincts. Norman did not have good intentions. One day, in early spring, she left her sweatshirt hanging on the back of her chair in Earth Science class. Norman tucked it into his backpack and took it home. He kept it under his pillow and slept with it every night for almost a year before using it, in his Junior year, to start the fire at The Lumber Yard.
After High School Cinnamon went to State and Norman went to the local Junior College. Her family moved away and he lost track of her but never forgot her. You never forget your first love. He had loved her dearly and knew, in his heart, that she had loved him too. He still loved her and had been true to her all these years.
Then one night several years later, on a business trip, he was having a drink in a hotel bar in Tampa when he saw her again. He knew that it wasn’t her but it looked like her. She was sitting at a table fussing with her cell phone. He had a red-eye flight to catch home and was just killing some time so he screwed up his courage and approached her.
He smiled and pointed at her, “Hey,” he said, “I know you. How do I know you?” He made himself appear puzzled. She looked up at him and smiled hesitantly. He thought the likeness was amazing so he pushed on.
“I know,” he said, “You went to Eastman High. You look great – haven’t aged a day.”
She was shaking her head, but smiling, “No, no; I didn’t go to that school but my sister did.”
“Who’s your sister?”
“Her name’s Cinnamon.”
“Of course,” Norman said, “Cinnamon Dupree. You guys look a lot alike. And, wait a minute; you have a spice name too, don’t you?”
“Saffron,” she said, “Saffron Dupree.” They shook hands and she motioned him to sit down; clearly having no recollection of who he was.
He bought her a drink and they talked about families – primarily her family because he kept steering the discussion back to her. She told him that she was a teacher and an aspiring writer. After several drinks, Saffron confided that she had a blog. He flirted shamelessly with her.
She kept talking, and he kept buying her drinks. Turns out that they were both in town on business; she for a convention and he was calling on customers. He found out that Cinnamon was married, and pursuing a career in health and fitness. Norman struggled mightily to contain the rage he felt that Cinnamon had not been true to him. A plan began to form.
Saffron was pretty drunk when Norman rose to leave.
“I have to catch a flight,” he told her. “Tell me the name of your blog so I can read some of the stuff you write.” She wrote the URL on a cocktail napkin and handed it to him. He gave her a quick, chaste hug before he turned to go. “Wonderful to see you Saffron, it was great to catch up with someone from home.”
“Wait, what’s your name again?” she asked as he was turning to go, “I’ll tell Cinnamon that I met you.”
“Roger Cumberland,” Norman told her, using the name of a kid who had been three years behind him in school. He looked at the napkin in his hand and read:
It should only be a matter of time now, he thought.
At the airport Norman found Saffron’s blog. Generally it was crap. Bad poetry and flowery prose, but every so often she revealed something, something personal. He opened an account under the name of Rosemary Whelan and started posting. He posted every day for a month while he silently and anonymously monitored Saffron’s blog. Then he hit the “Like” button on a love poem that she had written. Two weeks later he commented glowingly on a post about lost innocence. She thanked him.
Almost a month later she wrote a post about her sister, a personal trainer in DC. He clicked the follow button and Rosemary Whelan owner of the blog, “Flipped Over Sidewards” was officially linked to Saffron Dupree; and through Saffron to her sister, Cinnamon Dupree. Still it took almost eighteen months before he felt confident he could find Cinnamon in DC by using the clues provided in her sister’s blog. He booked tickets for that night from SFO to DCA and packed a small carry-on bag.
Inspiration can come from unexpected places.