Her back was once more against the door, her legs, aching and cramped, brought round in front of her. How could she have let herself go all floppy, all silly and stupid, to lie down and cry, hoping she would die from the pain of it…? How could she? The anger burned in her mouth. She was a stupid cow. She was a complete fool and no matter what she was going to get out of this. The voice approved, told her that was a good thought, she should hold on to it. It wasn’t all she needed to hold on to. Sitting up had released another sensation in her body. Her bladder was bursting. The dark was once more around her, her body once more wedged against the door, and the need to go was suddenly with her. Strong, insistent, as if she had been ignoring it for some time. Now what was she going to do?
His finger lightly stroked the switch, pulsing, sensing, judging. Stand up little bird, stand up for Daddy...
The more she thought on it, the worse it became. It soon blotted out all but the pain in her back, even her throat became less demanding than the pressure, the actual physical pain that was starting to build in her groin. It was absurd to her, totally surreal, that of all things to concern her, pinned as she was on the side of that door, she was being driven wild by the need to pee. Even the voice agreed that this was silly, stupid, ridiculous. What could they do? She and the voice thought it over. They both came to the same conclusion, the only sensible conclusion there was: she should pee. Let it out, get rid of the pain and concentrate on the door. Sitting up there, in her brain, full frontal: an idea. It wasn’t an appealing idea. Sensible yes, appealing, no. She changed her mind, arguing with the voice: it was a terrible idea? The voice, she discovered, was somewhat of a fair weather friend: it didn’t answer her back. It had gone away, gone in the now grinding pressure of holding herself in. It was no good, she was going to have to move, sitting here on the hard floor wasn’t helping. She was going to have to stand up, leave the door alone, and try and work out where she was. She dimly realised that not wetting herself, crumpled on the floor, in the dark, was more important to her than holding onto the door. She didn’t understand it, but there it was. She took a deep breath and scrambled awkwardly to her feet.
She screamed, a small part of her aware that this was another pathetic action, but the pain once more blotted all rational thought out. Her eyes once more protested, her hands flung instinctively to protect them. She would have dropped back down, but the fear froze her, kept her stranded up there, standing, caught by the brightness that had pierced her through. Red flooded her eyes, ghost images once more dancing in front of her, keeping track as she shook her head to and fro. The crying started, a wail tearing itself free of her chest. Shit, he was there, he was there! It was no good. He was there. The smell hit her from underneath: sharp, acid, pungent. She felt a warm puddle build around her bare feet: she had wet herself.
The acrid scent flooded under the door. Urine filled to its limit with toxins. A delightful bonus in a game already filling him with glee. His hand reached for the handle.
She was stooped over, half way to the floor, half upright. Her hands were jabbed in her eyes, rubbing, trying to force them to adjust quickly. She couldn’t be here, she couldn’t be here, in the middle of nowhere, naked, wet. She just couldn’t. She couldn’t move; she knew that she needed sight, she needed some direction. She forced her hands away, forced herself to blink. She must conquer this, must take charge of her senses.
‘I told you not to leave the bed.’
She startled, whirling round, trying to face where the voice was. A scream was caught fast in her throat; she would not let it out. She wasn’t going to scream again, not ever. Her feet slipped in the puddle. As she opened her eyes and tried to bring her head up, she fell back, back onto the soaking wet floor, back onto the hardness and the pain. Her shoulder hit something half way down. Hit it hard. Stars danced around in her eyes, pain blossoming out from the joint, her head snapping forward. She slid down on her side, dazed. Too dazed to scrunch up, to hide. She lay there, sprawled, wedged between something. Something hard, cold, at her back, something hard and cold in front of her. Naked, apart from a coat of her own urine and sweat. The small, distant voice came back: it wasn’t very helpful. She pushed the thoughts down with some effort. Shame was riding her, riding her harder than the fear. Her eyesight was clearing, helping her identify where she was. A toilet bowl was in front of her, a brilliant white sheen that showed the wreck of her all too clearly. Her arm was screeching, shouting that she had to move before something got mashed. She tried to sit up, found she couldn’t. It was a narrow space, she was sore and slippery. She tried again, her elbow banging against the cold hard behind her. She slipped back down on to the floor, defeated.
There was a sharp intake of breath from somewhere above her, a sigh of impatience. She scrunched her eyes shut tight, turned her head to the floor, her fists clenching. She wouldn’t look, she wouldn’t look.
‘Allow me to aid you.’
The words didn’t make sense to her, couldn’t make sense.
‘I will not repeat myself. Allow me to help you.’
There was a tone in those words, an unmistakable air of menace. It was a threat clear and loud. ‘Do as I ask,’ his voice had said, ‘and it will be okay. Fight me, it will not.’ She heard it plainly. Her own inner voice heard it too. Her voice urged her to get up, to turn round, to do anything rather than just lie there. She followed the advice.
She couldn’t see him clearly as she first turned round. The light in the ceiling was behind him, dazzling her. All she got a sense of was his shape leaning down to her, an arm clearly extended to her. She reached up for it. His grasp was strong and firm, pulling her to her feet in one sure movement. Her body screamed its dislike of the action, her mind screamed louder. No sound left her lips. She felt proud of that, if nothing else. He let go of her as soon as he was sure of her footing. She stood, clumsily, trying to hide herself from him, which was impossible. Defeated, her arms dropped to her sides, her head down. He had very shiny shoes. Very expensive shoes. They didn’t look pleased, those shoes, standing in her piss. A hand reached for her, lifted her chin up, to stare at him. Their eyes were of almost equal height, which she found curious. A light brown, flecked with tiny shards of amber. Dark hair matched his eyes.
‘You smell. You smell foul.’
His emphasis on the ‘foul’ made her flush red. She tried to drop her eyes, her head, away from his piercing gaze, her hands automatically coming back up, trying to hide, to cower. He held her firm, forcing her attention.
‘Clean yourself and come back through to the bedroom.’ He turned back to the door, opening it, leaving. Before he disappeared through it, he turned back, addressed her in that no nonsense voice. ‘Do not be long.’
The door closed quietly. Tears coursed over her burning cheeks. As he left the bedroom, aiming for the kitchen, he started to hum to himself. Gods, what a find. She gave such great fear. He switched the kettle on and busied himself. He had plenty of time.
The bathroom was huge; black and white marble. The floor and walls matched perfectly. White marble flecked with black on the floor, black marble flecked with white on the walls. The toilet and bidet, between which she had so recently rested, were brilliant white. The double vanity unit was gleaming black stone with equally gleaming white stone sinks. The fixtures were silver and black. The shower stall alone was bigger than her bathroom at home. It took up about a quarter of the room, easily holding about six people. It had a series of shower fixtures up the walls and across the top. She’d seen the like in movies, never in real life, not even in hotels at business conventions. The bath was actually quite small, compared to the rest of the room, but it was oval rather than bath shaped, with vents along the sides which she guessed meant it was a jacuzzi. There was a floor to ceiling cupboard with louver doors in silver. It looked like they were real silver, at least to touch. The back of her head, the voice, was screaming that she had to stop looking at the frigging decor and do something. She ignored it. Looking was doing something, it was doing about the only thing she could cope with. She’d crumpled down onto the wet floor when he had left, shaking. When she realised what she was doing, she had jumped up like a scalded cat. ‘Sides, she wasn’t getting into no shower ‘til she’d checked what was in the damned cupboard. The voice told her he wasn’t in the cupboard. She knew that, she told the voice, she was just being cautious. The cupboard was filled with towels. Pure white, soft. Looking at them, touching them, the tears started again, the shaking. No, screamed the voice. No! No! No! No way. If she fell apart, he was coming back for her and she didn’t want that. The thought did drive some of the dreamy feeling from her, did drive her into the shower. It took a few moments, but she finally got the water out of at least half the jets, first too hot, then too cold, then okay. There were plenty of gels and shampoos and such, on a fitted wire shelf right there in the shower. She stared at them, unthinking. The water ran off her, down the drain. The first thing she noticed, the only thing she really noticed, was that the smell was going. The smell of steam was replacing the smells of... let’s not think about that. She’d never thought that steam had a smell, that it smelt clean, warm, friendly. Her hair was flattened down onto her scalp, the water running off it over her shoulders. She tried to run her hands through it, it was matted, sticky. The water was making it wetter, not cleaner. She reached for the shampoo.
The warning wasn’t the stinging of her skin, it was the water beginning to run cold. She’d scrubbed and scrubbed, rinsed and then scrubbed again. All of her was red, raw looking. She hadn’t noticed. So much of her was pain that it wasn’t important. But the water running cold, that was important. That said something about time, about how long she’d been in there. The whole of the cubicle was fogged, cloudy. Opening the door, a blast of seemingly frigid air enveloped her. As did the stench of urine. She stepped carefully out of the cubicle, reaching for the towels warming on the heated bar. She placed them all on the floor, watching them soak up the fluid, watching the stain soak through them. When they were all down she walked round them, skirting them, and opened the cupboard. She brought out fresh towels and wrapped her body in one, then her hair. They were massive, covering most of her. She added a third across her shoulders, like a cape. All that showed was her shins, her ankles and her hands. And her face. She looked around. There wasn’t a mirror. She sat down on the toilet seat, shaking. She wasn’t sure if she could ever stand again. She looked at the door. It was white, with black running through it, as if it too was marble. There was no lock. No bolt. Nothing. The panic started up in her. She pushed it down, ruthlessly pushed it far away, away to the place the questions were. When she could afford it, then she’d bring it back. Not now. With a deep breath, she forced herself to stand, forced herself to open the door. The voice inside her was utterly silent, for which she was grateful.
He had to admit he was startled as the bathroom door opened: surprised. He had expected to have to go and fetch her. He had taken the stopping of the shower as his cue and was waiting long enough for her nerve to break before going in and getting her. He was undecided if he was pleased, or annoyed, at the change of plan. The going to get her plan had involved wondering if she would fight, or try to run? Run was fun, fighting was fine. Would give him a chance to lay down some rules. He had been running through both scenarios, deciding which pleasure he actively wanted her to present him with. She had done neither, forced him to recalculate: he was pleased. Good thing he had laid the table out all ready. It would not have done to be caught on the hop. He watched her edge nervously into the room. Great fun. Yes, this was better than having to go fetch her. He lifted the first pot.
She jumped when he spoke, then froze, her exit from the bathroom interrupted. He stood by a table, a table laden with plates and cups and tea things. His raised hand held a silver tea pot. She stared.
‘I find tea a most refreshing drink.’ He picked up a plain white cup and saucer, deftly filling the cup. ‘ Also...,’ placing the pot back onto the cloth, he picked up a silver jug. ‘I find it an excellent activity in those awkward social moments.’ He smiled at her. ‘Milk?’
She stared. He ignored her.
‘It is quite interesting you know, that today...,’ he poured the milk and placed both cup and jug down. ‘... very few people take sugar in their tea. Once, it was almost unheard of not to put sugar in your tea. Now, no one I know puts sugar in their tea.’
He had moved round the table, till he was on the far side of it, and sat down. As he poured his own tea, he glanced up at her, smiling, then busied himself. He finished speaking as he dropped two white sugar lumps into his own cup. The noise of his stirring mesmerised her, transfixed her. Nothing she could think of, nothing she could imagine, explained what was happening. He finished stirring and placed the teaspoon delicately onto the edge of the saucer. As he lifted the cup to his lips, he inhaled deeply. He smiled, then sipped.
‘Delicious. One of my favourite mixes. Most refreshing.’ He indicated her own cup, sitting on the table. ‘Will you not join me?’
The menace was thick, the message clear. It broke through to her. She moved forward slowly, awkwardly, not wanting to get closer to him. She wanted to look around the room, get her bearings back, but the need to keep looking at him overrode everything. The chair she was to sit on was pulled back and angled, making it easy for her to seat herself.
‘Excellent. Do try the brew, see if it is to your liking. Biscuit?’
Again, as he offered her a plate of pale Madeleine’s, his tone was unmistakable. She reached forward, hesitated, then picked one up. She cradled it in her lap as he prattled.
‘It is an interesting blend, mostly Assam with some Darjeeling....’ his voice droned on, somewhere above her.
She was staring fixedly at the white linen table cloth. The voice at the back of her mind was assessing it dispassionately. Had to be linen, such a large, yet fine, weave. It gleamed. The light bouncing off it with a shimmer. Her hand reached forward involuntarily, touching it. Damask, said the voice, definitely the finest Damask linen.
‘It is Damask,’ he said. ‘Do you like it?’
She startled out of her reverie so suddenly she couldn’t breathe, blood pounding in her temples. She looked over to him. The terror in her eyes was almost a force, a tangible sensation that flooded him. He took her gift eagerly, pressing for more.
‘Do have some tea, it will make you feel better.’
He pushed the cup and saucer towards her. His hand reaching closer froze her for a moment, sent her blood pressure racing, her heart skipping beats. She was transfixed, unable to take her eyes from the smoothness of his hand. Pale smoothness, not unlike the cup. The contents swelled slightly, resettling. The dreaming quality returned, the cup shimmering, shifting in front of her. Her eyes hurt with the effort of looking at it, looking so hard she wondered that it didn’t shatter. There was a slight noise, he cleared his throat: impatience. She lifted her hands, which were very heavy, unwieldy, one aiming for the cup, the other the saucer. Both landed roughly where they should, she grasped, pulling them back to her. The cup trembled slightly as it travelled, liquid swelling up, dribbling over her hand. The heat was warming, she cupped both hands around and raised it to her lips. She felt the heat rise and touch her skin, tickle her nose. The tea was very milky, not at all what a good Northern Lass should be drinking. She swallowed some down, closing her eyes as she tilted her head back, not wishing to see him. There was pain as it flooded down her throat. She found it hard to swallow, had to force the muscles to work. Yet it was also good, refreshing. Her thirst roared within her, demanding more. She clattered the empty cup back onto the saucer.
‘There, I thought that might be just what the doctor ordered.’
She didn’t look up as he drew the cup back, poured another cup, pushed it back to her. It was just as milky as the first. She reached for it shakily, her hand overshooting the mark. The cup, and its contents, spilled wildly across the table, soaking the perfect Damask. Her hand stayed where it was, over the now empty saucer, her eyes watching the spreading stain.
‘Tut tut, what a pity. Here, allow me.’
He’d stood somehow, and was now beside her. White napkins, which she hadn’t noticed, were being piled onto the tea stain in an attempt to soak up the mess. The tea blossomed through.
‘What a nuisance, here, let me have this towel.’
The towel from around her head was whisked off before she’d reacted to his request, its thick pile more use than the napkins. He was so close to her, she could feel the air between them move as he leaned this way, then that. He pushed the pot, sugar bowl and Madeleine’s back, mopping at the massive stain one small cup had made. When it was contained, he picked the Madeleine’s up, wiping dry the bottom of the plate.
‘What a mess. Dreadful of me, to over fill that cup.’
He carried on mopping, pushing dry towel onto wet cloth, drawing out the stain, carefully blotting round its edges. Satisfied, he turned to her.
‘Here, run and get me a towel soaked in cold water, to stop it drying.’
He handed her back her towel, smiling. He motioned to the bathroom door, encouraging. She watched his back as he again turned to the table, moving things around. She stood, shakily, clutching the soiled towel to her middle, afraid the ones wrapped around her body might fall. She backed away, eyes never leaving his back, until she bumped into the edge of the bed. With a tiny yelp, she turning, fleeing into the bathroom, almost tripping on the towels she had left dealing with her other stain. She dropped the one she held, pulled a fresh one from the cupboard, stuffing its bulk into a sink and turning on the cold tap. The water spouted up and over her but she barely noticed. Her mission was to get that towel as wet as possible, as fast as possible. She jammed the towel in one end of the sink, watching as it pushed out the other. This just wasn’t working. The whole dammed thing was never going to fit in the sink! Panic started once more, and she picked the towel up and threw it into the bath, turning off the sink tap as she went. This time, as cold water flooded the towel, it started to soak quickly. The water pressure was immense, the bath rapidly filling. She switched it off, swirled the towel round, picking up one edge and wringing it out over the bath, working her way up the length as she pulled it clear of the water. It could only have been two, maybe three minutes before she was back in the bedroom, hurrying forward with her burden. He’d cleared the cloth out from the table and folded it neatly. He took the towel from her and wrapped it around the tablecloth, as if he were wrapping a gift.
‘There, that should keep it from drying out until I can get it cleaned. I shall just go pop it into a plastic bag.’
He smiled once more, and quickly left the room via the door that she’d been not looking at. Silence crashed around her. Her legs felt weak and before she’d really noticed what she was doing, she’d sank down onto the edge of the bed. He’d left the door open, light spilled in, forming a long rectangle on the floor. She stared at it. A thought was just beginning to form, who knows what it might have been, when she saw his shadow precede him. She lifted her head. He was drying his hands on a small towel, no a tea towel. He used it to wipe clean the surface of the table. There had been a tray, somewhere on the floor on his side of the room, for he leaned down, lifting it up onto the table top. It took seconds to clear the clutter, all neatly piled up. He sighed, then leaned down to the floor, picking up the Madeleine she’d cradled.
‘Clumsy.’ He shook his head. ‘Never mind, mess can always be cleaned up, always.’
His voice on the second ‘always’ was faded, distant. It sent a chill down her spine, the hairs on her neck prickling. She contained the shudder that went through her as he once more swept out of the room, this time with tray in hand. Her eyes returned to the light that blazed across the floor. The floor gleamed under its impact. She moved her feet, feeling the cool surface. The light continued to bounce up at her, bounce up from the smooth, seamless floor. The floor was covered in linoleum. Thick, dark coloured linoleum. Her hands rested back onto the bed cover as she puzzled this. As they sank onto the sheeting, she felt the slight crinkling underneath. The voice inside her head rang out with authority, with warning. She realised it had been trying to say something for some time. Her hands massaged the soft covering, investigating. The crinkling was way down, two or three layers. She pulled back the edge of the sheets. There, under three sheets, was a bed protector, sealing the mattress. Gleaming, exactly as the floor gleamed. The voice became louder, more insistent. Instinctively, she covered the bed back up as she tried to grapple with what it was saying, what her mind had noticed. The panic it brought set off her body, dizziness once more threatening to overwhelm her. Her hands began to shake, breathing more difficult. Sweat once more sprang out of every pore in her body. He came back to the room as the scream was fighting up through her chest, desperate to get out. She wouldn’t let it and the effort was choking her. She would hold onto this, her mind was insisting: she had to get a grip. She didn’t look at him, her eyes again studying the floor, the deadly, smooth, eminently cleanable floor. She was wrong, she just had to be wrong. He must have spoken, but she didn’t hear the words, aware only that there were other sounds in the room apart from her heartbeat. The scream was still trying to get up, get outside her, make itself large over her thoughts; she couldn’t risk looking up. She dropped her head lower, her chin dropping onto her chest: she would not scream. Her left wrist was yanked upwards, her head following naturally. He was standing over her, the light from the door once more making his face indistinct. His mouth was moving. She stared at his lips. Her arm was pulled sideways. The pain made her focus.
‘I expect to be answered, do you hear me?’
His face was twisted up, his voice too. She nodded, unsure of what he’d said.
‘Good, I am glad we have that settled. I did not speak for my own amusement.’
His voice had evened out, unkinked. He let go of her wrist. The pain immediately bloomed through her bones, shot up her arm. She grabbed the wrist with her other hand, rubbing. The pain lit out again, making her groan. He’d turned away from her, closing the door softly. The light was shut out, returning them to the dimmer glow of the lamps. He was there again, beside her.
‘Whilst we are on the subject...,’ the pause had the desired effect. She raised her face to his. ‘There is still a little outstanding business between us.’ His voice was soft, tender; cajoling. ‘I distinctly remember telling you not to leave the bed.’
Persuading her to do something. She took a deep breath, attempting to calm things: now, more than ever, it was important to look as if she was listening. She raised her face to him, composing it as best she could: she would listen. She didn't see him move, had no time to react, to tense. The force that slammed into the side of her face lifted her off the bed, throwing her sideways onto the floor. She screamed.
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