BItter Sweet (3)
His face was the first thing she saw when she came to. Out of the crowd that had gathered around her, his face was the only one she could see. Another man hovering over her kept asking if she was okay. Was she hurt anywhere, and was there someone he could call? Had she come to the concert alone? She knew he was asking out of concern, but concern was not what she needed at that moment.
Her focus was on him. He was close enough to see her but far enough not to get involved or noticed by anyone in the crowd that had formed around her. He was not easy to spot; he intentionally kept a low profile. But she saw him, saw almost right through him. She could almost hear his voice in her head.
Their eyes locked for a moment. Two minutes, 30 seconds, five hours? It did not matter because for her, in the moment their eyes met, time stood perfectly still. He did not shift his gaze and his body didn’t flinch. She felt a cold sweat drip down her back, quite a contradiction to the warm feeling of familiarity she was feeling in equal measure. He kept staring straight at her. The other man asking her the endless questions helped her stand up and held on to her as if she was a piece of fragile glass. A lady pushed a bottle of drinking water toward her face. Her body sat down on the bleacher and took the bottle of water but her eyes were still glued to him. This time she could make out the glasses on his face, the ones with the thin, black frame. He was wearing a blue plaid shirt, beige chinos and black moccasins. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to a third of the length of his arms.
He still dressed the same. The colors could change slightly but his sense of style and choice of outfit was the same. She remembered laying out his clothes every morning as he showered and got ready for the day.
She suddenly remembered the little things. He liked his eggs sunny side up, but not too runny, no salt, lots of black pepper. He did not like body hair. He had her shave every couple of days. He made her shave him as well. He kept his nails short and got his hair cut every two weeks. He was allergic to fabric softener and loved the smell of bleach on his clothes. He only wore white underwear. He hated animals but had a soft spot for fish. Why was she thinking about all this right now?
By this time, the crowd was ebbing away and people were now shifting their focus back to the performance on stage. He swiftly turned around and walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
He hadn’t expected to ever see her again! What were the odds that he would run into her now? Here? Why now? Dammit! And why did she have such a powerful effect on him? He had thought he was done with that part of his life. He had sworn she would be the last one and she was. He had been on the straight and narrow since he let her go; four years of not abducting or killing anyone.
Today of all days, she reappears in his life. Today, when all he wanted to do was listen to good music, get a little tipsy and go back home. What the hell was she doing here? What shook him most was the effect seeing her had on him.
His palms were sweaty and his heart was racing. He was caught off guard and it left him feeling discombobulated. And then he felt it, simmering just below the surface, gnawing at him like the familiarity of meeting up with an old friend. He tried his best not to let himself feel it but he couldn’t help it. He realised how much he missed her.
The crowd around him was starting to thin out and that made him uncomfortable. He did not want to give anyone the chance to spot him, but she had seen him and she had not stopped staring at him. He wanted his legs to carry him far away but he was glued to the spot and could not move his legs, at least for a little bit.
Eventually, he came to his senses. Balling his hands into fists, he walked away and disappeared into the mass of people.
Nothing else mattered after that. She tried to get her attention back to the music but she just couldn’t. Thoughts of him occupied her mind. All the feelings of conflict between missing him and hating him were very present right now. Her therapist had diagnosed Stockholm Syndrome and had spent the past four years helping her find her own identity.
She had been missing for two years. Her parents had searched high and low for her. Her friends had created posters both online and offline in the hopes that someone somewhere would find her and bring her back home. After eight months of searching, they began to lose hope. A year after her disappearance her parents held a memorial service in her honor and left her fate in the hands of God.
Little did they know that their daughter was going through a tumultuous time marred with reward and punishment. Her abductor never ever spoke to her, at least not using words. His actions, however, spoke volumes. After keeping her strapped to a bed for almost three months, he started to grant her little freedoms like allowing her to feed herself or take a shower. On some days he allowed her to watch tv. The programs were never in English, though, and had no indication of the network airing them. She could never tell what day or what time it was.
All those pleasures came at a cost. She was rewarded if she let him watch her in the shower, or if she read to him without faltering, or if she shaved his hair without nicking him. That last one was the hardest task, especially since he only wanted to be shaved with a new blade every time. She received a lot of punishments the first few times, which included him making little tiny cuts across her body using the same blade. However, she soon became adept at shaving him and that stopped. Well, at least until the last time when she was sure he was going to kill her.
She remembers that day vividly. He had left her alone in the house. She was in the main house and not the little servants quarter where she spent the majority of her time. By this time, she had given up any hope of being rescued. She had resigned herself to the fact that the only way to stay alive was to do her abductor’s bidding, which meant cooking, doing laundry and the really creepy staring when she showered. The housework was not too bad as it was only the two of them in the house, and besides she used to help her mom with chores around the house anyway. She missed her family and her friends. She really missed her freedom.
The two things that scared her shitless were the way he watched her shower and the cutting. The type of blade he used depended on the severity of her mistake. In all that time he never made any sexual advances. But every time she had the privilege of showering, he would carry a seat into the bathroom and not let her close the door or draw the shower curtain. He would set the alarm for 30 minutes, hand her the soap and face flannel and take a seat. The first couple of times he gave her very clear instructions on how to go about it. Her showers were not to take more than half an hour and had to follow a very specific pattern, each time.
On that particular day her tasks were to do laundry and make dinner. She was not to clean the house. It was also the day he forgot he was expecting a delivery and so when the bell rang, she almost jumped out of her skin. Never had the doorbell rang during the entire time of her abduction. She did not know what to do. Should she open? Should she ignore it? What if it was a delivery she was to receive? The fear of what would happen to her should she have failed was too great for her to ignore the bell. She opened the door, signed for the package and placed it on the table. It was also the first time she learnt his name. It was written on the package. That was not important as much as the date on the delivery note. She had been missing for almost two years! Her hands trembled as she put the package on the dining table. Two fucking years!! Two years of taking care of this man. Two years of not talking to another human being. Two years of wondering if that was the day she died! Her tears hit her hot and heavy. She slowly sunk to the floor, with heavy, gut wrenching sobs. Her body would not stop trembling.
She didn’t know how long she stayed on the floor crying, but that was the position he found her in when he opened the door. Then he spotted the package on the dining table, the undone laundry on the floor and no signs of dinner. Everything fell into place. It now made sense.
Grabbing her by the hands, he dragged her through the back door and to the servants quarter. She cannot explain whether it was anger, fear or the feeling of hopelessness but she remembers yelling at him. Asking him to kill her or let her go. Thumping her fists on every part of his body, even as he half dragged, half made her run across the compound. He eventually got her into the SQ and closed the door behind them.
He shoved her in and stood guard at the door as if he was afraid she would run. She kept yelling and crying and screaming. He stood in silence and watched her. He watched her get hysterical, scream and lash out at him. She kept begging to be killed. And finally he could not hold himself back. If she wanted to die so badly, then maybe he should grant her her wish. The thought of killing her sickened him. He really liked the life he had built for them. She was dutiful and caused him no trouble. He truly believed that this was meant to be, so why was she so upset? Why did she want to die so badly?
He locked the door behind him. She was still hysterical. He walked to the cabinet at the corner of the room. He felt sadness over what he was about to do but she had left him no choice. He put his hands in the cabinet and took out his smallest hunting knife. It was not a big knife but the blade was very thin, angled, and had been sharpened recently. It would slice through any surface and leave a very clean cut. For a second he hesitated but he knew there was no turning back now.
Turning round, he felt a wave of anger engulf him. Maybe it was her screaming or maybe it was the fact that for the first time she was fighting back. It really didn’t matter right now. He walked toward her and with very swift movements, cut the clothes off her body. He didn’t care if he cut her in the proces, she would soon be no more.
Despite his slim frame he was very strong. In no time she was strapped on the bed, her hands and legs tied to the four corners of the bedpost. He could see the fear in her eyes but he didn’t care. Not anymore. His mind traveled to a different time, to a different place. By the time he came to his senses she was passed out on the bed, a pool of blood around her. Many tiny red cuts across her body. Almost like a painting, the fresh red blood from the cuts he just made mixed in with the fading and healing grey cuts from the last time.
His breathing was heavy. His arms were tired. But he was no longer angry, just sad. Sad that it had to end this way. He dropped the knife and leaned over her unconscious body. If she was dead he would have to start the elimination process quickly, before rigor mortis set in. It would make it harder to move her body. He leaned his face over her body and noticed her chest heaving up and down. She was barely breathing but she was not dead. A sigh of relief left his body. He was not ready to lose her yet.
He walked out of there and closed the door behind him. He was going to watch her through the cameras. And that’s what he did, he sat, watched and waited.