Karen drifted in and out of a timeless sleep.
The house was quiet when she finally woke. The light was in the sky but the sun hadn’t yet risen. She could hear the faint sound of the birds in the street outside as she crept from her bed, trying not to wake Peter who was snoring beside her. She glanced at him in the dim grey light, realising the depth of her feelings for him had not waned. She paused a moment before pushing away the regret which was trying to overwhelm her resolve to break free from his power.
Quietly gathering up her clothes, she eased open the bedroom door, freezing for a long moment as Peter turned over in his sleep. Eventually she closed the door behind her and tip-toed to the bathroom where she hurriedly dressed herself.
Karen had no plan - she just knew she had to get away. Going to Margaret would be of no use as she would just send her back home again. She couldn’t even think beyond getting out of the house. Her mind was flooding with thoughts she didn’t want to think. Getting away from Peter was the only answer to her safety.
Without flushing the toilet, she opened the bathroom door and listened. No sound came from the rest of the house. The bedroom door was still firmly closed. She stood at the top of the stairs and looked around. The feeling of remorse was hanging heavily over her as she realised that she might not come back here again. But where would she go? Without trying to find the answer she made her way to the bottom of the stairs and the front door. Her bag was slung over the back of a chair in the hall. She clutched it to her and turned the front door knob. It was locked. Trying to unlatch the lock, she realised that it was already unlatched. She panicked, wondering what had happened. Then she looked up and noticed that the door had an extra lock fitted at the top of the door. Her fear drew to a new level.
She ran to the back door suspecting even before she reached it that it would be the same story there. She rattled the handle, whilst wondering as she did what she thought she could achieve. She sobbed in frustration, leaned against the door and slid down the glass panel to the floor. She sat hunched over her knees, wailing inwardly in frustration.
‘Now what are you doing?’ Peter stood in the doorway, glaring down at her. She looked up and his glare turned to a smile.
‘Poor Karen. You really are in a state aren’t you?’ He reached down and took her by the elbow. ‘Come along, let’s get you back to bed. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.’ He pulled her up roughly, almost wrenching her arm out of its socket.
Karen screamed at him. ‘Let me go! Please let me go! Why are you doing this to me?’
He held her arm in a tight grip and pulled her face close to his.
‘Now just shut up!’ he spat. ‘You’re not well and you need to get some sleep.’
‘I’m not ill,’ Karen shouted back. ‘You just can’t stand me being my own person. You can’t get away with this.’
‘Just watch me.’ His voice was quieter now. ‘No-one will believe you. Why should they?’ He laughed. ‘I only have to give the word and they’ll lock you up, just like one of your patients.’
‘That sort of thing doesn’t happen any more,’ Karen retorted. ‘You can’t just lock people up without good reason.’
‘But we have good reason, don’t we?’ Peter stroked her face. ‘Dr. Wright has seen how you’ve been and my own dear Mother too.’
‘Oh yes,’ he went on. ‘You thought she was on your side didn’t you? Well it didn’t take much to convince her that you’re completely unstable. And the doctor? That was even easier. Because it’s true, you really are going mad and it wouldn’t take much more to tip you completely over the edge. I really am worried about you Karen. I don’t know what you might do next to harm yourself. And then there’s the little problem of you hurting other people.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Karen was horrified at the depths of his fantasies.
‘The kitchen knife you attacked me with of course.’ He paused, releasing his grip on her slightly. ‘Don’t tell me you don’t remember the kitchen knife? It was lucky I managed to wrestle it from you in time.’
‘You’re insane!’ Karen said. ‘None of those things have happened. No-one would believe you.’
‘That’s where you’re wrong. You see, dear Karen, they already do believe me. Why would they not? Now then, let’s get you back up those stairs.’
He steered her towards the hallway. Karen knew that she couldn’t fight him. He led her up the stairs and watched as she lay back down on the bed.
‘That’s better,’ he said. ‘Just rest there and you’ll be well again before you know it.’ He smiled. ‘I’m going to make you some breakfast now.’
Karen said nothing. He shrugged his shoulders and left the room. She could hear him in the kitchen, making tea. The smell of toast wafted up the stairs. Her stomach churned with hunger.
He was back in a short while with a tray of tea and toast, cut up into triangles and spread with marmalade. He placed the tray on her lap and stood back.
‘Just how you like it,’ he said. ‘Now be a good girl and eat up.’
Karen sat and looked at the tray. She was frightened to eat or drink anything he offered her, knowing that somehow he’d been drugging her.
‘Now come along.’ Peter sat on the bed beside her and picked up the plate of toast. ‘I’m not leaving this room until you’ve eaten something,’ he said. ‘Come along darling - eat.’
Without looking at him, she took a slice from the plate, hoping that he’d back-off and leave her in peace.
‘Go on,’ he urged. ‘Eat up. There’s plenty more.’
Karen nibbled the edge of the slice nervously.
‘Come on, Karen,’ Peter said impatiently. ‘What do you think I’ve done, poisoned the marmalade?’
‘Of course not. I’m just not that hungry.’
‘Nonsense,’ he insisted. ‘You must eat. In your condition it’s important to eat well.’
‘I thought you wanted me to get rid of the baby. Why are you suddenly concerned for it. You don’t care.’ Karen was angry now.
‘Of course I care.’ His voice was mocking. ‘You know, Karen, your imagination is getting beyond a joke. Do you really think I could do you any harm?’
‘I don’t know,’ Karen said.
‘I just want you to be how you used to be. You were alright before you started to get these weird ideas in your head.’ He put down the plate and took her free hand. ‘I know I was upset when you told me you were pregnant with this baby, which isn’t mine, by the way. I just thought I’d remind you of that little fact.’ He sighed, then went on. ‘I was upset but I can understand you don’t want to get rid of the baby. I’ve just had to come to terms with it, haven’t I?’
‘So you think I should have the baby now, then?’ Karen’s hopes lifted a little.
‘No choice is there?’ he replied. ‘Now eat something before you make yourself ill.’
‘I don’t know if I can believe you. You’ve changed your mind so suddenly.’
‘I haven’t,’ he denied. ‘I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.’
Karen was unsure of what to believe any more. She was tired of fighting and just wanted to feel safe again.
‘Come on darling,’ he coaxed. He stroked her cheek and smiled softly at her. ‘Just eat a little bit.’
‘Alright,’ Karen conceded and bit into the toast. It tasted as it always did and she began to doubt her suspicions. Hunger was getting the better of her and before long she’d finished the first slice. Soon the plate was empty. Peter passed her the mug of tea that had been placed on the bedside table.
‘Good girl,’ he said. 'Now a nice cup of tea to wash it all down.’ He sat watching her as she drank the contents of the mug.
She could still see his smiling face as she drifted into oblivion.