Karen leaned back from the table, slipped the letter into the envelope and sealed it with a flourish.
‘There,’ she said. ‘All done. Now we just have to wait I suppose.’
Margaret lit a cigarette and took a long drag on it, exhaling the smoke slowly before she spoke.
‘I hope something good comes of this.’ She looked towards the door. Peter had kept his word and left them alone. She lowered her voice. ‘Are you sure everything’s alright with you?’ she asked.
Karen swallowed, hesitating to speak. The walls were too thin to give her the confidence to talk freely. ‘Not really but I can’t talk now,’ she whispered.
‘You have to tell me if there’s something wrong,’ Margaret insisted. ‘Look, Karen, I may be able to help you but you must tell me.’
‘You won’t believe me.’ Karen looked out of the window. The garden was still damp with rain - heavy clouds hung over the rooftops.
‘Try me.’ The ash on the end of Margaret’s cigarette fell onto the table. She swept it away with the back of her hand. She looked at Karen, waiting for the her to speak.
Karen stood up and walked into the hall. She stood at the foot of the stairs for a moment, listening, then came back in, carefully closing the door behind her.
She let out a sigh before speaking. ‘He’s changed the locks on the doors and I haven’t got a key.’
Margaret looked shocked. ‘Surely he’s got a key for you,’ she said.
‘No, he hasn’t.’
‘Perhaps he’s just waiting for you to be up and about on your feet.’
‘I don’t think so,’ Karen said.
‘He’s probably just forgotten to give it to you,’ Margaret reasoned.
‘Why would he change the locks?’ Karen asked.
‘I’ll speak to him,’ Margaret suggested.
‘No! Please don’t do that,’ Karen blurted. ‘It won’t help. Please don’t say anything. I’ll get through this somehow.’
‘If you’re sure.’ Margaret wasn’t convinced.
‘He’s been giving me drugs. In my food, I think,’ Karen went on.
‘Now you are really being silly,’ Margaret bristled. ‘I’m sure he wouldn’t do such a thing.’
‘It’s true,’ Karen said. ‘Why do you think I’ve been sleeping so much?’
‘You need to rest,’ Margaret said. ‘The tablets the doctor gave you. They help you to sleep.’
‘That’s just it,’ Karen explained. ‘I haven’t taken any of them yet. Not knowingly that is.’
‘I’m sure you have. You’ve just forgotten. You’ve been in a bit of a state.’ Margaret stubbed out her cigarette and stood up.
‘I knew you wouldn’t believe me,’ Karen said. She was desperately wondering how she could convince Margaret.
‘I want to believe you. Of course I do,’ Margaret said. ‘But you haven’t been yourself lately.’
‘I don’t know what else I can do to make you believe me,’ Karen said. She heard a door upstairs banging. ‘Please, don’t talk about it any more. He’ll hear us.’
Margaret sighed. ‘If that’s what you want.’
Peter was clattering down the stairs, as if on cue. The door opened.
‘Have you two finished yet? Because I’m getting bored with being banished to the bedroom.’
‘All done,’ said Karen.
‘Why was the door shut?’ he asked. He looked from one to the other.
‘We never close that door,’ he said. ‘Have you two been talking about me?’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Margaret said.
‘What do you expect?’ Peter said. ‘You send me upstairs, tell me you want to have time alone without me, then you close the door so I can’t hear what you’re getting up to.’
‘It was nothing,’ Margaret insisted.
‘Fine.’ Peter glanced at the papers on the table. ‘Have you written the letter, then?’ he asked. ‘Can I read it?’
‘Oh. I’ve sealed the envelope now,’ Karen said. ‘Margaret’s posting it on her way home.’
‘Fine.’ He smiled.
Karen could feel the anger emanating from every pore in his body. ‘Not fine,’ she thought.
‘I should get back home, I suppose.’ Margaret pulled on her coat. She turned to Karen. ‘I’ll pop in tomorrow morning.’
‘What for?’ Peter asked. ‘Checking up on us again?’
‘I care about you both,’ Margaret said. ‘I don’t want to intrude...’ She hesitated.
‘I might take Karen out tomorrow,’ Peter said. ‘She could do with some fresh air.’
Karen seethed. ‘Stop making plans for me Peter,’ she snapped.
He turned to her, a pained look on his face. ‘Don’t you want to go out with me?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know what I’ll want to do tomorrow yet,’ she said. ‘That’s not the point. I have got a mind of my own, you know. It would be nice if you talked to me about things before making decisions for me.’
‘Sorry,’ he laughed. ‘Pardon me for trying to help.’
‘Well, I’m off then,’ interrupted Margaret. She glanced at Peter then turned to Karen. ‘You’ll be alright?’
‘Of course I will.’ Karen smiled.
Margaret hugged Karen and kissed Peter on the cheek, then turned to leave.
As she reached the front door Karen noticed her glance up at the new lock. Karen was sure she was biting back the questions which were on the tip of her tongue as she smiled and allowed Peter to let her out into the street.
‘Bye, Darling,’ she said to him but the door was already closing on her. Karen watched through the window as Margaret turned and made her way along the street, pulling her coat collar up as she went.