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The day passed slowly. Each minute seemed to drag into an hour.
Karen knew she needed to keep one step ahead. Peter wouldn’t let her go anywhere without him, so she tried to keep busy in the house. She pottered about in the kitchen, tidying the cupboards and thinking about what her next move could possibly be to get out of this mess.
She cooked spaghetti for their evening meal and only drank what she had prepared herself. Peter hovered in the doorway of the kitchen, watching her, occasionally wandering into the lounge to sit for a while before coming back again. Karen lifted the pasta pot from the stove to drain the water into the sink.
‘I’ll do that,’ he said, trying to take the pot from her.
She pulled away. ‘I’m alright,’ she said. ‘I’m already doing it.’
‘Fine. Be independent.’ He walked back into the lounge.
Karen could hear him pacing the floor.
‘You could lay the table,’ she called through the doorway. No answer.
She was feeling more and more unsettled and still had no idea as to how she was going to get out of this mess. The kitchen windows were steamed up. A mild hope that maybe she’d been mistaken made her try the kitchen door. It was still locked.
‘Can’t you come and open the kitchen door,’ she called. ‘Let some fresh air in.’
Still no answer.
She looked into the lounge. ‘Did you hear me?’ she asked.
‘Oh, you’d like that wouldn’t you.’ Peter was slouched on the far end of the sofa, glowering at her.
‘It’s hot and stuffy out there. Surely you don’t really think you can keep me locked in here for ever.’ She paused. ‘Peter - I’m fed up with this. Please come and open the back door.’ She stood and waited.
Peter looked up.
‘Just get the dinner on the table and stop whinging,’ he said.
Karen returned to the kitchen with a shake of her head. She took a breath and dished up the pasta on to the two plates. She stirred the bolognese mixture, wondering vaguely whether she could play Peter at his own game and slip something into his portion. She shook off the thought, knowing that it would never work. She didn’t even know where he was keeping her tablets and doubted that it would be easy to find them.
Her mind was numb. The thought of getting out of this was impossible to imagine. She felt the tears rising again and dashed them away.
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she told herself as she spooned the mixture onto each pile of pasta. Karen gathered her courage and carried the plates of food through to the lounge.
The table was still cluttered with Peter’s books and a pile of old newspapers. She put the plates on the table and piled the books and papers to one side.
‘Careful with my books,’ Peter snapped. ‘They cost a lot of money.’
‘Sorry,’ Karen said through her teeth. She looked up and smiled. ‘It’s ready. We just need the cutlery.’ She sat down and waited for him to move.
Peter stood and walked to the table. ‘I’ll get it then, shall I?’ he asked, hesitating at the doorway. He glared at her, then disappeared into the kitchen. She heard him clattering in the cutlery drawer. When he returned he handed her a spoon and fork with a smile.
‘Don’t trust me alone with your food, eh?’ He laughed. ‘How long are you going to keep this up for?’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ Karen answered. She looked at him. ‘I just want to get back to normal, that’s all. I keep telling you, I am not ill.’
‘Well you can’t keep it up forever, you know,’ he said. ‘You’ll have to go to sleep sometime.’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Karen frowned.
‘What I mean is you can’t be on your guard all the time. Once you’re asleep, I can do anything to you. Anything I like.’
Karen glared at him.
‘You can’t keep me prisoner for ever,’ she retorted.
‘I’m not keeping you prisoner,’ he said.
‘Why have you changed the locks? And why haven’t you given me a key?’
‘I changed the locks because they needed doing and the reason I haven’t given you a key is because you haven’t needed one yet. It’s as simple as that. Nothing treacherous about it at all. It’s all in your imagination. All of this is in your head.’
‘What did you mean, you can do anything you like to me when I’m asleep? I didn’t imagine that.’
‘Why are you laughing?’ Karen asked. ‘OK, if it’s all in my imagination, give me the keys now.’
‘I haven’t got the spare keys yet,’ he replied calmly. ‘They only gave me one key for each lock and I need the keys to go to work. As soon as I can I’ll get some cut for you, don’t you worry.’
Karen’s hopes lifted a little. ‘Are you going to work tomorrow, then?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know what I’m doing yet,’ he said. ‘I could stay home all week but I may go in for a meeting in the morning.’
‘Why can’t I have the back door key, then?’ she asked. ‘You don’t need two keys.’
‘I may decide not to go in yet,’ he replied. ‘We’ll talk about it in the morning.’
Karen’s mind was racing. This could be the chance she needed to get away. As if reading her thoughts, Peter leaned towards her across the table.
‘We’ll have to see how you are tomorrow,’ he said. ‘And how well you do tonight in bed.’
‘What are you talking about?’ Karen asked.
‘Sleeping of course,’ he sneered. ‘What did you think I meant?’
He picked up his fork and began winding it in the spaghetti. He guided the sticky mass towards his mouth.
Karen watched him from the corner of her eye and shuddered inside as a long strand draped on his chin, leaving a faint trail of red sauce in its wake as he sucked it in.