When I See Your Face, Part 4
She had spent the better half of the day out in the fields surrounding the village, switching between crouching in the grass and fretting, and walking up and down hills, actually enjoying all the natural beauty around her. Despite the anxiety that would hit her once an hour as though on a hidden schedule, the afternoon in the countryside had helped to soothe her nerves. Amidst ankle-high to knee-high grass, butterflies, bees and the odd bird, she had fallen to repeating to herself: I can do this. I will manage. I can do this.
In between, she had given in to memories. Dusk had settled in and made her feel uncomfortable, on edge. She had felt cold inside. Hollow, as though somebody had cut off her head neatly at the neck, dipped a huge soup ladle into it and scooped out all that was her, that could make her happy or at least make her function.
This time of the day had always been her nemesis, much more so than the night, which she dreaded too. It was the time when she half wished for and half feared that Mark might come home and actually notice her. The time when she couldn’t forget herself in sleep yet and the hold of the day with its routine got too loose to keep her busy.
For a minute, she dwelt on what might happen now if she were still at home. She heard the front door open and close softly and her husband call out to her. “Darling, be a good doll and fetch me something to eat right away. I’ve brought us some champagne for dinner.” He’d be in that suspiciously good mood of his because he had landed another big deal with the rich and beautiful of the city. It meant having to sit by his side for hours while he consumed plateful after plateful of choice food and drank even more champagne. He would fondle her thigh under the dinner table or maybe try to feed her before the alcohol got the better of him and he’d right out drag her into his bedroom and have his way with her.
Or else, the door might slam shut, accompanied by a muttered curse. Her husband would plonk himself on the couch in the living-room with a half-empty bottle of vodka in his hand and his tie loose around his neck. She wouldn’t hear from him the whole evening, but had to listen to him wander around the house muttering curses under his breath and punching a wall here and there or stumbling over his unlaced leather shoes. The end of the evening would be much the same in this case, unless he had already come home drunk and passed out before he remembered her as a way of cheap gratification, hiding in her dark bedroom upstairs.
Snapping out of these recollections with difficulty, Cathy had collected all the courage she could muster and turned back on the long walk into the village.
After more anxiety and two wrong turns, she had approached the guesthouse, cautious and suspicious.
Was there any glimpse of her husband waiting for her to put her foot into the trap?
Did she hear anything out of the ordinary?
It was all she could do to keep herself from hugging the corners, stalking the shades and crawling along the ground like the detective in a movie.
A few steps short of the main door, she pressed herself against a wall and waited with baited breath. There was nobody to be seen, as always in this village once the darkness of evening settled in and everyone presumably stuffed themselves with hearty country food in the middle of a big and boisterous family circle.
Squaring her shoulders, she grabbed the key inside her pocket tighter and hurried up the three steps to the door. It was unlocked, as usual. If it wasn’t locked, that meant that Mark could just walk in and make himself at home while waiting to pounce on her, didn’t it?
She spun around to scan her surroundings, found not a shape in sight and closed the door behind her with a sigh of relief. How she wished she could throw a bolt. Wanting to avoid a meeting with a concerned, no doubt knowing Aunt Grindle, she took the stairs two at a time, unlocked her apartment door in record time and leaned against it from inside, breathing hard as if after a race. And maybe it had been a race of sorts, one against her own fear more than against the possibility that Mark might be waiting for her.
She couldn’t fathom what he wanted from her, how he had found her and what he would do next. Heck, she couldn’t fathom what she would do next. One thing was clear: She would not go back to him. Somehow, she had to find the strength in herself to not give in to the considerable charm he possessed. It had tricked her one time, but she vowed to herself that it would be the last time. How did that saying go? Shame on you if you fool me once, shame on me if you fool me twice. She felt shame indeed, and she wasn’t going to give herself more reason to be ashamed. She deserved better—even if better meant leading a lonely life as a single in a village, locked away from the world.
Locked away. Yes, she would remain in her room for some days without going out. That should get her message across, in case Mark stayed and tried to persuade her to do whatever it was that he wanted from her. If only she had today’s groceries with her, she could last for quite some time. A glance into the fridge and the kitchen cupboards affirmed it: Even if she practically fasted, more than two days in hiding wouldn’t be possible.
Unwilling to cry again or let her resolve crumble, Cathy made herself two cheese-and-ham sandwiches and ate them right there, standing in the kitchenette with the living-room lights off. Every single bite did its best to get stuck in her throat and tasted like sand, but she knew she needed some food inside her system after the shock and long walk in the hills. Washing the meal down with a glass of water and another one, she went into the attached bathroom and had a long, much too hot shower as if to cleanse herself not only from dust and sweat but also from today’s events and a life’s worth of bad memories.
Before going to bed, she told herself, “I will live on somehow. I won’t give up and I won’t listen to my stupid heart anymore—because I don’t need a heart now. After all, nothing and no-one will ever make me fall in love again.”
(To be continued tomorrow!)