Returning to the cabin I help Caleb carry the supplies from his truck. There are so many bags and boxes I briefly wonder how long he’s planning to stay, but the task of unlocking the door while juggling a large box with three bags dangling from my arm takes all my attention. I insert the key into the lock but my hand slips before I can turn the key. Without actually twisting the lock, the knob turns easily and the door swings open.
Had I forgotten to bolt the door?
I suppose it’s possible. I’ve been very cautious but also preoccupied. I am definitely not at my best. As I’m about to step into the front room I feel a hand on my shoulder, a silent warning. My skin prickles as I realize again how careless I’ve become.
Retreating onto the porch I set down the items that have become heavy in my arms. He does the same and wordlessly holds a finger to his lips. Pulling a gun that had been hidden under his lightweight jacket he slowly approaches the entrance. He disappears inside and I wait impatiently, leaning against the railing, arms crossed in front of my chest. My foot taps a nervous beat on the wooden deck. Taking several deep breaths I try to calm myself but my heart won’t stop its anxious rhythm.
Several minutes pass and I hear a dull thud from somewhere deep inside, followed by a string of expletives. Impulsively I step forward, intent on finding out what happened. I’m stopped by the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs that lead to the loft and upstairs bedroom. Suddenly he appears in the doorframe, so tall he seems to fill the space.
His expression is enough to reassure me, and he lets me know that a large plastic crate filled with sheets had fallen when he opened a closet. He had found nothing out of the ordinary in the cabin.
Reassured, we bring the packages inside and place them on the large dining table. He returns to his truck and comes back with a small cooler. Unpacking this first he pulls out a large ribeye which he hands to me. He asks me to make dinner while he puts everything else away. Grateful for something constructive to do, I set to work lighting the grill and cutting vegetables for a salad.
Working in companionable silence, his presence is remarkably comforting in spite of the fact he is a complete stranger. Once the table is clear of his belongings he takes plates and glasses from the cupboard, setting them on top of cheerful placemats. Grabbing a corkscrew from the drawer next to the stove he opens a bottle of red wine he must have brought with him. He pours a healthy amount into one glass, while he fills the other with blue Gatorade.
I am suddenly consumed with suspicion and something harder to identify. Is it fear? Anger? Both? What makes him think I’m going to drink with him here? Is he so arrogant he assumes I’ll just do whatever he says?
Holding the glass in his left hand he turns and offers it to me. “We have a lot to talk about and you’re already so tight you might snap. I thought you could use something to help you relax.”
I’m torn. I know he means well. He doesn’t know what I’ve been through, doesn’t know about the months when I had unknowingly swallowed drugs dissolved in drinks or hidden in food. Even I’m not certain how they were given to me…I’m sure there were a plethora of ways I’ll never know. There’s no reason for me to distrust the wine more than the other food he brought.
Maybe it’s my apprehension over letting down my guard even just a little that causes such an immediate reaction. I’m going to need to trust him if he’s going to protect me. He needs to know everything, and he’s right that wine will make the story less painful to retell.
I avert my eyes so he doesn’t see my dilemma and mumble thanks as I accept his offering. Taking a large gulp I almost instantly feel the effects, reminding me that I’ve eaten very little for days. Smiling a more sincere appreciation for his thoughtfulness I ask him where he wants me to start.
“Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out. I need to know what we’re facing and we can prepare better if I know all the details.”
He places the bowl with the salad in the middle of the table before he sits at the head of the table. Carrying the platter holding the steak and my glass of wine I take my seat to his right and stare ahead of me, thinking back to the fateful party that seemed so long ago. Bringing myself back to the present, I’m about to begin my story when a framed photo on top of the fireplace mantel catches my eye. I am confident it wasn’t there before. I would have noticed. I would have recognized the setting. It’s the view I had when I was essentially nothing more than a captive, a prisoner. I will never forget the way the ocean meets the sand on that particular stretch of beach.
Words catch in my throat and I’m momentarily unable to speak, but the terror on my face says it all. He’s been here.
This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Plethora and is part of something longer I am working on.