I scrubbed myself clean in another bath, but nothing would erase the horrible film on my skin, it just screamed at me, slut. Had I led Erik on? I thought I’d behaved so normally around him.
This was HIS fault, not mine, surely! I never asked him to come by me.
But I didn’t fight him off, that’s what is worse. I could have made more of an effort, instead of sobbing because I liked what he did.
That’s it. I like Erik. That’s why it felt both wrong and right to be with him like that. But it was totally wrong, a trick of the senses. I didn’t like him; he was just all I have now. I could never like someone truthfully who did that to me. Ever. Right?
In all honesty, I didn’t know anymore.
I got out of the bath, staring at myself in the mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and my lips were swollen. I looked how I felt on the inside, a mess.
I pulled my clothes on slowly, whimpering at my hips that were still sore and stiff. A shot came from the bedroom, a female’s voice.
“Y-yes?” I stuttered back. The voice sounded scared, but friendly at the same time.
“I request your presence miss.”
I came out of the bathroom into the bedroom, careful not to look at the strewn blankets and pillows. The woman in front of me must have been at least 50, she was well groomed with her brown going grey hair and painted nails. But she looked harmless, motherly almost.
I instantly trusted her, and decided that company was important right now.
“Mr Taylor requested that you eat so if you would come with me...” I’d forgotten how hungry I was, and my stomach growled in response. This woman smiled warmly at me and shimmied me along out of the door.
“My name is Anne Rinker, and I am head of housekeeping here.”
“I’m Erin Stockholm-“
“We all know who you are, and we’re glad you’re here, I must say.”
“May I ask why?” I stared at this woman in disbelief. Glad that I had been held here against my will for near a month now, glad that I had just been violated in the worst way possible?
“Why, Mr Taylor was... He’s changed...”
“Sorry Miss, I’ve said too much already. My apologies.” She hurried on ahead of me, her head down. How has he changed? If he’s changed for the better, I hate to think what he was like before.
In the kitchen area, I watched as Anne made spaghetti bolognaise, my favourite food. She handed me a bowl and sat down with me on the small table.
“Anne, may I ask you something?”
“Of course dear.” Her answer was yes, but her pale eyes were wary.
“What was Erik like? Before... me?”
“Oh well... He was very disconnected. Gave orders. He actually had a conversation with me yesterday. In all my years of service, he never asked me anything personal.” She smiled a little and eyed my food.
“But he did mention that you needed to eat more, I must say dear, you’re looking a little thin.”
I looked down at my half finished food, suddenly not hungry anymore.
“I’m done thanks, it was lovely.” I passed Anne the bowl, trying my best to hide the bruises on my wrists.
“How did this happen?” Oh shit, why be observant?!
“I sleep on my hands a lot, must have really leant on them. She looked into my eyes with pity, knowing I have lied to her.
“Just remember, Miss Stockholm, he’s not all bad. He’s had a rough ride through life.”
“I just want to know why he’s like...this.”
“Between you and me, pet... Ten years ago, his mother and farther passed away. Sudden accident, rather tragic if I do say so. Young Erik was put into a care home. He was a charming boy no doubt and was soon adopted by the Grange’s. Zack Grange was Erik’s age, and the two soon became friends. When they hit 18 they moved out, lived together, and now they work together. But something changed in Erik one day...” So he did have a pretty bad start to life, I guess. But did it excuse his behaviour now?
We were so immersed in the story that we didn’t notice who had come into the kitchen, or even if they’d been listening in.
“Oh my! I’m so sorry Mr Grange, what can I do for you?”
“I came to say that Mr Taylor is waiting for you.” He never took his eyes off of me, not even for one second. It wasn’t a friendly look; it was a look of greed, and power. I’d seen that look before. He was huge, bigger than Erik my at least a foot, and his massively broad shoulders reminded me of a body builder. His blonde hair was neatly combed over to the side, framing his face. But he just wasn’t pretty, or beautiful. He wasn’t Erik...
Anne popped up out of her seat and scurried out of the room. She looked scared of Zack, and didn’t even say goodbye. I was upset by her absence, as it was the only normal conversation I’d had in ages.
Sliding off of my stool to leave the room, Zack leant against the door frame, blocking my exit.
“I’m Zack.” He held out his hand for me.
“Pleasure to meet you, Zack.”
“The pleasure is all mine, I assure you.” He eyed me like I was meat, making me very fucking uncomfortable. What IS it with men?
“Excuse me Sir, but I have to go and...”
“’Sir’? Oh. I see...” A very cruel grin formed on his face, a grin that knew something I didn’t.
“Indeed, I just have to...” I popped under his arm on the doorframe and speed walked round the corner. What the hell had that been about?
I walked quicker and quicker away from the kitchen, only to go smack into Erik. I stumbled to the floor, everything moving so fast I shielded my face.
“Can’t you watch where you’re going?” He muttered to me, instantly shaking his head and extending his hand. I refused his hand at first, not wanting to touch him, so he pulled me up from under my arms.
“I told you to stay inside Erin,” Opening the door to his office he led me inside.
“I can’t risk Zack-“
“Can’t risk Zack what?” Zack said from the doorway again. He looked straight at me again.
“I guess it’s too late now. Zack, this is Erin.”
“And of what use is Erin to you?” Erik looked at me for a moment.
“She witnessed a murder. We had to take her in.”
“And you couldn’t have just killed her, brother?”
“Erin, give us a moment. Go and wait in the bedroom.” Erik didn’t even look at me as I scurried out of the room. The hallways started to close in on me, like they wanted to choke me. Scared wasn’t the word right now.
I stood still, catching my breath, hearing voices from behind the door again.
I leaned in, hoping to catch the gist of what they were saying.
“She’s nothing to me Zack.”
“Not from what I see, Erik. Do you understand what happens if she spills?”
“Of course I do, but she won’t say a word. She’s in training now.”
“Training is nothing, you need to deal with her, or-“
“Or WHAT?” I could hear the threat behind Erik’s words.
“Or I’ll deal with her myself.”
“And why not? Don’t tell me... you feel for her?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“From the look in her eyes, you’ve already ruined her. Finish her off.”
“I won’t do that. She’s not going to say anything.”
“I see. Very well then.” I heard footsteps inside getting closer and jumped back from the door.
Zack came out of the room, straightening his tie.
“Goodbye Zack.” I murmured.
“Please will be all mine, Miss Stockholm” He looked back inside again before walking away.
Erik’s voice made me jump. I’d just overheard those two talking about killing me. Erik had just confessed that he felt nothing for me, that I was just acquired out of accident. That hurt me more than I would admit to myself.
“Sit down Erin.” I went to sit on the chair, but he eyed the floor. So, sitting on my knees he started talking.
“If you’d have stayed hidden this would be so much easier. But now, one way or another, you’re fucked. Zack isn’t to be messed with, Erin.” He was getting visibly angry now, like it was MY fault.
“Then just kill me.”
“If I am of no use to you, kill me. You used me before, use me again. Do what you want, I don’t care.”
“Don’t be foolish, Erin.”
“I heard it for myself. In training for what? What’s the point if you knew I had to die? Why keep me alive?! Kill me now, save yourself this regret!” I was shouting at him, loudly, my voice breaking.
“I’m not going to kill you.”
“So you’ll leave it to your brother? Why wait?!” I was standing up now, getting closer to his face. My rage was bubbling up inside of me.
“Why assault me, keep me prisoner, if all he had to do was pull the trigger? Swing the blade? Choke me?” I pushed him on every sentence I made, venom so strong in my voice that it even hurt me.
He grabbed my wrists, holding them in front of me.
“Because I can’t, Erin.”
“Why not?! Do it! Just do it!”
“Because I fucking love you!” I froze, all of my anger bubbled away.