Charlotte peered out the window. The inner portion of town was becoming smaller and smaller from view. She always referred to it as the inner portion because that was where most of the population resided. Tall, two-story houses lined every street. Young children ran across their slip-and-slides, water bouncing and colliding with their youthful bodies and toothless smiles. Ahh, to be young again.
Most of the stores and shopping centers were a mere mile walk from most houses. Small population. Small town. That’s how she liked it. Charlotte was born and raised here, and although most of her childhood friends had moved away, Charlotte couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. Granted, the ‘closeness’ of the town often gave rise to irritating occurrences. But on the whole, everyone in her town loved her and protected her. It was one big, and yes – at times, dysfunctional - family.
Charlotte felt tears well up in her throat. So why aren’t they protecting me now?
The houses from town were nothing more than tiny dots winking in and out of her vision. Like fruit flies in amongst a large pantry of fruit. Replacing them now were fields. Miles and miles of fields full of corn and beans. The sun shown down on the green stalks, the wind swaying them back and forth.
The way they moved reminded her of a dance. She had studied ballet before, meticulously learning the way the limbs transitioned from modes of transportation into whimsical extensions of the body. But it required hard work and dedication to make it look so smooth and delicate. Hour upon hour of dance and sweat in the studio was what it took to make an extraordinary ballerina. And yet in nature, all it took was a little wind to transform a field of corn into a superlative ballet troupe. So beautiful.
Charlotte knew they were nearing the house. She could feel it. An ominous evil feeling seemed to creep up from behind her, wrapping its arms around her shoulders. She shivered, attempting to shake it off. How many times had she done this?
Charlotte tucked her hands into her coat pockets and thought back to the wonderful morning she’d had. Scott had made her breakfast in bed. That darling. Chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, and orange juice. Granted, he wasn’t the best cook she’d ever come across, but when he was naked serving it to her, the odds were definitely in his favor.
Charlotte let a small smile slip onto her lips. She hadn’t been hungry. Whenever this day of the week arrived, Charlotte didn’t have much of an appetite. Scott knew that. But she also knew he would do whatever he could to make it less painful for her. Charlotte closed her eyes, willing herself to remember her husband’s touch. His soft caress up her thigh, his soothing lips across her neck, his stubbly whiskers raising goose bumps all across her body.
Like many times before, she wished he was here with her now. Wished he was here, if only to hold her hand until she went into the house to see the man that gave her nightmares every night of the week.
“Miss Charlotte. We’ve arrived,” Evan said quietly from the driver’s seat of the limo.
Charlotte nodded and limply grabbed for her overnight bag. Her hands latched onto the polished car door and she pushed it open grudgingly. The evening wind was picking up, the temperature dropping minute by minute. Charlotte clutched at her coat, doing her best to keep the cold out. Although only a thirty minute drive from her home, Charlotte’s legs were stiff from the ride. Perhaps that was because every one of her muscles was tensed with anxiety.
Charlotte nudged the door closed with her elbow and began the short walk to the gate of her destination house.
“Charlotte,” Evan called timidly from the driver’s seat.
Charlotte paused, tilting her head back to him. Evan’s face was tight, his eyes fearful. If it had been any other driver, Charlotte thought it would have been easier. If that were even possible. But her own brother-in-law?
This was the man that she had spent many afternoons with, talking about life and giggling over everything and nothing. She considered him a real brother. Charlotte wondered if Scott knew his own brother was the one accompanying her to the house today. Probably not. Speaking of it was forbidden.
Evan’s eyes darted to the house and then back to Charlotte. Under his breath he muttered, “I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?”
Charlotte nodded back to her brother. The two of them were being closely monitored, or else she would have said something more in return. Saying something as simple as that, however, meant far more now than she ever would have thought possible.
In Evan’s one comment, Charlotte felt hope. No matter what happened tonight, Evan would be here for her again tomorrow to take her home. From there, Scott, Evan and Charlotte would order dinner and watch movies all night. That was the tradition.
Charlotte heard the gravel crunching beneath the limo’s tires as Evan reversed out of the long driveway. Already she felt a pang of loneliness. God, please let the next twenty-four hours go by as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Keeping her eyes cast downward, Charlotte continued until she reached the front door. Chimes rang in the distance, an odd attempt at harmony in an environment full of discord. Now it was time to knock. Of course, he wouldn’t be the one to answer the door.
The shifting of camera gears buzzed to life above her head. And folks, we’re live! Charlotte refused to look at the camera she knew was now on and pointed right at her. Oh yes, he was watching her. He had probably been counting down the minutes until she arrived.
Charlotte raised her hand and gave the door three quick knocks. I wonder what he’d do if I simply turned around and started to walk home. Charlotte instantly bit her lip in frustration. Thoughts like that would lead to no good. At least he couldn’t read her mind. If he could, she’d be dead a hundred times over by now.
In a whizz of motion, the door opened and Charlotte was escorted inside by the bell boy – a man she had known since high school. He’d been in her physics class once. He was fairly well liked, if she remembered correctly. A wave of recognition flooded his eyes as he escorted Charlotte down the hallway. But he said nothing.
Charlotte glanced around the house, trying to calm her queasy stomach by admiring the fine furniture and tasteful décor. She had a sneaking suspicion that he had very little to do with the planning and labor that went into making this house all that it was. She supposed it should really be called a mansion, based on its size and appeal, but she didn’t want to give him or the house that much credit.
Charlotte had always been given the guest room on the lowest level in the farthest back left corner. She knew the route by heart. And yet, her old high school pal was taking her someplace new. If she were naive, or had allowed her mindset to travel back to a time of youth, she’d consider this to be an adventure. Instead, her sole focus was keeping down the bile rising in her throat.
“Here are your quarters for the night,” the bell boy said dully. “Sir Damien requests your presence in his chambers in precisely one hour. He has laid a gift out for you that he wishes you to wear tonight.”
Charlotte was only half listening. This new room…it was breathtaking. It was bigger than the entirety of her and Scott’s apartment. Her eyes moved slowly from one side of the room to the other.
The floor was wooden, its color dark but so clean that she could see the reflection of the furniture bouncing off of it. Tubular lights lined the floor, the ceiling and all around the base of the curved bed. Their soft purple color illuminated the room in a dazzling way.
Flowing purple drapes made of sparkling satin and silk hung loosely against the white walls. Behind the curved bed was what looked like a three dimensional maze plastered onto the wall. It carried all the way to the ceiling, its design becoming more complex as it traveled towards the front of the room. The maze was a rich purple and gave the room a millennium ambiance.
A square glass table stood directly behind the bed, its legs shiny and silver. On the table were dozens of lilac petals all circling around an elaborate vase containing a single white rose.
Across from the bed was a TV that was as tall as she was in both length and height. It was slightly hidden by the drapes, but most of it could be seen. Charlotte had never seen a TV this big in person. Sure, she’d been to the movies, but this was a giant plasma TV inside of a wall. She didn’t even know such a thing was possible. Then again, she’d always tended to be ‘behind the times,’ technologically speaking.
Charlotte grinned. Scott would have a heyday watching a football game on this.
The bell boy shifted uncomfortably next to her, bringing Charlotte back to the present. Her grin faded instantly. Scott would never see this TV, would never watch a game on it, would never know it existed at all.
Charlotte moved inside the room and began to close the door. “Ok then, I’ll see you in an hour.”
The bell boy gave a slight bow and left without another word. Charlotte turned her focus back to the room. It really is something special. And so much purple! Her eyes couldn’t get enough of it. Purple, after all, was her favorite color.
My favorite color…
Was it a coincidence? Or had he known and done this especially for her? The first thought she could grasp. The latter made her want to pop a bottle of pills. How much longer would she be able to go through this without completely losing her mind?
Again Charlotte heard a slight shift in gears as a camera was turned on somewhere near her. And just like that, he was watching her. Unlike the one by the front door, she couldn’t visibly detect the camera. Hidden cameras – who knew how many – were now trained on her every movement.
Charlotte had often thought herself as an independent, self-sufficient woman. But being here made all those qualities disappear. She felt timid and helpless. Rescue me, Scott. I need you.
She squeezed her eyes open and shut until she’d blinked away her new-forming tears. She knew Scott couldn’t help her. It wasn’t his fault though. No one could.
Taking a deep breath, Charlotte moved towards the plush cushions that were lined up neatly on the bed. A white rectangular box lay on the largest pillow, purple ribbon tied neatly around it. Charlotte undid the wrapping slowly, holding her breath to see what horrid thing resided in the box.
And it was worse than she’d expected. She couldn’t help but gape as she held up its contents. An outfit. If you could even call it that. Purple lace and see through material was really all that it consisted of. The bell boy’s words taunted the insides of her mind cruelly. “He has laid a gift out for you that he wishes you to wear tonight.”
If Charlotte had been listening fully then, perhaps she wouldn’t be so shocked now. Never before had he given a gift for her to wear. Naturally, at the beginning of all this, there were rules laying out what she could and could not wear when she was around him. Hence the purpose of the overnight bag. She was allowed to pack and wear whatever she wanted. Well, within the given limits that is.
And despite the fact that she couldn’t talk to any of the other six girls, based off the minimal exchanges she had had with them, she was one hundred percent sure that none of them had ever been presented with a gift. Especially not a gift like this.
All she wanted to do was crawl into bed and cry. No time for that though. He didn’t like to wait. One hour meant exactly one hour. Already she had wasted too many precious minutes gawking at what little clothing she’d be using to cover her body tonight.
Charlotte opened up her overnight bag, dumping out its contents and putting them to use. She knew by now just how he liked her make-up. Smokey black eye liner on both the upper and lower lid. A sparkling grey eye shadow. Lash lengthening mascara. Light pink blush across her cheek bones. Nothing on the lips.
Next was the hair. This was trickier, as he hadn’t specified to her one hair style over another. It was obvious that he wanted her to show some skin tonight. He’d most likely want her hair away from her face and neck. Charlotte threw her hair up into a high side pony tail purposely leaving out a few strands to curl.
With only three minutes to spare, Charlotte finally pulled on her clothes for the evening. There was only a small mirror so she couldn’t see how it looked. Looking down though, she could see it didn’t cover much. Charlotte gritted her teeth in frustration. The last shred of respect she had left for him – which wasn’t much to begin with - was completely gone. Her body was the only thing he had left alone. She had respected him for that.
She supposed it had just been a matter of time. The other six girls had all alluded that they each had a specific ‘job’ to do when they came here. None of them liked doing it and all of the ‘jobs’ were incredibly degrading. When Charlotte came here though, he had never laid a finger on her. Never demanded nor requested anything from her sexually.
Would all of that be changing tonight?
A knock at the door.
“Miss Charlotte, it is time. Are you ready?” the bell boy asked from behind the closed door.
Charlotte cringed realizing the bell boy would have to see her in this. Why had she been chosen for this job in the first place? Yes, she felt that she was mildly appealing. Not gorgeous, but not unattractive either. So why was she the one chosen– out of all the other girls?
The bell boy opened her door. Seeing her outfit, his eyes widened. But as fast as he reacted to her outfit, his face went blank immediately after. Could this be any more humiliating?
The bell boy blind folded Charlotte and then led her to the room in which she would be spending the remainder of her evening with him. Charlotte’s stomach had dropped when she’d seen the bell boy pull out the blind fold. The only times she was blind folded was when she was being taken directly to his personal chambers. That had happened only twice before, and both times she wished she could erase from her memory.
She heard the elevator ‘ding,’ and the doors opening promptly thereafter. She stepped out and was led a few more feet. Charlotte could feel the bell boy’s hands close to her head as he fumbled to take her blind fold off.
Her eyes quickly adjusted to the low illuminated hallway in which she was now standing. The bell boy knocked on the double doors in front of him. He then leaned his lips down close to his watch and whispered, “She has arrived.”
Slowly the doors in front of them opened. Charlotte’s heart beat wildly in her chest. It had been a while since she had been taken to his quarters. She stepped inside, the doors closing quietly behind her. The room was even darker than the hallway, the only provided light given by candlelight and a few tubular lights that were posing as frames for his wall hangings. The lights were gold and orange. Very fitting in paralleling with the colorful flames of the candles. Charlotte couldn’t see where he was, but she could feel his presence. She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, fighting the urge to cross her arms over her chest.
Charlotte went clammy and felt numb at the sound of his voice. It wasn’t the deepest voice she’d ever heard, nor the loudest. But there was a strong timbre to his voice that made it both unique and chilling. His voice was always confident, his words swift and cunning. She knew he had the ability to charm anyone. And he knew it too.
Her voice met his in volume, but as far as the confident resonance was concerned, she was lacking.
“I’m glad to see you are wearing your gift. Do you like it?”
No. I flippin’ hate it.
“It’s – uhm, no it’s nice. It just doesn’t fit me real well,” Charlotte muttered.
She heard Damien chuckle under his breath. A dark, gravely chuckle that would make the even the evilest of beings recoil with fear.
“Well, Charlotte, I think it fits you just fine. Thank you for wearing it.”
She nodded one curt nod in the direction of his voice. Instead of continuing their conversation, Damien emerged from the shadows. He sauntered towards her slowly, his eyes devouring ever inch of her. He showed neither remorse nor shame in doing so.
Charlotte remembered back to the day she’d first met him. He’d looked a couple years older than the majority of the other males that worked with him. Perhaps thirty-five or forty. After he was introduced, he gave her this extraordinary smile, expecting her to fawn over him. Hell, from what she had heard, most women threw themselves at him. Of course, that was all before they realized what a gutless, psychotic swine he really was.
And now he stood before her, willing her to look at him. To admire him, just as he had admired her minutes before. Charlotte kept her eyes downcast, but before long she could feel his cold, smooth fingers underneath her chin, lifting her head up so she could meet his gaze.
His eyes looked black as night and yet were bright with excitement. His face was masculine, his cheek bones high and his jaw strong. His hair was thick and blonde. Most of the time she’d seen him, he had kept it short. Now that it didn’t matter what his hair looked like, he had grown it out. It was a little past his ears now, his golden locks slightly wavy and pushed away from his face.
Charlotte glanced away from his face, realizing that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Instead, he had on dark silk pajama bottoms and a matching silk robe that tied low around his waist. His chest and abdomen were exposed, and although Charlotte had never seen him do anything for himself, he must have made time to work out. He body was lean, rippling with muscles from his abs, all the way up to his chest and shoulders.
She supposed she could understand why women found him so appealing. He knew that he was attractive though, and he used that to his advantage on a daily basis to get whatever he wanted. Charlotte had never been impressed by him, and now his level of appeal was equal to a pile of shit on the sidewalk.
“Did you like your new room, Charlotte?” Damien murmured, leaning in close to her. “I had it designed especially for you. I used the correct shade of purple, didn’t I?”
He designed it especially for me… Charlotte felt dizzy as she tried to figure out what Damien wanted from her, what motive he had for designing a room to her taste and her taste alone.
“Yes. It was lovely,” Charlotte responded.
Her voice was lifeless. Show him no emotion. Anger flickered through Damien’s eyes at her response.
“You’re being ungrateful, Charlotte. I made that room just for you and – “
“Why?” Charlotte blurted.
No no. Let me take it back! Charlotte was shocked with herself to have blurted out something so impulsively. She knew better by now. Instead of anger, however, Damien grinned and his features softened.
“Charlotte. I think you well know by now that it takes a lot to impress me and intrigue me. None of the other girls even remotely interest me. They come here to do a job. Once their job is done, they are sent back to their quarters. I view them as servants. They come to work, do their job, and then let me be. I hate being around them.”
Damien moved in a step closer. He was only inches away from her now, and Charlotte could feel his warm breath trekking across her face. He lifted his hand to touch her, and then stopped. He lowered his hand back to his side and continued.
“Charlotte, you are the only person in my life whom I don’t view as my servant. You, my sweet, are my equal. That’s why I moved you from those despicable rooms downstairs. You have a room of your own now. It is yours and no one else shall enter it from here on out except you.”
Charlotte felt a glimmer of hope with his words. Perhaps, if what he was saying was true, she could one day make him see reason. To make him stop all this that was turning so many peoples’ life to hell. Charlotte lifted her eyes to make contact with his and immediately her hope was squelched. His eyes were raw and hungry. Damien closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around her waist and drawing her against him. She felt him harden instantly.
Damien instructed for her to put her arms around his shoulders and like the servant she knew she was, she obeyed. He put his hand behind her head, laying her head against his chest. Despite the lack of music, Damien began swaying from side to side with Charlotte in his arms. She felt him sigh in content as he made turn after turn. Minutes ticked by and as they did, Damien’s hold on her became tighter and tighter.
Charlotte began to panic as thoughts of her beloved husband whirled through her mind. None of this was right. How do I make him stop? !
“I guess what I’m saying, Charlotte, is now that you have your own room…I suppose that makes you a guest. And as my guest, I expect to see you here more than just our scheduled time once a week.”
And there it was.
She knew there was a reason for all of this – the room, the outfit, the candlelit evening - and now she knew. He wanted more time with her. More time. She felt what little walls of comfort she had formed over the past few months crumble. Her mind was numb, vulnerable to the horrible feelings that now coursed through her body. The realization of his words were crushing.
How much more time did he want? Another day? An extra hour?
Damien pulled away from her, grabbed her hand, and led her to the bed. Obediently, Charlotte sat down. Damien lowered her the rest of the way down, his hand behind her head, his lips pressing soft kisses against her unmoving lips. His hands began to move up her thigh – slowly, gently. The kisses on her lips moved to her neck and became harder and harder.
Everything he was doing felt wrong, but at the same time felt familiar. It was like he knew exactly what she wanted, the right types of moves to turn her on and get her excited. But how could he-?
Scott and Charlotte. The two of them together. Making love. Damien must have watched them. There were hidden cameras everywhere. Charlotte had known that, but never in her wildest nightmares did she think there was one in her bedroom. The bedroom that she made love to her husband every night. But there had to be, and he had not only watched them, but he had studied them.
Charlotte began shaking, panic rising and bubbling from the inside out. Damien froze above her and looked at her, puzzled. Beads of sweat broke out over the surface of her skin.
“How much more time?” she asked meekly. “How much more of my time – Damien – are you wanting?”
Damien traced his fingers around the frame of her face, looking at her so intently it scared her.
Lowering his lips to hers he whispered every so quietly, “As much as I want.”