Obviously having noticed I’m not behind him anymore, it takes a few moments, but he clears his throat right at my back. I don’t look to him. I can’t. Literally. I’m a moth drawn to a flame. This room is…is beautiful. I’ve found my temporary happy place . I feel his curious gaze on me and answer his unasked question. “It’s beautiful.” This comes out strained.
Looking over my head and into the room, Nox sighs. Not an annoyed sigh but more of a relaxed sigh. “Yeah. I like it too.”
Books everywhere . The walls are lined with them. I’m not talking a couple of book cases, but wall-to-wall books. And it’s not like it’s a small room either; it could double as a ballroom. The walls are actually shelved and I can’t see any free space. I wonder aloud in awe, “How many books do you think there are?”
His voice carries a hint of amusement when he replies, “At least ten thousand.”
And my ovaries explode .
Slightly weak-kneed, I hold onto the doorframe and choke out, “Wow.”
I know it’s highly unusual for people to get this excited over books. But if you’re a reader, you get me . I don’t need movies. I don’t need TV. But books…I can’t live without books. To me, a book is better than any movie. All I need is a good book, my imagination, and I am set free. I’m in literature heaven. And thank God, this may be the only thing that keeps me sane while we’re here.
“You’ll have plenty of time to read while you’re here. C’mon.” With loose hands on my hips, he pushes me along. I look back in the doorway one last time and mouth ‘I love you.’
Oh, screw sleep. I have to explore that room once I’m unstinky.
He squeezes my hips to stop me from walking and pushes me left into a bedroom.
I feel the concealed amusement coming off Nox in waves. And I get it. He thinks I’m going to hate this room. Well, screw you, buddy, because I so don’t. I know I may not look like a girly-girl but the truth is, I don’t really mind that stuff; I just can’t be bothered with it normally. I’m usually so busy with work, that all I want to do when I get home is curl up on the sofa with a good book.
Reading trumps anything.
On occasion, I like to listen to music of my mp3 player, but I don’t have it with me, so I guess reading is all I have. And I’ll take it. Gladly.
Walking forward, I face-plant on my bed with a huge sigh. Rolling over, I stare up at the top of the soft pink four-poster bed. The window has been left open, no doubt to try to get rid of the musty, unoccupied smell, and I watch as the wind moves the sheer draping.
I really do like this bed.
Sitting up, I look around at my new room. It’s simple. It’s tidy. It’s similar to my old room at what I like to call the ‘normal’ house, which is, of course, the house we lived in before dad moved us into the mansion formerly known as Alcatraz two-point-oh.
There is an open door that I can see leads to a sparkling bathroom with a shower. Next to the bed is a white wooden night stand; there’s a small walk-in closet and a smallish white dresser. Which suddenly reminds me, “I like the room. Thank you. But what am I going to do for clothes?”
Nox watches me through furrowed brows. His silence feels more like an interrogation. I hate that he has that effect on me, with nothing but a glance. Shit. I lower my gaze and hear him step into the room; the sound of drawer scraping open makes me look up.
The dresser is full of clothes. Knowing Nox for the short time I have, I’d say he’s efficient enough to have those clothes in the exact size I need them. Looking him in the eye, I blurt out, “How long have you known I’d be kept here?”
I wait for an answer, but of course, the answer to my question is yet another curious glance in my direction.
Man, this guy is giving me the creeps.
Clearing my throat, I stand. “Okay, well, I’m going to shower now, so if you wouldn’t mind-” I wait for him to get the hint and leave.
But he doesn’t.
I try again. “Showering will commence in approximately one minute, Nox.” And he still doesn’t move. I’m suddenly nervous. Wide-eyed, I lean closer and hiss, “You are not coming into the bathroom with me while I shower!”
Thankfully, I notice his lip twitch reaffirming that he is not a droid and indeed human. He steps forward a second before he stops himself and takes two steps back towards the door, watching me all the while. Once he’s out of my room, I breathe a sigh of relief. He booms from down the hall, “Ten minutes, darlin’.” My nose scrunches and I step toward the bathroom. Just as I shut the door, I hear him shout again, “Or I’m comin’ in after you.”
Turning on the hot water, I sigh.
I gotta get out of here.
Coming out of the shower, I wrap the towel around my body as tightly as I can. Walking out of the bathroom, I stare at the door and wonder just how long I would have to myself before the door was thrown open. I decide to do an experiment. I call this experiment Captive Throwdown.
Walking over to the door, I close it, taking my time so as to not make a sound. Once it’s shut, I open the dresser drawers, take out a pair of simple white underwear and a matching plain bra, remove the tags, then step into the panties.
As soon as I reach down to pull the panties up my legs, the door swings open. I see a scowling Nox, but when he sees the position I’m in, his scowl disappears to be replaced with a slightly gaping mouth.
I’m mortified. But the look on his face tells me he’s possibly just as mortified. Maybe more. And I certainly got the results of my experiment. Forcing down my flush to no avail, I clear my throat and check my watch. Nodding with pursed lips, I say clinically, “Forty seconds, give or take. Not bad, Nox.”
Wide-eyed with a furrowed brow, he turns on his heel and walks out of my room, the open door gaping. Not a second later, he returns and closes the door almost to the latch, leaving only an inch open. And I smirk. Pulling my panties all the way up from under the towel, I chuckle.
I guess I won that round.
Sitting in the library, wearing the biggest, dorkiest smile I can muster, I can confirm that this is heaven. It’s a shame I’ll have to leave here. And soon. Nox says he’s protecting me, but I can’t trust him.
I won’t trust him.
It’s true that I haven’t been treated poorly in the short time I’ve been here, but I can’t help but feel I’m being duped. If he would just let me speak to my father or sister, I wouldn’t have to do what I’m doing.
I take three books off the shelf and go back to my room. During the course of the evening, I take small bits of food and bottled water and stash them in a pillowcase hidden in the depths of my closet.
The time reads 11:51pm when Nox appears at my doorway, checking in as he has been the whole night. I look up at him and force a yawn. “I think I’m going to go to sleep. Today was a long day.”
For a second, he looks apologetic before he nods and says a gruff, “G’night.” He waits until I slide under the covers and switch off the lamp, then he closes the door almost completely. I hear him walk down the hall and I’m bathed in darkness when he turns the hall light off. Now, I just need to be sure to stay awake.
I wait and wait and wait as patiently as I can. Almost an hour passes before I hear footfalls down the hall. I force my breathing to deepen and steady as if I’m asleep just as the door creaks. The door stays open a long while and I hear him sigh before closing the door almost fully again. The sounds of footsteps walking away from my room make my heart skip a beat.
I hop out of bed, and quiet as a mouse, I tiptoe over and reach into the back of the closet for my escape pillowcase. I creep to the doorway and listen.
Nothing. Not a sound. I’m good to go.
I carefully push the door as close to the frame as possible then walk over to the window. I know Nox put me on the second floor for a reason; I’d bet he’d never guess that I was the type to climb trees when I was younger. It’s how I broke my arm when I was younger. It hurt like a bitch. Pushing the window up as slowly as possible, I stick my hand on the mesh bug screen and push. Hard. It pops out with little force and I smirk.
Not very secure for a safe house.
Taking my pillowcase of goodies, I step out onto the ledge and look around.
Gutter, three o’clock.
Shuffling over, my heart races as I take hold of the white painted steel. I’m not exactly fond of heights. I clutch the gutter tightly but my hands sweat so much that I can’t get a good grip.
I wonder what would happen if I fell? Would I land on my feet?
I think that’s a great way to break your feet. You are not a cat. You know this, right?
Hmmm. True. I close my eyes and try to steady myself by taking deep breaths.
It’s now or never. Don’t be a chickenshit, just do it.
Okay. I wipe my hands on my sweats and clasp the gutter again. Lifting one sneaker-covered foot, I check the grip I can get on it. It’s not bad. Not great, either. I start to climb down, chanting softly, “Foot. Hand. Foot. Hand.”
Half way down, I smile when I realize I’m almost there. Just as I mentally cheer, my grip comes loose, my eyes widen and I mouth ‘oh shit.’ Then I fall backwards into air and it almost feels like time stops. Everything passes in slow motion. It takes what feels like hours before my back connects with the ground. The thud rattles my brain. I wheeze and double over.
Tears blur my vision as my body throbs with pain. The pressure builds in my ears and I gasp when I can finally take in a breath. Shaking my head, I stand on wobbly legs, look around, and then run. I run fast and the heavy pillowcase slaps me on the back with every step I take away from the house. My escape loot suddenly feels heavier and heavier. In a panic, I throw it to the side and run faster.
My heart plummets into my gut when I see a wall in the distance.
A very high wall. Perhaps twelve-feet tall.
I run the length of the wall looking for some form of exit. My heart races and my face flushes in aggravation.
No. No. No!
This wasn’t meant to happen! I need to get out of here.
I approach what seems to be the only exit to this house and, fuck my life, it’s manned. Two men inside a small room sit and talk while watching what looks to be a CCTV of some kind. Oh, damn. I didn’t know there would be cameras here. I hadn’t factored that in. I stand and run in the opposite direction toward the back of the house. It takes about four minutes in a full sprint. This house is damn big.
I’m sweating, I’m frustrated, and I’m about to give up when angels sing in my ear. A gate. There’s a damn gate! Thank you, Jesus!
Smiling big, I place my hands on the lever handle and push down.
Shit! No! NO!
The effing gate is locked! My throat clogs and I choke out a sob, while pressing down the lever hard and fast repeatedly as if that’ll somehow make it unlock. Tears fall down my face and I nod in resolve. Only one thing to do now.
Climb the wall.
Lifting my foot high to the lever handle of the gate, I let out a yelp when something grips my ponytail tight as well as the waist of my pants and drags me backwards. Reaching up, I hold onto the strong hand that still holds my ponytail firmly. I’m being dragged along like a freakin’ dog. My mouth opens and filth spews out, “Let go of me, you fucker! I knew you were full of shit! Protecting me, my ass!”
Suddenly, I’m thrown by my hair onto the porch. My scalp throbs. I look up and I almost wish I hadn’t. A fuming Nox stands in front of me. Through gritted teeth, he hisses, “Get in the fuckin’ house, Lily.”
Standing on unsteady legs, I stand as tall as I can and whisper shakily, “No.”
“Get in the house.” His cheek tics.
A little stronger, I repeat myself, “No.” My voice strained.
The veins in his neck bulge when he roars, “Get in the fucking house!”
My entire body jerks in shock and I shut my eyes tightly. Bringing my balled fists up to my temples, I screech, “No! You can’t make me!”
My nose tingles and I hate myself for wanting to feel the sweet release of the tears that are stuck behind my closed eyes.
A soft hand gently squeezes my shoulder. I hear Boo tell Nox, “Go on. I’ll take her inside.”
Boo’s hands gently pry my fists away from my head. She coos, “Come on, Deedee. Let’s go up to your room and have a little talk.”
I’m devastated. I just want to go home. I choke on a sob, “I want to talk to my dad.”
Boo nods, “Okay. Let me talk to Nox. I’ll do my best, but,” she looks around cautiously, “you’ve seen him. If he says no, it means no.”
Putting her arm around my waist, she guides me up the stairs and into my room. I’m too exhausted to argue and let her lead me gently but firmly. Once we reach my room, I throw myself on the bed dramatically and she chuckles, “So, you went all MacGyver, huh?”
My top lip twitches and I have the insane urge to burst into laughter. I explain, “No way. If I were MacGyver, I totally would’ve gotten away. MacGyver is badass.”
Boo walks around the bed and lays on it next to me. “You know, I had the biggest crush on MacGyver when I was younger. I don’t know whether it was his wittiness or that silky blonde mullet, but,” she sighs, “I really had it bad for him.”
My twitch turns into a smile, “Although the silky mullet is mighty tempting, I think it was his scrappiness I liked most.”
Boo blinks. “Scrappiness? What the hell is scrappiness?”
I roll my eyes at her. “Oh, c’mon! He could use anything normal and make it extraordinary. He was scrappy!”
Her brows rise and she nods. “Scrappy. I like it.”