She didn’t remember being taken. She had been at the grocery store, ready to put her bags into the trunk of her car, and suddenly she was waking up in an unfamiliar room and in varying amounts of pain. Her knees and the palms of her hands were scraped; her eyes stung and strained to see in minimal light; her throat was sore; there was a dull pain at the base of her neck; her stomach was achingly hollow.
The room itself was small, concrete, possibly a basement. There was a window on the wall opposite the stairs that looked too small to fit more than a single leg through. The door was wood, but there were three deadbolts. One of her hands was handcuffed to a pipe that ran on the wall with the window. Plastic tubs were stacked on the walls to the right and left of her. A refrigerator stood to the right of the stairs, humming and tormenting her with the prospect of a cool, refreshing drink.
Worst of all, she could hear jazz playing in the house above her. Whoever had taken her was simply enjoying themselves, listening to music, and quite possibly savoring a turkey sandwich and some lemonade.
She was tempted to scream. What good would that do, though? The music would drown her out. For all she knew, she was in a secluded house in the middle of the woods. Maybe she was in the basement of a house in a neighborhood of serial killers. Who would know that Caterina Danvers, the insignificant secretary at a realtor’s office and inadequate daughter of an obstetrician, was handcuffed to a cold, rusty pipe?
The footsteps above her got louder before the music stopped. The silence was deafening and when the footsteps resumed, Cat flinched. With every step, she grew more anxious.
Then, she heard keys. One entered the first deadbolt—click. The second—click. The third—click.
When the door swung open, Cat couldn’t make out her captor’s features. The light from behind made him appear as a darkened figure looming over her. Still, he was tall and of average build and as he descended the stairs, limping slightly, his features became clearer. Dark hair, a domineering brow, and pale, intense, unforgettable eyes. Eyes Cat recognized all too well.
“Oh, so you do recognize me. Good.” He smiled, revealing his teeth, including the single crooked canine on the left of his mouth. “I was afraid you’d have a bit of a concussion.”
Cat’s chest constricted and her voice cracked. “You kidnapped me?”
His smile disappeared. “Now, don’t be throwing words like that around, Cat. You’re here as a guest.”
“I’m handcuffed to a pipe in your basement. Do you treat all your guests like this?”
Michael crouched down next to her. “Aren’t you glad I didn’t keep you outside in the cold?”
Cat scoffed and, in a moment of bravery, said, “Sure, but I’m not a dog to be chained up either. I’d be more grateful if you let me go.”
Michael’s smile was forced now. “That’s not going to happen, darling.”
“Because you don’t understand. I’m doing this for us.”
“For us? What ‘us’? There is no ‘us,’ and there never will be.”
He shook his head. “No, that’s where you’re wrong. You don’t see it now, but we’re meant to be together. You’ll understand.”
Cat’s stomach turned. “Stockholm Syndrome. That’s your plan? Keep me here until I develop feelings for you?”
“You’ll learn to love me, Cat.”
Michael’s eyes hardened and his hand collided with Cat’s cheek, slamming her head into the pipe. Her vision darkened; footsteps moved away and up the stairs.
“Cat. Hey, Cat, wake up.”
Her head throbbed as she opened her eyes ever so slightly. It took a moment for her eyes to focus on the face in front of her. It actually looked like Michael was concerned as he examined her scalp for an injury.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. How’s your head?”
“Hurts,” she croaked out before she cleared her throat. “Can I- water, please.”
He nodded and stood up, walking over to the fridge. When he opened the door, Cat’s mouth started to water. It had been filled with water bottles, just as she imagined. He grabbed one and walked back to where she was cuffed, crouched down, and handed it over.
She suppressed a moan as she drank, but her eyes closed and she slumped back against the wall.
He sounded amused, which snapped Cat back to reality, and she nodded in response.
He smiled, dimples indenting his cheeks. “Good. So how do you feel?”
“My head hurts. Can I get some painkillers?”
Again, he nodded and made his way up the stairs. He was only gone for a moment before he hobbled down the stairs and held his hand out to her. She took the small white pills and swallowed them.
“What do you say, Cat?”
The way his eyes bored into her caused a chill to run down her spine. The words were bitter in her mouth as she said, “Thank you.”
His smile widened, then he walked up the stairs and locked the door with three successive clicks.
When Cat opened her eyes, she was lying on the floor and her head was pounding again. “Hello? Could I get some water, please? And more painkillers?”
Even though she could hear movement upstairs, Michael made no appearance in the basement doorway.
She would give almost anything to hear her parents bickering over dirty dishes in the sink. To see her sister showing off her 3-carat engagement ring. To listen to the endless ringing of phones at the office. To hear her neighbor bitching about how his hip needed replacing.
Her chest shuddered and she wiped tears onto her arms.
Michael hadn’t given her any more water, so her mouth was still dry, her throat sore, and her head dizzy. The hum of the fridge seemed particularly mocking.
Mmmmmmmm… Cold liquids. Mmmm… Refreshing drinks. Mmmm… Not for you. Mmmmmm… Water. Mmm… You can’t have any. Mmmmmm…..
Her body was heavy and she slid back into unconsciousness, lulled to sleep by the cruel hum.
Michael had often come into the office to do repairs on the breaker. Each time he came in, Cat put up with his disruptions with a polite smile on her face, but she always declined his dinner invitations.
She would have remembered him as the guy who told corny electrical jokes, who made all the other women in the office blush, and who would bring in his own homemade lunches and heat them in the microwave, filling the office with delicious aromas.
Those would have been her only memories of him. Cat would have thought of him as a pleasant man, another one she had simply rejected.
She stared up at the ceiling and listened to the noises coming from upstairs. She immediately recognized a song from South Pacific. If she hadn’t been trapped in the basement, she would almost feel compelled to commend him on his movie taste.
“My doll is as dainty as a sparrow, her figure is something to applaud.” Cat sang along to the music, which, despite everything, was putting her in a good mood. “Where she’s narrow, she’s as narrow as an arrow. And she’s broad where a broad should be broad.”
Even if she got out of there, she would probably never be able to watch that movie again without feeling sick to her stomach.“One hundred and one pounds of fun, that’s my little honey bun! Get a load of honey bun tonight…”