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Three days passed with no real interactions from Michael. The day after he came down the stairs and spoke about his fiancée, he threw another water bottle down the stairs and locked the door without saying anything. Still no food, aside from the single meal nearly a week ago. Her body was significantly weaker from the lack of nourishment.

There had been no noise coming from upstairs for hours, and Cat decided she would pass the time by counting, trying to see how high of a number she could reach before she heard noises again.

“Six hundred and fifty-four, six hundred fifty-five, six fifty-six, six fifty-seven…” She was counting under her breath, but it was still enough to fill the silence.

At least, until she heard someone whisper, “Oh, my god. Just shut up.”

“Six hundred and fifty- wait, what?”

“Shut up,” the voice repeated. “You’re driving me crazy.”

Cat’s stomach turned and she forced herself to swallow the sour taste in her mouth. “Who are you? How long have you been here?”

“I got thrown in here last night while you were sleeping. I’m Jenna.”

“Jenna? My name’s Cat.”

“Nice to meet you, considering the circumstances.”

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”

“I don’t know. I guess- I guess I was scared.”

Cat tried to look around to see her new companion but couldn’t make out any foreign figures in the small room. “Where are you?”

“I’m behind the plastic bins?”

“Which side?”


After she strained her eyes a bit, she could see the top half of Jenna’s face peeking up over a container. Her hair was a pale, curly blonde and she had wide, almond-shaped eyes—physical details Cat noticed contrasted her own darker features.

“Are you all right?”

Jenna nodded. “You?”

Cat shrugged. “I’m hungry and thirsty and a little sore, but I’ll live.”

“Do you think he’ll come back soon?”

Cat shook her head. “I don’t know. He comes in every few days, but it’s not like he’s on a schedule or anything.”

“How long have you been down here?”

“I don’t know. I try to keep track of how many days have passed with the light but- but I don’t know for sure. A week? Maybe ten days? I’m just glad I’m not stuck in here alone anymore, no offense. I’m going stir-crazy.” She stared up at the ceiling. “So, um, what do you do out there? You know, in the real world.”

“I’m a waitress. College dropouts don’t get very many career options.”

Cat looked back at the top of Jenna’s head. “Dropout?”

“Yep. I was failing all my classes, and I wasn’t going to get my deposits back on them, so I just dropped out and got a job to pay back my uncle.” The corners of her eyes wrinkled in what Cat assumed to be a smile. “But hey, I gave it a shot, right? I’ve got three semesters more than half my high school class.”

“I guess so. What about family?”

Jenna shook her head. “Parents are dead, no siblings, no kids. My mom’s parents are dead and my dad’s are too sick, so my uncle took care of me.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“What about you?”

Cat looked away and sighed. “I’ve got my parents and my sister. We’re not very close.”

“Do you think they’re looking for you?” Jenna’s voice was hopeful, which made Cat’s stomach drop.

“I hope so.”

“Did you hear that?”

Cat roused from her nap with a start before she squinted, both from the light from a new day and from her efforts to focus. Footsteps and keys. “He’s coming down.”

A sharp pain radiated from her stomach with every deadbolt click. She hoped he would bring down food. Finally, the door swung open and Michael came down the stairs, carrying a single banana, causing her mouth to salivate. She would take it.

“Is that for me?” Cat’s eyes were wide.

The corners of his mouth turned up. “Yes, I brought this for you.”


“Yes, on one condition: you must give me a kiss to get it.”

There was triumph in Michael’s eyes and she realized that leaving her down in the basement with nothing to eat had been part of his convoluted plan. Still, her stomach was painfully hollow.

Tears pricked at her eyes again and she saw Jenna vigorously shaking her head when she glanced over in her direction. She could almost hear Jenna’s voice in her head saying, No, don’t do it. It isn’t worth it!

But Jenna hadn’t been starving for a week, so Cat looked back up at Michael, her mouth sour as she said, “Okay.”

The smile on his face was sickening and Cat tried her hardest not to grimace. She was desperate for food and couldn’t stand to wait any longer to eat.

As he leaned in, Cat closed her eyes. Maybe if she couldn’t see his face, she could picture someone else kissing her, like Chris Hemsworth or Ricky Whittle or the guy who played Bender in The Breakfast Club.

His lips were soft but the kiss was hard, forceful, and too slobbery for Cat to pretend it was anyone else. The displeasure shattered her illusion and she forced herself not to flinch or fight. She would get that banana, no matter what it cost.

It was agonizing but he finally pulled away and Cat looked longingly at the fruit in his hand. With another smile, he dropped it into her lap. “See, if you obey, you get rewarded. Good girl.”

His words stung and she was bursting with expletives she could not allow to escape from her lips.

Jenna looked at her with pity and, Cat could have sworn, with disappointment.

Michael didn’t even glance in Jenna’s direction before he ascended the stairs and locked the door behind him, after which Cat burst into tears and tore at the banana peel with desperation. When she finally released it, she took as big of a bite as she could handle and slowly began to chew, savoring the taste. When it was pure mush, she swallowed and more tears ran down her face.

“Was it worth it?”

Cat looked over at Jenna and briefly considered tossing part of the banana in her direction, but quickly dismissed the idea. If she missed, neither one of them would be able to reach it and it would go to waste. She sighed and nodded before she took another bite.

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