8 | Grey Area
Evening sneaks up on me. After the incident this morning I have no perception of time, unbothered to look at a clock or keep track of the hours passing by. All of a sudden, it seems, the sky decides to darken.
I sit on the couch, watching but not paying attention to a movie playing on the television. Terrence had kept me company although I wasn’t much for eye contact or conversation. I’m all thoughts and possibilities, consumed by what-if’s and why-not’s. At some point he got a call and left the room but returned as soon as the interaction was over.
Terrence had gotten up at some point although I cannot exactly recall when to begin making dinner. It’s a stir fry of sorts. I can smell jasmine rice and hear him cutting up the vegetables. Terrence enjoyed cooking for people and was a master of the kitchen. My sister, although not much of a cook herself, had a knack for baking. Dinner and dessert at their place years ago was lethal.
“Blythe,” Terrence calls to me. I purse my lips and exhale, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. I make no move to acknowledge him so he calls me again. ”Blythe, I know you can hear me.”
“No I can’t,” I respond. He thinks it’s funny and laughs. I wasn’t trying to be funny.
“Very funny,” he stops chopping for a moment. “I have a bag of shrimp that needs to be peeled. Come in here and help me. I’ll set up a station for you.”
I quirk a brow and look over at Terrence who is already looking at me, too. He mimics my eyebrow and there’s a look of challenge in his eyes that I want to outdo. I express no interest and turn back to the television. I sweep my hair over one shoulder then sit still.
“Alright,” Terrence says. I expect to hear him going back to chopping vegetables but he does not resume this.
Instead I hear him rummaging around; a bag crinkles, metal bowls clink together, a cupboard door slams. It sounds as though he sets what he has grabbed on the island and then begins making his way over to me. I glance up at him as he nears. He stands in front of me but makes no move to grab me.
“Get up. I would like to speak to you,” he demands monotonously.
“You can speak to me while I’m here, can’t you?” I ask, attempting to sound brave but my voice is small.
“I would not like to speak to you while you are in the other room. I want you to be in the same room as me.”
My eyes harden to stone and I want to be defiant. I do not want to accommodate or appease him. Last time I did so he kissed me. I do not want him to think he has the green light to do it again. Terrence seems to be able to read my mind.
“I’m not going to try kissing you again,” he reassures me. “it’s okay, Sunshine."
I can’t stop myself from grimacing. I do not want to obey his commands but at the same time I know that arguing gets me no further than obeying. So I stand and take the long way around Terrence and sit myself at the island where there is a bag of shrimp and two small metal bowls. The shrimp has been thawing for a while and the bag is wet, cold against my fingers as I rip it open. Terrence comes back into the kitchen.
“I’ll dump the shells in the garbage once you’re done. Thank you for doing this for me,” he says as though I am doing him a favor that could alter his life in some way. “I know how difficult it is for you to be around me.”
I say nothing, just begin to peel the shrimp. The odor immediately seeps into the room, an odor I haven’t smelt in a while, so my nose scrunches until it no longer seems shocking. Terrence must have caught this moment because he laughs. I glance at him through my eyelashes just as he turns his back to me.
He sets his cutting board on the other side of the island across from me and stands in between the two chairs. He settles in quickly, chopping, much more adroit with his hands then I am with mine. I’m a bit sloppy; fingers slippery, nails not long enough, accidentally ripping the poor shrimp in half trying to remove the tail. No wonder Terrence wants to watch me to do this: I’m so bad at it.
“Lawrence will be joining us tonight,” he tells me. “When I’m finished cleaning up after dinner, him and I will be leaving for a few hours.”
I quirk a brow. I feel my anxiety spike right away. No mention of Spencer; of myself, even. My fingers begin to shake.
“Oh,” I spit out, trying to play it cool. It’s only natural Terrence sees through my façade.
“I can sense you don’t like what you’re hearing and because of that I think it’s fair to say you know what I am implying,” I lick my lips and nod. “I don’t like it just as much as you. I tried to do some flipping around but to no avail. I trust that Spencer won’t hurt you. However, I still want you to keep your guard up.”
“If you trust that he won’t hurt me then why do you still want me to keep my guard up?”
Terrence stops chopping the vegetables. I don’t look up until a few moments have passed and he hasn’t resumed. As soon as I meet his dark eyes I gulp and drop my chin, peeling the shrimp at a faster rate. My fingers tremble more violently. He begins chopping the vegetables again.
“It’s just an extra precaution. You know how he is. He’s a bit unpredictable. I wouldn’t think too much of it, Sunshine.”
“What if he does do something?” I ask on the off chance Terrence is wrong. He knows his brother better than I do but I’m always prickled by his presence regardless. “Then what?”
“I don’t think he will do anything—”
“You keep saying you have trust in the fact that, or you think that, he won’t do anything,” I can’t help the edge of trepidation in my voice. “That sounds awfully close to blind faith and if it turns out you put your trust or thinking in the wrong place then what happens? Do you have a plan B?”
Ever calm is Terrence, unfazed by my urgency. I find it infuriating. Terrence is superior in size to Spencer; an inch or two taller and broader. He can fend him off if need be. I don’t have the same upper hand.
“Forgive me for my ambiguity in that case. Nothing will happen to you. Spencer has an affinity for you and although I can’t comprehend it myself I know for a fact he does not want to do anything stupid with you.”
He stops chopping again. I look up. He is finished cutting all the vegetables and so he sweeps them off the cutting board and into the big frying pan that has been cooking chicken. I don’t have many shrimp left to peel but feeling as though I’m under a time crunch I begin to peel even faster. My eyebrows knit with focus.
“I just don’t want you to become too comfortable around him,” Terrence adds, stirring in the vegetables. “He’s the kind of person you don’t want to give your belly to.”
“Where are you and Lawrence going, anyway?” I ask.
“It’s a work-related thing.”
I think of the connection between my abduction, Beth, and what Terrence does for a living. It is apparent that Beth is aware of what he does for work although she never revealed to me what it was. It wasn’t my business, anyway. He wasn’t my husband.
“What do you do for work, anyway?” I ask after I’ve finished peeling the last shrimp. I take the bag and bowls and bring them over to the counter near the stove. Terrence takes the bag and shrimp shells and dumps them in the garbage. I wash my hands and return back to my perch at the island.
“I do odd jobs here and there.”
“Odd jobs that involve things such as people as collateral, shady favors and kidnapping?”
“I never claimed to make an honest living,” he says sharply. “But it’s not as black and white as you may think.”
“I don’t care what shade it is,” I return with just the same wit. “What do you do?”
He turns around and faces me. He wants me to drop it but I’m far too indignant. I know the title isn’t as important as the task but for some reason it...is.
“Sunshine, if I told you what I did for a living you would never stop walking on eggshells,” he crosses his arms over his chest, muscles bulging. It comes across as threatening although I realize it’s unintentional. “Don’t ask questions where deep down you know you don’t really want to hear the answers.”
“But I do want to hear the answers! I’m already walking on eggshells. I—”
“Blythe, drop it,” he snaps.
The tone of his voice silences me immediately and I drop my eyes to my hands wringing in my lap. I want to flee to the couch but suddenly there is a knock at the door. My eyes go wide and I turn to look over my shoulder to see who has arrived. Of course, without surprise, Terrence informs me that Lawrence is here. He walks to the door and lets him in.
Lawrence steps in and Terrence leaves him behind to return to cooking. I can’t help but home in on Lawrence as he removes his footwear and begins making his way to the island. He doesn’t make direct eye contact with me once and I can only look away as he sits down adjacent to me. He doesn’t greet me or acknowledge my presence.
Terrence whips together a sauce for the stir-fry. It’s cripplingly awkward. They don’t have much to say to one another and no one has anything to say to me. Lawrence had always been the quiet brother as far as I remember but never to the point of being unable to make or carry a conversation. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say to save an atmosphere.
As Terrence lets the stir-fry sit he sets the island. Lawrence says something to him as he bends down to place his plate in front of him although I can’t hear what it is. Whatever it is Terrence glances at me, shakes his head and answers no. I want to ask but refrain.
He sits with us for a few minutes and makes idle chitchat with Lawrence. He tries to include me but I’m not receptive of his attempts, smiling dismissively or shrugging. I can’t stop staring at Lawrence, unable to read him or pick up on any semblance of an aura.
Terrence announces something but I do not hear it. He gets up and turns into the hallway, opening a door and then calling up Spencer. The food is ready. Every second brings me closer and closer to being alone with him. I want to prolong everything but am powerless to do so. Terrence runs a tight schedule, inflexible to change.
Terrence comes back with Spencer in tow. I turn around and feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have no sense of appetite. My mouth is dry as I face the island again. I think of the inevitable and feel such dread.
Terrence comes up behind me and I jump, startled easily. He grabs my plate and tells me he’s going to get it for me and I’m grateful. Just as I calm down from Terrence’s approach, however, Spencer decides to follow in his footsteps. He places his hand on my shoulder and I swivel around so quickly he backs away with both of them held in surrender.
He says nothing, just smirks as he walks away, maintaining eye contact. Although his brothers both have brown eyes, Spencer has eyes grey like storm clouds. They are true grey, no hints or undertones of blue, as though he is empty of any life and color. I am only able to look away when Terrence places my plate back in front of me and then grabs his own.
Everyone sits down and begins eating but I have trouble taking my first bite. I stir my food around, trying to make it look more appetizing, but it looks as edible as gruel. It smells amazing but it is not enough to make me want to eat.
“Not your forte?” asks Spencer.
In response to his question, however, I instinctively cease playing with my food. I take the first bite and swallow without chewing. I feel the burn on the way down and I wince but take another bite...and then another...and another.
I’m trying to keep up my energy. Spencer is my biggest motivator only because I want to ensure I’m as capable as possible when I’m alone with him tonight. I eat without tasting, focusing more on feeling full as opposed to satisfied. I finish my plate around the same time as everyone else but in all fairness I had the most humble helping.
Terrence and Lawrence begin cleaning up, leaving Spencer and I at the island. I have no idea what to do so I just sit there, avoiding Spencer’s unwavering focus.
“You can go back to the living room,” Terrence tells me. I do so right away, nestling myself into the far corner of the couch. I stare blankly ahead at the television, ignoring how Spencer doesn’t discontinue his gawking. I feel more out of place now than I did waking up for the first time in the bedroom.
It isn’t much longer until Spencer comes and joins me, sitting in the middle of the cushion on the other side of the couch. The remote is wedged in between the two cushions and Spencer reaches for it, changing the channel.
“I figured you weren’t much into the movie,” he says, finding another channel with a different movie. The Usual Suspects. It’s only just beginning, too. “Ever seen this movie before?”
I know he isn’t paying much attention to the movie so I nod. I saw it once with mum. I couldn’t sleep one night when I was younger and so I woke up for a glass of water but heard talking from the living room. Upon investigating I found my mum with a bowl of popcorn and the talking was from her movie. Despite my tender age, she invited me to come watch with her. I didn’t understand it much then. I doubt I’ll take the time to now, either.
Once the kitchen is done being cleaned, Terrence and Lawrence make preparations to leave. They turn down the hallway and enter into one of the rooms after Lawrence puts on his boots and jacket, rummaging around. Once finished it is only Terrence who comes back and in the background Lawrence can be heard exiting through what I assume is the garage door. They’re being very conspicuous about whatever work it is they have to do tonight.
“Blythe, come here,” Terrence calls out to me.
Finding him the lesser of two evils, I listen and follow closely behind him to the front door where he too puts on his boots and jacket; a black trench coat. Come to think of it, both Terrence and Lawrence are clad head to toe in black. It’s beginning to get pitch-dark outside, too. It’s as though they’re attempting to blend in with the night.
An engine starts outside and I look out of the wide window beside the door to see a work truck. I squint at the headlights but recognize it.
“That’s Lawrence’s vehicle,” I sort out loud. “and he lives in that house on the hill.”
“Yes, that is correct,” says Terrence, looking down at me. The height difference is uncanny. “and now, Sunshine, I must go.”
I ask him the one question I never thought I’d ask him: “do you have to go?”
He nods and looks just as displeased as I feel. I purse my lips and look down at the ground, lacing my hands behind my back as my stomach begins doing somersaults. Just as soon fingers grab my chin and tilt my head up. I am receptive, finding that I want to delay his leaving as long as I can. Of course, it only buys me a couple additional seconds.
“I’ll be back before you know it and then you’ll be right back to hating me, Sunshine,” Terrence says fondly, quietly. “It’s not the end of the world. Just don’t let your guard down and wait up for me if you can.”
“What happens if I can’t?”
“Then you can’t. Go to my bedroom and lock the door. I would just feel better if you tried.”
I nod slowly, accepting my fate.
“Alright,” he mimics.
He bends down and presses a kiss to my forehead, exhaling into my hair. I can’t help but close my eyes as he does this, holding onto the last moments until it is just Spencer and I. I graze my teeth along my bottom lip but become stoic when Terrence pulls away. He releases my chin and looks at Spencer.
“Take good care of her,” he warns, as though the warning is substantial.
“She’s in good hands,” he says, uninterested in us, as he waves a hand at Terrence in lazy farewell.
Terrence looks back down at me and offers a small smile. I do not return it and so he takes it as his cue to leave. He tells me to lock the door behind him and so I do, sealing myself into the house alone with Spencer. I watch through the window as Terrence gets into the truck with Lawrence and drives off with him. I feel as isolated and trapped as ever, a grim feeling washing over me. I wish to be able to drive off, too.
“Oh come on, Sunshine,” Spencer’s voice is dripping with mockery. “don’t be shy. We have a lot of catching up to do.”