By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: You wake up in a room you don’t recognize with your hands tied behind your back. What the…? You’ve been kidnapped! Why? How are you going to get out of this?
Candice thought she heard a sound from the distance somewhere, but she couldn’t understand it. She felt her muscles constrict as she frowned, and then she realized she couldn’t see anything. She opened her eyes carefully. Better. But the world lay on its side.
After a few moments she realized the world was fine. She had somehow…lay down? But why would she do that? And this wasn’t her bed, that’s for sure. How did she get here? Where was she?
“Oh, good, you’re awake.”
Candice tried to twist toward the voice, and then she realized she couldn’t move her arms. Someone had tied her hands behind her back. For the first time since she’d gained consciousness, Candice felt a trickle of trepidation.
“Should I help you up? That might make things easier.”
“Rick?” Relief tumbled over the trepidation. “Is that really you? Oh, thank god you’re here.”
“Of course I’m here,” he said, coming around to crouch next to the bed and face her. “I’m the one who brought you to the hotel.”
Her heart rate increased, but Candice’s brain hadn’t caught up yet. “What? What do you mean?”
“I mean, I saw you coming out of the doctor’s office, and I decided to bring you here because I thought we should talk.”
Her breaths started getting a little shallower. “But if you wanted to talk why did you…have to…I mean, my hands. If you’d just come to me and said hi, I would have come with you on my own to a…coffee shop or something.”
Rick barked a laugh that had absolutely no mirth in it. “Because I don’t want to go to a coffee shop with you. I want to hurt you, and I certainly can’t do that in front of the world, now, can I?”
“What? But—but, Rick, after everything we’ve been through, how could you say you want to—”
“Ah, yes, everything we’ve been through,” Rick said. “You know I actually followed your advice and came clean to Tina about us, and do you know what she said?”
“What?” Candice answered in a voice just above a whisper.
Rick pressed his back to the wall and slowly slid down. Candice saw tension, anguish, and loss in his face. He ended up sitting on the floor with his knees drawn almost to his shoulders and staring into space.
“She said she didn’t think it was enough for me to apologize. She wanted me to do something to prove that I really loved her, that our relationship was just a fling. That she was the one I wanted to be with.”
He turned to look at her, and Candice saw something wild in his eyes.
“I had to do something that would convince her, Candice. I had to show her that I didn’t want to destroy my marriage.”
“But—but, Rick, it’s been four years,” Candice said. “That’s why I took the job here at the corporate office. So I could get out of your life and you could get on with mine. Isn’t that what we decided the last time?”
Rick shook his head almost wildly.
“It wasn’t enough, Candice,” he said softly, his tone defying his manic expression. “I spent the first year-and-a-half shuttling from a hotel to our house. Tina wouldn’t let me sleep in the house at all, but she would let me come in for meals and stuff. After that I thought I’d convinced her that I wouldn’t cheat again, but when I moved back into the house she started talking about how I had to do more than just sit around and expect her to trust me again. I had to start doing more than that. So here I am. Doing more.”
He turned and finally locked eyes with her for the first time, and a pit of horror formed in her stomach. What had happened to Rick? What would happen to her?
“Look, Rick, I’m really sorry about all this, but if you and Tina are still having problems, then I don’t think that doing anything to me is going to solve anything. Maybe if you two went and talked to someone about this, it might—”
“I can’t talk to anyone, Candice. I used to be able to talk to you, but now I can’t talk to anyone at all.”
Rick darted from his crouching position to out of Candice’s line of sight. She heard him rummaging through something, but until he came back she could only listen and try to use her imagination to figure out what he was doing. When he returned several minutes later, her mouth went dry.
The syringe in Rick’s hand looked real enough, but Candice’s mind refused to accept it.
“What is that?” she blurted.
“Just something to prove to Tina that I meant what I said when I told her I chose her over you.”
She began to hyperventilate, and Rick immediately shushed her as though he wanted to calm an infant fussing in the middle of the night.
“Don’t worry, I’m going to take you home first. At least you’ll be comfortable, right?”
Candice felt herself go numb, and she didn’t register when Rick helped her to her feet. He draped her jacket over her shoulders to cover her bound hands, but she couldn’t protest. Part of her brain just shut down, and she knew—remembered—that fighting Rick on this would only make it worse.
They walked through the lobby, and Rick put his arm around her. Candice shuddered, but he just chuckled and turned into her as though they were lovers sharing a secret. No one paid any attention to them, and he steered her toward the parking lot. She felt a momentary spark of curiosity when she saw their intended destination.
“How did you get my car here?”
She felt proud that her voice quivered only a little, but Rick didn’t answer. He just pulled her keys out of the jacket pocket, used the fob to unlock the car, and then helped her into the backseat.
“What’s your address?” he asked after he’d started the car and initiated the GPS.
He wouldn’t do anything to me in my own house, Candice tried to reason with herself. Maybe, if I can get him inside, I can figure out a way to convince him to let me go.
“It’s 1987 Fowler Lane.”
Rick drove the entire way without saying a word to Candice. Any attempt to start a conversation with him elicited a glance in the rearview mirror but nothing else. After about 20 minutes, Candice gave up.
Soon they pulled into her neighborhood and then rounded the bend into her cul-de-sac. Candice breathed a sigh of relief. So far Rick had done exactly what he said he would: he had brought her home. Now she just had to convince him to let her go.
He pressed the garage door opener and pulled into the garage. Shutting off the car, he pressed the opener again and let the garage door close. Finally he turned to look at her over the middle console.
“Do you, uh…want to go inside?” Candice asked, attempting a smile.
Rick smiled back, doing much better with it than she did. He shook his head, pressed the button to unlock the doors, and jumped out. The car chimed the alert that he had left the keys in the ignition, but Rick ignored it. Within moments he slid into the back next to Candice and undid her hands. She began rubbing her wrists.
“We could go in and talk through this, Rick. You were wrong before. You can talk to me.”
He shook his head again, gathered the small bit of rope that had held her hands, and dropped it into his pocket.
“I can’t talk to anyone, Candice,” he whispered. “Least of all you.”
He plunged the needle into her arm, and warmth spread from the prick point into Candice’s bicep. It started to tingle, and then the warmth progressed down to her fingertips. Candice immediately felt lightheaded.
“See?” Rick said, although Candice had trouble focusing on the voice. “I brought you home, just like you wanted. And I did want Tina wanted. Now both of you can be happy.”
Candice heard the car door slam, and her eyes fluttered and then slid shut. Once again she heard that faraway sound, and she spent her last ounce of energy concentrating on it.
“Tina? It’s me, baby. I’m coming home, and this time I’m coming home as completely yours. I love you.”