Chara began hyperventilating. What is going on? How could he say Jak and Anna don’t exist? No, he’s playing mind games. Of course they exist. I remember them both clearly. I can still hear Jak’s voice in my head. I can still picture Anna’s pretty face…
But then...if he’s making it up, how does he know my name? Worse still...how does he know my ex’s name?? He said I was screaming “Mike, Mike,” when I shot the guy. He could easily have found out my name, but Mike’s? Only Jak and Anna know about him.
I must have really lost it.
Could I really have killed someone? What if I did? Chara felt overcome with anxiety, grief, and guilt, as it washed over her body and held her captive. Could some of this actually be true...or...all of it?
Alexei got up and gently put his hand on her back. He reached for his knife and sliced open the rope around her wrists, behind her back, and her hands sprung free. He stood up and opened the closet, turning around with two fresh towels and a fresh nightgown, which he tossed on the floor beside her. “Take shower. You feel better,” he commanded with a nod and just the hint of a smile.
Chara wiped her tears and picked up the towels with shaky hands, still breathing heavily. She brought them to her chest and used one arm to lift herself up. She steadied herself for a moment, using the bed for support.
Alexei sat down in the rocking chair and nodded towards the bathroom, encouragingly. His face seemed to have softened.
The bathroom was spacious, and though the appliances were old, slightly rusty and worn at the edges, they looked expensive. The bathtub was claw-footed, with an elaborate golden shower handle behind the thick, white shower curtain. The gold-framed oval mirror was cracked down the middle. Chara looked at herself. Her face was black and blue with bruises. Her lip protruded on one side from the swelling, and a deep purple circle had formed around her right eye. There were small red scrapes on her shoulders and chest. Her hair, which hadn’t been washed or styled in days...she didn’t even know how long...was knotted and matted to her scalp.
Chara peeled off her nightgown and turned on the water. She held tightly onto the side of the tub as she climbed in--her balance was shaky.
The warm water stung her cuts but felt good as it glided down her bare body. She filled her palm with soapy liquid and rubbed it across her chest, letting the water droplets carry it down her stomach, and between and down her legs. She made slow circles with her aching neck, which was tight and sore from sleeping on the floor.
As she did, she looked around for a place to escape. There was a small, circular window, around a foot in diameter. It was too small for her to squeeze out of. Was it purposely designed that way? She wondered, curious if she was the first person that had been held in this room.
As she looked, she dolloped a generous helping of shampoo on her hand and massaged it into her hair--it needed it. Surprisingly, there was conditioner too, an essential for her curly hair. There is no way a man would have thought to buy conditioner. There must be a woman around here somewhere, she realized.
She moved her head closer to get a better look out of the window. Though the glass was clouded, she could make out a flat, grassy field, and a forest in the distance. Weirdly, it was just like it had been in her dream. It very much still looked like Koh Phangan, but realistically, it could be anywhere in Thailand, she thought, defeatedly. She couldn’t even be sure she was in Thailand. She had no idea what the outside temperature was like, and the air-conditioning was always on full blast in the bedroom. The window had a latch on the side, but she wasn’t ready to risk trying to open it, for fear that Alexei--who was practically sitting on the other side of the door--would hear it. Besides, what good would it do?