I winced under his tight grip as his nails dug into my skin. I plucked up another burst of adrenaline and pushed his hand away. It worked as it caught him by surprise.
He grabbed me chin making me look at his face. I drew my eyes to his, unsure about what I would find there. He had his mask set, no emotions left his face.
“Are you happy now?” I spat with as much venom as I could muster.
A look washed over his face and it left as quick as it came, was that concern? Guilt? Surely not I thought.
The mask quickly returned “Happy?” He questioned “Why yes I am, you passed” he splashed on a massive fake smile with his teeth clenched.
“I passed?” anger bubbled within me again, scratching the surface that made my skin tingle.
He finally let go of my chin and it ached where the indents of his slender cold fingers had been. “You did not plead for your life, you did not surrender, did not believe. This is the kind of fight we want from our family”.
“You’re sick” I whispered as I ran out the room. This time he didn’t stop me from leaving.
My muscles screamed with burning, sore and numb from being sat for so long. I wanted to be strong but I could feel my eyes betraying me as little pools of water began to fill and spill over. I thought I would have gone to my room but my legs carried me outside and as I reached the outside world I crumbled to the stone floor.
“Why?” I echoed up towards the nights sky letting the salty drops of liquid poor down my face.
I collapsed into myself trying to make myself as small as possible. I stayed like that for a moment before I felt big arms wrap around me and scoop me up. I knew who it was before looking and instead kept my head down and burrowed into the safety of his chest. I could feel his flexing muscles as he walked.
When he sat down he still didn’t let me go. He put my legs over his lap and let me cling to him wetting his light blue shirt with my tears.
We stayed like that for a while before I could submerge, as I pulled my head up shivers fell down my spine. His face was closer than I expected. His eyes met mine with a fierceness I had never seen. It glued me to him, his dark hair looked like black midnight with the moon glinting off making it look like silk. His moist lips parted and his warm breath tickled my face, it smelled like warm vanilla.
I was suddenly very aware that I was sat on him and with my arms pushed up against his abs that were flexing, straining with every breath he took. I let out a small whispered gasp as he leaned in and I closed my eyes.
“I think it’s time for Lacey to have some dinner, don’t you agree?” The words startled us before our lips could meet and close the empty space between them. My head jolted up and I shuffled as quick as I could to my feet. Grey’s hands barely allowing me to leave his hold.
He looked up at the chef and frowned then turned his back to him taking my hands in his and placed a kiss lightly on my knuckles. “I will find you later” he cooed then disappeared into the night.
I followed Francis to the kitchen and sat at the island in the middle where he had spaghetti and meatballs waiting for me. I grinned and surprised him by a quick hug “Thank you” I said genuinely grateful.
He looked at me, concern filling his tiny line covered face. He said nothing as he attended to the plates in the sink.
I ate so fast like when you’re in a Chinese all you can eat buffet and you know your going to fill up quick so you have to eat as much as possible, as quick as possible but then you feel like you’re about to explode afterwards because you’re so full, fast.
After the distraction of hunger was fulfilled I became quivery and tears soon began to build again. I let out an involuntary whimper and Francis was quick to my side “Let’s get you to your room” he spoke as he put his arm around me letting me lean my weight onto him.
We walked in silence, his arm not moving from around my shoulder. When we got to the room he manoeuvred me to the bed and tucked me in. He didn’t go to leave like I expected him to but perched himself on the edge next to me.
He stroked my head gently and began to hum which formed to words, even in my dreamy haze I knew the words were not English and recognised a few to be French. The foreign lullaby carried me off to sleep.
When I woke Francis was no longer in my room. It was still dark outside and I wondered what time it was. I stretched out every limb possible, basking in the comfort of the bed. I had been too exhausted last night to relish in the feel of the soft cotton that wrapped around me like a protective shield. It was strange but I felt like If I was under the sheet that nothing could ever get me.
Flashes of memories came back from earlier in the night, despite the nightmare I had come out of the one image that I could not get out of my mind was Grey’s face reaching in for my lips. I shivered despite the warmth of the duvet.
A wash of guilt spread over me as I thought about my boyfriend. I thought back to try to work out how long I had actually been here for and worried how my family were taking my disappearance. I knew Grey was just a crotch that I was more than happy to lean on but a crotch none the less. A little bit of good in a bloody awful situation.
The only thing was that I didn’t know how long this nightmare was going to last, I thought I was going to die in that room but by some miracle and I suppose now my friend I had made it.
I stretched again feeling the soreness of my body screaming out in anger and reluctantly moved to the bathroom. My nose wrinkled as I realised I hadn’t washed since the room and I was sure that I stank, my cheeks flushed when again I remembered the almost embrace and worried If Grey had noticed.
Quickly I stripped my clothes but felt vulnerable standing there naked. I hastily jumped into the shower and turned up the heat to as much as I could bear. The burning on my skin was oddly soothing as if it was able to burn off the experience and wash away the demons that clung to my fragile frame.
I relished awhile under the water but when emerging I needed to meet the next need which was my growling tummy.
I shoved on a pair of comfy sweats and a hoody, not bothering to look in the mirror and stalked along the route to the kitchen. Trying to make myself as small as possible I pulled the hood up around my face and thankfully made it to the kitchen unseen.
“Mon chérie” Francis greeted me with a beam “Come. Come, It is good to see you awake” he pulled out a chair and beckoned.
I couldn’t help but smile, it was like his was contagious like a yawn that works its way round the room. “Thank you so much for what you did earlier, for staying with me”.
He came over and gave a quick hug before placing pancakes in front of me, already he knew my favourites “You are more than welcome but my darling you have been asleep for two days” he chucked a handful of berries on the pile of pancakes and pushed the syrup in front of me.
“Two days?” I said with a mouthful.
He came to sit next to me with a half drunk coffee “You were exhausted, it was to be expected. I came to see you a few times but there was no waking you, I even caught Grey checking your pulse”.
I filled my mouth once again and pondered something I’d been wondering for a while, after swallowing I plucked up the courage “Why do you stay here?” he looked me straight in the eye, all of his smile lines transformed into experience lines.
“Mon chérie I have lived a full life, once a chef living in Paris with my beautiful wife and daughter, just a little younger than yourself. I was offered a job here in the UK that was not only more money but the chance to send my daughter to one of the most fantastic schools in London.
We bought a house not far from here but on a night where the heavens wept the most in 10 years my wife and daughter were murdered. He found me, saved me from taking my own life and offered me a new one. Of course at first I would have none of it. Mourning the loss of my family, he kept me safe while I grieved.
When I finally came out of the darkest part of my life I could see that there was now a kinship with him. I do not always condone what he does here not by any means but I am grateful for what he has provided me which is why I stay, this is my home now”.
I shuffled in my seat, now sure about how to respond to such a confession.
“You look a little like her, my daughter” his face fell a little and met my eyes once again “You must be strong my dear, I will be here for you but you are here, this is your home now as well as mine”. My eyes fell towards my now empty plate and despite having shovelled down the food and filling my stomach I now had an empty pit with black butterflies swarming around.