Do you remember when I first met Robbie? Obviously I knew him from school, but I never spoke to him. It was after I had been let go at The Cat House, you always said they wouldn’t keep someone so inexperienced at the cafe but I was only let go because it was overstaffed. Then one day, I’m reading my book in the library and this guy, whom I had no interest in comes up to me telling me he can get my job back. I rudely tell him that he should leave, and that he can’t help before he says, “My parents own the cafe, I can hire who I like, besides I miss seeing you there.” I nodded okay, still trying to leave before he told me that the only condition was that I go on a date with him. So I went on that date and he was pleasant enough, always knowing what to say. We were an odd couple, nothing a like but don’t opposites attract? For some reason I was happy to be with him and you loved him anyway. I wouldn’t say I ever loved him, but I did like him enough to be with him for a year. We never did anything though. Not like that.
I had heard the rumours of him and Mel as soon as I’d arrived. But I needed to see them to know the truth. How could they do that to me? She was my best friend! Did you tell them why I was gone? or did you just ignore them and live happily with Phillip?
I thought about this in the courtyard. It was freezing cold but I needed the fresh air. Henry and I hadn’t spoken much after the kiss. I had been avoiding him because I was so confused. Did I kiss him because I was starting to like him or did I kiss him because I was upset about Robbie and I just wanted to feel something? It was too cold, I had to get back inside and warm up before dinner as Henry would notice something wrong. He was very observant and knew to keep his distance.
* * *
Every day when I woke up there was a small cart in my room with breakfast on it, a choice of cereal or toast except on weekends I went downstairs for eggs Benedict or a cooked breakfast, it was an unspoken agreement we had and I would always clear up after the both of us. You could never get me to do chores and yet here I was doing them voluntarily. On one particular day, as I buttered my toast, I saw a small notepad, the note on it had asked if there was anything I wanted and so I spent the whole day thinking of small items I would want, I asked for paints, paper and paintbrushes and the next week there were paints on the breakfast cart as well. However don’t think I took his willingness to buy me gifts for granted, I didn’t often ask for anything. They never found my secret room, but inside I had painted all over the walls, filled it with book quotes and sketches. You would have been mortified to see such graffiti. But it was beautiful and I’m glad you will never see it. It was my secret room.
* * *
I had been there for five weeks at this point. We had kissed two weeks prior and although if I tried I could give a detailed account of each day, it would be very tedious to write about. I remember lying awake at night stroking Monkey, he was Henry’s cat. Monkey followed me around a lot, his bright green eyes were never very far away. I could hear the faint sound of thrashing and someone calling out, so I sprung out of bed and ran to Henry’s room. It was horrible, he was feverish and sweating and I couldn’t wake him up. Monkey was meowing like crazy and so I ran as fast as I could to get a cool wash cloth and try to wake him up. I sat there next to his bed for about half an hour before I could finally wake him. ‘Shh, shh, it’s alright, everything’s alright” I cooed as he stirred. He was shaking, it was dreadful. He didn’t speak at all, he just held onto me and i held him because what else was I supposed to do? You know I know what it’s like to be haunted by dreams. You always tried your best to soothe me but you could never get me off to sleep again. I don’t see how you could have, my dreams were and still are horrendous and it’s a miracle I ever go to sleep at all.
I had left a short time after I was certain he would stay asleep until morning and on my breakfast cart the next day was a note to say thanks. I asked for something that week, twigs, string, turquoise beads and feathers. Although bewildered by what I could need for those items, he did get them for me as required. I spent the next couple of days making intricate dreamcatchers, it was fiddlier than I thought it would be but I managed and before dinner I hid one on the seat on my left side so I could give it to him later.
When we’d finished, instead of collecting the plates as usual, I started to speak, “I uh made you something,” I smiled awkwardly as he asked me what it was and I held out the dreamcatcher, “The Native Americans believed that the beads would catch the bad dreams and the feathers would allow good dreams to pass through, I mean I don’t entirely believe that they work, but I don’t believe that they don’t work.”
He smiled and said “Thank you it’s just lovely, thank you.”
Then I cleared away, I was still confused about him. Later that night I was sat in bed reading when he knocked on my open door, I gestured for him to come in and he looked around, no doubt noticing the four dreamcatchers I had made for myself and hung up around the room. His tanned hand brushed back a lock of raven hair behind his ear as he gave me a quizzical look.
“I have a lot of bad dreams,” I smiled sadly and lifted up my shirt sleeve to reveal fingertip sized bruises on my arms, “I try not to scream in my sleep and end up hurting myself” He didn’t look at me with pity, not like you do when you see my bruises.
He looked at me with full understanding. Henry walked over and sat close to me on the bed, he stroked Monkey under the chin, Monkey’s favourite place. “Monkey sure does like you.” He said and I nodded before he spoke again. “I called him Monkey because my mum used to hate it when people called their pets by what they are, I thought it was ironic to call him what he is not”
I smirked, “He is adorable, I love cats, I used to work in the cat cafe, The Cat House, so many cats, it was amazing.” and he nodded in reply and we sat like that for a while, silent, him stroking Monkey and me reading Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter
* * *
It was Christmas Eve when I had one of my worst reoccurring nightmares. You know, the ones that I never told you what happened, I just cried and cried. We had spent the day decorating the Christmas tree and it was so beautiful, he said he would have put it up sooner if he hadn’t been so busy with work, “Christmas and Valentine’s Day are the two busiest times of the year for my business,” he had said. Henry had a business in which he would handwrite personal letters for people, it was apparently very successful and he really enjoyed it. He loved to talk about it. Anyway the Christmas tree was so beautiful, all in gold and green, a real tree in the drawing room, the lights twinkled and made the room glitter and glow. I had fallen asleep on one of the sofas whilst reading and Henry had just put a blanket over me instead of waking me. But then I started tossing and turning and pinching my arms but it was just so terrifying that I started to call out and scream and all of a sudden someone was shaking me and I thought it was you and I started crying and hitting and kicking to get away in my delusional state. “Gracie! Gracie! It’s me, it’s Henry, it’s okay, you’re safe!” He almost shouted above my crying. I woke up and saw him, frightened and flustered, he had rushed to get to me and I couldn’t speak, I just cried and held onto him and he carried me up to my bed.
He wrapped me up in several blankets and hugged me tight, my tears had made the right shoulder of his t-shirt damp but he didn’t seem to mind. After about an hour of intense crying, I choked out my apology for waking him whilst he continued to tell me everything was okay and that whatever I was dreaming wasn’t real. He didn’t ask me what my dream was about, not like you, always trying to push me to tell you or the fancy Shrinks about what plagues my mind. A strange thing happened that night. As I held tightly onto Henry’s t-shirt, I dozed off, falling back into a peaceful sleep. Something I had rarely done with normal nightmares let alone the worst nightmares.
I woke up alone, he must have gone back to bed after prying my fingers off of his t-shirt. Sleepily I put some of Henry’s socks on before wrapping a blanket around me and going downstairs. “Merry Christmas” I said as I hopped onto one of the stools in the kitchen. I leant on the cool granite work surface as Henry made pancakes, “Merry Christmas, are you alright? You were pretty shaken up last night.”
I poured us some tea and stirred a teaspoon of sugar in mine, “Well that was quite possibly one of the worst nightmares I’ve ever had but other than that, I’m fine” I smiled although he couldn’t see it. We didn’t get each other presents, it would have been impossible for me to get him something without him knowing.
Christmas Day was one of the best days, we spent the whole day in front of the fire in the library, I played music and we danced or we sat on the chaise lounge and he read out loud to me, he even played the piano whilst I drew. We still kept our distance from each other though, I was still unsure of myself. I only thought about you at night, when something reminded me of you. Monkey was playing with a toy mouse outside my door, making the floor creak. It reminded me of how you used to lurk outside my bedroom when Robbie was over. Listening to my giggles as he kissed me, waiting for him to keep going so you could make him leave. But he never went any further, he wanted you to like him. It reminded me of Grandma’s house. Everywhere creaks at Grandma’s house. Why had I been at Grandma’s house for the six months prior to being taken. There is no wifi or phone signal at Grandma’s house and she only allowed me to call you on the landline. I didn’t know Robbie’s number, I couldn’t even say goodbye to him. And he cheated on me because of you! I HATE YOU!