It’s a lovely room. Along one end wall there are fancy double doors which look as if they would lead into the garden, but when you open them, you find the prettiest bathroom behind the one on the left, and a toilet behind the other one, with a wall separating them. The carpet was already down when I came, but it’s exactly the shade of pink I’d have chosen for myself. Everything else was selected by me from catalogues, and paid for by Charles.
We painted the room together. He said it would be fun, and it was. It gave me a sense of achievement – I’d never done anything like that before. It was so exciting when the furniture and ornaments started arriving, like being someone with a family, and having a birthday every day (people with families get loads of presents). He helped me put everything in the right places, because it was heavy, and anyway, he knew more about that kind of thing.
I think that was about six months ago, although I can’t be sure, as I’ve lost track of the time. Because, for obvious reasons, I’m not allowed to use the rest of the house – although all of that came as a nasty surprise, – he sends my meals down via the lazy butler. When I’ve eaten I return the empty plate, it goes back to the kitchen, and he does the washing up.
I’d never dreamed that I would live in a place like this, but I honestly didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when he offered me a cellar room fee of charge, and promised he’d pay for whatever furniture I chose. He said he wanted to make up for all of the things I had missed out on, all the suffering I had gone through in those children’s homes and with that foster family.
Charles seems surprised and disappointed when I say I miss the life I had before. My bedsit wasn’t much, but I enjoyed the freedom. I had a couple of friends, too, and I miss them, too. Before I came here, I wanted to tell them about what I believed to be my lucky break, but Charles said it would be better to move in first, and then surprise them by inviting them round.
If you were a person, and not just a painting of a kitten, hanging on a beautiful, pale pink wall, I can guess the way you’d be looking at me right now, but how was I to know?
I’d like you to understand that I never led him on in any way. For one thing he’s far too old for me, being well into his thirties, and he has a really irritating, high pitched laugh – not that I’ve heard it much lately. Also, he’s, well, funny looking – kind of chinless, with tiny eyes and a mis-shapen mouth.
He comes down at roughly the same time after dinner every evening, always with the same begging request. He says he will give me the world if I will only learn to love him. We can be like a proper family, cook and eat together, and sleep in the same bed, maybe even have children. When I tell him I could never love him, and I want to leave, sometimes he gets sad, but other times he is angry, and when he leaves he slams the door behind him.
It’s a funny thing though, even when he’s in a temper, he always tries to lock the door, and pull the bolts across, quietly, not wanting me to hear – as if he feels ashamed.
©Jane Paterson Basil