She stopped her car. There was no point in going on. No point in carrying through with it. He knew. She knew he knew. She knew he knew she knew. Which meant that it was useless to fight. Useless. She banged her hands on the wheel in frustration. The horn went off. It felt so good that she did it again. And again. And again.
Finally a couple people came running, one from down the street, one from out of a row house. She was in the middle of the city. She did not see either of them until a man was knocking on her window, concern in his eyes. She met them and laughed hysterically.
She then turned the key and drove off. Down the road. Around the block. Back home. She drove through a red light and didn’t notice. She came at last to her driveway and pressed the button that opened the huge, ornate iron gates. She drove by instinct along the winding driveway through the forest and up to the massive ancient building. The place where they had filmed so many haunted house movies. How ironic. She had always hated that as a child, but her father had assured her that it was all just make believe and that the business was helpful. He was right, of course. But there are worse things than hauntings and there are better businesses than the film industry.
She got out of her car and went in. To where he would be waiting for her. Everything was so familiar, and yet seemed so very strange. The boot rack, empty, whispering memories of past days when it was covered in rubber and fabric and snow and mud and the smell of the outdoors. The silent mirror, broken into glinting shards between the interlocking branches of deep-brown wood of the carved tree. The warm wood floor, worn smooth with years of feet. Everything the same. But now meaningless.
He was where she had left him only hours ago. Sitting in the high-backed seat by the ancient stone fireplace in the living room. A room now cold as death to her, despite the warm fire crackling in the hearth.
“You have made your decision then?” he asked, not turning around.
“What decision?” her voice was higher pitched than she would have liked. “There was no choice. You made very sure of that.”
“So I did. But come, have a seat. You might as well make yourself comfortable now that you have accepted the facts.”
Body stiff, she made her way across the deep oriental carpet she had walked on her whole life and to the smaller chair that her mother had once sat in.
“Why did it have to be me?” she asked, not looking at the tall man in the chair, but staring into the fire.
“You were there, pretty, ready to love me, to trust me.”
“So basically I was vulnerable, naive, and easy.”
“And now there’s no way out?”
“You planned everything from the start. Didn’t you?”
“And if I kill myself?” she asked.
“You die. So does everyone you love.”
“Why couldn’t you have just left me ignorant?”
“I was going to. It was you who pried, who looked places you shouldn’t and asked questions you shouldn’t have.”
“But you allowed me to find the answers—I know you did.”
“Yes. Because despite your naivety, you are intelligent, and I could make good use of an intelligent companion.”
“I could refuse to cooperate.”
“You could, but then, you know what the consequences would be.”
“The police will find you out. Someone will find you out,” she turned to look defiantly at him. And regretted it immediately. There was that handsome face, the bright intelligent eyes, the dark hair framing the fine, fair features. The face she had so entirely loved and now so entirely loathed.
He smiled at the pain he saw in her eyes and she looked away with a strangled whimper.
“No one will know unless you tell them, and if you tell them…” he knew that he did not have to finish the sentence.
“It isn’t fair,” she spoke to herself.
“No, not fair,” he replied. “Nothing is fair. That’s the beauty of life. Unfairness layered over unfairness until they all blur into one beautiful pattern that we call life.”
“You’re wrong. And even if you were right, I find no beauty in it.”
“That is because you, and all the others like you cling to impossible dreams and ideals that will only end in disappointment. Since I have accepted the unfairness I am never disappointed in it.”