The River House, The Day After the Funeral
A frog creaked it’s call from somewhere nearby, joining in the chorus of crickets that buzzed into the night. Aislen could hear the whispered rush of the river, smell the wet earth of its banks. Her head ached and her mouth was parched, the sound of the water tormenting her. Not at her father’s house, she thought groggily. The river was too far from there to be heard like this. She had a bad feeling that she knew precisely where she was.
She pried her eyes open, wincing at the glare of the red-toned bedside lights. Her hands were handcuffed together, and the cuffs threaded through the bars of the bedhead.
She was in the river house, but not as it had been, she thought as she looked around her. The river house of her teen years had been dusty, hung with spiderwebs, long abandoned, with no power. The wallpaper had been peeling from the walls, and there had been the strong smell of mildew from carpets mouldering from a leaking roof.
She lay on a wrought iron bed dressed in black satin. The roof had been repaired and vaulted in tidy squares. A black chandelier twisted from the ceiling rose. The walls were covered in something black and velvety, an invitation to touch them. There was a black bookcase against a wall, the shelves heavy with books, and an artist’s desk was positioned under the window, a sketchbook open showing snarling gargoyles. She recognized the workmanship.
The ensuite door opened and he stepped out, dressed in unrelieved black head to toe, the sleeves of his shirt folded back to reveal the brightly coloured tattoos on his forearms. He brought with him a glass of water.
“Lift your head,” he said and cupped her skull with one long-fingered hand as he held the glass to her lips. She drank, relieving the dryness in her mouth, whilst scenes of a bright light and him bent over holding a tattoo gun in his hand and wearing gloves flashed through her mind. “I’ll undo you. You can use the toilet. If you cause trouble, Aislen, I’ll put an adult diaper on you.”
“What the f-k is this?” She demanded.
“Are you going to behave?” He held her eyes with his. His inky black hair fell over his face, the ends brushing over the fingerprint sized twisted triangle on his cheek. “Believe me, you’re going to want to have an empty bladder.”
“F-k,” she grimaced. “I’ll behave.”
He took the key out of his jeans pocket and released one of the cuffs.
She lowered her arms, rolling her shoulders to release tense muscles, kneading her fingers into the joint as she slid her legs off the bed. He caught her elbow to steady her as she stood and swayed. “Easily,” he advised and aided her over to the small bathroom. “Door stays open.”
“F-k,” she glowered but unbuttoned her jeans and used the toilet, watching as he moved around the room. He moved a floor lamp over to the bed, positioning it carefully and turning it on so that it’s bright light lit the bed, catching in the wrinkles and pulls of the satin cover. As she washed her hands, she saw him lay a towel and set out a black bag, before standing next to the bed.
“Whatever you are thinking,” she said warily as she returned. “I don’t think I’m going to like it.”
“You’re not meant to,” he replied, his tone cool. “Undress and get on the bed.”