Joanie lifted her head from the warm pillow and looked around. Even with the curtains drawn, the room was bright. Her eyes focused on a dark figure sitting on the love-seat in the corner of her bedroom. Was it Peter? She blinked to clear her vision, not believing what she saw. Shoulders slumped, he looked worn and tired. Hollowed cheeks and the dark circles that framed his eyes made him look emaciated. His hair was a mess. Not the tousled, handsome looking mess she was accustomed to with him, but dirty and un-kept. His skin, once clear and blemish-free, was dry and chafed.
“Peter! What are you doing here? What’s going on?”
Peter woke with a start. Sitting in the warm silence he had relaxed and unintentionally dozed off. He brushed off his pants, as if that would help revive him, and sat up straight.
“Hey Jo Jo, I’m here to take care of you, that’s what I’m doing.” He smiled. She looked puzzled.
“But where’s Ruth?”
“Oh, Ruthie went home. She was tired and wanted to get some sleep,” Peter lied. Joanie sat up, making sure to cover herself with the blankets. Peter stared at her intently, which made her feel uncomfortable, even in her own home.
“Peter, really, I’m fine,” Joanie said, avoiding his gaze. “You should go. I have things to do. It must be past noon.” Panic suddenly struck, as she realized she’d slept most of the day away. “Really Peter, I have to get going.”
“You go right ahead, Jo Jo,” answered Peter, without missing a beat. “I’ll just sit tight and give you a hand if there’s anything you need.”
Joanie sighed. “No, Peter. You don’t seem to understand. What I need is for you to go.”
Peter stood up and walked to the window. He opened the curtains and raised the blinds. Glaring light filled the room. He stood, looking out into nothing.
“Not a chance, Jo Jo. I’m here for the long-haul, so you better get used to it.” His eyes didn’t divert from the scene outside.
“Give me a break, Peter Thompson. This is my house, so don’t go telling me what I had better get used to.” Suddenly, he turned and glared at Joanie, his smile gone. Shivers ran up her spine as she remembered her recent experiences with him. The man she once knew – and loved so well – she no longer knew or understood. It frightened her, and vexed her at the same time. Somehow she felt if she were just able to reach out to him, to talk some sense into him, the old Peter might return. But she also thought that might trigger his moodiness. She had to be cautious, to watch what she said and how she said it. She decided to change course.
Joanie slid to the edge of the bed and let her feet dangle over the side. The nightgown that Ruth had apparently helped her into was, luckily, not lingerie, so she felt safe around Peter, for the time being. Regardless, she could feel Peter’s eyes on her. Her nipples hardened, and she felt heat rush down her body to her groin. Damn, she thought, why…how does he do this to me? She wondered if it was his look of sexual thirst that aroused her, or whether it stemmed from their long-time veiled love for each other that just wouldn’t seem to go away. Whatever the reason, it perplexed her. Jake was who she desired, who she loved now, although Peter had once been the one. Could it be that her feelings for Peter were still there, even though he had become so frighteningly disturbed? She thought back to the afternoon in the hospital waiting room, then to the incident on the cliffs. The memory made her feel weak. Although he still managed to get her emotionally, even sexually stirred-up, something wasn’t right, but she didn’t have time to think about that now. She went with her gut, stood up and headed straight for the bathroom. Before she reached the door, Peter was in front of her, hand firmly on the door jamb, blocking her way.
“Not so fast, honey-pie. We haven’t even had a chance to, you know, hang out. Don’t I get a little attention first?” Joanie avoided looking him directly in the eyes, but she did notice beads of perspiration had formed on his forehead and upper lip. It wasn’t that warm in the apartment. She wondered if he was nervous, and if so, why? What was he up to?
“Peter, let me pass. I have to use the bathroom. I’ve been in bed for a long time. I need to go.”
“Give me a kiss first. That’s all I ask. It’s a toll for crossing the line.” He chuckled, nervously, she thought. “I’ll let you go after that, promise.” Frustrated, and feeling trapped, Joanie was prepared to give him a quick peck and push past him into the bathroom, but when she looked up, what she saw shocked her. Peter’s face had turned a sickening pallor and he had begun to sweat profusely. His eyes appeared distant and wild, and flitted back and forth between her and the kitchen beyond. Joanie noticed his shoulders trembled slightly but he held fast to the frame of the door. Frantically, Joanie began to formulate a plan. She just had to get past Peter.
“C’mon, Peter. You don’t want me to wet my pants, do you?” She laughed mischievously. “Seriously, all I want to do is go pee. Then I’ll come out and we can talk. Can you make us a pot of coffee?”
Breathing rapidly now, Peter looked into the kitchen. He seemed to be assessing the situation, looking for the coffee pot, the kettle. Focusing seemed difficult for him. Joanie began to move into the bathroom but Peter secured his arm across the doorway. She sniggered and playfully tried to push him away, but he held fast to his guarded position.
“Damn you, Peter, let me past.” Joanie was getting annoyed but kept her anger in check. She wanted to prod him along good-humoredly, to win his trust. Peter leaned down and reached his mouth toward hers. She turned her head but it was too late. He latched onto her mouth with his own and forced her up against the wall. Joanie tried to wiggle free but he was too strong for her. A bitter taste, like poison, came through his mouth to hers, making her reel with repulsion. Sweat rubbed against her cheeks and dripped down her neck. She felt ill. Lately, all she had been doing was trying to escape this man – this man she used to adore. What had happened – what was happening to him?
But soon, Joanie began to melt against Peters touch, just as she had always done. His kiss became more urgent and she returned his ardent advances, opening her mouth to freely allow his eager tongue to enter. She gave him access down her flannel pajama top to find her hard nipple, then to cup and fondle her breast. It felt so good, she squirmed. His other hand let go of the door jamb and inch by inch, scanned her body down to find what he was looking for – the wet softness between her legs. Before he pulled the elastic waistband away from her belly to indulge in her sweet moistness, Joanie made her move.
Like a bullet, she tore away from his now relaxed body, darted into the bathroom, slammed the door and locked it. Leaning up against the closed door, she had only seconds to breathe a sigh of relief before the pounding began. Next, she went to the sink to wash her mouth, face and neckline, rubbing herself as if she were exorcising a demon from her body. She didn’t have much time, she knew that, but with all the banging and yelling going on, she felt certain someone would hear and come to her rescue. Just as that thought came to mind, the racket stopped. She heard Peter rustling around in the kitchen, opening and closing drawers and pulling items out of cupboards. Then it got very quiet. Joanie barely moved, waiting, listening, to hear what Peter was going to do next, but there was nothing. Just as she was beginning to think maybe he’d gone, she heard metal against metal and realized he was jimmying the bathroom door. The grating sound made her anxious. She backed away from the door and realized there was no way out. The one tiny window opened scarcely enough to let out steam from the hot shower, or to let fresh air in. Even if she could pry open the window wider, it was four stories down to the ground, with no fire escape.
Her mind raced, trying to find some solution. There had to be a solution. Her phone – where had she left her phone? At this point it was her only hope, but she had no idea where it was. She couldn’t remember getting home last night, let alone where she had left her purse or her phone. It made her think about future emergency situations, if she even had a future. Joanie slumped down against the bathtub in momentary defeat. But retracing her steps from the previous night in her head, Joanie thought she remembered seeing her purse on the side table by the front door. If it was there, her iPhone would certainly be in it. It was always in the little side pocket of her purse. Focusing now on this new discovery, Joanie stood up and began to work on a new plan that would involve accessing her phone to call for help. For a moment she felt a wave of relief, of hope. Then she saw the door handle slowly turn, and she froze.
…stay tuned…Chapter 14 will be posted next Tuesday, June 21st…