Things had gone much faster than Ariadne had expected, it seemed as though there was a hurricane of activity around her while she just stood still. Her parents did most of the work, followed by a few tweaks by Patrick. They had rented her a bungalow, the guy renting it had known Patrick a long time and gave a discount, Patrick vetted the owner and the property, though her parents had viewed it too. She had been relieved and a little worried that it wasn’t an apartment. On one hand, she would have been nervous with all the people around her, but on the other, they would provide some sort of safety and security. The house itself was in a good neighbourhood and fitted with a good alarm system. Within a week she had been moved into the house, Patrick and Diane assuring her she could stay a few more days if she wanted and that they were nearby if she needed. Her parents had assured her of the same. They had spent a night in the house, but she was still nervous being around them. It seemed better to meet them on neutral ground in case they were followed. She didn’t like the way her mother looked at her when she said it, the sad look she was given. Her mother thought she was being paranoid and while Ariadne conceded it could be possible, she much preferred knowing they were safe. She was pleased with the progress though she had little input, it made her feel as though her life was moving on, that she could be normal. She had even gone to the local shops alone and had food delivered to the house. It was still nerve wrecking, but she expected to get more comfortable with it soon enough. She had an appointment with a therapist too, things were getting normalised, and that was good. She already felt better now that she had a place to call her own, it was a little strange, but she much preferred it.; The house was lonely but she no longer felt as though she was intruding on Diane and Patrick.
Patrick was feeling nervous, a car had been following him for a while now, he had noticed it the day before. aAt first he thought that it was most likely the car was just going the same direction as him, to be sure, he went around a roundabout twice. The car pulled off at a turn, but a few minutes later it was behind him again. There was no mistaking it, the colour wasn’t distinctive, but the driver was the same person, a man in his mid thirties. There wasn’t anything distinguishing about him, but Patrick felt as though he had seen the man before, though he wasn’t sure where he had seen him. As he drove he wondered where he had seen the man, trying to think of anywhere he was recently, but his mind kept coming up blank. It was becoming infuriating as he was normally able to place faces easily, but it wasn’t working this time. After a few minutes, he decided to drive in the direction of home and see what happened, a few streets from his house the car turned off, obviously the driver knew where he was going. He was interested in something else. But what? Then it hit him. God he was stupid. Ariadne. When he got home he logged into his computer and after a few minutes googling he found what he was looking for, it was Joseph. Mary’s right hand man. This wasn’t good. They must be searching for her. Damn. He picked up the phone and rang her parents. The conversation wasn’t long, but during it they agreed not to tell Ariadne. Her parents would stay away from her, as would he. He didn’t think they’d be able to track her down through either of them. There was nothing in writing to connect them with the house she was in. The Lambs didn’t have that kind of power and he was thankful for it.
Ariadne wanted to start looking for a job, but the thought of having to interact with so many people was nauseating. She didn’t think she’d be able to work in a shop, it would be too exposed, something where she was out of the public eye would be perfect, maybe an office, but what could she do there? She had never worked in an office before. She had been working in shops, sure she had good experience, hell she was manager of the store when she joined The Lambs, but what good would that be in an office? She didn’t know what kind of work would be expected of her, she could type quickly with few errors, that skill had come back much faster than she had expected, but she didn’t know if she’d be able to handle the tasks they’d set for her. They’d probably go for someone with office experience. Then she’d have to explain the five year gap in her resume and that would probably be enough to deter any potential employers, why would they employ her when she could bring a shit ton of crazy onto their business? Maybe she could lie, say she went travelling, but they’d ask follow up questions. She’d have to think of a convincing lie that wouldn’t allow for too many questions. For now her parents gave her money, enough to survive on, but she wanted to be independent again, she wanted to be able to pay them back. She knew she would, but the sooner she could start, the better.
The house had a bath, it was one of the things she had been happy about. She enjoyed baths, relaxing in the soothing water. She could take her time and use any and all sorts of shampoos and lotions if she so desired. She allowed herself one luxurious bubble bath, but after that she decided she would use the soap sparingly, it wasn’t expensive, but it would be an unnecessary expense that she could cut down on. She was also pleased that she was able to cook for herself, when she left Diane and Patrick they had started cooking again, to Ariadne it seemed as though they got take away a lot. Then again, it had been a long time since she had it. She could understand it, they had been stressed and busy, plus they had her to look after. The meals she made were cheap and filling, she was careful with her money, budgeting as well as possible. Her parents assured her that if she needed something they’d get it for her, but she didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on them. They hadn’t told her, but she knew they were using the dregs of their savings to support her and it wasn’t fair on them. They were getting to the point in their lives where they should be able to relax and enjoy their money, and here she was, stealing that from them. It wasn’t right.
She had been living in the house now for almost a month, she felt comfortable here, she even had a job interview lined up, everything was looking good. She had been to a therapist too, a grand total of twice, but it was a start. It was good talking to someone, she didn’t like the way her mother sometimes winced when she talked about her time in The Lambs. She was really looking forward to the job interview, a friend of Diane’s had gotten her the interview, the interviewer knew about her time in The Lambs, so she wouldn’t have to lie. She was walking slowly, her feet were tired, it had been a long day. She had bought a suit, the first one she had owned since she had given up her possessions. Her mother had helped her pick it out. She hadn’t seen her parents as often as she would have liked and she had only seen Diane and Patrick once she had been settled. She missed them but understood their pulling away. She knew she felt such a strong attachment as they had been the ones to help her in her time of need. It was silly, but she couldn’t help it. Still, she would always be thankful for what they had done for her.
She unlocked the door and stepped inside, she closed the door and went to her bedroom. The house was silent. She was wrapped in her thoughts. She’d have to hang the suit up right away, it might wrinkle. She opened the door to her wardrobe and froze. She didn’t turn off the alarm. Normally it started a high pitched whine as soon as the door opened. She put the suit in the wardrobe and left her bedroom, going straight to the alarm. It seemed fine. She entered the code, feeling better as the alarm set itself. Had she turned it on on her way out? She normally did, but had she today? She was distracted after all, it would be an easy mistake to make. She felt nervous, jittery. She’d check the locks on everything. It was fine, she had probably just forgotten to set it, still, no harm to check. The windows were all closed and locked, that much was obvious, otherwise the alarm would have started going off. That just left the front and back door, the front was fine, she had just come through it, it had been locked and she relocked it behind her, including the deadbolts. She went through the kitchen and to the backdoor. She gave it a slight tug. It moved. Her heart started to beat wildly. She took a breath, calm down, don’t be stupid. When was the last time you used it? She couldn’t remember. Had it been unlocked that long? She turned the lock, feeling better. She looked around the kitchen, nothing seemed out of place, there were no footprints, nothing in the room seemed missing, the place was as clean as she had left it. The alarm started its high pitched whine. She went back and entered the code, then rearmed it. No, no one had been in here, she was the only one who knew the code. She took a breath calming herself. She slipped off her shoes and went to the bedroom to change into pyjamas. As she slid a top over her head, she froze again. The alarm had been off. She took another breath. Stay calm. The phone. She’d ring Patrick, then the police, tell them someone might have broken in, then she’d leave the house. Her hearth was thumping, adrenaline pouring through her system. She had to stay calm, control her fear. There was nothing wrong, she was just being silly. She had to control her fear, it couldn’t control her. She opened her bedroom door stopped. There he was, grinning at her. Joseph. Her breath caught in her throat, she couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. He shoved her, hard. She fell backwards, landing heavily, the breath being driven from her body. He stepped forward. “Did you think you could get away so easily?” He bent down and grabbed her shoulders, dragging her to her feet, “what do you know?” his fingers dug into her arms, her mind wasn’t working, it had gone blank. He shook her again, then he released one hand and slapped her. Her head rocked backwards, dazed, her cheek turning an angry red. “I asked you a fucking question.” His hand drew back again, she flinched. “Good. You know the score. Answer my questions and I’ll go on my way. Ok?” She felt herself nodding. “I’m sorry I had to hit you. We’ll go into the sitting room, have a nice little chat.” He dragged her out of the room.
He sat her down on the couch in the sitting room, he was gentle, more so than she expected. He sat on the coffee table. “Ok. So I’m going to ask you again. What do you know?” “What do you mean?” she had to get out, he’d kill her, she knew it, there was no other reason he’d be here. It had happened to the others, now it was going to happen to her, she had to get away, get out. He sighed. “Ok. Let’s start easy. Why did you leave?” She took a deep breath, as though preparing to speak. Her hand gripped something hard, she didn’t know what it was. “Well-” she swung her arm, fast, too fast for him to react, it smashed into the side of her head, shattering, as she swung she stood, then bolted. She dropped the remains of the remote and ran. The door. She ran from the room, turning right. Shit. Wrong way. Fuck fuck fuck. The backdoor, of course, the lock was easier. She heard him in the sitting room, screaming at her, his footsteps. He was coming. Shit shit shit. She reached the door, her fingers trembling, she twisted the key violently, it unlocked, she pulled, nothing. Fuck. She pulled again, he was getting closer. She started crying, tears streaming down her face, she was going to die here, oh god. She was going to die. She pulled again, using as much strength as she could muster. Pain, bright in her fingers. She felt something warm on her hand, she looked down, blood, blood everywhere. Then she saw it. The plastic handle, it had cut her. Her fingers scrabbled at it, it was already slick with blood, it moved down, he was behind her, she pulled again, the door sliding easily along the track, behind her the alarm started its whine. The air was cold, shocking. She ran. She heard him curse, then she could hear him, running too, behind her.
She didn’t remember hopping the wall, she had cleared it in one leap, cutting her palm on the wall as she used it as a pivot. She didn’t remember running, she didn’t remember if he chased her. When she finally slowed her lungs were burning, she leaned over and threw up, retching again and again until there was nothing left and her stomach was cramping. Slowly her breathing returned to normal, she was shaking, her legs barely able to support her, her feet were sore and bloody. She was still crying. They had found her, they had really found her. She could never get away. Never. She looked around, trying to figure out where she was. Nothing. She started to walk, limping. She needed to get help. She didn’t know how she had lost him or where. The thought sent a surge of adrenaline through her system. She looked around nervously and tried to decide what to do. Her hand started throbbing, the blood had dried on it. The cut on both hands seemed to have scabbed over. After a while she saw a taxi and hailed it with her good arm. She knew what she was going to say, as soon as she sat in, the guy gawped at her. “The fuck happened to you lady?” he didn’t notice she wasn’t wearing shoes, it was too dark outside for him to have noticed. It didn’t take her long to tell him her story. She had been staying at her boyfriends. He was abusive and she had run. She didn’t have a phone or anything. She gave him the address and sat back as he began to drive. He spent the entire ride giving out to her, telling her she was stupid to stay, that her boyfriend would kill her if she wasn’t careful. She didn’t care, it was warm and she could sit. Her feet were still bleeding slightly, she felt bad about that. She hated herself for giving him Patrick’s address, she didn’t know where else to go, it was safe there. She’d ring her parents when she arrived, warn them it wasn’t safe. She put her head in her hands, she was so tired now. She wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t. She needed to be strong.