I dreamt I had a headache. I didn't know I was dreaming at the time, but in my dream I was running. I started in the bedroom of my house, the old house where I lived with Jonathan in California. I tried to run, but my legs moved as slow as honey dripping from a spoon. The whole world seemed to move in slow motion. Over and over I concentrated as I tried to run; tried to will the pace to speed up. I knew it felt like too much time had passed while I moved down the hallway. My arms would not even swing quickly. That felt like trying to dash at the bottom of an Olympic swimming pool. I felt my head pounding and the throb fell in step with the slow pound of my feet. Every step was another thud across my temples.
I realized I was dreaming and considered the finer points of waking up. Then my own stubborn will prevailed and it seemed so much more important despite the weight and sloth of my limbs and the pounding headache to finish what I had started. So, I continued to press forward, now at the end of the hallway. I could see in perfect crisp detail the pastel yellow walls – what a cheery hue – and the white trim of the baseboards and chair rail. We hung our pictures on the walls of that hallway, a wedding photo, family and friends, and some art – pretentious photographs we took of sunsets or the beach and thought decorative.
I crossed the threshold from the hallway into the day room, full of windows, bright and sunny. We had no curtains, now. The room had no furniture, just white walls. It had not looked that way except for the short time just after we bought the house before we decorated, painted and furnished it. The sunlight hurt my eyes. The headache spiked behind them. In my dream I yelled out.
I woke up groaning and moved to cover my closed eyes. My arms wouldn't work the way I wanted them to. The headache remained with me, pulsing behind my brow. I wanted to massage my temples or the bridge of my nose. I suddenly became aware of the reason that I couldn't move my hands to my face to cover my eyes and now to comfort against the ache in my head. My wrists pinched where something bound them tightly together behind my back.
My eyes blinked from shut to wide open and my chest tightened as my pulse sped up. I looked around and first thought I don't know where I am. My second thought centered on what surrounded me as I desperately tried to place the location.
My cheek was against a bare cement floor, warm from my skin and body heat. I tilted my head and glanced around. The room was large, with four walls, utilitarian design, no closets, and no interior walls to compartmentalize the space. I twisted to look to my left and then my right. These walls were brick, just as the wall in front of me – far in front of me.
I tried to twist my head and look behind. It was hard to move from lying almost face down to roll over. My legs felt stiff and when I tried to pull my knees in, I found my ankles bound as well. I wiggled my toes and tried to separately move my feet. I realized my feet were bare and my pulse sped up with a surge of adrenaline. I'd been looking around the room, trying to place my unfamiliar surroundings – my wrists were bound as well as my ankles and I had no shoes. It came back in one horrible wave. I'd been conscious less than a minute, but my first thought had not been what had happened – what had just happened.
I'm not proud of it, but I began to panic. My shallow breaths became deeper gasps. I licked my lips, if only to make sure my mouth hadn't been gagged or taped shut. I found freedom, but didn't yell. I swallowed and shut my eyes, briefly. I opened them and saw the same walls, the door, the metal chairs, and light fixtures hanging from the ceiling – rectangular fluorescent lighting.
I remembered why I had no shoes and a chill ran down from my head to feet. I squirmed and tried harder to roll over, but I'd been lying on my right hip for who knows how long. My right leg tingled as I toppled backward. My left arm brushed against the wall behind me. The room didn't seem as big now that I learned I was lying on the cement floor against one wall.
My eyes began to well up with tears. I shut them and pursed my lips, breathing through my nose, forcing my breaths to come deep and slow. I tried to stop the adrenaline from pumping and tried to bring everything back down – pulse, blood pressure, respiration. I knew that I couldn't sustain this fight or flight response for long without exhausting myself and being in an adrenaline haze would only help me if I had the ability to run or battle. I had neither with wrists bound, now flat on my back and my ankles tied, along with my knees I now discovered. I'd been incapacitated almost completely.
"Fuck," I cursed in a whisper, breaking the imperative to keep my mouth shut while breathing through my nose.
My mind responded to the adrenaline and started to kick into overdrive. The thoughts flew quickly and I barely knew where they originated from; they came in so many voices. I fell back on my professional ability to compartmentalize in the midst of a crisis. My profession had at least bestowed me with that ability. When the adrenaline rush hit I'd start to distance from the situation and look at it as objectively as possible. As I lay on the cold cement, my weight bearing down against my arms causing them to ache at the shoulder, I tried to think my way out of the room by mapping it first. Fight or flight came in so many forms.
In my mind I could hear Jonathan's voice, repeating over and over the same phrase. Stay calm he said. I tried my best to listen, but only succeeded in repeating the words over and over in his voice.
I looked around me. I had a better vantage lying on my back than I did on my side. The ceiling had rows of fixtures hanging from metal chains rather than fixed to the ceiling. The ceiling looked like wood on top of metal framework or scaffolding, not a paneled ceiling like in a residence. The lights were in predictable rows, symmetrical across the entire ceiling. They would have provided a good deal of light if they were switched on, but they were not.
I twisted and shifted from side to side. With the momentum I rolled back onto my right side. Though, a better vantage point for observing my surroundings, lying on my back also meant my weight on my arms bound behind me. The pain in my shoulders diffused as soon as I'd rolled back to half on my side and half on my front.
I focused on the wall ahead of me. It had two windows that may have once opened, but had been obscured by layers of dust, dirt and neglect. They were square, maybe 6 feet by 6 feet, and composed of smaller square panels, four rows and four columns. Our loft had a similar window in the bedroom, but we'd covered it with blackout curtains despite its retro flare.
The wall to the left had no windows, but did have a door. It looked like a hard wood door, carved from one large plank rather than made of a composite. Instead of a knob it had a metal handle and a deadbolt, with a key lock rather than a twist button. I had no way to tell if it had been locked from where I lay. I also had no way of striding to the door and pulling it off the hinges if it had been locked.
I focused on the windows on the wall ahead of me and the wall to my right which also had a 6 by 6 window constructed the same way as the other. I considered what it would take to get to the window, how to right myself enough to reach the bottom of the window in order to look out, and how to clear the dust away in order to look out. Considering if I rolled my body over and over to get to one of the windows I'd then have to find a way to sit up and then hope that the window wasn't set high enough that sitting up I'd be too short to see out of even the bottom window panels. Suppose I would be tall enough sitting to look out the window, would I be able to with the dirt, and if not, could I rub it with my face or hair to clean it? Then, what would I do? I had no idea what area I was in and if anyone would be able to see me if I clean the window or hear me if I tried to scream through it. The panels would tilt out on the bottom row of the window, but not just by sheer force. There would be a locking mechanism and possibly a crank if they weren't pull handle operated. I had to assume that without them open there would be no help to be brought by screaming or I would have been gagged. I couldn't trust that opening the window would improve my chances.
I sighed and shut my eyes. I tried to control my breathing which had begun to again speed up. My headache still pounded, but it had become the least of my worries. When I shut my eyes it came back to the forefront, no longer having to vie against external stimuli for my attention. I opened my eyes and looked to the windows. Faint light came through the window to my right, but nothing from the window ahead of me. I assumed a streetlight brought the light in through one window but not the other. It seemed to still be night. I realized I had no concept of how much time had passed since being attacked in my own home.
It had happened too fast for me to stop it. Jonathan had called my cell phone. He'd told me he was on his way home and Mick would be following along. He'd just asked if I needed anything at the store and to give me a heads up about Mick. I'd hung up and gone from the couch to the kitchen. I'd been on my way to take inventory of the selection of snack foods in the freezer. I thought I had some hot wings to make since Mick was joining Jonathan to blow off steam and have a celebratory beer after finishing a case.
Then, there was a knock on the door. I turned from the kitchen and walked to the front door. I remember thinking that Mick had outrun Jonathan and made it first. It never occurred to me to wonder how he'd gotten past the first locked door of our building. I expected company to arrive and so I'd gone to the door, unlocked and opened it. I'd been smiling with a witty saying on the tip of my tongue to greet my husband's partner – ex-husband, whatever. Then, it just went wrong. Instead of the tall wiry sniper I'd expected, I found the shorter, stockier and uninvited man.
Something about the look on Daniel's face made me uneasy. I said nothing and immediately thrust the door forward still holding onto the door knob with my right hand. I brought around my left and put my weight behind the door. I felt the knob turning as the door burst back against me. It knocked me off my feet backward and I narrowly missed striking the arm of the couch with my head when I tumbled.
He was inside and I considered the door a loss and conceded the front room to him. I rolled from my back to my knees, struggled from there to standing and made a dash out of the room. I know I didn't scream. It's the one thing I am so sure of, because I remember thinking I should yell and make noise for the neighbors to possibly hear if they were home. In the end, I didn't think I had time and I hadn't the sense to multitask.
It happened in seconds and I had no idea if Daniel were on my heels or trailing behind, like an annoying slasher film antihero. I slammed the bedroom door behind me and leaned back against it. I gasped for a breath and looked around the room. I had my choice – abandon the door or try to hold it until help arrived. I only had to make it ten minutes. I felt relieved when I recounted the phone conversation. I could use the landline to call 911. The phone was beside the bed in the cordless cradle. I could get my gun from the table beside my bed. Jonathan kept his there, but his was holstered. He had backup in a small electronic keypad monitored gun safe tucked away on the floor of his side of our closet. I swallowed and the door banged behind me. I put my arms out to brace my body against it. I cursed myself for not throwing something over behind the door. I could have gone for the dresser, the mattress, something. I had so many wasted seconds preparing my options in my head. I reached up to the wall and felt for the light switch. The ceiling fan and track lights in the large bedroom came on. I tried to catch my breath. The door banged again and I tipped forward slightly. He'd surely bang the door down throwing his weight against it.
I listened. I could hear his voice behind the door. I numbly realized he'd been talking the whole time. I'd tuned out. I'd dropped out and tuned out.
"Go away. Just leave me alone and go away." I yelled over my shoulder at the door.
And another hit came. I counted silently in my head, waiting for the next hit. It almost knocked me forward off balance. I let go of the door and stumbled forward. I wrenched the drawer from the table beside my side of the bed. The contents poured out. I wish I'd opened the drawer more calmly, but I couldn't. I couldn't even make all my senses work together. Another hit to the door. I grabbed for the revolver that had been dumped. I reached for the trigger lock and my fingers fumbled around it clumsily. It had just been so much easier to take off when my hands weren't shaking and my brain could transmit the message to my fingers to do what I envisioned necessary in my head.
"You couldn't just talk to me! YOU HAD TO BE LIKE THIS!" he shouted, in the room, behind me.
I realized what I needed to discard the lock and free the weapon was a tiny key. I looked down and saw the key at my feet. I felt an arm circle my waist. I saw as if in slow motion from my peripheral vision his other hand coming around toward my face. His hand clamped over my mouth, my nose; I felt his fingertips dig into my cheek. I gasped and gulped for a breath – a reflex; then the smell that I couldn't quite place but somehow knew in that instant based on instinct alone.
The gun fell from my hand. I felt the weight of the metal and polymers strike my left foot just above the big toe. I tried to bend to grab for it, for the keys, to put them together and to do what I had to do to protect myself.
I remember the gun and the little red lock that had come with it. I remember reading the safety pamphlet aloud on the drive home. It encompassed just an index card worth folded over into a brochure to show how to lock and unlock the mechanism. I'd said how cute it looked and compact. It would be so much easier to store the gun that way instead of in the electronic key pad gun safe. I could keep it in the bedside table that way. Jonathan had lectured how idiotic a concept. I insisted that it would be safer there than the closet. He insisted he'd keep his weapon loaded and ready secured beneath his table at night by Velcro and be far safer. I brought up that sometimes I watched my friend's kids and couldn't eyeball them every second. I didn't usually carry in a holster outside of sleep. He finally relented and told me in that certain situation it would be safer – available but still disarmed for curious children poking around while I took a bathroom break.
Reaching for the gun, feeling the pain in my foot that would most certainly bruise and trying to focus blurring cloudy vision on that tiny set of keys to fit in the ever so tiny lock, I blinked. I tried to blink away black dots. I could taste bitter chemical against my lips that parted to try to take in air. Then I remember dreaming. In my dream I was running, but so slow and through the old house, not the loft.