By Shari Rood
Suspense/Thriller, 314 pages
Cover art by Trisha FitzGerald
Henry Peterson has reached the end of his rope. Taunted at work and depressed by the constant rain, Henry reaches the breaking point when he is jilted by his girlfriend. In a moment of desperation, he locks her in the closet. The tension mounts when her sister suspects something. As Henry’s world implodes, he finds himself doing things he never imagined as he tries to keep her from being taken from him.
Henry stood gazing at the closed door, his shoulders hunched as though an invisible weight pushed them forward. His day had been quiet before this. He had been in a stupor because of the rain. It had been pouring buckets for days on end. He wondered if he should start building an ark. This thought made him chuckle, the corners of his mouth turning slightly upward, making him appear quite handsome for a moment.
Henry was not usually noticed, a smile on his face a rarity. He was twenty-four and had lived a nearly invisible life in Lakeland for the past six years. His apartment was nice enough, a little run down perhaps. His parents had been middle class but they were gone now. He had no other relatives so there was no one left to criticize his living arrangements.
The door led into a closet. It was a standard walk in, not big by any means, but large enough to store boxes. There were hangers for his clothes and a bit of extra room to spare. Henry’s was a closet filled with the typical items for day-to-day living, as well as boxes of books and other bric-a-brac left over from a time in his life that was best left forgotten.
It was a closet in which his girlfriend stood, on the wrong side of the door, clawing and scratching wildly. This made him smile, broadly this time. He was not used to this kind of attention. No, his girlfriend had barely noticed him these last few weeks, but now she was shouting his name to the rafters. Some of the words were unpleasant, but he was starting to think that the tradeoff might be worth it.
Ten minutes had passed. A slight twinge of anxiety pressed in on him. He supposed that he could get in trouble for this, real trouble. This erased the smile and made his face seem dark, washing away most of the handsomeness, as though it were an ethereal thing, controlled mainly by his ability to smile. His hair was a limp, non-descript shade of brown. His eyes were blue. Not the sparkling kind but more of a stony gray, as though the color had been washed out of them by the ever present rain that had been falling for the last few days.
“Let me out of here, you stupid jerk! Henry, I'm not kidding…you better let me out right now!”
Henry hadn't said a word yet; he was afraid to speak. Maybe he could pretend it was an accident, that he'd been called away unexpectedly and didn't realize he’d locked Michelle in the closet. Yes, that might work, but who would call him? He had no friends. He had been cautioned at work by an assistant manager to improve his performance just a few days before this happened. It had been an exercise in humiliation and frankly, he didn't want to think about that right now.
He jumped at the sound of her voice. It was a simple white door, nothing special. One of those hollow core numbers often used in apartments and trailers. She could probably break the thing down if she tried hard enough. He wondered if she would.
He went to the kitchen to make a sandwich. The banging was disconcerting to be sure, but not enough to prevent him from eating. His cat, Marmalade, stared up at him, eyes wide. He opened the refrigerator door, pulled out the bread, some sliced deli meat and the mayo. He quickly threw together a sandwich while Marmalade jumped up on the counter to watch. The noise became frenzied. He walked to the bedroom and closed the door. That’s better, he thought. Muffled banging is always better.
Marmalade jumped off her perch, brushed against his legs, mewing and circling him like a shark. He pulled off a bit of ham and tossed it to her as he chewed on his sandwich, not really tasting it. His thoughts started to drift, the images bobbing into consciousness, then receding again: his father, the weather, his girlfriend. It was as though the rain were making his thoughts blur like a ruined watercolor. One image remained sharp, clear, unstained. The banging continued and he shoved his fists into his eyes. There was a dull throbbing; he knew it was only a matter of time before it turned into a full-blown headache. He was in a pickle.
“Let her out, what’s wrong with you?” He realized that he was talking to himself and sighed. “Don’t lose it,” he said. Henry shuddered and bent down and picked up Marmalade who began purring. He kissed the top of her head and said, “What am I going to do?”