Comfort Food

By: Kitty Thomas

“I can feed myself!” As soon as I'd said it, I flinched. So much for bravery. I guess I expected him to hit me. Your average psychopath isn't known for his restraint. I braced an arm over my face as if it would stop any blow he decided to deliver.

Nothing happened.

With slow wariness, I lowered my arm. He sat mildly waiting with the spoon in his hand. I looked for anger in his eyes, but all I saw was calm, and the slightest tinge of amusement. I amused him. That made me angry enough to stop being scared again.

I wanted to lash out, fight. At that moment I didn't care if he killed me. I'd gotten it into my head that whatever he had in store for me would be worse the longer it took him to mete it out, and I saw no escape. If he killed me quickly, that would be better.

I was also more clear-headed than I'd been the day before. The drugs had worked their way for the most part through my system, and I wasn't so hungry I'd do anything. I cringed as I remembered letting him touch me through my clothing just to eat. There would be more of that and much worse if I didn't act now.

I slapped the spoon out of his hand and threw the bowl across the room. The glass shattered against the wall, breaking the silence. My mouth followed suit, “I don't want fucking chicken noodle soup! I want you to let me go, asshole!”

I was sure that would do it. Someone as anal as he appeared to be would snap under the strain of my rebellion. I was adorably naive. He stood with the tray in one hand, picked up the spoon, and left the room.

That was when it occurred to me how unbelievably stupid I'd just been. Yes, he was anal, and yes my little outburst would likely make him angry. But the amount of restraint he'd shown so far made me realize it was unlikely he'd offer me a quick death no matter how many outbursts I displayed. He'd spent too much time on this plan.

He was only gone a few minutes, but during those few minutes, I ran through at least twenty possibilities of what he might do next. He might starve me was one option. I'd managed to get some bravery due to the fact that I'm not usually that hungry when I first wake up, but starving wasn't something I wanted to do. I was reminded of this fact because I'd just the day before allowed him to fondle me once for each bite of soup.

He could kill me. A part of me wanted him to. It would be easier than living with what I would no doubt become if he kept to the same MO. He could have gone to get some dramatic implements of torture, or just the knife he'd used the day before to cut my bonds. I shivered at the last option and scooted back into the corner as if I could press myself through the wall to freedom on the other side. Maybe he would be quick about it.

The door creaked open again and my eyes shot up to meet his, terrified to see anger, but afraid not to know the status of my situation. He still had that calmness. He shook his head and grinned. If he hadn't been a sociopath, he would have been appealing. He had one of those boyish lopsided grins that tried to inch a little way up his face and made him look safe. It didn't fit with his eyes.

Instead of knives or guns or a million other nasty options, he had a broom, a mop, and a pail. He dragged a small trash can into the room behind him, and the door slammed shut again. I watched as he swept up the solid pieces of the soup and the glass from the bowl and dumped them into the trashcan. Then he mopped the floor, and without a word, took everything he'd brought into the room out again.

A few minutes passed before he returned to the cell; this time he wasn't carrying anything. He strode too fast across the floor toward me, causing me to cower in the corner like a wounded animal. He stopped just short of reaching me and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked like a parent disappointed in a child, as if I had been petulant and not within my rights and the bounds of normal human behavior to react in the way I had.

His cold gaze compelled me to speak, “I'm sorry.” My voice trembled and sounded foreign to my ears.

Could this weak, helpless creature really be me? I'd spent the past five years giving speeches on empowerment and self-improvement and here I was, reduced to this. And so quickly.

I looked up at him, and he continued to regard me with something like interest. I could practically feel the violence curling within him, waiting like a viper to strike, but it never did. Instead, he stared at me as if he expected me to continue speaking. So I did.

“Please talk to me. Why won't you speak to me? Are you going to hurt me? Are you going to kill me? Please . . . ”

He smiled. I don't know why I asked why he wouldn't speak. I knew why. It was becoming increasingly clear. I didn't know exactly why me, but I had a good idea why he wasn't talking.

He'd studied me, stalked me, knew everything about me. Human contact, speech, words, music. I needed stimulation. And he wasn't giving any of it to me. I was pretty sure he was trying to break me, and considering my lack of escape options, I was pretty sure he was going to succeed.

People always think they'll never break. They'll never give in. CIA operatives somehow crack, but not them. We live in this world where everybody watches so much TV, it makes them think they're superheroes. I'm strong, but anyone can be broken. I knew this. It's only a matter of opportunity, will, and persistence.