The crackling of the gate stirred Ivie from the bed. She leaned by the window and watched Richard drive in, deliberating on if to go open the door for him. Not today, she decided.
For the past three weeks, she had been the one doing that, and anytime she did, there was always an unnerving eye contact with him. The eye-to-eye contacts needed to be avoided. It was better his fiancée came down the stairs and open the door.
The doorbell rang. It did not take long before the metal door squeaked. Ivie did not remove eyes from the window, or from the mini garden housing the evening butterflies. They circled the sunflowers’ shooting heads and juiced out their flavours.
The next sound came from her door. Richard. If only he would take his feet up the stairs without branching. She adjusted her singlet’s shoulder strap and voiced him to open.
“Jide sends his greetings.” He sat on the couch and that eye-to-eye contact was not avoided.
She spotted the kitchen utensils by the pillow, causing her to quickly sit beside the pillow and hide the utensils beneath it. She shifted the pillow to shade the utensils and nudged to cover the remaining view the pillow couldn’t.
“Mr Jide, how is he?”
“He’s fine. Today in the office, he asked to see some of your works. He needs some paintings for his office.”
“I will give you some tomorrow before you go to work.” She nudged closer to the pillow to cover the protruding utensils.
“We might not see in the morning. It’s better you give me now, so I can keep it in the car to avoid forgetting.”
“I’ll have to do some selections. I should be done in the next five minutes.”
“I’ll return in the next five minutes.” He clasped hands and stood, stood and stood still, looking at her, looking at the pillow. “What are—”
She placed a hand across her eyes. If he could pretend he didn’t see those and continue his walk. They would talk about it another time. What made her forget to return them? It was his drive-in, and those heartless flowers and butterflies that stole her attention. His steps shot nearer and his cologne kept creeping. She removed her hand from her eyes. “I’ll go return them.”
“The urge. It’s still there.” His voice stabbed her ears.
She picked the spoons, knives and graters. “I’ll return them.”
“We’ll go to the hospital tomorrow.”
“No. I’m not going.” Not at this point when she was about leaving the whole thing, about leaving the house, leaving him and his fiancée.
“You have to go. The urge is coming again. Resolve it now before it overwhelms you.” His voice was much softer. A hard voice would have made things easier.
“I know how to care for myself.”
“No one is saying you don’t.” His voice rose to a pitch she had never heard. “Going to see the therapist is necessary.”
“I’m not going back there.”
His cheekbones stood out and his face hardened into bones. “Why?” The softness in his voice wiped off. Now, she could talk to him the way to do any man who imprisoned her.
“Because I choose to.”
“You’re choosing the wrong thing.”
“That doesn’t mean you should choose for me.”
“Ivie, tomorrow, we’re going there.”
“Sorry Richard. I’m an adult, and was taking care of myself perfectly before I knew you.”
“You call that fine? You call subjection to some kind of power fine?” His voice soared up and up. “It’s so far away from fine. I won’t let you harm and kill yourself. We’re going to the psychiatric hospital tomorrow.” He paused and sighed heavily, and tapped his head with a fist. “Ivie, don’t let this defeat you, don’t do this to yourself.” His voice returned to default, and so did his face. His cheekbones gave way for more flesh.
She turned to the window as seeing his default face only worsened things. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m leaving by weekend.”
“The doctor said at least a month.”
“But I choose three weeks.”
“Ivie,” he called much softly, and touched her shoulder. She shook, quivered. Her shoulder bones melted. “Stay and let’s kill this thing.”
“I’m sorry, Richard. Thanks for everything.” His hand gradually slid off her skin. It slid, but its scars remained.
The next thing she heard was the opening of her door. He didn’t close it. She sat on the bed and stared at the useful knives that helped cut the ropes that bound her, set her free. A different kind of freedom. She picked the utensils and headed to the kitchen.
He had said he would be back in the next five minutes. Ten minutes passed and there were no steps of his.