This is actually a continuation of my Leo Game. I introduced Katie Wren in his interrogation room. He finds out that she had a history of being a cutter; this caused him problems. I liked the feel of the two together so I decided to continue writing a bit here and there. There is no end point in sight.
The mood is constrained - as any story about a captive should be. He is controlling but can pull back into being a nice guy. She is soft but with her own way of controlling herself. She hides who she is which really shows who she is.
I'd like to hope the dialogue is strong. That is what I enjoy the most when writing. There should be an attraction and repulsion that's natural and not forced. At least I hope so between the characters and between the story and the reader. I would say its main weakness is that I don't know where I'm going with this. I don't know if the goal is to draw them together, which would probably happen in this kind of relationship anyway, or if it's just some fleeting moment for me.
There are two scenes after this but I'm interested in your impressions/help/etc.
The door opened and Katie struggled to shrug off the veil of sleep. She pushed up into a semi-sitting position that reminded her of an Andrew Wythe painting. She looked guiltily at the empty plastic that used to contain water. She had run after it when Leo disappeared with the promise to see her later. She’d slurped up all that she could while opening the manila envelope. It offered very little information. It had her picture and one line in an otherwise blank page. “Interrogate without prejudice.” That didn’t sound good.
This time Leo had a tray with food, which contained another bottle with liquid refreshment, and a sleeping bag. He looked down at her little mess of discarded recyclables and smiled.
“I have a deal for you, Wren, and I believe you’ll find it rather fair.” Katie ran the back of her hand over her face and yawned. “I’ll give you dinner, bedding, and five minutes in a hot shower if you answer my questions and let me examine your other extremities for cuts before you take that shower.”
“It’s been years—at least a decade or more—but I’m still pretty sure my left arm was the only area I cut.” She felt like a child trying to justify the behavior. He set the tray on her chair and went to his. He assumed she’d taken him up on his offer. Really there was no other offer on the table and by not trying to hide it she couldn’t look like a coward.
“What happened? Why’d you start?”
“My parents,” she began while picking at the sandwich. “They always had a tumultuous relationship ever since I can remember. It only got worse when my dad hurt his back when I was about eleven. He was a firefighter so,” she shrugged nonchalantly; “It destroyed him. He took it out on my mom, who became the sole bread winner. Then dad decided he could fill up the hole this caused with stuff. He collected all sorts of crap. He bought shoes online and furniture at garage sales and wouldn’t throw away newspapers and magazines claiming he would need them.” She tore into the sandwich, starving and with a good pause in her story.
“Hording,” Leo summed up in a nice little word that described the hell she’d lived with back then. She nodded while chewing. Then the bite went the way of all swallowed food.
“This caused a lot of strain on an already difficult marriage. They had these horrible fights.” Her mind jumped to one or two she remembered vividly to this day but she didn’t share the details. “And while I sat in my room, the only sanctuary from my dad’s constant collecting and the verbal assaults they threw at each other, I would cut because then I could be embarrassed about something I did instead of my parents. I could control it, how deep and how far. I’m not saying what I did wasn’t stupid and shallow and some dumb kid’s idea of being in control.” Katie ripped the sandwich with her teeth.
“If the scars are old and you claim you don’t have any new ones, how’d you stop?” Her lifted index finger let him know she would provide the information at her own pace. She gave it twenty chews before swallowing.
“My mom’s parents don’t get along either. They kind of hate each other. It’s a great family pastime. Grandpa moved out of the house my mom grew up in the second the last kid went off to college so sending me to them wasn’t going to give me what I needed. They’d have made me spend one week at the house and then another at grandpa’s. My dad’s father died nine months after my dad hurt his back and I never met his mom. So when the insects started invading the house I convinced my mom to let me move as far away as possible.”
This time Katie crammed in an apple slice, which she thought peculiar for a man like Leo to give her. It smacked of actually effort to cut an apple. And it was a Granny Smith. She loved the sour taste of it. She eyed Leo suspiciously. A blank page on Katharine Wren my eye, she muttered. He probably knew that she liked sun bleached hair and brown eyes too.
“So what happened?” Leo prompted. She left a thought about the muscles in Leo’s arm.
“She shipped me off to her brother and that’s where I grew up with him away from all the horribleness that they cause each other. And you know what? The house I spent the first decade plus of my life is now condemned because of the way they live.”
“They still live together?” He seemed a bit incredulous.
“The only thing they hate more than each other is letting the other one think they forced them out. It’s like that loop they say people get in high adrenalin situations. They just stay because they don’t remember anything else but hating each other and they’re too scared to move on.” Katie raised her bottle of water as if toasting Leo. “And that’s my sick sad little story. Here’s to mommy and daddy and scars from childhood.”
“Did you cut after you moved into your uncle’s house?”
“I may have once or twice.” She shrugged. “I don’t know what exactly he knew about the whole situation from my mom or grandparents but he never asked me about cutting. He did set up sessions with a psychologist for me the first couple of years.”
“So he’s your legal guardian?”
“I’m an adult now. No one’s my legal guardian.”
“So you have no good relationships to model after and aspire to.” Katie looked into his eyes while attending to her stomach. “That is to say both sets of grandparents had issues and so do your parents.” She kept quiet knowing this already. “Do you repeat this behavior in your dating life?” She chortled.
“I don’t play.”
“Ever?” Leo raised his eyebrow. “Are you asexual then?” She shoved another apple slice into her pie hole and didn’t bother closing her mouth when answering.
“No, I find men attractive.” She looked away afraid she would blush. “But I know they’re all full of bull,” she added quickly to let him think she didn’t care about him or men in general.
“Finish your food, Wren. I’ll get a towel so we can do the inspection.” Leo left like this was an equal situation. Stay dirty or suffer through the indignity for five minutes of hot bliss. Katie snorted at how that sounded and forgot for a moment that five minutes in a hot shower could mean she could warm up enough to suffer through the room at night. The sound of the door unlocking broke her thoughts.
“I’ve changed my mind. I don’t think you’re strong enough to take that kind of inspection from me yet. We should spend the night together first.” Her mouth opened though no words came out. “Grab your bag. We’re going to sleep under the stars.”
“Sh-shower,” she barely got out.
“I think you’ll appreciate it more after tomorrow’s activities.”
“So you’re a liar,” came out somewhere between staccato and a hiss. A fire danced in Leo’s eyes. He threw the sleeping bag at her, signally that it was time to move. At the door he turned around to face her so very close.
“I’m going to check your inner arms and your inner thighs for scars. Are you ready to have my hands touching you before you take a shower? This is my game and we are going to play by my rules.” She swallowed at his masterful toying with her. This is why she didn’t date. “Even so, I thought I’d let you get to know me a little better before I inspect you.” She walked around him so as not to have to look at those burning eyes. They followed the exit sign in silence and walked a good hundred meters before they found a second sleeping bag near a dying fire. She set hers out on the opposite side of the rocks circling the fire. It felt so good to be warm again.
“Tomorrow,” he muttered quietly so that it felt far more intimate than how she imagined his hands would be during the inspection, “I’m going to hurt you on the course.” It almost sounded like an apology but underneath she could tell he enjoyed his job. Her nose tingled as emotions got the better of her. Her eyes filled up just enough to make her feel weak. She tightened her jaw and furrowed her brow to not lose control. She willed her mouth to open to let him know.
“I’m going to hurt you too.”
Katie paced the floor, worried. She hadn’t taken her customary nap after the dirty, hot field. She was too wired for such things. She nibbled on her left index finger, a habit from childhood, only this time it wasn’t calming her down. Her body tensed at a sound.
“How’s your shoulder?” she practically screamed when the door opened. The muscles around Leo’s eyes worked as he realized from her posture, position and movement that she was worried. Half of his face lifted like he thought it was cute.
“Nothing an ice pack won’t fix,” he bemusedly answered. He gestured towards the seating arrangement. She followed directions because doing otherwise would make him think that she was even more wound up about the tumble they’d had together. Then he might think she was a super cutie to laugh at.
“It’s like you care, Wren.” He leaned back slowly like he was pontificating. “You know, it’s funny to see you care so much when you’re so willing to lie to my face.” Her face froze and she noticed he didn’t have a bottle of water this time—which she needed desperately. She didn’t understand this part of the game. “You said your parents were still together slugging it out in the battlefield of your childhood home.” She broke the eye contact for a second.
“I guess you’re not the only liar here,” she added defiantly, like she didn’t need to explain anything.
“Why? What thought process led you to believe it would be beneficial to lie to me?”
“I didn’t know you had a phone line to my parents,” she muttered sarcastically. He gave her an impassive look like he had all day except for when she’d been able to wrench his body. He was probably stalling because his shoulder hurt more than he wanted to admit. She would target it tomorrow on the course. “You want the real story—the one your spies don’t know? Fine, I’ll give it to you. My parents had to get married because I came along two months into their relationship. Neither was very happy with being saddled to the other but their parents got in the way. My dad did get hurt while being a firefighter. He did start shopping online and he did start resenting my mom for being able to work. They decided that dumping me off at my uncle’s house might actually help their marriage—you know, getting rid of the thing that fouled up their lives in the first place. It lasted a couple more glorious years and then they divorced.” She jumped out of her chair. “So thanks for bringing up such super memories.”
“I love that you lied and it somehow gives you a license to be pissed at me.” She shook her head.
“I’m done with this.” She swiped her hand up in anger. “Let’s go back out on the course. I’m ready.”
“You know, I might be less willing to hurt you out there if you were to humanize yourself to me here.” She smiled like he was being cute this time.
“Really? You really think that I think you’ll be nicer to me if I tell you all my deepest darkest secrets?”
“I’m very nice to you for a captor and interrogator.” He delivered the words effortlessly and even with a slice of humor.
“Yeah,” she snorted, “this is like the best and longest date I’ve ever had. You’re going to propose tomorrow, right?” She paused momentarily to take up speed. “I’m totally going to enjoy introducing you to my super wonderful and supportive parents—at different times. They’ll ask me where we met and I’ll joyfully tell them that you were the nicest captor and interrogator I’ve ever had.”
“I’m sure they’ll be pleased since I’m the only real date you’ve had in years.” Katie’s angry mouth collapsed into a tight little line and she crossed her arms. “There’s no time or reason to be pissed at me. You’re the one who said you don’t play those games because men are full of bull.” He paused for effect, “And I do listen.”
“This is not a date.” She added as an afterthought, “They’d try to talk me out of marrying you. No one has good marriages in my family.”
“Would you,” Leo rose out of the seat, “Let them talk you out of marrying me? Isn’t our love strong enough?” She half signed/half snorted.
She shook her head, “This is a nonsense conversation.”
“Did your mom interfere with your sexual development? Is that why you don’t date? When was the last time you let a man touch you?”
“It’s time to go back to the course,” she announced like she had some form of authority. She headed to the door to sidestep the conversation turn.
“You’re not bad looking; in a I’ve never had fun a day in my life sort of way.” She avoided flipping around to keep her rueful smile to herself. He was trying awfully hard to get her to do something big. “And even though your proposal is the first engagement, I, well, I’ve had several women in this room make passes at me.”
“That’s not a compliment,” she sassed over her shoulder. “That’s a device to help them get out of here or garner favor.”
“But you, Katie,” his momentum pulled him forward and her preservation skills made her reach for the door knob, “When was the last time a man touched you?” The knob turned to her surprise. She hadn’t expected him to find her so docile that she’d not needed to be locked in during his visits. She opened it a few inches before Leo’s hand collapsed it back into the frame. Somehow it didn’t come across as a captor forcing a woman to stay in the room, just that he had questions that needed to be answered. “When was the last time you wanted a man to touch you?” She swallowed. She’d been wrong, it seemed he needed answers but he was really still her captor.
“Do you ask that of all your female prisoners or just the ones who don’t make a pass at you?”
“Our sessions aren’t over yet.” She assumed he meant that she would cozy up to him by the time they were done. She rotated so her back was against the door. She stared into his brown eyes with heart beat pounding.
“I—I don’t get these games. You do want me to be me or do you want me to pretend to be someone else?” She was pretty sure her skills at discerning the difference were now almost completely useless.
“In this room,” He stepped back and gesticulated towards the two wooden chairs. “I want you to bridge the gap between who you are and who you want to be—except you can’t lie to me.” She followed him to the seating arrangement thinking, oh yeah, like that’s going to happen.
“The last time I touched a man was a few minutes ago in the field and trust me, I wanted to touch your shoulder.”
“Says the girl who was dying to know if my shoulder was ok.”
“What was the question again?” Katie sat on the chair with her elbows on knees with head down on the floor and hands in her hair. She couldn’t be sure how long ago he’d asked the question but she knew it had been complicated. She wasn’t even sure if she’d fallen asleep. Her eyes closed even though she fought it. Her body jerked. Leo snorted.
“Did your mother, or father for that matter, sabotage your desire to act upon attraction to males.”
“No wonder why I fell asleep.” Katie ran a hand over her face. “That’s a terrible question.” Leo picked up a picture taken during a friend’s wedding. Katie’d had her hair done and put on more makeup than she ever thought possible. It embarrassed her in this light to see the stupid thing; it felt desperate.
“You’re not ugly. You should be receiving male attention.” She rolled her eyes.
“That’s not how I look every day. It was for a special occasion.” Was not being ugly the same thing as pretty—or better yet beautiful? And did it matter that she was generally accepted as pretty or specifically noted by him? She shook her head to make it think clearly. “No real woman looks like that in real life.” She jerked her head to finish with, “And let’s just get something straight. I never said I don’t receive attention from males. I said I don’t play their games. I’ve had relationships and that’s where I learned they’re all full of bull.” Leo opened his mouth, “And no, my mom’s opinions don’t influence how I feel.”
“If I said yes, I meant yes.” Katie leaned back in the chair and softly advised him, “I’m bored and thirsty.” Leo put his hand underneath his wood seat. Katie squinted as something was ripped from its taped position under the chair. Her mouth dropped open in astonishment as he tossed her the bottle. She barely missed dropping it while clumsily grabbing for it, which made him laugh.
“You’ve answered a lot of questions, Wren, so I decided to give you the opportunity to find the water. You,” one side of his mouth dropped into a neutral position that made the other side look more devious. “You apparently weren’t smart enough to be aware of your surroundings.”
“But—but is that normal?” Her nose wrinkled as she asked before gulping down the water. She forgot to pay attention to his answer as she concentrated on hydration. When she finished a simple question ran through her mind. “How old are you, Leo?” He chuckled.
“Are you afraid your parents won’t support the match because they think I’m too old for you?”
“I don’t actually care how old you are. I was trying to fill the conversation void,” Katie declared. She lobbed the plastic bottle with an inch of clear liquid dancing in it at him.
“That’s very generous of you.” Leo tipped his head back and finished it, letting the final drips land on his tongue. A twinge of desire ran through her. She shouldn’t have offered the rest of the water to him. “I’m older than you.” He did not elaborate. “I think our session has grown stale.” She mumbled something about hating for anything to become stale but he ignored her. “It’s time to go back on the course.”
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