The fire was burning in its hearth and the boxer-dog was asleep, his breath gently slapping at his jowls.
The two women were naked, curled together in a passionate embrace. The delicate smell of washed bodies blended with the dancing light and whispering flames; the scene a symphony of harmony. The couple’s every sense aroused, stirred to a velvet smooth consistency.
Their limbs entangled, they were one.
Then Catherine caught that unmistakable waft on the air. Her body jolted, rigid with fear.
Nancy gasped, startled by the lurch of the woman in her arms.
The sudden commotion woke the dog, its head turned toward them, it had Ken’s face.
Catherine leapt to her feet, her eyes blind with terror. It took Jacky several minutes to calm her hysterical sobbing and bring her out of the nightmare.
“I’m taking you to a doctor!” Jacky resolved.
“I don’t need a doctor,” Catherine insisted.
“I don’t care, I’m taking you!”
Catherine shivered and shook violently throughout the rest of that long and sleepless Sunday night.
Come morning Jacky bodily dragged Catherine out of the house and into the car, determinedly resisting all of Catherine’s refusal to be taken across town to their practitioner.
Although, when Jacky had arrived home at noon on Sunday, Catherine had claimed to have had an early night on Saturday; yet she was utterly exhausted, shattered, as if she hadn’t slept for a week.
“Honestly, Jacks. I went out to dinner with a client, then I curled up before midnight and slept like a baby.”
Catherine’s account was entirely true, it was dinner with a client, and she had slept like a baby, just not in her own bed—she’d bunked over at Nancy’s house. Nancy and her had talked until just before midnight when both had fallen asleep in front of the fire. At dawn they had awoken in front of cold ashes.
Catherine had experienced the best night of uninterrupted sleep that she had managed since waking on Wednesday morning.
Jacky was distressed, she wasn’t buying any of it.
“What’s going on with you? I’ve never seen you look so washed out.”
“I don’t know? I’ve been like this since you left.”
“But Wednesday morning you were fine,” Jacky was vexed.
“I know,” Catherine slumped in despair, “I’ve been suffering constant nightmares, every night. I find I’m dreading going to sleep.”
“But why? ...Why the nightmares? I’ve never known you to have a nightmare, Cath. Never.”
“It must be the stress, I don’t know.... Work’s rough at the moment,” Catherine was finding it brutally difficult to keep her secret.
“It must be! I’d never imagined you’d let it get to you like this.”
As Jacky spoke she was coaxing the car into an open parking bay outside of the doctor’s rooms.
“Is it something I’ve done? ...maybe something that’s happened to you?”
At the speculation Catherine tingled with fright, an adrenaline bomb bursting in her gut. By a wisp of thread she dangled over the cliff of confession;
“No, Jacks! How can you be so silly? If it was anything, anything at all, I’d tell you. I... I don’t have a clue what it is.”
“That’s a very good reason for this professional advice,” Jacky swung Catherine’s own logic against her.
“I don’t need this,” Catherine argued crossing the threshold. She hated doctors.
“Come on!” Jacky beckoned firmly.
The doctor ran a course of elementary physical tests.
“You’re as fit as a fiddle,” he pronounced, writing a prescription for a course of sleeping pills.
The prettily coloured pills made matters much worse, trapping Catherine in her nightmare. She fought like a shark in a net, thrashing and kicking, lashing and biting, Jacky battling to control her.
She was in a world of her own, the powerful sedative denying her the relief of consciousness. She battered Jacky, convinced she was the attacker.
“This can’t go on... please, Cath, this can’t go on...” Jacky repeated, tears cascading down her cheeks as she rocked Catherine deliriously in her arms, consoling her through the night, “...this just can’t go on!”
When the birds began to sing, the heavy musky smell was still dank on the air. Both women were sitting huddled on top of their covers feeling like refugees under their own roof. It was Tuesday and Jacky had been scheduled for a late afternoon flight. She called in sick and called the doctor to do a house call for Catherine—he offered no improved prognosis.
It would be Catherine’s fourth working day at home.
“Stop. Please stop!” Jacky softly begged Catherine’s unseen and clandestine tormentor.
Catherine buried her face into Jacky’s bosom, sobbing from exhaustion and fear of sleep.
It was while Jacky prepared lunch that Catherine’s fear of sleep became irrelevant. As she lay resting the unmistakable sound of footsteps approached.
She had been about to roll over, intending to beam Jacky a well-deserved smile of thanks, when the footsteps halted short of the room.
Anxious moments; No sound.
Then, on the wind, came the unmistakable scent.
The pitch of her screech carried to every corner of the house.
Hearing the shriek, Jacky abandoned the plate she was holding mid-air, fright lending her feet wings, flying three stairs at a time to Catherine’s side.
The doctor’s house call once again proved fruitless. He prescribed the heaviest possible dose of opiate.
Catherine was locked in a world of deception, unable to disclose the identity and circumstances of her stalker. It made her feel sordid and filthy for her cuckolding.
To add to the calamity, her office had relayed several messages to urgently respond to Nancy’s escalating calls, Jacky had intercepted these and was becoming suspicious. Catherine was desperate for a gap to respond and halt the unraveling circumstance, but Jacky was magnificently attentive, not leaving her side for a second.