The girl sat up in bed, stretching her arms wide as she yawned herself awake.
This, she thought as she lay back down with a smile, was a good way to spend her nineteenth birthday. Holed up in her lover’s tiny lakeside cabin nestled deep in the woods of the Adirondack Mountains.
It was a welcome respite from the last few days’ turmoil…
Her affair with the old man had begun as soon as they’d met, at his daughter’s graduation ceremony where his future paramour was also graduating. While the girl had been appalled by the old man’s advances, she was also drawn to him…
Or at least, to his money.
But the old man had been unwilling to leave his wife, and insisted on maintaining his relationship with the girl as what it had begun: An affair. He made her send him a video of herself taking her birth control pills, every single morning.
But the girl was an ambitious thing, and deeply embittered by having no power over the old man, no angle from which she could manipulate him. And so she finally pulled the trigger, and told his wife about her affair.
She had hoped for a monetary settlement, some ‘hush money’ to keep her from talking to the press. That, she assumed, would have been the end of it. She would have preferred to go on as a newly-minted trophy wife, an undeserving heiress… but alas, such was not to be.
Somehow the old man had seemed strangely ambivalent about the girl’s tattling to his wife. He’d brushed off her explanations, her self-righteous declarations that she had ‘wanted to be honest’, and invited her here for the weekend. He’d made sure that the girl had her birth-control tablets and he his erectile dysfunction pills, and thus they were off.
The girl sat up, adjusting the top on her gauzy nightgown as she finally began to perk up. It suddenly struck her that something in the room smelled very, very enticing…
She smiled as she finally saw the spread laid out for her on the nightstand. Fresh pancakes, with cinnamon, whipped cream, and sliced bananas – her favorite breakfast. There were crisp bacon slices laid out to balance the sweet pancakes with their salty, savory goodness, and a tall glass of ice-cold milk.
The girl ate her breakfast with a will, enjoying the repast. The day would come, she knew, when she’d have to count calories, when she couldn’t just eat whatever she wanted. But for now, she was still a teenager. The whipped cream and bacon would have no affect whatsoever on her long, lean legs and taut stomach.
As she finished up, she could hear the old man puttering around the kitchen. Dishes clinked here and there, and the faucet ran every once in a while. Smiling, the girl gathered up her dishes and climbed out of bed, padding down the hallway toward the tiny kitchen.
“Hello, love!” she chirped.
There was no one here.
The girl set her dishes in the sink, looking curiously around. Where had the old man gone? He’d just been here, of this she was certain. Hadn’t she just heard him loading the dishwasher?
The girl opened the dishwasher; it was empty, and dry as a bone.
The cabinets were still full of dishes, and the sink wasn’t even wet.
Had she drifted off from the carbohydrate-heavy pancakes, and begun dreaming again? Perhaps the old man had left her breakfast, and gone into town for a while.
The girl looked out the kitchen window. No, the old man hadn’t left; his luxury sedan was still parked in the gravel driveway.
The girl began to feel nervous, restless.
Then she laughed at herself, as the hallway toilet flushed. She smiled, and headed back down the short hallway.
“Hello?” she whispered, tapping on the bathroom door. “Love?”
She waited a moment, and then opened the bathroom door.
There was no one here.
Surely she should have seen him exiting the bathroom door, yes? The girl frowned, feeling a strange sense of nervousness again.
Then she heard a dresser drawer shutting in the bedroom.
Internally laughing at herself, the girl headed for the bedroom.
But the girl took a fearful step backwards nonetheless.
The bedroom trash can lay overturned on the floor. Scattered upon the bed were dozens of empty pill packages, which the girl recognized as once containing the old man’s erectile dysfunction medicine.
And scattered all through-out the torn packages were birth-control pills, intact, un-eaten, as they always had been during the girl’s affair with the old man. She’d been popping aspirin in the videos she’d always sent to him, calming his fears while ever hoping that he’d get her pregnant, that he’d give her some means of wreaking a campaign of extortion upon his estate.
The girl trembled as she heard the riding lawn-mower starting up in the garage.
She ran into the garage, suddenly frightened. The old man knew about her attempts at getting pregnant, this she knew now. Was he angry with her? Had he brought her up here to threaten her, or even worse?
She threw open the door to the attached garage, and jumped over the steps.
The lawnmower sat idle, covered with spider webs. The garage didn’t even smell of exhaust, as it should have if the lawnmower had been started within its plywood walls.
Terrified, the girl yanked open the garage’s door and ran outside in her racy nightgown.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” she screamed at the trees. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
The trees, resplendent in their autumn glory, hung as still as the dead. There should have been a breeze, causing their leaves to rattle merrily. The morning shadows should have been dancing on the forest floor, while the birds sang merrily.
The trees were frozen in time, and there was no sound to be heard. Even the clouds above were immobile, and the shadows looked like grotesquely-painted smears, unmoving and more than a little menacing.
The girl ran back inside as she felt the skies closing in on her, and began to fancy that the trees were creeping ever closer to her.
She ran through the front door and slammed it beside her. She turned to face the door, gasping for breath as she screamed at it.
“QUIT PLAYING WITH ME!!!” she wailed.
The girl took a step backwards, her eyes widening in horror.
The lock on the doorknob turned, all by itself. Then the security chain lifted, and slid itself home. Then the dead-bolt slammed into the place, and the switch to the door alarm clicked on.
The girl ran screaming to the window, and tried to open the lock…
It wouldn’t turn.
Terrified, she punched the window with all her strength…
It wouldn’t break.
She threw herself against the wall, sliding down it in a fit of sobbing hysteria.
“What do you want?” she moaned. “What’s happening?”
The stereo cackled to life, and the girl turned her weeping gaze towards it as it hissed and hummed through the stations.
She heard the beginning of a news report; it began with a name, a name she knew.
“The millionaire philanthropist,” read the anchorwoman, “called emergency services himself in the middle of last night, complaining of chest pains. He was taken by ambulance from his lake cabin, to the hospital, where…”
“DON’T say it!” moaned the girl
“… where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. He is survived by his wife and daughter, who will inherit his estate.”
The girl burst into hysterics, looking fearfully into the open kitchen from whence her breakfast had come.
The voice on the radio changed, from that of the demure anchorwoman into a voice that the girl knew all too well.
“You came from nothing,” wheezed the old man, in a deadpan tone. “You had nothing to offer the world, except what every person has to give when they have no morals…”
The girl screamed as a butcher knife slid slowly from its wooden countertop sheath.
“And that’s all you are…”
After a few moments, there was no further sound to be heard from the hysterical girl. The house was a sun-lit tomb now, silent, and still.
And that’s all you are, repeated the rising breeze outside…