Greta retrieves my empty dinner dishes and sets them aside on the bottom step of the concrete staircase. She’s a wonderful cook. A wonderful person who has treated me with nothing but kindness since Fredrik introduced us. I think she worries more about me than I worry about myself.
“Would you like dessert?” she asks. “There’s a fruit bowl upstairs in the fridge. I made it just how you like it, with honey and coconut.”
I lay on the bed on my side, my hands fitted between my knees, the soft memory foam pillow crushed against my cheek. The chain around my ankle dangling over the side of the bed.
I smile at Greta. “No thank you.”
She approaches me with that motherly look she always gives when she’s about try to get me to open up to her. The bed moves gently as she sits down beside me. She brings my favorite blue and white tapestry quilt up from the end of the bed and drapes it over my exposed legs. The palm of her hand pats me lightly on the hip before sliding away.
“I didn’t tell Fredrik,” I say in almost a whisper.
“You didn’t tell him what?” Her voice is soft and kind.
Staring out ahead of me, I let the memory move across my eyes again before finally telling Greta.
“That I remember I used to love Connie Francis,” I say and suddenly my face breaks into a warm smile the more I picture the pieces of my old life. I laugh gently under my breath. “And my friend who lived across the hall—I think her name was Lanie—she thought it was funny I listened to that old stuff.” I adjust my head so that I can see Greta next to me. A bright smile has etched deep lines around her mouth and drawn out crow’s feet in the corners of her eyes.
She pats my hip again.
“I love Connie Francis,” she says, beaming. “She’s one of my favorites. Do you remember what made you start listening to her?”
My gaze falls out ahead again. “No, I don’t remember that much. But I can’t help but think it’s more than that. Maybe I didn’t just listen to her music, but that I might’ve…,”—I blush inwardly at the thought—“That I might’ve performed it somewhere. I don’t know. It’s ridiculous, I’m sure.”
“Hey, maybe not,” Greta says, “I don’t see any reason why that couldn’t be true. Surely you can sing.”
“What makes you think that?” I ask smiling in an unbelieving manner.
Greta shrugs. “Oh, I don’t know. Just a hunch I guess. Maybe you’ll sing one of her songs for me someday.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that,” I say and feel my cheeks warm with a blush.
I hear the central heat hum to life amid the sudden silence between us and then the warm air filtering through the two vents in the ceiling.
“Why didn’t you tell him?” she asks quietly.
The smile fades from my face as I stare out ahead, thinking only of Fredrik now.
“Because I wanted him to tell me more about his life. And he did. But it wasn’t enough.” I pause and sigh deeply. “I wanted him to tell me about Seraphina. Anything about her. I think he owes me that.”
“Did you ask him again?”
Shaking my head against the pillow I say, “No. In fact, I even told him I didn’t care to know about her anymore. I guess I had hoped he might have a change of heart if I…it was stupid of me. I just don’t understand his…obsession with that woman. And I don’t like it.”
“Cassia?” Greta’s voice is careful and motherly. “I don’t mean to question your heart, but why do you care so much for him? A man who took you from your life, who keeps you chained in a basement. I guess I just have a hard time understanding your mindset.” She lays her hand on my hip again but this time doesn’t move it away. “I understand Stockholm syndrome. And for a long time I thought that you were a classic case, but…”
I feel her eyes on me and I look over at her. When she doesn’t continue right away, I raise my body from the bed and sit upright, looking directly at her with a feeling of impatience in the pit of my stomach.
Another moment of quiet passes between us.
“But Fredrik employed me only a week after he brought you here,” she finally goes on, “and you weren’t afraid of him, Cassia. Even with Stockholm syndrome, there’s usually still a lot of fear that early after a kidnapping. You showed absolutely none. At least not toward Fredrik.”
“What do you mean?” I peer in at her with curiosity and determination. “I was afraid of you?”
She nods. “At first, yes. Cassia, you were so traumatized when I first met you. You talked in your sleep. You mentioned Seraphina’s name.” She looks away from me and I get the feeling she’s deciding whether or not to tell me anymore, as though she’s already said too much.
“What is it, Greta? What are you not telling me?”
Her bony shoulders rise and fall underneath her light pink button-up top. Her weathered hands move restlessly within her lap.
“Don’t tell Fredrik that I said these things to you. Because I’ve never told him any of this.”
I shake my head, eyes wide with anticipation, my heart pounding in my fingertips as I eagerly await her words.
“I believe you were very close to Seraphina,” she says and it wrenches my stomach. “I don’t know how close, but you know her and you know her well. And you’re terrified of her. I think it’s why you’re not afraid of Fredrik, or of being imprisoned here.” As her words, which I feel deep inside of me to be true, are sinking into my mind like missing puzzle pieces, she asks, “You don’t want to leave here, do you, Cassia?”
Absently, I shake my head, my mind still trying to accept all of these things she’s saying to me.
“No,” I admit, “I’m afraid to leave this place. I feel safe here. I don’t know why, but I do.”
Greta nods and then pats the top of my bare foot pulled up onto the bed.
“But why wouldn’t he want me to know these things?”
“I’m not sure,” she says distantly, “but I think in a way…he doesn’t really want you to remember. Fredrik has something with Seraphina that he needs to settle. I know this. I’ve seen that look in a man’s eyes before. Nothing is going to stop him from finding that woman and taking care of whatever it is he needs to take care of. But…Fredrik also has another look that I’ve seen in a man before.”