Jana savoured the water tumbling over her body as she lathered toilet soap over her skin and her shampoo did its duty. Earlier she had perspired to excess as she’d tackled her neglected garden. Her fingernails were beyond salvation and would have to be trimmed back. But she felt good.
It was as she had that thought that the light in the bathroom went out.
It took a second or two for her to realise that the electricity was out too. The water trickled to a stop. Suds were still trailing from her hair. Her eyes stung.
Just when Mike was away for the weekend for a farmer’s meeting… Bad timing!
She decided to wait for a while and hoped it would be only a short stoppage. Her senses were on alert as she planned what to do…
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if she trailed water through the house, would it?
She was keen to rinse her hair, so that was high on her priority list. She’d have to feel her way to the kitchen, find a torch, go outside for a bucket and fill it up from the rainwater tank. She plotted her movements.
But suddenly Jana froze.
Was that a noise she heard? Coming from the kitchen?
Should she call out? Yes.
‘Hello, is anyone there?’ Try calling again, she instructed herself. ‘Hello!’
No reply, only silence… She reached for the door of the shower stall. ‘Don’t be a scaredy cat’, she admonished herself.
Then another noise, this time in the hall, and closer to the bathroom…
Jana really didn’t think about what to do next. Adrenalin made the decision for her. She leapt from the shower and instinctively grasped the door knob. There was no key to this room, so she gritted her teeth and held on with full force. The noise stopped. Was that breathing she could hear?
Her, ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ evinced the same response as her earlier attempts.
What a dilemma! She felt a shiver run through her body. She was wet and cold, but that wasn’t why she trembled… Would she be able to hold the door against a determined assailant? Where did that unwanted thought come from? Jana told herself to rein in her imagination. She might be stuck there all night. Deep breaths!
Should she risk letting go and reaching for her towel?
She listened. She waited. She worried.
Then she heard a distinct sound—one she was familiar with. What a relief!
She opened the door in an instant, clutched a towel from the rack, and almost purred with pleasure as she felt a furry body at her bare feet.
‘TomTom, you darling! You gave me a fright. Let me pick you up so I don’t trip over you. We’re off to get a torch. Oh, I know I’m wet, but no complaints, please. I will give you a treat as soon as I get organized.
TomTom, what’s wrong? Don’t scratch me! Oh, I think you’ve drawn blood! Let me pat you. You’ve had a fright.
TomTom, that’s a terrible noise. You never snarl like that! Stop scratching me! Tommie!’
Thoughts jumbled as Jana tried to pacify her pet. ‘Go then, naughty!’ Jana gave up.
What could have caused such weird behaviour in her good-natured feline? TomTom had been out of sorts all day, since that earlier intrusion, she remembered–refusing to approach Jana when called and staring at her fixedly…
I wonder if that woman is to blame?
Jana had been sitting at her table that morning, enjoying her first coffee of the day, when a feeling of being watched caused her to look up. At the window, she saw a face. The dark eyes, the pale skin, the tattered shirt, the tousled, lank hair, she took in at a glance. Peculiar…quite peculiar…
Startled, Jana noticed as she arose and moved quickly to the door, that TomTom, her pet who never took to strangers was languid in this stranger’s arms.
The woman dropped TomTom and started to run. Only once she hesitated and turned back. Jana’s questions died on her lips as she intercepted the malevolent look in those deep-set eyes. It was evident his woman would brook no inquiries.
Jana shrugged her shoulders. Why she was in this isolated area, and why she had brought the complaisant TomTom home would never be known. Forget her.
TomTom was certainly acting up.
It was so dark and loneliness washed over Jana. If only Mike was home now…
As she rummaged through the bottom shelf of the pantry and turned on the torch, there was a sound. In the light she saw her Tommie–in the arms of that woman seated at her table. Cruel eyes glinted as Jana heard uttered the terrible words,