All I need is just one of them to look up and catch my eye – surely just one of them will realise I need help.
I have been sitting in the window now for an hour – just an hour since he had dragged me out of my dark corner. I know it is an hour because I can see the bold red hands of the clock mounted at the top of the slide which is in the centre of the playground outside my window.
He tied my legs to the chair and pushed me up to the large, bright window so that I could look out onto the snowy-white landscape. It had snowed overnight, that means it must be winter again. I have been here for a year – a whole year.
The first time I looked out onto this view of the children’s playground it had been a sunny autumn day. The brown kind of day you get when the summer is over and the sunlight is starting to fade. I have watched every day since then. All through the winter and the bright spring days, the heavy hot summer and now it was winter again. And I was still here trapped and at my captor’s mercy.
He didn’t tie my hands anymore. I had learnt that the first time I raised my bound hands, banged on the glass and shouted at the top of my lungs for help. That’s when he took my hair – there was hardly any left now, just wisps around my neck. The second time I did it, he took my finger.
I stopped shouting when he told me he would take another finger and then my tongue.
My hand still throbs even though it has almost healed as it relives that terrible moment when he bought the blade down and I felt the agony of him slicing through my bone.
I know I can’t risk making noise or giving any sudden movements – I know he would carry out his threats. So I watch and wait through all the long days marking the time in my mind by the way the children are dressed. Brightly coloured shorts and t-shirts in the warmer days, swimsuits and water games in the unbearably hot days. Richly coloured woollen hats and scarves as the days got chillier and they added thick padded jackets and gloves as the winter days began in earnest.
So here I sit watching the snowball fights and sliding games play out before me – hoping that someone would see me and realise.
I don’t know why he is doing this – I think he is enjoying a cruel game. Every night as I am jerked sharply away from the window he asks me to describe what I have seen. All the details right down to the games that are being played and who has won.
If I tell a good enough story he might let me sleep or give me some more water. I am always thirsty. I think it is the drugs he uses to keep me docile.
I know he thinks he is being cruel, but really he has given me a gift. Everyday there is a chance, however small, that someone will notice me – after all I only need one person to see me. Just one.
* * * * *
“Are you taking Rosie back to her room Jack?” called out Maggie from across the hall.
“Yes, just walking her back now,” Jack replied
“Wait for me and I can walk with you. I would like to hear how she’s doing.”
Jack stood and waited behind the wheelchair where Rosie sat slumped, staring into the distance.
As usual she made no sound, just staring straight ahead, never looking to the left or the right. It concerned Jack that she was so unresponsive. Admittedly it had been traumatic for her leaving her little house and moving into the nursing home, but her lack of interaction with other people was unnerving.
She never spoke until she was spoken to, never asked for anything and never engaged with any of the other residents. It was almost like she was here alone. Just Rosie with Jack to look after her.
He bent down and adjusted the metal guards that cupped the back of Rosie’s legs, keeping her steady so that she wouldn’t fall out or get her feet caught underneath the wheels.
“Come on Maggie,” he called out. “We don’t want to be late with our exercises. I want to hear about what Rosie has seen today.”
That was the only time she spoke, when he asked her about her day, encouraging her to think about what she had seen and heard through the window. She became quite lyrical about watching the children giving lots of detail and bringing them to life like characters in a story.
She visibly relaxed when he told her she had done a good job or asked to hear more. It was almost as if she was trying to please him.
The only other time he had heard her make a noise was that first day when she had arrived, confused and unsure, clearly frightened to be in such unfamiliar surroundings.
She had clenched her fists and beat them against the window, until they became swollen and bruised, so swollen he had had to cut her wedding ring off.
She had screamed and tried to bite him, banging her head against the wall until she had to be restrained. It was a horrible thing to see, but she would not be comforted and needed to be sedated in the end.
Poor old girl, she didn’t deserve to end up here with no family to visit her.
It wasn’t natural, he decided. Tomorrow he would redouble his efforts to get her to engage with him. She needed to have just one conversation, to ask him for something, anything. Just one conversation that would be all that was needed. Just one.