Warning: This chapter contains dark subject matter
Elspeth glanced at her watch in alarm. She'd been referred to a specialist at the local hospital because her gynecologist had had concerns about her Pap smear results, and the physician she was due to see had been delayed. It was now two and a half hours past her appointment time, and she dreaded having to walk to her car in the parking garage after dark.
Yuri had offered to drive her and wait for her appointment to be over, but she knew he'd wanted to cover the garden with compost, so she'd turned down the offer.
Now she was wondering if that had been a mistake.
At last she heard her name being called and went back to talk with the specialist. The physician scheduled a biopsy for later in the month and then dismissed her.
As she walked through the breezeway connecting the hospital to the parking garage, she noticed with consternation that it was already dark outside. Her heartbeat quickened as she stepped into the parking garage, which was almost completely dark.
She was almost to her car when she felt a strong arm grab her around the waist from behind, and at the same time, a hand came over her mouth so she couldn't scream.
She struggled but quickly realized it was no use, as the man was much stronger than she was.
"Do as I say, and you won't get hurt," a sinister voice hissed into her ear.
Suddenly she heard a dog barking, and then brilliant light flooded the cavernous building. The man let go of her, and she heard his footsteps running into the distance.
Someone touched her elbow. She panicked and yanked it away.
"Ma'am, are you all right?" asked a concerned male voice. Through her tears, she saw that he was a security guard.
"I - don't - know." She was shaking so hard she could barely get the words out.
"It's all right. You're safe now. Come with me." He led her back into the hospital and into a small room, where he helped her to sit on a sofa.
"Are you injured in any way?" he asked.
"N-no," she stammered. "I'm s-scared...so scared..."
"You're safe now,' he repeated in a soothing voice. "Nobody will hurt you here. Did you see him at all?"
She shook her head. "I was almost - to my car - when he grabbed me - "
Fresh sobs heaved from her chest.
"Can I call someone for you?" asked the guard.
"My - husband." She gave him the telephone number, then sat shaking as she heard him place the call. When he was finished, he wrapped a blanket around her and gave her a warm drink, and she felt herself gradually begin to calm down.
Yuri arrived about thirty minutes later, his eyes wide with concern.
"Elya!" he cried. She went to him, and he held her tight. For a long time they just stood there, her head clasped to his chest, his hand stroking her back in soothing motions.
"It is my fault," he said at last. "I never should have let you come alone."
"It isn't your fault," she whispered. "You had no idea what would happen."
"I am your husband. It is up to me to take care of you, and I have failed." He sounded like he was about to cry.
"You didn't fail," said Elspeth. "This isn't your fault at all."
"Let me take you home. I do not ever want to let you out of my sight again."
"But what about my car?"
"Do not worry about the car! It is not important. The only important thing is you, my darling Elya."
His arm was around her protectively as he led her to his own car. She felt numb, as if she were standing outside herself, watching herself move. She got into the car, and her husband drove her home.
All was quiet as they entered the house. Elspeth went to the bathroom to shower right away. She put on her pajamas, robe, and slippers, and went into the living room, where Yuri paced back and forth like a caged animal. She went to him, and he put his arm around her and led her to the sofa, where they sat down and he held her.
"Do you feel a little bit better now?" His voice was low.
"Yes." She shuddered. "I needed to feel clean again. That man's hand was over my mouth - touching my skin - " She began to sob, hard.
Zoya, who was passing through on her way to the kitchen, gasped.
"Your mother was attacked in the parking garage at the hospital,' Yuri told her.
"Oh, no!" Zoya dashed to Elspeth's side. "Did you get raped?"
"N-no, but I almost did."
"Did they catch him?"
"Not yet," said Yuri.
"I can - never go anywhere again - until he's caught," Elspeth stammered. "I'm too s-scared."
Yuri awakened to the sound of an ear-splitting scream and turned to see his wife thrashing wildly.
"No! No!" Elspeth cried. "Get away from me!"
Yuri tried to hold her, but she fought him away.
"Get away from me!" Her eyes flew open but stared blankly ahead, uncomprehending.
"Sh, sh," Yuri soothed. "It is just me, your Yuri..."
"Yuri?" Elspeth blinked, confused. "Yuri..."
"I am right here," he murmured, stroking wet hair back from her face.
She gazed into his eyes as her breathing slowly returned to normal.
"I was so s-scared!" she whimpered.
"I know," he said. "But it is all over now, and you are safe here, with me. I will not let anyone hurt you."
She melted into the curve of his embrace, her wet cheek pressed against the softness of his pajama top.