Chapter 1

"I asked what you do for a living."

Clarence snaps out of his daze, turning his attention to the woman sitting across from him. The two of them are seated in the kitchen of his house. There's a light fall of snow outside, with the surrounding area comprised completely of woodlands.

"Oh, well, I'm a bank teller now. After college I just decided to come back home and spend more time with the folks. Of course I still find time to pursue my...artistic interests," he chuckles, in his soft-spoken tone with a slight Philly accent.

"Wow, that's great to hear, I've always liked your paintings," she replies, smiling, " your parents still live here?"

He pauses, "Well…no, actually...things have started to seem a little empty…"

Clarence scratches behind his ear, "Gosh Karina, it's so good to see you again. So much has changed since we were in high school and it's just...nice to have something comfortable again."

Holding her small hands in her lap, Karina takes a sip from her glass of white wine, "Yeah…I...I understand what you're saying. We were so crazy back then, ah...those were fun times."

Clarence gets out of his seat, his hand halfway into the coat pocket of his gray three-piece suit, "Speaking of high school, I thought I'd bring along our picture from the senior prom."

He takes out a piece of folded picture paper yellowed with age. Unfolding it in front of her, dust comes swirling out of the picture.

"Oh! ...oh, I'm so sorry Karina, I guess I haven't looked at this thing in so long I-...I've let it collect dust," Clarence apologizes, setting down the picture and grabbing his cloth napkin from the table to help swipe it away.

After a few coughs, Karina recovers, "It's fine Clarence, you didn't mean any harm."

She glances up, and notices the photo lying on the table. Now free of dust, Karina picks it up to examine it.

"How long ago was this taken...five...six years ago?" she asks herself, placing her finger on her lips.

"It'll be almost six years ago now. Sure doesn't feel like it…" Clarence responds, getting low to look at the picture with her.

"You know, there's something I've always liked about this picture. Even in black-and-white, it just...conveys so much emotion," he observes, "the hope and joy of our teenaged years, the promise of a better life, my love of art...and my love for you, all encapsulated in this one picture."

Karina, falling into an unnatural sleep, loses her grip on the photo, and falls to the floor, unconscious.

Karina comes to in an empty bedroom, the only furniture being the bed she'd been laid down upon. The wallpaper is a light green, with floral patterns, divided by wooden panelling.

"Clarence's old…" she mumbles, only having come somewhat to her senses.

The floorboards begin to creak with a rigid slowness. The uneven wallpaper on the other side of the wall crinkles, like someone is pushing on the layers. After several groans from the olden floorboards, the door's hinges moan, as Clarence pokes his head out from the doorway.

"Morning, sleepyhead."

Karina starts pulling herself back against the bed as Clarence enters the room. Careful to close the door behind him, his steps have a methodical slowness to them.

"I wasn't quite sure when you'd wake up. Nevertheless, I'm glad you're up now. Ha...not that I didn't think you weren't going to wake up-"

"Why am I here?" Karina blurts out, interrupting him.

His hands behind his back, he responds, "Why? Don't you remember? Well, I guess you don't. You had too much to drink and passed out. I took the liberty of bringing you back to my house so you could sleep it off."

She holds her head, "I...I did? Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry Clarence. That must have been embarrassing for you...I'll...I'll just see myself out."

"Oh, no trouble at all Karina," he shakes his head, "you take all the time you need. If you need anything, I'll be happy to fetch-"

"Clarence…" she interrupts him, "that's...very kind of you. But I think I'm well enough to get home."

The smile on his face begins to fade, as he takes the last few remaining steps separating the him from the bed, "You couldn't just play along, could you? ...I'm afraid you can't leave."

"Wha...what do you mean 'I can't leave'?! Clarence, what do you mea-"

"I drugged you. The uhm…'dust' on the picture? Chemically concentrated chloroform.'s that for alliteration?" he asks, his smile returning and his hands clasped in front of him.

Karina, still in a state of shock, grips the bedsheets, "...kidnapped me? Why?"

He chuckles to himself, "You really think that's a simple question? I...I guess you can call it kidnapping though. Yes, I kidnapped you because...because I want to keep you safe. Yes, that's why."

"Safe...from what?" she questions further.

Clarence sits at the bedside, and she pulls away, avoiding any sort of contact. He pauses, glancing her over before responding, "Well, there's lots of things in the world to be afraid of, I just...wanted to give you a safe space."

He gets up, "Would you like some supper? I made quiche. It's cooling off in the kitchen."

Turning around, he takes his time in travelling from the bedside to the door, "Oh Karina darling, I'm so happy you're here."

Shutting the door, there's a distinctive *click*, signalling the door has been locked.