Under Orders(5)

By: Doris O Connor

Louise had blinked twice and pursed her lips.

“But no one ever remembers what happens when he is around. Not when they’ve been summoned like you have? I don’t understand, I mean—“

“Louise, meet me in my office, please.”

Leonard’s disembodied voice coming over the intercom had made them both jump, and Louise had gone an interesting shade of white, before she‘d scrambled to her feet, and had disappeared into his office. When she had reappeared moments later, she had avoided eye contact with anyone and had avoided Anna like the proverbial plague. In fact, most people in the office gave Anna wide berth. Had she been given to paranoia she might have thought they were all avoiding her on purpose. Which was a ridiculous notion. It hadn’t been her fault that Brian had been sacked, and his replacement, a bland faced, married man in his thirties seemed studious and had seamlessly blended into the company as though Brian had never existed.

Whenever Anna allowed herself to dwell on these goings on, that sense of unease invaded her. Like a thousand little insect legs it marched across her consciousness, always just out of reach, and try as she might she could not grasp the reason for it.

So Anna threw herself into her work instead. As soon as the last “t” was crossed she could hand in her resignation and get away from this place. And maybe then the nightmares would stop.

It meant many a late night in the office, and she could have sworn that she was being watched. Even now Anna couldn’t shake the feeling that she was not alone. Her nipples firmed and her breasts grew heavy, and moisture soaked her pajama bottoms as a familiar scent engulfed her. Her heartbeat slowed and then turned into a jack hammer when she drew back the curtains and peered down into her deserted street. A black Mercedes was parked under the street light again. Anna couldn’t see anything past the blacked out windows, and just like before it silently drove away the minute she opened the curtains.

The scent intensified, and gooseflesh broke out all over her skin.

“I’ve got you, little one. Don’t be afraid.” Jonathan’s voice in her ear made her spin around, fully expecting him to stand behind her, but of course he wasn’t there. She was going insane. Lack of sleep was making her imagine things; that was all. She was on the fourth floor with her windows locked and the front door dead bolted. No living creature could get in, and whatever Jonathan was, he was very much alive and kicking. Far too alive and utterly delectable, damn him.

Anna padded into the bathroom to splash cold water in her face and to will her breathing to slow down. If she closed her eyes she could almost see him standing behind her, feel his calloused fingers kneading her tense shoulders. She leant back into his reassuring warmth and let her head fall back onto his broad shoulder. It was an illusion, that was all, but a sense of calm settled over her.

The shrill sound of the telephone shook her out of her trance, and she bumped into the wash basin in her haste to get away from… From what? There was no one there.

She snatched the phone of the receiver, and uttered a silent prayer of thanks when her pop’s gravelly voice came through loud and clear.

“Are you feeling all right, Anna?”

Anna rolled her eyes and looked at the time again.

“Am I feeling all right? Grand-pops, you do know what the time is, don’t you? It’s the middle of the night. Couldn’t you sleep again? Where is that nurse? She’s supposed to look after you, and—”

“I don’t need some young whippersnapper of a nurse ordering me about. I told you that before. I am not senile. I am perfectly capable of taking my medication and going to the toilet by myself. I do not need a nurse-maid.”

Anna suppressed a sigh and switched off to the tirade. This was an old argument and one she did not have the patience for right now. Grand-pops was in his late eighties and refused to leave his huge house in the country and downsize to something more manageable, despite the fact that he lived in just two rooms of the big old rambling house. Once upon a time it had been full of laughter and love. Nowadays it gave Anna the chills. The upstairs had long since been boarded off as Grand-pops found the stairs harder and harder to negotiate, and he had set up home in the large kitchen. Warm all year round, thanks to the huge Aga, the kitchen had always been the focal point, even when Grand-mama had still been alive. It hadn’t been a huge surprise when Grand-pops had decreed that he would live out his days in the kitchen and adjacent study–cum-library.

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