She hangs on, clasping the ice, shivering. The weight—the wind—the rush all pull Allie back but she shakes and keeps fighting. Eyes flickering, opening and shutting, the heavy snow cutting at them. She can see the wall. The white towering pillars hovering over her. Moving closer, as if they’re breathing, as if they’re pushing her back.
Then amidst the screaming wind of the storm she can hear the laugh. His laugh. His delirious, angry, burn-the-world-down sort of laugh. The cold burn in her eyes feels like staples trying to keep them shut. But she forces them open to see the white enveloping her. Long, sharp alabaster daggers reaching out toward her face, her throat.
Those aren’t pillars or daggers they’re teeth and they belong to my husband.
And Bernardo keeps laughing as he begins to bite down and tear the part of her cheek that’s stretching to scream out but can’t be heard over the wailing wind rushing over her.
Something scratching woke her up.
The wind blew outside, but not in some kind of scary way but more in a soothing one, the kind you’d find on some kind of app and play to fall asleep to. The other sound, the scraping sort close-by, was the one that sounded a bit alarming.
She could feel her body drenched in sweat. Parts still shook. The nightmares weren’t anything new. She had grown used to them. These were the ones she didn’t mind. At least she could awaken from these horrors.
Allie opened her eyes and waited in the dark. There was no sound at first, then the clawing came again.
This time she could feel the tugging on her comforter.
This isn’t happening.
She didn’t ever flip out over little rodents or tiny animals that either slithered or scampered in the dark. But she wasn’t about to stay in bed letting whatever this was continue munching on part of her blanket. Allie climbed out of bed on the other side and then went over to turn on the lone lamp on the nearby table. Even before she could peer around the mattress to examine the culprit, she saw something white pop up on top of it like part of some magician’s trick. Something white—anything white—anything that even remotely resembled those chomping, smiling, sickening teeth—-
Bolting backwards, she banged a shoulder against the wall and then saw the monster.
The cat simply crawled to the middle of the bed and then snuggled up as if she’d done this a thousand times before.
With her body still shaking and a heart that felt like a marathon-runner, Allie carefully approached it, then examined it from a few feet away. The white animal didn’t look wild or mean, but she’d never been a big fan of cats so she wasn’t going to be stupid and get bit.
“What are you doing here?” Allie said, moving closer, then sitting on the edge of the bed.
Allie wore comfortable jammies that had never been worn before. Bernardo wasn’t a big fan of flannel pajamas even if they had come from Victoria’s Secret. But that very fact alone—that she had actually been worried about wearing them—was utterly ridiculous. Just like staying with him as long as she had.
Just like this white cat waking me up at two in the morning.
The gentle purring of the Persian Cat could be heard. Its copper eyes looked up at her with wonder.
“Where’d you come from, huh?” she asked, finally moving a hand to pet the long and sleek white fur.
The cat bolted out of the bed. Thankfully it went right past Allie instead of jumping right at her head. It landed on the floor like some kind of ballet dancer and then dashed out of the small room through the slightly open door. Allie thought about heading out to find the animal, but it was late and she was tired. Either the owners of the cabin had left her there or maybe she was just roaming like cats did. Maybe she was married to the black cat she’d seen earlier.
That look. It felt strange because it felt . . .
But she’d never owned a cat. She didn’t know anybody—not anyone close—who owned a cat either. So why did those copper eyes looking at her seem recognizable?
They don’t look like Bernardo’s. That I know.
A sign for Wolf Laurel hung on one of the walls. It was fitting. Allie thought that her husband’s eyes resembled a wild wolf. The kind hunting down its prey. Alert and focused and deadly. Just like any predator.
This made her think of the last text he’d sent her before she shut off her phone. Very passionate. Very ravenous. Very Bernardo-esque.
I WILL find you. And I WON’T let you leave. And every single second you are away will mean I’ll take that much MORE from you once you’re mine again. This time I won’t be gentle. This time I swear I won’t hold back anything.
Shutting off the light and slipping back under the covers, Allie wondered how much more Bernardo could take. There wasn’t much left to give.
That little bit left inside of Allie stayed awake for a long time, thinking about the white cat and eventually dreaming about it.
At least she had something sweet to dream about. For now.