A bologna sandwich on white bread with mayonnaise is not exactly the best dinner I’ve ever had in my life, but it fills me up and leaves me feeling only slightly nauseous. Ethan has highbrow taste when it comes to food and always manages to score a table at the trendiest new restaurants, but he demolishes the bologna sandwich without complaint.
“Do you feel better now that you’ve eaten?” he asks
“Yes,” I lie. Eating a cold bologna sandwich hasn’t made
me forget that there could be a stranger lurking on the second floor of our house.
“Good.” He grabs my hand across the table—mine is freezing but his is surprisingly warm. “Jesus, Tricia. You’re ice cold!”
I don’t know what he expects. It’s well below freezing outside and there’s no heat in this house. We’re both still wearing our coats. “Yes…”
“I’ll tell you what.” He rises from his chair and automatically grabs both our plates off the table to clear it. His mother taught him well—too bad I never got to meet her. “Let me figure out the heat. If we’ve got electricity, I’ll bet we can turn the heat on.”
“That would be great.” I grab the two cups of water from the table and follow him to the kitchen, doing my part as well. “You are the best husband ever.”
Ethan’s face lights up. He drops the plates on the kitchen counter and reaches for me. It’s awkward since we both have our coats on, but I love how hot his breath is when he kisses me. “It’s easy to be the best husband ever when I have the best wife ever.”
Despite his good looks, Ethan was never much of a ladies’ man. The day we met at the coffee shop, I was the one who made the first move. He didn’t have many girlfriends before me and doesn’t have many friends. Some of my friends warned me it’s a red flag, but I’m glad he didn’t have a gazillion girlfriends before me or a best buddy to compete with. I always dreamed of being best friends with my husband.
I hope he still feels that way after what I have to tell him this weekend. I have a terrible feeling that the conversation will not go well.
Like everything else in the house, the first-floor bathroom is tucked away and challenging to find. I finally locate it under the spiral staircase—it fills me with the vague concern that if somebody were on the stairs, they could potentially fall through the ceiling of the bathroom. But hopefully, the house is better made than that.
The bathroom is large but quaint. The bathtub has feet as well as a separate handle for hot and cold water. After I relieve myself, I run a wet piece of toilet paper along the vanity mirror over the sink, cleaning off the dust so that I can see my reflection clearly for the first time since we arrived at this house.
Wow. I don’t look so hot.
My hair is blond with honey highlights and waves courtesy of my curling iron, but right now, it’s still damp and dark from the snow, and all the waves have been destroyed
—strands are clinging to my skull and my cheeks. My lips are pale, almost blue, and my face is bone white. I grab a tube of lipstick from my purse and apply a healthy coat. There—that’s a little better. I try pinching my cheeks to
bring back a bit of color to my face, but it’s just making me look blotchy so I stop.
Anyway, it’s just me and Ethan here. Yes, I want to look my best for my husband, but we’ve been married for six months now. He understands I can’t look absolutely perfect all the time. I mean, I’m sure he understands that. Even though he always looks frustratingly perfect.
When I emerge from the bathroom, I notice yet another bookcase tucked behind the stairwell. Geez, Dr. Adrienne Hale sure liked books. Most of the bookcases in the house seem to be related to psychiatry or psychology. All stuff about the human mind, anyway. But this bookcase is different. This one is filled with paperback novels—guilty pleasures.
I scan the rows of books, searching for something that might entertain me if we’re stuck here for much longer. I try to imagine the psychiatrist with the intense green eyes curled up with a Danielle Steel novel—I can’t do it. I’m not much of a romance fan either. But she has a few Stephen King novels that are more my speed. And they’re long and engaging.
I’ve already read all the Stephen King books on her shelves, but I wouldn’t mind rereading a few classics. And anyway, I won’t be here long enough to finish it, so there’s no point starting something new. First, I pick up the copy of It, but I practically sprain my wrist getting it off the shelf— this one might be a bit long if we’re only spending one night. Finally, I decide on The Shining—one of my favorites— and I tip the book out to swipe it from the shelf.
Except it doesn’t come out.
I pull harder on the book, but only the top of it comes free. The bottom seems wedged in place. And when I move the top of the book, I hear a loud click. And the bookcase shifts slightly.
I glance over my shoulder. Ethan is nowhere in sight. He’s probably still fiddling with the heat. I peer around the side of the bookcase—it’s shifted away from the wall. I tug on the side of it, and a concealed door swings out towards me. I blink a few times, unable to believe what I’m seeing.
It’s a secret room.