A trickle of sweat runs down the centre of my spine. I creep into the dark room, intent on following through with this…what do I call it?…plan.
‘Henry?’ I call. I tiptoe further in. I knock my shin on something sharp. I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from crying out. ‘Are you in here?’
‘Dammit,’ I whisper. Turning, I make my way out of the room. I see a shape in the corner of the room. I gasp as my heart leaps. It’s beating so hard it may break my ribs.
‘Hello Estelle,’ Henry’s deep baritone voice chimes through the dark space. He flicks on a floor lamp, illuminating the room. My eyes sting from the sudden brightness.
His gaze over my body burns my skin.
‘Using your usual methods of chicanery, I see,’ Henry utters.
‘Pardon?’ I cross my arms, cold with shame. I am wearing a silk negligee. ‘I don’t understand that word,’ I lie, stalling for time, a way out, anything. I clear my throat.
‘Estelle, dear,’ Henry says with a patronising tone. ‘We’ve been at these crossroads before. I’m not bequeathing you anything—not even a stone from the driveway—in my will. Trying to bed me will only make you feel like a cheap whore.’ He stares directly at my decolletage as he speaks. He licks his lips.
I silently fume, my fingers thick with rage. It’s these mixed messages from Henry that led me here to his sprawling home, and trapped me. He doesn’t understand. I don’t want his money. I want to leave.
He continues, ‘And one without a pimp, I might add.’ He laughs, pleased with his joke, with himself. He pours himself a whisky from the drinks table next to his chair. ‘Leave now. Don’t attempt this again.’
My fingers lightly feel for the small glass ampoule hidden inside my lingerie, tucked under my left breast. My plan will have to wait. I walk from the room; once my back is turned, tears prick my eyes. I am shaking from the humiliation of another failed attempt. But it will not stop me. I’ll find a way.