"You mean you visited with that old man simply because you had nothing else to do?" His voice bit into her, and he reached for her once again.
"Yes. No. Oh, Gavin, you're getting my words all mixed up!" Katrina cried as she dodged out of Gavin's reach.
"Then straighten the words out, and explain to me exactly what you mean."
"At first, I talked to him because I was stuck there in his house with nothing to do, and it seemed rude to ignore him. Later, I talked to him because I wanted to. He's nice. I liked the stories he'd tell me. I liked the things he said. He didn't seem to be just an 'old man' like you keep saying. He was interesting to talk to. He made me feel…good."
"In what way?"
"About…about…" Katrina turned and walked over to the window. She looked out but with her eyes focused on the past, saw nothing beyond the panes.
"What did he make you feel good about, Katrina? Answer me." Gavin's voice had a slight edge to it. Katrina turned back and looked at him, tears swimming in her eyes. She squared her shoulders, her chin coming up a notch.
"About myself. If you must know, he was the first person I have any recollection of who made me feel I had any worth as a person. Are you satisfied?" Anger shot through her veins, but Gavin was a blur from the tears still shimmering on her lids, while her cheeks grew hot and she knew color was staining her face with her shame.
Silence descended on the room, layering thick slabs of quiet around them as they looked at each other. Finally, Gavin split the silence with a quiet question.
"Why didn't you go to him when you ran from Charleston?"
"I…I don't know." She turned back to the window. "I didn't think about going to somewhere. I only thought of getting away. Getting free of Charleston. I…I wasn't thinking very straight at the time; I told you that."
"What about after? Why didn’t you go to him later?"
Gavin stood up and came over to her. He took hold of her arms, then turned her gently to face him.
"I never thought of it. And anyway, even if I had thought of it, I wouldn’t have wanted to endanger him. Besides, I didn't have enough money to get there."
"But he was rich. He could have paid your fare."
"I didn't know he was rich. I never thought of him as rich. His house…his clothes…he didn’t look rich, or act rich. He was just a sweet old man, someone who had been kind to me. He was someone I liked a lot. He was also Charleston's relative. Not mine. And besides, if he knew about the pre…." Katrina caught herself and stopped. She felt her face get cold, then turn hot once more. She stepped away from Gavin and turned back to the window.
"If he knew about the pre-what, Katrina?" Gavin stepped closer. She didn't move, but kept her back to him. "The pre-what, Katrina?"
Still Katrina said nothing, her arms folded across her chest. She was biting her bottom lip; she didn't answer him.
Gavin took hold of Katrina's shoulders and turned her to face him. She knew he saw her fresh tears rolling down her cheeks, but she couldn’t stop the flood.
"Pre-what, Katrina. Answer me." His fingers tightened, biting into her upper arms.
Katrina, though, had had more than enough. Anger gave her courage to withstand Gavin's painful questions and even greater painful grip. She tried to pull away from him and Gavin, countering her efforts, shook her. Hot anger exploded within her, giving her a last burst of fight.
"I hate you, Gavin Browning! Leave me alone. You've put me through sheer torture tonight, isn't that enough? Or are you the same kind of man Charleston is? Do you love to torment people weaker than you are? Is it fun to watch me cry? What do you want?"
Katrina broke then, the anger gone, the energy expended fully. She began sobbing loudly, her arms coming up to shelter her face from his eyes, shame that she couldn’t stay in control of herself making her cry harder.
"Oh, Katrina, Katrina!" Gavin tried to pull her close to him again. She would have none of it. She pushed him away, her shame complete. He let her go.
"Leave me alone! Just go away and leave me alone!"
Gavin watched her for a long moment. Finally, he spoke.
"I can't leave you like this."
"What do you care how you leave me? I mean nothing to you! I don't mean anything to anyone! What does it matter? What do I matter? Just go!" Anguish was in her voice loud enough she could hear it herself and her shame increased. The tears continued to flow.
"That isn't true and you know that, surely, Katrina." His voice was soft.
Katrina bitterly ignored the soft tones, and sarcastically said, "Oh. Right. I forgot. I'm a free kiss. I'm someone on your expense account. I mean a free meal ticket in a fancy restaurant to you. Well, I hope I didn't upset your meal too badly tonight by getting sick. I guess you got your money's worth of entertainment, though, by listening to my life history. That is, unless you were bored out of your mind."
She was getting angrier by the moment, and the anger fed her much-needed energy. "Well, thank you very much for the fancy, expensive dinner I flushed down the toilet, or whatever else it is I need to thank you for. Now, I'm going to bed…by myself, thank you. As for you, you can just get out!" Her anger had loosened her tongue in a way she'd never known or spoken before. Katrina shivered.
The things she'd said made him angry as well. She could see it in his face, which was as dark as a thunder cloud. Gavin looked at her for a long moment, and though Katrina could not read his thoughts, it was a hurtful look. He walked over to where his coat lay on the chair. He picked it up without a word and put it on. He gave her one more look which made Katrina squirm and walked out of the house, closing the door very quietly behind him.
Katrina crossed the room and turned off the light. She hadn't heard his car start up. She walked back over to the window and looked out. He was just sitting in his Jaguar. She shivered again, waiting for him to drive away. He didn't. He just sat there in the car.
Finally, tired of waiting for him to leave, Katrina walked into her bathroom. Undressing, she splashed water on her face and pulled on the nightie she’d left hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
Turning off the light, she went to the bed and sat on the edge, thinking. One more day of work before the weekend. She didn't know how she was going to make it through. Looking at the clock, she was shocked to find it was 3:00 AM. She was only going to get a little over two hours of sleep as it was.
She set the alarm, knowing she was too upset to sleep. Sighing, she knew she'd be better off to at least try to get some rest at any rate. 'Fat chance', her mind mocked her.
She lay down and deliberately closed her eyes, hoping it would help.
Thoughts of Gavin kept circling in her mind and she wondered how she was going to deal with him if he called her at work tomorrow. Or, worse, what if he didn't call her?
With that thought, she knew her emotions had been through too much today. She wasn't making any sense at all. Why had the question even surfaced? Although she searched her thoughts, she couldn’t find an answer.