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She begged him to leave the phone outside.


Peter turned and left, placing his phone on the floor. By the time he came back, Julia was curled up inside the tub.

"They're spying on us." She sounded scared. He sat down next to her and thought about how to respond.

"Who do you think is spying on us?"

"I don't know. Someone. Someone is spying on us. You're not safe."

"Have you been taking your pills?"

"You're not safe. You need to stay here with me." Her hand crawled out of the tub, squeezing his arm. He didn't pull away. "It's not safe outside."

"I can't stay here forever. And I think you need to take your pills." He tried to keep his tone soft. Don't escalate, he reminded himself. Be reassuring, but firm.

"I threw them out." She squeezed harder. Her fingers were digging into his flesh. "I threw them out."

He closed his eyes and searched for his center. "Okay. That's okay. I'll get more."

"I'm sorry. Was that bad? Was I not supposed to do that? I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I'll get more."

"I think the trash-men might have found them. I didn't hide them. I'm sorry." Her grip was starting to hurt.

"It's fine. Just try to relax. Your grip is a little tight, okay?" He touched the back of her hand; she flinched, pulling her arm away. "Sorry. Let's try to get some sleep, okay? Maybe sleep will help. Let's go to bed, alright?"

"We can't leave this room. This is the only place they can't see us."

"Okay. I'll bring some blankets and pillows, and we can —"

"You can't go. Don't leave. Please don't leave." Her voice rose to a frantic pitch; she choked back a sob. "Don't leave, you can't leave — Peter, don't leave —"

Her hand snatched at his arm, pulling him violently toward her. He briefly struggled, then surrendered — letting her pull him close.

"We can't leave," she whispered. Her voice was fierce and terrified. "We have to stay here."

Peter closed his eyes and squeezed her tight.


"Peter." She squeezed his shoulder, shaking him. "Peter, wake up."

Peter groaned. "I need to sleep, Julia…"

"Peter. Wake up. We need to talk."

He forced his eyes open, sitting up. "Okay. Okay, I'm awake. Okay."

"Peter." She was laying in bed beside him, staring. She looked focused — too focused. The intensity in her stare worried him. "Peter, I know what you've been doing." Her tone was very quiet.

"I — sorry, what?"

"I know what you've been doing. It's awful, and I don't know how you live with yourself."

Peter searched for a reply, but couldn't find one.

"You're a shitty, awful person, Peter. You're a fucking monster, and you're going to burn in Hell for what you've done. I just wanted you to know that." She turned away from him and went back to sleep.

Peter closed his eyes and kept searching for a response. When he found it, he made sure to whisper, so Julia wouldn't hear:


The next night, Julia said nothing. She just sat on the living room floor and stared at their cat. Peter sat on the couch, reading a book.

The cat got too close. Julia seized Mitts by her legs and repeatedly swung her at the floor. Each impact was accompanied by a high-pitched yowl, followed by a loud whump.

By the third whump, Peter had tackled her. Mitts screeched and ran away.

Julia snarled. There was nothing human in her expression; it was twisted with a feral animal's rage. She was shrieking and clawing at him, trying to blindly dig into his face. He pushed her down to the floor with all of his weight.

"Please, stop —"

She bit him. Her teeth latched down into his arm; blood seeped around her mouth. Peter grimaced and ignored the pain, keeping her pinned.

"Julia, stop —"

"I'm going to fucking kill you!"

He pushed himself off of her, stumbling to his feet. She went for the scissors on the coffee table. Once she had them, she turned and lunged.

Five minutes later, he was stammering his way through an explanation to the police while a paramedic bandaged his arm. All the while, Julia stared at him from the other side of the room, flanked by two officers. He had never seen anyone look at him with that much hatred, before.

"We're going to take her to the mental clinic. You can talk to the doctors there, alright?"

Peter closed his eyes, found his center, and nodded:


"Is Mitts okay?"

"Yeah." Peter smiled. "The kitty's okay. Just freaked out a little, I think."

Julia sat on the other side of the table, dressed in a medical gown. Her eyes were puffy and red; she kept dipping her gaze down to the bandage on his arm. "Okay. Okay. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. God, why are you — why are you even still here?"

He wasn't sure how to answer.

"I mean, after all of the things I — you shouldn't be here. You should have left me. Why do you keep coming here? You don't deserve this."

He reached for her hand. She took it; he squeezed in response. "Because — I don't know. I don't know where else to be. I don't know how to do anything else but this."

Julia exhaled, closing her eyes. She squeezed back. "I think you're supposed to say something like 'because I love you'." It wasn't a criticism; she sounded more amused than anything.

"I mean, I do. I love you. But I —" His eyes fell to her hand. "I'm a little fucked up too, you know? In that — I don't know how to walk away. I don't know how to leave you. I can't leave you. Even if you kill me."

"That's… more than a little fucked up."

"I know. I'm sorry." He frowned. "I don't know. We're probably terrible for each other."

"Yeah," she said, and then she smiled at him. He had never seen anyone look at him with that much love, before. "They told me that I can come back home by next week."

He closed his eyes, smiled, and nodded:


SGM-33I-46 1 July 2010

Mr. Owens:

All our hearts go out to you in the wake of your wife's recent disappearance. She is a valued colleague and close friend; we are all praying for her safe return.
She has always spoken very fondly of you. If there's anything at all I can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact me. I've provided my personal cell-phone number on the back of this letter — call me at any time. I mean that.
Julia is a strong and intelligent woman, Mr. Owens. I'm sure that wherever she is, she'll be okay.


Peter couldn't read anything past the first paragraph. His vision was too blurry. He crumpled the letter up into a fist and sagged against the wall.

Mitts crept out from a corner, purring and searching for head-rubs. Peter reached out to gently scrape his knuckles between her ears, then scooped her up and cradled her. She fussed and complained, but eventually settled into his lap.

Peter closed his eyes and squeezed her tight.

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