When under a powerful compulsion, time happens to other people.
Kathleen had been in the dog park when she was taken. Her boy, Freddie, had wandered off again. She muttered angrily to herself as she daintily tried to pick up the leavings of the mutt her son had brought home, an ugly mixed breed puppy with scraggly white and brown fur, one eye, and a tail that looked to have been bitten off. She hated the beast, but Freddie adored it. He had already named the creature when she came home from the gym. He begged and pleaded with her, swore he would care for it, insisted that the thing would die if left on the streets. “Gulliver’s a good dog, Mom!”
She had caved. It wasn’t often that Freddie engaged with the world, much preferring his books and video games, and she had idly hoped that maybe this relationship might draw him out. She had still fired his nanny for allowing such a mangy animal in her pristine house, but had reluctantly allowed him to keep his little friend for a probationary period. In another couple of days she could take it to the pound to be put down. Until then, she could grumble about how close she came to ruining her manicure for her child’s fancies.
The park had been Freddie’s idea, a nice open place where Gulliver could play with his own kind. It was a good idea, in theory. After the first day, she had been asked by the other dog owners to keep her…mutt was the nicest word they used…on a leash. Apparently, such a long time on the streets had imprinted some highly inappropriate behaviors. No one likes to have their pedigree shitzu humped violently by a one-eyed rat dog. She had learned a lot that afternoon, from neutering being a common courtesy to a number of colorful Cuban phrases reserved solely for the lecturing of ignorant white women. She had been slightly affronted by the vehemence of some of the other owners. Surely dogs are supposed to fight when they get together. And how was she supposed to stop it from taking a wee where ever it wanted, baby seat or not? Publicly shamed, she had taken the dog that day to the vet, no small part of her pleased that it would suffer a significant loss in recompense for her humiliation. She was slightly less happy when she saw the bill, especially for the series of shots it had been given as a matter of course and the medication prescribed to clear up the various diseases that street living tends to engender. The vet seemed somewhat shocked when she suggested they skip the meds in the hope the ugly rat would meet his end more conveniently.
The next morning, when she found her apartment, which had been carefully decorated in clean white decor, completely trashed, she threatened to lock the monster out on the balcony for the remaining week. The balcony, being only slightly larger than the dog itself, seemed an ideal prison to her. However, Freddie had cried. The tears had been cruelly magnified by his inch thick glasses. Telling herself that 12 was far too old an age to use that trick, she had relented. Together, they went to the pet store to pick up the type of accoutrement expected of pet owners: toys, treats, food, food bin, food bowl, water bowl, leash, collar, lots of potty training mats, and an industrial-sized bottle of spot remover. She hoped it would work. She didn’t want to have to buy a whole new couch on top of finding another nanny. That day, Freddie quite enjoyed walking Gulliver through the park, though he probably didn’t notice how many of the other owners glared and actively avoided him. The dog didn’t seem to notice the leash and insisted on going whichever way it chose, dragging her undersized son when he didn’t go swiftly enough.
That night, after she had spent an inordinate amount of money convincing her weekly maid to come in early and clean up the urine and feces of an unruly pet, it was decided that Gulliver could sleep on the balcony with the little square of fake grass that was supposed to help it learn to piss outside rather than on her kitchen counters. At 3 am, when she’d had her fourth angry neighbor threaten to kill her if she didn’t shut up that damn yowling dog, she consented to allow it inside. Where it threw up all over her shoes.
When it was time to take Gulliver for his walk the next day, Freddie was rather reluctant. Sure, he had been kept up by the noise and his asthma was not reacting well to the miasma of dog that had already penetrated their home, but mostly he had lost interest and just wanted to stay in his room with his newest video game. She could understand this. She would much rather be working on the next chapter of her book and finishing up an article for the paper that had been due last week. But the bargain had been struck and he had to be held to it as much as she.
The park they chose today was farther away than the one they had frequented before, but as they had been rather pointedly asked not to return to that one, a little distance seemed a better option than a possible lynching. Kathleen was not initially concerned when Freddie scarpered. A passive aggressive tendency he had clearly adopted from his father, occasional disappearances were his way of rebelling. He wouldn’t openly disobey her, but he would vanish in the hopes that she would regret any harsh words or punishments that she had so unfairly leveled on him. Unlike his father, there was little concern of his coming back. All his books and video games were at the apartment.
As it got later, a vague kind of worry tickled the back of her mind. The park was a large open field with few trees, none the type easily climbed. She should see him slouching toward the gate, perhaps kicking sulkily at the grass so she knows he is only coming with her because it’s Mac and Cheese night. The rapidly emptying park revealed no scrawny silhouette on a mopey trajectory. Then the dog started growling at her. Her casual disdain for the creature was replaced with sudden sharp childhood memories that had been the foundation for her distaste in pets with sharp teeth. The pale bite mark on the back of her hand stands out as she suddenly clutched the leash. The little beast pulled at the leash, growling and yapping at her, struggling to get free. She irrationally held on tighter to the nylon strap, part of her mind insisting that as long as she has a hold on that, those teeth can’t get to her. When Gulliver rushed to snap at her ankle she jumped clear off the ground onto the bench next to her parked car and dropped the leash completely. With no regret whatsoever, she watched the rapidly disappearing shape race away to, hopefully, be hit by a car. Abruptly, she realized that she is standing on a park bench and it is well passed time for her boy to be lurking in his room while awaiting dinner.
“Is there something wrong?” a smooth, baritone voice intoned near her elbow. Her startled jump would have landed her in a twisted bundle on the ground, save the steadying hand of the handsome stranger. Like a gentleman, he helped her down, green eyes twinkling in amusement. She fervently hoped he wasn’t a dog person, not with that charming smile.
“Oh, nothing serious,” she finally breathed, keenly aware that she is wearing yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt rather than her designer workout clothes, which were currently at the cleaners in the hopes that dog-based stains would come out. She hesitated to mention Freddie as children are the type of subject to frighten off potential one night stands, but his absence was truly becoming a worry. “My son, Frederick, has wandered off. I’m sure he’s fine,” she said with a warm smile that dimpled her cheek. Perhaps she could “damsel-in-distress” him. She wrinkled her brow and blinked back non-existent tears as she gazed back toward the park. If this got her laid, Freddie would be forgiven his unwise stint into pet ownership. “I was going to look for him but I was worried he might come back to the car. Besides, I can’t very well wander around by myself. Who knows what might happen to a young woman in this neighborhood alone, with twilight coming on.” He wouldn’t be able to see her cleavage under the shirt, but habit dictated that she wrap her arms around her middle in such a way as to accentuate it. If her boy could stay away another ten minutes, he might be eating dinner alone. She would bring him ice cream, of course, but she really needed a night out after the last couple of days.
She could not have seen the cold rage in the man’s eyes, distracted as she was by her own flirting techniques, but some instinct warned her when his hands came up to grip her face. She fought for a few seconds, trying to resist his intrusion into her mind. All in vain. Her green eyes glazed over and her struggle ceased. He circled her, one finger tip tracing a circle around her slender throat to secure his hold on her. Her hair was too long and unnaturally blonde, but otherwise, she was perfect. Right height, right build, right personality even. He stood close behind her and stooped to sniff at the nape of her neck, brushing aside her pony-tail. She even smelled right. He circled around to face her again and touched a finger to her apple cheek, right where her deceitful dimple had been. Her eyes cleared, revealing stark terror. It had taken years of practice to perfect his ability to this point. He could keep her completely aware of everything while still physically helpless. He liked seeing that fear. “So it’s more important to flirt than protect your son? Don’t worry, he’ll be safe with me.”
Kathleen shrieked again. Her voice shouldn’t work anymore, but it did because he wanted to hear her scream. The rape hurt every time because he wanted it to, though surely her nerves should be dead to pain by now. He even made her fight him. Her fragile bones snapped like dried twigs, but her muscles still moved, fingers still curved to claw at his beautiful face. All to please him. She would have lain docile for him, would have moaned in ecstasy, let him do anything to her. She loved him deeply and desperately, reveling in the special attention he paid her. She was the only one he starved, the only one he beat. She was the only one he raped now. He said he was punishing her, so she must cry, must struggle, must scream. She must feel the pain and know she deserved it. All because she loved him the most. She loved him so much she had stopped the police from coming to separate them. When they came close, she had gathered the children on the drawbridge like he asked. To be a shield, he said. But it wasn’t going to work and she was so afraid they would take him from her. When she saw the men with guns and armored vests, she’d pushed Freddie into the moat. She’d heard screaming, supposed it might have been her, but kept pushing until the Prince had stopped her. When he asked her why, she said what might have been a lie. “Now they can’t separate us. No one can come between us.” A very small voice in the back of her head tried to speak. All it could do, though, was leave the impression that she might have been trying to save Freddie from some kind of monster. But that was ludicrous. The Prince would protect them. He would love her above them all now.