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Paranoia (part 2)

Me in front of the fireplace, Richard's football trophy, a duster in my hands… and then? I'm terribly afraid. Pictures flash past: noises, pieces of incoherent speech, Richard's face close to mine, a hand being extended. I'm unable to move or breathe. Beads of sweat are rolling down my cheeks. I'm afraid, want to escape…

The memories are so powerful that I'm overwhelmed by dizziness. I'm drenched in sweat and feel sticky. I drag myself to the bathroom, over a floor that feels like chewing gum.
Exhausted, I'm hanging on to the basin. The water I splash in my face has no effect. I feel
stickier than ever, can't bring myself to look at my reflection in the mirror.

I think it's time I told you more about Richard. My friends wouldn't believe me; least of all Charlene. But you will listen, won't you?

He's not vicious, you know. It's only that he's so hot-tempered. It's his Irish ancestry. The stress of his work gets him down, too. He hardly ever hurts me seriously. It must have been me, then, who dropped the football trophy. That would explain why he became so furious; it's very dear to him. It's not as bad as last time
actually. Strange, come to think of it, today it doesn't hurt at all.

I'll make myself a cup of coffee. That'll help me to come to grips. Now, where's the sugar? In the living room. Richard must've left it there yesterday evening. He usually makes me a cup of tea after he's...

I'll have to get it, can't drink my coffee without sugar. Bother! Why am I so scared of entering that room all of a sudden? Don't be silly, girl! Catch your breath and in you go!

It's even worse this time. I've hardly put my foot over the threshold when a cold wave washes over me. I get giddy and have to cling to the doorpost not to fall over. I can't breathe and the blood is rushing in my ears.

Through the noise I hear steps from the staircase outside. My temples are throbbing. Whatever it is, it's coming for me, I know. It's reached the top of the stairs. It's approaching the door. Now the sound of a key in the lock. It's Richard!

No, it can't be. He's at work. But who else has got a key? Eventually, I'm able to let go of the doorpost and run to the bedroom. The best thing will be to hide until the intruder has left. My heart is pounding so hard he'll hear me. The steps go to the living room. Something is being dragged over the floor. The thing I'm looking for!

"Don't be stupid," I tell myself. "What should you be looking for?"

The stranger is rummaging about. Probably a burglar who presumed we'd both be out at work. If it were Richard, he'd have called my name by now. Where is he? Why is he not here when I need him so badly?

I must have fallen asleep. I didn't hear when the intruder left, but all is quiet now. Cautiously, with a still pounding heart, I emerge from under the bed. Incredible how much
dust has gathered in the short time we've been living here. The flat is deserted but I still can't
bring myself to have a look in the living room. I go to the kitchen for a drink of water and
stop dead.

Richard's football trophy is standing in the sink. Drops of water are glistening on it and
running down the polished surface. The rounded top is dented. What has he been doing, and
why has he washed it?

I'd better put it back on the mantelpiece or he'll be mad at me again. One beating because of the blasted thing's quite enough for a while. As I'm turning around, I notice Richard standing in the door.

(To be continued)
Pictures from Clip Art Gallery