Waiting for the Hunter
A sun without warmth beat down. Light reflected from mirrored peaks, blinding the sky. A road wound through plains of dust and bushes of barbed wire rolled like tumble weeds across the landscape. A voice, disembodied, broken, keened through air thickened by memories of pain. This is her valley of despair.
#Truths entwined with untruths, the constant inference of decadence… She remembers…. Enduring memories…
#He is her father’s friend. She doesn’t like him. They are on holiday in Nice. She is nine years old and is expected to behave like a young lady. Days are spent having long lunches and seeing the sights. It’s boring. But she’s a good girl. She gazes at the sea and makes up stories in her head. He is delighted by her. She is frightened of him. She doesn’t understand why. There is something about him that makes her want to run away, especially when he gets too close to her.
It’s a balmy autumn night. She and her parents are in his hotel room. His wife and her parents are on the balcony, he comes inside. She is lying on the couch, supposedly asleep. She senses him coming. Tenses, shuts her eyes tight. He leans over her, whispers her name. She lies dead still, barely breathing. He strokes her hair and she wants to scream. He kisses her, letting his breath drift over her ear. She is terrified. He goes away. She wants to cry but is too afraid to. He is a bad man. She knows this.
They return home and for a few months she doesn’t see him. He and Daddy have argued. She’s glad. But then Daddy tells her Uncle Victor is coming for supper. He says, I know you don’t like Victor, Sam, I don’t know why, but he’s my friend and you must try and be nice to him. He’s never been unkind to you. So I want you to behave like a young lady. Nice and polite. Really, he says, turning to her mother, I don’t know why she has such a thing about Victor.
Her skin turns cold and clammy, her tummy clenches into a knot. She asks if she can spend the night at Jilly’s house. Don’t be silly, says her mother, it’s a school night.
So she says she’s not feeling well. And she doesn’t look well. She is pale, her breathing ragged. She is sent to bed.
Lying in the dark, her teddy clutched in her arms, she hears him arrive. He’s on his own. For a while she lies in terror until she realises he’s not coming down the passage. She drifts into an uneasy sleep.
It feels like she has only been asleep a few minutes when she hears her name being whispered.
“Hello Sammy. Hello, little one.”
She feels his hand on her head.
She stiffens, keeps her eyes shut. He’ll go away if she stays asleep. She lies as still as she can, hardly daring to breath.
She feels his hand run over her body. He sighs. It is a shuddering sound. Inside her the fear monster stamps its feet and bellows. Her tummy clenches and then turns to mush. She wants to scream but she daren’t. She holds her body tight, holding her terror to her. Her nails dig into her palms, so hard it hurts.
He gets off the bed. She hears him kneel on the floor, feels his face draw level with hers. His breath is on her cheek. It is warm. She doesn’t like the way he smells. She stifles a dry heave. He’s not moving away. She can hear the rubbing of material but she doesn’t know what it is.
“Sammy, little one, wake up, my darling…”
She feigns deep sleep. She must not screw her eyes tight shut, he’ll know she’s just pretending. She must lie as still as she can. She must make her breathing normal. She tries to listen to her breath but it’s hard, so hard. His face is over hers. She feels his lips touch hers… then his tongue pushes at her lips.
She screams. Thrashes and lashes out at him.
She hears her mother’s voice.
“Sammy! Victor! What are you doing in here?”
“I’m sorry, Mary, I just wanted to see how she was.”
“I told you she wasn’t feeling well.”
“I didn’t mean to frighten her. I’m sorry, Sammy, I’m sorry I scared you.”
You’re not, she thinks. You’re not. You’re a bad man. I know.
He backs out of the room and she notices he’s tucking his shirt into his trousers. He blows her a kiss and a chill washes over her.
“I think we must get the doctor tomorrow, Sam. Look at you, you’re like a sheet.”
She hugs her teddy to her, sobbing without tears. Her eyes are wide, wild. She knows. But she also knows she is powerless, alone. How can she tell anyone what she knows? They’ll never believe her. It’s not like he’s hurt her. He’s only frightened her and she knows what grown-ups say about that. They say, “Don’t be silly, Sam, you’re just imagining things.”
Whenever they visit him, he watches her. She can feel how he can’t keep his eyes off her. Whenever he can, he comes close to her, brushes against her, finds an excuse to touch her or kiss her. But he’s good. No one notices anything. Only she knows. And he knows. She knows he’s waiting for her - will always wait for her. She longs to grow up or die. She doesn’t mind which. So long as she can escape him.
There’s a party at Victor’s house. There is no babysitter so her parents take her with them. They say she can stay up for a while and must then go to sleep in the spare room. At nine o’clock her mother, a wine glass in her hand, takes her to the room.
“But I’m not tired, Mommy.”
“You just lie down and go to sleep. You be a good girl. See.”
She nods. She knows it’s hopeless.
She lies in the dark. Waiting. The minutes tick by. Hope stirs in her. Perhaps he won’t come. So many people, perhaps he’s too busy. A sigh of relief begins to shudder through her. The door opens, just a crack and a beam of light spills onto the carpet. He has come. He pushes open the door. Closes it behind him and she hears the key turn in the lock.
“I’ve brought you some crisps, Sam. Some cola too. I know you’re still awake.”
He sits down beside her. She can see his form. The moon is bright outside, shining through the curtains.
“I’m tired, Sammy, so tired. All those people. All Aunt Angela’s friends. I hate parties. Too much noise. My head hurts.” He stretches out on the bed beside her.
Her heart pounds. She doesn’t know what to do. She’s been brought up to be a young lady. To be polite to grown-ups. And Victor is her daddy’s best friend. How many times hasn’t Daddy said, be nice to Victor, Sam. Why, she wonders, does her daddy want her to be nice to Victor. She doesn’t want to be nice to him. She wants to hit him, scream at him, make him go away. But she doesn’t know how.
He rolls over, pulls her small body against his. She hears his breath, ragged, heavy. Terror engulfs her. His hands are everywhere, she feels a thing she’s never felt before pressing against her. The blood pounds in her veins. Something inside her shatters and she retreats within herself, numbed. From afar she hears his voice.
“Sammy, I’ve waited for this for so long.”
#Samantha Clarion stares at the old man lying in the bed. He is dying. And she is watching him die.
He’d called her six months before to say he thought he might be ill, to say he didn’t want to be put into a nursing home. Would she please make sure that never happened to him? He didn’t want to be dependent on anyone, didn’t want anyone wiping his arse. He planned to commit suicide. It would be their secret, he’d said. He told her he’d built up a stash of narcotics. He said she mustn’t tell anyone, and if she had to, would she help him? Samantha said yes.
But now he was in a nursing home - utterly dependent on the strangers around him to feed him, to wipe his arse. Samantha stood at the foot of his bed and watched him.
“The drugs, Sammy, where are the drugs? Give them to me.”
She shook her head.
“You promised to help me.”
“Please, Sammy, please, I want to die. I don’t want to suffer like this. I can’t stand the indignity. I don’t trust these people. They'll hurt me, neglect me... Let me die, Sammy.”
She stared at him, her face impassive.
“Why are you doing this to me?” His breath was ragged, shallow.
She turned away to the window, gazing through it. A beam of gold pierced through, touching her with unexpected warmth, brightening the space around her. Outside, summer sparkled, beckoning her and voices laughed with echoes of grateful joy.
She glanced at him over her shoulder. “Because I’ve waited for this for so long.”