I tried my best to stand straight as Ben circled around the stool. He asked me a series of questions while he walked. They were all questions about my happiness and how excited I am for the future. I kept my posture straight as I kept a fake smile on my face and lied through my teeth.
It was hard not to shift my weight from foot to foot. The pain spread across the bottom of my feet, and I had the itch to move. When Ben saw my fidgeting, he would stop circling me and clear his throat. I would stop moving, and he would continue with his questions.
I was relieved when I heard him say, “Step down.”
I jumped off of the stool to the soft carpet under my feet. There were footsteps echoing through the hall, and I realized why he let me get off the stool.
I looked over my shoulder to see Oliver and Bethany walking into the room. My eyes went to the phone in his hands. I wanted to run, and snatch it.
“How has she been?” Bethany asked Ben.
“She’s a lot better today,” Ben said.
Oliver turned his cell phone in his hands. The screen wasn’t lighting up, but he was focused on the screen.
“I told you there’s nothing to worry about,” Bethany said, turning to Oliver. “I said you can bring Ben to watch her.”
“I know I can, but I think it is too early.”
“If you say no he’s going to be suspicious. It won’t look good on you.”
My heart pounded when Ben put his hand on my shoulder.
“May I ask what you are talking about?” Ben asked.
“Dr. Alexander is very interested in Diana,” Bethany said. “He’s invited Dr. Sweeney and Diana to his place a week early.”
“You don’t think he’ll want to…” Ben’s voice faded out.
“Add her to his collection?” She finished his sentence. “He probably will want to.”
“No,” Oliver said. He shook his head. “That’s not happening.”
“Just wait and see,” Bethany said. “He’ll probably offer you a lot for her.”
“You sell people?” I asked.
My stomach clenched while I listened to them casually talk about my fate. Ben curled his fingers into my shoulder. It was a warning for me to bite my tongue.
“I’ve had her for less than a week,” Oliver said. “I’m not going to sell her yet.”
“Well you never know what will happen,” Bethany said. “He could always deny you from becoming a member if you do not let him have her. He can be petty.”
My chest tightened as I struggled to breathe. I grasped at my chest as I tried to take in some air. Oliver and Bethany looked over at me, and Bethany rolled her eyes.
“Are we going to have another meltdown?” she asked.
Ben grabbed my elbow and shook his head.
“I’ll bring her to her room,” he said.
He didn’t wait for approval from Oliver before pulling me out of the room.
“Bring Ben with you,” I could hear Bethany say to Oliver. “It will be okay.”
Ben pulled me across the hall into the bedroom. I pulled my arm out of his grasp. He reached out for me again, but I slapped his hand away.
“They’re going to sell me?” I asked. “Who is this Dr. Alexander?”
Ben lifted his finger to his lips and shushed me.
“They can hear you,” Ben said. “If Oliver hears you yelling he’s going to sedate you again.”
I let out a deep breath and I could feel my body shake.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Gregory Alexander is the one who started this club,” he said. “The dinner in the Caribbean is held at his mansion.”
My knees wobbled, and I was worried I was going to collapse on the floor. I took a few steps back until I was able to sit on the edge of the bed.
“Why would he want to buy me?” I asked.
“He has his own personal collection,” Ben said. “He buys and keeps the experiments that he loves.”
“What does he do to them?”
Ben shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just hope and pray Oliver has a spine and doesn’t do it.”
I squeezed my eyes shut as the tears began to burn. The bed dipped, and my eyes flew open. A few tears rolled down my cheeks. Ben slid close to me on the bed so that our knees were touching. He put one arm around my shoulder and placed his other hand on my leg. I kept my gaze down on my lap.
“You’re not going to die,” Ben said. “Greg is interested in you, so Oliver is going to get accepted. Oliver isn’t going to kill you. If it comes down to selling you or not being accepted, he will give you to Greg.”
“What happens once I am with Greg?” I asked.
“I told you I don’t know,” he said. “He’s pretty secretive when it comes to the life of his subjects.”
I wiped the tears off of my cheek. Ben leaned in closer and rested his cheek against the top of my head. It was comforting, but he could only stay like that for a few seconds before there was a knock on the door. Ben jumped off of the bed like he wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near me.
Oliver opened the door. Over his shoulder, I could see Bethany with her arms crossed and tapping her foot. He looked back, and she raised her eyebrow.
“We’re going to the Caribbean tomorrow,” Oliver said. “Pack a bag for Diana and yourself, Ben. You’re coming with us.”
I pushed the peas across my plate with my fork. Ben and I had brought our dinners into the room with the television. I had him put another black-and-white movie on. Ben scarfed down his food, but I couldn’t eat. Oliver told me I had to eat it all, but my stomach was too twisted to try and swallow. I sat in front of the couch on the floor as I leaned against the coffee table. Ben was sprawled out on the couch.
“It would be easier to eat that while it is still warm,” Ben said.
“Do you want it?” I asked. “I’m not hungry.”
“I can’t keep eating your food. If Oliver keeps seeing empty plates and you losing weight he’ll get suspicious.”
I spread the mashed potatoes across the plate to make them look thinner.
“What if I never leave the Caribbean?” I asked. “It’s hard enough to try and come up with a plan to get out of this house. What am I supposed to do when I’m stuck on a foreign island?”
I looked to see Ben’s attention focused on the movie. I pushed the plate across the coffee table. I stood and held the hem of my dress down. Ben sat.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“To my room,” I said.
“You haven’t finished your dinner.”
I rolled my eyes and headed for the door.
“Diana, stop,” he said.
I don’t know why I stopped, but I did. I spun around and Ben was standing in front of me.
“I was wrong about you,” I said. “You don’t want to escape. You’re trying to tame me into being what they want.”
Ben furrowed his brows.
“What are you talking about?” he asked. “I’ve already been over this with you. We have to act as we like them to gain some simple rights.”
“Then why are you not worried about going to the Caribbean? I may never come back to Canada.”
“What’s your plan, Diana? How are you going to get out?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “You have keys. We have to try them on all of the doors.”
“Oliver and Bethany are upstairs, they’ll know we left the basement.”
“What about when we leave tomorrow? I can run. I was in track. I could run and get to the neighbours.”
“You wouldn’t have the medication. That’s what is keeping us here.”
“The cops would make him tell them what the medication is and doctors would be able to give us more pills.”
“You don’t know that. He probably won’t say anything. He won’t need you alive if he is in jail.”
I took a few steps back and shook my head. Part of me wanted to scream out in frustration, but I knew if I did Oliver would come down and I’d be sedated.
“You have an excuse for everything,” I said.
“I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did,” he said. “Do you know what will happen to you if you get caught trying to escape?”
Ben reached out, and I stepped away. He stepped forward and snatched my wrists. He pushed me against the wall. He pinned my wrists against my chest. Ben was towering over me and leaned down so that I could feel his warm breath against my skin.
“I have tried so many times to escape this,” he said. “After, I would be restrained to the bed for weeks. I spent most of the time sedated, and I would only wake up when a feeding tube was being shoved down my throat.”
I swallowed past the lump forming in my throat. I dropped my gaze from his intense stare. He squeezed my wrists tighter.
“Look at me,” he said.
I looked back up into his crystal blue eyes.
“I promise you that I will get you out of here,” Ben said. “I promise that the two of us will get out of this together. Work with me and trust me.”
I sucked in a deep breath and nodded my head. I’ve seen his attitude take a complete turn when Bethany and Oliver are around. He doesn’t want to be here. He’s just convinced them all that he is happy. I must have been buying into his act too.
“I’m sorry,” I said in a hushed tone. “I just want to get out of here.”
“Me too,” he said. “I just want freedom. We won’t go back to our normal lives, but at least it will be a life.”
I managed to give him a faint smile. Ben pressed his lips against my forehead before letting go of my wrists. My breath caught in my throat and I kept my wrists to my chest.
“Come on,” Ben said. “I’ll help you finish your dinner before Oliver comes back down.”