Julie sat down on the bed and pondered what to do. Technically, she had just committed a crime, breaking and entering, and her instincts told her to leave at once. But she feared losing contact with the man who had so surreptitiously entered her life.
She thought of the things he had said about her during their first meeting. It still upset her to know that Mr. Andersen had spied on her and continued to do so. But, he had been right. Her only meaningful relationship had been with Jackie. Julie knew she wasn’t as beautiful as some women, but she did exude a sensual charm that attracted men, usually the kind that wanted sex but no commitments. She could feel a depressing mood descending on her, accompanied by a feeling of intense loneliness and inadequacy. When this happened, she became convinced that men only found her attractive at night when the lights were off.
The muted echo of footsteps in the rooms below snapped Julie out of her funk. Mr. Andersen had returned at last. She rose from the bed and nearly called out to him, before realizing the steps were too quick for a man who had to muster all his strength to avoid walking without a cane. And they were much too quiet. Whoever was there was moving with stealth, just as she had when she first slipped into the house. She could hear the intruder making his way through the living room. A rush of adrenaline surged through her at the thought that she might be in danger. Her mind became as light-headed as a cloud. Why didn’t I leave when I had the chance? What do I do now? Julie remembered Mr. Andersen’s comment at their first meeting about learning to fly. If only she could fly now and escape whoever was searching the rooms below! Suddenly, a beam of light bounced off the upstairs hallway wall, and a mouse-like squeak on the bottom step betrayed the weight of someone mounting the stairs.
Julie frantically removed her shoes, while her head swiveled around the room looking for some place to hide. The empty closets mocked her in the gathering gloom. She would be discovered there in seconds, if anyone bothered to look. She slid to the floor and found the bed just high enough for her to wedge underneath it. Quickly, she pressed her back against the unyielding floorboards and worked her way under the swaying mattress. A musty odor and dust particles assaulted her, making it difficult for her to inhale without sneezing. She pinched her nose and lay as still as possible, trying not to breathe above a whisper.
The Separatist - Excerpt
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