Chapter 3

In my bedroom, I was hidden behind the curtains. It was pitch black in there. The lights were all switched off.

I knew he'd find me out here, but I hoped he wouldn't. I was not going to be spared.

Downstairs, I heard my mother scream. When I heard his footsteps approaching my bed, I became even more frightened. I had forgotten to lock the door in my agitation. Another factor was that I was terrified of him.

He pushed the half-closed door open with the back of his palm. I saw a trouser belt in his hands.

That piece of leather used to really sting with nothing on and you always got more whacks with it than a cane. It was horrid. You just had to bend over and keep still as whack after whack went on your bottom and you wondered just how much more could it sting.

Behind the blinds, I covered my face. My heart was beating so hard under my rib cage that I feared it might burst. As the gap between us got smaller, my whole body shook with fear.

I was crying and praying at the same time.

He ripped open the curtain to reveal me. I let out an ear-piercing yell.

When I awoke, I was blinded by bright sunshine. When I saw someone standing beside the couch on which I was now seated, I covered my face with my hands and tried to find out where I was.

It was unmistakably a guy I recognized. However, I was also unable to see clearly. He handed me a glass of water, which I took with both hands.

The prior incidents came back to me one by one. And I knew he had to be Mr. Spaniel.

I saw him after my vision was fully recovered. Mr. Spaniel, who was standing near me, had a deeply disturbing look on his forehead.

I stood up and lowered my gaze as soon as I became aware of his presence.

'You are the stupidest and most useless human I've ever met!' You've actually ruined your dream job!'

"Please accept my heartfelt apologies! I had no intention of doing so-"

"It's all right. There's no reason to apologize to me." I glanced at him and was stunned to hear him say those words.

Then I noticed his dark almond-shaped eyes, furrowed brows, sharp nose, and clean-shaven unsmiling upper lip. His hair was short, squeaky clean, and unruly blonde. He was dressed casually in blue ripped denim jeans, a white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket.

"Mr.Tobias told me you were waiting for me in my office when I arrived. But when I walked in, I saw you sleeping soundly. I went out because I thought you didn't sleep much, but when I returned, I saw you sweaty and panting in your sleep. You must have had a nightmare."

I remained silent.

"I believe I need to therefore make an introduction. Hello, my name is James Spaniel. I work as a singer."

"Clara Mc Carney is my name. I work as a graphic designer. It's nice to see you."

"It's really a pleasure to meet you. Take a seat." While patting the settee with his hands, he added.

"Sure," I replied, puzzled, as I sat down beside him. I thought I would be thrown out of his office that instant but what was I seeing? Was it a dream or what?

"I believe you must have sensed that you were summoned here to design something."

"I suppose so." I said presently.

"So, I'd like you to create a cover for my new album. On the web, I looked for designers from all over the world. But when I saw your drawings and sketches, I knew you were the one I was looking for."

"Thank you," I said, blushing. No one had ever complimented me. I was beaming with pride.

He dismissed my words and went ahead.

"I'm hoping you'll draw a cover that appeals to my tastes." He was all serious now, and he was staring at me.

"I hope I can live up to your wishes. And tell me about this album of yours." I said as I took my phone out from my jeans pocket. I need to jot down the little facts so that I can learn about the project.

"So, I wrote this album in memory of a childhood friend. When a fire broke out in his old farmhouse, he died."

"Please accept my heartfelt apologies." I looked at him. I was extremely sorry for him.

"Don't be like that. I wasn't with him at the moment. In London, I had a concert and he was here in Seattle. He meant a lot to me." I could see tears welling up in his eyes as his voice began to shake. It broke my heart to see him in that state. In this respect, I am a very emotional woman.

He started again after clearing his throat.

"Every song I wrote, I would always take his advice on the lyrics. He will teach me how to write good lyrics. But he is no longer with us." He spoke to himself rather than to me.

I kept my mouth shut. I knew what it was like to lose someone you cared for. Tears began to fall freely from my eyes at this point. I brushed them away before he could noticed I was weeping.

He remained silent for a while. He's more likely upset at this point about him. He must be in a lot of pain as a result of the incident. And his friend's death would have been excruciatingly unbearable for him.

I was at a loss for what words, so I began fiddling with the hem of my shirt.

"All right, I think," he said after a long period of looking at his feet, "you now know what this album is about. I believe you can write an initial draft for it. Isnt that the case?" He arched his forehead.

"Yes, yes, I can." I said nodding.

"Do you have any more questions?"

I knew it was time for me to bid for leave. So I stood up and said, "I feel I will be capable of creating something tonight. I mean a sketch, and if you're interested, I'll show it to you by tomorrow!"

"Oh no! There's no need to rush. You are free to take your time. Please contact me ahead of time the next time you come here. I'll be early. And it means more to me than anything else. I mean the album. Is that all right?"

I was now gripping the doorknob in one hand and my bag in the other while he remained seated on the couch. He looked quite happy. Because he was smiling with his eyes. I don't know why. But I was happy to see him like that. He deserved better.

"Sure thing. I'll get back to you as soon as I've finished the initial draft. Before then, Good bye." I smiled broadly as I turned the knob, opened the door, and exited.

'Thank goodness I didn't blow this last chance!'