The Stranger In My Bed
His grip was tight on my wrist, but even if my hand was free I’d be too stunned to move. This was different from how Mr. Weston had kissed me before. This was rough, demanding. I was scared.
His body suddenly pulled away from me. I looked up to see Thomas dragging him forcefully by the collar. I wasn’t aware the old man was so strong. He pulled Mr. Weston over to a nearby chair and shoved him into it. Mr. Weston rubbed his throat and coughed a bit.
“Christ, Tommy!” He shouted.
“Not a word,” Thomas said coldly.
I’d never heard him use such a harsh tone toward Mr. Weston before. Mr. Weston stood up slowly.
“Look, Tommy, I-”
Thomas shoved him in the chair again and leaned down to his eye level. He braced himself on the armrests, trapping Mr. Weston.
“No Victor,” Thomas said scornfully, “you listen to me. This woman is not your toy, she is not your slave, she is not your whore. She is an assistant, meant to help you in your daily living. Nothing more, nothing less. Now, we have already discussed my retirement, but I’ll be damned if I leave this poor girl to your threats and harassment. Either behave yourself or you’ll spend the rest of the day chained to this chair.”
I stood there, mouth hanging open. True, Mr. Weston acted completely inappropriately, but I never expected to hear such a harsh speech from Thomas. Was he even allowed to talk to Mr. Weston that way? Could those threats even be serious?
Apparently, “Victor” didn’t think so. He scoffed and rolled his eyes. They stayed like that a while, the tension was almost suffocating. However, he finally threw up his hands as if in defeat.
“Alright, Tommy! I’ll control myself,” he said, shoving Thomas’ arms away. “But this is really your fault. You shouldn’t bring home something so pretty if I’m not allowed to touch it.”
Thomas clenched his jaw. Mr. Weston stood and raised his hands again.
“I’m just saying!” He sighed and crossed his arms. “Is breakfast ready at least?”
“Before anything, apologize to Ms. Walton,” Thomas said sternly.
I was really feeling nervous by this point. Yes, I had been debating my ability to stay at this job, but I certainly didn’t want to get fired over a kiss!
“Thomas,” I said quickly, “it’s okay. Really! I-”
He held up a hand to silence me.
“Ms. Walton, I’m sorry, but you’re being incredibly too kind right now. This delinquent deserves none of your patience or sympathy. If he insults you, make him apologize. The more you let him get away with the more he’ll try. Now,” he said, turning back to Mr. Weston, “apologize.”
Mr. Weston made a disgusted noise and stood there silently for a moment. The sudden growling of his stomach broke the silence. Thank god “Arthur” was such a light eater. Mr. Weston let out a frustrated sigh and turned to me.
“Victor!” Thomas shouted.
“I’m sorry for assaulting you! Okay? Won’t happen again! You have my word. Blah, blah, blah. Can we eat now?” He asked, annoyed.
The Stranger In My Bed
Thomas pointed silently to the dining room. Mr. Weston stomped off in that direction. I stayed there in the entranceway, stunned. Thomas turned to me, he already looked exhausted.
“Of all the personas that had to pop up, it had to be him,” Thomas sighed. “Though I guess I am glad I was here for your first time with ‘Victor.’ This might be the only one I actually need to train you on.”
“What… just happened?” I finally muttered, still in disbelief.
Thomas sighed and grabbed the binder from a nearby table. He handed it to me.
“I’ll go first. Please, stay behind and thoroughly read Victor’s bio. It has a lot of notes I feel may be useful. I’ll save some food off to the side for you.”
With that, he walked off toward the dining room. I stood there a moment, absorbing his words before I finally flipped to the page. I stared in disbelief. I rechecked and counted again to make sure I wasn’t mistaken.
I wasn’t. Victor had three pages devoted to him in the bios. I almost dreaded what I was about to read, but it would be better to go into that dining room armed and prepared. I sat in the chair and began.
Occupation: Heir (Playboy)
Personality: Arrogant, demanding, flirtatious, crude
Interests: Drinking, women, movies
Dislikes: following orders, books, sleeping alone.
Frequency: Approximately twice a month.
Victor is, so far, the most troublesome of Mr. Weston’s personalities. He considers himself a modern-day playboy and prides himself on his ways with women. He is never allowed to be left alone with any females that enter the house, they should be denied admittance on days he appears if possible.
Never allow him to drink before five o’clock. He will spend all day drinking if allowed and being drunk only excites his flirtatious nature. After five he is regulated to two (average-sized) bottles of wine for the rest of the day. Do not give in to any demand he may make for more.
He will attempt to solicit women to satisfy his urges. Do not give in to any demands he may make for them. If a woman has entered the house and been approached by Victor apologize profusely on his behalf and remind the woman of Mr. Weston’s state of mind. Besides the occasional proposition or forced kiss, Victor has never actually assaulted a woman. However, better safe than sorry is the rule to follow here.
He is best distracted by meals, movies, and wine. He can have a bit of a temper but is not violent. Any attempts to threaten you or your position should be immediately disregarded. Victor will disappear by the next day and Mr. Weston’s other personalities are more reasonable. If he insists on your “resignation,” assure him you will leave in two days’ time after your replacement has arrived. Victor’s reappearances are not too common and, like all other personas, he suffers memory lapses from the times he is not present. Merely tell him you reconciled your previous differences, he will accept this and things will continue as normal.
Victor should not be treated as kindly as the other personalities. He is rather childish and will act out to get what he wants. Stop his irrational behavior at once, force apologies for anything he has done wrong, and do not be afraid to speak harshly to him.
The Stranger In My Bed
As I finished reading I closed the binder and let out a deep sigh. So Victor was the “playboy” Jack had warned me about. He sounded difficult to handle. So women weren’t even supposed to be in the house when Victor was here, and never left alone with him. What did that mean for me?
My stomach growled. I set the binder to the side and stood up. Okay. Thomas wrote out exactly what to do. Don’t be a push-over, make him apologize, don’t be afraid to argue. He can’t threaten you, it will all be over tomorrow.
I started walking toward the dining room. As I got close I noticed something was strange, but I couldn’t place what it was. I realized when I entered. Silence.
Mr. Weston and Thomas sat across from each other, like usual, but there was tension in the air. Neither looked at each other, neither spoke, they just sat there picking at their breakfast.
Neither of them noticed me. I saw a plate of food off to the side. I guess Thomas really wasn’t expecting me to join them after that little scene. I clenched my fist. This was my job now, I had gotten through Mr. Weston’s personalities so far without issue. I wasn’t going to make Thomas fight my battles for me. I wasn’t going to lose to Victor.
I grabbed the plate and walked over to the table casually. I sat right next to Victor. Both he and Thomas looked shocked by my sudden appearance, and even more so at my choice of seat. I ignored their stares and began eating.
I heard Victor laugh. “See Tommy! She’s not mad. Looks like you finally found a reasonable woman.”
Thomas said I was allowed to edit the binder as needed. It seemed I would have to add “misogynistic” to his personality traits.
My thoughts were interrupted by his hand sliding onto my thigh. I felt my nerves taking over, but I quickly shook them off. This was the one persona I could not tolerate this behavior from.
“Get your hand off of me,” I said flatly.
I refused to look at him, but I felt his hand move slightly. He chuckled and squeezed my leg.
“Come on, Anna. Be reasonable,” he said playfully.
It was obvious he wasn’t going to take me as seriously as he took Thomas. He was still trying to sweet-talk me, hoping I might let him get away with something. I wouldn’t. I turned to him and glared. His smile disappeared quickly.
“You will call me Ms. Walton,” I said coldly, “and you will move your hand off my leg or I will lock the wine cellar for the rest of the day. Thomas has already given me the keys to the house.”
This was a bluff. I didn’t even know what the keys looked like, something to talk about with Thomas later. However, this threat seemed to work. He scoffed before moving his hand and going back to picking at his food.
“Forget what I said Tommy. She’s worse than the others,” he mumbled.
I glanced over at Thomas. His face was a mixture of shock and amusement. He nodded my way approvingly.
The Stranger In My Bed
Mr. Weston stood suddenly. “I’m going to walk in the garden.”
He sulked off, leaving me and Thomas. I started to stand, but Thomas waved me to sit back down.
“Please, finish your breakfast properly, Ms. Walton,” he said. “Honestly, the further you keep from Victor, the better. You can see now why I was so worried before. Victor is a rather… abrasive personality. You wouldn’t be the first woman he’s scared off.”
“If I’m going to be driven out of this house I’m not going to have it done by someone like him,” I said scornfully.
Thomas laughed. “Glad to hear it. As I said, follow the guide I left you and you should do just fine. You’ve made it clear that you can handle him, but I will not throw you to the wolves. I’ll stay around today to-”
“Actually, you can go and prepare if you need, Thomas. I can handle him.”
Thomas seemed shocked by my statement. “Ms- Ms. Walton, you did very well just now, but Victor-”
“Already doesn’t take me seriously,” I said. “He sees me as a stubborn plaything, and I don’t think he’ll start to take me seriously as long as you’re around to babysit him. You won’t be here forever Thomas, in about a week you’ll be off planning your wedding.” He seemed to pause a bit when I mentioned his future plans. I smiled. “I have to deal with him by myself sooner or later, it might as well be sooner so he understands I’m not a woman he can manipulate.”
Thomas sat silently. Taking in what I said. He knew I was right, but at the same time seemed cautious about leaving me with the one personality he knew might drive me away.
I almost wished I could tell him what had happened with Mr. Weston so far. It would make him feel better, give him the assurance that I could set boundaries. However, it might also make him rethink keeping a woman who had already let two of the softer personalities do what they wanted with her.
I reached across the table and patted his hand. “You brought me here to take over, Thomas. So let me take over.” He smiled. “Oh, and actually give me those keys sometime. I think that wine cellar is my only leverage right now.”
Thomas nodded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small ring with three keys on it. He fiddled with the ring a bit before taking off one of the keys.
“The car,” he said, putting it back in his pocket.
I took the other two. I must have looked shocked because he laughed.
“Problem, Ms. Walton?”
“I guess I expected… more?” I said, confused.
“Well, with the mansion being so large, it seems impractical to keep a fifty-pound ring of keys on me at all times.” He reached over and pointed at the keys. “The round one is a master key, it can open or close any room in the house. The square one is for a safe in the second-floor study.
I mentioned before this is where the emergency phone, first aid, and supply kit are. The safe is hidden behind a portrait just above where the kits are. I know, clichéd, but Mr. Weston insisted. It holds three thousand dollars cash, as well as a black credit card, and several heirlooms of the Weston family. Use the cash or card in emergencies.”
He stopped and looked at me a moment. His face seemed serious.
“I’m sure you understand that by me telling you this information and giving you these keys I am putting a tremendous amount of trust in you,” he said. “I was initially hesitant to bring you here for the job when looking into your financial background, Ms. Walton, but seeing your kindness and patience these past few days gives me hope that you really are just a good woman in a bad position.” I felt a lump in my throat. Thomas stood.
“I trust you a great deal, Ms. Walton. I hope you will be able to properly care for these things that have been so dear to me the past few decades.” He glanced toward the garden as he said this. A small smile formed in the corner of his lips. “Even when they are difficult to handle.”
With that, he walked off. I sat at the table staring at the keys. A good woman in a bad position. Was that what I was? I guess I could understand why Thomas wasn’t crazy about the idea at first.
Bad credit, overdrawn bank account, an eviction notice on my apartment. Bringing an unknown woman with those financial problems to a mansion filled with valuable goods? He must have been at his most desperate when he offered me the job. I certainly wouldn’t have. Especially to care for someone I loved.
I looked toward the garden. I could vaguely see Mr. Weston in the distance. Yes, Thomas definitely loved Mr. Weston. He had raised the boy since he was ten, how could he not? I hope you will be able to properly care for these things that have been so dear to me the past few decades. Could I?
The Stranger In My Bed
This house, this garden, this man. Things Thomas had filled with nearly two decades of memories. Could I give them the care they really deserved? Was I a good enough woman to do this? Did I have a choice anymore?
“Good! Your chaperone finally left.” I hear from behind me.
I turned. I didn’t even notice Mr. Weston had come back.
“Thomas will be tending to his own business today, but he will still be in the mansion if you need him,” I said, standing. “However, since I am taking over soon, I ask that you please come to me first with any requests, Mr. Weston.”
He tsked at me. “So horribly formal. There’s no need for that nonsense when Tommy’s gone. Please, call me Victor.”
“I’d rather not, sir,” I said stiffly.
He pouted a bit. “Well, I hope you’ll start to after we get to know each other better.”
He walked toward me. I took a step back instinctively. He laughed and crossed his arms.
“How are you planning to assist me if you’re always across the room, exactly?” He asked.
He was right. As much as I disliked the idea of getting any closer to “Victor” than I needed, I couldn’t do my job by avoiding him. I didn’t want him to think he intimidated me.
I walked toward him. “So, what exactly can I help you with, sir?” He reached out for my waist. I smacked his hand away. “Within reason.”
He rolled his eyes. “Well, if you’re going to be my assistant, go get a bottle of wine from the cellar. We’ll have a couple of glasses and talk. Maybe we can get to know each other a little better.”
Thomas’ notes flashed to mind. “If you want to talk, then I’m more than happy to, but I’m afraid it’s too early to start drinking.”
“Ms. Walton,” he emphasized, “be reasonable. It’s your first day here. We should celebrate a bit, and a good glass of wine can help to warm both people and conversation. Even someone as icy as yourself.”
I felt a bit hurt to hear Mr. Weston describe me as icy, but I had to remind myself this wasn’t “Jack”, this was “Victor.” I couldn’t let him walk all over me. I couldn’t give in to his demands to make things easier. It would only lead to trouble.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to chip away at my icy personality like a regular person because I’m not getting the wine,” I said, crossing my arms.
He glared at me but seemed to realize arguing would be pointless. He motioned vaguely toward the door.
“A conversation in my room then. Is that acceptable, your highness?” He asked sarcastically.
“As long as you keep your hands to yourself,” I said, turning from him and walking toward the door.
“We’ll see,” I heard him mutter under his breath.
I was always curious about the “rooms” of Mr. Weston’s personalities. Did they all share a room or claim their own? It would certainly explain why there were so many empty rooms here. My question was quickly answered though when he led me to the door at the end of the hall. Our door.
Panic filled me. What if he went to the closet and noticed my clothes? What would I do about the sleeping situation tonight?
I shook my head. No, I didn’t have time for panic. I had to think clearly. As his “assistant” I could offer to get anything he needed from the closet, and I could just sleep in one of the empty rooms tonight.
Mr. Weston motioned toward the chairs near the fireplace. I remembered my last night with Jack. Talking, laughing, hearing stories about his life. The gentle way he treated me. I didn’t want those memories to be covered up by anything “Victor” might do.
He looked at me expectantly. “Well? Is sitting and having a conversation too much to ask now?”
I sighed and sat in the chair. He sat across from me. He stared at me a moment.
“What exactly did you want to talk about, sir?” I asked.
He frowned. “Well, first, I really would like you to stop with all that ‘sir’ and ‘Mr. Weston’ crap. It gives me the creeps.”
“Anything else, Victor?”
Despite the obvious sarcasm in my voice, he smiled a little. I almost couldn’t stand to look at him. His smile, his voice, his laugh, and everything else I loved about Jack, all trapped with this personality. It was like eating a knock-off of my favorite candy. Close, but it wasn’t what I wanted. And this one left a bitter aftertaste.
He leaned forward a little. His eyes looked over me slowly. I normally didn’t mind Mr. Weston staring at my body, but his way was loving, admiring. This one felt sleazy. I covered my body with my arms. He laughed.
“Well, let’s start off easy, Anna.”
He frowned. “Still?”
“I’d like to keep our relationship professional, if possible,” I muttered.
“Fine,” he said, sighing. “Ms. Walton, what are your hobbies?”
“Reading, playing cards, I cook a little,” I said shrugging.
“Do you ever go out with friends?”
“I’m more of an ‘at-home’ person.”
He leaned back in his chair. “Well, that’s… boring. Sorry, but it is. Don’t you ever like to have fun? Go wild?”
“I don’t know,” he said shrugging. “Maybe go out to a club, get wasted, hookup with some stranger. Something interesting.”
I rolled my eyes. “If that’s your idea of fun, I’m afraid our interests are very different.”
We sat in silence for a while after that. It was like being on a bad date, except I couldn’t just “go to the bathroom” and never come back. If time flew with Arthur, it crept by with Victor. Every second I kept thinking it had to almost be lunch, but nothing ever happened.
“Do you really hate me so much?” He finally mumbled.
I looked up. He actually seemed upset. I was cautious though, Victor was apparently a smooth talker, I didn’t know what was really going in his head.
“Why would you ask that?”
“It’s obvious,” he said quietly. “You’re as far back in that chair as humanly possible, you refuse to look at me, you’re completely unwilling to speak to me, and your face looks like you’d rather be anywhere else but here.”
I couldn’t deny anything he was saying. I knew I had to at least be civil with Victor if I was going to stay here, but it was hard to overcome his awful personality. It was really hard believing he and Jack could somehow be the same person.
“And that!” He said suddenly.
“And what?” I asked.
“When you finally do look at me it’s never happy,” he huffed. “You always look angry or sad. I get that I’m not exactly Mr. Popularity around here, hell, I can even see it with Thomas, but what exactly is it that’s so bad about me?”
“Is that an actual question?”
He glared. “You know what, yes. So answer it.”
“Well,” I started, “within the short time I’ve known you you’ve already tried assaulting me twice, made a handful of sexist comments, and dropped sexual suggestions almost anywhere they’ll conveniently fit in the conversation. On top of that, your attitude is terrible, you have no boundaries, and you seem to think my whole purpose here is to be your little plaything.”
“Is that all?” He asked, crossing his arms.
“For now, but you always exceed my expectations, sir,” I said scornfully.
When the hell would lunch get here? I was almost tempted to get some wine just to shut him up. I looked toward the empty fireplace. I remember how warm it felt being with Jack that night. I sighed. I remembered Jack asking me, half-jokingly, not to let any of his personas destroy his body. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him just to get back at Victor.
I had to get along with Victor. About twice a month the binder said. Maybe he was right, I almost wanted to vomit just thinking about it, but if we got to know each other more than maybe I could learn to tolerate him. I wondered how Jack would react to my first meeting with Victor. I smiled a little at the thought.
“So you can smile.”
Any smile I had disappeared by the time I turned to him. “Of course.”
He smiled, but his eyes seemed sad. “Why can’t you ever smile at me?”
“You haven’t done anything to make me smile.”
Silence filled the room again.
“Ms. Walton?” A voice crackled from across the room.
The Stranger In My bed
There is a god! I jumped up and went over to the intercom.
“Lunch will be ready soon.”
“Thank you, we’ll be down in a minute,” I said. I paused a moment before hitting the button again. “Thomas? Did you hear about lunch?”
A pause. Then a crackle. “Yes, Ms. Walton. I’ll meet you there.”
I turned to get Mr. Weston, but he was already behind me. I straightened up a bit.
“Are you ready for lunch, Mr-” he glared, I corrected myself, “Victor.”
He nodded. I walked toward the door. As I opened it he suddenly pushed it closed. I turned to him, he was staring at me intently.
“Victor…” I said cautiously.
“Let me hold your hand.”
“I’m sorry?” I asked, confused.
He crossed his arms. “Your hand, let me hold it.” I stared at him blankly, he gave an exasperated sigh. “Look, I’m not trying to grab your ass, or kiss you, or anything like that. So it should be fine, right?”
“I… suppose?” It came out more like a question than a response.
He opened the door and grabbed my hand, yanking me towards him. He looked like he was glaring the whole time as we went downstairs and to the dining room. Thomas was already there. He looked up from his lunch and seemed shocked to see us. Victor didn’t let go of my hand but instead dragged me toward the table.
“Come on, I’m hungry,” he mumbled.
We sat at the table, but he still didn’t let go of my hand. Luckily, my dominant hand was free so I was still able to serve myself. Victor placed our hands on the table and did the same. Thomas stared at the scene a minute before opening his mouth.
“She said it was fine,” Victor said before he could say anything.
Thomas looked at me for confirmation. I nodded. He stared at us cautiously for a moment before going back to his lunch.
The silence was killing me. I wanted to say something, anything, but I didn’t want to disturb the already fragile scene. Finally, Thomas wiped his mouth and stood.
“Have there been any problems, Ms. Walton?” He asked.
“Christ, I’m not an animal, you know!” Victor shouted.
Thomas glared. “Your past behavior says otherwise, and I’m rather fond of Ms. Walton. I’d like to know you haven’t caused her any problems.”
“It’s fine, Thomas,” I said, trying to disarm things, “he’s been behaving.”
Thomas still seemed skeptical but nodded before walking off. Victor scoffed when he left. He dropped my hand and crossed his arms.
I paused a moment before speaking. “Are… things always like that with you guys?”
“Always,” Victor mumbled, mostly to himself.
“Is there a reason? I’ve never seen Thomas like this before,” I said curiously.
“Of course you haven’t!” He shouted. “You’ve probably been with ‘them.’ Oh, Tommy just loves them. Fucking angels on their goddamned pedestals and I’m the devil sent here to fuck everything up!”
I looked at him in shock. “Them? Them who?”
He rolled his eyes. “Right, right. I’m not supposed to know ‘they’ exist. Well, I do. Arthur, Henry, Samuel, Jack, and all the others.”
I was stunned. What was he saying? Arthur? Jack? There was no way. He smirked as he saw my face. He could probably guess what I was thinking.
He let out a dry laugh. “Yeah, poor Jack isn’t the only one of us that knows what’s going on. I’ve seen Tommy’s little book. I know what it says.
Me, him, us, them. All mixed up together in one little clusterfuck of a psychotic cocktail.” He grabbed my hand again and locked eyes with me. “The only thing I don’t know is how much you know, Ms. Walton.”
I still wasn’t completely sure what had just happened, but I knew one thing for sure: this wasn’t good.