Valley of Shadows-Chapter Forty

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Harriet tossed and turned in her bed. She had been awake most of the night, unable to stem the flow of tumultuous thoughts racing through her mind. Stryker’s demands were wearing her down. Unless Harriet found a way out, her luck would run out and he would have her killed.

That thought had robbed her of much sleep over the years. She’d had more close calls than she cared to consider. It wasn’t so much the idea of dying that disturbed her.  Death was inevitable.  What she found upsetting was the idea of allowing that bastard take her life.  He had already robbed her of so much.  She just couldn’t let him take that too.  Subconsciously, her hand moved up and massaged her swollen jaw. The drug addict who had  attacked her acted friendly and had caught Harriet at a weak moment.  She was feeling lonely and let her guard down for just a moment.  She didn’t even see the attack coming.

Whatever the woman struck her with had caused Harriet to momentarily black out. When she came to, her pockets were turned inside out and her necklace was gone. Harriet knew she should chalk it up as a lesson learned and be thankful to have escaped the incident with her life, but every time she remembered the attack, it made her blood boil. She couldn’t seem to let it go.  She wanted to hunt the woman down.

Her normally laid back, easygoing nature was infected by this simmering rage. She tried to convince herself that years of frustration over being forced to work for Stryker was coming to a head. Harriet knew that the unrelenting anger she felt was leaking from the other side the mental barrier she had erected to block out her alternate personality Samentha.

She had interfered in Harriet’s life, for as long as Harriet could recall. She was in grade school when Reverend Mother took her to a psychiatrist and she found out there was a name for the strange voice inside her head, as well as the blackouts after which, people reported that she said and done things which she didn’t recall.

Multiple personality disorder seemed like such a foreign concept, but it had felt good to finally have some answers. Harriet worked hard to take back control of her life. For her, that meant blocking out the other voice and resisting the urge to act impulsively. With the exception of a few episodes, in which Samentha broke through and invaded her consciousness, Harriet was successful in reigning her in and keeping Samentha’s destructive impulses under control.

Lately, she had been feeling overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Working for Stryker meant having to be on point all the time. At any given moment, someone from his world might violently cross over into hers. A chance encounter could undo years of hard work she had put into keeping the two aspects of her life separate. She would never forgive herself, if someone attacked her family. Protecting and keeping all of them in the dark about her work for Stryker was nerve-racking.

Harriet wanted desperately to stop working for Stryker, but doing so meant certain death for her father in prison. Every time she felt close to working off his debts, Stryker found some excuse to tack more interest onto the original debt. Harriet had come to the devastating conclusion that for as long as Stryker lived, she would never be able to pay off her father’s debt.

Stryker had no intention of ever letting her go. She didn’t know how much more she could take. Stryker was sending her on increasingly dangerous assignments. In a matter of weeks, her ballet company would begin rehearsals for the next show. Harriet couldn’t leave, until she finished her latest mission for Stryker. She was working as hard as she could and seemingly getting nowhere fast. Attempting to figure a way out of her predicament had resulted in a string of sleepless nights. Harriet was physically and mentally exhausted.

A knock sounded at her door and Harriet was instantly annoyed. She didn’t feel like talking to anyone. Harriet lay still, hoping that whoever it was would go away. A moment later, the knock sounded again and Joshua opened the door.

“There you are sis, didn’t you hear me knocking?”

“I’m trying to get some sleep Josh. What do you want?”

“It’s going on 9:30 A.M., I can’t believe you’re still in bed. What time did you go to bed?”

“What do you care? Did you come in here for a reason or just to nag?”

“Well, excuse me grumpy! I came to tell you that mom wants you to visit her at the nursing home. She’s hurt that you haven’t come to see her since she got admitted.”

“Fine, you told me. Now go away.”

“When are you going to see her?”

“I don’t know Joshua, do you really need to know right this second?”

“It’s just that she had asked me to bring her a few things. If you were planning on visiting soon, then you could take them to her.”

“You’ve been to see her practically every day she’s been there. Why don’t you just take it the next time you go?”

“To tell you the truth, I’m thinking of staying away for a few days. She’s still pretty pissed off at me for putting her in there. Whenever I visit, we just end up arguing.”

“So you want me to go and get yelled at, instead of you.”

Harriet rose up on her elbows to glare at Joshua and felt a sudden wave of dizziness. He gave her a sheepish grin and then his eyes widened.

“Are you okay? Hey, what happened to your face?”

“What? Oh, it’s nothing.”

“That doesn’t look like nothing to me. It’s all bruised and swollen. What the hell happened?”

“I told you, it’s nothing. Just let it go Josh. I’m fine.”

“What’s going on with you Harriet? Don’t tell me nothing. If somebody’s hurting you, then I want to know.”

“Let it go Josh.”

“Why won’t you let me help you?”

“Because I don’t need your help. Besides, you have a bad habit of telling mother everything.”

“That’s not true. I do not tell her everything.”

“Oh really? Josh, you couldn’t keep a secret from her, if your life depended upon it. You’re too afraid of upsetting her. Look, it’s no big deal. It’s not your fault that you’re a people pleaser.”

“Are you implying that I’m weak?”

“Oh, I’m sorry was I not clear? You’re a momma’s boy…always have been and always will be. You’re so far up her ass that you couldn’t even move out of this house. It’s no wonder you never had a steady girlfriend. Women get tired of her constant judgement and interference.  We all know why she keeps running off your girlfriends.  She wants you all to herself.”

“Look whose talking about not dating. You have even less of a sex life than I…”

“How the hell do you know what I do, when I’m not here? She’s got you so sheltered, you probably have no idea what’s even going on in the real world.”

“Fuck you Harriet! You don’t have room to talk. Don’t act like your pathetic life is more exciting than it is. I was only asking what happened out of concern, but you know what? Now, I’m glad somebody kicked your ass!”

Joshua stormed out of the room to the sound of harsh laughter. As soon as her bedroom door slammed, she came to herself with that laughter echoing inside her head. Samentha had hijacked her psyche and blurted out things which Harriet had kept bottled up for years. She would never have said them out loud.

With unsteady hands, Harriet pulled her purse up from the floor beside the bed, dug out her cell phone and found the number for her psychiatrist in the contacts list.