A small man, with large deep-set eyes that rarely blinked, he would occasionally disappear for an hour or so, but Vicky could only guess at what he did down there. She wasn't sure she wanted to know.
"Man's got to have some place to call his own," Marty would say. "It's my workshop."
"You're so secretive," she would respond with a smile, content to let him have his eccentricities.
Her friend Arlene heard this and stuck out a pointed chin. "He locks you out?"
Vicky hated defending herself to anyone. Shrugging she said: "Everyone needs privacy. He never goes into my sewing room, and I don't go into his room."
"But you don't lock him out."
Vicky had no response to that.
"Besides," said Arlene. "Aren't you curious what he does down there?"
"Probably drinks and tinkers with stuff."
"Don't it burn at you?"
"Why should it?"
"He could be doing horrible stuff with porn. Child porn, for all you know."
"Hush," Vicky responded, raising her voice, putting an end to the conversation.
Still, the question had been put to her and curiosity allowed to ferment.
Five years. She should know.
The file shoved something up. A click sounded and the lock yielded.
Stepping through the door, feeling instantly guilty, Vicky flipped on the light switch. She stood still, mouth open, eyes tearing up, trying to comprehend what she was looking at.
Every inch of wall, as well as the ceiling, was plastered with photographs of ---her! There, Vicky standing next to her mom and dad. Vicky in the living room watching TV. Vicky outside the house, looking so proud the day they moved in. Vicky kneeling over a patch of dirt in the garden.
Wringing her hands, Vicky moved around the room, not sure how she felt. She stopped at a picture that must have been eight years old, taken before she met Marty. There she was, standing outside the dorm, a backpack slung over one shoulder. Above that, a picture taken from the ground level, looking up into her dorm room as she stood leaning against the ledge, looking dreamily out upon the campus. Another picture of her in a rest room, taken from an odd angle, with a dark spots around the edges of the photo to suggest the picture was being shot through a wall.
Before they dated he had been stalking her?
She studied another picture. A more recent photo, taken from afar as she shopped at the local supermarket. Still another picture of her at work, taken from across the street.
He was still stalking her.
Not wanting to, she reached down and pulled open a drawer in the small desk he kept there. Underwear. Some of it missing for a long time. Another drawer. A pair of earrings missing since Easter, crumpled Kleenex, one torn nylon, a half bottle of perfume.
Closing the drawer, stepping back slowly until she was out of the room, she turned out the light, locked the door, and closed it. Vicky touched her face, not sure what to make of this revelation, not sure whether it should make any difference. It felt creepy to think of him studying her, taking pictures when she was most vulnerable. She tried to imagine him watching, his finger tense on the camera trigger.
Marty would be home soon. She nodded to herself. He would go into the kitchen, maybe check the fridge for a snack, grab a beer. He'd call out, to see where she was. Where would she be? Perhaps in the tub? Low in the water, a washcloth over her eyes. Vulnerable. She could pretend to be asleep and leave the door open a crack.
Smiling, Vicky started upstairs.