“Tap. Tap. Tap.”

The sound was short, sweet, and professional. It, however, did not wake the sleeper up from her dreams at first casting. No, Jacqueline only flopped over upon her side to throw a blanket over her head because once more the curtains she swore she closed the other night were now wide open letting in the essence of morning. Whatever sort of beast would interrupt such a wonderful rest? Dreams? Well, not that she could quite remember what her dreams had been about.

Tap. Tap. Tap” It insisted upon the door.

Up from the bed she sat while casting the blankets aside with an irritable huff. Whoever her caretaker be, they were about to get an honest piece of her mind! They insisted upon the schedule she so dutifully followed, yet there were times the routine didn’t need to be followed only persist for so long. So, this morning, Jacqueline would put her foot down with the person she had yet to see even once! She slipped into the fluffy slippers (of course) before striding across the room to pull open the door. right? This rigid routine of waking and sleeping, eating and bathing, and mild entertainment could

All that she found beyond the portal was a woosh of air and an empty hallway. Right across from her was a portrait of the woods; the sort with a cabin and lake. It was one of few picturesque pieces that dotted the ivory painted walls and broke up the muted monotony of colors that made up the house. Even behind her in that room, things were creamy whites and pastel shades of many colors. One would think the choice of flowers would lend itself to breaking up the inexpressive coloring, but they did not. White daylilies were quite simple to look at it and Jacqueline felt a pang of depression when she caught herself staring at one of many vases filled with them. On occasion there would be a big poofy chrysanthemum, but they were seldom and rare. Sometimes, she even swore, the unique flower would be in one vase and end up in another. One day she recalled it hadn’t been there at all. Perhaps it was her keeper playing some game?

Fruitless. There is no one there, she sighed as she turned back into the room, what were you expecting to find Jacqui?

And, like many a time before, she replied to her own thoughts: “I do not know.”

Walking to the vanity, Jacqueline neglected to close the door or even the curtains. Did it matter? There was never a sign the house next door had people and no one else dwelled within the residence to have concern someone would wander on in. If there were neighbors, she figured the summer weather would mean she would - on occasion - catch the scent of a burning bar-b-que or see cars driving down the road. Not that she could see the road. As her fingers drifted over the soft material of a cotton slip dress, she sighed at the mundaneness of this house and its neighborhood. Solitude brought peace to her, but to this degree?

It’s suffocating.

“But it is safe,” she protested.

Yes. She assured herself. Safe.

Off went the frumpled pajamas, and for a moment she stopped to look in the mirror. It was not like she had forgotten what she had looked like. No. It was a certain nervousness to that glance as if something may be out of place. There wasn’t much - in her mind - to look at or even out of order for that matter. All she happened to find was a thin thing with waif-like features, pale skin, and wild splashing of freckles from cheeks to toes! She looked like some doll maker had gone to town with his muddy red paints on his latest porcelain piece. Even her brunette hair was a mess of curls that even the brush could not tame, but she made the attempt like she always did as she met the reflection’s own brown eyed gaze. When done she pulled on the dress, which fell to her knees in its flowing design, and made for the hallway.

Like a whisper, she made her way down the hallways without disrupting a thing about the practical space. There was a brief pause to eye the large vase on a corner table near the stairs. The random blossom was in it now. Last night, she swore, it had been in her room. With a glance behind her, Jacqueline surveyed the long hallway with its plush minty carpeting. Her room door was the only one of three open. The bathroom was closed and quiet just like the second room. Before she could turn and check out the door, a little bell rang from downstairs. Breakfast was served.

Given the closed wall design of the house, Jacqueline’s nose didn’t pick up on the scent of roasting coffee, crisp bacon, or toast from the upstairs. Her steps had to take her halfway down the stairs before even the first strong smell caught her attention: A strong roast of coffee. If it was the typical variety, she knew it to be a french roast. The question here was if she would at least get lucky to have some sugar or even flavored creamer to go into her cup. Much like the utilitarian design of the house with it’s closed walls and lack of open space, even her breakfast seemed to be produced from a cafeteria despite the fresh scents of it being cooked just now. This meant that even her coffee didn’t get a splash of flavor in it and the fruit juice often tasted like some watered down concentrate. Would it hurt for her caretaker to answer a simple demand for french vanilla creamer? Better juice? Maybe even chocolate milk?

Well, Jacqui, it’s not like you get a chance to make demands.

When she rounded into the doorway of the dining room, she was greeted by a small oak table with a floral fixture in its center. More daylilies and no chrysanthemum in sight. Even the faux-chandelier had shades shaped like lilies, which seemed oddly dated to her. They weren’t on, of course. Instead the curtains were pulled back to give a sight of the yard and the privacy fencing that cut it off from the rest of the neighborhood. Another breakfast with only the company of sunlight and the static noises of the outside. Even the birdsong sounded staged after so many days. Not to mention, she didn’t recall seeing any jays or robins in the yard’s only tree.

Upon sitting, Jacqueline’s first order of business wasn’t even to touch the bacon or pick up her fork to enjoy the fluffy eggs. No. She plucked up the pitcher of cream next to the black cup of coffee and took a quick sniff.

Nope. Just half and half.

With a sighed, “you’d think I was on some diet,” she poured it into the cup until the desired blonde color was obtained.

Look at the upside, Jacqui! At least it is caffeine!

Grumbling against the edge of the mug, Jacqueline bitterly gave some half hearted argument to her much more positive half of thinking. Really did it not understand the delight in a freshly brewed caramel macchiato? Or the deliciousness of a few extra shots of espresso? In fact, she found herself even craving non-caffeinated hot drinks as well thanks to this regiment of coffee and cream; such as white hot chocolates. As she progressed through the routine meal, she even found herself wondering when the last time she had seen a barista was, or perhaps even a half-decent mom-and-pop coffee shop. Was there even a nearby business strip to go to for such a thing?

As if to drive home her lament about an unknown diet, even her toast was whole grain and the butter upon it not sweet in the slightest. At least she had eggs and meat to cover it up! So, like a questioning Catholic reciting prayer at church, she took to the meal with little passion. At least she had the next step of her day to look forward to after this: a bath.

Next Chapter: One...