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Malicious compliance

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There was something off about Adrian.

There was no doubt about it, something was off. But what, she couldn’t quite but her finger on.

At first, everything was fine. Doctor smileys funhouse had done wonders and Adrian had been so polite and respectful. For a fleeting moment, she’d been hopeful that they could finally be a normal, happy family.

And she’d been right, in a way. They were happy now; Adrian didn’t hole themself in their room for hours on end or argue and grumble when they were all just trying to have a nice family dinner. Not anymore, all of that frustrating and unruly behavior was gone. Now, they had pleasant family outings and game nights. Gone, were the explosive arguments that seemed to ruin every single peaceful moment together. She could gladly say, that now, they were happy.

But not normal, oh she wishes that were the case, but as the days went by, she couldn’t deny any longer that they weren’t necessarily normal. And it all traced back to Adrian.

Not that there are any issues. It’d be so much easier if that were the case. The change had been remarkable and long overdue, they were respectful, polite, well-behaved and just plain lovely to be around. But, after a while, she’d begun noticing little things, that just seemed odd.

For the first few weeks, there was nothing to notice, Adrian had finally shaped up. But once, when they having a nice conversation over tea, once conversation fizzled out and their cups were empty, she’d taken out a book to read. Absolutely basking in the comfortable silence. Adrian, however, hadn’t made a move to re-fill their cup or grab a book of their own or even leave. They just sat there, unblinking, unmoving, dead silent, for a good hour. Only when she’d gotten up to start supper did they move to help her.

It didn’t stop there, actually, the more she looked, the more instances there were.

For example, they never locked their door. Nowadays she never had to wonder what they were up to any longer and they didn’t complain on how she apparently “invaded their privacy “. Then again, it seemed as if privacy was nonexistent in their mind, for their bedroom was always wide open, no matter what they were doing. They didn’t close it to change, simply did so in their closet, or even to go to the bathroom. Only after she explicitly stated that she wanted the door closed when they did their business, did they actually do so.

It almost seemed like malicious compliance. But instead of burdening her it just gave her this uneasy feeling. Besides, who continued to do something of the sort for months on end?

But really, what truly ruled out the possibility of normalcy, was the incident. She’d dubbed that unsettling moment as the incident in her mind, but really, practically nothing substantial had occurred.

Adrian had been helping her with dinner and had been about to chop up some carrots. But when they reached for the knife and held it tightly in their grip, they stilled. They stood, frozen in place for a frighteningly long time -granted it was but a few minutes, but it frightened her nonetheless- just staring at the blade.

Eventually, she’d hesitantly asked. “Adrian? Is something the matter?”

Adrian had startled, tightened their grip on the kitchen knife and fumbled their words. “Y-yeah, everything’s fine.” They gazed at the knife with a fleeting, worrying intensity. “It’s just-this is looking a little dull...we should probably sharpen it. It might not,” they gulped audibly. “cut anything well enough...”

“Alright honey, if that’s all...”

They didn’t sulk and grumble and rain on her parade by being the walking embodiment of doom and gloom and being set on ruining her mood. But they also didn’t hum or banter or ever seem to truly relax.

They rarely even smiled. When they did, granted, it was always genuine. But she could tell, that it was strained. It was as if the happiness of the moment held a certain fragility, one that could collapse at any moment.

There was something off about Adrian, but something told her that Adrian would never confide in her. 

...did she do something wrong?

When did they become so close, yet so distant?