Sometimes she stood behind the closed door of her room, listening intently to the sounds of other doors opening and learning to recognize footsteps not made by her Iranian captors.

At night, after she had volunteered to cook dinner for several other captives, she would comb through the bathroom wastebaskets in the American Embassy, counting the number of steak and chicken bones and trying to calculate the number of her colleagues held there.

"You learn to read wastebaskets very well and you keep you ears open and your mouth shut," said Kathryn L. Koob, 42, of Fairfax in her first detailed interview describing her life as a hostage.

A pleasant-faced woman who could be taken for a high school teacher, which she once was, Koob wore a dark green dress and large silver cross and spoke early about the 444 days that preceded her release.

She recalled how her initial terror was replaced by a reasonably comfortable routine shared with embassy political officer Elizabeth Ann Swift, her roommate for the last 10 months. Koob spent the first four months in solitary confinement.

"I always knew I was going to walk away from that place, whether it was five days, five months or 15 years," said Koob, interviewed in the minister's study in the Lutheran church she attends in Burke in suburban Virginia. Koob said she loved in 13 different rooms inside the embassy compound during her 14 1/2 months in captivity and was guarded by Iranian women students who ranged in age from 16 to 24.

In marked contrast to some of the 50 male hostages who have described beatings, wormy food and psychological abuse, Koob said she was treated "quite well," a circumstance she attributes to Islamic attitudes toward women and to the sympathetic nature of some of her guards.

A typical day, said the former director of the Iran-American Society, a cultural exchange group, would begin between 8 and 10 a.m. when she and Swift awoke, were taken to the bathroom -- she was always blindfolded when taken out of her room -- and then returned for a breakfast of bread, cheese and tea.

Mornings consisted of silent prayers and Bible readings, said the Iowa native, and lunch was served between 1 and 2 p.m. "After meals we were taken to the bathroom to wash our dishes and I used to go through the wastebaskets and count the number of soap wrappers" she said. Afternoons were passed by doing needlework, reading and exercising for about an hour before a 7:30 dinner.

After dinner came more prayer and "junk reading scrounged from the American High School library, stuff like Regency Romances and Agatha Christie" she said. Before bed the women did another hour of exercises, often jogging in figure eights around their small rooms, which contained a calendar and were decorated with cards and mail from home.

Initially, said Koob, who wore blue jeans during most of her imprisonment, her captors slept in the same room with her and permitted the women one bath per week "whether we needed it or not."

For the first seven months an embassy chef fed the captives American-style meals. After he left last spring, Koob said she volunteered to cook, a suggestion to which her captors, unfamiliar with American cuisine, enthusiastically agreed.

"They brought us cookbooks" and food from the embassy commissary and Koob said she cooked for first six and then, after the departure of former hostage Richard I. Queen, five of the hostages. After dinner each evening, while washing her dishes, she would sift through the trash, counting bones.

Sometimes the other hostages, whom Koob and Swift called "the boys in the backroom," would leave little notes under dishes on their trays, which generally were requests for foods like salad or peanut-butter cookies."

"Ann and I would find humor and amusement in little situations and would make up sarcastic remarks about [the Iranian]," said Koob, who added that the two women came to enjoy a close sisterly relationship. "The only little quarrel we had was abot what size of a piece of chocolate cake to give someone else."

Although Koob said she felt she "grew spiritually very much" she was less certain about the long-term psychological effects of her ordeal. "I assume I [have scars] but I don't know what they are," she said.