Promises Broken

Her house was tall. In Nalaise, wealth was portrayed by how many floors your house was. Hers was the tallest house, aside from The General’s.

She wasn’t coming out.

I was waiting for nothing.

She told me to wait, and she would come live with me after she told her parents, but seeing where she lived now, and picturing the hole I was living in until I could afford to by my own… tent… she would never want to live with me after this. Candles glowed from every window, and through the windows I saw the walls were lined in gold. The window frames were inlaid with FireStones. FireStones. The most expensive stone known in all the regions, and they were using it on their window-sills, exposed to rain, and weather, and the average passerby. I wanted to pull out my pocket knife and pry some of the stones out of their window-sill to teach them a lesson.

Valuable things get stolen.

You can’t keep them.

“Okay, Micheal, let’s go.”

She slammed the door, and shivered in the cold. She had no bags with her. She wore no cloak. She wasn’t planning on staying. Her eyes were filled with tears when she finally looked up at me. Anger flooded my blood.

Who would make her cry?

Who hurt her?

I would hunt them down. They would pay for hurting such a delicate thing.

“What happened?”

I caught her tears with the back of my hand, and pulled her into my arms. The curtains twitched in the nearest window. Her family was watching me.

“Nothing. It’s fine.”

Growing up with seven sisters told me it was not fine.

“Come on baby, you can tell me.”

Her hair smelled so good as she nuzzled her head right below my chin.

“Oh, they said I was already promised to someone, and if I chose to walk out on that promise, I couldn’t come back.”

I knew it. She wasn’t coming. They would have promised her to someone of equal, or greater standing. She wouldn’t want to come with me. I should have taken that job offer from that guy earlier. He would have paid well, and I could have been good enough for her.

“Oh.”

Was all I could muster. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Nothing seemed to fit.

“Yeah,” she sniffed, and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “So, where’s your place?”

“What?”

“Where do you live? Where do we live?”

We.

“Alice, you can’t walk out on a promise.”

It was too good to be true.

“It wasn’t their promise to make, and I have no need to uphold it. I don’t want an easy life with someone I don’t love.”

“Life with me won’t be easy, dear.”

“But life with you will be worth it.”

I didn’t fight her anymore. I just wanted to get her home. I held her as close as I could as we wound down the streets. Her confidence started to wane as the buildings got shorter, and she started to shiver as the buildings turned to shacks, and then tents, and then poorly dug holes.

“You’ve never been down to the Tunnel Dwellers have you?”

She shook her head.

“I’ve never been down past the Five-Floors.” She took my hand and tried to smile. “Worth it.” She whispered, and kissed my neck. She was short, and had to stand on tip-toe to reach my neck. I could bend, and kiss her back, but it was so dang cute watching her try to reach.

“You know I’m not planning on staying in Nalaise, right? I’m planning on going to Snartec. They are always pleading for choppers, so it’s an almost guaranteed job. But it won’t pay well. Only two or three Regions actually need wood.”

I was rambling. I was giving her an out. But she reached up and pressed her fingers to my lips.

“Worth it.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

I shuffled my feet, and looked at the ladder leading into the ground next to us.

“Well then, welcome home.”

“Oh.”

She stared at the ladder in confusion.

“You go down. Home is underground.”

“I knew that.”

Her blush said she didn’t know that.

“Do you want me to go first and show you how it’s done?”

She nodded. I looked up as she started to descend into my cave, and my mouth dropped open. I could see right up her dress. I tried to look away, but I didn’t want to.

“Well, it is cozy isn’t it.”

The room wasn’t made for two people. The table was pushed against one wall, and a mattress was sandwiched between it, and the opposite wall. That’s all there was. I had a small suitcase with all my clothes in it, but I didn’t own anything else.

“We’ll have a magnificent place in Snartec, I promise.”

“Okay.” She knelt on the mattress, and started straightening the sheets. She frowned at the stains. I forgot to get new sheets before I brought her here. “This will be tight sleeping won’t it?”

I swallowed.

“We’ll be sleeping together? On the same bed?”

I didn’t want her to have to sleep on my dirty sheets.

“Well, it’s the only bed here, so I guess that would be our only option.”

I hadn’t even kissed her yet. Not properly. Now I was supposed to sleep next to her? I would mess it up. She wouldn’t like my morning breath. I probably didn’t smell as good as she did. I hadn’t thought this through.

“Come on Micheal, it’s late.”

She patted the bed, and flicked the jar of Lacelights. I blew out the candles, and only the Lacelights lit up the room. As I laid down, she stood and undid the sash on her dress. She whisked her dress off, and stood, completely naked, in front of me. My heart sped up.

“Um, what are you doing?”

Are you hinting?

Are you ready now?

How was my breath?

“It’s a nice dress. I don’t want it to wrinkle. Tomorrow I’ll wear some of your clothes and I’ll sell the dress. Then we’ll have some money to get down to Snartec.”

I tried to fight disappointment.

“Oh. That’s smart.”

She nodded and laid down next to me. She snuggled up against my side, and eased one leg across mine.

What was she doing to me?

Was this another hint?

She was so naive. She probably didn’t mean anything by it. I started to count the roots coming through the ceiling. It was going to be a long night with her beside me. So available, but maybe not ready yet.

Twenty-seven roots.

Forty-three Lacelights.

Six weird knots in the wood on the side of the table.

Eleven freckles across her pale back.

“Micheal?”

She whispered as the Lacelights began to fade.

“Yes?”

Two rocks that looked like they might fall out of the wall soon.

Fifteen rungs on the ladder.

“Were you ever going to kiss me?”

I didn’t need to be asked twice. I pushed her onto her back, and finally tasted her lips. They were better than I imagined they would be. I’d been with a few women before, but they were hired. I paid them to be good. I paid them to let me do what I wanted.

Alice was different.

Alice was pure.

I worried I would mess up. I worried she wouldn’t enjoy it. She didn’t know what to do. She was waiting for my direction. I kissed her again, and her fingers danced across my back. Nervously, she eased my shirt off, and I hastily pulled my legs free of my pants. Ugh. I was covered in grime. I should have showered before picking her up.

“What do you want, love?”

I gently bit her ear, and she gasped. She pressed her hands against my face, and held me away from her. My heart stopped when I saw fear in her eyes.

“Alice? What’s wrong?”

“I think,” she paused, and slowly met my eyes. “I think I want it to hurt.”

“What?”

“I know my first time might hurt, and I’d rather it be on purpose.” She smiled at me, and trailed her fingers down my chest. “We’ll be joining our souls. I think that sounds like it might be a beautiful pain.”

“Alice, we’re not ‘joining our souls”, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

I bent down and kissed her neck, and trailed my lips down to the edge of her breast, but she put a hand up and stopped me.

“You promised me you’d keep me safe. This is how I swear myself to you. I need to relinquish that control to you.”

“You’re sheltered, Alice. I don’t think you understand what you’re asking.”

“I don’t mean every time. I just mean this time. Symbolically. I need to feel pain right now. I need a pain I can enjoy.”

Her voice was muffled behind my mouth, and I grabbed her hands and held her arms above her head. I worked my way down, and gently bit her breast. She squirmed beneath me.

“Please, Micheal?”

“Alright. I’m game if you are.”

I positioned myself, and slowly pushed in. Her expression changed as I had my way, and her smile vanished. She squeezed her eyes shut, and one tear slipped past her lid.

“Oh, baby, see I told you you didn’t really want it that way.”

I smoothed her hair, and apologized, but she sniffed and shook her head.

“It’s not that. You were fine.” Her legs wrapped around me, and she buried her head in my shoulder. “I’m an orphan now, Micheal. I can’t go home.”

“Do you want to go home?”

This was not the conversation I wanted to have right now.

“No, I don’t. It’s just hitting me what I gave up.”

“Hitting you now, while I’m…”

Great.

Her eyes widened.

“No! No. I’m sorry I shouldn’t be thinking about that right now. I want to focus on you.” She pushed herself against me.

“Please. Make me forget.”

Soon her tears turned to screams, and I knew my neighbors would be jealous of me. As the Lacelights drifted off to sleep, and she fell asleep in my arms, exhausted, I was so grateful she came with me.

Only good things could come from this promise she broke.

Budget Cuts

His boss laid him off.

“Budget cuts”

He nodded, but he didn’t really hear those well rehearsed words. What would they do now? His wife couldn’t work. Not after what that man put her through. She barely went outside anymore. He wasn’t trained in anything. This job was a God-send when he got it, but now what would he do?

He couldn’t tell her. She’d lose it. Again. She smiled at him this morning before he left for work. She hadn’t smiled in years.

His boss was asking him questions, but he wasn’t listening. Numbly, he packed his desk, and went out into the streets. That’s where they would be living all too soon. They were already drowning in debt. He dumped the office things in the nearest dumpster, but he kept the picture of his wife. It was taken before her kidnapping. Taken before fear took up permanent residence behind her eyes. He traced her smile through the glass, and tears dripped from his eyes. What would she do now? He couldn’t take care of her anymore.

He had time before he “got off work” and could go home, so he went to the post office. He’d promised her he would check the mail. Her mother sent her a letter every three days. She was afraid to use the phone, so snail-mail would have to do. The man had stalked her for several weeks on her phone. She wouldn’t touch one now. He was behind bars for a long time, but she still didn’t feel safe. There wasn’t much in the mail. A letter from her mother, and seventeen over-due bills. He stopped by her mother’s house on the way home. A sprawling mansion that once crawled with gardeners, and butlers, and maids. She’d cut down on staff to pay for the lawyers. The house was paid off, and the remaining staff had trusts that paid their salary, but the mistress of the manor was struggling now.

He hated the questions he’d have to ask her. He was such a proud man. But she agreed without question, and they made their plans, before he wandered back home to his wife. He smiled when he opened the door. Fresh baked cookies made the house smell sweet. She hadn’t baked since before…

She greeted him with a plate fresh from the oven. Her smile made the lump in his throat grow, but he didn’t have to chance to tell her what happened. She pushed him into the living room, and worked the buckle on his belt. Her hands shook so hard, and tears danced in her eyes as her fear consumed her. He stopped her shaking hands, and wrapped her in his arms.

“Don’t push yourself, dear.”

He whispered through her hair.

“I want to, but I can’t. I can’t get him out of my head.” Tears clogged her words as she clung to him. “I thought I could. I thought I was ready now.”

He put a finger to her lips, and her rambling ceased. She’d been trying for months to be alright. He no longer got his hopes up. But he didn’t need to. He loved her too much to be disappointed. She returned to the kitchen, and scooped more cookies onto the plate.

“Your mother wants us to come to dinner tonight.”

He had to broach the subject carefully. He didn’t want to overwhelm her. Panic crossed her face, and she shook her head.

“I can’t leave the house.”

“She misses you. Just one dinner can’t hurt, right?”

“I was meeting you for dinner that night. My car broke down. He pulled over.”

Her eyes glazed over. The psychologists said that she would remember every detail of that day, and repeating any of those things could trigger her. They said to make sure to always point out differences to show her it’s not that night.

“You were alone then. You’d be with me now. I know how to repair a car, so we wouldn’t have a problem.”

Her hands still shook, but she smiled again.

“It would be different. Can we walk?”

“Forty-three miles?”

She wanted to walk everywhere, but some things weren’t possible. Dishes clattered in the sink, and she nodded absently.

“We can’t walk, baby. We’ll go to dinner. Make it quick. Don’t worry.”

He chose to ignore the tears on her cheeks. She needed this, and so did her mother. It would be a nice break. He kept a box of photos of happier times in the back of his closet. She didn’t like looking at them. Not yet. But one day he hoped she’d want to see them again. He took the box out to his car, and also took half of her clothing out to the car as well. He laid out an outfit for her on the bed, and placed a new necklace on top.

He couldn’t afford the necklace, but she deserved nice things. He unbuckled his pants, stared at the photograph, and lost himself in better times. Times when she didn’t cringe at his touch. Times when her eyes glowed with love, and hope. She walked in on him, and gasped, hands flying to her mouth. He lept from the bed, but she’d already fled the room. A few minutes later he found her, huddled in the corner, sobbing.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” His hands hovered over her back, but he hesitated to touch her. She couldn’t handle touch if she didn’t initiate. “I’m sorry you walked into that. I should have locked the door.”

She shook her head, and wiped her face.

“I just feel bad.”

“It’s okay. You’re doing just fine.”

It was almost time to leave, and he didn’t want to leave it on this note, but he didn’t know how to fix it. His hand lowered onto her hair, and she twisted around and wrapped her arms around him.

“What did he do to you?”

He promised himself he would never ask her that, but the question slipped out before he could stop it. She stopped crying, and her arms loosened just a little.

“I had a child. While he held me there I gave birth.”
His blood ran cold at her words. She’d been missing for two years. Plenty of time for a child. But there was no child there when they found her.

“She was born in the morning. She was beautiful. She was yours.”

Tears ran from his eyes.

“I was going to tell you that night. I had it all planned out what I would say, but my car broke down.”

His arms tightened. A child. He had a child. A daughter.

“He didn’t like her. She cried a lot, and it gave him a headache. He killed her. Pinned her to the table and bashed her head in with a frying pan. He wouldn’t let me take care of her body until the smell was overwhelming. I had to stare at her body everyday. And I still hear her cries when I close my eyes. But more than that, I hear the silence after that blow. Every quiet moment takes me back to that moment. He raped her too. Before he killed her. Just so he could watch me cry. But then he got rid of the body and I can’t prove there was a child. So he’s only in prison for kidnapping. It should be murder, but he’s not in for murder.”

He should be dead. Not in prison.

Anger pulsed through his veins, along with a grief for the daughter he’d never meet. He held her until her shaking ceased, and didn’t offer any comfort. He didn’t know what he should say. Nothing would help.

Her tears dried when they drove into her mother’s parking lot. The servants were excited to see her return to the manor. She hadn’t been back since the kidnapping. She and the senator, her father, were held for ransom. Separate rooms. Different bounties. They attempted to pay for the senators release first. He was returned to his family. Piece by bloody piece. That’s why they didn’t pay for her. They wanted to find her alive. They never told her her father was also kidnapped. They told her he had a heart attack while she was imprisoned.

Her mother ran down the steps, and wrapped her daughter in her arms. They hadn’t seen each-other since the hospital. Both had happy tears in their eyes as they retreated into the mansion. He tipped the valet, and whispered directions to him, before he followed his wife into the house. She was happier here. There wasn’t as much fear in her eyes, and her smile was easy. Laughter bounced off the walls, and he realized how much he had missed it. Hours ticked by, and he knew his time was running out. The bills were stacking up. He lost his job. He couldn’t give her the care she needed.

He stood from the table, and kissed his wife, before excusing himself to the restroom. She barely glanced away from her mother as he left the room. He slipped out to his car, and made sure all of her things had been unloaded. He glanced back through the window, and saw her laughing. Happy.

Tears drenched his face as he drove into the night, and left her behind with someone who could care for her better than he ever could.

Texts

“Dinner looks lovely.”

He sniffed the air as he entered the kitchen. She merely blushed, and continued reading the recipe in front of her. Flour streaked her apron, and her hair refused to stay out of her eyes as she tried to make him a dinner he would like.

He crossed to his wife, and wrapped her in his arms.

“I’m not hungry for food tonight.”

She brushed away his hands, and dug a measuring cup into some sugar.

“I have to finish this pie, or dinner will be ruined.”

He reached out and shut the cookbook in front of her.

“I don’t even like pie.”

His hands wandered down her legs, and he squatted in front of her. His fingers wrapped around her white thong, and pulled it down. His tongue darted out of his mouth, and she forgot her dinner plans. He drank her in, right on the kitchen floor, and she squealed as he worked his hands. Clothing tossed aside. Dinner forgotten. She pushed up onto her knees, and took him into her mouth.

She’d practiced all night to be able to accommodate him. She felt rather foolish jamming the cucumber she’d planned on using for dinner down her throat. She wasn’t even sure if that’s how she should practice, but she wanted to get it just right.

Her hands worked his base, and his eyes rolled back in his head. She took her cue, and brought the knife down, severing his cock with a yelp of surprise. She made sure she severed the arterial vein on his leg as well. Witnesses wouldn’t do.

And as he gasped and bled on her kitchen floor, she leaned over him and whispered,

“I saw the texts.”

Play

“Mommy look at this.”

The child held up the colorful rock she’d found, and looked around for her mother. The mother was nowhere to be found. The child had been wandering down the path into my woods for a while, but her mother still had not noticed her missing offspring.

I pushed down a branch so I could see the child better. Such a pretty child. Small. Black hair tied back with a ribbon. Name brand coat. Name brand shoes. A child couldn’t appreciate fancy clothing. They wanted to be pretty, but they didn’t care who made the clothes.

She was scared now. She realized she was alone. Or she thought she was alone. I smiled. She would do well here, eventually. I waved my hand and another pretty stone appeared in front of her on the path. As she bent to grab it, another stone appeared a little farther into the forest, and another, and another, and she followed them deeper into my realm. Her arms were full by the time she reached the clearing that was my home. I stepped into the path behind her, and savored the moment before feasting on her fear. But the child cried out, and ran into the clearing. My mouth dropped open when I saw her mother sitting on a stone, arms outstretched for her child.

A knife pressed against my neck, and ropes bound my hands.

“You’re child hunting day’s are over, witch.”

My brother’s eyes gleamed as he led me to the gallows. He didn’t remember. Of course he didn’t. I started to laugh as they tied the noose around my neck. Bodies are temporary, dear brother. You learned that didn’t you? The night you held a pillow over my face. The night you said Mommy and Daddy could only love one. I’m back now dear brother, I’m gunning for you, and through your dear daughter, my dreams shall come true.

My body dropped. The noose tightened. And I was free to seek a new home, in the body of that pretty little name-brand child.

Memories

“Hi, grandma, are you awake?”

“Oh, hello dear.”

Her hair cascaded down her back in wild curls, and she turned tired eyes up to look at me.

“What’s your name?”

“It’s Sarah, grandma.”

“Oh. I have a granddaughter named Sarah.”

I know.

I tossed my keys onto the table, and kissed the top of her head. The stove top was on, but there wasn’t anything on the hot burner. I thought we had that disabled. She wasn’t supposed to be able to turn it on.

“How are you doing today?”

Her eyes wandered over her knitting needles, which clacked together without any yarn.

“Paul is coming in for breakfast. I should get started.”

She limped over to the stove, and flipped it on, again. She set her shawl onto the stove, and wandered into the living room. I turned off the stove and followed her. All of her plants had been replaced with plastic years ago, but she still watered them several times a day.

Four hours later, she was still waiting for Paul to come in for breakfast.

“I need his box, Sarah. I need his box.”

She mumbled over and over.

“What box?”

Her gaze shifted away from the window.

“His memories. He’ll want his memories when he comes home.”

I sighed and went to the bathroom. She always asked for his memories, but I wasn’t sure what she meant. I fixed my make-up, and curled my hair while I was in there. David and I had another date tonight. I wished I could tell grandma about it, but she wouldn’t remember tomorrow so there really was no point. By the time I made it back out to the kitchen, she’d scrambled some eggs, and set the table.

“Paul will be here soon. Has he called?”

I hated this part. It came every day. It was inevitable.

“Grandma… Paul’s dead. He died fifteen years ago.”

Her shoulders slumped, and slowly nodded her head.

“How?”

Her voice cracked. It always cracked.

“Farming accident. His tractor rolled over.”

She was the one that found him. I wasn’t home that day, so I couldn’t spare her.

“And I already knew that. Why was I making him breakfast?”

Just like every other day, she pushed back from the table, and retreated to her room. I didn’t normally follow her, but today I did. I wanted to know what she did in there every day. She hadn’t shut the door all the way, so I could peek in easily. Old papers were strew across her bed, and she picked up each one and read them. Tears ran down her face as she noticed me in her doorway.

“What are those papers?”

“Hospital records.”

She handed some to me. I didn’t understand what I was reading.

“Those are my hospital records from before Paul died. I went in several times a month back then. I haven’t been to the hospital since he died.”

“Why did you visit so much? Were you sick?”

I was young then. I didn’t remember her being sick, but I could have forgotten.

“He loved me. Really he did. But the farm was struggling, and the pressure got to him. He needed to let off steam.”

“Grandma, did he hurt you?”

Her lips pressed together, and turned white.

“I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just guessing. I hoped the tractor would blow up, and kill him painlessly, but I guess it got the job done anyway.”

Dangerous

“You’ll wear your new dress, right?”

My husband shrugged into his suit jacket, and straightened his tie. I nodded against the pillows, and shifted my legs.

“We have an hour.” I whispered. My fingers wandered down between my legs. “Are you sure you want to get dressed already?”

He pulled open his watch drawer, and selected the Rolex he deemed good enough for tonight.

“I bought you a new necklace too. Wear it.”

“Come on, I’m just asking for a few moments.” I pouted. “You look so hot in that suit.”

I probed deeper, and moaned. That got his attention. He watched my fingers work between my legs, and then he pulled out my fingers and slapped them.

“That is mine.” He smiled, and hissed. “You do not touch.”

I feigned fear, and sniveled.

“But you never touch anymore either.”

His eyes were sad.

“Because I have been under a lot of pressure at work, and I don’t want to think about you, or anything else when I get home. You’ll get relief when I close this case.”

I sat up on the bed, but he pushed me back down and forced my legs apart. His tongue jutted in and out, fast, then slow, and fast again. I was so close. Then he pulled away, and left the room.

“But I was almost done!”

I called after him.

“That’s your punishment for touching.”

It was hard to focus on getting dressed, but eventually I slipped into the outfit he laid out for me.

No underwear.

Of course not.

The car horn honked. I still had thirty minutes, but he would want to leave as soon as I was ready. I dawned his diamonds, and ran to the car. My belt was buckled, but he didn’t pull out of the driveway.

“Where are your shoes?”

My feet were bare. In my haste they completely slipped my mind. I started to get out, but he held up a hand.

“I’ll get them, you’ll take too long.”

He hurried back into the house while I waited in the car. The car-door opened, and sharp stilettos landed in my lap. I strapped them on in silence as my husband sped down the road.

“Are you close to finishing your case?”

“I can’t discuss it.”

More silence. I snapped the radio on, and he snapped it off.

Silence.

My hand wandered over to his lap, and undid his zipper. He was already hard. He needed me as much as I needed him. My hand started to weave into his pants, but he pushed me away, and re-zipped his pants.

“Not until I close this thing. I’m sorry dear, I just need to focus.”

“How would this make any difference?”

He glanced at me briefly, and tried to smile.

“I need to stay on my toes, and you’re just too damn hot. I can’t afford to fantasize about what I’m going to do to you when I have I target on my back.”

“Is that why you’ve been shutting me out? I thought you were sleeping around.”

His hands tightened on the steering wheel.

“Behave at my bosses party. Please don’t embarrass me.”

 

***

 

“Who did you come with?”

Another suited man joined me in the corner of the party. I pointed across the room to my husband, who was talking with some of his coworkers. He stood next to a leggy blonde with surgery in every area. His hand was planted firmly on her ass, and they laughed with too much familiarity. My dress paled in comparison to hers. I wasn’t wearing much make-up, and the only jewelry I wore was the necklace my husband told me to wear.

“He’s getting pretty handsy over there, isn’t he?”

“He likes flirting.”

“Honey, that’s not flirting. That’s groping.”

The bombshell turned her face toward my husband, and brushed her lips against his. He looked like he pulled away from her kiss, but I couldn’t be sure. I tore my eyes away from him, and turned to the man standing next to me.

“Who did you come with?”

“The blonde with your husband.” He downed his champagne. “Merry Christmas to us.”

The woman draped her arms around my husband, and pressed her breasts against him. He removed her arms, and helped her to a chair. She could barely walk straight, and her make-up was smeared.

“Rumor has it, they did it upstairs about twenty minutes ago. That’s why her make-ups messed up and her hair looks like that.”

“No.” I shook my head. “My husband loves me. He wouldn’t cheat.”

“Oh, so he’s been good to you lately? Been keeping you satisfied?”

I blushed.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“Fine. Okay. Well she hasn’t put out in months. She keeps telling me she needs to focus her case.”

Tears pricked my eyes.

“No.”

“Yup. Can I get you a drink? Some water or something? You don’t look good.”

I nodded, and he left for the drink table. My husband broke away from his crowd, and crossed his arms in front of me.

“Don’t talk to anyone, okay. We’re leaving soon. Until then don’t talk to anyone.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you yet. Just keep your trap shut.”

“Can I come stand by you?”

He glanced back at the blonde.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea. It’s better if people don’t know you’re with me.”

He disappeared back into the crowd as the man returned with our drinks.

“What did he want?”

“He said he want’s me to keep my trap shut.”

I downed the drink and pressed a napkin to my tears.

“He sounds charming.”

“It’s just so insulting. He acts like I’m completely stupid, and can’t do anything right.”

“Then why are you with him? Why don’t you leave?”

“Because he loves me.”

I stuttered.

“Does he? Or do you love him?”

I caught my husband’s glare from across the room, but ignored him.

“I can’t leave him. I love him. I don’t care if he feels anything for me or not.”

“We deserve better.”

The man muttered. The room started to sway, like we were on a ship. I grabbed for the table, but missed, and toppled to the floor.

“Whoa, are you okay?”

The man knelt beside me, and helped me back to my feet, but the room kept swaying.

“I’m okay, I just need to sit for a moment.”

“I think you need to lie down. Come with me.”

He led me across the room, to the stairs, upstairs to a bedroom. I was thankful for the help, until he shut and locked the door behind us.

“What?”

My mouth wouldn’t form the words. The drink. There was something in the drink.

“Do you need help out of that dress?”

“No. I need to go back downstairs.”

I reached for the door, but he shoved me backwards, and I toppled onto the bed. My arms wouldn’t respond. I couldn’t scream. He undid his pants, and flipped me onto my stomach.

“Please. No.”

He shoved a gag into my mouth, and lifted my dress.

“Wow. Au natural. My lucky day.”

I tried to kick him, but my legs wouldn’t respond. I couldn’t stop him. He didn’t even need to pin me down. I couldn’t fight. He pushed himself into me, and I screamed against the gag.

“Shh. Don’t worry. It’ll be over soon.”

I felt a knife against my neck.

“Your husband isn’t who you think he is. And he’s pissed a lot of people off. I told him if he didn’t back off my case, I’d rape and kill his wife.”

He pulled out, and removed my gag. I fought not to vomit as he shoved himself deep into my mouth.

“If you don’t bite me, I won’t kill you.”

I didn’t want to die. He pushed deeper into my throat, and the pulled out and I gasped. He wouldn’t relent. He controlled my head with his hands, and bobbed it up and down on his cock. Tears ran down my face.

“He wouldn’t back off my case. He’s a good detective. But you’re stupid. I didn’t know what his wife looked like until you pointed him out.”

The gag was back in place, and he was again forcing himself between my legs. I couldn’t breath. His thrusts pushed me hard into the bed. My blood made things easier, but it hurt so much.

“Thank you for letting me know who you were. Now I can keep my promise.”

I felt his knife against my neck, and my skin parted. Blood splattered the bed as darkness consumed me.

Masks-Part 3

“What is this?”

My father pulled the notebook from my backpack, and started thumbing through it before I could stop him.

“’Why do you wear a mask?’ ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ‘I’ll see you tomorrow then.’ Who wrote this?”

“Nobody.”

I mumbled. I’d been eating lunch with Eric for three months, so I starting bringing my own notebook. No need for him to waste paper on me. My father started to chuckle, and he smacked me with the notebook.

“You don’t have a friend, do you? Someone you’re going to tell about me?”

“No. I promised I’d never tell on you.”

“It’s just love baby. I’m no different than any other loving father.”

“You doused me in gasoline.”

“I was purifying you’re spiteful spirit. Do you need me to do it again? Or are you going to get into position.”

I jumped up from my desk and crawled onto the bed. I was supposed to wait for him to get home in position, but I wanted to finish my homework before he got home. I wiggled out of my sweatpants and school shirt, and knelt on hands and knees on the bed.

“Dinner time!”

My mother called from down in the kitchen.

“Just a moment, Denise.”

My father unlatched his belt, and fished around in his pants.

“It was a rough day at work today.”

Align himself. Try not to cry.

“Three drug raids and two DUIs. What is this world coming to?”

Sweat beaded on his forehead as he clawed at my barely formed breasts.

“Denise! Get up here.”

His grunting jarred my mind away from Eric. I closed my eyes and focused on the sweet kid who always made sure I ate lunch. My mother ran into the room, and my father threw her next to me on the bed. She bit into her hand to stop her screams. I cleaned myself up, and snuck out of the room unnoticed. He wouldn’t be done with her for a few hours, and I hated watching him hurt her. Yelling, and fists hitting flesh. Something thumped into the hall, and I heard some of the picture-frames shatter. I stayed in the bathroom, moping up the blood on my legs, and righting my mask over my face. Something tumbled down the stairs. My father cursed, and followed. Mother was crying. Dishes broke in the kitchen, and the table squeaked rhythmically.

I went back into my room, and stripped the bed. Blood soaked through the sheets, onto the mattress, but it made no difference. The mattress was already stained. I put the ruined sheets in the laundry, and grabbed another set. The crying, and thumping, downstairs still hadn’t stopped, but I tried to tune it out.

I’d been over to Eric’s house a few times after school. I learned that a foster parent meant he was living with people who weren’t his parents, but I didn’t ask him why. He didn’t like when I asked him how I could trade out my parents for some strangers. It seemed like a touchy subject. I liked his foster parents. His “mom” didn’t have a job, like mine. But unlike mine, she would take us out of the house. She took us to the mall, and to dinner, and to the park. And she didn’t seem scared of her husband. She seemed to like her husband. I didn’t spend much time with his “dad”. He was a doctor, and was away a lot. I asked Eric how many patients he thought his dad felt up, but Eric only asked me why I was so cynical.

He only lived about three blocks away. I wondered if they hurt him behind closed doors, or if it was just me. I wondered what he would think if he knew what my father did. He always wanted to come over, but so far I managed not to let him in. I’d never had a friend before, and I didn’t want to mess it up.

My mothers cries were anguished screams now, and I couldn’t tune them out. And then, suddenly, her screams stopped. I heard my father swear again, and then his keys jingled, and he stormed out the front door.

I tip-toed down the stairs, and gasped. Father tried to restrain himself to just bruises. Usually. But my mother was stretch out on the table; arms and legs strapped down. Bruises wrapped around her throat. Blood pooled beneath her on the table.

“Mom?”

She didn’t stir at my voice. I pressed my fingers into her neck. A pulse. A very faint pulse. I untied her limps, and pulled her off the table, up the stairs, into her bed. She still didn’t stir. A knife stuck out of her side, like she had been laid onto a set table, and the utensil was forced into her back.

What do I do? What do I do?

Should I call a doctor?

No. My father didn’t let us go to doctors.

Call the cops?

No. Dad was on tonight. He would field that call.

I shook my mother as tears poured from my eyes. Her breath rattled in her chest, and blood ran from her mouth. Eric’s dad was a doctor. Maybe Eric could help. I don’t know why I thought of him, but I was already jogging down the street before I questioned it. Three blocks down. I pounded on the back door to his house. His mother answered, and blanched at the blood covering me.

“Andrea, dear, what’s wrong? What happened to you?”

“I need to see Eric.”

I panted. She didn’t move from the door. She reached out for my arm, and led me to a chair. The hem of my pants were soaked in blood, and left a trail behind me on the floor.

“Please. I need to talk to Eric.”

“Who hurt you?”

“It’s not me. My mom fell down the stairs. She was bleeding a little, but I helped her into bed.”

I couldn’t trust anyone. Don’t tell anyone.

“If she’s bleeding from a fall, there could be internal issues. She needs to go to a hospital.”

“No. She just needs sleep. She’ll be okay. Is Eric home?”

She still looked worried, but she pointed to Eric’s room, and let me go. He didn’t see me come in, but smiled when he saw me.

Come to show me was a BJ is? One of the boys at school explained it, but I wouldn’t mind you showing me.

My mom is hurt, I need you to come.”

I didn’t have time to write out my needs, but he frowned and shoved his notebook into my hand. Tears dripped onto the page, and I could barely scratch the words.

I need you to come take care of my mom.

He didn’t hesitate to grab his backpack, and followed me out of the room. His mother called after us, but I was already out the door, and didn’t hear him. Through the front window at my house, I saw the glow of our T.V. I let Eric into the kitchen, but motioned for him to wait while I went to check out the living room.

“Dad. Where’s mom?”

I played dumb. He didn’t look away from the porn on the television, and his hand never slowed in his pants.

“She went to bed. She had a headache or something.”

“Okay. Can I go to bed, too?”

I didn’t usually use me if he was watching porn. That was his thing. I only needed his grunt of dismissal, and I ran back into the kitchen. Eric was studying the blood and restraints on the table. I didn’t like the horror I saw in his eyes, but I led him up the stairs to my moms room. Her bruises looked worse in the dim light, and her eyes were still shut tight. Eric ran to her side, and pressed two fingers into her neck.

“Come on, mom. Wake up.”

I whispered to her, and shook her arm

What happened to her?

She fell down the stairs.

Did your father do this?

My stomach dropped. I shouldn’t tell anyone. I’d always kept it a secret.

No. She fell.

Eric’s eyes bore into me.

Has he hurt you, too?

He didn’t hurt her! She fell!

Then take her to the hospital. Or she’s going to die. She has internal bleeding, and I think some of her ribs are broken.

I shook my head.

I can’t take her to the hospital. What else should I do?

Eric shook his head and pointed to the phone.

Call an ambulance, or she’ll die.

“Who’s your friend?”

I whirled at my father’s voice. He was still in his Police Sargent uniform, and as he stared at my friend, his hand unclipped his gun from it’s holster

Masks-Part 2

“Do you smell something burning?”

One of the kids piped up as I made my way to my desk. I cringed at the joke I knew was coming. The other kids stuck their noses in the air, and sniffed loudly. I sank into my seat, and pulled out my books.

“Oh, wait,” his voice was grating as he stifled his laugh. “It’s just Andrea.”

The classroom erupted in laughter, and some of the kids pulled at my wig.

It didn’t come off though.

I was ready for them.

“Okay, class, settle down.”

My teacher banged her fist against the desk, and everyone faced forward.

Bullying wasn’t worth detention.

I didn’t hear a word she said as the kid’s laughter echoed in my ears, and I couldn’t see the board through my tears. My teachers said I was failing, but they didn’t really do anything to help. I didn’t mind failing. If I was held back another year, I would have one more year of guaranteed lunch. The bell rang, and everyone rushed to the door.

I didn’t.

I would get to lunch eventually, but I liked to wait until everyone else was already through the line. If I didn’t wait in line with anyone, then they wouldn’t try to pull off my mask.

“Andrea, are you alright?”

My teacher stood above me, looking down on me.

“I’m fine.”

“Because I noticed that in this last week your work hasn’t been up to it’s usual quality.”

“My mom’s been working nights.”

I offered.

I didn’t know why I thought that was a good excuse, and I hoped my teacher wouldn’t call to check. My mother didn’t have a job. I’d never seen my mother leave the house. The outside world scared her. Although, I didn’t know what she thought was so safe about her inside world.

“Does that mean you’re alone at night?”

“No. My dad is home.”

That’s the problem, lady.

“Oh, good. I would worry if you were alone.”

“Definitely not alone. Can I go to lunch now?”

“I don’t know. Can you go to lunch?”

I pushed past her without answering her stupid question. The lunch room was loud, and nobody looked at me as I slipped into one of the tables. There was still a line. I would rather skip lunch, then wait with those kids. I pulled out my biology book, and tried to rub the stain off the cover.

“Bend over and take it, Drea. Just take it.”

He yanked me out of my chair, and laid me, face down, across my books.

“The guys at work said I was going soft today. I was bragging on you when they said it. They said you had me wrapped around your finger. Am I going soft, baby girl? Am I?”

I bit my lip as he ripped me open.

“I was saying you were handling the burns very well. I said you were still pretty.”

The table rocked as he ground himself into me, but he didn’t last long. He wanted to get off more than he wanted to punish me.

Thankfully.

But I bled down onto my books and those stains would never come out. That probably wasn’t the biology my teachers wanted me to study.

A lunch tray clanged on the table across from me, but I didn’t look at the owner until he touched my arm. He waved his hands in the air, and looked at me expectantly.

“Do you want something?”

I wasn’t ready for another joke. I wanted a break. The boy held up a finger, a motion to wait, and dug in his backpack. When he produced a notebook, I shut my eyes. Some of the boys liked to draw nasty pictures of what they wanted to do to me. They liked showing me the pictures while copping a feel of my ass or breasts.

He scribbled in his notebook as I studied my hands, then he tapped my arm. Reluctantly, I glanced at what he drew on the page. A note.

May I sit here?

“Oh. Sure.” I mumbled, but he tapped his pen against the page. “You want me to write my answer?”

I was confused. He turned the notebook back towards him, and scribbled some more.

I am new. I am deaf.

“Oh.”

I took his pen, and scrawled,

You can sit there if you want.

He smiled, and set his bag down.

My name is Eric. Yours?

Andrea. I hate it.

Why?

I didn’t want to tell this kid that I hated my name because I hated hearing my father say it. I hated the way he panted it as he grunted and moaned.

“Andrea, you’re so hot. You’re everything your mother’s not.”

He sang as he watched me cook him dinner. My mother sat on his lap, stroking his ego with practiced hands. She cringed at his insult, and he turned his attention back to her.

“You’re sexy in a different way, baby. You never fight me. You’re open to anything I want to try. I love that.”

He sucked her breast into his mouth, and bit down, eliciting a small yelp from my mother.

You don’t need to explain. I’m not a fan of my name either. What do you want to be called?

His note reminded me that I still hadn’t responded. Nobody every asked me what I wanted to be called. I didn’t know what I wanted.

Andy. Call me Andy.

Eric nodded, and jotted the nickname on the side of his page.

What happened to your book?

He pointed to my stained biology book.

My father raped the crap out of my ass while I was studying.

I spilled tomato soup last week.

I really did spill my soup, I just spilled in on the floor, not my books.

Ok. Don’t tell me.

He smiled and jabbed his fork into the rubber pizza that was lunch today. He ate exactly half of his pizza, and drank half of his milk, and then pulled a baggy of chips out of his backpack. He pushed the tray towards me, and started in on the chips.

“What’s that for?”

Eric shook his head and tapped the notebook.

What’s that for?

Lunch. I think.

If I wanted lunch, I would go get some.

But if I give you what I can’t eat, no one will make fun of your mask.

I bit my lip, and stared at the rubber cheese. I whisked the pizza off the plate, and scribbled in his notebook.

Where you from?

17 foster homes. Bouncing around the country since I was 5. I was born in Washington.

I nodded and downed the milk. I didn’t know what a foster home was. Maybe that was like a military home, where he moved around a lot.

“Thanks for lunch.”

I mumbled and wiped my mouth as I got up from the table. Eric frantically scrawled in his notebook, and tapped the page.

Wait, I gave you half of my lunch, you owe me.

The pizza in my stomach turned to cement, and I turned back to the kid.

“I do?”

It’s only polite.

It’s only polite, Andrea. I bust my butt to bring home enough money to get by. If my boss wants to sample your wears, let him. I owe him. You owe him. Stop complaining. Nobody cares anyway.”

I took the kids pen, but my fingers shook as I wrote a response.

Fine. What do I owe you? BJ?

I’ll take… one lunch. Tomorrow you sit with me again. I don’t have any friends yet, so I think you should be my friend.

That’s it?

Should there be more?

I shook my head, and tried not to show my immense relief.

Deal. One lunch. Tomorrow.

I turned to go, but heard his pen tap once more.

See you then, Andy. Bring conversation topics. Maybe start by explaining me what a BJ is.

A laugh bubbled past my lips, and my eyes widened. I hadn’t laughed in five years. And for a moment, while writing to this strange kid I did not know, I forgot what I was going home to.

Masks-Part 1

*Some elements of this story may disturb some readers. This story contains abuse, bullying, and ignorance*

 

“Andrea, you’re going to be late.”

“Okay, mom.”

I wished my mother was an alarm clock. Then I could hit snooze. Just five more minutes of peaceful sleep. Five more minutes before I had to face the world. But she wasn’t an alarm, and I was going to be late, so I climbed from the warmth of my bed.

What face should I wear today?

I tapped my chin, and studied my masks.

Forty-four masks.

Seventeen wigs.

An entire vanity of make-up.

But everyone still saw my monsters.

I couldn’t hide them.

“Hurry up, Andrea. Your mother is down to the quick on her nails.”

My father opened the door without knocking, and I shrank into the corner. Everyone saw my monsters, but they never saw the monster that created them.

“You’re not even almost ready!”

The anger that always bubbled just below the surface overflowed and his fist connected with my cheek.

“I’m sorry, father! I’ll be ready in time!”

My arms flew up to shield my face, and he switch to kicking me as I fell to the ground. I bit my lip so I wouldn’t scream, and knew he would be done soon. As he lumbered back down the stairs, I picked myself off the ground.

Just bruises this time.

Nothing broken.

Good.

I was the only kid in school allowed to wear a mask, but I was the only kid in school covered in burns. The doctors said eighty percent of my body was burned. That was a very exact number. Mostly just my face, chest, arms, and legs were burned.

I slid a mask onto my face, and applied spirit gum to my bald scalp. I knew I shouldn’t glue my wigs to my head, but that was the only way they stayed on. I tapped the gum until it was sticky, and then smoothed a long black wig into place.

My bruises never showed.

Not once the wig and masks were in place.

The police said it was an accidental fire. They said I forgot to blow out the candle next to my bed. They didn’t investigate further. They didn’t see the gleam in my father’s eyes as he doused my bed in lighter fluid.

“Andrea!”

I skittered down the stairs before my father came after me again. My mother knew what he did. My mother was a victim too, and she was afraid to stand up to him. She was afraid of everything. She hovered beside my father now, who sat impatiently at the breakfast table. He wasn’t worried about me being late. He was angry, and he was turned on, and he wanted me out of the house. My mother wasn’t worried about me being late either. She was worried the longer I made him wait, the worse her punishment would be.

I didn’t stop for breakfast.

I was afraid of the anger I saw in his eyes. My mother’s eyes were filled with tears as I kissed her on the cheek, and ran out to the bus stop. The bus wouldn’t be there for another hour, but that worked out just fine. I wasn’t able to do my homework last night, so I could work on it while I waited for the bus.