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Short Story: Bedroom Confessional

13 May

At first, she believed herself to be dreaming; just another one of those vivid nightmares you cannot shake. Until she heard it. The sound of sellotape torn from its roller. Close. It made her jump and she sought the origin of the sound in the dark of her bedroom. A single shadow near the open window. The curtains billowed in the summer breeze.
Her lips parted to issue a scream. But then the figure stalked closer, the tape extended like a weapon and she could scream no more. She tasted it and reached for her mouth to remove the impediment; but he was so much stronger.
Angry tears trickled down her cheeks – the only objection she could muster. Her muffled threats did not delay him. Quite the contrary; he smiled a smile of Victory.
His touch was harsh and coarse. She noticed when he tied her wrists and feet together. The warmness of his skin caused her to squirm. Dark, unflinching eyes settled on hers with no explanation but to drink in the panic from her face.
Roughly, he grabbed her by the hips and pulled her closer as if to kiss her. She registered his heavy breathing and whimpered without a voice. The stench of beer of cigarettes repelled her. The man pushed her to the floor and flipped her over on her stomach. A knife appeared from his pocket and he held it against her cheek, gently tracing her wrinkles with the blade; the woman nearly fainted.
When he spoke at last, his voice was deep and filled with authority. “Do you remember me? Do you?”
She examined his face in search of a familiar feature and dug deep in her memory; photo albums flashed before her eyes; her whole life did. Her eyes widened in surprise and he pulled off the tape with a flick of his wrist, awaiting her reply. She sat down on her bed and stared at the burglar. Her lips quivered as they struggled to shape words – turn her thoughts into coherent sentences.
“Why? After all this time.”
She had not expected him to seek vengeance; not now. Not anymore. She had been a fool; believing the past could be outrun – that she was safe.
“I have been watching you all this time. You thought yourself to be alone but you never were,” he said matter-of-factly and seated himself in her favourite armchair.
Years ago, she lost her virginity in that chair; the memory struck her suddenly and she saw herself sitting astride Jonathan, the biggest nerd in school, with her knickers at her ankles. Five years later they were married. He became an accountant. She worked in a beauty salon. Somehow, their relationship worked.
“Are you even listening to me?” her unwelcome visitor demanded and seized her arm.
“Y-yes! Let me go. Please, don’t hurt me.”
He relinquished the hold of her arm and scoffed at her whimpering. “You deserve what’s coming to you. I’ve been building my case against you for some time.”
“If you are taking me to court then why are you here? Do you honestly think I won’t tell them you were here? That you broke into my home, tied me up and raped me?”
Her eyes shot fire and she relished the surprise in his face at her last accusation.
“Rape? I hardly even touched you, woman.”
She flashed him an angelic smile. “But they don’t know that, do they?”
Her intruder grimaced. “I wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot pole. Not now I know what you’re capable of. And to think I loved you once.”
But his words did not penetrate the stone wall she had built around herself. “Till death do us part. That’s what you said all those years ago, remember? You broke your promise to me, Jonathan.”
For a moment, he gave no reply and silence enveloped the room. Both reminisced of yesteryears; their wedding day, the first happy years and then the painful separation. It seemed a lifetime ago. Twenty years had passed since then. He dragged himself out of his memories to return to the conversation.
“I only came here so I could see the look on your face as I told you. Well, perhaps I also wanted to frighten you a little bit. But you can’t blame me, surely. Not after what you did.”
She did not know what to say; they did not share the same sense of justice. To him, her conduct had been abominable; one decision had rendered her an ill excuse of a human being in his eyes. But it was a crime she did not acknowledge. Not even to herself. And yet he had guessed the truth. It proved difficult to commit the perfect murder.
“After all these years, are you still trying to get me to confess?” 
She almost sounded amused and sat with a half smile. She did not look at him; instead, her gaze lingered on the Van Gogh above her bed. How many nights they had spent in that bed. The things they had whispered to one another after a moment of passion.
“A lot of memories in this room. The bed, the chair. I kept it all. Sometimes, I lie there at night and I can almost smell your scent,” she said. Repulsed by her as he was, she knew exactly where to strike.
His brows contracted and he turned his back on her; he could not think when facing her. Hate consumed him and some distance was required to get his brain functioning properly again.
“You look good. I did not recognise you at first. New haircut, contacts, fake tan. No longer the boy I knew. You look almost handsome.”

He closed his eyes and wished the pain away. Being with her made him remember that night. That awful night 20 years ago. It had been a long day at work and when he arrived at their house, his wife was cooking dinner. Chicken. At first, he did not suspect anything. It seemed business as usual; small-talk about their day and an exchange of complaints about the weather. No matter how trivial it seemed at the time, he memorized every word. Every word in case they contained a clue.

“I never understood why you did it. Why would anyone do such a thing?”
She sighed; the topic bored her and she wished she could simply turn him out of her house and go to bed.
“Why did you even think it was me? The police didn’t think. They say he died of natural causes.”
Her unwillingness to admit to the crime angered him most of all. The police conducted a long and thorough investigation but no motive for murder had been found. Natural causes my ass, he thought.
“I saw the look on your face when we found him. Complete and utter indifference! You clearly didn’t care. I knew then it was you and I’ve hated you ever since. Please, just tell me why. For all these years I’ve been trying to think of a reason. Linda, please. It would help me sleep at night.”
She did not answer; hearing her ex-husband say her name again after all this time extinguished all hostility she felt towards him. Linda looked up and for a moment, she felt vulnerable and young again. She wanted to make amends.
“I’m sorry, Jonathan. But your son had the devil in him.”

Perhaps he had been wrong to ask.

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>Short Story – Motionless

30 Dec

>

I did not feel her mouth as she kissed me. Nor the raindrops feasting on my skin. But I remember how I used to walk down this narrow, cobblestone path. Glowing with the smile of youth and a dollop of ice-cream on my chin. I steal a glance at a distant football field and the past dances before my eyes.  I had the best kick of all the boys on the football team.

”The Tornadoes” I had dubbed our team of which I was the leader. They handed me a shiny medal with a star on my last day of primary school. ‘’Most likely to be successful,’’ it read and my parents flashed their cameras and hung the pictures in the living room for all the neighbours to see.

‘’He’s got a bright future,’’ my mum would say over a cup of gossip and a slice of cake. My neighbours visited often.
‘’That’s what happens when women don’t work,’’ my father whispered.
‘’They stay home, do the dishes and turn into chocolate-eating soap opera enthusiasts. And that, my boy, is not what men want.‘’

I wanted to ask him why. But I didn’t. I liked chocolate and sometimes mum would let me watch the telly with her and we’d worry over the latest kidnap plot together. Would I end up like her? Inviting neighbours over for a calorie fest and indulging in brainless entertainment? A housewife. Apron strapped across my chest and the aroma of culinary delights slithering from the kitchen door. But I had my men activities.

Climbing trees, collecting toy cars and chasing the pig-tailed girls in the park. But everything was different now. Secondary school would make me a man. ‘’I am one of them now,’’ I thought as I strutted down this very path, the stones weeping beneath my feet.  I did not talk like them or walk like them, but I could try. I practised in front of the mirror, posing with sunglasses and a leather jacket from my father’s closet. With cool, macho strides I made my way across the room. It felt natural, intimidating and slightly theatrical – in a cool, masculine way of course.

I transitioned from tree house captain to class president and years passed in the blink of an eye. Study I rarely did, but this was hardly reflected in my grades, which ‘’was a sign of remarkable cleverness’’ according to Mrs. Millton, our English teacher. Parties were frequently abandoned for a night of teenage passion with one of the many girlfriends I had. Their mindless giggling and fashion tips bored me.

‘’I want three kids when I grow up,’’ Wendy, the first girl I slept with, informed me on the moment of entry. The useless piece of information weakened my resolve and we were forced to postpone our little adventure. Needless to say, every time we made love (well, it was love to her anyway and let’s leave it at that) I pictured Wendy as a middle-aged woman dressed in an oversized shirt, eating cake and organising tea parties to discuss the latest TV drama. Was I going to marry my mother?

My performances during that relationship were less that inspired. I was knocked off my feet, literally, when I bumped into Helen at the local coffee shop. A college student with fiery red hair and a devious personality to match, my heart leapt into my throat when our eyes met. I stared at her with a vacant expression for what felt like an eternity until she spoke and I was released from my trance.

‘’Hello,’’ she addressed me.  I grinned like an idiot and mumbled a greeting in return. We made out for the next hour and my lips felt sore when I finally reached my bed. Helen. Helen. She made me want to sing and dance and laugh and scream. All at the same time. She was Helen of Troy. The fairest of them all. And she was mine. For the first time in my life, I was in love. The forced poetry assignment took flight and earned me the nickname ‘’Will’’ after William Shakespeare.

It also spoke to Helen’s sentimental girly heart and her messages became more and more lovey. Either too juvenile or too mature to deal with it, I broke up with her and caused quite a scene when my next poem jumped from lovesick to heartbreak to murder.

It was the beginning of my career as a writer, a study I pursued at university and ended with a degree in journalism and a job at the local newspaper. Obituaries, not the kind of articles you pour your heart and soul into to sculpt the ideal linguistic piece of art. But it was a start. So, with my youth forgotten like yesterday’s caramel-coated donut, what now?

The path is no fluffy mattress – its embrace painful rather than loving. I know that now. The past is gone. And I am here. The fresh smell of blood is clinging to my lips. I wait for them. Surely she’s called them by now. Her kisses tickled me. She’s a tease, always was. But caring.

Here they come, stretcher in hand. I feel light-headed as they lift me and I close my eyes so the world may stop spinning.
I awake. That familiar beeping of a heart monitor trespassing dreams.

‘’Where am I?’’ My voice sounds different yet the same. Weak yet strong. Confused.
‘’You’re safe now.’’ It is her and it takes me a moment for my brain to register that she’s holding my hand.
‘’They kicked you because you got in their way. They pushed you out of your wheelchair.’’ There is sadness in her voice but her smile only grows wider to conceal it.

I steal a glance at the object in the corner and remember – I am cripple. I cannot walk and it’s many years since I last played football. One fall down the stairs and life as you know it – gone. Forever.
”The Tornadoes” they called us. And I was their leader.