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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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