This story is by Natalie Hibberd and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
He hated to see her crying.
When other women cried it prettified them. It gave their plain-as-porridge faces something to display. Offering them some semblance of interest and character. When she cried – it leached away all her beauty.
She never used to cry this much, either.
In all the time he had known her (was it ten or eleven months now?) he had only ever seen her happy. Humming a little tune as she walked to and from the corner shop. Beaming at the old ladies who came into the salon every week. Giggling at her friends’ stupid jokes. He was her friend now – why wasn’t she laughing?
It was pretty ungrateful – when you thought about it.
Weeks of painstaking preparation had gone into making this place perfect; and it hadn’t been easy to pull off. The curtains were precisely her favourite shade of lilac, trimmed with lace and hand-painted with the same delicate daffodils that covered the pure white walls. They were expensive – those curtains – and not easy for a bloke to buy on his own without getting some very odd looks from passers-by. Beneath the window was the bed. Heavy iron framing and real goose feather eiderdown – shipped in from America just for their enjoyment. Only the best would do for his angel and now she didn’t even want to use it.
Perhaps he had spoiled her. That would explain it.
Giving people too many presents all in one go always made them a little demanding. He ought to have foreseen that, really. It was just so hard to think of her wanting for anything.
His girl deserved the whole wide world.
Maybe the rug had been a step too far. Finest cotton layering and all that Persian embroidery. He had sweated blood for that thing.
And now she was bleeding all over it.
It had been difficult to get her here. More difficult than he had anticipated. If she’d only got in the car quietly; they both could have been spared the mess of her blood. If she had done as she was told – he wouldn’t have had to cut her at all.
The rug had been white when he bought it. Whiter than the walls and paler even than the porcelain flesh of his angel. Now the blood was seeping in like dye and had turned the whole thing the colour of a shrimp.
Maybe she liked pink better than white?
In a strange way – it made him happy to see her bleeding. The scarlet ribbons that trickled down her arms looked exactly the same as his had when he had cut himself for the first time and seeing them against her skin made him think how closely linked they were. It wasn’t normal for one person’s blood to match another person’s so completely.
It proved that they were meant to be together.
To be honest, the noise she was making had started to grate on his nerves. High and whiny, just like her dog. Yappy little bugger with a face like a rat. He was glad he had given that animal what was coming to it. His angel would thank him too – eventually. Every time he thought of her grovelling on the filthy pavement to pick up that mongrel’s crap; he wanted to kill it all over again.
But he wouldn’t do that to his angel.
The racket she was making didn’t worry him too much – but it did make him glad that he’d invested in the padding. A hundred percent soundproof and surprisingly easy to assemble. If he had to move again, he could take it with him easily.
Just like he could take her.
He reached out a finger to wipe the tears off her face – trying to make her smile again. ‘Hush, my darling’ he whispered, catching a whiff of her shampoo as he leaned in closer. ‘It’s going to be OK. You’re safe with me, Celestia.’
He had been saving the best surprise until last. A brand new name for his brand new baby. Much more fitting than the disgustingly average moniker her parents had saddled her with. This was his trump card – the gift he knew would show his girl just how much she meant to him. From that seed of gratitude, their love was sure to flourish. He looked at her – beaming – ready and waiting to see his excitement reflected on her perfect features.
Once again – she let him down.
The sound of her whimpering metamorphosed suddenly into an ear-splitting wail, and she began straining against the ropes. Her face flushed red, her flawless visage deteriorating so quickly that his insides turned glacial. This wasn’t the girl he knew. One of the things that had drawn him to her, making him feel like a humble moth gazing upon a distant, heavenly light, was her clear disposition for self-control. The other girls he’d seen her with had been the ones who squealed like pigs and cackled like banshees. Had she been like them all along? Was she nothing but a liar?
She was still trying to escape, throwing the gift back in his face and screaming that the name he’d chosen with such care and precision was not good enough for her. Nothing compared to the name her wretched, undervaluing parents had christened her with. Did she not understand that she was worth more? If he could see how special she was – why couldn’t she?
Parents were so overrated.
When she’d calmed down a bit, he would explain to her how much better off she was going to be without her Mum and Dad around. They were doddering, useless fools who spent all their time ordering his angel around. They were trying to steal her light for themselves.
She was free of them now.
He’d rescued her and one day soon she would thank him. To tell the truth, it irked him slightly that she hadn’t understood already. If someone had rescued him from his parents; there would be no ingratitude on his part. Nobody had rescued him though.
He still had the scars.
It had taken a long time to fasten the bed to the floor; he’d even trapped a finger under the hammer. Watching Celestia thrash like a child, he was suddenly devoutly thankful that he had expended the necessary pain and effort. She wasn’t adjusting as well as he’d hoped and if she abandoned him before he could make her see the truth of his devotion things could be…misinterpreted.
He wasn’t risking that again.
Not after last time.
Left with no choice, he shifted his hand upwards a little. The skin of her throat was softer than silk – and he hardly had to squeeze at all to make her fall silent. She’s a good girl really – his darling Celestia – but even living angels have fire inside them. It won’t take long to douse those flames. If he filled this room with everything she could possibly want, there would be nothing for her to fight against. Nothing for her to run from.
Celestia didn’t realise how well he knew her, that was the problem. He had made it his business to learn everything about her – and ensured this room met her standards. She was, after all, an angel – and all angels deserve to live in heaven.
She was crying again – but the sadness he felt now was tempered with pleasure. At least she was doing it quietly this time. Much more ladylike.
After a little while; he felt safe to lie down beside her again. Her hysteria was ebbing away and soon she would be ready to give him what he wanted in exchange for all this luxury. It wasn’t much to ask for really, when he loved her so much.
‘We can use the bed if you like, my angel.’