This story is by Rosita Smedvik and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A gentle breeze wafted through the open window, caressing her face and softly blowing loose strands of hair around her shoulders. Night slowly easing into dawn, a kaleidoscope of colours brushed the morning sunrise as she stood losing herself in the silent beauty. Images sparked to alight themselves, take shape, her fingers stroking the cool metal of her father’s vintage Imperial writer. His passion of creating a wonderland in written words had become hers. That she had him with her, just beneath her fingertips, even so many years after his death, inspiring her, kept her buoyant, treading within the agony of her isolation, the horror that was her secret life .
This was all she had really. The one thing that had not been taken away from her. Her tiny piece of salvation, her escape. Her imagination, a vivid dreamscape, where possibilities were endless and hope lived. Her loneliness could be left behind, contempt for herself left behind, just her and the flight of her thoughts.
Where she could dream upon a page, lay it bare,weave intricacies, evoke emotions and ignite passions. At least while He wasn’t home. It was her escape within her cage.
At first she thought, maybe she had to try harder. But as time drifted by, she realized he had chosen her because she was naive and malleable. It had never been about love for him. It had been about power and malice, and the satisfaction of watching her crumple to the ground beneath his contempt.
Shattered. Broken. Nothing.
Yet, there were times she hoped it was all a bad dream. That she’d wake and the man she had fallen madly in love with would be standing before her. That his eyes would turn to her and see her in a different light. But that had never happened.
Everyday she woke and waited with bated breath, to see what version of him would make an appearance. Staring around the cage she lived in, the walls of this house were not a home. They had heard every word of hatred and seen every crushing blow. She wondered what story would be told if they could recite what they had been witness too.
Leaning back against the worn leather of her writing chair, the house for the moment, quiet, she thought to herself – Where have I gone ? How did I let it get this far ? When had I lost myself ?
She didn’t recognize herself anymore. Her fingertips lifting, lightly grazing the bruise around her swollen eye, then the jagged edges of her cracked lip. The girl she saw everyday in the reflection of her mirror with shadows behind her blue eyes, was a stranger, a grainy image of a once clear photograph.
Emergency room visits, sick days from work, cancelled lunches with friends. Her life slowly disappearing, her self being erased. All that remained most days were these four walls, a prison, it’s bars invisible to others.
Loneliness a stranglehold on her life, even when in a room full of people, no one knowing the fear she lived with daily. Slowly, so very slowly, He had taken everything she held dear away, to where all she had most days, was the bleakness of her solitude. He had agreed to leave the typewriter if she behaved, if she listened, if she was a good girl. She would give anything if she could go back in time, rewind that day and never walk into that coffeehouse.
She had been shy, an introvert. Her experience with men had been kissing Tommy at a church picnic when she was sixteen. But this man, her prince or so she thought, had looked at her and all else had fallen away. She had felt cherished and loved. He had been her first and only. His easy smiles and gentle teasing had blinded her.
When had it all changed ?
She had gone from being his princess to becoming his punching bag. The one he belittled, controlled, humiliated and hurt. His gaze in the beginning that was filled with adoration now was filled with anger.
She was made up of old scars and new wounds, betrayal and thoughtlessness. His gifts of confessed love were delivered as purple flowers on pale skin, his face laced with grim satisfaction as every one was delivered. Hitting was not love. Mind games was not love. She knew all of this and yet she stayed, terrified to break the silence, a slave to her fear.
If she tried to pushback, be defiant, her pain increased. She was isolated within these walls unable to speak until he left her alone. Then she gave herself the freedom to heal, one stroke at a time, ink to paper.
Her writing was the chasm that allowed her to pour out her grief, her fear, her loneliness. The power of her written words becoming therapy, giving her hope, that just maybe she could break free. A tiny flame of belief, that she could one day get away.
Then one morning she woke up, different. That small ember held a spark. Sitting in a chair, staring at the door, anxiety her closest friend, sat with her, heavy on her chest. That door seemed so out of reach. If she could just get up, walk to it, turn the handle and step through.
Her panic escalated, her heartbeat thundered, nauseousness curling in the pit of her stomach. Then, that flame ignited, broke through her dread, her decision made. She scrambled to the closet and removed her “run“ bag, hidden beneath a loose floor board. How could one small bag hold so much hope ?
Panic started to override her bravado. Picking up the case that held her father’s legacy, she turned the handle, stepping out of her cage and into the hallway.
Fingers grabbed her by the throat and slammed her back against the wall, her meager belongings falling to the floor. He was early. Looking into his eyes, she saw a rage unlike anything she had ever seen before. He pressed his body tightly into hers, the smell of alcohol pungent on his breath. His slurred words vile against her ear, his erection sending her body into sheer panic.
She went to scream, his free hand covering her mouth. Fear seizing her mind. She tried to fight, her hands hitting at him, her nails scratching deeply.
Where was everyone ?
She bit into the flesh of his palm. That enraged him more. One arm flailing, her fingers slid across his eye and she pushed with everything she had. His groan, a deep low anguish as his hold loosened. Without a thought, she shoved him. He stumbled and fell backwards down the stairs, landing in a heap at the bottom.
All she could hear was her own breathing. It sounded deafening. Turning her head, gazing down the hallway, nothing and no one. Gathering her bag and writer, clutching them tightly to her chest, she moved down the stairs, her eyes glued to where he lay. Waiting, watching for movement, her trepidation palpable the closer her footfalls took her.
There he lay – her real life monster. His neck twisted, one leg folded behind his back, his eyes staring lifeless up at the ceiling. A crimson path flowed from his mouth onto his shirt.
And it was strange, that at that moment, the only thought she had was how much she hated that fucking shirt.
Stepping over him, she walked away from the nightmare her life had become and towards one she would create for herself. Her imagination had saved her during her darkest times, it was time to let it bring her into the light. She needed to fill the blank pages with her own story. To find herself amongst all the fragmented pieces. Abigail was in there somewhere, waiting to be reborn.