This story is by Sundra Nunley and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I remember, when it was just me. When we were one. Before I had to leave.
The first time, I was with her. I was her. “How dare he lock me up,” I screamed. My screams echoed off the walls of the small room he had locked me in. I beat against that locked door, fist pounding, outraged. I screamed till my voice had gone hoarse.
Before… Before I knew him as the monster he is. My screams had turned into angry moans as I slid to the floor, my fist bloody. When he opened the door, I flew at him, angry, passionate. “How dare you,” I screamed heedlessly.
But then I saw the monster’s eyes and an unnatural fear crawled from the bottom of my feet, up my legs wrapping around and around, up my body tighter and tighter. I stepped back, my hand at my throat, now clogged with fear.
He grabbed me and flung me across the room like a sack of potatoes. My back slammed into the wall and I fell, my head cracking on the cold cement floor. Winded I lay there. My eyes blinked up at him, shocked. I could barely comprehend as his steel toed boot was drawn back and landed again and again against my stomach, my chest. Broken ribs. Blood.
I saw it coming and my mind roiled in horror at what he’d done. Then fear, as a way of life, stepped out and I stepped back, alone. I couldn’t help it. I left my body.
How could I stay? The screaming, the pain, the hurt. I closed my eyes in defeat, I left her alone with the monster. His hands around her throat, squeezing. Until her eyes closed and darkness fell. Now there are no sounds, anywhere. The darkness is complete in its silence.
I cut the ties that bound us. My heart rate speeded up even as I said it was ok to leave my body.
She had lost consciousness. Waking up to his teeth ripping into her flesh, drawing blood. Her eyes glazed over, and she smiled. Glad, that she was alone. Glad that I was not there.
“My body, I can’t feel you,” I said.
She smiled, “My soul. I can’t feel you,” she said.
It’s been five years since I’ve hidden in the tiny crevices of her mind, a place that she built to survive. I stared at her beautiful heart shaped face through her eyes and I cringed back. The guilt ate at me, leaving her like I did but it is safe here. The monster can’t get to me through her. He can’t touch all that she is. He had tried to find her, all of her, but I hid deeper into the crevice beyond where he could get.
“You will be the most beautiful woman there,” he mumbled, pulling her head back, his teeth sinking into her breast, blood pooling around his mouth. His hand wrapped around her throat, pressing. Squeezing.
Boldly, fearlessly, she whispered, “The party is tonight.”
He punched her in the stomach, then raped her. ‘Oh, it wasn’t rape,’ as he would say, ‘she was his wife after all. She liked it rough,’ he’d say.
She jerked away, “I said,” she said her face twisted, “Unless you want–” falling to the floor, her hand covering the red mark growing on her face, she looked up at him with no expression.
“Get up,” he yelled, jerking her up by her hair, back handing heragain.
“You do not want to damage the body in ways that can be seen by others,” she whispered, her head lolling to the side.
He looked down at the mark growing on her face and whispered, “Next time.”
I moved back deeper into the crevice. Climbing over rock and stone, hidden deep in the caverns she made from her fear, pain and hurt. My fear pressed me into the corners. I watched, through her eyes, what he did to her. But as long as I stayed hidden. As long as the body moved and acted the way he desired.
We may live. We will live.
The slow soft smile she wore tonight fit perfectly with her white Prada form fitting dress. Her hand hung onto the sleeve of his dark blue pin striped Armani suit. His tall well-built frame and handsome face hid the monster.
He patted her hand.
I shrunk back against the hard stones in the crevice.
She stood frozen, goosebumps raced up her arms. A reaction!
No, I moan from the safety of the crevice, “No please.”
She stood mesmerized staring at the hand.
A shudder rolled through me.
Her face paled.
“Are you ok?” a woman’s voice asked interrupting her thoughts, her concentration. Her eyes flew to the elegant man, hiding the monster. Her breath hitched.
Had he seen? He can’t have seen, but she can never be too sure. She’s learned.
She turned and smiled, her Mona Lisa smile back in place. The perfect smile, the perfect walk, the perfect movements. No emotions. Never any emotions. Never any reason–
Hidden inside the crevices, I marveled at her as she continued to smile, her head nodded automatically, in the exact precise moment that it should.
Even as her fear spiked, she looked around at the mingling crowd, over dressed, heavily perfumed. Smiling, and whispering. ‘A paragon of womanhood.’ ‘The perfect couple.’ ‘ A match made in heaven.’ And her favorite. The one she thought of as he abused her, ‘He loves her so much.’
Her teeth clenched as she fought to hold the fear at bay, less uncontrollable tears roll down her face.
“Please,” I whispered to her and pushed deeper and deeper into the crevice.
She stood tall, erect and proud to be next to her loving husband. Her stomach rolled, at the thought of her loving husband. She peeked up at him and found his dark eyes on her, his handsome face frowning. She couldn’t think or breathe.
I moaned. “Move, please. Smile,” I pleaded.
She reached up and unexpectedly touched the monster’s face.
I was held down by revulsion.
Her attention on her rolling stomach, controlling the gag reflex, stifling the small sound that was building in the back of her throat even as she choked on a gag. Calm down, she whispered.
Shudders racked through me as I hid in the crevices. Calm down, I whispered.
The glass appeared so suddenly, she jerked back and stared at the hand.
“Take it, take it,” I chanted.
The monster held the glass out to her, waiting. She continued to stare.
“Take it, take it,” I continued to chant.
Finally the glass was accepted with a grateful smile. “Thank you, a toast?” she asked.
I blanched. “Don’t talk,” I whispered the reminder. My eyes closed with fear. Her fear.
The tight squeeze on her arm alerted her. She looked up, his frown replaced by the monster’s smile. Her throat closed, her mouth dried and her brain went blank.
He’ll come for her now.
I knew he would.
She knew he would.
He came as soon as the large house was empty. His hand wrapped tightly around her throat, he whispered, “Your mother is dead.” And laughed, “You can never leave.”
I stood stock still, frozen to the spot, the meaning of his words soaked into my numb brain. My heart slammed in my chest. Dead?
Tears formed in her eyes. ‘You can come home anytime you want,’ the voice of her mother chimed in her memories. Dead!
Their last hope shattered. Dead.
We are alone. Hope is Dead.
I walked her bloody broken body out of the front door of the mansion, into the cold swirling snow, her arms and feet bare. Into the woods surrounding the estates.
A small bench in the middle of the woods stood under a light pole, the swirls of snow flitting around and around. She looked down at the bench and swayed. Her knees gave way and she fell to the ground. Her broken hands reached out slowly, painfully. Crawling, she pulled herself up to sit. Her shoulders back, her head high, her black eyes swollen shut. The bloody nightgown sticking to her body.
I looked around at the white covering everything, and I felt the tendrils of what death could be like for me and for her. I wanted to escape with her. I came out and I joined her, sitting there, quietly. I felt her mouth move.
A smile. “I’m glad you are with me,” she whispered.
“I’m sorry I left you,” I said.
“You are here now,” she whispered, lying on the bench, her eyes closed against the cold dark night.
I wrapped myself around her.
She sighed, her last breath escaped her.
“We have won,” we whispered.