This story is by Kristin Martiniello and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Silk sheets slid against her skin. Cool. Soft. Luxurious.
More than she’d been able to afford for months.
Olivia jerked awake, adrenaline flooding her system.
No no nono. No!
God, please, no.
She shoved her fist into her mouth to stifle her sobs, screaming silently in her head.
Alicia had spent the last three months trying to convince Olivia it was okay to cry. To rail. To make noise.
But now Olivia was glad she hadn’t broken her habit of silence.
He hated those sounds.
He loved to hear her moan in pleasure. Demanded it. He praised her golden voice.
But swearing, negativity, crying, whimpers, screams.
Those he did not tolerate.
Bad enough were her short breaths, her stuttering exhales, the moisture in her eyes.
She could not vocalize them too. These emotions were not allowed.
She squeezed her eyes tight, cutting off the tears, and drew a deep, shaky breath.
In. One. Two. Three.
Out. One. Two. Three.
Precious seconds ticked by as she struggled for control. She opened her eyes on a deep inhale – and stopped breathing all together.
The only light slipped in around the edge of the bathroom door frame, but she didn’t need light to recognize the room she was in.
She was intimately familiar with the specially commissioned bed she lay on. The light Ash was engraved with trees and vines along its four poster frame and massive headboard. A dark hollowness where the silk sheets swallowed what little light dared to touch their domain, the image of light against dark vivid in her memory, a mirror of her own pale skin and ebony locks.
He loved the contrasts, the sensuality of sight and touch and sound.
The room was still, as if the very walls and floor held their breath. The only sounds came from her: the rustle of her hair on the sheets as she turned her head. The soft exhale as she realized she was alone.
She slipped from the bed, silent as a cat as her feet sunk into the soft rug that covered the majority of the relatively small room. Small compared to the 10,250 square foot penthouse in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood.
She knew the Dash & Albert Hand Knotted Rug was white just as she knew the floor beneath it was black Italian marble and that the bathroom had cost as much to remodel as she had paid NYU for her doctorial. It was hard to ignore things like that when school loans made you just desperate enough to take up a handsome stranger on his offer to make all of those creditors and bank notices go away.
So what if the man sweeping her off her feet and slaying the metaphorical dragon was too good to be true? So what if he was the catch of the century but still single at thirty-four? So what if he insisted on picking out her clothes and supervising her free time?
He deserved that much at least, right? After all, he’d saved her. Her very own fairytale knight.
By the time she saw his tarnished armor hidden behind racks of Armani, Valentino, Burberry, and Saint Laurent, he’s generosity was her only source of income. He’d bought her a Lamborghini Aventador S, but only filled it enough for her to make it to the office in case he needed an errand run. Getting home required asking for gas money. She could not visit places without his approval, but friends could come to her. Where cameras offered no blind spots even in the bathrooms.
Except for in this room.
A room that had no visible door and no windows.
A room that wasn’t noticeable if you didn’t already know it was there: its entrance situated behind the living room book case.
The training room, He called it.
Because it was where she stayed when she was being particularly stubborn regarding one of His rules. Including the ones He decided on impromptu.
She pressed on the door with her shoulder, but it did not budge.
She beat her fist on the air in front of the wall but did not risk the sound of contact. She did not try to open it again. After all, the room was made with the best materials, the richest fabrics, designer furniture. It may have been her training room, but He wasn’t a barbarian or unreasonable.
Pressing her forehead against the door she sobbed quietly.
Five months. She’d been free for five months. After twelve long years of being His jet setting trophy without a care in the world except for anticipating when His rules would change, she’d gathered the courage to escape and strike out on her own penniless, homeless, family-less, and with only the barest essentials of clothing, toiletries, and ID.
Olivia’s best friend – her only friend – had paid for Olivia’s train ticket under her own name and sent her to stay with a college acquaintance. Alicia was a farm girl with dirty blond hair, strong biceps, and an ample waist and was just the kind of blue collar person His eyes would skip right over when she entered a room.
That made her perfect.
Alicia was also kind and generous and set Olivia up with a job manning the local hardware store and gave her a place to stay for as long as it took to get back on her feet.
Alicia didn’t judge her. Not even when Olivia jumped at shadows or suffered an anxiety attack, because she saw or heard of someone from His circle on the news or when she roamed the old farmhouse at all hours, her nightmares turning her into an insomniac for much of her early days in Montana.
The nightmares hadn’t come for weeks now, but yesterday she’d seen His picture in the paper: “New York’s most eligible bachelor finally off the market after proposing to Tobacco Heiress”. Daniella, Olivia thought her name was. It must have triggered this episode.
It is only a dream, she realized with giddy relief. Her mind playing tricks on her. Now that she studied the room she saw the slight differences. The distortions that had to be a result of her stressed psyche filling in details at random.
That her mind would be so traitorous should have been a scary thought, but the relief was so overwhelming she didn’t care. She promised herself she’d go see that therapist Alicia was ever so casually name dropping on a weekly basis.
She yawned, the crash of adrenaline melting all of her tension. She slumped against the door, sliding down its glossy contour onto the rich rug. She decided she’d sleep on the floor, a small act of rebellion against the subconscious that put her through this.
He’d gotten so angry when she did that, the first time he’d locked her in this room and taken her against her will. The first time she’d seen His tarnished armor. She’d been so sickened by the sight of the bed, she’d dragged her bleeding body into a corner and fallen asleep on the rug. She’d bleed more when he found her the next morning.
Her thoughts were equal parts spiteful for the bed and sorrowful for Daniella and so damned relieved she felt lightheaded. Underneath it all was the sour bile of fear but that was fading with each passing moment. She felt her eyes get heavy and knew that when she woke she’d be in her room at Alicia’s or that the dream would have melded into another. Either way she would be free of this room. She allowed herself to drift off to sleep.
Cool sheets greeted her when she woke.
She stretched luxuriously, still slightly nauseous from the dream, but the panic was distant, easier to push aside. She was happy she was working that morning. The hardware store was so different from the skyscrapers and high-rises of New York, of the multi-million dollar offices and CEOs in Versace. The clean air of Montana, the grease and dirt coating the farming clothes of her blue collar customers, and the mundane small talk about rains and crop yields and the upcoming festival would clear the last remnants of the dream.
How soft her sheets felt.
Almost like silk.
“What have I told you about sleeping on the floor, Liv? Honestly, we’re not barbarians,” He whispered in her ear.