I knocked out this short story in two hours. It is essentially a first-draft that lacks the polish that research or time would provide. It’s an experimentation, but I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil the story.
This was the first draft, I then did a second draft to show how I might revise it.
A slither of daylight came through the shuttered window and woke Mary from her restless sleep. With the dawning of the sun so came the resolution: she knew she had to escape this house and get home to her husband and three children. She whispered to herself, afraid that he would hear her but needing to get the information straight in her mind. The man – he called himself Frank – was obsessed with her and keeping her captive. She looked frantically around the room: an ordinary bedroom, sickeningly so – because nothing about the situation was ordinary. On the wall was a wedding photo with her and Frank as the bride and groom; only Frank wasn’t her husband. Her husband was Sam and he would be worried sick that she was missing. Today is the day, she decided: I escape today. She got out of bed as quietly and as quickly as her ageing body would allow. Choosing some warm and functional clothing from the closet she got dressed sitting on the edge of the bed. She was almost ready…
The door knob rattled and her heart sank as the man walked into the room. He was already dressed of course. He was always ready, forever hovering about her. Her captor was seldom idle.
“I thought I heard you up and about darling.”
“Yes” Mary replied, as anxiety settled in her stomach. She hated when he called her ‘darling’; it made her skin crawl.
“You’re up early today.”
“You can’t go out wearing that.” He walked to the closet and began selecting a new outfit for her, placing it on the bed.
“Change into this” he ordered.
“I don’t need you to choose my clothing for me.” She retorted.
“No of course not, but it will make me happy to see you in this again.” I don’t care if you die, she thought, as long as I never see you again.
“Of course Frank.” She said in obedience. She turned her back to him as she changed clothes but she knew he was watching her. Men always watched. This man though had no right.
“Why don’t you put on your pearls, you’ll look nice in them.” He suggested. He was always picking her clothes and jewellery for her. He liked her to be dressed a certain way, have her hair a certain way and only on odd-occasions did he let her pick her own clothes for the day. Mary crossed to the dresser and picked up the brush, pulling it gently through her hair.
“I’m going to get breakfast started, come down when you’re ready.” Frank said as he left the room. Mary continued brushing her hair until she could hear him clattering around in the kitchen, distracted for now.
She searched the dresser drawers for anything she could use as a weapon if he tried to touch her. She didn’t like his touches, or his kisses: he had no right and it disgusted her; he was not her husband. It was a vain search; something inside of her had said that it would be. Once she had scissors, nail files and knitting needles all within easy reach, but he had taken it all away months ago when he had tightened his control over her.
She heard the kettle begin to whistle and knew it would cover the sound of her escape. She quickly left the bedroom and went to the back door. She tried the handle but found the door locked. The key was visible hanging on a string on the wall, but he had put it where only he could reach it. If only she had something to stand on, she could get to it she thought, but there was nothing. Looking around desperately she picked up one of Frank’s gardening boots and tried to use them to unsettle the key. With shock she realised the shoe had left muddy prints on the wall: Frank might see them and know what she had tried. She grabbed a nearby cloth from the laundry sink and tried to wipe the mud from the wall, getting most of it.
“Mary, breakfast is ready.” Frank called. Mary gave a frustrated little cry as she threw the muddy rag into the washing machine. If she didn’t go to the kitchen now, Frank would come looking for her. If he found her here he would definitely know and he would get mad. As she traipsed down to the kitchen the aroma of bacon and eggs did nothing to lift her spirits. He liked bacon and eggs. He insisted that she eat with him. He kept her here against her will.
“There you are” he said as she walked into the kitchen. “You look lovely.”
“Thank you” she replied with all the warmth she could muster through her frustration. She knew that she could not physically overpower him – she had tried and failed several times. He was always pretending to be nice, perhaps if she was nice he would lower his guard.
He sat down next to her and took her hand to say breakfast prayers. The hypocrisy she thought. He says prayers like a Christian, all the while keeping me captive. Mary smiled at him and said that breakfast looked good.
Mary ate for a while but could then hold her question in no longer,
“Please Frank, will you let me see Thomas today?” Thomas was her youngest, and her only son and she missed him terribly. She wanted to see Thomas most of all but she also knew that he would rescue her from Frank. Frank might be stronger than her but Thomas had the strength of youth and would save her.
“Please Frank, I’ll be really good. I’ll do everything you ask me to. Just let me see him.”
“You can’t Mary. You can’t see Thomas. I can get you a photo if you would like?”
“I don’t want to see a damn photo of him, I want to see him.”
Frank was getting upset now, his face going red. As though to change the topic he began to collect the plates and cutlery. Mary started to help him.
“You just sit there and finish your cup of tea, darling and I’ll get these dishes done.” Frank ordered. She knew what he meant: stay there where I can see you. Sit quietly. Do as I say.
“Shall we go and sit out in the garden for a while?” Frank suggested, “Wouldn’t it be nice to sit in the open air and listen to the birds?’
Mary looked out of the front window to the garden which surrounded the house. The garden was walled by a high foliage-covered fence that prevented her escaping or seeking assistance from passers-by. The garden gate would be locked just like the back door was. Everything was locked. He controlled her every move. It had to be today she reminded herself. She had to be on the lookout for any opportunity. Sometimes when he was in the garden he would get distracted in the vegetable garden and leave her alone for up to fifteen minutes. The garden could provide just the opportunity that she needed.
“Sure, the garden sounds nice.” She replied.
“Let’s go then” he ordered, putting the tea towel back onto the oven rail to dry. They walked out together to the back door. As Mary had worried Frank saw the remnants of the muddy shoe prints on the wall below the key. He turned to her,
“Mary!” he said in a disappointed tone, “You know you have to ask me if you want to go outside.”
“Yes. Sorry darling.” She said. His anger was disarmed when she called him darling, he liked that. He looked at her closely and then smiled. She smiled back, and his anger dissipated. He was very observant and she couldn’t get away with much without him seeing it. But today she had. When he had gotten into a huff and started to clear the table she had hidden the small butter knife in her sleeve. Today was the day she thought with joy.
They went outside and sat at the wooden table, looking out into the garden. The garden was thriving with flowers and vegetables, birds flitting around their playground. It was the only place where Mary had a measure of peace; when she was here she could forget about him and just enjoy the nature. She would sit here for a while and see if Frank moved to tend the garden or go to the toilet: then she would make her escape attempt…
Frank looked across at Mary. He could read her body language fluently: she looked agitated but was pretending not to be. He would have to be extra watchful today. Both widowers, they had found each other in their mid-thirties and re-married. They had many good years together with several heartaches along the way, including losing their adolescent son Thomas in a car accident.
He had great memories of their life together and it deeply saddened him to know that she no longer shared those memories. Early onset Alzheimer’s had made her a captive within her own body, and a great love for her kept him captive by her side.