How Could I Fail To See Who He Truly Was?

****Warning – this post reveals why the main character is running from her ex. Some may find what is revealed to be disturbing.****

All at once I knew. I could see past his charm to something far more sinister than I could have imagined. The epiphany hit me so hard it was almost a physical blow. How could I have missed the signs?

I stood frozen, unable to move from where I’d entered the room. My hand rested on the doorknob, the stolen key dangling from the lock. No wonder this room was always secured. I never would have stayed had I seen this earlier.

Realizing I could be discovered at any moment I knew I should run. I’d already seen enough to end any doubt about leaving, yet I had a perverse desire to investigate. Escape should be my primary concern. There was nothing here I needed to see.

But I couldn’t turn away.

Instead I shuffled forward, removed the key from the lock, and shut the door behind me. My movements were slow, as if I were immersed in Jello.

My eyes were drawn to the objects hanging on the blood-red wall to the left of the entrance, so I went there first. My foot caught on the edge of the large area rug, in the same shade as the walls, almost tripping me. I regained my balance and continued my advance toward the well-organized instruments dangling from hooks before me.

There were a multitude of whips, chains, and handcuffs, in varying materials. There were leather straps, bars with hoops on each end, and several items I couldn’t identify. Running my fingertips across the whips I watched them sway back and forth, transfixed. Repeating this action with the chains created an almost musical sound.

Finally turning my back on these pieces, I considered the rest of the room. At the far end was a large four-poster bed. While the frame in the master bedroom was elegant and gave a feeling of grandeur, the posts here had a more utilitarian feel. Metal rings were affixed to each one in various positions and heights. They could also be seen running along the headboard and footboard. Clearly these were intended to be used with what was hanging on the wall, but I wasn’t ready to think about that.

Between the bed and my current position was a long wooden table. This too had rings screwed along the edges. A pillow in red leather rested on the surface, along with what appeared to be a blindfold and black rubber ball with strings hanging from two sides. A large peacock feather seemed out of place next to these items.

Barely able to breathe I forced myself to look away, but what I saw next truly made my blood run cold.

Stepping around the table I hesitantly moved toward the wall to the right of the bed. A mahogany chest of drawers held numerous framed photos, all of me. More pictures hung above the chest. In some I had posed, aware I was being photographed, but others went far beyond candid. Several showed me nude in positions that I would never have allowed. Examining one closely it appeared that I was unconscious or sleeping, but surely I wouldn’t have been able to sleep in these positions, would I?

Could he have put my face on someone else’s body? Studying another closely, I could just make out the birthmark on my right hip.

What the hell?

I put the photo down as my stomach churned. I knew I should leave, but there was one final place I hadn’t looked. Opening the top drawer of the chest a round white bottle first rolled to the back, then came to rest at the front. Picking it up and giving it a shake I discovered it was a bottle of pills. There were no markings on the bottle, which I found to be odd, but not as strange as everything else in this room.

Also in the drawer was a leather-bound journal. I lifted it and began to leaf through the thick pages. The writing was neat, but there was something unusual about it. The letters were all very close together and it looked as if the person who was writing had pressed down very hard.

At the top of each entry was a date. I flipped to the day we met and scanned the writing. It was a detailed account of the evening at the party as well as our time on the beach afterward. At the end of the narrative was one addition:

Rohypnol 2 mg

The book clattered to the floor as I covered my mouth and struggled not to vomit. Realization swept over me, encroaching like a fog coming in from the sea.

I needed to run. Now. But my feet wouldn’t move.

Scenes from the previous months flipped through my mind, slowly at first then gaining speed. The warnings were there. Moments of carefree abandon, feelings of euphoria…waking up in bed, unaware of how I got there. Flashes of confusion, periods of time that slipped away without recollection. Unexplained nausea, weakness and fatigue. Symptoms he’d attributed to illness.

I’d let him take care of me.

Dizziness swept over me. Shaking my head, trying to clear the haze that threatened to overwhelm me, I bent down to grab the book. Standing quickly I smacked the side of my head on the chest. Crying out, tears streaming down my face, I pressed a hand to the ache that was forming.

The physical pain helped focus my attention on the present. The urgency of the situation pressed down on me, but I saw with complete clarity my next steps as I swung the door open to flee.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Epiphany and is part of something longer I am working on.

How Can I Find the One Who Is Supposed to Protect Me?

Where is he?

Maybe it’s time to accept the possibility he had left in the middle of the night.

Would he do that?

I can’t be sure; I barely know him. My heart tells me that’s not what happened, but maybe I shouldn’t listen to my heart. It has betrayed me in the past. It’s why I’m in this situation to begin with.

What if he’s hurt?

He regularly patrols the woods around the cabin in the early morning hours, long before I get up. He could be injured in the woods and I would never know.

Leaving the relative safety of the cabin, I begin pacing the porch, consumed with worry. I follow it around the length of the three sides, my eyes searching for any sign of him. He had given me strict instructions to never leave the cabin. I wasn’t even supposed to be on the porch without him there to protect me.

But I’d been up for hours and he was gone when I woke up. My concern grew with each passing minute until panic crawled up from my stomach like a vine, twisting and squeezing my insides until I could barely breathe. I had to move.

Turning to retrace my steps to the back of the cabin I try to formulate a plan. In the clutches of fear, my mind remains blank. Think! Think! Think! An image of Winnie the Pooh tapping his forehead crosses my mind making me smile. This is enough to lessen the burden; it eases the tension so that my brain can function.

I can’t just sit here. If my ex has found us he could be behind this disappearance. If he is then I’m in grave danger whether I stay in the cabin or not.

I have two choices, I can search for my protector or I can get in my car and run. For a moment I’m frozen with indecision.

As I pause memories of the past few days flood me. He has been so kind, so selfless. He listened to my story without judgement, even though I am clearly to blame for not seeing the truth sooner. He has offered me strength when I have needed it most, and comfort I would not have expected from someone trained as he is to detach himself emotionally from these situations.

How could I leave if there’s a chance he needs help? I need to find him and be sure he’s not hurt.

I’ve waited long enough.

With determination I leave the false security of the porch and begin walking the perimeter of the woods, trying to figure out where he would have entered them, if indeed that’s where he went. On the north side of the small yard I find a narrow path where the brush has been trampled.

Scanning the woods I see no movement. Without stopping to consider the merit of this plan I step onto the path, unsure of what lies ahead.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Possibility and is part of something longer I am working on.

Why Can’t I Answer the Phone When I Desperately Need Help?

As the phone on the worn laminate continued to pulse, I was unsure whether to answer. On the one hand, I was desperate to connect with someone who could help me, but on the other scared the person calling now was the one hunting me. My hand hovered over the vibrating device, frozen with uncertainty.

Unexpected yelling at the other end of the lunch counter stole my attention. A squabble had broken out between the two locals who had been there since I sat down. One man shoved the shoulder of the other and I was afraid there was going to be a fist fight. With tension coursing through me I watched the scene unfold.

When I had come in they had appeared to be friends, what could they have possibly been arguing about? Even with their voices raised I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I caught a word here and there but I couldn’t make sense of it.

“Cheat!”
“Liar!”
“Asshole!”

I was sure one of these men was going to punch the other when the waiter/cook walked over and said something to them I wasn’t able to hear. Just like that it was over. What had moments before been escalating into something violent was suddenly amicable. They exchanged glances, then started laughing. How was the proprietor able to diffuse the situation so quickly?

It was almost a minute before I realized my phone had stopped vibrating. I had missed the call. Once again indecision had prevented me from moving forward. How long would fear control my actions?

With trepidation I watched for a voicemail notification, hope and dread mixing into a sour cocktail in my stomach. Nothing. Chills went down my spine and a feeling of foreboding washed over me.

Before I could fully consider the implications of what had happened, my burger appeared before me. I couldn’t help but ask what the disagreement had been about.

“Those two have been having lunch here every day for as long as I can remember. They have been having the same argument just as long. It was nothing.”

It had sure looked like something to me, but maybe I was overreacting because I’ve been on edge for weeks. Oh how I missed hanging out with my friends, missed the simple routines of everyday life. Would I ever have that again?

Taking a bite of my burger, still with one eye on my phone, I saw my brother-in-law’s face appear on the screen along with his number. He was finally calling me back. I desperately hoped for good news as I clicked the accept button.

This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Squabble and is part of something longer I am working on.