Beautiful Prison. Short Story.

She looked out the window, it was all she really had. One of the neighbours, his name might have been Bob, waved up at her, she waved back and smiled. There was no escape from here, there was no point in trying. She watched people living their lives, then, she stood and turned her back on it. She couldn’t watch them any more. She knew they thought she was sick, that was what he had told them, what he had told her. She was very, very sick, had been for a long time. That’s why she didn’t leave the house. She lay down on the bed and picked up her book, she read a few pages of it, then put it down. She was enjoying this one, she wanted it to last. He wouldn’t be home for another few hours at least. She turned on the TV and found a good show.

The alarm beside her bed sounded, she pressed the button and flicked off the TV, it was time to get ready. She went to the wardrobe and looked through the dresses, finally settling on a blue one, he liked blue. She put on the dress then went to her make up counter. He didn’t like too much, but he liked it none the less. She took out the little vials and began to apply it carefully. She put a light shade of pink on her lips, just slightly darker than her natural lip colour, she dabbed a little blush on her face, then added eye liner and mascara. She studied her face in the mirror for a few moments and, happy with her work, she started to put it all away. He didn’t like clutter. Once it was done she checked the time again, she still had plenty of it left. There was a loud buzzing, then a click. She stood and went to the door and feeling fearful, she opened it. She stepped into the hall and looked both ways, then she closed the door gently. He didn’t like loud noises, even though he was not in the house the habit forced her to close to quietly. She walked down the stairs and went into the kitchen. He would like dinner to be made. It was one of his “Lazy Nights”, that would mean take-away, but he didn’t trust her to answer the door yet. He was still worried about her escaping. She didn’t understand it. She was trustworthy, she had been living here for six years. Before he would order the take away himself, but work had gotten busy, his solutions for it was to get it the day before, then it was simply a matter of her reheating it. It tasted the same to her, but then most food did. She had once loved cooking, the smells, the different flavours, the endless combinations that could be made, but now she was indifferent. She no longer cooked for herself, she couldn’t, now she cooked for him and him alone. She opened the fridge and took out the containers, wondering if it would be better to microwave them, oven cook or use the stove. It didn’t seem to make too much of a difference, at least not to her, the only difference it made was how long it would take to cook. She settled on a combination. She emptied out the containers into bowls and turned on the oven. She put everything inside and set the timer, it wouldn’t be too long. She looked around the house to make sure everything was still ordered and clean. It was. That wasn’t that much of a shock, she usually cleaned before they went to bed. She took out a glass, then took out the scotch. He liked his scotch. The tiles of the kitchen were cold against her bare feet, she didn’t have shoes, nor stockings. He feared if she had them she would be more likely to try to escape. It was silly. Where would she escape too? Her family was still alive, but she knew they’d be killed if she left. It was safest for her to stay, safe for her and her family. While she waited she took out the broom and started to sweep, she’d be mopping the floor tomorrow anyway, but it was good to get a bit of a head start on things. When she was finished sweeping, she checked the oven, then she took out her cleaning supplies. She grabbed a cloth and started to clean the counter tops, half way through she realised she hadn’t cleaned the silver in a while, that would need to be done tomorrow as well.

The oven started to beep, she pressed the alarm, then put away her supplies, once that was done, she took out plates and put them in the microwave, she set the timer, but didn’t turn it on. Then, she took out a frying pan and put it on the stove. After it was heated she dumped the noodles into the pan. It wouldn’t be too much longer until he was home. When they were just about done she pressed the start button on the microwave, once it was done she took out the heated plates and put them on the counter, then she started to divide the noodles, giving him a large amount, she only wanted a small bit. Once that was done she turned off the oven and put some of the food onto the plates, then she set them on the table, along with the bowls in case anyone wanted more. Then she took out cutlery and salt and pepper shakers, she put them on the table and looked at it all, wondering if there was anything else that needed to be done. His drink. She went to the freezer and put in four ice cubes, always four, never more. Then she unscrewed the bottle and added a generous amount. She took down a glass for herself and filled it with water. She set her glass on the table and brought his to the door. She heard the crunch of tires and saw the brief flash of light before they were turned off. There he was. Home. She felt a brief flare of happiness and quickly suppressed it. No she couldn’t feel that way. It wasn’t real. It was pretend, only pretend. She took a deep breath, then smiled and opened the door. He stepped inside and took off his shoes, beside them he left his briefcase, he quickly closed the door and leaned in to kiss her, she responded, his tongue moving inside her mouth like some alien creature. It didn’t last long. He took his drink and took a swig, she kept the smile plastered to her face. He couldn’t see what she was feeling. “Dinner is ready darling.” “Good.” She took his shoes and put them away, then placed his shoes into the hallway cupboard. She followed him into the dining room and waited for him to sit. She must never walk in front of him unless he asked her too. She must never sit down first. He put his glass on the table and looked at the food. She took a sip from her water. He must start first. He picked up his knife and fork, then started to eat, she did likewise.

The night past amicably enough. He wasn’t in an amorous mood, he rarely was lately. She preferred him that way. He watched TV while she did needle points, she never enjoyed it and at first it made her fingers hurt, but he wanted her to do it, so she did. Once he was done watching TV he went to bed, she had gone up a few moments before, as she was supposed to, to get ready. She cleaned off her make up and prepared the bed, pulling back the cover.

They lay in silence, the room was dark. He was asleep, but she was still awake. She couldn’t’ sleep. It was getting difficult lately. She had some freedom tomorrow at least, she could roam the house as much as she pleased, only done so she could do the housework, but she still enjoyed the freedom. It was a nervous kind of freedom though, one where she waited for the sudden blow, waited to be dragged into the dark again. He wasn’t in the house, it wouldn’t come, but she still expected it.

The alarm was going off all too soon. She woke when he woke. Theoretically she could sleep again once he had left, but she never did. Once they were both out of bed, he kissed her on the cheek. He dressed for work while she went downstairs and started cooking his breakfast, bacon and eggs, as she cooked the coffee brewed. He ate quickly, while she ate slowly. Once he was done, he again kissed her on the cheek and left the house, locking the door behind him. She finished off her breakfast and went upstairs to get dressed. Once that was done she went down again to do the washing up. Everything had to be hand washed. Apparently it was more authentic. She didn’t know what exactly he was talking about when he said it, but she did it regardless. Once everything was clean and dried she went through her mental checklist. She sat down for a moment, she wanted a quick rest, but when it became time to stand up, she couldn’t. How could she? This isn’t what she wanted in life, this could never be what she wanted. But he took care of her and he loved her, surely that was all she needed. No. It wasn’t. She wanted more, needed more. This couldn’t be it. It couldn’t. She was safe here, everyone was safe here. She couldn’t leave, it was too dangerous. She stood and went to the cupboard, she took out a bottle and sat down again. She unscrewed the cap and smelled it, she took a few deep breaths then took a deep drink from the bottle.

She didn’t know what time it was, or how much she had drank, she only knew it was a lot. She put the bottle down on the table, then knocked it over, quickly, she righted it and started to giggle. She stopped and looked around fearfully, what if someone heard her? She laughed again. No one would hear her, she was alone. The laugh became deeper, more hysterical, she laughed until tears were rolling down her face, then the tears won out. She was on the floor, crying. She cried until there was nothing left, no more tears, then she stood, feeling slightly dizzy. No. She needed more. She picked up the bottle and went to the door, she took another swig to steel herself and then she rested her hand on the doorknob. It was locked, it was always locked. He said so. It was on a timer. Like the bedroom door. The handle turned easily under her hand. The door swung inwards. She stepped outside into the sunlight. She took a deep breath of fresh air, the first fresh air she hadn’t truly breathed in many, many years. She took another drink then took another step. She had nothing but the clothes on her back, but she knew where she was going. She walked carefully, taking occasional drinks from the bottle. It wouldn’t be long now. She was free. Truly free.

She saw a taxi, she hailed it and got in. Her feet were cold and sore now. She gave him the address, he didn’t notice her bare feet, nor did he seem to care about the bottle. She had stopped drinking from it for the moment. The driver drove in silence and she was happy. She couldn’t deal with conversation. She had to be quick, he would get home soon and find the house empty. She wasn’t sure if she had left the door open or not. The taxi pulled up outside her old home, the one she had grown up in, the one she had lived in until it had happened. “I’ll be back in a moment, I need to get money from inside.” The taxi driver nodded, and she got out of the car. She took another drink and walked up the driveway. She stood before the door for a moment, then knocked.

The door opened and there stood her father, looking older but still her father as she remembered, his mouth was open. She didn’t know what to say, what she could say. She took a breath and said the first thing she could think of. “I had no money to pay for the taxi. We need to call the police, he’ll be here soon to kill us.”

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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