Authors Note: Hey everyone, happy Monday! I thought I’d do a bit of housekeeping before you read my brand new short story. I’ve decided I need to be way more consistent with my blog posts. From today, I will be posting a short story on Monday and a piece of flash fiction on every other Friday. This is my first installment of Short Story Monday and I do hope you enjoy. See you Friday!
12 Min Read
It’s definitely him. He’s much younger but that’s his face, I’m certain of it. I’m in the photo too, all gummy and happy, as most 10-year olds would be at an amusement park. A whirlwind of red frizzy curls almost blocks him from view, but whoever took the photo captured him looking straight into the lens. My fluffy red hair makes him look like a Knight, emerging from a fiery fortress unharmed and unfazed. A hero. Yet, I’ve never noticed him there before. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve seen these pictures as an adult. One husband and two children later, we are yet to explore my immortalised childhood that exists within these pages. Although I’ve always wanted to, I never managed to find the courage to ask my parents. Even though they made the albums themselves, they never seemed in the mood for reminiscing.
“It’s all in the past now, what’s the point in looking back?” Dad would say, from his avocado green armchair, legs propped up on a pile of yellowed newspapers and a coffee in hand. My mum would just sniff and claim they’d been lost long ago.
When they died a few months ago, I took my chance and found them hidden in an ancient trunk I’d never seen before. They’ve been sat in my car where I left them ever since. Something stopped me from picking them up and pouring through their wrinkled pages. Until this evening. Robbie was out with his work friends; the kids had already been put to bed and were dreaming sweet dreams. At least that’s what I hope. It’s what I pray for every night. It’s what they deserve. I was a few pages in when I saw his face. Robbie’s face. His green eyes were piercing even considering the shocking quality of the pictures. They shone like emerald laser beams. They always were hypnotising.
I place the photo on the side and continue to flip through the pages like I’m searching for something. What I’m searching for exactly? I don’t know, until I see it. I’m a few years older here, around fourteen. I discovered the invention of the hair straightener by this point so my locks had been tamed and styled into a pony tail. My mum would always ask why I’d straighten my hair everyday just to put it up. I thank my teenage self for ignoring her comments. I can see him clearer now; he’s no longer a brave Knight escaping a fiery death. He’s parked in his fathers’ maroon car. I remember because it was not long after this we met for the first time. I was sixteen and he told me he was twenty-one. I only later found out he was actually twenty-seven. He pulled up to me as I walked in the very same car and offered me a lift to my friend’s house party. Like the drunk idiot I was, I agreed and got in the car. He ended up coming to the party and things started to…Shit, I hear the front door open and close. I can’t move, I can’t breathe and I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Robbie.
“I’m home dear!” He shouts from the hallway. Fear keeps me frozen, unable to think or take in a full breath. The thud of his heavy footsteps sends shivers through my limbs. At the beginning, I would have told him to pick his big feet up and to not walk like an elephant. But now, I know better than that. I finally regain control of my body and try desperately to hide the pictures I’d found of him. Of us, together when we shouldn’t have been. I’ve barely had a chance to process this, he’ll demand answers I don’t have. But I’m too slow.
“Alright Cassie? What you got here?” He says while reaching for an unopened album. I let out a silent sigh of relief, thanking God for his divine intervention. While he’s momentarily distracted, I place the pictures under my jumper. He doesn’t seem to notice and I relax my shoulders a little. He hates it when I look tense.
“Aww aren’t these nice? Ay, we should show the kids some of these, what you reckon?”
I’m taken aback by his warmth. He’s even smiling a little bit. It makes me want to curl up in his arms like I used to. But the moment ends abruptly as his smile fades and is replaced by the face. The face I still don’t recognise, even after all these years of facing him. Of being afraid of him.
“You got something you’re hiding Cass? Something you thought you could hide from me?”
There’s no use in arguing. I pull the pictures from beneath my baggy jumper, the one that hides how skinny I’ve become and study his face. He doesn’t seem to recognise them, until he sees what I saw only a few minutes ago. The face is gone and in its wake is an expression I’ve never seen before. Robbie is nothing if not strong, charming and an impeccable actor. But in this moment, he looks vulnerable. Maybe even scared. I debate speaking, but decide to wait until I’m spoken to. He’s made sure to drill that into me recently. After a silence that seemed to stretch on too long, his murky eyes find mine. The anger looks like it’s trying to regain control, so I soften my face and will my tears to return where I usually keep them; locked away deep inside where nobody can find them. Not even Robbie. Finally, he speaks.
“Where did you get these from? Your dead parents’ house is my bet”
“Yeah actually, I found them in the loft in a really nice old trunk” I say, ignoring his painful stab “I thought you might like it because it would go nicely in your office so I just brought it…”
“So why did you hide them from me then?” He stops me in my tracks. For once, I don’t feel put down by it. I feel thankful. My fear had taken control of my words, only God knows what I might have said otherwise.
“Well, I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to keep them for myself. Not forever just a little while” An idea explodes like a firework in my mind and I can’t help but feel a bit excited to be lying to him. He hates liars.
“I never knew you were in these photos too and it made me emotional to think we crossed paths before we ever met…” I pause for effect and to my surprise, he’s actually listening. Maybe even believing me.
“I thought it was romantic. I was going to frame them and surprise you with them!” I say, a little louder than I expected but he doesn’t seem to notice. He’s just looking at me, wide eyed and studious. He’s searching for a crack in my facade to take advantage of. He wants to catch me out. Robbie likes to have a reason, no matter how warped, to hurt me. From crumbs in the toaster, to an invitation out with old friends; if there’s a way to punish me he’ll find it. Though this time, he doesn’t become intoxicated by rage. He rises from the edge of the sofa, kisses me on the forehead and for a moment, it feels normal. He bends down to the floor; his knees clicking from middle-age while looking into my eyes. I can’t help but hold my breath. Time has taught me not to be fooled by a calm exterior. He’s so close to my ear now, his breath leaves me feeling damp and uncomfortable. I’m sure that’s the idea.
“You’re gunna burn these photographs and then never discuss this again. I don’t want these disgusting pictures in a frame. What on Earth made you think I would? Put them in the fire.” He spits into my ear, malice tinging every syllable. I imagine a snake tongue peering out from his crooked mouth, shooting its venomous words into my soul. I see myself slicing it off and watching his power over me bleed out in front of us. If only I could.
I get up and throw them into the crackling fire like I was told. The same fire I thought we’d be opening Christmas presents in front of as a happy family. How wrong was I? But while our faces start to become engulfed by flames, I hear Robbie’s voice ringing in my head. I check behind me and find he’s left the room. A memory is trying to find its way through the fog. I continue staring at the photos and it hits me. Something Robbie said to me many years ago, just after the shouting and controlling behaviour turned into violence.
“I chose you Cassandra. I saw you and knew you were going to be mine. I made sure of it. I waited for the right time. I waited a long time. But you’re mine now and I’ll never, never let you leave.”
If you liked this story, don’t forget to like and comment! You can check out my previous short story here. Letters To Arthur is an epistolary style piece, that follows Eve as she reaches out to Arthur through a series of letters.