I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 2

“Like, I Know What You Did Last Summer? Hmm, sounds original.” Mike crams the last Krispy Kreme donut into his mouth without offering me a single bite, but it’s probably better that I don’t start my morning with a pound of sugar on my stomach.

Especially after that email.

I need absolute clarity of mind to get through this day. And not only because of the tedious work I do as an Editorial Assistant—tracking submissions, ensuring that authors meet journal guidelines, pushing automated messages through the workflow, processing invoices, not nearly enough copyediting of manuscripts, which was what I was expecting when I initially went in for the interview, the impression I still had when I accepted the offer fourteen months ago. I should’ve quit then. After Sam, it’s a wonder I haven’t bailed before now.

I pour myself a mug of lukewarm coffee from the pot and try my best to refrain from gagging when I put it to my lips. It’s bad enough that Dana, the office assistant and someone else who apparently hates her job, still hasn’t restocked the sugar and cream in the breakroom—which were the two things that made the coffee somewhat bearable—but for God’s sake, when will we ever replace that aged coffee maker? It’s seen a better day, and I can’t afford to buy Starbucks every day just to keep my head on straight whenever I receive a cryptic message that makes my hairs stand on end.

Mike finishes his breakfast with a large, audible gulp and says, “I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s probably some internet troll too obsessed with the holiday. Can’t even come up with a better prank.”

“In any other situation, I’d agree with you, but—” I lower  my voice when our co-worker Trisha walks in. “I did do something last Halloween. We both did.”

“Can we not talk about this here?” Mike snaps under his breath.

“What are you two whispering about?” Trisha lifts the lid to the empty donut box, frowns, and immediately whips her head toward Mike.

“Early bird,” he says, smiling.

“I’m the one who bought the damn donuts,” she says, clearly unamused. She snatches the box off the counter, stomps onto the petal controlling the lid to the trash can so hard it cracks, and stuffs box inside.

I wait for her to leave, but she lingers, obviously more interested in our conversation than what to eat for breakfast. She reinserts herself into the space between me and Mike and reaches over his head for a bag of pretzels and a granola bar from the cabinet behind him, shooting me a death glare at the same time.

It’s no secret she has a thing for Mike and thinks I’m creeping in on her territory. Before me, it was Sam.

I guess she doesn’t have to worry about that competition any more. A year later, and the same flowers still enshrine Sam’s abandoned desk. Plastic—giving off the illusion of immortality. Too bad Sam wasn’t so lucky.

A part of me wonders why the company hasn’t hired a replacement yet, why, even though I push it in every afternoon at five before clocking out, her chair is still slightly pulled away from her desk every morning as if expectant of her return.

Every morning the same. This morning no different. In fact, this morning, the chair was pulled all the way out, and turned facing the aisle, as if someone had been sitting there and had briefly stepped away.

Which is why I’m currently hiding out in the breakroom with Mike, the only other person who—before the email—knows what really happened to Sam. The only other person who can assure me that it won’t be Sam who comes back to that chair.

I admit the breakroom, which is more like a breezeway that connects the office suite to the conference room next door, is the wrong place to be discussing our previous indiscretion. There’s too much foot traffic. Anyone can hear us. And since our current predicament is that someone else in fact did hear us, or saw us, or knows something about what we did, enough to send that email, I have to be careful with my words.

Everyone’s a suspect. Even—though I hate to think it—Mike.

When Trisha is gone, and I’m sure she’s out of earshot, I say, “So you didn’t get anything.”

“No.” He exhales loudly through his nostrils. “And I’m sure it’s nothing. You’re overeating to something that’s just a coincidence and nothing more.”

“Fine.” I swiftly leave before he can say anything else. Like I’m just being a woman. Curse our overeating, overemotional selves. Calm down. It’s only a coincidence, I repeat. It’s more settling on my stomach than the former, which causes the bad coffee to bubble and rise.

But I’m still not convinced, and when I return to my desk—directly across from Sam’s—I’m even less convinced. Propped on my keyboard, carefully balanced between the Q and A rows, is a handwritten note. I look to Trisha, who sits next to Sam. The chick is always scowling, but this time, it isn’t at me, because Mike, emerging from the breakroom, has the same look on his face. Four of us share one of five workstations in the suite—one that still has friendly reminders of different processes written on scattered Post-its by the fourth and only absent member of our group.

However, we all feel her presence now. Because those are Sam’s swirly squiggles on the folded sheet of copy paper in front of my computer. They form two words:

“I know.”

So much for coincidences.

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I Know What You Did Last Halloween: Part 1 (Intro)

Fall—or for those who like to be fancy, autumn—the season most people look forward to. The cool, crisp breeze in the morning, yet the sun still warms you by the afternoon. Harvest colors and flavors. Cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, pumpkin. Boots, scarfs, and sweaters. Decorations beginning to crowd the store shelves. A pleasant reminder that the holidays are right around the corner.

It’s a season everyone loves. Everyone, that is, but me.

In fact, recently, I’ve come to dread it. I see it now only as the anniversary of what happened to Sam. Something I care not to remember, but as my luck would have it—it seems—fate has other plans.

It’s too early in the morning, and still much too dark in my room for me to be scrolling through emails on my phone. But one email in particular, from an address I don’t recognize, glares at me, and it has me freaked. The longer I stare, reading it over and over again, the brighter my phone’s backlight seems to become. Even when I dial it back to its lowest setting, it still pierces my retinas with seven simple words that, although  nonsuspicious on their own, when strung together, may potentially derail this fantasy of a life I’ve spent the last year concocting for myself…

“I know what you did last Halloween.”

#MicroMondays: Abducted

She shivers by the window. Breath settling to a decent rhythm.

“Drink.” His clammy hand on her shoulder.

Steam rising, she brings the mug to her lips, prays it’s poison.

word count: 30

—Nortina


Written for #MicroMondays. Click here for challenge details, and here to read more “rhythmic” horrors at 30 words.

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Undercooked #NaNoWriMo

The turkey was undercooked. Ma planned to roast it overnight, have the whole house smelling like a Thanksgiving feast by morning. But we woke up freezing, a surprise dusting of snow on the lawn, enough to slick the roads, but not enough to delay the holiday traffic.

Tony and Kerry arrived at noon, arguing again, though I’d stopped caring what for. Something about Kerry wanting to move back to Raleigh after Tony just got a promotion. Let her go. She wasn’t the one for him, but Tony married her anyway. He doesn’t listen—he never listens.

Dinner was scheduled for 1:00, but at 2:30, I sat alone by the window, watching for Gregory’s car to pull to the curb. I hadn’t seen him since his birthday a week before Halloween, and it was terrifying to see him then. He looked as if he had grown six inches. His face was fuller, half covered in a thick, coarse beard, but the rest of him was so thin and frail, he almost looked like Tony, a physical characteristic the two brothers never shared. While Tony was the spitting image of his father, both in name and appearance, Gregory favored me—the short, stubby fingers, the flat nose, the extra weight around the stomach and arms. But his arms were toned, muscular, the outline of them seen through the thin, sweat resistant shirt he wore, too cool even for mid-fall.

It was Tammi who texted me they’d be over for dinner. Gregory’s phone was off—he hadn’t paid the bill. Gregory had been missing a lot of bills lately—puzzling because his father and I taught him how to be a good steward over his finances. It was as if all of his upbringing left him the moment he met her. Over and over he asked me for money, a car note here, rent there. Tammi’s parking tickets, which I flat out refused. But I didn’t want to completely abandon him, so I slipped him change when I could. The more I gave, the less I saw of him, and when I realized he only came home for money, I stopped giving all together, and his visits became more infrequent.

Before his birthday, June was the last time I’d seen him. He’d even missed our Fourth of July family cookout in Ma’s backyard. After it got dark, we would climb up Ma’s roof and watch the fireworks shot off from the high school football field while enjoying burnt hotdogs and Carolina burgers with chili and slaw. It had been a family tradition since Antonio, Sr. was alive. No one ever skipped it, rain or shine.

I could hear Ma scrambling in the kitchen. Not much to cook with a twenty pound bird taking up most of the oven, but we had to eat something—it was Thanksgiving after all. With a shrunken menu, the sweet potato casserole, became plain stovetop yams, the mac and cheese from a box, the dressing stuffed inside the turkey to cook them both at the same time, while on the back burners, the greens boiled.

Ma kicked me out of the kitchen shortly after she realized she never turned the oven on last night. “You know you’ve never been a cook,” she said. “You’ll only slow me down.” I was given the assignment to make Tony and Kerry chicken salad sandwiches—the salad already prepared, all I had to do was spread it over the bread—to hold them over to dinner and hopefully to quell their arguing.

And it worked. We had silence for a while . . . until Tammi and her mother showed up.

Without Gregory.

I had never met Jacquelyn. She’d tried to introduce herself several times before—calling to explain why she had allowed my son to live with her and her daughter in their overcrowded trailer, knocking on my door in the middle of the night to tell me she’d kicked them out. The vibrations in her voice told me she was nothing but drama then, and now she was standing right before me expecting a free meal, and she didn’t even bother to bring Gregory with her. And the striking resemblance between her and Tammi—how old was she when she had her? Any stranger would think they were sisters.

“Where’s my son?” I had no interest in shaking hands, fake smiles, or “how do you do’s.” These people overstayed their welcome the second they stepped foot on Ma’s front porch.

“He at work.” Tammi smacked her lips. Her nonchalant attitude quickly got under my skin.

“I was expecting to spend Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I don’t know you.”

Tammi’s mother reached out her hand. “Hi I’m Jacqui—”

“And I don’t care to!” I snapped.

Ma entered, putting the oven mitts she was wearing under her arm. “We may need another hour. That turkey just won’t cook.” When she noticed the tense atmosphere at her front door, she said, “Who’s this?”

“Tammi, and Jacqui,” I cut my eyes at the mother, “decided to invite themselves without Gregory.”

“Where’s Gregory?” Ma asked.

“He had to work,” Jacqui answered.

“On Thanksgiving?”

Jacqui started to say something, but quickly closed her mouth. By the way they shrugged their shoulders, avoided eye contact, it was obvious they were lying. But if he wasn’t at work, where was he?

I heard Tony barge down the hall, and I knew things would quickly escalate with him in the room.

“You know they’re getting married, right?”

“Who?”

Tony pointed to Tammi.

“Yea, we engaged.” Tammi shrugged her shoulders, flashed the small diamond on her left hand.

A ring? He bought her a ring? With what money?

I remembered those times he called, whining that his lights were about to get turned off, that he would be evicted if he didn’t pay rent by the end of the week, that he couldn’t afford to have his car repossessed because then he’d have no way to get to work. Were they all lies? The money I’d been giving him—a little here, a little there—had he been collecting it until he had enough to buy a ring and propose? No, no. Heaven forbid I inherit another lethargic, unappreciative daughter-in-law like Kerry, who had secluded herself away in the dining room to pretend she was crying.

Instinctively, I clawed at Tammi’s hand, snatching off the ring I paid for and a thin layer of skin along with it. She yanked my arm back with one hand— with much more force than her petite frame would lead anyone to believe— and with the other hand, slapped me clear across the face. There was shouting and screaming, and at some point Kerry finally appeared in the kitchen doorway behind Ma.

I felt Tony’s arms around my waist. He and Jacqui pulled Tammi and I apart, and backing up, I tripped over Tony’s size thirteen shoe and hit the side of my back on the back of the couch, re-agitating a muscle I’d pulled a few weeks ago when moving around the furniture in Gregory’s room.

“I ain’t gon stay where I’m not wanted!” Tammi was screaming.

“Then why the fuck are you still here?” Tony yelled.

Suddenly the smoke detector in the kitchen went off, setting off all the others in the house, including the one in the living room right above our heads. The piercing peal silenced us for several seconds.

Ma rushed back into the kitchen, brushing past Kerry. “Jesus, Kerry, you don’t smell my greens burning?” I could hear her in the kitchen stirring the pot, adding water and flicking off the heat to the burner. She grabbed a hand towel and begin flapping it under the detector to clear the smoke.

When the noise finally ceased, I looked directly at Tammi. “You need to leave.”

“Gladly.” She turned around and kicked open the screen door, making a sound like ripped metal and leaving behind a dent in the bottom left corner. Jacqui stayed behind for a brief moment, as if considering an apology, but quickly spun around and followed her daughter to the car. I shut the door behind them and noticed the engagement ring on the floor—it must have fallen out of my hand during the scuffle. I quickly kicked it away. The sight of it disgusted me.

“She’ll be back when she realizes it’s gone,” Kerry mumbled.

“Oh, now you got something to say? Where were you when that bitch was hittin’ my mama?” Tony shouted.

Kerry rolled her eyes and turned away. “I’m not arguing with you, Tony.”

“But you gon listen!” He stormed past me—my throbbing face obviously not too much of a concern—to finish his tirade with Kerry from earlier.

Ma returned from the kitchen, her shoulders hunched. She looked just as defeated as I felt. “Why not Chinese? They’re always open on Thanksgiving. I don’t think I can save this dinner.”

“There’s still the turkey and stuffing.”

“That won’t be for another hour. You know my old stomach has to eat early. I’m feeling lightheaded already.”

I tried to force a smile, but my face was so tight, I probably looked constipated. “Why don’t you sit, and I’ll make us some chicken salad sandwiches.”

“Can we eat them outside? I’m sick of those two yelling, and I need to cool off.”

I nodded and looked back to the window. Eating outside would only make me more anxious about Gregory, wondering if every car that drove by was him. I shook my head. No, there was no sense in waiting for him anymore. He wasn’t coming. And Tammi would surely tell him what happened here. Then, after that, I don’t think he will ever come home.

—Nortina


Happy Throwback Turkey Day! Since we are approaching the homestretch of NaNoWriMo, I thought today’s Thanksgiving Throwback should be a scene from my A to Z planning session earlier this year, featuring characters from my NaNoWriMo novel, Lost Boy.
Originally published April 25, 2017.

#MicroMondays: First to Die

“Scared?”

No, but there was a criminal out there. Jocks and popular girls always die first, usually together.

“It’d be cool to go while doing it.”

Swallow your words. I hear the chainsaw.

word count: 33

—Nortina


Written for #MicroMondays, click here for challenge details, and here to read more “criminal” tales at 33 words. 

Also inspired by today’s #1MinFiction slasher prompt. What are some of your favorite slasher movies?

Whodunit

She strikes the match. A spark of light ignites the end of the cigarette perched between her lips.

“I wish you wouldn’t smoke,” he says. “It’s not ladylike.”

“What do you know of being a lady?” She blows into his face, laughs when he inhales and coughs for air.

She needs something to laugh at. After the week they’ve had. Police in and out. Guests confined to their rooms. Bodies in bags wheeled through the rotating doors.

It’s the first day she doesn’t see a news van camped outside her hotel. She’ll savor this moment of peace and quiet.

“Why do you think he did it?” he asks.

She shrugs, takes another drag. “Why does any husband kill his wife?”

“But Maria, too?”

She closes her eyes. She will choose to ignore the pain in his voice at the mention of the second floor maid. Especially since she’s not supposed to know about the affair. As far as he, the authorities, the hotel guests, and the rest of the staff are concerned, Maria was strangled after she walked in on the man finishing off his wife.

And that’s how she wants to keep it.

—Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: Harvest Wedding

Happy Throwback Thursday! This story, originally published October 8, 2014, started as journal assignment for a fiction writing course in college. The prompt was, “When I first heard the song . . . ”

At the time, the song I constantly had on repeat was Trey Songz’s “Almost Lose It,” which is about a wedding. Unfortunately, this wedding turned horribly sour. If you ever read or seen the Spanish play, Bodas de sangre, you can guess what happens. Actually, the original title for this story, when I turned it in for class, was “Blood Wedding.”


Harvest Wedding

Saturday afternoon in mid October. The leaves were just beginning to change colors. Beautiful reds, and oranges. With the right wind, they would break from their branches and swirl through the air until they found the right beautiful woman’s head to adorn. I was that woman, and I was walking down the aisle at Mt. Zion AME, about to start a new life with the man of my dreams, Prince Rossario. He truely was a prince; dressed in a crisp, black tux with the burgandy of his vest peeking above his jacket. Our colors were orange and Merlot red, the same as the fall leaves. The perfect harvest wedding.

As I stepped closer to my future husband, I saw the tears in his eyes sparkle. There was a gravitational pull in his gaze and I let it take over my muscular functions and pull me closer to him. I was gliding, not walking, down the aisle.

Everything was as it should be until someone came bursting through the doors behind me. Instantly, everything and everyone froze. Even the wedding song had abruptly stopped with a scratch just as it was reaching its climax. Prince’s glowing face immediately darkened into a look of dread and fear as his eyes grew wide, tore away from mine and moved past me to the dark figure standing behind me. A loud gasp came from the throat of the best man, Johnny, as he turned a disbelieving look in Prince’s direction; his bottom lip quivering.

My heart stopped and my tears that were tears of joy only seconds prior, quickly turned cold and anxious as they sliced a path down my cheeks. I slowly turned around to face the creature that had deliberately stolen the attention of every one of my guests in that sanctuary. To my astonishment, I came to face Constance Applewood, an old friend—really acquaintance—from college who had dated Prince before I came into the picture. She obviously wasn’t invited. I made sure of that. What bride wants her fiancé’s ex-girlfriend at her wedding, slouching in the front row, patiently waiting for her moment to object to the marriage and invoke chaos throughout the church as she pounces on the innocent woman in white, clawing her nails into her flesh, not quite sure if she wants to kill her rival or just scare her away, but indisputably willing to do anything to get her man back?

Prince thought I was being overly dramatic to think that Constance would go through such lengths. He assured me that his and Constance’s relationship wasn’t even a relationship; just two good friends who spent a lot of time together and occasionally had sex once or twice or three times; a faux-relationship that ended once he met me. Of course I had to remind him that less than a week after we started dating, I found “HOMEWRECKER” keyed into the side of my black Toyota Camry.

Seeing Constance stand before me confirmed that I was right not to invite her. Unfortunately, the absence of an invitation didn’t stop her from crashing my wedding. It wasn’t her presence that had shocked me and everyone else in the sanctuary. What inflicted horror into the eyes of the guests, myself, and the wedding party was a wedding dress identical to mine. From the rhinestones that trimmed the bodice to the ruffles of the gown to the design of the lace on the veil to the length of the train behind her, it was all the exact duplicate of mine. The only difference, an unmistakably huge difference, was that here dress was black. Even the bouquet she held in her hands was composed of drooping, brown flowers and weeds. The tears pouring from her eyes caused the murky mascara to run dark veins down her face. She began to shake as her screeching voice wailed, “This wedding is over!” She dropped her bouquet to reveal the shimmering, sharpened blade of a butcher knife.

“Oh, God!” someone screamed from the crown, and suddenly, chaos erupted throughout the church. Everyone swarmed toward the exit doors, unsure of the terror to follow but certain that they weren’t staying behind to find out. Guests were bouncing off of one another, trying to elbow their way through to freedom. Babies could be heard squealing in the background as they were being torn from their mothers’ arms in the midst of the mayhem. Young children were being trampled under the combination of high heels and penny loafers. In the center of all the running, tripping, falling, jumping, flailing of arms, tossing of clutch purses, scratching of pew legs across the floor, tumbling and crashing of flower vases, the epicenter of all the screams and shrieks stood Constance. Her obscure eyes pierced into my soul and it was as if she were pointing the knife right at my heart. It was reminiscent of the cheesy dramatics of a C rated action film, except there were no cameras rolling and no director to scream “CUT!” so that my stunt double could take my place. Oh, how I wished it were that way.

When the pandemonium finally subsided and all that was left in the church were those still frozen at the altar, and Constance and myself—more like yin and yang—standing in the middle aisle, silence engulfed the church once again. The tension in that sanctuary was so thick it could be cut with a knife. Unfortunately, tension was not Constance’s intended target. I dropped my bouquet and ran to the altar to stand next to my groom.

Prince wrapped me in his arms and spoke up to the menacing woman in black. “Constance, have you lost your–”

“Shut up!” she interrupted him. “You don’t get to speak.” She took a few steps closer and everyone scattered to opposite corners of the church. Johnny inched to the door behind Constance, hoping to escape unnoticed. Three of my bridesmaids created a barricade of pews in the far left corner. My parents and future in-laws hugged each other while trembling underneath the organ. Prince and I crouched behind the podium with the reverend. It wasn’t the best place to hide because no sooner than peeking over the edges of the podium did I find Constance hovering over us with the blinding blade in her hand.

Prince held up his hands in surrender. “Constance,” he started. “I get it. You’re upset.”

“I’m upset?” she blurted, in shock of Prince’s little words to her.

Reverend Jacobs stood up and approached Constance. “Sweetheart, give me the knife. We can resolve this in a peaceful manner.”

“Stay back!” she demanded, pointing the knife to his chest. She turned to Prince. “What does she have that I don’t, huh? Is, is her hair prettier than mine? Is she skinnier than me? Does, does she please you better in the bedroom?”

I wanted to correct her by saying that I was a virgin, but images of her carving me with the knife reminded me of the importance of silence.

“What is it?” she continued.

“Constance.”

“What is it!”

“I love her!”

I melted when he spoke those words. I wanted to jump into his arms, kiss him passionately, and profess how much I loved him too. Constance could not succeed in breaking us up or this wedding. I was confident of that. Her behavior, no matter how irrational, would not force him to change his feelings for me. He knew the day he met me—Super Bowl party at Johnny’s house. I was wearing a Richard Sherman jersey and held a hot wing in one hand and an open Bud Light Platinum in the other. He walked right into me and promised me that I would be disappointed and that Peyton Manning would expose Sherman for the mediocre cornerback that he was. By halftime, he was begging me for my number.

“But you don’t love me.” Constance’s voice had softened. She begin to lower the knife.

“Constance, we were never that serious. You gotta know that. When I started dating Alicia, you told me you were fine with it.” Prince held out his hand for the knife. I rose to my feet as gracefully as I could without stepping on my train and inadvertently stumbling into the butcher knife that separated me and Constance. I stood behind Prince, wrapped my arms around his waist and looked at Constance over his shoulder.

“I didn’t think you were gonna marry her!” she said. “I thought . . . I thought . . .” She turned her back to us. “I guess it doesn’t matter now,” she whispered, shrugging her shoulders.

Prince started toward her, but I pulled him back, squeezing his torso with the little strength I had. He turned to the reverend, who stepped to Constance and touched her shoulder. “Sister,” he began.

Constance didn’t turn around. She raised the knife above her head, and before the reverend could snatch it away from her, plunged it into her chest, right into her broken heart. I screamed. My parents and in-laws hidden underneath the organ screamed. My bridesmaids behind the barricade of pews screamed. Johnny has already exited the sanctuary.

Constance’s body collapsed to the floor. The reverend dropped to his knees. His hands hovered over the end of the knife in her chest, debating if pulling it out would help save her life, or just accelerate her inevitable death. He bowed his head to pray, his hands still hovering over the knife.

Prince broke free of my grasp and ran to the opposite side of Constance. He cupped the back of her head in his palm and repeatedly slapped her check, screaming, “Why? Why would you do this?” When he looked up at me, I could see the tears in his eyes. They didn’t sparkle. They didn’t tug at my heart, draw me to want to be closer to him and his bleeding ex-girlfriend. I backed away, let the weight of my wedding gown press me down to the floor. I heaved loud sobs, and when I saw the first teardrop land on my left hand, void of a wedding band, I knew we had missed our harvest.

—Nortina

Recurring Nightmare

It was only a dream, but when I see him in the checkout line, three aisles down, my heart quickens, and I remember his eyes shooting bullets through my chest, two thumbs applying pressure to my throat.

The air in here is stifling—I can’t breathe. Leaving my groceries on the conveyor belt, I dash for the exit, nearly colliding with a woman steering two shopping carts; one carries the children who will devour the food in the other within a week.

The humid air of the late summer afternoon is a surprising relief to my lungs. But the reprieve is brief. A whisper of sliding doors behind—he’s followed me.

He doesn’t even know how much he should hate me. Suspicion of what I have done far from his imagination. Yet it haunts me every night while I sleep.

He’s seen the woman with the three kids. That will be us soon, he tells me, with his two and our one on the way.

Only, it’s not on the way. At least not his third. And it’s only after he bends to hug my expanding stomach that I notice who is with him.

His companion shakes his head, knowing what I want to say. How long can we keep this secret? Until the baby’s born? How long before family resemblance can no longer hold as an excuse for why his child looks more like his brother than him? And would he ever believe me if I tell him it was rape?

He stands to kiss me, lips dry and rough like the first time I told his brother no.

He says he’ll be working late tonight but will come by after his shift—the ex watching the kids. As much as I love him, I tell him no. I must sleep, don’t want the truth of my nightmares to slip out while he holds me.

A friend once offered me sleeping pills to make the nights more bearable—at risk of hurting the baby, but I’m desperate to do anything. I’ll bury my head underneath a mountain of pillows because I fear his hatred more than never waking from a dream that kills me.

—Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

Stockholm

Detective Maye has seen it dozens of times before. Stockholm syndrome. When the victim develops an affection for her captor.

He holds his hand out for the feral child hiding under the kitchen sink. If not for her wide marble eyes, glowing like orbs in the darkness, he would think no one is there.

He shines his flashlight inside. Compared to the photo he keeps in his chest pocket, she is unrecognizable. Gone is the fair-skinned angel with the free-flowing blond hair. Her skin is caked in dirt, hair a dingy orange collected in one unkempt knot atop her head. The t-shirt she wears barely covers her. She folds herself like an accordion amongst the kitchen chemicals, no bigger than a bottle of bleach.

Maye curls his fingers into his palm to draw her out. “Come on. He can’t hurt you anymore.” But then he wonders how many times this man has promised not to hurt her.

He stuffs his hands in his pockets, and child psychologist, Dr. Pridget, steps in front of him, opens her arms like a doting mother.

“You’re safe now.”

Maye thinks it’s working. The child emerges. All skin and bones, falling hair and ripped fabric. She shields her eyes to the flashing of CSI cameras. Pridget moves to hug her, but the girl drops her shoulder. On hands and knees, she crawls across the floor, between Maye and Pridget’s feet, exposing everything the shirt doesn’t conceal to everyone in the room.

A sickness in Maye’s gut tells him she’s used to being naked around men, she’s used to the heaviness of their hands, the tightness of their beer guts pressed hard against her fragile body.

They watch as she does what she’s had to do to survive for the last six months—curl herself underneath the sinking chest of the now dead man who killed her childhood, t-shirt soaked in both of their bloods.

Nortina


 

Fright Night Fridays:  Every Friday night, dare to venture into something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright. Are you brave enough to stick around?

#1MinFiction: Emergency Exit

I make sure she’s under the center of the bed. The room will start to smell soon, but maybe our cabin steward won’t notice when he comes to clean it.

But I gotta get lost. Hit an emergency button and head for the muster station to board the lifeboats. Women and children first, but with the right make up, one of her padded bras, and that horrible blond wig she brought, maybe I can pass.

—Nortina


Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a story in one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided. For the next several weeks our prompts will be Alaska themed. This week’s prompt is: women and children first.

When I returned from Alaska, everyone at work asked if I was on the ship where the man killed his wife. 😱 No, thank goodness, but you knew a story was coming. 😉 This guy apparently did it because she kept laughing at him. I wonder what provoked our narrator . . .