Thursday Thriller – Rescued

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

Read Part 7 – Transformation 

Calla hated hospitals.  She’d spent a good part of her childhood in them during the years her father was ill.  He died when she was thirteen.  A week after the funeral, when the phone had stopped ringing, when the neighbors had stopped coming by, when the house was closed-in and empty, stinking of days-0ld casseroles and wilting flowers, she poured herself a drink.  A whiskey.  Her mother was distracted by her grief, inconsolable, locked in her bedroom.  The alcohol was like fire going down Calla’s throat, but she drank every drop.  When the glass was empty, she poured another.  And another.  After she finished the bottle, she felt this delicious oblivion, like nothing could ever hurt her again.  She fell in love with the feeling, chasing it desperately for the next decade.  Her mother had tried, for years, to drag her back from it, to save her, but the pull was too strong.

Now Calla sat in another hospital, waiting for news of Edgar.  Catherine was beside her, her legs jittering nervously, her steely eyes facing the doorway of the waiting room.  She’d advised Edgar against having the surgery.  She’d spent the past few months trying to talk him out of it, but he was determined.  Even with the growth removed his face still wouldn’t look normal.  There was much work to do.  But this was the biggest hurdle.

Ash snoozed away in the baby seat at her feet.  All of their things, the ones she wanted to take with her anyway, were packed away in the trunk of her car in the parking lot.  Edgar had gifted her with a shiny new BMW a month before, thinking she was so far under his control that she’d never dare drive beyond the town’s limits.  How wrong he’d been.  She said her goodbyes him earlier as he laid in his hospital bed, right before they’d taken him into surgery.  Catherine had just left the room, leaving Edgar and Calla to sit in silence, the only sound being Ash happily gurgling in Calla’s arms.

“I would have helped you, you know,” Calla blurted out.  Edgar’s head whipped around.  He looked at her, startled.

“What do you mean?”

“I would have been a friend to you.  I would have agreed to help you.”  She wiped away a tear.  “I was so lonely then.  That’s what I was thinking about that day, at the exact moment you grabbed me, how lonely I was.  How sick I was of being alone.  I would have killed for anyone, a stranger, to just…notice me.”  She sniffed, shifting Ash on her lap.  “You didn’t have to do what you did.  You didn’t have to hurt me…”

“You would have taken one look at me and laughed…”

“I wouldn’t have.  I know what it’s like to be trapped.  I was trapped long before we ever crossed paths.”

She looked at his face, one of the few times she’d been able to see him without his mask.  Whether he’d ever admit it out loud, she knew he believed her.

“What about Rose?”  Calla continued.  “Why did you have to kill her?  You got what you wanted.  Me.  A marriage.  An heir…”

“She humiliated me.  Stole from me.  No one does that.” He snarled, turning to face the wall.

“She meant you no harm.  She just wanted to start over.  You hurt her over and over again but she refused to turn you in, even when I begged her to come to the authorities with me.  That’s the kind of person she was…”

“She was nobody.  Just like you.”

No one is looking for you.  His first words to her came back in a flash.

“When you come home, I won’t be there.”  She rose from the chair as Edgar turned toward her again, his bulging eyes filling with tears.  Calla was unmoved.  She was afraid, more afraid than she was the day she’d been taken even, but she had to try.  Ash couldn’t be raised in that house.

*

Dr. Knight, Edgar’s surgeon, entered the waiting room, a grave expression on her face that told Calla and Catherine all they needed to know.  Catherine began to wail, a horrible, keening sound that filled the room.  Calla felt nothing.  Just the anchor that had burrowed in the pit of her stomach long ago finally lifting.

Dr. Knight pulled Catherine to her feet and embraced her.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “We knew the risks…”    Catherine nodded and sobbed into the doctor’s shoulder, muttering words Calla couldn’t understand.  Calla couldn’t bring herself to comfort her.

Once Catherine had calmed a bit, Dr. Knight moved to Calla, hugging her as well.  Calla found it all a bit strange.  The doctors that had all treated her father seemed detached when they delivered this news, like they couldn’t wait to get away from that room, the sounds of grief.   When Dr. Knight released her, she noticed a faint scar, pale pink, jagged, hardly noticeable unless one really looked closely, along the side of her neck, and held in a gasp.

What has she survived?  Was she outside, when I spoke to Edgar?  Did she hear? Did she…?

Dr. Knight’s eyes met Calla’s briefly, then she squeezed her hand and briskly left the room, disappearing into the busy corridor.

*

Calla turned down a road that was so familiar to her she could close her eyes and still remember every curve and bump in the asphalt.  She stopped in front of a modest house, red brick with dark green shutters, one-story, a driveway stained with oil and full of potholes.  She saw the blinds move, a pair of eyes peeking out.  Calla scooped up Ash and made her way up the drive.  The front door flew open before she even reached the porch.  Her mother put her hands to her mouth, her eyes watering as she laid eyes on her grandson.  She looked at her daughter.  Taking in her clear eyes, her healthy appearance.  Calla put her hand on her mother’s face.  Her skin was so soft, like Calla remembered, and warm.

“Mom,” she said with a bright smile.  “This is Ash.”

THE END

 

 

 

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Thursday Thriller – Transformation

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

Read Part 5 – Quest

Read Part 6 – Banished

ONE YEAR LATER

Ash was up early. Early morning light slipped through the cracks in the drapes, giving the room a purplish hue. Calla yawned, then slipped out of bed reluctantly. The air was cold on her skin.  She lifted her son from his crib and relished his sweet early morning baby scent. Edgar told her he could hire a fleet of nannies and baby nurses to come running every time Ash as much as whimpered, but she refused. She trusted no one.

Catherine visited often, always wanting another look at her beautiful grandson. He was perfect. He had his father’s pale complexion and dark hair, but his mother’s soulful brown eyes and full pink lips. She ran her finger over her son’s smooth skin as she fed him, smiling when his eyes locked on hers. It was her favorite time of day.

She and Edgar had married in secret days after she’d agreed to return to the mansion with him. A judge, an old family friend, had been summoned to the property.  They’d stood, Calla in a hideous, puffed-sleeved ivory gown, selected by Edgar of course, Edgar in his dinner tux, under the archway in the parlor, rushing through their vows.  Calla looked at the floor the entire time.

After they wed, Edgar didn’t come to her room many nights, only a few. She always thought of something else, another place, a time long ago when she was happy, until it was over.  The rest of the time was for her and Ash. She read to him, sang him lullabies, took him on long walks in the sun on the beautiful grounds, which were now tended by a team of gardeners. Edgar was happier now that Catherine had finally released all of his inheritance, and rarely lost his temper.  He was obsessed with restoring the mansion to its original glory, as well as traveling the country looking for a doctor who would perform the risky, life-threatening surgery to repair his face. Since the growth was engorged with blood, there was a chance for irreparable blood loss during the operation. He thought it was worth the risk. Maybe he held onto some futile hope that one day she would actually love him.

There was a knock at the bedroom door. Breakfast. She ate all of her meals in her room now with her most favorite, and adorable, dining companion.  Esme, the new housekeeper, entered the room, carrying a tray that she set on the bedside table. She hadn’t warmed to Esme yet; the sight of her just made her miss Rose, plus she envied that the staff went home at night to homes filled with warm light and happiness, the laughter and footfalls of loving spouses and extended family.

“Mr. Henry wanted me to leave this too, ma’am,” Esme said, placing a folded newspaper next to the tray.

“Thank you,” Calla said with a tight smile, putting Ash on her shoulder and patting his back, hoping to elicit a burp.

“I can take him for a bit if you’d like,” Esme offered, extending her arms. “I have experience with infants.” Calla had overheard Edgar ask Esme to help more with the baby when he thought she was out of earshot.

“I appreciate that, but it’s okay. I prefer to keep him with me.”

Her face fell before she left the room, and Calla felt terrible. Esme probably thought she hated her. She just couldn’t risk letting Ash out of her sight. Ultimately, Esme’s loyalty lied with Edgar, not her.

Bouncing Ash on one arm, she reached for the paper. It wasn’t local, dated a week ago, in a city on the other side of the country. She opened it to see a short article, no more than a paragraph really, circled in dark red ink. Her knees gave when she saw the picture of the woman next to the article, and she sank onto the bed, keeping a tight grip on Ash. The name was different, but it was Rose. Her Rose. She’d been found murdered.

Ash began to whimper. She clutched him close to her chest and they wept together.

 

Read the final installment – Rescued

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

​​Thursday Thriller – Quest

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Read Part 4 – Rose

I’m such a fool, Calla whispered as the cellar door slammed.   Edgar had grabbed her before she’d even made it out of the dining room, growling in her ear about how dearly she would pay for her mistake.  His arm gushed blood as he dragged her down the stone steps to the cellar, flinging her inside and locking the door.  Why couldn’t she bring herself to do what needed to be done?  Why didn’t she grab the knife and drive it right into his neck?

The cellar was smelly and dank, with just a tiny window so high up she’d never be able to reach it.  Rose brought her food and snuck her the occasional book, but she could never stay long.  When she asked if Edgar would ever let her out, about the things he was doing, saying, while she was locked away, Rose said that he was very angry, but that his mother would be returning from her travels soon and would be coming for a visit, expecting good news.  She stared back at her tellingly.

The next day was special.  The only day of the month when Rose got to leave the property, a large portion of Edgar’s allowance for the month, carefully controlled by Catherine of course, filling her small purse, keys jangling in her pocket.   She usually lingered in town before finishing her errands; she’d have a coffee at a sidewalk cafe, browse a bookstore, people watch.  It was so rare she got to see anyone besides Edgar and Calla.  But today, there’d be no time for that.  Today would be different from any other day Rose had since she’d come to the mansion.

Edgar didn’t look up at the woman who passed his door in the hallway that rainy morning.  Every inch of her skin was covered.  She was wearing Rose’s worn raincoat and gloves, with galoshes that came to her knees.  Her head was down and covered by a hood.  She walked quickly, purposefully.

Tears filled Calla’s eyes as she opened the front door and ran down the front steps to the drive, where Rose was waiting with the van.  She’d ducked out of the house earlier undetected, leaving the doors unlocked for Calla to follow.  Calla laid across the back seat, keeping her head low as Rose sped down the drive.

Read Part 6 – Banished

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Rose

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Read Part 1 – Calla

Read Part 2 – Tower

Read Part 3 – Beast

Calla pressed her lips together as her eyes ran over every inch of his face. Thick, jet black hair fell over his forehead, which was unnaturally white. He had an unusual nose, the bridge starting in the middle of his forehead and coming to a peak several inches above his lips, leaving a wide gap between his nose and mouth. Wet, blue eyes bulged out of their sockets and were lopsided, the left eye being much lower than the other. A grotesque-looking patch of skin under his right eye was engorged with blood and pulsating, as though it were filled with hundreds of tiny, slithering worms. Edgar stared at her, awaiting her reaction. She managed a tiny smile, and whispered, “It doesn’t change a thing.”

It was true.

The answer seemed to satisfy both of them, who moved on to their favorite subject – money. Calla stopped listening, her mind back on the woman who’d just disappeared into the kitchen.

The days dragged onward without much variation. Each day Calla spent much of her time alone while Edgar was wandering through the other, restricted, wings of the crumbling mansion, doing who knew what. The only thing that had changed – her bedroom door was no longer locked. She could move freely about one wing of the house, which meant that in addition to the bedroom, she had access to the dining room, kitchen, and library. It mattered little. All the doors that led to the other wings of the house, and the outside, were locked.

Every evening at dinner, Edgar chose another old-fashioned, unflattering, ill-fitting dress for her to wear. They spoke little, Calla living in constant fear of displeasing him. She wore the evidence of his displeasure on her skin. When she didn’t dress and come down to dinner quickly enough, when he didn’t like her answer to one of his questions, when her appearance didn’t meet his expectations, he vented his anger, violently, painfully.

The only bright spot in her days, besides her long afternoons in the library, was her time spent with Rose, the only servant caring for the sprawling property. She was a few years older than Calla, with the beginnings of soft lines etching her olive-skinned face. She had huge dark brown eyes even sadder than Calla’s, and chestnut hair scattered with gray that she always wore in a no-nonsense bun. Calla helped Rose with her work, and in return, Rose gave her information.  The first thing she learned – Rose was as trapped as she. She’d shown up to the mansion one winter day, inquiring about a job, and been attacked by Edgar and locked away. She was only allowed off the property once per month to go into town for supplies. Just like Calla, she’d been disowned by her family. No one was looking for her. It had been 10 years.

It was obvious to Rose that Catherine, Edgar’s mother, had no intention of ever giving her son his share of the family fortune in her lifetime. She never expected Edgar find a wife. And now that Calla was in the picture, she had no choice but to up the ante. She wanted an heir. Edgar hadn’t mentioned his mother’s words since that first horrible night, but Calla knew he would. She could feel him. Thinking about it. It was a matter of time. Whenever she thought of it, she felt the bile rising in her throat.

“Why don’t you run? The next time you get to leave?” Calla asked Rose morning they scrubbed windows in the kitchen side by side, looking out at the sunrise.

“Where?”

Calla said nothing. But that night at dinner, she grabbed a steak knife and stabbed Edgar through the arm. As he screamed and bled she swiped the keys from his pocket and ran for the door, holding her breath.

Part 5 – Quest

Thursday Thriller – Tower

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Read Part 1 – Calla

No one is looking for me.  

Those words sat like an anchor in the pit of Calla’s stomach because she knew how true they were.  The result of years of lies, stealing from her family and her friends to feed her lengthy addiction, the blackness that had possessed her mind and body for more than a decade.  Everyone had cut her off.  Even her mother, who no longer took her calls, who pulled the blinds closed when her daughter’s car came up the drive.  She was completely alone.  And he knew.  He’d been watching.

She’d awoken in a locked bedroom, where she’d remained for hours.  There was a huge four poster bed with an ornate carving in the mahogany headboard.  A family crest.  The bed was laden with a thick rich purple duvet with gold stitching.  A dress from another time, scarlet red with a tight bodice, puffed sleeves and full skirt was lying across the bed, with a note, commanding her to put it on. There was a window directly across from the bed, bolted shut.  She could see no signs of life outside.  Just a neglected garden, overrun with weeds, a white van parked in the bushes.  Screaming would do her no good.

There was also a bookshelf in the corner, stocked with all of her favorites, even a connecting bathroom with a luxurious vanity and whirlpool bath.  He wanted her to be comfortable, locked away, waiting for whatever he had planned.

The locks clicked open.  The knob began to turn.  Calla slowly backed away until she was pressed against the wall, feeling foolish and frightened.  There was nowhere to run.  The man stepped inside, dressed in formal attire – all black, a well-tailored suit.  His face was covered with a white mask, but she could see his eyes were steely and blue.

“Why aren’t you dressed?”  His baritone voice was cold, even-toned as he stepped closer.

She wanted to cower but she stood tall, her eyes meeting his.  “I won’t do what you ask.  I’m not playing this…this…game…whatever it is…just so you can kill me…”  The blow seemed to come out of nowhere.  His fist was a blur, barreling into the side of her head with a force that made her dizzy.  She crumpled to the floor, blood trickling down the side of her head to the carpet, as he leaned over to whisper into her ear.

“You will do everything that I ask!”  He stood, straightening his jacket.  “Clean yourself up.  Get dressed.”

The door slammed behind him.  Calla curled up into a ball, making herself as tiny as possible.  Though she knew no one was listening, she screamed.

Part 3 – Beast 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Thursday Thriller – Calla

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If Calla had known this would be her last moment of freedom for two years, she would have taken a second to look at the sunset. It was an especially gorgeous one that day. Purples and oranges and reds swirling the sky, the sun an amber orb disappearing behind a lush line of trees. But she was thinking of other things – the daily uphill battle of her sobriety, the dirtbag ex she still loved who’d just left town without saying goodbye, how she would get through another sleepless night alone in her dingy apartment without a drink.

It happened so fast. She only caught a glimpse of his face before the hood covered her head. Enough to see that it was abnormal, disturbingly so. She clawed and screamed as she was tossed into the back of a van like cargo, the doors locked swiftly. How could no one see? Hear her screams? Was she that invisible?

She bounced around painfully against the hard surface as the van rumbled over jagged, bumpy roads. The ride lasted so long, her screaming until her voice gave out, she wondered if they were even in the same state when the van came to a final stop.

The doors opened again. She still couldn’t see, but knew it had to be night. The air felt cool; the song of crickets filled the silence as he dragged her outside and tossed her over his shoulder as though she weighed nothing. The fight was out of her. She tried other tactics. Pleading. Compassion. And when those failed – manipulation.

“There will be people looking for me,” she whispered, the loudest she could manage. “They’ve probably already called the police.”

There was a cruel twist to his laughter. “Calla,” he said as she heard the sound of a creaky door opening. “We both know that no one is looking for you. It’s why you were chosen.”

She felt a pinch, then all went black.

Read Part 2 – Tower

 

My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form. 

Ella

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She opened the front windows and let in the fresh spring wind.  The house was finally empty.  The night before, she’d returned from the ball and cleared the dwelling of her stepfamily’s belongings, dumping them in the garden.  The bailiff was waiting when her stepmother and stepsisters arrived home, ready to escort them off the land.  This had been her father’s home.  Now it was hers.

Sitting on the window-seat, she leaned outside, inhaling the aroma of fresh flowers and sweetgrass.  She was finally free.  Then she heard it.  The sound of galloping horses, men yelling, a loud arrogant voice rising above the din, commanding them all, the job he was born to do.  The Prince.   Groaning, she opened the front door and sat in the garden among her former family’s belongings as they came up the lane.

“Saskia!”  The prince yelled, calling her by the false name she’d given him at the ball.  He jumped from his horse with a flourish, pulling a sparkly shoe from his royal coat.  His golden hair fell into his eyes as he approached her, extending the shoe in his gloved hand.

“Thank you for returning my shoe.”  She took it, sliding it onto her bare foot a moment for his benefit.

“Aha!  It fits!”  His deep baritone laugh filled the air and shook the earth.  Frightened birds took flight from the nearby trees.

“Yes, as I said, it’s my shoe.”

The prince immediately kneeled before her, proposing marriage.

“Have you gone mad?” She asked, motioning for him to stand.  “We’ve only just met.  You don’t even know my name.”

“It’s not…Saskia?”  She shook her head no and he looked crestfallen.  Life’s first disappointment.  “But…but…you and I…the ball…”

“You’ve come all this way.  You must be parched.  I can offer you a drink.”

She turned to go back into the house and he followed, confused.  He looked ill at ease sitting in her humble parlor, sipping from a tumbler.  As she sat across from him, he offered her a modest smile.

“So,” he said, removing his hat.  “If we’re going to get better acquainted, may I at least know your name?  Your real one this time.”

She smiled back, pausing for a moment as she brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes, thinking of the cruel nickname her stepsisters had given her.  She wasn’t that girl any longer.  “Ella.  My name is Ella.”

 

For today’s Story A Day prompt – Write a story in the voice that came most easily to you this month.

 

 

 

Sideways

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She hid, breathless, checking to make sure the Prince was no longer in pursuit.  What a mistake it had been to lie her way into the ball, and what a disappointment so-called Prince Charming had turned out to be.  He was an arrogant, spoiled daddy’s boy who’d dominated her attention the entire night.  She’d wanted to mingle, make some new friends, this being her first night out in years, but, no, he was “enchanted” by her, he said, refusing to allow her to leave his side.  Good thing she’d given him a fake name so he’d never be able to find her, ha!  It was only when she arrived home that she realized her shoe was missing.

 

The Six Sentence Story prompt this week is check.  I must have sideways Cinderella stories on the brain!

The Other Shoe

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Syd walked along the promenade, pulling her jacket tighter.  Her mood was pensive, introspective, that chilly spring morning. The sky was a clear, brilliant blue. The wind blowing off the water was fresh and invigorating, but frigid.  She had reason to feel apprehensive.  Her stepsisters were on their way.

How silly she’d been when her father had remarried, so excited at the prospect of having sisters after being an only child her entire life. She’d imagined late nights, giggling in the dark, secrets and stories flying rapidly across their shared bedroom, movie marathons, building a sisterhood that would last a lifetime.

What actually happened was that her father’s new wife took one look at Syd and decided she was common, beneath her, and it didn’t take long for her daughters to adopt her view. They took pleasure in making her life miserable, with their daily name-calling and cruel pranks.  Syd’s most painful memory was the day she came home from school to find all of her clothes torn and damaged by bleach, including a special gown that had been left to her by her mother.

After her father died, she’d practically become their servant. All the chores – laundry, cooking, cleaning, gardening, fell on her shoulders. It was clear, Mina and Piper were on one side, she on the other.

She had a new life now, attending college on scholarship, dating a great guy, one that Mina and Piper had also both been interested in, at their mother’s insistence, due to his pedigree. When Syd and William started dating after she moved to the dorms, her stepsisters had started ignoring her completely. Syd hated to admit it, but she’d enjoyed the peace.  What could they possibly want now?

They were approaching her, steaming cups of coffee in their hands, their pale cheeks flushed red from the cold, wisps of their identical red hair blowing in their faces. She’d heard their mother had moved away, marrying another wealthy man after squandering Syd’s father’s fortune, calling her daughters disappointments after they’d failed to follow in her footsteps. They were on their own, working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Had their new life humbled them?

As they spoke, Syd had her guard up, though they both apologized for how they’d treated her, tears pooling in their wide green eyes. She was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, though neither had asked for anything except penance. Something flashed in her mind.  Her father before he died. His daughter’s treatment was not lost on him, though for most of his second marriage he’d been too weak with illness to do anything about it. They’re your only family now, he’d said. Find a way to be happy.

Though Syd was still skeptical, she reached for her sisters and embraced them both, deciding, for now, to forgive.

For the Story a Day prompt – Rewrite a fairy tale

Vision

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The little girl closed her eyes as she stepped into her bedroom.  Outstretching her hands, she felt the cold, smooth wood of her dresser in front of her and knew she was facing the mirror.  She took a deep breath and wished as hard as she could.  She hoped that today would be the day she transformed.  Every night, she dreamed that she would become a princess.  Everyone knew princesses were beautiful. Long, silky blond hair, tumbling in waves down their backs.  Big, sparkly blue eyes.  Small upturned noses and cherry lips.  Ivory skin.

Please. Please. Please. Please.  She whispered inside.

She opened her eyes, and her stomach fell.  Nothing had changed.  Her skin was dark brown, her hair thick with dark, rough kinky curls.  Her nose broad and unwieldy.  Ugly.  There was no need to look anymore, or wish.  She wasn’t a princess.  That was the day she threw the blanket over the mirror.

Years later, she removed the blanket.  Her breath caught.  She was changed. A princess at last.  It wasn’t her face or her skin or even her hair that was different.  It was her vision that had transformed.

For Story a Day and The Daily Post