Devil in a Yellow Dress

***This story was my submission to the words and brushes international competition.  It’s a wonderful artist collaboration project where authors choose paintings and create a story based on that that work of art.

yellow dress

 

I stood there without moving, just staring at it for what felt like hours. I couldn’t believe my luck. A note card with the words see you at 8 scrawled neatly in ink stared back at me.The card was laying on top of a rose and the most beautiful yellow dress I had ever seen. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. He always said yellow was his favorite color on me. “You look like a summer day” he had whispered in my ear on our first date. I had worn my favorite yellow sundress and worn my auburn curls down around my face. He took me in his arms and we danced right there on my front lawn. Remembering the times when he was sweet made my stomach turn.

He had found me. After running for a whole year the bastard had found me, broken into my home and planted this disgustingly sweet threat. How terribly romantic of him to show up on the one year anniversary of my disappearance. One year since he beat me bloody and I ran away.

It had been in all the local papers back in our little South Carolina town. I had gone missing late one night after we had been out with friends. The police had found emails from an unrequited male admirer of mine who had grown increasingly frustrated with my rejection of his advances.

Do you know how easy it is to fake your own kidnapping? All you have to do is set up two seperate email addresses on two different servers and then come up with a torrid affair and BAM, motive and intent. The police had also found a broken window and blood on the carpet that suggested foul play. The blood had matched my DNA of course and they put two and two together and came to the conclusion that my online lover had taken me for himself. What the police didn’t know, and what my husband had been too embarrassed to admit, was that my blood was on the carpet because he had used my forehead to break the window.

I am sure he had known all along that I wasn’t really kidnapped, but I knew that the emails and the bloody window scene would keep the police around long enough to escape. It had taken six months for me to get everything in order. I figured that was a believable timeline to meet and cultivate a relationship with someone in an online forum for homeopathic remedies for k-9 psoriasis. It was sheer luck that the worst beating he had ever given me coincided with the same night I had chosen to run.

I pried my eyes away from the foreboding note disguised as a romantic notion and made my way to the bathroom. I didn’t bother checking the rest of my tiny house to see if he was still here, hiding somewhere waiting for the right moment to strike. He was as dramatic as he was lethal, and he wanted a production.

I turned the knob on the clawfoot tub and let the water begin to flood it. This beautiful porcelain tub was the reason I picked this house. It reminded me of the one we had in my childhood home. Baths were always comforting to me. I would take a bath whenever I was sad or ill and I would come out feeling refreshed and recharged. It was an escape. I would take a bath after my husband would beat me. I’d watch the blood mix with the water as it cleaned me and made me new again.

When enough water had filled the tub I undressed and tied my hair up on top of my head. I stepped in slowly, easing myself down into the steaming water. I loved the feeling of being enveloped by liquid heat. As if it seared away my old skin to give way to a new outer shell. Tonight this bath would serve as my baptismal. I would enter the water still a scared girl waiting to be hunted down, and emerge a woman ready to face her demons.

I always knew he would come. It was because of that knowledge that I had only slept two hours at a time in the last year. I had left him, lied to him, but worst of all I had outsmarted him. As I laid in the still water, that night ran through my head like one of those made for television movies. We had been invited out with friends that evening. We were in the middle of quite a long good spell of about three weeks. Work was good so his stress level was low.

Thomas and Jeanine were decent friends of ours. I was never really allowed to speak to thomas alone,  and Jeanine and I didn’t have any shared interest other than trying to keep our husbands happy. She was not aware, or she chose not to be aware that my life depended on keeping mine happy. I went along on these little double dates full of small talk and mindless drabble because it made him happy. I went to ensure my survival.

It was memorial day weekend, which in our small southern town meant parades and carnivals. The main streets were barricaded off for the town’s residents to dance and celebrate in the streets with blue grass music and bar-b-que. The Evening was warm but the summer humidity had not hit yet so it wasn’t unbearable. We had just finished sharing a meal and walked down to a big pavilion where people were dancing. It was a perfect depiction of americana. Everything was all red white and blue with some denim thrown in for good measure.

My husband had asked Jeanine to dance, I am pretty positive they were having an affair but I could never ask him about that of course. He looked so happy twirling her around the asphalt dance floor. Her blonde hair like lightning under the street light. I sat with Thomas making idle small talk to pass the time as our spouses entertained each other. Apparently Thomas was fine with his wife dancing with another man. “I’ve got two left feet,” he had said watching Jeanine and my husband. “She loves to dance, though. Whatever puts a smile on her face.”

I knew something was wrong when we began to walk back to our car. My husband’s hand had started on the small of my back, gently guiding me to the car. To most people this would seem like a gentlemanly gesture. A signal that you are a couple. For my husband, it was a sign of dominance. As we got closer to the car his hand moved up my back to the base of my neck where he squeezed. He opened the car door and launched me forward into the passenger seat. I told myself to remain calm, it would all be over soon. I reminded myself that in a few hours there would be a woman in a pickup truck waiting in an abandoned parking lot waiting for me to meet her so she could take me across the state line to meet another woman who would help me get to the next woman in the web.

“You’re sleeping with Thomas aren’t you?” he almost whispered after he got into the car. Sometimes whispers are more terrifying than a shout.

“Of course not,” I answered, but I knew my words were futile. His hand came swinging across the seat and the back of his palm collided with my face with unrelenting force.

“Don’t lie to me!” he said as he started the car and headed for our house. When we got there the interrogation began. By interrogation I mean he shouted and slapped me around while I stayed silent because he would always contort the things I would say. I never knew what would set him off, so I just stopped saying anything at all. I just let him go until he was done. He stopped once my head hit the glass. He wanted to punish me, not kill me. After that of course, he was sweet as pie.

The water in my bath had gone cold. I had gotten lost in the memories of that night and lost track of time. I sat up and craned my neck so I could see the clock on my bedside table. The glowing red numbers told me it was 6:52. I needed to finish getting ready. I sat at my vanity with my makeup brushes laid out like surgical tools. First a little blush to seem youthful and lively. Then eyeshadow and mascara for a bit of mystery. Finally, lipstick in the brightest red I could find in order to keep his attention on the words that I needed to say.

I unpinned my hair and it fell in soft curls around my shoulders. When I looked in the mirror I could just make out the girl from our first date hiding behind the fine lines and dark circles under my eyes. She was there, but she was tired. Tired of running and tired of hiding. Most of all she wanted to live again. I may have run away six months ago on that breezy summer night, but I haven’t been free for a very long time.

At 7:55 I slipped on the yellow dress. It fit like a glove. The full skirt fell to my knees and the bodice had a sweetheart neckline, which complimented my figure nicely. I checked the clock one last time, 7:58.The last thing I put on was my old opal ring, the one he had given me on our first anniversary. It was huge and beautiful and I hated that I loved it. I jumped when the doorbell rang. I loved the wind chime doorbell on this house, but tonight it was more ominous than usual. Like church bells before a funeral procession.

I walked slowly to the door, there was no need to hurry. Once he was inside my house it would all be over fairly quickly. I took a deep breath before I opened the door, I honestly had no idea what to say to him. When I finally opened the door he was standing there smiling. He looked like he had aged twenty years since the last time I saw him, but I’ll be damned if my stomach didn’t flip at the sight of him. He was always ruggedly handsome.

“Rebecca,” he breathed. He was holding a bouquet of red roses, like the one he left on my bed.

“Did you let him into the house?” Officer Rankin’s voice brought me back into the present. The harsh florescent lights above us flickered slightly. The room was freezing and I pulled the scratchy blanket they had given me tighter around my arms.

“Yes, I let him in. I really saw no other option.”

“What happened next, “ Rankin asked. She had an authoritative demeanor, but her eyes were soft. I was glad she was the one that responded to my 911 call.

“He came in and we sat on the couch and just caught up for awhile. He wanted to know where I had been and what I had been up to. He was very sweet at first,” I said, making sure to blink back my tears. I didn’t want to completely fall to pieces yet. I’ve seen a lot of movies and television programs where the female who has been in distress just completely loses it and cries buckets of tears. I’ve always thought that the actresses that try to hold back their tears to show strength are more believable. I needed them to believe me.

“When did he get violent?” the other officer asked. I think his name is Franklin. I didn’t really pay attention to him. Rankin was on my side already, I could feel it. She kept shaking her head when I told her how John, my husband, would beat me, how I had to run to survive. There had been a sort of solidarity built between us during my tale. That’s what it was after all, a tale. I wasn’t lying, my husband did beat me and he did come after me tonight, but that was not the whole truth. I couldn’t tell them the truth.

“He asked me to go back to South Carolina with him,” I said, adding just enough shakiness to my voice. “He asked if I missed our life together, and I guess I didn’t give him the answer he wanted,” I finished with a whisper, touching my bruised cheek. It really hurt more and more as I spoke. I’ll never be able to look at a candle holder again without my face hurting. Whacking myself in the face and giving myself some scratches was a small price to pay.

“John came at me with a knife when I said I was better off on my own. I ran into the kitchen where I keep my pistol,” Now this was the perfect time to turn on the water works. I Let the tears fall down my face. There were so many that they rolled down my cheeks until they spilled out onto my yellow dress leaving dark wet spots.

“I didn’t want to shoot him, and I told him that, but he kept coming for me!”  I shouted hysterically. Poor officer Rankin could barely contain herself. I could see it in the way she looked at me.She pitied me and that was was fine. I needed her pity in this moment. She probably wouldn’t pity me as much if she knew I had planned to kill my husband the moment I saw that disgusting note he left on my bed. I knew he wouldn’t stop coming for me. I knew I would never have peace.  

“I was so terrified that he would kill me! I didn’t want to die!” Now for my finale I crumple into the shape of a helpless woman with my head in my hands as I sob with abandon. Sobbing comes easily. It’s a form of rejoicing, a cathartic act. It was finally over, my tormentor was gone.  

“Thank you Ma’am, I can see this was difficult for you,” officer Franklin says with a gruff voice. What a wonderful observation captain obvious. I look at him with a blank expression and nod.

“ It sounds like you were acting in self defense,” Officer Rankin added as she patted my hand.

There it was. All my planning had worked after all. What’s the old saying? If at first you don’t succeed…? Plan A was to run, and that worked for a little while, but I always knew it wouldn’t last. So that meant I had to move on to plane B.I had the pistol in my hand when I opened the door and told him to keep his mouth shut and have a seat on the couch. I wanted to tell him that I planned all of this. That I duped him and made him look like an idiot and once he was gone I would tell everyone what he did to me. I was going to smear his name from Carolina to California.

“Well how about this turn of events?” He said with a sly smile. Even with a gun on him he was a sarcastic son of a bitch. “You probably think you’re pretty clever don’t you?” His laughter at me filled my living room and hit me harder than any blow he had ever delt. I couldn’t help myself, I backhanded him as hard as I could. My opal ring left a nice dent in his cheek. When that didn’t stop his laughter I pistol whipped him

“You’ll be sorry for that,” He said with a menacing smile as he rose slowly from the couch. My confidence was wavering as the pistol shook in my hands. I backed into the kitchen keeping the gun pointed at him.

“Stop! Don’t come any closer!” I screamed.

He laughed again and that’s all it took. I squeezed the trigger and fired three shots. John went down and I stood in my kitchen for a moment catching my breath. I slowly walked over to where he was splayed out on the floor and looked down at him. I wanted the image of him helpless and limp seared into my brain. I could see that he was still breathing so I  nudged him with the toe of my shoe. He reached a hand out at me and made an aimless swipe in my direction.

“No sir”, I chided as I stepped back out of his reach. “I don’t want blood on my pretty dress.” I said with a smile. I aimed the gun down at him as if I were shooting minnows in a barrel and fired.

Officer Rankin walked me out of the interrogation room and sat me down in a somewhat comfortable chair in the lobby of the police station.

“So what now?” I croaked, looking at her through bloodshot eyes.

“We’ll get you to the hospital to clean up your wounds and then you can go home and put all this behind you,” she answered with a kind expression as she patted my shoulder. I unwrapped the blanket and handed it to her.

“That really is a beautiful yellow dress,” she said as I stood and brushed off my skirt.

“Thank you,” I said with a sweet smile. Yellow had always been my color.

Advertisements

Lost in Space – Short story competition

ON NOW

**Update** 06/19/2017 I won! This is the winning submission for the Lost in Space short story contest. I am thrilled and completely humbled to have won my very first competition.

This piece was written as my submission for the Lost in Space short story competition hosted by Floriopolis.

“I’m sorry, Detective Mackay, but there is no student with that name and birth date at this school.”

“You’re sure?” I knew I was pushing it, but I just didn’t understand how this could be possible. The large red-headed guidance counselor – whose faded name tag identified her as Ms. Simons, ‘Director of Guidance’ – breathed a loud sigh and pushed her glasses up her sweaty nose. She turned back to her computer and banged a few keys on the keyboard. I didn’t miss the longing look she gave the smut novel sitting on the other side of her desk.

“I am positive,” she said, turning back to me. “Would you like me to try an alternate spelling?”

“How many ways can you spell Peter Miller?” I asked. My aggravated tone was immediately greeted with a threatening look from Ms. Simons. I wanted to get right in her face and tell her that a young man, who at one point had definitely attended her school, was missing and I needed to find him immediately. I could tell, however, that she was done with me. My snark was delaying her precious alone time with Mr. Exposed Nipples on the cover of her book, the spine of which looked very well worn from many lonely afternoons.

“Well, if there’s nothing else I can help you with sir, I have work to do,” she said, placing her reading glasses on top of her head.

“Thank you for your time, Ms. Simons,” I said with as much appreciation as I could muster. I pushed myself out of the stiff office chair and made my way to the hallway. As I turned to shut her office door, I watched as the eager guidance counselor picked up her novel and reached into her desk drawer for a bag of spicy Cheetos. Work to do, indeed.

 

I pulled my tablet out of my bag to consult the case file as I walked through the school’s courtyard. Class wouldn’t be out for a few more minutes, so I decided to sit on top of a red picnic table and pull up the victim’s information. Peter Miller. He was currently a high school senior at Ridgemont High – or he was supposed to be, anyway. A quick glance at the sign in front of the building told me that I was in the right place. Peter was last seen at a local coffee shop after school on September 25th, 2028. I quickly opened the calendar application on the tablet to make sure it was in fact the 25th of September. Going back just a few days didn’t usually mess with my devices, but I checked anyway just to be on the safe side. I didn’t understand how there was no record of Peter being a student here. Peter’s parents had given me full access to all of his information, including Peter’s last school yearbook.

I had never had something like this happen on a case. Detectives of my kind were still fairly new since the discovery of time travel was only about a decade ago. Most cases were open and shut. Someone would go missing, get kidnapped, or even be murdered, and if their family had enough money, my firm would be contacted. We conducted investigations in the P.D., or present day, to find out when and where they were last seen and whom they were with. We would then travel back to the time of their last appearance, find them, and get them to a safe house until we were able to catch the perpetrator. The bell rang, bringing me out of my thoughts. I looked up as students began to flood the courtyard.

“Excuse me, what’s today’s date?” I asked a student who was walking by.

“Um, the 25th, I think,” he said while he pulled his phone out to check.

“Yes, but what is the year?” I asked as I looked back at my tablet.

The boy gave me a puzzled look. “Dude, it’s 2028,” he said with an eye roll as he walked past me while mumbling something about pot heads.

Dude, it was September 25th, 2028.

The day Peter Miller disappeared without trace.

One day before his parents had reported him missing.

Two days before they had reached out to me for my private detective services.

Three days before I would call Ridgemont High to confirm that Peter Miller was currently a student and had been in class on the 25th of September 2028.

I flipped through the file, and found Peter’s parking lot number. I hopped off of the picnic table with a new determination. I knew that if Peter was not a student on record he wouldn’t be parked in his spot, but I wanted to see who was.

I pulled into spot 74 and turned off my engine. Peter’s Jeep was supposed to be parked here for another 10 minutes at least, according to the time on my dashboard. I heard a voice outside my window and looked up to find a girl talking animatedly on her phone. I immediately recognized her, and smiled at my luck. This girl had to know Peter. Maybe she knew why he wasn’t a student here anymore, or where I could find him. Bethany Flemming, Peter Miller’s girlfriend. This bubbly girl with the contagious laugh has no idea that in just 48 hours she will be in my office crying, telling me about the last time she had seen Peter. She was the last person to see him at the coffee shop where they had met to study for a calculus test. She would look up at me through her tears, a look of vague recognition in her eyes. “You look familiar,” she will say with a croaky voice as she leaves my office. Even after 5 years of doing this job, it still gave me a thrill when someone subconsciously made a time travel connection.

Only our clients knew what we did; it’s one of our rules. Former clients were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating they would never reveal the identity of their investigator. We aren’t stupid, we know people talk. How else would we get work? Unfortunately more and more people were finding out about us and wanted to either join ranks or stop us. The ones who wanted to stop us posed more of a threat, obviously, because they were mostly the people who got caught.

I opened my door just as she hung up her phone call. I gave her a nod and a smile when she looked up at me.

“Excuse me, miss, who usually parks here?” I asked.

“No one. That spot has been empty all year,” she answered as she threw her book bag in the backseat of her car. This was getting stranger by the minute. How does she not know who Peter is? They had dated for two years and, according to his parents, Peter had wanted to propose once they graduated. I felt my heart begin to race as a million different questions flew through my brain. Where was this kid? Had someone completely erased his existence? Who would be capable of doing that? Someone with access to time travel. The idea that criminals were evolving to outrun us both terrified and excited me.

“Do you know a Peter Miller?”

I shouldn’t have asked that. It could risk too many things, but I couldn’t stop myself from blurting it out. Bethany thought for a moment before answering.

“I don’t think so, does he go here?” she asked.

“I thought he did. Thank you for you for your time.”

I gave her one final smile and turned to make my way back to my car. I sat and stared at my steering wheel as I contemplated the two possible courses of action I could take. One was to go back to the present and check all the facts with Peter’s parents – if they were still his parents, that is. The second was to go back to Peter’s birth date and make sure he was actually born. Having made my decision I reached over to open my glove compartment to get out my travel device when something caught my eye. There was a mark on the front of the glove compartment that I had never noticed before. I ran my finger over the mark, it was a scratch in the shape of an “F”. When I pulled my finger away from the scratch, another mark began to form. I sat back in my seat, unable to believe what I was seeing. I watched as the words “FIND ME” appeared in deep scratches across my glove compartment.

Summer Reading Adventure

Summer reading (1)

I grew up performing in some fashion. Whether it was singing, dancing, or just trying to make my friends laugh. When I was in high school I got into the Theatre and a true passion was ignited. I took a break from the acting world for a few years once I graduated college with a degree in Theatre.

Recently I decided to dive back in and had my first role in 8 years as Blanche Dubois in a local production of A Streetcar Named Desire. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time and it made me realize how much I had missed acting.

Taking on the role of Blanche is extremely taxing on the actor who portrays her. Even more so if that actor has a full time job and is a wife and mother, like myself.  I can’t wait to take on my next theatrical endeavor, but right now I am taking a break for a little while until another show comes along that I want to audition for. In the meantime, I’ve decided to occupy my mind and satisfy my Theatre itch by making a a summer reading list of scripts to read.

This list is compiled of classics, staples, and new work. I asked friends and the internet for plays that all actors should read and this is what I came up with. Most of these I have not read and some of them I have, but not in a very long time.

So without any further ado, here is a list of 15 plays I will read over the next three months.

Betrayal – Harold Pinter
Richard III – William Shakespeare
Bright Ideas – Eric Coble
Red – John Logan
Uncommon Women and Others – Wendy Wasserstein
The Pillowman – Martin McDonagh
Killer Joe – Tracy Letts
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – Edward Albee
The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
Dr. Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
Long Day’s Journey Into Night – Eugene O’Neil
Machinal – Sophie Treadwell
Oedipus the King- Sophocles
Shadow Box – Michael Cristofer
Private Lives – Noel Coward