“Leave the door open.”
Mary half smiled as she slid further into the middle of the bed, her exhausted body relishing the comfort of the pink cotton duvet; her tired eyes slowly looking around the bedroom.
A soft glow from the candles in the landing leaked through the open doorway providing her with just enough light to see faint outlines from the familiar objects which surrounded her.
Content, she closed her eyes.
She was safe.
Why wouldn’t she be? I was here.
I used to whisper her name, always when she was alone.
Seems she was always surprised to see me, which made me smile. We were creatures of solitude her and me.
I’d often leave notes, send flowers, and even call when I could, never needing to speak, just so she’d know I was there, thinking, always about her.
This is the room she grew up in as a child, untouched by time and carefully maintained by her mother, as a kind of shrine I suppose.
I’ve waited so patiently for her to return to this place, watching as her mother cleaned, dusted, vacuumed; she washed the bedclothes almost on a daily basis, rather curious as the bed hadn’t been slept in since she was here last with me and yet, well how clean can bedclothes get?
I’ve missed seeing her, not just in the bedroom – a gentleman shouldn’t kiss and tell – but at work too.
She always wore that same perfume, smelled of spring time, brightened up the place whenever she walked by.
Her smile was so radiant, so hypnotic. That smile was to die for.
Of course, some people took the smile and perfume combination as a personal invitation. John Matthews; he thought just because he was her boss he could monopolize her time, inviting her into his office every afternoon, doing who knows what behind that closed door.
Once she was in there for sixty-eight minutes!
I followed him to his car that night.
I tried to tell him, to explain, you see I didn’t want to hurt him. I said ‘sexual harassment is a crime.’ I tried to explain but he just didn’t listen, then he shouted at me, told me to leave him alone.
I didn’t want to hurt him.
I had to…for Mary.
Look at her sleeping, so tranquil, a silent symphony in motion. Her lace nightgown effortlessly moving in harmony with her heartbeat, following the perfect rhythm as her chest moves gently up and down, the gentle breeze from the open window blowing across her hair and face.
It will almost be a shame to wake her.
The door slammed shut, jolting Mary wide awake. She sat up and looked nervously around the room, her eyes finally resting on the open window.
Logic told her that a gust of wind from the open window probably forced the door to close. She paused a moment to consider, thinking back.
That window, that open window was closed when she went to bed, she was sure of it.
She carefully scanned the room again.
Apart from the light in the corridor which passed through the space at the foot of the door, the room was pitch black. It was hard enough to distinguish between the different objects that surrounded her let alone recognize a potential intruder that may be lurking in the shadows.
She hid beneath the duvet, pulse rate increased, and closed her eyes trying to convince herself that all was well.
A faint whisper.
She poked her head out and looked around, her eyes gradually accustoming themselves to the limited light.
‘Hello?’ she cried, nervously looking around.
Her arms wrapped around her legs assuming a foetal position on the bed.
‘Is anyone there?’
There was a slight pause before she heard the final whisper. It was louder and more menacing than the previous two times and so close it seemed that the voice was right above her head.
‘Mary, I’m right here.’
The light in the landing was blown out, but the breathing above her head continued, slowly and steadily.
Mary clamped her eyes shut, not daring to look or move. She could feel the cold breath on her neck. Goose bumps began to form on her skin as she forced her arms tighter around her knees and buried her head inward.
A river of tears fought to escape the deadlock that her eyelids had created.
She began to shiver.
The duvet was gently removed from the bed and placed on the floor.
She felt an icy cold finger gently caress the back of her neck and slowly make its way down her spine, stopping at every vertebra as if each of her bones were a Braille question, and a brief pause was needed to contemplate the gravity of the answer.
With her eyes closed she could still feel the burning intensity of his stare.
The icy hand was no longer touching her skin, it was now stroking her hair from root to tip, gently massaging her scalp as it did.
Mary slowly opened her eyes and turned her head to see her captor.
The nervous, inquisitive look quickly transformed to a petrified stare when she saw his face.
He smiled; the gaping hole where his front two teeth should be, the cut below his left eye, the indentation on his upper lip.
It was him, but how?
Her heart rate rapidly increased and her tears were now free flowing.
His hand, instead of caressing her scalp now firmly clenched her hair, his grasp gradually becoming tighter and tighter, till he had positioned his body so he was straddling her mid-section.
She tried to pull free but her body wouldn’t move, it was literally frozen.
Her paralysis seemed to be only from the neck down. Turning her head, she looked toward the closed door and tried to shout for her father to help. The first two times, rather pathetic weedy sounds were all that would leave her lips.
An increased yank of her hair from her aggressor seemed to give her improved vigour and she let out a piercing cry, which shocked even her captor and he released his grip.
Pleadingly her eyes searched the door handle for some sign of movement, for the hope her father would hear and come crashing into the room to rescue his daughter from this evil.
‘Father’ she shouted.
‘Faaather’ she repeated, still louder.
The door did not budge, the handle did not flicker, there was no rescue. This made her tormentor laugh.
‘Your father won’t be coming Mary’.
She stared at him disbelievingly.
‘Your father is… sleeping downstairs’.
‘Daddy’ she cried softly, now not caring what happened to her.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘He is. He didn’t understand about our love.’
He smiled again.
And now you’re mine.
The tears continued, but something began to change, an anger, like an eager volcano, stirred from within. Fear very quickly turned to hate and her breathing resembled a bull, readying itself for the charge.
Her captor, the red flag.
With increased vigor, she lunged forward with all her might digging the nails of one hand into his eye whilst the other grasped at his throat.
He squealed in pain and jumped back from the bed and onto the floor, blood pouring from his eye socket, one hand covering his wound.
She saw her opportunity, jumped from the bed and dove at the door reaching for the handle. She had barely touched it when a sudden blow to the head sent her crashing violently to the ground.
Determined, she struggled to her hands and feet, but that was as far as she got. The two massive bloody hands of her captor were now round her throat, squeezing from behind, unrelenting, constant, harder, tighter…
Mary felt the life slowly leave her body.
Her heart rate once so strong and innocent, now gradually slowing, her body limp, her eyes closing. Now accepting the finality of her fate.
Her mouth opened; one last whimper for help.
Her final word, her final breath, she was dead.
He released his grip and lay next to her on the floor, blood still pouring from his eye socket, he lovingly stroked her hair.
The door opened.
Two elderly ladies walked into the room. Bright light from the afternoon sun shone through the closed window.
The room was perfectly kept, clean and tidy, nothing out of place. Mary and her captor were nowhere to be seen.
‘And this is the third bedroom’ said the lady with the black dress and a tear in her eye.
She sat on the bed and pinched in between her eyes a futile effort to stop the tear escaping and falling to her lap.
‘Are you alright?’ the other enquired with one helping hand on her shoulder.
‘Yes’ she replied, feigning a smile.
‘This was my daughters’ room. She died twenty years ago today, my husband too. I can sometimes feel her here, always so sad, so helpless. I swear I can still hear her calling sometimes.’ She paused and sighed.
‘You must think I’m crazy?’ She sighed and turned her head away.
The other lady, momentarily speechless, sat beside her on the bed.
‘I’m sorry’ she eventually offered. ‘I didn’t realize. Are you sure you want to sell the place, so many memories?’
‘Oh yes, enough memories, time this house belonged to a family again.’
She rose to her feet and walked through the door, followed by the other lady.
The door closed, the room was quiet once again. The lights dimmed as the window opened. On the bed, Mary yawned, her tired eyes struggling to stay awake.
‘Good night daddy’ she called, ‘leave the door open’.