Mae West said it best! Come misbehave with me and all the Authors at Booking in Biloxi March 7th!
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I am updating this short story post because, “somebody likes me”! I recently received 13 out of 15 points in a WOW (Women on Writing) contest. I didn’t win 🙁 but it was great to get some positive feedback. So here is the updated version of Saved By Hope. Hope you enjoy it.
Saved By Hope
“Chatter, chatter.” As my teeth chattered I rooted around to be sure that my covers were pulled up. Normally, I don’t have to check, my grandmother’s quilt is so heavy that it pins me to the bed. But tonight its weight isn’t enough to keep me warm. Curling into a ball I tucked my nose and mouth under my thick covers, hugged my knees into my chest and blew warm air on my cold hands but, it had no effect.
“Ahhgg!” No matter what position I tried, I couldn’t get warm. My muscles twitched and jumped while my teeth tried to bite my tongue. I drifted in and out of sleep, until my convulsing body made it difficult to breathe.
“Fever.” I must have a fever. The Ibuprofen tucked in the bathroom cabinet might as well be a thousand miles away.
“You’re ill?” The voice surrounded me.
“I kkkknow that!” I shouted. Damn, now I’m hearing voices and answering them. Ok, I’ll just throw the covers off, get the pills and right back in bed. My body answered that idea with a sudden violent spasm. As my body thrashed about a bolt of lightning so bright that I felt it on my closed lids lit my room. The convulsions finally slowed and calmed back to just shivering, but the light didn’t fade. I could still feel the heat on my eyelids. Scared that my room might be on fire, I forced my eyes open. The light wasn’t coming from outside, nor was my room on fire. A bright golden light surrounded me, the color deepening and flowing like the center of a huge candle dancing in a breeze. It burned my eyes but I didn’t want close them. Its beauty was mesmerizing.
“Lizzy!” The male voice was filled with agony.
Humm, he knows me. How nice, I thought as I watched the light dance. I knew I wasn’t hallucinating this time. Someone was in my apartment. But fear could not take hold, I was too fascinated by the light to even care that a stranger was in my bedroom. I could hear the bed rattling on the hardwood floor from the tremors wracking my body, but my mind was peaceful. My consciousness had been removed from the cold and the pain. I tried to say thank you.
“No!” His anger confused me.
“AAhhhhhh!” I screamed as my covers were suddenly thrown off and the cold air ripped my calm away. I could feel the pain of every convulsion again.
“SSStoppp! Pllleassse!” I managed to get the words out, but not without biting my tongue.
“I won’t let them have you!” He roared back at me.
I opened my eyes to see who was to blame, but all I could see was a dense black fog, swirling on the edges like a black hole in space. The darkness not only blocked the light but seemed to devour it. Without warning it engulfed me. I struggled, but the cold dense material filled every gap and I couldn’t move. I had just enough room for my lungs to fill with air. The absence of light scared me but, I was also…thankful. The weight of the cloud made it impossible for my body to convulse.
After a while my body stopped rattling and I began to cry. The tears burned my skin. I’m not sure how high your temperature has to go before you cook your brain but I’m sure I’d been close. The cold black mist caressed my cheeks and cooled my skin.
“Stay with me.” His voice seemed to hover around me. I couldn’t tell what direction it came from.
“Who are you?” I managed to ask with heavy eyes.
“You…you can hear me.” The cloud rolled across me like a soft wave on the ocean embracing the beach. It felt heavenly to my sore battered body. “I’ve waited so long, for you to speak to me.”
“Whahahaha!” His thunderous laughter filled the room. “I am no Angel, nor am I the Devil. I am Hope and as the last descendant of Pandora only you can release me from pithos.
My grandmother’s words flashed through my mind. Hope is a tricky bastard, Elizabeth, keep it out of your heart, else it lead you to despair. Too late it seems I remembered my grandmothers warning. I wasn’t dreaming. God help me, I’d already let him in.
I’ll never forget my first migraine. I was working at a bank to support myself during college. One day my head hurt so bad that I had to leave work early. When I arrived home I was horrified to realize that I couldn’t remember any of the 20 minute drive, not one moment. That scared me more than the pain.
I went to specialists. They asked if I drank alcohol. “Well duh!” I said, “I’m in college!” But, the headache you earn from drinking is like your heart has moved into your head and is bumping into your brain. Thump, thump, thump. This pain is piercing and only on one side of my head. They did the usual tests; EKG’s and MRI’s.
“Woohoo!” The tests were normal. I was given a list of what not to eat; blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. I followed their rules for a while but, nothing worked. Twenty years later and still no one knows what causes my migraines, why they seem to affect me more around my period or how to cure me.
Today the shooting pain is debilitating. I can hear you talking honey and I really want to answer. But…I can’t. If I move or speak even one word the pain will take me. You see, I’m trapped inside my own head. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better not to fight but retreat into the small crevice that I can create inside my mind. I take my soul or essence, whatever you want to call it, and hide behind my wall.
Unlike today the pain is usually, manageable… with lots of different drugs. “Whoohahaha!” Like a mad scientist I combine different prescription, nonprescription and herbal drugs. Hoping to mute the pain but still be conscious enough to function in daily life. I write down everything I’ve taken in case you need to take me to the emergency room. However, even after 20 years of creating my imaginative drug cocktails I don’t always find a way out of the pain through pharmaceuticals. At times it hurts so bad that I can’t sit still. I pace the floor wanting to bang my head against a wall, tears streaming down my face. Knowing that crying only makes the pain worse but not able to stop. Frightened and helpless because I would be willing to do anything, ANYTHING, to make the pain go away.
Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night in pain. I wedge my thumb into the corner of my eye. If the pressure works, I may get another hour of sleep before I have to get out of bed and get some pills. How do you get a headache while sleeping? What causes it? How can I prevent it? Just more questions that no one can answer.
Occasionally, I get a warning. Colors and busts of light like tiny lightning bugs swirl and blur my peripheral vision. I know then, that I only have about 15 minutes before the pain will be unbearable.
Today there was no warning. The piercing pain has engulfed the right side of my head. I have no idea why but, they’re always worse when they’re on my right side. I’ve taken more than the recommended dosage of more than one drug to no avail. I have decided to retreat to that asylum inside my mind. I concentrate on putting up a wall between me and the pain. You’ve asked if I sleep when I lie there motionless for hours. I don’t think so. When the pain dulls and I am able to pull down the wall for a time, I am exhausted. I say for a time because these headaches usually last for days waxing and waning like riding a roller-coaster with highs and lows. I don’t think I get to sleep when I am motionless, however; I am drawn into unconsciousness. Or, am I just not conscious of where I am going?
Is this how children who are abused learn to protect their minds, or how a prostitute is able to shut off their emotions and detach from their bodies. Their souls trapped behind their own wall of protection. Frustrated and yet grateful to be cocooned from the pain, I unplug from the conscious world and drift. Even now as I contemplate this question, I can feel the tiny thread of pain on the right side of my head just waiting to exert itself again.
But where do I go when I unplug?
“Oook Nell,” I said, grunting as I tried to remove my little ‘bundle of joy’ from her car seat. “Aunt Rita and Jimmy are inside playing and getting ready for the birthday party. Don’t you want to go in and play?” Unfortunately, Nell was having none of it. We had been running around doing errands all morning and she had only been asleep for about 10 minutes; not enough time for a good nap. I tried to untangle her but she used her whole body to protest. As I reach over to unbuckle the top straps she landed one good kick to my chin.
“Shiooot,” I said rubbing my chin. Taking a step back, I tried to calm down before I spoke again. A 30 second time-out and a deep breath helped some but not as much as my latest parenting book said it would. I decided to try another tactic. “Nell—baby you hurt daddy. Can you give me a kiss right here?” I asked with a sad face and pointed to my chin.
Being three means that Nell doesn’t have to give a damn about anyone except herself and what she wants at that moment. She continued to wail with her little hands clinched in tight fists, and her face becoming redder by the second. I took a step back to try and wait out the tantrum. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw my sister Rita coming out the front door, Yea! A sigh of relief escaped my lips, Aunt Rita to the rescue. Her rescue team consisted of Pinkey the rat-dog and my 4 year old nephew Jimmy.
Taking in the scene, Rita broke into a laugh and said, “You always were good with the ladies, Richey.”
“Ha ha Sis, you know I’ve never appreciated your sarcasm.”
“Here, hold Pinkey and I’ll take over.” Cracking her knuckles like a prize fighter she said, “Watch the master at work.”
Uncomfortable with the change in handler, Pinkey squirmed in my large hands, but Nell completely forgot about her anger as soon as she saw the little Chihuahua. “Inkey,” she screamed holding her hands out toward her Aunt and the little dog. Rita easily slipped Nell out of her seat and gently set her down in the driveway, while giving me a big I told you so smile. Then she rescued rat-dog from my awkward hold and knelt down to let Nell pet ‘Inkey’. I gave Rita a roll of my eyes and shut the car door.
Standing up Rita announced that it was time to go out back and help Uncle Stan blow up balloons. It doesn’t get much better for toddlers than the combination of balloons and being outside. They immediately ran for the side gate to the back yard. Rita turned to follow them but paused to say good-bye and to try to decipher my mood. Seeing her expression, which was full of concern and pity, made me want to hit something? I closed my eyes and tried to think happy thoughts before I answered her unspoken question.
“Sis, I’m fine. Stop staring at me as if I might go postal at any moment. We’ve had enough crazy in this family for at least the next three generation, don’t you think?”
“I guess I’m not the only person in the family who enjoys sarcasm,” she said giving me a pissy smile. “How are you doing…really?” she asked.
Shaking my head I said, “I’m fine. Look thanks for watching Nell this afternoon. I’ll be able to get a lot done at the house.” I continued with a fake upbeat attitude, “I’ll be back before the party gets started; 3 o’clock right?”
Rita wasn’t convinced by my outward demeanor. Touching my cheek with her free hand and giving me a comforting smile she said, “Take your time. She’ll have fun with Jimmy. Do something for yourself, ok? Read a book or go for a walk, whatever.”
I said turning to get back behind the wheel. “I’ll see you at three, thanks.”
Rita stayed to watch me back out of the driveway. Her concern, though truly heartfelt, was starting to annoy me. It’s been six months since Jane was sentenced. Why can’t everyone just go on with their lives and forget about it, I thought. I don’t want to talk to a therapist, or meditate or cry out my problems. So what, I married a psycho.
Who knew? She was beautiful and smart. Valedictorian of our class at Ohio State set to enter med school and be a great psychiatrist. “Huh,” one faulty condom later and here I am, working in the family construction business, which I said I’d never do. Living in my parents old house and my soon to be ex-wife is in the loony bin for trying to kill me. Woo hoo, ain’t life grand.
My little pity party lasted long enough for me to make the 10 minute trek back to my parent’s house. I parked the car in the driveway but before I got out, I gave myself a pep talk. “Ok, enough of the self shit party. You have Nell and that’s what matters. When she looks up at you with those big blue eyes your heart just melts. Enough woe is me crap, you have some work to get to. Let’s go clean house!”
I hated to clean with chemicals and stuff while Nell was in the house; as a first time parent I was obsessively protective. I know, I know big shocker, right? I was sure that if I set the Scrubbing Bubbles down for just one minute to actually scrub the toilet bowl, Nell would find it and spray it into her mouth…or worse yet her eyes! So, I saved these lovely moments for when Rita was sweet enough to have Nell over to play. Rita of course thought I was crazy. She has 4 kids and I guess you become less obsessive with each successive child. Rita says eventually you’ll let the garbage man hold them and it’ll be ok to let them chew on your car keys. I’m not there yet. So off I go to the Scrubbing Bubbles.
With my arms full of junk from the car; toys, sippy cup, diaper bag and a few groceries, I started toward the house. I could barely see the warn brick path under my feet, and yet something caught my eye. The yard looked different. I stopped to figure out what had changed. Humm…
“Ah ha!” The bushes had been trimmed. Rita must have taken pity on me and had one of the guys come out and clean up the yard. I’d have to thank her. However, looking with a more critical eye I noticed that the cuts were…inconsistent. It looked more like one of the neighbors had wanted some fresh cut flowers. Either way it was an improvement, they had been growing out of control. Mystery solved, I continued on to the front door, reminiscing about Mom now that the roses had caught my attention. She loved landscape design and gardening. This house was her homage to the rose. I’ll bet there were 10 different varieties in the back yard alone. Oh well, I hope someone was enjoying them.
Setting my keys on the table and throwing Nell’s diaper bag and toys in the storage baskets by the door, I went directly to the stereo and turned it on. Classical music started blaring through the house. “Blah,” I must have bumped it the last time I turned it off or something. I never listen to classical, except on Nell’s little player in her room. Rita told me once that it was good for kids to listen to classical, so I play it for Nell at bed time. Switching it to a station playing Green Day I immediately felt better.
Nodding my head as I went to the kitchen to unload the groceries and grab a coke, I noticed a rose petal on the floor. I stooped to pick it up, shaking my head and laughing to myself. Nell loved to pick flowers, she would spend hours ripping every bud from the bush and then pulling each petal from the bud if I’d let her. As a parent I’ve found that three fourth of your time is spent picking things up off the floor and the other fourth is spent holding your foot in pain from stepping on something that you missed when you were picking things up off the floor.
Depositing the dirty sippy cup in the sink, I chuckled again on my way to the fridge thinking about how Nell’s face lit up when we went for walks in the park. She loved to see all the different types of flowers and trees. She must have inherited her love of nature from my mother; it’s nice to know that that trait will live on even though mom’s gone. Popping the top on a Coke, I turned and noticed that steam was rising from the spout on the tea kettle. Humm… I didn’t make oatmeal or hot cocoa for Nell this morning. Curiously I walked over to make sure that I hadn’t left the stove on. The kettle was still hot, but the stove was off. That’s when I heard the news announcement breaking into the music on the radio. The generic announcer was warning everyone that three people had gotten away from their attendants during an outing from Lisbin Medical facility.
All at once a sense of dread and understanding filled me. Classical music and hot water …for tea.
The can of Coke fell from my hand at the exact moment I heard Jane’s voice.
“Ciao Dickey,” she said delicately setting her tea cup on the granite breakfast bar. “Ooo… darling. What a mess you have made. Please clean that up,” she said handing me the paper towels with her free hand. The other hand was busy holding my Smith & Wesson revolver. She noticed me staring at the gun. “I am glad that you didn’t think to change the combination on the gun safe, so lucky for me,” she said winking and wiggling the gun in her hand.
“Darling, where is Nelly? I so want to see her,” she whined. “I went to all the trouble of killing that stupid guard,” she said hucking her thumb toward our garage, “and now she’s not even here.” She plopped down into one of the kitchen chairs and looked at me again. “Stop staring and get to work, that pop is going to get sticky. I hate having sticky floors. You know I love to walk around barefoot,” she said pointing toward her filthy bare feet. Her arm was so nicked and cut it looked like it had been in a shredder. It was then that I noticed the small pink roses she had woven in her hair. Ah, now I understood why the bushes were so haphazardly cut. I had forgotten how much she had admired the roses at my parent’s house.
“Chop, chop…I can’t stand it if the floors not clean,” she continued her rant, pulling me back to into this unfolding nightmare.
I slowly knelt down to clean up the pop, but my hands were shaking and it wasn’t easy to rip the towels from the roll. There’s a dead man in the garage! There’s a dead man in the garage! I just kept saying it over and over in my head. Finally, I managed to wipe up the coke and put the wet paper towels in the trash. The initial shock was wearing off. I had to get a hold of myself. I was the only one who could protect Nell. That was all that mattered. With that thought in mind I turned back to Jane and began trying to find a way out of this mess. Considering that she was blocking the exit with what looked like a giant sized gun in her small hand and all I had was a roll of paper towels. I needed to be creative. Setting the paper towels on the counter I decided to try sweet talk. “Jane…I’ve missed you babe.” I tried to use just enough sex appeal to entice her without pissing her off.
It didn’t work.
“Really Dick, I’ve spent my whole life studying psychology, knowing that I was different. Learning how to hide my intelligence from ordinary people like you,” she said with disdain. “Do you really think I am going to believe that “I’ve missed you, babe” rubbish? Please, spare me your feeble attempts to outwit me. You’ve never been a match for me mentally and this little gun,” she said pointing the gun at my head as she continued, “well, it helps even the playing field physically, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I suppose it does Jane.” I leaned back against the counter and folded my arms against my chest resigned to let her lead the way until I could find some advantage. “So, now what? Nell’s not home as I’m sure you’ve already realized.”
“Yes, I realize that. It’s the only thing keeping you alive right now, so don’t annoy me.” Her voice changed to the high pitched sweetness of a little girl but, her eyes were bottomless pits. “Be very, very careful Dickey or I might decide I don’t need you. And if I don’t need you, you might as well be out in the garage with Bob NOW rather than later.”
Panic triggered my memory. I recognized the look in her eyes; anticipation. She was eager for my death. Everything that I had been trying to forget for the last six months flooded over me; the toast we had made for our anniversary, my mother’s death and those eyes.
Jane’s anniversary gift had been a weekend boating trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Bile rose in the back of my throat as I remembered the taste of the champagne we’d shared. I thought it smelled funny at the time but, she seemed so happy, I’d let it go. Then as the drug caused a slow paralysis, leaving me unable to move, Jane had seemed to be consumed with worry. Now I could see that anticipation had been the true emotion in her eyes.
Luckily for me Jane had calculated the dosage wrong. Or maybe-Jane never made mistakes-it hadn’t been luck. Now that I had opened myself up to these memories I remembered feeling my mothers love. Like a white light wrapping protectively around me, as I miraculously regained my strength. At the same time I had been fighting for my life on a boat hundreds of miles away my mother had died here in this house. Rita said it was as if someone had turned a switch and her body just crumpled to the floor. The death certificate says she died of natural causes, but no one has been able to explain why her life just ended. My doctors had been baffled too. They couldn’t understand how I had been able to subdue Jane and drive the boat back to shore with the amount of poison that was in my system.
Remembering what she had planned for me six months ago, and knowing that I would have ended up in little bit sized pieces. I had no desire to see what she’d done to Bob. I should have killed her when I’d had the chance. I would not hesitate today. My panic turned to a quite fury in that moment.
“Dickey, hello–are you in there.”
“Sorry babe just reminiscing.” I said reining in my rage and focusing my attention back to her and the gun she was waiving around.
“I’m guessing she’s at your sister Rita’s” She continued in a normal tone, as if she were just giving me parenting advise. “You know Dick; it’s really not good for her developing brain to be around those intellectual midgets. We will simply have to come up with a plausible excuse as to why Rita should bring her home. Humm… let me think.” Jane looked up at the ceiling and twirled the gun in her hand and then taped her forehead. “Ah ha, easy peasy. Your car won’t start and she simply must bring Nell home this instant because she hasn’t had her nap yet.”
“Good plan Jane, except Nell already had a little nap in the car and today is Jimmy’s birthday party. It would be suspicious if I wanted her home before the end of the party, don’t you think?” I said, raising an eye brow and meeting her gaze.
“Well”, she stood up, obviously unhappy with this turn of events. “I’ve waited this long what are a few more hours?” Motioning toward the hall and the stairs to the second floor she said, “come along, it’s time to get you settled in. We can make the call to Rita later from our bedroom.”
After making the long walk up the stairs we arrived in the master bedroom which had been re-decorated with roses while I’d been gone this morning. She had been busy. The rose petals covered every surface, even the fan blades were covered in roses. I looked at her for a moment and her eyes were like glass. I wondered what medication she had missed since she’d been out of the hospital. She had drawn the sheets down and made a nice little bed for me. She’d even found the big strap down ties that I used when I was hauling lumber to a job site and attached them to the bed.
“Nice” I said in my most sarcastic tone. Rita would have been proud.
“I am so glad that you like it Dick. You know, I went to great personal expense to be here today and I am delighted that you can acknowledge the effort. Now if you would be so kind as to climb in.”
Holly Shit! She seemed genuinely pleased that I had noticed her efforts. She’s right. I am no match for her mentally. She’s nuts! My first urge was to rush her, really how many shots could she get off. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked to use the bathroom. “Jane, it’s been a long morning in the car, can I take a piss before I get strapped in?”
“Alright, you silly man, but no funny stuff,” she said narrowing her eyes and shaking her finger at me. “There’s no point in trying to break free Dickey, you were incredibly lucky to escape me once, it won’t happen again. Besides, I’ve already removed all the razors and dangerous items from the medicine cabinet anyway.” She sat down on the edge of the bed to wait. “Do be quick about it though, I’d like to take a shower.” She looked down at herself and explained. “Killing Bob was a spur-of-the-moment thing so I didn’t have time to be as neat as I would normally.”
Truthfully, I think my mind had been trying to protect itself somehow by not registering all the rust colored wet splotches on her hospital issued jump suit. I turned away and headed into the bathroom before the sight could completely disable me. Once in the little room I began to close the door but before I could she stopped me.
“Ah ah ah… no closing the door. I’ve seen you pee before, no point in modesty now. Besides, this gun would go right through that hallow door, so there’s really no point! Just hurry up!”
She was seated where she could see most of the bathroom; including, the toilet, the sink and the medicine cabinet. As I undid my pants and tried to start pissing, not an easy task while your adrenaline is in over drive. I thought about how this day had started. I’d been happily awoken by Nell’s tiny hands shaking me and asking for cartoons. Then a nice cup of coffee while she watched Scooby Doo and I went over my tasks for the day…
Oh god…I stood up straighter and piss went all over the back of the toilet before I could stop the flow. I had one hope, something that was so out of character for me, maybe she missed it during her sweep of the bathroom. I looked down and slightly to the left between the shower curtain and the liner. I tried to calm myself down enough to at least make a little piss come out, hoping the sound would camouflage my actions. If she missed it I had a chance.
Bingo! The Scrubbing Bubbles sat on the edge of the tub. I’d set them out this morning knowing that Nell wouldn’t be here today and I was safe to us dangerous chemicals to clean the bathroom. If I could get close enough to spray Jane’s eyes, I might be able to get the gun away from her. My mind was frantic as I tried to think it through while keeping my body movements from giving me away. Maybe I could hide the can in my pocket. If I left my T-shirt un-tucked she wouldn’t see the bulge. The chances were slim but what other shot did I have? So after getting a mediocre amount of piss to come out, I flushed the toilet. Using that noise as cover I quietly as possible uncapped the can with my left hand and tried to put it in my pocket. All the while, I was pretending to be situating my dick back in my pants.
“Are you done yet” she said from directly behind me.
I hadn’t heard her approach and something told me that I’d never get a better chance. Besides I hadn’t been able to completely get the can in my pocket anyway. It was now or never.
I turned slightly while pulling the can up and sprayed her directly in the face. I got to see the bubbles foam to life as she stumbled back and raised the gun. She got off two shots before I could tackle her. Rose petals flew as we hit the carpet. I was in a rage so intense; its brightness blinded me.
When my sight returned I found myself sitting on the edge of my bed covered in blood and pink rose petals. The gun was in my lap covered in thick blood and bits of …something. My head was in my hands and as I looked down I saw blood oozing out of my thigh making a small wet patch in my jeans. It was just a small wound, I thought to myself. Certainly it couldn’t have created this much… blood. As I slowly looked up the walls began to spin in a wash of deep mahogany red with the sweetest speckles of blush pink. That wound wasn’t what had covered me in blood. The bits of something on the gun were flesh; Jane’s flesh. I must have beaten her to death with my gun. She didn’t have a face anymore. It just looked like that Jell-O and whipped cream desert ambrosia. I immediately went to my knees and vomited all over the floor, adding a nice patch of yellow to the beautiful mahogany red. Doubled over in the vomit and blood I started laughing hysterically. I couldn’t stop. I was laughing so hard that I was shaking. Then the tears started to fall. It looks like Rita was right to have worried about me. I had gone postal. Lucky me I would get to cry out all my frustrations to a psychologist now whether I wanted to or not. I heard the sirens coming and the last thought I had before I blacked out was that Nell was safe.