I like enclosed spaces. Most people I know feel trapped when faced with four tall walls looming down on them, but not me. I see them as my protector, my fortress and my giant knights in armour keeping the outside world at bay. A locked door and four tall walls means he can’t reach me.
It’s been three hours since Mike hit me around the face so hard my glasses flew off my nose and smashed against one of those walls. I don’t know what I had done to warrant this particular attack; I’ve searched my brain and I don’t think I have done anything wrong today.
It’s week six of the lockdown and I have yet to leave the house. I’m not shielding or self-isolating but I have been told that I mustn’t go out. I don’t need my daily exercise I am told because there’s “no reason for you to look good at the moment” and “no one’s gonna see that bikini bod this year, babe.” he sneers statements like this at me often. I want to tell him that I don’t exercise for anyone else but me. Running through fields alone allows me some partial freedom but it’s not worth the argument. “You just want others to look at you”, I am told. It’s not true; I would happily disappear in an instant.
It wasn’t always like this, I promise. I met Mike online. He had recently moved to the area having left his wife and two children. Alarm bells should have started ringing as soon as he told me that, that and the fact that he had very little contact with his ex-wife and children. He wooed me though, he really did. He wore suits to work, he took pride in his appearance, he was polite and others laughed in his presence. He opened doors for me and brought me flowers. He brought me flowers the day after he shoved me into a wall after I suggested he gave the weekly pub quiz a miss because we were a little short on funds that month.
Six weeks without seeing my friends and family. Six weeks of very little exercise or fresh air. Six weeks of very little self care and was a mess both physically and mentally. My skin was starting to look grey and my eye bags could carry a week’s worth of shopping. My hair hung limp at my shoulders and my eyes were bleak windows to a black hole. What I needed was some sun. My doctor regularly warns me about my vitamin D deficiency and frequently provides me with ‘pocket sunshine’ he calls it. But, the vitamin tablets have long since gone. It was, apparently, going to be a scorcher today, so I decided to go any sit in the garden for an hour and soak up those rays.
I must have fallen asleep. I was roused awake by a dark shadow blocking the sun and I could sense it beneath my closed eyelids.
“Two hours!” he said quietly yet there was a sternness to his voice. “You’ve been sat out here on your fat arse for two hours doing fuck all.”
I remained silent.
“Do you know what I have done?” He voice sounded low and guttural almost like it hurt to talk.
I shook my head slowly.
“A workout, a shower, a conference call and the weekly shop and you have done nothing. Lockdown has made you lazy. It’s made you fat and lazy and worthless.”
“I would have done the shop,” I protested. “But you said there was no need for us both to be out of the house.”
It was too late. He had already disappeared into the house and all that could be heard was the slamming of cupboards as he looked for something hard to drink. Precariously packing up the sun lounger, I returned it to the shed and walked inside. The kitchen was empty and so was the living room. I noticed on the kitchen table a piece of paper with numbers and workings out written down in pencil; I then noticed the broken pencil next to the paper. Something had happened during the conference call. I heard a bang upstairs. Cautiously, I took the first stair.
I found Mike in our bedroom rifling through our bedside drawers.
“Where is it?”
“Where’s what?” I asked.
“Your bank book.”
I explained that it was in the attic along with a few other precious items and heirlooms I kept up there.
“Well, it’s no fucking good up there is it? Go get it!”
“You’re gonna have to start contributing a little more. The company have gone into administration and I’m out of a job.”
My heart sank.
“My dad left me that money in his will, Mike. It’s not to be frittered away. I’m saving it; I’m saving it for our future.” I tried to explain.
That was a lie. I was saving it to escape. Every month I had saved and added to the total and I had been just about ready to leave when lockdown happened. And now, like an animal backed into a corner, I was trapped. If he saw that the funds had substantially grown over the last year, I would be in trouble.
“The future is now. Go get it.”
It took all my strength but I refused. I shook my head and took a step away from him. His long stride covered the room in an instant and his hands were around my neck. Grasping for air, I panicked and kicked out. It was a glorious kick, right on the money. His grip released as he reached down to hug his crotch. I ran into the spare bedroom. In the other room, I heard him splutter and clear his throat; he was righting himself and he was coming for me. His eyes burned as he marched through the door almost knocking it from his hinges. Once again, he grabbed me but this time his nails dug deep into the flesh of my shoulder.
“You’ll go into that attic and you’ll get that bank book. Do you hear? Otherwise you’ll spend the night locked up there on your own.”
I thought of my dad. The physical pain of grief washed over me and the pain in my shoulder momentarily dulled. If he could see me now, he would be so disappointed in me and the woman I had become. A submissive mouse rather than the lioness he wanted me to be. She had crawled back into her den the moment she prematurely lost the only man in her life she had ever truly loved. I wasn’t going to lose his final gift to me. I stood firm and shook my head once again.
That was when he hit me. The whack resounded off the four walls and reverberated around my head. Blood spots and stars filled my vision as my legs gave out beneath me. I slumped to the floor as a trickle of blood fell from my nose and landed like a stray tear on the cream carpet. I looked up and he stood over me with his fists clenched.
“I’ll go get it myself.”
He stormed off and slammed the door shut.
And that brings us to now. I sit here with my back against one of my four walls for comfort. I know I won’t see him for a few hours. Not until he comes and drags me up into the attic. I want him dead. Leaving him is no longer enough. I glance at my arms and see yellowing bruises. The truth is that he doesn’t want me to leave the house because it means he doesn’t have to be careful anymore. No need for him to plan where on my body he can hit me. I’m his canvas now: a canvas covered in purples, reds, faded greens and yellows.
I want him dead.
Silence fills the room.
I’m willing it. Praying for it.
Outside the room I can hear the attic ladder being pulled from the ceiling.
More silence follows.
A splutter escapes his throat as he puts the ladders in place. I hear the creak escape from the metal step as he shifts his weight onto it.
I wish him death.
Why isn’t he ascending the steps?
Suddenly, the hallway erupts with a God awful sound.
He’s having a coughing fit and struggling to catch his breath…