FREEDOM (Flash Fiction)
He stared into her lifeless eyes, unable to tear his gaze from their depths. His fingers hesitated before brushing away the strands of golden hair that stroked her cheek.
“I love you,” he whispered.
His eyes trailed over her blood soaked dress. It was a gift for her birthday—a gift from him. The silky green fabric clung to her, exposing parts of her body that should be covered. That was how he liked her to dress.
For a moment his mind filled with images of her in front of the mirror. She smiles. She tells him she loves him—but the words were lies. If she truly loved him, would she be with him? Would she be wearing this dress?
He slumped onto the bed and lit a cigarette. The smell soothed him. He only started smoking six months ago but immediately decided he liked it—the taste of the filter firmly gripped between his lips made him feel like one of the guys.
His eyes rested on the woman sprawled out on the floor in a pool of blood. Around her broken glass lay scattered. She didn’t want to listen—wouldn’t understand why he was angry. He tried to explain about the dress and the pain and the loneliness, but everything was jumbled up in his mind and the words came out wrong. She threw an ashtray at him. He knew she didn’t mean to hurt him. It was all because of him.
They met at work, her and him. At first it was not too obvious—a whispered phone call here, a tell-tale giggle there. She tried to hide it, but he knew. He could see it in her eyes, hear it in her laughter, smell it on her clothes. Before long it was late nights out, ‘working’. Then the late nights turned into weekends away, ‘with the girls’. Did she think he was stupid?
But he knew it wasn’t her fault.
His mind wandered to the past. He’d known her forever. For a long time it had just been the two of them. She had been in a difficult relationship with a hard man, a cruel man—a man who deserved what he got in the end.
When he finally had her to himself he swore he would never allow anyone to hurt her again. And so it was for many years. Just the two of them.
His eyes searched for another ashtray and, finding none, he stubbed the cigarette out on the side table before pushing himself up from the bed. He strolled into the bathroom and turned the tap. The icy drops stung his skin and neck before dripping down his chest. Next to the tap his eyes caught a glimpse of a medicine bottle. Why did she insist on keeping it here, he told her he didn’t need the stuff.
With a sigh he ambled over to her body. He can’t leave her like this, undignified, in that dress. Fingering through the hangers in her closet he pulled out a bright shirt and a pair of slacks. He laid the items out on the bed before kneeling beside her and fumbling with the zipper at the back of the dress. He peeled the fabric up over her head and tossed it aside, grinning with satisfaction as it landed in the waste basket, where it belonged.
He could barely look at her body, scantily clad in a lacy bra and panty set—the abundance of bare skin made him uncomfortable. He turned his head away—she wouldn’t want him to see her like this.
Her body slid from side to side, leaving streaks of blood as he struggled to re-dress her. Dead arms swung uncontrollably, as if making a final effort to fight him off. When he finally looped the last button through the hole he sighed with relief. Then he stood back and admired her. He took his mobile phone out of his pants pocket and, making sure her image fitted perfectly on the display, he snapped the shot.
It occurred to him that he felt nothing. The numbness was perplexing. For the last six months a single thought had occupied his mind. It started as a mere glimmer of hope—a way to free her from her obsession with him. He tried in vain to keep the thought at bay but, ever so slowly it etched its way forward in his mind. Before long it was all he could think off. He would claw at his head, attempting to rid himself of the images that formed in his brain. In the end he surrendered to the thought, admitting that only through death would she ever know true freedom. Now that it was done, he expected to feel relief, happiness, sadness—anything! Instead, there was nothing.
He slumped down on the floor next to her. Did he imagine her calling to him? ‘Come,’ she seemed to say. Bringing his face close to hers he listened.
‘Come,’ she said.
Startled he scrambled away. From the corner of the room he stared at her, too fearful to remove his eyes from hers.
‘Mom?’ His voice pleaded.
Her blank eyes stared into the ceiling.
His eyes searched the room. Each wall was plastered full of photos. Some from when he was a baby, others reflected different events throughout his life. On the dressing table mirror, stuck with sticky tape, was the last photo they took together. It was six months ago—his fifteenth birthday.
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Went to no. 7 on Amazon shortreads.