A SAFE HAVEN

Reads: 829  | Likes: 2  | Shelves: 2  | Comments: 7

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium


Maddi finds her soulmate on the internet... a perfect match with a difference!




Even as a child, Maddi had always felt different…painfully shy, anxious, socially awkward and lacking in confidence. Always a magnet for school bullies, who taunted her relentlessly.

What had made life worse for Maddi, was the fact that she was nothing like her two older sisters, who were both attractive, clever, outgoing girls… genes Maddi had sadly not inherited. Consequently, her parents had been at a loss to understand or empathise with their youngest daughter’s insecurities, and took a hard line with her.

“Look Maddi, you’re going to have to toughen up. Bullies are really cowards, and if you stand up to them they will leave you alone. And stop putting yourself down all the time, you are your own worst enemy.” her Father had lectured, which only served to make her feel even more vulnerable and alone. 

As the years passed, Maddi retreated further into herself, spending more and more time holed up in her bedroom on her Tablet. It didn’t take long for her to realise the benefit of the virtual world, a world in which she could assume a different identity, become a dynamic participant, particularly on social media and in chat rooms. She allowed her imagination to run riot and let her fingers turn her into a confident teenager who lived a full and exciting life. However, the more time she spent in her imaginary, isolated world, the harder it became to function and embrace real life.

Every time she forced herself to venture out, her panic attacks became ever more severe and debilitating, until one day she was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack… ultimately diagnosed as a severe panic attack brought on by the clinical condition, Agoraphobia… an abnormal fear of open and public spaces, for which she was referred to a psychologist for treatment.

*****************

Maddi put down her coffee cup, took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She went into the bathroom, stood in front of the mirror then reached for her make-up bag. She had a special date with her boyfriend, Mac, and wanted to look her best. She ran her fingers through her short, dark hair then teased it into place with gel before carefully applying her make-up. She then changed into a slinky, cream evening dress that flattered her ample curves. The sight of the striking young woman staring back at her filled her with confidence and excitement.

Life had changed for her since taking the initiative to set up The Agoraphobic Alliance… her own web-site, where she had originally met Mac. The image of his handsome features flashed before her… their shared values and struggles in life had brought them together, and they had fallen deeply in love.

As she worked from home, she quickly tidied up the pile of paperwork scattered across the table, turned off the television and plumped up the cushions on the sofa. She took out the bottle of champagne she had included in her weekly on-line food shop that was cooling in the fridge.

After consulting her watch, she opened her lap-top and waited with mounting excitement for the Skype call.

“You look amazing,” Mac said, his blue eyes shining with admiration and love.

Maddi smiled, twirling in front of the screen, so he could appreciate the detail and fit of her dress.

“I’m a lucky man. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“Absolutely.”

After exchanging their wedding vows, they threw kisses across cyber-space then toasted one another with a glass of champagne.

“I love you Mac, my dear, dear husband.”

“And I love you, my amazing wife.”

At midnight Maddi reluctantly turned off her laptop… that virtual connection with her husband, and curled up in bed with her iPhone. ‘Sleep tight, Mac,” she texted.

“You too, honey,” came the reply.




Submitted: May 27, 2018

© Copyright 2022 Sue Harris. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:

Comments

SimonClemens

...Hm.

Mon, May 28th, 2018 3:06am

Author
Reply

Thanks for reading, Simon. Don't know what you meant by 'Hm', but I appreciate you taking the time and effort to read it. After reading through your personal profile page... maybe a bit too much romance for you? As I say, thanks anyway.

Mon, May 28th, 2018 8:54am

KathrynAcacia

This was a really interesting story- hyperbolic, but still very interesting. The pain is nicely balanced with a bit of humor, which makes the story a lot easier to read.
What I most appreciate about it is how well it shows the different facets of Maddi's life, disorder, and relationship- it doesn't glorify it at all (which is good- I've read too many books that turn mental illness into a cute character quirk), but it also shows her as a real person, with a personality beyond being mentally ill (which is very, very rare- usually mental illness dominates the story makes the whole thing seem less human). The relationship is interesting as well- again, not flashy (the loneliness and sadness is clear), but cute and flirty and sweet nonetheless. By the way, "blowing kisses across cyber space" is one of my new favorite descriptions- definitely sad, but also cute in a lonely sort of way. :)
This is a ridiculously long comment, but I just want to say thank you for writing a multi-faceted character who is mentally ill. I have a lot of friends / family members who struggle with mental illness, and so this story kind of hit home for me. Maddi doesn't miraculously "overcome" her illness, and it isn't romanticized, but she is also able to be happy, and that is a rare thing to find in a story. Even though this is just an exaggerated flash fiction story, I really appreciated the depth in Maddi's character and how you steered clear of stereotypes. Thank you for that.

Mon, May 28th, 2018 3:52am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for your detailed review, Kathryn, I really, really appreciate it. I was mulling over just how much time my grandsons spend holed up playing games on x-box, and got thinking...if you were predisposed, could this kind of illness be caused by it? So much time spent in a virtual world, to me, is unhealthy and I worry about the effects. Yes, it was a fictional piece, but I wanted it to be thought provoking too. Thanks again!

Mon, May 28th, 2018 8:38am

hullabaloo22

Is it strange that I can see this happening, Sue. The internet is a double-edged sword, making it easier to withdraw, but also opening up other opportunities when that happens. In some ways a sad read, but in others, kind of romantic.

Mon, May 28th, 2018 8:32pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Hully. i worry about the time my grandsons spend holed up on their xbox, which kind of inspired this. Your comment is much appreciated!

Mon, May 28th, 2018 2:33pm

jaylisbeth

This is an excellent take on this subject, Sue. Brilliant story :)

Wed, May 30th, 2018 2:37pm

Author
Reply

Thanks JB. So pleased you enjoyed it.

Wed, May 30th, 2018 12:03pm

Joy Shaw

Wow, a story for the times we live in. Interesting read.

Tue, June 12th, 2018 11:40am

Author
Reply

Thanks for reading Joy, pleased you enjoyed it.

Wed, June 13th, 2018 1:49pm

Jeff Bezaire

It's the joy and drawback of the technology age - it caters to our insecurities and fears; we have to work less to overcome our troubles, substituting for a compromise that allows us to be who we are without needing to face the struggle and pain of adapting to the world around us. Rather, we can build our own world that works for us. It's a double-edged sword. But in the end, especially when it comes to love, you gotta do what you gotta do to make it in the world. There's no wrong way to live or to have a marriage; it's about what works for you. I think you illustrate that perfectly here, and the father's discouraging words are a perfect example of those people who only understand how to be "normal". A great write!

Sat, January 5th, 2019 10:21pm

Author
Reply

Oh Thank you so much, Jeff. I had forgotten what this was about, so just read it through again! Ah, yes. Not beyond the realms of possibility I guess. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated!

Sat, January 5th, 2019 3:11pm

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