A few years passed without much change. I never did go back to work, instead 'choosing' to stay at home to make my husband happy. At the time I felt like this was very much my decision, but looking back I can see it was fear and manipulation that held me in my place.
I was forbidden to socialise. Any attempt to speak to anyone, resulted in angry punishment. The worst was when the postman had a package for us. He knocked on the door, and after checking the window, I opened the door. If it had been anyone but the postman I would have pretended I wasn't home, knowing the consequences of idle chat.
I signed for the delivery and left it on the dining table by Stuart's chair, I wasn't permitted to open the mail. Then I went on with my daily duties. Stuart got home that night just as I was setting his dinner on the table. His eyes narrowed when he saw the parcel.
'When did that get here?' He asked, without looking in my direction.
'Just before lunchtime.'
'Why did you open the door? I have told you never to answer the door.' Stuart began pacing the length of the dining room.
I shrank back into the kitchen, trying to distance myself from the pacing predator that was my husband.
'I needed to sign for it, I just signed for it and closed the door.' I almost whispered, hoping it would be enough.
It wasn't and that evening – after Stuart's dinner of course – I was back in the hospital with a fractured cheek bone and three broken ribs. This time, despite the severity of my injuries, Stuart did not let up on me when we got home. I was having difficulty bending and reaching because of my ribs, but I was to continue with my housework with no break.
I guess the punishment worked, I never did open the door again, no matter who it was knocking. I spent what seemed like forever in pretty much constant pain as I hurried to get the work done before he returned.
I continued to do my best to ensure he was happy, as I had for the previous six years of living through this personal hell. I strived for perfection in my house, because I felt that if I did the job well enough, and he didn't need to punish me for anything for a while he would love me once more.
My ribs complained at the effort I made but I never let it stop me. The only way I could have my life back was to keep him pleased and happy. So I worked through the constant pain, until eventually I didn't notice it any more.
Six months later when the pain had mostly gone, and the bruises faded to nothing, Stuart came home with a box. He crossed the hall and set it in front of my on the kitchen counter. I looked at it, then continued wiping the surfaces.
'I bought you a present. Open it.' He pushed the box towards me.
All of a sudden, my husband was back. He was smiling and laughing, waiting for me to see my gift. I was ecstatic. Finally after six years of uncertainty, he had come through the woods and returned to me, like I always knew he would.
I opened the box and inside was a brand new laptop computer. I was astonished, lifting it out of the box was a conformation letter about installing the Internet to our property. I lifted my eyes to his and asked:
'For me? Why?' All of a sudden I felt like this was another trap, another way to endanger me.
'Well, I figured I spend all my time telling you you can't speak to people, or go out, yet you go out shopping every week. Now you will order our food shop online and have it delivered in an evening time slot, when I will be here to receive it.' His explanation sent shivers through my body.
The weekly shopping trip was the only reason I was allowed out of the house. Now he had found a way to take even that tiny piece of freedom away from me. He took the box and the laptop and went to work setting it up in a corner of the living room.
'The guys from the Internet company will be here tomorrow to get us set up and then we'll be ready to go. Don't worry, I'll be taking the day off to let them in.' He told me and then he sat down to eat his dinner.
The next day I carried out my jobs as usual, being careful to ensure I was always where ever Stuart wasn't. Him being here added extra work to my day, as I had to make sure I cleaned up after him and had his lunch out on time.
He spent the day seemingly trying to create as much disorder as he could, then shouting at me when the place wasn't tidy. He tripped me every time I walked passed him, once sending a pile of dishes tumbling to the floor to smash into pieces.
For his damage, I got a burst nose, adding blood to the shattered remains of the plates on the floor. I managed to stop the bleeding, and was clearing up the mess when the Internet crew arrived. Stuart showed them to the laptop and they got to work installing whatever needed installing in the house, and set up the laptop so it was ready to go.
When they were gone, he brought me to the desk he had set the computer on. He showed me how to work it, and where to go to order our shopping. Then he dragged me to the couch and told me to sit.
'I am trusting you Penny,' he told me, his face serious. 'You are to use that computer to order any shopping that is needed, food, clothes, furniture, anything. You are not to use it to talk to other people. Any deliveries will be arranged for times I am here, as you will not open the door to accept them. You will not waste time on the Internet, if your chores are neglected I will remove the computer during the day, and you will order everything in the evenings, when I can see you. Do you understand?'
I nodded, my eyes never leaving the floor. Any thoughts of having my husband back were gone now. This 'gift' was just the final part of him making me his complete and total prisoner. I got up then to return to my chores, knowing I would not be permitted to sit so close to him for long.
Things had gone from bad to worse. I had just lost my last piece of freedom.
© Copyright 2016 R A B Bradbury. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Flash Fiction
Short Story / Flash Fiction
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