by Karen Payton-Holt
WARNING: Adult Content
As I stepped out onto the sidewalk, the wind snatched at my coat. Turning my back to the icy blast, I worked my fingers into gloves and buttoned my coat. There, bring it on. Chin held high, I dared the driving wind to do its worst.
Nothing could be worse than what I had already endured.
The trip across town would be easier by car, but I told Mr. Newton I wanted to walk, and he knew me well enough not to argue. To be honest, I considered the walk, which would take the best part of an hour, with the snow-laden sky gleaming down upon me, therapy of a kind.
Can I do this? Of course you can.
I stamped my Doc Marten’s until my toes tingled and started walking.
I risked frostbite long enough to check my watch. In two hours Franklin would be nice and warm, boiling hot in fact. A tight smile tugged at my face.
He had earned it, after all. I imagined him, laid out in the repose of a sun worshipper, and wondered what would be going through his mind.
Would he be thinking of me? I hoped so.
We had spent every waking hour together for six whole months, although I hadn’t known it, of course.
Franklin. Odd name… not an ordinary name, but then, by all accounts, he was anything but ordinary. He was very skilled in his chosen career.
Snow started to fall. Thick heavy flakes drifted like confetti. Ah, would I ever get married?
I wasn’t sure I’d have the stomach for it. I laughed aloud. Or perhaps, ‘I’d never find a lover with the stomach for it’ was nearer the truth.
The compacted snow of yesterday crunched beneath my boots. As little as six months ago, falling on my ass would be the catastrophe which filled my mind, today, with my face numb and fingers of icy wind closing around my neck, I tramped on without care.
Had Franklin eaten a good breakfast, I wondered.
I hadn’t eaten for three days, but I guess that was to be expected, today was a big day; an ending and a beginning.
I lifted my face and gathered a snowflake on my tongue. It tasted dirty as it melted, well, not like water anyhow. It had an acid taste, but perhaps it was my imagination. Let’s face it, all of my food tasted of sawdust these days. Today was an ending and a beginning.
The eerie silence of the deserted high-street penetrated. It was still early, barely 7 a.m., and the schools were closed due to bad weather warnings. The shops lining the sidewalk were closed too, except for the one to which I was headed. A talcum powder fine coating of snow transformed the black sedan sitting at the curb outside to silver gray, so the vehicle had not been there long.
As I drew alongside the glazed door, where the gold 3D effect lettering declared it as ‘Newton: Attorney at Law’, the door opened, and the solid black form of Mr. Newton stepped out.
“Ah, Anna, you’re here. Good,” he said, as if I had a choice.
I did have a choice, I suppose, but not if I wanted to start living again.
“Of course,” I murmured. I smiled… at least, I think I did.
Mr. Newton stopped in the action of locking the office door and said, “It looks better every time I see you. You know that, right?”
My fingers twitched, but I resisted the urge to touch my face. I wouldn’t feel it anyway. My fingers would exaggerate the puckered tight flesh, as fingers always seemed to do, and my face would feel nothing.
Mr. Newton’s thick woolen coat felt softer than I expected as his arms closed around me and I rested my good cheek on his chest.
Shit. I didn’t know I was crying. “It’s just the cold,” I muttered.
He leaned back and looked down into my face, his eyes raking over every detail. The knife blade that had extended my smile on the left side, tearing in a jagged line, had taken my earlobe with it.
His finger traced along the fading scar. I knew it was fading because I forced myself to look in the mirror every morning.
He looked impossibly beautiful with melting snow glistening on his black hair and across his broad shoulders. I stared resolutely into his eyes.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Of course, once Franklin is dead, then I can start living again.” I forced myself to say his name everyday too.
I still wondered how it was that I didn’t know. The police said the photographs he had taken of me ranged into the thousands. The timeline which meandered across every wall in his apartment mapped out my carefree existence for six whole months.
I could still feel the black leather of his glove closing over my face as he straddled my body on my bed that night.
Sleep was torn away and replaced by pain. His knife had left other marks too, but the surgeon had said the line he carved down between my breasts when he cut my nightgown away was not full thickness, so that would fade.
I put up a fight, of course I did, but his body smothered mine as he whispered his obsessions into my ear. His eyes glittered when I spat in his face.
He ‘loved me’, so he had said in that final moment, as, with his manhood still forced inside me, he cut open my face.
The scars I could not see… the pressure of being bruised inside when his angry frustration pounded into me… that feeling would never fade.
I recognised his face. Of course I did. He spoke to me every morning as I walked into my building downtown. Even holding open the thick glass doors of the brokerage firm I worked for. I was a PA to the chief exec, and every morning Franklin rode the elevator up to the 30th floor, waving ‘bye when I got off at the 28th. Except that too, was a lie. He didn’t work there at all.
The hardest thing to get my head around was that I was lucky. If my neigbour hadn’t heard the lamp fall and smash and come knocking on my door, the police reckoned I’d have become victim number eight.
Mr. Newton, as I tried to think of him, finally released me and the car chirped as he bent to open the passenger side door. “Let’s go see this bastard burn.”
I waited for the leap of adrenalin but felt nothing. As I folded into the car, the snow gathered on my coat fell in clumps to the floor. The car door slammed with a sickening thump, and I was glad I hadn’t eaten as a rat gnawed its way through my stomach lining.
Mr. Newton got in behind the wheel and fired up the engine. His hand clasped my cold fingers as he said, “There will be just us two and the wardens in the viewing room. The glass is one way, so he can’t see you… and trust me, he may look like they are just putting him to sleep, but from what the warden tells me, the lethal injection is like having red hot needles scraping along every blood vessel.”
I doubted that was true, the Human Rights lobby would not want the monsters to suffer, God forbid. I guess, he’s trying to make me feel better.
I stared out of the windshield. “I just want it over.”
He squeezed my hand one last time before he pulled the sedan out onto the carpet of virgin snow.
The world looked innocent, the trees wore white and silver, and, as the sun broke from behind a cloud, it laid a sprinkling of glitter over every surface.
I smiled. Just get through today, and then I have my life back. Mr. Newton… Sam, wants me to let him in, and perhaps, when Franklin is dead, I’ll be able to.I will certainly try.
Warmth glowed in my belly and the raw feeling inside eased when I glanced across at his strong profile. He smiled as though he felt my gaze on his skin and said, quietly, “We have all the time in the world, Anna.”
Karen is an aspiring author and compulsive writer. She lives in England with her family, and when she’s not at work, she can usually be found under her laptop. Karen writes novels, and is hard at work on her ‘Fire and Ice’ series of five post-apocalyptic vampire novels in the horror/dark fantasy genre.