Passive

I wanted to call it a thriller/horror but also with some romance. Couldn't find that category so other will have to do. I have high hopes for this story but please read and include as much critism as your heart desires. I promise not to be upset by it as long as you promise to be fair. I do not want any homophobic comments, if you don't like the subjects mentioned here, then don't read.

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22. Ghosts

The front door slams opens, its hinges moaning, as they’ve done every night so far this month, signalling that either the surrounding bars and clubs have closed, or he’s been forced to stumble home after being thrown out on his wretched face. Presumably after starting a fight. Which he lost.

The man’s heavy-footed steps can be heard echoing throughout the deadly silence of the house. But no one is asleep, only wishing they were. A trembling woman, curled up in the foetal position, who stays with him through fear, not just fear of the drunken beast downstairs but fear of the unknown. What life awaits her and the timid, ghost-girl who she could once call her daughter? To look at the small, mousey child was nothing more than a reminder of the failure that was her life.

The little girl sucks her thumb in the hope of comfort, her arms encircling her shaking form as she would a beloved teddy bear; she’d ask herself years later if it was possible to miss something you never knew. Her childish mind couldn’t yet understand what it was that she missed. Her mother’s icy stares were all she’d ever known, not deliberately hateful but green with envy. Envy that every alcohol fused evening, after a series of half-hearted fumbles in their shared bed, her husband would take out the anger at the inevitable mornings’ hangover not on her thin, wanting body but on their daughter. Rough hands which would remove her pink nightgown and crash his chapped lips against her half sized delicate mouth. Yet all the woman could feel was burning jealousy.

It had been a particularly bad night, resulting in a few broken noses which led the husband straight to the small girl’s room, where it took several attempts to grasp the handle. This allows the child time to hide her pale face behind two tiny hands, wishing herself away, and routinely clamping her legs together, knowing what’s to come. A thin stream of moonlight glistens off the door as it stumbles open, revealing a dark menacing figure that filled the room with a familiar sharp stench. Spotting his petite daughter dwarfed by even the pink pyjamas that tried desperately to shield her, a bitter smirk traced his droopy features just as the first tear escaped Isabella’s eye and hid in the restless tussles of her hair.

***

I awoke, panting wildly and thrashing uncontrollably in my cot bed, to the wailing noise of an alarm going off. I ran panicked into the far corner of the room, pulling out my tubing as I went, and wrapped my arms protectively around my bare legs. The sound was continuous, seeping into the far corners of my mind, relentlessly pounding through my body until my heartbeat became lost and I tried to let the darkness behind my eyelids consume me whole.

“Isabella?”

My name was spoken softly but Sally’s voice still shattered the stillness that had fallen upon the room since the alarms went off. Her voice sounded far off and I assumed that she was simply keeping her distance to avoid another deep scratch on the side of her face, matching the visible reminder I’d already left. But as I peered out from between sweat-dampened strands of hair, I saw she stood close enough for me to touch, her kind face showing concern and sympathy. Cautiously a shaking arm grasped her steady form and I let Sally lift me up with surprising strength and hold me to her as if I were that small girl in my pink nightie, all ready for bed. It didn’t hurt to pretend that the warm, soft material of her chest was the Mother I never knew or that her soothing voice would soon sing me to sleep.

She folded me with care into the bed and began reinserting various unknown substances into my body. I didn’t care anymore as long as I wasn’t left alone.

“A little something to help you drop off.”

Sally spoke more to herself than to me. My eyes had glazed over and the white ceiling allowed me to keep my head as empty and thoughtless as a new-born. I planned to fall asleep like that, numb to the pain around me but Sally turned my chin towards her so that she could study me.

“Okay?”

I really didn’t understand the question. Or what the answer was. The answer which would cause minimum pain was always out of reach.

“Just make them stop.”

I allowed my eyelids to drop so as not to see Sally’s reaction. Chapped lips ghosted mine and a small involuntary cry came from out of nowhere, from the back of my throat. I didn’t need to look around the room to know that Sally had gone, leaving me trapped in the dreamlike world that would always haunt me.

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