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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8. Punishment

Bobby! I remembered him suddenly, dropping my bag by the door and running to find my little brother. He didn’t understand, didn’t know. He could be with Mother right now, telling her everything, childish understandings coming from his mouth while Mother just sat calmly listening, ideas of painful revenge boiling in the fires of her mind. My eyes scanned the hallway, then the dining room, then the kitchen for Bobby but they found nothing, no signs of the small boy anywhere. I suddenly had a horrible image in my head, of Mother with Bobby, the basement door already locked and the cries muffled with a piece of cloth covering his previously innocent face…

 

“Isabella, what are you doing?” My little brother watched my scared, hunched up form as I turned from facing the basement to the stairs, where he sat worriedly looking at me, his school bag still on his back.

 

I breathed out a sigh of great relief and ran to him. This time Bobby didn’t welcome my hug and shoved me off, his face screwed up.

 

“Get off me, idiot!”

 

I slapped him hard across the face, the frown he had been previously wearing disappearing to be replaced by one of shock. I looked at the red handprint staining his pale cheek and wanted to cry. In that instance, he had become one of them, one of the girls at school, the name calling popular children. Their words sharp in their mouths as they lashed into me. I had promised myself that I would never let Mother hurt him and then had done the exact opposite by hitting him myself.

 

“Bobby, I’m so-“He ran up the stairs, tears already rolling down his cheeks, making my own eyes fill with water.

 

How could I do that? How could I convince myself that I was so different from Mother when I did something like that? My legs moved to follow him, words of apologise already coming to the front of my mind, words I knew would mean nothing, because I was the one that had caused his pain.

 

“Isabella, darling, could you come down here for a minute please?”

 

The words were soft and kind, barely audible but I was sure they were real. I couldn’t really be imagining them. Could the fear of Mother really have got that great? I looked up the stairs, imagining myself switching places with my baby brother, imagining hiding under my bed while Bobby faced the woman who waited for him downstairs. I could run, I could hide, I could even walk out the front door if I wanted. But where would I go? What would I do? I knew there were no answers but still I could hide. The punishment would surely be greater if she had to find me first, her patience wearing thinner and thinner by the moment.

 

“Isabella, now please!”

 

The kindly tone still remained but even a stranger could tell, this was the voice of someone who was slowly losing her calm. Something that Mother never seemed to do, from what she did when she was calm, I didn’t want to know what she could do when angered. My legs shook as I moved them step by step towards the door, the handle seeming to glow in the dim lamp light, mocking me as if it knew what awaited me downstairs. I imagined her waiting, her fingers tapping and eyes resting on the door. I thought of previous mind games and threats, her circling me and prodding me, my mind slowly unravelling. I could recall my times in the basement well, tied to a chair with the knife’s edge always dangling just a centimetre over my chest never touching. This was the new favourite punishment, her eyes daring me to breathe so she could plunge the cold steel straight into my chest. The times she had left me locked there for days had been the worst. I had water but no food, the white washed walls had begun to spin and twist into the strangest shapes right before my very eyes. The whispering had been the worst, after the second day, the constant whispering words, simple playground jibes twisted into worse things by the haunting voices that seemed to come from everywhere. The walls and floor, the ceiling and worst of all, the door, its handle tempting me to try and open it, the gleam to it hurting my eyes, a mocking mouth in amongst the ghostly white paint.

 

I opened the door, letting the yellow light from behind it blind me for a second, allowing myself to blink hard so that I could see what lay within. My feet turned me to the stairs which seemed to stretch out forever, the dirty steps that were coated in a muddy substance that was nowhere else in the house. I breathed in the musky smell, letting it wrap itself around me and hold me tightly in its embrace. The white walls moved past me, a strange contrast from the dirty carpet, too quickly and I tried to slow my feet so that I would reach the basement even a second later. Already the second door loomed in front of me, already the handle reflected a pale, sad girl watching it. I could see the image of the shaky hand grasp the handle as I stilled my trembling on the cold metal surface. I listened intently, not surprised when I was met by nothing but silence. I opened the door.

 

Mother stood with her back to me, humming slightly under her breath as she carefully moved the iron back and forth over what looked like one of Bobby’s school shirts. She paused as the door creaked open and the iron stilled in mid-air, a clear reflection of myself looking back at me, a trembling wreck before Mother had even begun. I felt like if I could have seen her face, she would have been smiling.

 

“How nice of you to join me,” her words confused me but I tried to keep my face straight, not daring to move from the doorway.

 

“Come on, sweetheart,” her back told me, her hand busying itself with Bobby’s shirt once more, “And shut the door please!”

 

I took one last glance up the stairwell before closing the door to it, my mind swimming with the images of escape that I knew I would never be courageous enough to attempt. I turned back to Mother and jumped slightly, as she now stood behind me, her head turned down to look at me and her icy stare meeting my gaze. She stepped back, surprising me and touched her hand to my back, making me step forward quickly at the unusual touch of her hand. A small smile stretched over her lips but it was fake and the venomous look never left her eyes. She shoved me forwards again until I was stood up against the ironing board, my blouse meeting the worn fabric. Mother circled around until she was facing me, her hands carefully folded over each other on the board so that my gaze fell down. Her hands swiftly folded Bobby’s shirt and she seemed to pull out one of my skirts from nowhere, her hands flattening the material.

 

“So today, I decided I would teach you how to iron,” her voice was flat, the soft quality gone, “You’re old enough to be doing it yourself now.”

 

I wanted to nod or reply but I was incapable of moving. I knew there had to be more, why else would she have chosen the basement for this task?

 

“Here you go!” Her hands pressed the iron’s handle into my sweaty palm and my clumsy hand gripped it cautiously.

 

A jet of steam came out as I pressed an unknown button near the top as I tried to steady the iron with my other hand. I watched the steam gather in the air before floating away, leaving the basement scene quickly before anything more could happen. I sucked in my breath and let my eyes wander to Mother but she remained looking at my face, watching my every moment. I looked at the iron and the skirt laid out before me and breathed out shakily, knowing I had no idea how to iron and knew I would fail at the task. I hovered the iron over the material, watching my shaky hand and finally plucked up the courage to touch the hot object to the skirt. I stilled the iron, trying to figure out what to do next and looked back at Mother, whose face had changed into a gleeful expression. I looked back down and realised my mistake instantly. I pulled the iron off and saw the black mark where the material had burnt. I felt my mouth move as if to speak, apologise, but no words came out.

 

“You silly girl!” The word was playful and I looked up her, confused by the tone to her voice. Her eyes held mine but it wasn’t until a second later as her eyes took on that cold icy edge that I realised my second mistake. Her hands worked quickly at pulling up my blouse sleeve and pressing the hot object onto my skin. Her other hand held me tightly and I tried to pull away, the searing pain of the iron burning my skin. I could feel tears run down my cheeks, blurring my vision and screams come freely from my throat. I imagined Bobby stood by the door, hearing the cries but the burning pain filled my body, the heat ripping into my flesh. I felt like I was choking on the air I breathed it and thought I could smell meat cooking from somewhere. Just when I thought I would faint from the pain, her spidery fingers released me and I collapsed onto the floor, my head hitting first, causing the room to spin and Mother’s form to move closer towards me. I could feel her breath on my face and my feet were suddenly on to floor again, my body using the ironing board for support. I tried not to look at the burned flesh which I could see out of the corner of my eye, the red against the white of my skin and the skin flaking off to reveal raw skin underneath. The smell was still ripe in the air and my nose was filled with the burnt meaty smell, the contents of my stomach swirling at the memory of lunch.

 

Her mouth smiled at her kindly, her face calm and she brought my burned arm up to meet the iron handle, making the room spin again and a new cry of pain escape my throat. She let the iron go so that my arm now held it, the pain making the image of my Mother swim into a devilish form, her eyes large and smile wider until it overlapped her face. The eyes remained unblinking as her lips opened to reveal her pearly teeth.

 

“Again.”

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