“May I have some nails?”
“Nails, my love?”
“The floorboards are loose.”
That’s how all of it started. I insisted the floorboards were perfectly fine; I laid them myself not all that long ago. She insisted they were loose and uneven, and caused her to stumble. Since I would do anything for her, I bought a box of flooring nails and a hammer. The hammer was more of a toy, really; It would be useless against a real nail or one’s skull.
No, I was not concerned about the hammer. My real concern was the nails. She could scratch a message into the walls, and I might never find it. Someone else could find it, someone who would not understand.
And she did. She scratched some lines into the wainscoting. Song lyrics, she said. The words seemed innocent enough, and I was able to buff them right out, but it was still an act of disobedience. I confiscated the hammer and nails and punished her. I had to. I often worry I punished her too harshly, for she lay curled in the corner for three days straight.
When I presented her with a fresh box of nails, however, she snapped right out of it.
Her work ethic was admirable. Although I had soundproofed the room long before she arrived, I could feel the tap-tap-tap-WHACK! reverberating through the walls of the house. It kept me awake for two nights. I attempted to sway her to other forms of entertainment: I brought her cards and games, puzzles, brainteasers. She had already read every book in the house. When she first arrived, after her breaking-in period, she consumed my entire library at an alarming rate. I bought new books, but the cost quickly became too demanding. I certainly could not resort to using the public library – the risk of overlooking a note scribbled in a margin or between the lines somewhere was far too great – I learned that the hard way long before her arrival.
I went so far as excusing myself from work to spend the day with her, but she did not respond well to that at all.
It was useless. All she wanted to do was drive nails into the floorboards. Her precision was uncanny: The heads resembled little stitches around the edges of each board, binding them to the floor. They were perfectly-spaced. After observing this, I poured myself a drink and sat in the corner to watch her work. She was resourceful, measuring the space between nails with the head of the hammer, and the distance from the edge of the board with the tip of her little finger. As I watched, she pretended to ignore me, but I knew she was aware and her body responsive to my presence the entire time.
I often wonder how she would have proceeded had she completed the entire floor. I regret sometimes I did not allow her to finish. She was very nearly there, perhaps five rows short, when I decided it was time to go out. I had grown irritated with the sleepless nights and bored with watching her pretend to ignore me, pulling her off the floor when I wanted to entertain her, and the smell! She had neglected herself in her productivity. If there is anything I will not tolerate, it is the sweet stench of poor hygiene.
Interrupting her was rude of me, but it was inevitable. I waited her to pause between nails. “I’d like to go out, my love,” I told her. “Let me give you a bath and dress you up.”
She paused as if she did not understand, which was absurd. She shook her head. “No, no, I don’t want to go out. If people see me, they’ll know. ”
My smile never faltered. I pretended I did not understand. “Know what, my love?”
“They’ll know I’ve been fucking you.”
I flinched at her obscenity. “Don’t be crude, love,” I chided. “And there are women who would kill to be in your position – and have!”
She shook her head for the last time and reached into the box for another nail. I resorted to ungentlemanly conduct, wrapping my arms around her waist and lifting her off the floor. She cried and struggled, swinging the hammer and a fistful of nails at my face. I grabbed both of her wrists and squeezed.
“Let go,” I kept my voice calm, to help calm her. “Just drop them. They won’t hit your feet, I promise.”
The nails scattered across the floor, and the hammer did not hit her feet, just as I promised. I carried her up to my bedroom – a rare treat for her – and gave her a bath. I love washing hair, and I enjoyed washing hers, although the color is all wrong. Despite her impassive expression, I knew she enjoyed it as well. I do not enjoy drying and brushing hair as much as I enjoy washing, but I managed. I put her in my favorite black dress. It does not cling to her as it should, highlighting the fact that her body was always the wrong shape. Pleasant, but still not right. She refused to put on the make-up I offered, but I did not grow angry. It would only be a delay, and her face was pretty enough a the time. The shoes I gave her were too large for her dainty feet. She carried them back downstairs and sat at the kitchen counter while I prepared her cocktail.
“I’m not taking those,” she told me flatly, eyeing the pills in my palm.
“Please, love,” I begged. “I don’t want to be mean.”
She did not want me to be mean, either. She took the cocktail with the water I offered her. After I confirmed they were gone, I sat next to her with a plate of seasoned toast and a variety of cheeses. As we waited, I fed her. At first, she took the food from my fingers with small, reluctant bites. Gradually, she relaxed and leaned closer. Her eyes grew wide and elated. I knew she was ready when she began to suck the residual seasoning from my fingers. I smiled at her, and she smiled back.
“I love you,” I told her.
“I love you, too,” she replied.
Her eyes were bright and lovely. Lovely, but not right at all. I tried not to let my smile fade as I observed this.
“Are you ready to go now, my dear?”
I am not good at coming up with short stories. They are either difficult to execute, or do not remain short (as you can see by THE ENTIRE My Name Is Not Heather Stokes series). However, I enjoy reading them, especially modernist and post-modernist pieces. My favorite by far is Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.”
This story popped into my head while driving to work this morning. Although the plot and tone is appropriate as Heather Stokes narrative, it does not fit with where I want the narrative to go, and it HAD to be first-person POV. So, although it is COLOSSUS-esque, the narrator is not Rhodes.
Did you like this Creepy Captivity Short? Here is another.
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