The Boss

I’ve decided to enter a short story competition, and this is my first attempt at the beginning of the story. What do you think? Honest opinions welcomed…

The Boss

The first time Matt slammed Annie’s head into the wall he said it was an accident. He was going to punch the wall, he said, but her head had got in the way. It was her fault, naturally. It always was. The second time was harder for him to deny. They’d been having breakfast in the conservatory on what she remembered to be a hot and sticky summer’s day. He’d asked about her male colleague, Sam, who he’d met at a work function the previous evening. Had they ever been alone together, he’d wanted to know.

She should have said no but she told him the truth; that of course they had on the odd occasion, travelling to meetings and so forth. It was the wrong answer. She spent that night in A&E with a split lip, black eye and bruised collarbone. He’d been treated for scratches where his hand had made contact with the glass of the conservatory. They knew, the hospital staff, it was obvious. But though they pleaded with their eyes for her to tell the truth she knew the consequences of doing so were far more dangerous than even they realised. And so she stayed silent.

It hadn’t always been like this, of course. When they met at Matt’s university’s graduation ball five years ago he’d bewitched her. Six foot two with gladiatorial stature and eyes the colour of swimming pools he’d not only been her type, he’d been her Adonis. Annie hadn’t thought it possible such a man could exist; as it turned out, he didn’t. When she looked at him now she saw not infinite possibility in his azure eyes, but infinite cruelty – how had she not seen it before?

He was an excellent liar – that much became apparent early on in their relationship, when she started to find the receipts in his jacket pockets, the clichéd lipstick on his collar. She should have left him then, of course, but she was pregnant with Jack. How could she have left? Her parents were dead, she had no savings to her name – he’d made sure everything was in his name. So instead she stayed, played the role of the oblivious wife perfectly. He never suspected a thing.

If there was any solace it was that he didn’t lay a finger on their son. The beatings lessened in severity during the pregnancy, and he was careful not to punch her near her stomach. He may have been a soulless man, but even he knew harming his unborn child was going too far. Instead he slapped her face, burned her legs with cigarettes, just enough to keep her in line, to show her who was boss – oblivious to the fact she would soon show him that it was her.

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The runner

She closed the door behind her and began to run, her feet pounding the pavement with reassuring clarity. As every second passed she felt the muscles in her chest relax. She breathed air deep into her lungs and expelled it forcefully. In, out, in, out, as if she was on autopilot. He couldn’t hurt her here, the streets were her domain. They whispered all their secrets in her ears. They knew she was like them; sleepless, never alone and yet lonely beyond words.

Nobody knew what she was going through, she was too ashamed to admit it – sometimes even to herself. She’d known from that first time it would be silenced, swallowed somewhere deep within her like Jonah in the whale; too far down for her screams to ever find release. He’d apologised, of course, begged for forgiveness and wormed his way back into her affections. Like a maggot in the core of an apple he’d corroded her from the inside out. She still looked the same on the outside, but inside she was empty, a gaping, hollow chasm of pain and despair.

Still she ran, as the sky began to darken and fat rain drops plopped onto her cheeks and mingled with her tears. How could she leave him? Where would she go? He’d severed all her ties, there was nobody left to save her. Her bruised skin slid like water over the weary mountains of her bones. Each step sent shooting spears of pain up through her veins like bolts of lightning. But she didn’t care. She would run on, she knew that now. Until her body was as tired as her mind and she began to stumble on the cold, hard ground beneath her. Until the night turned into day and the birds began to sing their morning song. She would run on.