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.

His face

Jess took a step closer to the trolley and swallowed hard as the crisp blue sheet slid weightlessly across the still form beneath. As the face was revealed she nodded to confirm his identity. Death, she thought, had robbed him entirely of personality – or at least of his personality, the one she had known every harsh detail of for the past twenty years. In its place she saw serenity – an expression that had rarely, if ever, registered on his hard-edged features. His thick grey hair, flecked lightly with silver, was shaved on one side. A scar ran from the base of his neck right up to the crown of his head. Instinctively she reached out to touch it. She trailed a finger down the congealed wound, imagining his skin was warm to the touch, though she knew that was impossible. He had been dead for several days.

The news reports spoke of a five car pile-up which had robbed a family of their patriarch – brother, husband, father, grandfather. They would have people believe his death was something of a loss when in fact it had set them all free.

pa·tri·arch 

Noun

The male head of a family or tribe

  • An older man who is powerful within an organization
  • The male founder of something

He had been powerful all right, but the only thing he’d ever founded was borne of hatred and deceit.

This death mask may fool others but it could never fool her. He had been a monster in life and would remain a monster beyond it. No place in Heaven would be waiting for him.

Jess nodded and the sheet began its steady ascent, obscuring his face for the final time.

She felt nothing.

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This photo was taken on the boat to Lombok in Indonesia. I don’t know why but writing this story made me think of a boat man, carrying souls across the water to the ‘other side.’