The first thing that struck Jillian when she woke was the gnawing scrape of a chill all over her body.
The second, the fact she was naked in a bathtub filled with nuggets of melting ice.
She gripped the edge of the tub with a slick, shaky hand. The other was trapped flat behind her back against the rear end of the tub. That arm felt as if it had been twisted and shoved in there, leaving her lying there like a floppy ragdoll. The pain of it was a raw burn all the way down to her lower back. She slowly slid her body forward, easing herself up into a sitting position while releasing her arm. The ice sloshed and rolled with her, rattling around as she moved, causing her body to shudder.
A new pain jackknifed along her torso, willing her to stop, sharp enough to cause her to gasp. She felt along her side, then down her belly. An incision there— thick stitching—tender to the touch. That only bit of warmth, that fire, would keep her moving.
She took her time using her twitchy hands as awkward leverage, steadying herself just before she pushed herself up out of the ice, causing chunks to tumble back into the tub, some onto the floor. Everything went red. Her breathing came in ragged hitches, her heartbeat escalating.
Not giving in to panic. I’m not. I’m not. The mantra calmed Jillian somewhat, and she silently thanked the months of therapy she’d endured after her divorce. She’d learned that not all men wanted to use her, not all men wanted to see her suffer, not all men wanted to eviscerate what was left.
But it isn’t entirely true, is it? Look at where you are right here, right now, silly thing.
The stray thought lingered. Then Jillian shook it away, easing her breathing, counting silently. Mustering what little strength was returning to her numb limbs, she gently eased herself out of the tub and stepped onto the fluffy bathmat. The sensation of it, the softness between her toes, cradling her heels, felt almost homey. It would’ve had her content had she not felt hot and cold all over. She examined her torso. Sure enough, there was a jagged wound there, purpling around the stitching. She touched the stitches, feeling the silky crisscrossing of it, cautiously pressing inwards.
That searing pain instantly returned, sending a hot poker ramming through her insides, twisting and burning, causing her to moan and drop to her knees.
“Focus,” she hissed.
There was a thick towel crumbled there on the floor beside the base of the sink. It didn’t look as if it had been used, and, as Jillian discovered, it smelled of soap and sun, having been freshly washed. She quickly dried herself, shivering at the welcome warmth of it. She blotted around the wound, taking care not to pat down the area itself.
She then eased herself back up from the floor, staggering a bit as the bathroom tilted, and she wound the towel around her body, tucking the edge over itself, creating a makeshift wrap. There was no clothing there in the bathroom. She barely remembered what she’d been wearing before the world had gone dark. Something impractical. A dress, heels, there might have been jewelry, satin underthings. Close enough, she supposed. She’d worn it for a night out, away from her thoughts.
None of it was there.
The thought of her clothing though was just enough for her to remember the night before. Fragments of scenes between blank spaces. One cocktail and then another. Drinks decorated with pineapple slices and cherries and laced with something acrid. The aftertaste of it still burned on her tongue. Sweet and bitter. Toxic sugar.
The man she’d met there, handsome and cutting, he’d smelled of woodsy aftershave and rotting meat. He’d had carefully manicured fingernails. One pinky nail, long and curved, held traces of white dust embedded there. He’d scraped it along her stockinged thigh, snagging it, causing it to run, and he’d chuckled softly in her ear.
His smile though. All of the things that had waved warning flags at Jillian, it had all faded when he’d smiled at her. She’d floated there beside him, feeling a flush of warmth travel up her thigh, at the juncture between her legs, then up her back. He’d whispered something to her. She tried to recall what he’d said, but his words were tangled and hazy.
She crept across the floor, taking care to move silently and quickly as she reached for the bathroom doorknob. That pain ripped through her once again. She held onto the knob with one hand and gently cupped the other over her belly, shivering and breathing rapidly. Sudden movements had painful consequences. Jillian would have to remain focused and patient. She twisted the knob carefully and tugged open the door.
The bathroom was, apparently, a part of an en suite bedroom, one that held a king-sized bed with a plush comforter. There was also a floral-patterned armchair with rosy cushions, a Tiffany floor lamp that dipped the room in a soft glow, and a padlocked steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. Nothing else. Neither the bathroom nor the bedroom had any windows, so Jillian had no idea what time of the day it was.
The bedroom door beckoned, teasing freedom. She eased herself across the scratchy, woolly floor, taking care not to make any noise. As soon as she reached the door, she tried the doorknob, but it jiggled and then came right off in her hand. She pounded on the door, calling out to whomever might’ve been listening.
It was right at that moment when she remembered what he’d said.
“Gotta pay for our habits some way, babygirl.”
And then it dawned on Jillian she wasn’t getting out anytime soon.
In response to the daily post prompt, “survive”
Chillingly well done.
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Thank you so much! Just tried it as an exercise for my writers’ group. Never attempted flash fiction before. 🙂
Well, I think this one is about as good as flash fiction gets. A really skillful ending.
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Well, thanks much! Means a lot!
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Thank you, my friend! 🙂
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