<author is not worthy of being named>
It was dark in the bedroom.
The silence of the early hours laid down its harsh velvet blanket, deadening all sounds except for the monotonous ticking of the clock - that god-damned clock of his! the thought ripped through her and she trembled. The memory of tears burned in her eyes as she remembered when he bought it. "I buy you enough stuff - I want something for me for a change," he had said. That wasn't the point though - the point was that he'd refused to let her know - refused to consider her inability to sleep or move with that constant pulse thrumming through her nerves...and the terrible anticipation of its strikes on the hour. Each bong of the deep bell made her writhe under the blankets - as though hot wax was dripping onto her naked neck...
She steadied herself in the darkness - her body shaking and her breath in sobbing gasps.
Well my love, she could hear herself saying, since I let you get what you want all the time, I'm going to buy my Christmas present for myself this year."
She grimly curled her lip.
Cautiously, she sat up - listening intently for any change in the sound of his breathing. Carefully, easily, she rose up, cautiously spinning around so her legs swung off the edge onto the floor without disturbing the blankets. She had practiced this enough times, often until she was exhausted, but it paid off: she detected no change in his breathing.
Hardly daring to breathe, she reached out to the drawer of her nightstand, slowly opened her hand - and then frantically gripped the lamp before it fell on the floor. She couldn't help shuddering - it had nearly fallen to the stone floor where it would have shattered. Loudly. Trying to keep her panic down, she carefully stood it back on the surface and gently released it.
She then carefully felt for the edge of the table, found it, slipped her fingers under the overhang, then slid them along the surface. She jumped when she encountered metal - the handle. The drawer handle. She'd made it this far. Her shaking threatened to go out of control and she had to stop, desperately trying to calm herself - to not think of what would happen next.
His breathing paused.
Blind terror overcame her - her muscles were going numb, her consciousness fading...
...but he resumed and relief flushed through her. She could feel it - out from the stomach to the tips of her fingers. Her fist relaxed and she was calm.
She gently raised the hasp of the handle, slipping her fingers underneath so it wouldn't slam back against the drawer. Slowly, carefully, she inched it open, her tension and anticipation painfully increasing, trying not to hold her breath.
It was open.
She had to steady herself again.
Once you start, you can't stop. You've got to follow through - or this whole thing is useless.
She went cold as she thought of the consequences of failing: he would taunt her. Slay her with cruel words of disdain; lecture her as though she were an erring child. He wouldn't touch her - not then. He knew the longer he kept himself aloof the worse the terrible anticipation would be. He might even laugh - calm her.
But it would end eventually. Then - then he'd do it again. With his hands. Striking her soft flesh mercilessly while she fought hard to not cry out. If she made it past that then he would start off with the implements; each instrument more brutal than the one before; until he forced the scream to burst from her throat - forced her to scream out her pain; her begging him to stop; the choking sound of her tear-wracked throat...
...he knew how to prolong it. He could keep it up all night. Until she finally would collapse - exhausted in a dead faint and fade to black.
It was her only escape - and he always held her back as long as he could.
She realized the tears were dripping out of eyes and she blinked quickly.
You are hesitating.
Anger flamed in her cheeks; her jaws clamped. She reached out, carefully felt the outline of the pistol - the pistol with its clip inserted. The metal cold and hard.
She delicately lifted the pistol and flipped off the safety with a practiced hand. Those constant trips to the shooting range were finally paying off.
Taking a deep breath, she held the pistol in two hands, pointed the barrel toward his pillow, gritted her teeth, and slowly pulled the trigger with a steady aim...
The bell of the clock unexpectedly sounded. She whirled in fright, her finger tightening as she did so. The pistol jumped in her hands.
And she screamed.
There was an ugly sound - a horrible sound.
A metallic click.
The clip was empty. The gun was unloaded.
Her hands fell nervelessly in front of her and she started to sob without any attempt at concealment. At the same moment, she felt him reach out to his night table and then bent her head to hide her eyes from the blinding light of his lamp.
After a few more minutes, surprised at not hearing anything from him, she cautiously raised her head and opened her eyes. She stiffened as she caught sight of his face, his penetrating eyes, and that sarcastic smile.
He laughed and shook his head.
She held herself steady and kept looking at him, waiting without a flinch for his retaliation.
He held out his hand and she limply handed him the pistol. His fingers curled around it and he looked it over with a critical eye.
"You weren't kidding, were you? The safety isn't on," he said, almost humorously.
That's how he always begins.
He pulled out the clip, looked at it with a puzzled expression. This was so unexpected she just stared at him - not knowing what else to do.
He carefully examined the clip, then put it back in the pistol, pulled a handle which immediately snapped back into position. He glanced in the chamber and smiled.
"I thought you knew how to use this," he said. "You have to manually chamber the round," and he looked at her with frank astonishment. "How could you not know that?"
She said nothing.
He sat himself up and leaned back against his pillow, his eyes not leaving hers.
"Shopping for the perfect gift?" he asked.
She nodded, her lip trembling.
He shook his head.
"Looks like I wasted my time with those diamonds," he said, casually. "If I'd known you wanted something else I would have got that for you."
She said nothing.
"Is it really that horrible to be with me?"
She looked up, surprised.
He had never asked that question before.
And he had never looked at her like that. His sadistic, sarcastic look, the look that haunted her dreams was gone. His expression was one of hurt surprise - and it kept getting more and more gloomy the longer he looked at her.
"I guess that's my fault," he sighed, "I honestly had no idea it was that bad."
She glared at him. How could he say these things? He must have known. How could he not?
He pulled up part of the blanket and began vigorously rubbing the pistol as thought polishing it. She watched, fascinated.
"Forgot the clip," he said apologetically and he polished that too.
Then he looked at her.
Tears were forming in his eyes.
"I really did love you," he said, quietly.
She began to shudder and curled herself up in a crouching position.
"It's too late. I don't know what else to say. I can't learn a new script this late in the game. So I will have to make it up to you."
"Well," he said, "I guess you won't want to sleep in here anymore. So," and he sighed, "I guess the best thing I can do is let you go."
She stared at him, not believing him.
"Oh I'm serious," he assured her. "I mean - it isn't as great of a gift as you wanted but it's a start. Don't you think?"
She did not move.
"I mean it," he said, more urgently. "Go ahead and go. You can use the guest room. I won't disturb you. I promise."
She still did not move.
He reached out and she flinched but he just gently touched her shoulder with a comforting squeeze.
"I'm serious, my love. If that's what you want, go ahead and go."
Slowly, still not believing him, she stood up and looked at the bedroom door.
"Go ahead. You can turn around and watch if you want - I'm not going to shoot you," and he tossed the pistol to the foot of the bed.
She shivered and picked up her robe, knotting it tightly about her.
"It's okay," he said again.
With a last look, she slowly walked to the bedroom door, opened it, stepped through, and slowly closed it behind her.
She had not gone far when she heard his voice from the room.
There was an explosion behind her that echoed off the walls. She staggered, turned around and stared at the door in horror.
But there was no sound.
She suddenly started to cry and snuggled against the wall.
It was worth it...