A man turns out to be the opposite of who he portrays to be.
The sharp rocks where Abby crouched behind a limestone boulder, dug into her knees. Her heart thumped, the sound so loud in her ears she was afraid he would hear it too. She had discovered recently there was nothing she could hide from him, he seemed to know everything she did or even thought.
The day had stretched out before them, a day of sunshine, romance and fun. Although the temperature had been hot, a cooling light wind made it perfect for a day’s sailing off the coast of their tropical honeymoon island.
The wedding had been perfect. Everything she’d ever hoped her special day would be. The sun had shone down on the ‘golden couple,’ as others described them. She agreed with them, that’s what they were. Both blonde and blue eyed, looking more like siblings than strangers when they first met. There was an immediate attraction, as if they had met before but neither could recall where or when.The courtship had been short, a whirlwind romance. Everyone thought they were made for each other...”a match made in heaven.”
Now here she was hiding from him in this remote location, far from home, without even phone reception on the island. Adam had stated that as a positive. He wanted her to himself, he’d told her, with no outside interference. Just the two of them, alone. Now she knew her husband had a dark side. A part of him he’d kept from her. It had all started the day they met…
Abby was on her lunch break in the school’s staff room. She poured herself a coffee and stepped back, “I’m so sorry!” she gasped when she stepped on the toes of a young man she’d never met before.
“It’s fine. My fault, I startled you.” Adam wiped splashes of coffee from his sweater and smiled, “Adam Carstairs, new physical education teacher.” He held out his hand.
“Abby Thomas. History.” She shook his hand,. “You’re not from around here?” She’d caught a bit of an accent.
“No. Australia,” He poured himself a coffee.”I was lucky enough to get a green card. Now I’m permitted to work in America.”
“How’s it working out for you so far?”
“I’m loving it, especially here in Baltimore. It’s a great city.” He nodded to an empty table. “Have you time for a chat?”
Abby glanced at her watch, “Sure, I’ve another thirty minutes before next class.”
And that’s how it all began. Within a couple of weeks, she was introducing her handsome Aussie boyfriend to her family and friends. It all seemed so easy, everyone loved him. He fitted in seamlessly.
Her mother’s eyes had filled with tears when Adam told her about his own mother’s illness when he was just a child. “I never knew my father and after mum died, I was fostered by the only other family I’ve known.
Jeanette had seen how his eyes gazed into the distance, as if he was reliving an unpleasant memory. She had taken his hand, “Consider us your family now, Adam. You’re welcome here anytime.”
He’d smiled, but struggled to speak. “You can't possibly imagine what that means to me,” his voice was thick with emotion.
Abby enjoyed showing him off to her circle of friends, proud not only of his tanned good looks and strong physique, but of the way he made everyone feel special.
When Adam asked her to marry him only three months after they’d met, no one was surprised. They were a perfect match.
The wedding was not to be a large one, just the bride’s family, some teachers from school, and her close friends. Adam insisted he didn’t need anybody, that he knew no one in Baltimore well enough to invite and anyway, Abby’s family and friends were his too now.
“But I wish you had at least someone here in Baltimore we could invite, someone who knew you before we met.” Abby sighed as she finished writing another invitation, “Isn’t there even one friend or relative you want to be there on our special day?”
“I’ve told you before, darling, my life in Australia wasn’t a happy one. I want to forget it.” He pulled her into his arms, “I don’t need anyone but you.” He kissed her softly before whispering in her ear, “A new start.”
It was still term time at school when the wedding took place, so they couldn’t take an immediate honeymoon. Deciding to wait until the long summer break, they moved into his small, furnished, downtown apartment. Of course Abby had been there many time before, but when Adam lifted her in his arms and carried her through the door after the wedding reception she felt as if this was where she was meant to be, with the person she was destined to be with, forever.
“Welcome home, Mrs Carstairs.” Adam carried her in to the bedroom and placed her gently on the bed.
“Mrs Carstairs.” Abby smiled, “I like the sound of that.”
“You’re mine, now,” he said, in not much more than a whisper.
There was something different in his voice, and in his expression when he said those words. A fleeting thought crossed her mind that something may change between them now they were married, but put it down to tiredness after the exciting day. When he lay down beside her and took her into his arms, she soon put it out of her mind.
“Where are you going all dressed up?”
Abby gasped, “Gee, you scared the life out of me!” She had been sitting on the bed putting her shoes on when Adam silently stood unnoticed watching her.
“It’s Friday night, I’m making dinner for us.” He was too close to the bed, so that when Abby stood up, they were face to face.
She awkwardly squeezed past him before saying, “But I told you this morning I was going for a meal with the girls tonight.”
“Why do you need to go out with them? We’re married now. Why aren't I enough for you?” his voice raised.
Abby took a breath, “Please don’t start this again.”
“Start what again?”
“The ridiculous notion that I’m not to be trusted out of your sight.”
At first she’d thought it kind of sweet he wanted to spend every minute he could with her. But lately he’d begun to complain, even when she visited her family, or spoke to her mum on the phone.
“Why do you have to tell your mother everything?” You should talk to me if something’s worrying you.”
Abby had put his behaviour down to insecurity brought about by having been let down too often as he was growing up. She tried to reassure him he had nothing to fear. She was his wife, and she loved him.
“I love you, Adam, but couples need time away from each other. I like to visit my friends, see family, talk to my mum on the phone.”
But soon Abby made excuses why she couldn’t go out for a drink with her friends. When her mother asked her why she’d not been around or phoned for a while, she told her she was too busy with end-of-year exams at school and they were redecorating the apartment.
Adam came up behind her and kissed her neck before saying, “I’ve a surprise for you.”
She turned to look at her husband’s face. He had a sort of, pleased with himself look, as if he’d pulled off a magic trick. “Okay?” She said, preparing herself, “are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?”
“I booked us a flight to Bali and chartered a small yacht for a few days while we’re there. We’re going on our honeymoon at last.”
“Bali? Sailing? Do you even know how to sail a boat?”
“Of course I do! It’ll be wonderful, just the two of us away from friends, family and school.” He noticed Abby seemed doubtful, “The yacht has everything we need, fishing rods, scuba gear. Everything.”
“When I was little, dad would always take me with him fishing on our boat. I’ve never tried to scuba though.”
“I’m going to teach you, it’ll be wonderful.” His face fell, “I thought you’d be pleased.”
Abby felt guilty at her lack of enthusiasm. “I am pleased, it just wasn’t something I was expecting, that’s all.” She put her arms around him and kissed his pouting mouth. “It’s a wonderful surprise. Thank you so much for organising it. I’m excited. Wow, Bali!”
“You’ll love it, babe. I’ve been heaps of times, it’s such a short flight from Perth, it’s a popular destination for Aussies.”
The vacation was almost upon them. Abby was packing and half listening to the CNN news. It wasn’t often there was any news from Australia, so when Perth was mentioned, she looked up at the television newsreader crossing to an Australian reporter.
“So what’s the situation there, Mike?”
“Thank you, Sonia. Yes, there’s been a gruesome find in Kings Park in the centre of the city. The body of missing Paula Smith has been found in a shallow grave. She’d been missing for more than a year.” The reporter stood relating the news with a wonderful view of the Swan River behind him. He continued to speak, “Paula is the fourth girl to go missing in the past five years, but the first to be found…”
Abby returned to her packing and reminded herself to mention the news item to Adam when he came home, knowing he’d be interested to know Perth had been mentioned on the news.
But it wasn’t until they were mid-flight when Abby remembered to tell him the news from Western Australia. They were halfway through their long haul flight when she put her book down on the seat tray and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, Perth was on CNN the other day.”
“Perth? Really? Nothing newsworthy happens there.”
“The reporter was in Kings Park. You’ve talked about that place. You were right, it did look beautiful.”
“What was it about?”
“They found a body buried there.”
Adam’s face paled, “Oh, that’s awful. Poor girl.”
“I didn’t say it was a girl.” Abby said.
“It usually is, isn’t it?” Adam went back to the screen and his movie.
The first few days in Bali were heavenly. Abby fell in love all over again with her husband as he showed her around his favourite holiday isle. They ate their evening meals by candlelight, at tables set on the warm sand. Sounds of the Bali Sea a background to deep and meaningful conversations. Abby told him of her concerns regarding his controlling attitude. He apologised, telling her of his insecurities, and promised to do better in the future.
On the fourth day, the happy couple walked down to the dock where their yacht awaited them, supplied with everything they would need for three days isolation.
“It’s so beautiful,” Abby gasped when she stepped aboard. It was small, but perfect. The cabin, below deck, was comfortable with a galley, double bed and a tiny bathroom. ”I love it!”
While Adam chatted to the owner, receiving information he’d need to know about the vessel before settling sail, Abby was busy familiarising herself with what was to be their new home for the next few days.
It took a few hours of sailing before they weighed anchor just offshore of the tiny deserted island, Adam had told her about. The sun was lowering in the cloudless sky and the contented couple toasted to their future.
The following day, after a restful night being rocked to sleep by the gentle waves, they began Abby’s scuba diving lessons.
“The gear is so heavy,” she complained, “I’ll sink and drown!”
“I’ll be with you all the time. Just relax, trust me.”
After a few failed attempts to master her fear of breathing underwater, Abby became entranced at this other world. Tropical fish and creatures she’d never even seen before swam past her and she soon relaxed, taking steady slow breaths. Her loving husband stayed by her side, giving her encouragement. At last, he gave the okay sign, which told her she was doing well. Becoming more confident, she left his side, absorbed in her environment.
Abruptly the regulator mouth piece was ripped from her mouth. Sea water choked her. Her hands flailed in the water, desperate to locate her lifeline. She stared wide eyed behind her mask at her husband, who held the mouth piece deliberately away from her and she could see he wasn’t fooling around. His eyes behind his mask, held nothing but icy coldness and disdain as he taunted her, enjoying her desperate panic.
Despite her desperation, she remembered to undo her weight belt and kicked hard to reach the surface, expecting to feel the grasp of his hand on her ankle pulling her back down. As soon as she surfaced she struck out to the shore, leaving the yacht anchored behind her.
She remained hidden behind rocks in the entrance to a large cave on the beach, never taking her eyes off the beach and the water, expecting him to appear at any moment. She saw the footprints she’d left in the sand leading up to her hiding place, so taking a chance, she left the cave and used a fallen palm frond to obliterate any sign of her presence.
As her eyes became accustomed to the gloom of the cave, she noticed a glow of light in the darkness behind her. Despite her fear of leaving daylight, she feared Adam more, incredulous at how quickly her feelings of love had spiralled into ones of fear. She had no time to dwell on them, needing to get to safety somehow. But how?
The only hope was to go further into the cave and pray there was another exit.
The cave roof gradually lowered until Abby was forced to crawl on her hands and knees across the stony ground. Wearing only her one-piece swimsuit, she had no protection and could feel trickles of blood run down her legs from the cuts and abrasions.
She could still see light. It brightened the further she crawled, until at last she reached an opening in the rock wall. It was not much more than a gap but through it she could see white sand and a small boat anchored a hundred metres out in the bay. She squeezed herself painfully through the narrow gap, bruising the skin on her arms and legs. From her position on the sand, she saw no sign of life on the boat, no one to help her. Taking a chance, she ran, plunging into the warm sea and swam.
After climbing a small ladder she lay like a caught fish, floundering on the deck. Her heart pounded as she lay regaining her breath, expecting someone to come from below deck and help her. No one came. She was alone, vulnerable. Looking across the beach at where she’d exited the cave, she saw her foot prints enter the sea and knew Adam would soon track her down.
The occupants of the boat must have gone ashore. Perhaps they were tourists, exploring. But she had no idea how long they may be away and couldn’t afford to wait. She had to get away. The mainland of Bali was a faint smudge in the distance. If she could get the boat to start, her plan was to simply head for it.
The boat was similar to the one her dad had when they’d gone fishing. Abby was grateful he’d sometimes allowed her to drive it and within a few minutes the boat leaped forward away from the shore.
In the driver’s seat, Abby’s blonde hair streamed behind her and the wind whipped away the threatening tears. In the distance, the island of Bali gradually grew closer.
She regularly turned her head to look over her shoulder, checking Adam wasn’t in pursuit. The boat’s motor screamed in protest as the terrified young woman pushed the vessel to its limits, even though the wind and waves made it difficult for her to maintain control. She was closing in on the island but failed see anywhere safe to land. Abby knew there would be safe passages through the treacherous reefs, but she was desperate and simply aimed the boat at the rocky shoreline.
Six weeks later
“You’ve come along way, these last few weeks. Your dad and I are so proud of you.”
“Thanks, Mum.” I know I’m lucky to have survived with just a few broken bones. Abby gave a wan smile, her bruised face fading to yellow. “I can’t get over how kind everyone’s been. Both the Indonesian and the Australian police, they couldn’t have been kinder.”She began to cry.
“It’s over now. We’ve been so worried. it’s such a relief to have you back home where I can take care of you.”
“But, why, Mum? Why did he try to kill me? He said he loved me!” Abby sobbed in her mother’s arms.
“He fooled us all. Don’t blame yourself. Adam, or whatever his real name might be, is nothing but a psychopath.” Jeanette shook her head. “I can’t stop thinking about those poor Australian girls. The police will find him eventually. Don’t worry, he can’t hurt you anymore.”
There came a loud knock at the door. “It’ll just be another bloody reporter, Mum.”
“They don’t give up, do they?”
“Just tell whoever it is, I’m not giving anymore interviews.” Abby raised herself painfully off the couch and picked up her crutches. “I’m going to have a lie down, Mum.”
“I’ll get rid of them,” Jeanette could see the tall figure of a man with his back to the door through the frosted glass. She opened it, “Can I help you?” she asked.
The man who turned to face her had a full blonde beard and moustache. “Hi, Jeanette. You don’t recognise me?”
The door to the bedroom opened slowly and Abby saw something she thought impossible.
“I’m afraid your mother is indisposed, so I let myself in. I hope you don’t mind.”
The knife in his hand dripped blood, “Aren’t you going to say, hello, Abby.” He smiled, his dead eyes spoke for him. “I’m back.”