NaNo Prep - The event which leads to the beginning of my book, 'Bruises Fade'.
It was as though Carl had a sixth sense. When he announced he was taking the week off work on Monday morning, Caitlin froze. Fear stretched across her chest, she felt suffocated. “This week?” she said, her voice barely audible.
“Yes, this week. I’m sure I told you about it last month. You never listen, Caitlin.” Caitlin’s heart pulsed in her neck as she met Carl’s gaze. He said, “I haven’t upset any plans of yours, have I?”
“No.” Pulling her thoughts together, she said, “Of course not, Carl. You’re right, you did tell me. I remember now.” Caitlin was rooted to the spot, unsure of what to do. Her legs were tight, ready to run, but she had to wait for Carl’s cue.
Carl nodded and waved her away like he was shooing a nuisance fly. Caitlin ran to the bathroom and went to lock the door, only she couldn't because Carl had taken the key a couple of weeks ago. Remembering the breathing exercise her doctor had given her, Caitlin slowed her heart rate to a controllable level.
Caitlin sat on the side of the bath, head in hands, and tried to come up with a plan. There were thoughts invading her mind from all directions, snippets of fear strangling her brain. She had to get to the postman before Carl did. She had to do it surreptitiously. She had to act like everything was normal. It was impossible.
When Caitlin looked in the mirror, to check for signs of guilt, she was met with a face she barely recognised. She swallowed a sob as she acknowledged the woman looking back at her was a good twenty years older. The dark circles under her eyes belied a lifetime of insomnia and terror.
As she reached for the door handle, Caitlin couldn’t keep her hand from shaking. She sighed, her breath wobbling, and walked downstairs. Forcing a smile, she sat next to Carl on the sofa. “So, do you have any plans for today, love?” Her heart was drumming so loudly she was sure Carl could hear it.
“Why? Trying to get rid of me again?” Carl’s face was unreadable. Could he be joking?
Caitlin stared at her hands. “No. I was just wondering if you have plans, or if you have anything you would like us to do?”
Caitlin flinched as Carl grabbed her chin. His rough hands pinched as he turned her head toward him. “I’m teasing you, Cait. I have no plans, I would simply like to spend a whole week with my wife, without interruption.” His eyes sparkled as he said, “Now, go on. Make me another coffee.”
It was just as the coffee machine finished churning that Caitlin heard the thud of mail hitting the hall carpet. She ran to retrieve it and gasped when the top envelope was a brown one, addressed to her. She looked around for somewhere to hide it, but there was nowhere.
“Is that the post, Cait?” Carl’s voice was sharp, impatient.
“Yes, I’m just bringing it to you, love.” Caitlin folded her letter and slipped it inside her walking boot which was by the front door.
As Caitlin handed Carl the mail, he grabbed her wrist and said, “Are you okay, Caitlin? You’ve been acting strange all morning.” But his voice wasn’t one of concern. Rather, it was a warning. He wanted Caitlin to know he was watching her. She wouldn’t get away with anything.
Not daring to pull her arm away, Caitlin forced herself to look into her husband’s eyes. “I’m fine, Carl. I’ll just get your coffee.”
Caitlin took Carl his drink and sat opposite him. She rehearsed her next words in her head before speaking aloud. “I’m going to strip the beds and wash the clothes. Is there anything I can get you first, love?”
Caitlin watched Carl’s face, searching for any sign of danger. “Not at the moment. But I would like to spend some time with my wife this week. I didn’t take this holiday for nothing.”
Caitlin backed out of the living room, smiling and laughing nervously. Retrieving the letter from her boot, she ran upstairs for sanctuary. She shut the bedroom door and took a deep breath before tearing open the envelope.
She skimmed through the formalities and found the important part. “You have been accepted for the Compassionate Focussed Therapy Course, beginning Tuesday, 29th September 2015 at 10:30am. Your course leader is Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Patrick Self.”
Caitlin held her breath. This was really happening. She wasn’t expecting to be accepted. Her mind was flooded with alarms and warnings to burn the letter and forget all about it. It was too dangerous. There was no way she could keep it from Carl for twelve weeks.
Caitlin paced around the bedroom, shaking from the inside. She was breathless, nauseous. She couldn’t do this. But she wanted to. She wanted so much to have confidence. Confidence to say no, to stand up to Carl. She needed to do this. It was a matter of survival. She had to do this.
She would do this. She was an expert at keeping secrets, after all. Rubbing the bruise on her head from Friday’s beating, Caitlin hid the letter in her bedside cabinet. She swiftly stripped the bed and made her way back to her husband.