Another short story inspired by reading a short story.
This isn’t happening – by Chelle Obayda
I was sitting in an armchair in a nearby coffee shop on a Saturday afternoon reading a book, one of my favourite things to do. It was the early afternoon in the winter, when the sunlight started to sail away too quickly, long before you felt the day should be ending. The cafe wasn’t too crowded but there were a few people sitting and drinking, some on their own too, armed with a book in hand, some with a friend, catching up on their latest life stories. I barely noticed them.
My position in the comfy armchair, the oversized mug of hot tea in my hand, the lack of any pressing engagements, I should have been completely relaxed.
I couldn’t have been more on edge.
A young bride merely seventeen years of age was being swept away by a French millionaire. I didn’t trust this French man, I know the young bride didn’t either. Why did she marry him? He was a lot older than her, and I could feel the pressures of an age where young women had to marry older men for financial security. With a mixture of gratitude and disgust I shuddered. I pulled my mug of tea closer. As I read the young girl’s description of her vulnerable position, a loud crash of plates on the ground snatched me back to the coffee shop. I snuck a glance to my side in search of the source, and noticed instead an oversized middle-aged man walk past me. He buttoned the top of his coat up and I thought I saw him shift a sneaking glimpse in my direction. I quickly turned back down to my book. My stomach a little uneasy, I look up again just in time to notice the middle-aged man pass a woman on his way out, looking her up and down before stepping out of the door. Another shudder, I pulled my tea closer.
Returning back to France, now to the castle, I’m engrossed, and sitting a little more upright than the soft cushioned chair would invite. Details of grandeur, of loneliness, of isolation. I started to sink into my chair, into a slump, empathetic gloom. I heard a woman scream loudly in laughter and it took me a couple of seconds to realise that the noise was coming from the table nearby. I sank back. Now the housekeeper, her suspicious temperament, her coolness, the way she cruelly laughed at the young bride for not knowing what she had gotten herself into. I felt the sting of ridicule, and then jolted up to the woman’s screaming laugh again. I looked over somewhat nervously at the woman who was sitting with a friend. She was completely engrossed in her friend’s story, the friend had said something funny and she responded in a joyous cackle. My initial reaction slowly calmed, as I realised that this woman’s laugh wasn’t cruel. She wasn’t the housekeeper in the castle. I settled my eyes back down. I tried to calm down.
A couple of paragraphs back in and I was overcome with anticipation. What I awaited may not be pleasant, in fact I was becoming more and more certain it wouldn’t be. My chair shook a little, and I was unsure if it was me or a customer clumsily walking behind me. Again a little shake, this time it was definitely me. I turned my head round for reassurance, and saw nobody behind me. The story started heating up and my tea was getting cold. Movements round the castle were abrupt, the girl was in a hurry. I clutched my mug of tea tight before realising the content was empty. As I placed the mug onto the table, I looked around the coffee shop, allowing myself a moment’s breath to escape the tension. Nobody was moving much. I saw other people engrossed in their books and newspapers, so blissfully unaware of this young bride’s impending doom.
My left arm grabbed my right, clutching it hard so I wouldn’t find myself in the puddle of blood that this young girl has found. My heart rate was increasing, pounding, as she was running through the dimly lit corridors, trying to find the key. She was running. He was coming. The table vibrated and my phone started ringing. It took me four rings to realise this was my phone, and I quickly answered it, heart still pounding.
“Darling, is that you?”
Heartbeat now slowing.
“Hey baby, you ok? You coming home for dinner soon? I’ve just put the chicken in the oven.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll leave now sweetie. See you soon”
I hung up, rose to my feet, and as I put my overcoat on thought to myself, “… if I ever make it home alive!”