I should have trusted my feelings. I new something was wrong, could feel it. Now I can smell her scent. Hear her descending the staircase. I feel sick to my stomach.She is still so beautiful. Emily, such a sweet name, but I know better.

“I feel so much better for that. This city is filthy,” she says.

As she sits next to me, I can smell her newly washed skin. Her arm around me feels so alien. But I know how she can be, I mustn’t react. I must play along, for now.

“It’s so good to see you honey.” She smiles a sterile smile.

Sickly sweet, my cuddly bunny. But a bunny with teeth.

I thought this moment would be a long time coming, and hopefully never. But here she is, out.

“Have you missed me?” she asks.

“I haven’t stopped thinking about you for a moment,” I reply.

And I mean it. This woman has haunted every waking moment of my life for the last two years. I just haven’t been able to shake her, even when there were high concrete walls between us.

“Because I’ve missed you. I know you didn’t mean those things you said,” she says.

As she slips her arms around me every muscle in my body wants to tense. And I want to scream. But I must force myself to relax. But it’s too late.

“What’s wrong? I thought you’d be happy.” She looks sweet and disappointed. I used to fall for this act, many times in fact. But not anymore.

“I guess it’s just the shock. And I’m worried. You’ll be in so much trouble.” My mind is spinning now. How do I get away from her?

“I don’t care. I couldn’t live without you any longer. I knew you would find someone else, if I didn’t get home soon.” She’s getting angry now.

“Has there been anyone?” she asks, her eyes are growing fierce, her jaw set tight.

“Of course not. How could there be?” What am I saying? Who could believe this bullshit?

“You’re lying. I could always tell. Who is it? That bitch Lydia from next door?”

Jesus no, this is getting out of control, so quickly.

I don’t even see it coming, she hits me so hard the left side of my face explodes with the pain. And then she is on me. All I can do is curl into a ball and try to hide from her blows. Her punches and kicks have grown, if anything, more powerful.

Is it the pain or the shame that is the worst? I never was sure. I am the man, after all. Why do I let her do this to me? I know I am stronger, but she can be savage and the terror seems to overwhelm me.

“Look at you. Lying there. Why do I love you? How can I love such a weak creature?”

I can’t speak. I know that anything I say will be wrong. But so is saying nothing. My insides feel like they are contorting with the tension and the indecision.

“Maybe it would be best to just put you out of your misery. That’s what they do with dogs, isn’t it? When they are past their usefulness.”

She has never threatened this before. Of all the times, as far as she went, I only felt on the edge of death when she went too far. When her temper was out of control. But this is worse, she is deciding. I can see it in her eyes. She is weighing her options.

A knock at the door.

She looks out of the window, to check who it is. Maybe it is the police.

“It’s her,” she says. “The bitch. Now it’s time to end this. Two birds with one stone.”

It all happens so quickly, I am frozen to the spot.

Emily opens the door with on hand, and with the other she has Lydia by the hair, pulling her through the door. She is on her like a cat, hissing as she pulls hair out in clumps. Now attacking her eyes, scratching and gouging at them. Lydia doesn’t know what has hit her.

It’s almost like I am outside my body looking in. Just an observer unable to intervene. That’s what the fear has always done to me, made me impotent.

But this time is different, there is someone else involved. This time as I watch, seemingly from outside, I see myself move. Get up and creep forward, there is something in my hand. Something heavy. The clock from the mantelpiece.

As I swing downwards I seem to reenter my body, just before the impact.

A sickening thud, followed by a grunt and then silence.

Emily is slumped over Lydia now. Is she breathing?

I’m still holding the clock. The bottom edge is covered in blood and matted hair. I can’t drop it fast enough when I see this. Revulsion overcomes me.

Lydia’s face is a mask of horror, contorted in shock and pain. I remember how it felt, the first time. But, in time, it almost becomes expected. And accepted.

I don’t want to touch Emily, but I have to. As I pull her of and lay her to the side of Lydia, I can sense that she is gone. There is no longer the presence that was so strong. So intent.

Lydia is shaking now, sobbing uncontrollably. As I help her to her feet she clings to me.

“I’m sorry,” I say. It seems meaningless but I have to say something.

“How did she get out?” Lydia asks.

“It was on the news, that three people had escaped. I prayed she wasn’t one of them.” I still can’t believe it myself. How did she do it?

“Do I look OK? My eyes are burning,” she says with concern.

“She got you pretty good, but I think it’s just scratches. Can you see OK?” It looks worse than I am letting on, but I hope she will be fine. There is no point in panicking her now.

“Yes, it seems to be fine. But my face is so sore,” she almost whimpers. “You had better call the police.”

It’s good advice but I can’t deal with this. What have I done? Now I start to sob, I can hardly breathe. Why? I should be happy, it is over now.

My emotions are running wild. I put my arms around Lydia, I need to hold someone. And she hugs me back.

As I look at her lying there, that’s when it hits me. How dangerous that woman was. Not just for me, but for everyone she touched. And the first surge of happiness begins to flow through me. It is over, finally.

Now I can live, I deserve it.

© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

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