Outside the window

Outside the window sits a small tree, its branches twisted and bare, as if the young sapling had succumbed to old age. Spring was in full bloom and the neighbouring trees wore thick cloaks of ripe green vegetation. Despite its barren appearance, the small tree refused to die. Its root system was strong and deep, having tapped into an abundance of nutrients deep below the surface.

The interesting thing about this tree is the single flower blooming at the end of the longest branch, with bright orange petals in stark contrast with the sullen shade of brown bark. The flower glowed with more colour than the most vivid sunset or the brightest firework, and its scent—a tantalizing blend of fresh citrus with hints of vanilla—was so unlike any flower seen in the neighbouring yards, and was always a curious sight to those passing by.

But the peculiarity of the tree stretched further than the lonesome flower. The grass below suffered the same defect—a perfect circle of crisp, dead grass surrounded the tree in an even uglier shade of brown than the crumbling bark peeling from its trunk. Every now and then, no more than once in a blue moon, a fresh tuft of green would emerge at the base of the tree, only to be devoured by the surrounding brown stain.

But like all good things should, this tree serves a purpose, and only one person knows the truth about its ghastly appearance. But he’d never tell you, no matter how many cups of chai tea you made him. He was a solemn and honest man, and had made a promise to his wife many decades ago to watch over her and keep her safe. Even in her death, he remained true to his word. Below the roots of that tree rests the remains of his beloved, buried in her Sunday best and favourite orange hat.

Now, the lonely orange flower doesn’t seem so odd, does it? But why, you may ask, is the tree so sterile and wilted? And to answer such a question, we must rely on public opinion and neighbourhood gossip. The woman was an infection upon humanity. Her very presence a stain, an abomination that made even the animals shy away and send the neighbourhood kids scattering down the street.

There were many reasons why people withdrew from her presence. It may have been the necklace made of bones that bounced across her chest or the scarf made entirely of human hair that she wrapped around her head in winter. But the most frightening reason was the way the she walked. Or more precisely, the way she shuffled down the sidewalk—sometimes hand-in-hand with her devoted husband—with her feet facing backwards. It was a sight that could churn the contents of your stomach and send you running for the toilet bowl.

One drizzly winters day, her husband found her in the bathroom, blood leaching across the tiles and a discarded carving knife beside her dismembered feet. She had died in a pool of her own blood, desperately trying to hack away her imperfections. Her sewing kit was laid out beside her, complete with a large needle, its eye already threaded with thick nylon thread.

If you were asked which was more saddening, would it be that the woman had felt like such an outcast that she was decided to cut off her own feet or that she never had the chance to sew them back on, right way around? But, perhaps that’s a question better left for campfire ghost stories and nightmares.

Her husband was the only attendee at the funeral—along with some local kids who wanted to see for themselves that the woman was truly gone, but they sat on the furthest hill, unwilling to come any closer.

Now the husband just sits by the window, watching over the tree. He dreams about the day he will be reunited with his wife, forever clutching a carving knife in his hand.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

One Hundred Roses

 

She opened the door to an ocean of long stemmed roses. She knew they were from him; he had found her. They were wrapped in silky white paper, tied with brown twine. Bundles and bundles of crimson bouquets showered the small patio with an intoxicating aroma; sweet and moist, with a hint of something that she couldn’t quite place her finger on. It lingered on her lips as she breathed it in, her chest rising and falling with the tempo of her drumming pulse.

She stepped out of the warmth of the house, eyeing the empty road—nobody. She loosed a sigh, hungry for his arrival. It had to be soon. They did this every year and it never took more than a couple of hours for him to decipher her clues. But where was he? Surely he was the one who had delivered the flowers . . .

Crouching by the roses, she pulled each bundle close until she found a small, heart-shaped card stashed among the petals. She plucked it from its crimson bed, her heart hammering as she flicked it open. Her fingers trembled in the winter breeze, soothed only by her warm breath as she tried to steady her nerves. The message had been written in glittery pink ink, by the kind of gel-pen teenage girls use to write sob stories into diaries that lock with small silver keys.

It read:   Did you count them all? 

She collected as many of the bouquets as she could in a single armful, carting them inside. After multiple trips between the kitchen and the patio, they were all laid out on the table. With perfectly manicured fingers she counted them, and indulged in a low laugh. Her flowing mahogany hair bounced with humour—he had sent only 99. What was he was playing at? Puzzles and riddles—it was just like him, and she hated it.

She glided to the refrigerator, extracting a glistening bottle of Pol Roger. The cork flew past the light bulb as she unleashed the bubbles, filling her crystal flute. The crisp liquid never got the chance to reach her ruby lips before the doorbell rang. Loud and sharp, like an anticipated phone call. With an arched brow, she answered the beckoning cry.

There he was in his best-tailored tuxedo and a single long-stemmed rose clutched in his hands, like a bride’s bouquet. The one hundredth rose.

“Took you long enough.” The words rolled off her tongue like silk while the aroma of his cologne filled the space between them, intoxicating her. He said nothing as they gazed at each other with a longing far deeper than that of Romeo and Juliet; an infatuation that boiled their blood and tickled their veins. Their eyes devoured each other, consumed with animalistic intent.

“Good game,” he breathed, “it’s never taken me this long before.” He undressed her with his sharp green eyes. The lines of his jaw and the glint of his eyes made her knees tremble and her lips fumbled to find the glass of champagne. A long sip ensued before she said, “You know I don’t like to lose.” She backed inside the house, inviting him in with a wicked grin and heaving bosom.

“Oh, I know,” he snarled, following his wife inside.

“So, what did you do to the owners, this time?” he asked, watching her delicate hands pour a second glass of champagne. She pushed her body against his, feeding him a mouthful of wine. He took it kindly, draining whatever she offered him, and with her lips inches from his, a smile consumed her face.

“The bathtub was the perfect size for both of them. They’re happily bathing in their own blood. I suggest we use the ensuite if needed.”

They laughed in unison, downing their glasses in a single gulp.

“Happy Valentines Day,” she laughed, pulling him upstairs into the bedroom and slamming the door behind them.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

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 Image via Pinterest.

 

The problem with Penelope

The problem with Penelope is hard to define. It could be that she spends all her money on a single item of over-priced, soft-as-silk clothing or that she drinks only the crispest champagne. But that would be a lie. It’s more than that. More than her extravagant Chanel collection or the absurd amount of diamond rings stored in the back of her wardrobe. And secretly, if you’re lucky, I might just tell you behind which Jimmy Choo shoebox the fireproof safe is hidden.

I tell you this story from the comfort of my single mattress, steel framed, sad excuse for a bed, because all I have left are broken memories, a shattered heart and a craving for what my life used to be like. A life before Penelope. You see the problem with Penelope is that everything she has—every penny and dime—she stole from me.

We loved each other fiercely and unfaltering, with the kind of passion you see only on the silver screen—a rare occurrence for the every-day folk of the world. It was glorious, a beautiful adventure of firsts, and she was everything I could ever want in a life-partner.

We were married in a simple ceremony—despite the large fund I had allotted for an extravagant wedding—on the shoreline of a crescent beach where the shimmering crystalline waters lapped at our toes like a mesmerizing slow dance, hypnotising us and our small group of guests into a blissful harmony. A gentle breeze blew against our freshly laundered white attire; never a shade other than ivory, cream or white was to be seen along the secluded beachfront, and for me—well, my eyes saw only her. Penelope. Her luscious caramel hair blowing gently against her pink lips with a smile so pearlescent, it was like standing beside a fallen angel. She looked into my soul with her absorbing brown eyes, and all she saw in me was a lesser being, fooled into the binds of a sham marriage on the white sands of paradise.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my perfect life being taken away from me; ripped away in a painful heartbeat. No—I never saw the bitch coming.

She took it all in a matter of months. The house. The car. The yacht. Everything. Even the fine, silver jewellery that once belonged to my great grandmother now belonged to Penelope. And let me tell you, it’s a sad day when not even the dog bowl remains in your pitiful possession.

But I guess all is fair in love and war, I may have deserved that last blow with the dog bowl, especially after what I did to her in retaliation. I mean . . . it wasn’t the dog’s fault that I took to Penelope with a butcher’s knife. Although in hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have let the furry little terror lick up the blood splattered across the marble floor of the house I once owned. And to be fair, I probably shouldn’t have fed Penelope’s heart to the salivating canine while I disposed of her still-warm remains in the yard.

And what happened next? I guess I didn’t dig the hole deep enough. The neighbours dog dug Penelope up in a matter of days and its damn owners called the police with such haste I was denied the time to stash my blood stained dress and apply a coat of makeup for my mug shot before being escorted out of the house in shackles.

But I did make a new friend at the end. The woman I share my cell with laughed at what I did to Penelope. So, perhaps I’m not as messed up as the judge made me believe. I laugh too, whenever I retell the story. But what else can you do when you’re sitting on death row?

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Image via Pinterest

© Angela. E. Mitchell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A knife, a gun and a smile

She held a knife and a gun. But assuredly, the most fearsome weapon she wielded was that minefield of a smile, glowing beneath her unruly ginger curls.

“Please . . . ” he pleaded; the pain etched in his bright green eyes could have melted even the coldest of hearts. He would have succumbed to tears and brazen begging, but terror had gripped him harder than any love he once felt for the girl standing over him. For he was a gambler, infatuated with winning, fame and fortune. And the girl—she was the reason for his latest venture. But she had played him like the fool he was, pulling his strings like he was no more than a puppet. And he was about to pay the ultimate price. He had gambled away his heart—and lost—and now he’s on the steel table, strapped down with faded leather in nothing but his briefs and shredded t-shirt.

“You knew the stakes,” was all she said, twirling the blade between her slender fingers. Her eyes consumed the tremble of his body; the lines of regret framing his distressed stare. So different to the man she had met on the gaming floor. Figures—it took only two months for him to fall in love with her, and one more for him to say the words that sealed the fateful deal.

“My heart is yours,” he whispered; close enough to feel the pulse of

her heart on his skin. “Always and forever, it will beat only for you.”

He kissed her softly, savouring the cinnamon lingering on her lips,

Letting her lift the covers above their heads as they descended into

a realm of pleasure he never wanted to end.                    

The memory lingered on the rim of his mind, fraying with rage and regret. He never could have foreseen that now—in the secluded basement beneath the gaming floor—she was about to cash in on her winnings, that she was literally about to take his beating heart from his chest. What kind of people did that? And the owners of this twisted casino—had they no compassion for human life?

He pulled against his restraints. It was useless, tiring. “You tricked me!” he retaliated through clenched teeth, “I told you I loved you, not that you could actually have my heart, to hold and keep as some kind of sick souvenir.” She laughed in his face, and a thick wad of saliva shot from his mouth, landing on her bare feet. Mixing with the dirt and dried blood congealed on her pale skin, she clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “I did no such thing,” she purred, dragging the blade over his exposed legs. Tickling, teasing, pushing him toward further retaliation. Fine—he’d give it to her.

He kicked against his ankle restraints, causing the blade to puncture his skin. Groaning, his lower limbs fell still and she breathed heavily at the crimson spots already clotting on the thin wound.

Her eyes found his. She peered into his soul with that maniacal gaze, sliding her slender frame close, her sickly breath warm on his neck. “Did that hurt?” she whispered, head cocking like a curious owl. The aroma of cinnamon and whisky danced from her lips. He took a deep breath and seized the opportunity. He lurched his neck forward and their foreheads collided with a painful thump. The woman stumbled backwards, matching purple bruises already forming on their stricken brows. She screamed, anger consuming her deranged heart. She threw her body against the bed, and it lurched across the concrete floor. Dust and mildew offered no friction as steel and wall collided.

The sudden impact loosened his leather binding. He wriggled his wrists, slightly lengthening each tight loop around his hands.

“Enough!” she screamed, cocking the gun; the click of metal echoed through the bare room. “Decide, now!” With the knife pressed against his chest and the gun at his temple, she had him right where she wanted him—at least she thought . . .

He made a show of painful consideration. After all, it’s not every day you get to choose how you die. Her eyes widened, lips pursed, pushing the knife deeper onto his glistening skin. His wrist squirmed silently and with lighting speed, his arm sprung free, ramming across the woman’s head. Stunned, she fell to the floor, unwittingly relinquishing her grip on the blade.

He pried open the remaining straps, pulling his body free of the leather prison. He slid off the table like silk on glass, landing shakily on his feet. His muffled footsteps were silenced by the woman’s groans, shaking off the haze of the unexpected blow. He reached for her, ready to destroy her limb from limb—although he’d settle to just slam her head into the cement and watch her pathetic insides turn to dust in this forsaken basement.

His gaze absorbed her, forgetting about the loaded firearm clutched in her demonic fingers. She raised it, aiming for his chest, and for a moment they both ceased breathing. The silence was deafening. The air turned to ice as she pulled the trigger. He shot sidewards, barely escaping the bullet. It slashed across his shoulder, forcing him to his knees with an agonizing shriek. He scurried backwards, picking up the lost blade on his way, and flipped the table on its side. He cowered behind it as three more bullets indented the thick steel, and then, silence . . .

Nothing but their heavy breaths penetrated the air. She followed the crimson trail that seeped from his wound. She was ready for the kill. With a single bullet left, she wanted nothing more than to deposit it between his eyes. Sliding her toes through the pathway of blood and sweat, she grinned from ear to ear, ready to pounce. He was nothing but a sitting duck, waiting for death—a respite she would happily deliver.

“Wait,” he choked from behind the table, desperately trying to stop the blood streaming from his shoulder with his other hand. “Please! I’ve made my decision.” A feral sneer of satisfaction lit up across her face. Lowering the gun, she asked, ‘Well? Blade or bullet?” Forgetting that she was no longer in possession of the gleaming bladed weapon.

His eyes breached the surface of the destroyed table, followed by pained, pursed lips. She couldn’t control the hammering of her heart as he struggled to pull himself to his feet. He opened his mouth to answer and—

The blade flew from his hand, tracing an arc of silver that blurred through the air before lodging deep in the chasm of her throat. Time stopped. Hearts hammered. She clawed at her neck, falling to her knees. Blood stained her white dress the colour of a ruby sea and her face paled as he shuffled toward her.

He leant over her, kicking the firearm out of arm’s reach. With a single finger, he tilted her chin and gazed into her eyes, watching the life drain from the hole in her windpipe. With a swift movement­, ploughed his knee into the bottom of her jaw and had turned his back before she hit the floor, running for the arched doorway that separated him from the fresh air of freedom.

It creaked loudly as he pushed it open with his uninjured shoulder and he stepped into the long corridor lined with dust and discarded cigarette butts. He loosed a deep sigh—not a person in sight. Wasting no time, he forced his body into the dimly illuminated hallway. Droplets of blood fell upon the grimy floor with every step towards freedom.

He bypassed the set of stairs leading up to the main gaming floor. Chatter and tinkering glasses sounded through the thin slit beneath the door. He had no intentions of using that exit—unless he had the sudden desire to be dragged back downstairs to another set of leather straps. No—there was another door, he was sure of it. He lumbered to the end of the passage and kicked open the final hurdle separating him from the pine-scented air beyond. He breathed it in, consuming the aroma of the dry, expansive forest on the border of town.

There were no paths on this side of the manor, which was favourable in his current circumstance. They were likely to be skittled with guards and unsuspecting patrons about to gamble their lives away. His bare feet crunched over fallen branches and pine needles, heading anywhere and nowhere. And as he streamlined through the desolate forest, he made a promise to himself never to step foot inside the Casino Vitae again.

© Angela. E. Mitchell

Peace in the rain

“I find peace in the rain,” she screamed at him from amidst the downpour. Thick droplets of water traced the curves of her smile, the creases of her eyes, dampening any desire she had to return inside to the warmth and comfort of his love.

Her yellow silk dress clung to her slender frame, leaving nothing to the imagination, but his eyes lingered only on the way her arms caught the glow of the streetlight, and the way she brushed her soaking mahogany hair away from her brow. He had never seen her like this—lapping up the full force of Mother Nature as if it were nothing but a familiar song that she had forgotten the words to. In this moment—this wet and shivering moment—she was home. Happy. Giving no regard to how his heart had splintered into a thousand shards of glass.

But he said nothing. His heart may have been shattered, but he smiled for her—if only on the inside, and with whatever slop of sanity that remained. A deep breathe left his lips. She was happy, and he supposed that’s all that mattered.

He stood on the stoop of their apartment, inches from the downpour, waiting. Eventually the twirling in the street ceased, and the smile stretched across her face faded into the night. Limp and weak, she stared at him—barely able to see his outstretched arms through the rain pooling on her eyelids. Or maybe they were tears—she wasn’t sure.

She stalked off the empty street and he welcomed her into his embrace, warming her with his breath, his heart, with everything he had to offer. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, holding her tight.

She muffled a sob, burying her face into his neck. “What are we going to do?” she whimpered, gently kissing the smooth skin pressed against her face. An answer awaited—for he had many. Plan A. Plan B. All the way to Plan Z, if necessary.

“We find another doctor, get a second opinion,” he said.

She pulled away and their eyes locked—an eternal bond that was being stretched and pulled. A shared sadness connected them. He would never give up, and she would never leave—a perfect pair. The perfect couple. He was the perfect husband who would never abandon his dying wife.

“Whatever it takes,” he promised. Grabbing her hand, he led her inside, oblivious to the train of rainwater following them, dripping from her dress, and ruining their expensive carpet. But what was soiled carpet when your wife’s life hung in the balance . . .?

© Angela. E. Mitchell

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Photo credit: Chanticleer Wedding Art saved to Unique Photography
Untitled, 1949 Photo: Tore Johnson.

Chapter One Teaser . . .

The inferno threatened to devour her, yet she pushed further into the blaze. A voice whispered through the ash—familiar, inviting. She clambered through the crumbling building, finding nothing but destruction. That voice—she had to find where it came from. Someone was in trouble, and she was fumbling to save them.

All her life she had struggled to find a purpose—to uncover her true calling. Her earliest memories were filled with desire to be adventurous, successful and above all, to be remembered for something great. But after twenty-one years, she was still living in the shadows of lost dreams and empty ambitions. But to save a life—that was something she could be proud of.

Beads of sweat ambushed her brow. Tendrils of smoke danced among flickering embers, and her bright green eyes found what they searched for. In the far corner lay a body, writhing in agony. Its limbs twitched violently, silently screaming for the sweet release of death. The crackle and spit was deafening. The ceiling threatened to collapse at any moment. A scream tugged at Olivia’s throat, her voice stolen by the smoke—she was running out of time.

She approached the body. A silent moan echoed in her soul, too hot for tears to form—she was too late. Nothing but a crisp corpse remained. Its jaw agape, twisted in an eternal scream. Sunken holes replaced its eyes and tiny wisps of silver smoke rose from between charred teeth. The pain etched on its bones was enough to twist Olivia’s stomach into knots. And then—

Blue flames erupted, battering Olivia in a wave of heat that prickled her skin. She screamed, and her legs buckled. She crashed to the ground, shattering the floorboards. Splinters of wood pierced her flesh as she fell into a dark pit of smouldering smoke. She braced for impact, limbs flailing as she fell into bitter nothingness . . .

 

© A. E. Mitchell. Excerpt from Chapter One of my first novel, still in editing phase.