This is the fourth post in a series about a time from my teens when I was held hostage. If you’ve missed the first three posts, here they are: How I Got Drawn In, A Minister’s Son and The Knife.
Do read them first and then come back!
I was quiet and sensitive as a child. To escape from the world, which often felt more than I could handle, I sought solitude and fantasy. Sometimes solitude was enough. I stood on a rock in the Atlantic; waves crashed against the rock and wind whipped salt onto my lips. I thought of nothing but waves and wind.
I lay hidden in tall grass as fluffy clouds drifted past, and I saw creatures in the clouds. I ran through heathery hills, wind pulling my hair from its roots, and I dreamed of desolate plains where wild horses galloped, taking me with them to dark green forests and snowy mountains.
As soon as I learned how, I wrote: poems, stories, songs, a book. I specialized in adventure tales. My young heroines were kidnapped, tied up and bravely escaped, saving small companions from torturous death.
Dreams – nightmares – do come true. My hands are tied behind my back, and rope binds my ankles. I am promising a man with as many sharp knives as fingernails that I will not try to escape the moment he leaves the room. He seems to believe me, and heads for the door.
But he can see inside my heart.
He turns and comes back. He reaches for the waistband of my trousers. All my promises have been in vain, there is nothing I can do now to stop him. My mind races, trying to think of something to say, something that might calm him, make him stop. But my mind is blank with terror.
“Please don’t.” I whisper.
He pulls down my trousers and underwear. “That,” he says, “is to make sure you don’t try to escape.” Then he leaves.
Every part of me is shaking. My cheeks are burning with humiliation, my heart is thudding so much it hurts. I have to escape, and I have to do it fast. As his footsteps fade in the stairwell, I move my wrists in their rope binding, tugging as hard as I can.
The ropes are tight, but not as tight has the one he’d used to tie them the first time, before he decided they needed to be behind my back. He was in a rush the second time, especially since I kept telling him he needed to hurry because Abby* would phone the police if I wasn’t back by five. Still my skin burns with pain as the ropes rub against it. I keep tugging, because what I told him isn’t true. No police will be coming.
The rope loosens around my wrists. After one more tug, I get a hand free. I shake off the rope, and stand up. My legs are trembling. I pull up my clothes, and tug at the twine around my ankles. As soon as I have a leg free I make for the door. I have no idea how long it took me to get free of the ropes, so I have no idea when he could come back.
Three flights of stairs stand between me and freedom. With each step, my legs shake more. At every turn of the stairwell, I expect to see him coming up, filled with rage because Abby has not done what he wants. Fear almost overcomes me. But I keep going. I have to.
On the last flight, icy wind blasts up from outside, and now I am shivering with cold as well as fear. I’ve left my coat on his sofa. It is new, but right now I don’t care if I never see it again.
When I reach the bottom and the door to outside, my legs are trembling so much I can hardly walk through. Yet somehow I do. I am outside, and he didn’t kill me on the stairwell. I can hardly believe it, can hardly believe I have got this far. I have no idea what to do now.
He is in the hotel opposite, phoning Abby to tell her what he’s done, and that she has to come to him. Other people will be there too, but I have no idea of the layout; for all I know the phone booth could be right inside the glass porch. I can’t see through its misted–up windows. It’s not safe to go inside for help.
To my right, a narrow cobbled street runs along the seafront, before gently sloping up towards the school and my dormitory. This is the quickest way to go, but the road is deserted, and even in normal circumstances I avoid it after dark. Besides, if I can see along the street, so could he. If he catches me nobody will be around to help. It’s not safe.
I turn to the left, and round a corner. Ahead is a hill. I start running, my feet slithering on the snowy ground. A car comes down the hill, the beam from its headlights shimmering in the dark. By the time I realise I should try to flag it down, it has passed.
I keep running.
I can taste blood in the back of my throat, and hear loud pounding in my ears. I glance round, but the pounding must be my own footsteps, or the sound of my pulse. Then I notice the rope is still wrapped around my ankle, flailing in the snow. I look up again, and jumping with fear as I see him in front of me.
It is just my terrified imagination, seeing him everywhere, hearing him in every footstep.
I keep running.
I reach the top of the hill and look back. There is no sign of him. I turn a corner. I am almost home – just a few hundred more yards to go. I catch my breath, and then run on. On one side is the cemetery and on the other is a row of empty houses. Even at the best of times, I hate this road in the dark; even at the best of times I would be running now, getting past the gravestones as fast as I can, getting past the deserted houses. All I have to do it get to the end of this road, turn another corner, pass a few houses, and run across the open ground to the girls’ boarding house – then I will be safe.
Suddenly I feel scared to go any further. If he went back to his room and discovered that I’ve gone he might have come looking for me. If he took the lower route, the cobbled street along the seafront he could be coming up the hill by now. He could be just around the corner.
To be continued…
The next instalment is Breaking Free and Breaking Down
If you have enjoyed reading this series so far, then try my novel, Drawings In Sand or my short story collection Looking For America, both available in Amazon’s Kindle store. Like this story, all the stories in Looking For America are set in the Shetland Isles; unlike this story, most of those are fiction. Looking For America will be free to download on Friday and Saturday!
* Name has been changed.