We thought it was a game. A competition. Training. Preparation for the future. Every week, we got a chance to disable the alarm, pick the lock, open the safe, change a tyre, strip a weapon or do some other task we were going to need when the internet failed or the electricity got switched off. The winner got double ice-cream and didn’t have to do the dishes. Well, now I work in an ice-cream parlor, washing up glass bowls and stainless steel milkshake cups. How’s that for irony?
He used to chew double bubble gum all the time, to stay sharp, just in case. Always casing. He hated that I could read keys and didn’t need to make a mould of them. There was nothing wrong with his work. It was sloppy though, to leave strawberry sneezed spit at three locations.
Forge. Forger. Forget. I can’t. This is how I was made. It took months of practice to relax whenever I heard the sirens. They weren’t coming for me. It’s funny that they have to keep him in a secure room that can only be opened by pressing a button. If it all went down, he could just walk right out of there. Poof. Gone.
No-one knows I’m still playing. I’m average, boring, invisible, Miss Smith. Out of sight. Out of mind. A good little worker. I’ve swapped eight grand through the tills so far. If you’ve left your keys in my view, the chances are I’ve seen inside your house within the month. I can’t resist looking you right in the eye, knowing you’ll never realize what I’ve taken.
His car had that smell. Old tobacco, men, dogs, vinyl, spilt food. Dina depressed the button to open her window a little, and he immediately pressed the master button to wind it back up.
“My car, my rules,” he said.
“I get a bit car sick when the heating’s on,” Dina said.
He wound down her window just a crack, and turned the heating knob from 24 to 21. “Take off your jacket and your shoes and socks if you feel hot. You’ll get used to it. I like it warm,” he said.
There wasn’t a day that went by where she didn’t regret marrying him. She imagined how her life would be if she’d kept her shoes on, got out of the car at the traffic lights and just ran. No matter how much she repented, it never got any easier. She convinced herself he was the lesser of two evils. He had wooed her with the promise of a life as his wife, which was supposed to save her from the boredom of looking after her parents. They told him she was a wild cat that needed routine and discipline to tame her. She realised she had made a mistake just a few days into the honeymoon.
He put an app on her phone so he knew where she was every moment of the day, and wrote a shopping list of places to go to and in which order. Drive the car to town. Doctor. Pharmacy. Library. Back to the pharmacy to collect her prescription. £10 to treat herself in the charity shop, but only if he thought she deserved it. Supermarket. Home. At first, he would ring her every 20 minutes, but then, over time, the frequency of calls dropped, until he trusted her enough to do this monthly visit on her own.
The bruises were in places that didn’t show, and he was careful that she was always clean for the Doctor. Not that she was allowed to wear clothes that showed off her shape in any event. He knew what was best. She’d made a vow that her body was his so other men weren’t even allowed to look. He slashed a dentist’s tyres because he put his fingers inside her mouth, so she never went again. Those three hours of freedom every month were the best and worst, but woe betide if the supermarket didn’t have the food he wanted, or she bought something he considered to be slutty from the thrift store.
An unsuitable book fell of the shelf and as she put it back, she noticed the ‘#Ask for Angela’ poster on the library wall. The next thing Dina remembered was that she was sitting on a wooden chair, with the feeling of someone stroking her hair, even though there was no-one else there. She looked at her watch. 11.11am. She still had time. A hushed conversation with the librarian who then rang her friend in the charity shop. Within ten minutes, Dina had a free bag of clothes as a running away kit, and a lift to the train station. On the way there, she threw her phone out of the car window.
In road rage vs truck, the car always loses. Dina read about it in the paper, but she didn’t dare believe it until the police came knocking. She thought they were there to arrest her. Even though she was twenty miles away on a train when he died, Dina knew this was her fault because he’d gone out looking for her.
It took over a year before she was able to sleep again. They say that if you live long enough, you see the same eyes in different people over and over again, but she can’t take that chance. Her only ambition left in this world is to be defiant enough to hold someone’s gaze. Like she used to do.
Just a quick one. (A new story is on its way later this week soon) But first…
Remember last year when I said that I’d written a story called ‘Say When’ and it was included in a charity anthology called ‘No Good Deed’? Well, ‘No Good Deed’ is on the shortlist for best anthology in the Saboteur Awards 2020!
Please could I trouble you to spare a few moments and do me a massive favour and vote for ‘No Good Deed’ in the ‘best anthology’ section? If you haven’t already read it, then you’re in for a real treat. The kindle version is a bargain at £2.99, and the paperback is £8.99.