And now for something different. Ideas floating around my head, will they or won’t they work. I don’t know until I start writing them and then sometimes they develop a life of their own. This is the starting point for a new work in progress. Other than being contemporary, it’s not quite what it seems.
Warm wood polished into a sheen. Soft rose petals. Perhaps the satin of her wedding dress. The fabric slipping between her fingers reminded her of many things.
Yawning, she burrowed deeper under the covers and tried to ignore the encroaching daylight. She refused to open her eyes. What had Darren added to the laundry to make the pillowcase feel so soft? He’d bought a new fabric softener without telling her. She inhaled through her nose and smelt aloe vera and perhaps some other floral aroma. Delicious.
She rolled onto her back, stretched out her hand and searched for the familiar dimple in the neighbouring pillow. There was no evidence of it. The pillow was plump and full; he’d not come to bed that night? She frowned. She hated it when he fell asleep on the couch. Never mind, she sighed. It didn’t matter. The days when he woke her up and kissed her into a state of arousal were long gone.
She opened her eyes a fraction. The ceiling was smooth. Odd, because the previous day she stared straight at a thin crack in the paintwork. She squeezed her eyes and re-opened them, this time she focused on the end of the bed.
What the hell was the closet doing at the foot of the bed?
She sat up, now wide awake and stared at the unfamiliar room. The white bedcovers, the mahogany dresser and the thick pile of the pearlescent carpet. This was not her bedroom.
She’d been kidnapped. Drugged, too, because she had no recollection of an abduction. Running her fingers through her hair, she searched for a bump or something that might explain a concussion or a memory loss. Nothing, not a lump anywhere.
Kicking aside the covers, she climbed out of bed. The thick carpet pile drowned her feet. Looking down, an unfamiliar long satin pink slip covered her belly and thighs, below her legs were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. It didn’t make sense, she hadn’t shaved them in days. Stretching out her trembling fingers, she examined her nails, which were scarlet and manicured. The wedding band was thicker, and the engagement ring heaped with diamonds, not the tiny stone Darren had given her.
Panic-stricken, she dashed to the bedroom door and yanked on the handle. It wouldn’t budge—she was locked in.
Spinning around, she hunted for her clothes, her handbag, which contained her phone, but there was nothing of hers in the room.
Darren was playing some ghastly joke on her. Except, practical jokes weren’t something Darren ever did. Her husband rarely deviated from his daily routine, never mind springing surprises on her.
The spartan room had no photographs, nothing personal to indicate whose house she was in and if it was a hotel, it lacked the usual accessories—the coffee making facility, the television, even a bathrobe hanging on the back of the door. When she drew back the curtains, the view out of the window was of a vast private garden with terraces and a huge swimming pool.
She recognised none of it. The skyline showed the outline of skyscrapers, the distant city centre, except it wasn’t quite the same arrangement of buildings, which meant she was situated on the opposite side to where she lived.
Feeling sick, she stumbled into the bathroom and for a few seconds retched into the toilet bowl. What kind of crazy person had taken her? Why couldn’t she remember a thing? Was it that drug, the one rapist used to numb the senses and wash away the memories?
My God. She pressed her hand against her churning belly. Had she been assaulted? She felt nothing, no soreness or anything to indicate she’d suffered at the hands of a man. Slowly, she straightened up and moved over to the sink.
After running a tap, she splashed a few handfuls of tepid water onto her flushed face. Fingering a loose strand of hair, she froze. It had been dyed. No other explanation for it. The hair curling around her fingers wasn’t straight blonde, it was curly chestnut.
With a great deal of trepidation, she lifted her chin and looked into the mirror.
She wanted to scream, but the sound failed to escape her mouth.
The woman in the mirror wasn’t her. It wasn’t her face.
The woman staring straight at her with her mouth gaping and her brown eyes wide open was an absolute stranger.
She staggered backwards, nearly toppling over the edge of the bath tub. Spinning around, she found herself reflected in a floor to ceiling mirror. More evidence that something was terribly wrong. It wasn’t just her face, her figure was different—less about the hips and breasts. She circled her hand around her neck, which felt thinner and the necklace around it was gold, not silver.
The nausea rose into her throat again, but she’d nothing left to retch up. Her mouth had gone paper dry and she wheezed, struggling to contain the panic.
A dream. This was a dream. It had to be. She was having one of those weird dreams where you wake up, then wake up again, until you’re in the right home. That’s it, she told herself. Get back into bed, and wake up again.
She made it halfway to the bed when a voice boomed from the other side of the door. “Henrietta?”
By now her heart was racing so fast it was on the verge of exploding. She didn’t answer. What did she say? Was she Henrietta now? Would her voice sound like this woman she’d never met?
“I know you’re in there. Unlock the door.” A deep masculine voice. It certainly wasn’t Darren.
He knocked on the door, drumming his knuckles repetitively. “You can’t stay locked in there forever, Hen.” He softened his tone, less demanding, but still steely.
Her legs shook, refusing to budge. If she opened the door, who would he see? Henrietta, or Anna—the woman occupying the wrong body?
She eyed the door, realising she wasn’t locked in. The bolt was drawn across on her side of the door. She could leave anytime.
A low sigh made it through the door. “Look. This isn’t getting us anywhere. You agreed, Hen. You gave me your word or doesn’t that count any more? I’m still your husband.”
Husband. Henrietta’s husband. What was his name? Would she know him if she passed him in the street?
“Fuck it,” said the disembodied voice. “I could just say you’re breaking the terms of our agreement. I could insist you get your butt out here and do as you’re told. But I won’t. Not this time. When I’m back in tomorrow evening, this ends. No more locking yourself away from me, Henrietta.” He slapped the door and the noise ricocheted around the room. “Next time I come for a fuck, you’ll be more welcoming.”
His footsteps creaked along the corridor outside until they disappeared.
Anna collapsed onto the bed and hugged her knees under her chin. The shock was taking it’s toll. She would go back to sleep. Then, wake up again. The plan had to work. This nightmare had to end.