A House Without Windows

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Chapter 2 - Beth

My head is pounding, and a bright light above ensures I quickly have to close my eyes again. Feeling nauseated, I lie still, using my other senses to try and recognise sounds or a particular aroma which could confirm to me that I am still in the accommodation unit.However, I can hear nothing at all; not even the usual birdsong, and there is an unaccountably earthy, damp smell. Suddenly curious, I fight sickness and confusion to sit up and take note of my surroundings.

I have no idea where I am.I am lying on top of a double bed. It is not the bed where I wrap myself contentedly around Liam. There is a duvet beneath me covered with a surprisingly clean-looking lilac flowery cover, which is complete with matching sheets and pillow cases.There does not seem to be any other furniture.There are no windows, and the bare bulb above my head is the only source of light.

Slightly panicky now and ignoring the increased hammering in my brain, I stand up shakily on the cold, concrete floor. The room is quite small, and I reach the only visible door after taking just a few steps. It is not the sort of door that I could break down. I turn the handle, but it refuses to yield.

I am locked in.I want to scream in fright, but stop myself at the last moment from sliding into rampant hysteria.I reason that whoever is keeping me in the room against my will would not want me making too much noise which might alert searchers to my location. I figure that I need to keep on the right side of my captor.

***

I take a few paces past the bed to the other side, towards where the wall finishes, and I look around the corner.There is a toilet and one sink in a tiny bathroom which is devoid of both windows and doors.To the left of the sink I spot a rail containing a matching towel and flannel.In the middle of the taps lies a new bar of soap.There is an unused cup inside the sink, still in some sort of plastic wrapping.

My mouth is dry, and I realise I am terribly thirsty.I tear off the cup’s wrapping and fill it with water from the tap.The cold liquid is manna from heaven.I can even imagine the action of peristalsis, as the water trickles down my parched throat to my stomach.The nausea begins to recede, although my head is still sore.

I do not know what the time is or if it is still Wednesday 20th May. The dearth of windows ensures not only the absence of another escape route, but also reinforces the certainty that I have no knowledge as to whether it is day or night.

***

I run some hot water into the sink to wash my face.The water gurgles in the naked copper pipes running up the wall, making me wonder if the sound is going to alert anybody to the fact that I am awake.

I am correct.Within a few moments I can hear the sound of keys turning in the distance, heavy footsteps approaching, and then a bolt being pulled back on the door to my room and another key rattling in the lock.

I walk forward and face my captor.With dismay I see he is the drug addict I treated a few weeks previously, and the one who pulled up beside me in his car to ask for directions as I walked home. Was that yesterday? He looks around forty years of age; there are flecks of grey in his dark hair and beard, and he is carrying a tray piled high with sandwiches and fruit.Over his arm is draped a selection of underwear and clothes, which I presume are for me, as all I have are the clothes I am wearing. For several moments neither of us say anything.I look beyond him to the open door, judging as to whether I could dart past him and make a break for freedom.As though he could read my thoughts he closes the door and locks it from the inside, balancing the tray on one hand, and then comes over towards the bed.

I edge around the other side of the bed away from him.He places the tray and the clothes down upon the bed, and backs off towards the door.We stand there, silently sizing each other up like two prize-fighters.I ask him what day it is, but he does not reply.He then turns around and goes out, locking the door behind him.

***

I decide to give up asking him for the date and time.It is easy to decipher the approximate hour if I look at the offerings on the tray.Over the following days I see that there is always egg, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes, or a hot meal and sandwiches.Sometimes the latter two will arrive together and he does not come down for the rest of the day, so I assume that he has a job of some kind.Any dirty clothes or food I leave he removes when he brings me the next meal.Regular clean clothes and towels arrive that harbour an aroma of lavender conditioner.One day I feel brave and inform him that I do not like mushrooms, and to my surprise these are replaced at the next visit with baked beans.

Many trays are delivered before he utters even one word to me.I have ceased asking when I can be released, and just sit placidly on the bed when I hear his footsteps.One day he brings me a piece of fillet steak, a tomato, some chips, and a cup of tea.

“Thank you.”I pull the tray onto my lap and begin to eat.

“You’re welcome.My name is Edwin.”

“I’m Beth.”

“I know.When you need those lady things, tell me and I’ll get them for you.”

His voice is deep and resonant.I mask my surprise at hearing him speak, particularly about sanitary towels, and just concentrate on eating.My baby requires nourishment, and must be fed.However, he does not back off this time but stands watching me, a slightly lascivious expression on his face.I begin to inwardly panic, as this is out of the ordinary.When I finish the meal my heart is racing uncontrollably, and I have broken out in a hot sweat.

“Take your clothes off.”

He is broad and muscular; there is no way that I can fight back.With a sinking feeling akin to dread I know what is going to happen next.He unzips his trousers, and I can already see an erection through his underpants.

My breasts are swollen with pregnancy hormones, but my abdomen is still flat enough so as not to cause suspicion.When he lies on top of me I focus my mind on Liam; the ripe corn colour of his hair, and most of all his sensual smile.I know he will never stop searching for me, and I try to imagine the day when we can be reunited.

Thankfully Edwin only cares for his own personal gratification.Compared to Liam I would say that Edwin’s gauche, inexperienced performance of the sexual act marks him out as virginal.

There are no words exchanged.His semen leaks out onto the bed as he pulls out of me and dresses quickly.When he takes my tray back upstairs and locks the door, I run to the toilet and vomit all the fillet steak and chips back up.

***

Unfortunately it is not long before sex becomes a regular part of his routine.I can always tell by the look on his face if I am to be subjected to more abuse, and so I become adept at focusing my thoughts on Liam until the ordeal is over.I start to plait my hair so as not to leave it hanging down my back.After approximately four months of incarceration he notices that my abdomen has started to swell.

“I’m pregnant.”I tell him, whilst sitting naked on the edge of the bed hugging my aching breasts.

“Fuck.”He looks at my stomach as he dresses himself.

“If you don’t want any more children you will need to use condoms after the birth.”I look at him, inwardly dreading the thought of ever conceiving his child.

“Is it mine?”He shakes his head.

“Of course it is.”I pull on a top. “Who else has there been but you?”

“I’m going to be a father?”He looks at me astoundingly.

I nod, and for a second I think he seems pleased at the fact.

He swallows the lie.In fact he seems remarkably unworldly regarding matters concerning the female reproductive system, not even enquiring why I have had no need of ‘lady things’ since the beginning of my incarceration.I have come to the conclusion that I am definitely the first woman he has ever performed the sex act on.I begin to wonder if indeed, he has ever had a girlfriend at all.

I take his naivety one step further.Putting on my gravest doctor’s voice I inform him that sex during pregnancy would probably be harmful to his baby.He nods seriously, and to my utter astonishment and delight the daily abuse stops.I hug myself with joy at the thought of being left alone for the foreseeable future.

***

I start to push my luck, and complain I am bored.He apologises that he totally forgot about providing things to keep me occupied.I tell him I would like to knit some baby clothes, and he brings wool, knitting needles and patterns.I stick my neck out further and ask for some newspapers, but am met with stony silence.However, he brings some cheap women’s magazines, the kind where degraded and abused women tell their stories to equally downtrodden female readers.It is only when I am halfway through one of the magazines that I realise I am now in the same unfortunate position.

I am learning to endure.I know it is not worth fighting him to try and escape.There is no way out.I know that Liam will find me one day.I have to stay positive.I knit furiously; Liam’s baby will be well-clothed.I construct matinee coats, bootees, trousers and hats.I nestle a hat and coat in the crook of my arm and rock it backwards and forwards lovingly.

I must ensure my musculature does not deteriorate in the confines of my prison.Every day when I wake up I now perform the Pilates exercises I often suggested to angry patients who would have benefited from them, but who I knew would ignore my advice and keep looking for that elusive miracle cure.I take my time and try to keep my body in the best possible shape for the impending birth.

I ask Edwin where I will give birth.He tells me I am a doctor, so I can deliver the baby myself on the bed.I should be seeing a midwife now for check- ups and blood tests. There will be none.I hope fervently there will be no complications.

***

The months roll past.I send thought messages to Liam and tell him he is going to be a father.I knit a whole wardrobe for the baby, and prepare a list of things I will need.Thankfully Edwin agrees to my requests for a plastic sheet, sanitary towels, and extra towels and nappies.He has even given me a ball of string and a small pair of scissors when I tell him I will need something with which to cut and tie off the umbilical cord.The scissors are not overly sharp, but they will have to do.

I am as ready as I can be for the birth.I am too big to do any exercises now, and so just spend my days knitting and waiting.I have seen women in childbirth during the weeks of obstetrics training, and I pray to God that I can cope with the pain without analgesia.

I am having a wash at the sink when I feel the waters breaking.Edwin left me some sandwiches with my breakfast tray, and so I know he has gone to work.I quell a rising panic and sit on the toilet until the rush of water has passed.I finish washing and put my nightdress back on instead of day clothing.

Within a short time the first contractions begin.I relax upon the bed because it seems that the pains are within my capabilities to endure.I can feel my abdomen tightening with each contraction, and the baby kicking, eager to get out of its prison.I feel like telling it to stay in there; the prison it is coming into is not much improved on the one it is leaving.

The pains increase.I have no way of measuring time, and so have no idea how long I have been in labour.I am hungry, but eschew the sandwiches wrapped in cling film.From what I have seen of women in labour, whatever they have eaten tends to come back up again.

I stand up and hope that gravity will aid the baby’s expulsion from my womb.I start to pace the floor, stopping to let each contraction take its course. I can walk nine steps before I have to turn around and go the other way.I try not to think how two of us will cope in such a tiny space.

The labour drags on interminably. I sip water to stay hydrated.The pains are making me sweat, and my nightdress is soaking wet.I am tired with all the pacing, and focus on placing the plastic sheeting over the duvet.I cover the sheet with towels, and lay on my side on the bed next to the scissors and string.The pain makes me want to cry, but I need to endure silently and not panic.I must be in control of my emotions in order to bring Liam’s baby safely into the world.

The focusing on an object does not work.I smile wryly to myself and wonder how many times I told labouring women to do the same.It did not seem to work for them either.Finally I scream at the cold concrete walls, efficient as always at dulling any sound.Nobody comes to my aid.

At last I feel an urge to open my bowels, and I know this is the last phase of childbirth.I brace my back against the bedhead, grab my knees, and push with all my might.My hand can feel the baby’s head presenting in the birth canal.I wait for another contraction and push again.I scream with pain as another contraction tears through my body, and give another push that threatens to almost stop my heart.

The shoulders are out.One last push and I have my baby girl.Her lungs are wonderfully efficient, and she turns from purple to pink.She is alive.My ordeal is almost over.All that is left is to massage the fundus to encourage it to contract and expel the placenta.One last contraction and push, and the placenta lies on the plastic sheet.When the umbilical cord stops pulsing I tie it off with string close to the baby, and then a few inches further down, and then cut it in the middle of the tied section with the scissors.My baby is a separate entity; there are now two of us in prison.

Clutching the baby I wash us, pad myself up, dress the baby, and tie the placenta and bloodied towels up in the plastic sheet for Edwin to burn.I lay down and put the baby to my breast, who I can see will look the image of Liam.I celebrate the birth by eating all four of Edwin’s ham and tomato sandwiches.


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