Daily Prompt: Shallow

via Daily Prompt: Shallow

“Everything is a trap” – unknown

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Somewhere in an office beyond everyone’s limits, the only sound to be heard was of quick, typing movements and long shallow breaths. Liam hadn’t touched the coffee on his table. What if he’d swallowed some tracking device she slipped in the cup?

She was very creative that way. He wouldn’t put it past her to make a liquid tracker either. As if all those cameras weren’t enough to put him on the edge. He continued typing until his phone beeped. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and saw that she’d sent a new message. Of course, it had to be her. There was nobody else in his life, Valerie had seen to that. He couldn’t even blame her entirely. If he hadn’t been blinded by the shining future she was offering him, he would have seen through the facade… or not. Val was extremely guarded before. To conceal the truth, he realized. He had been stupid enough to translate the secretiveness to mystery and fall head over heels. Well, he was paying for it.

He read the message. What would you like for lunch, it said. Liam almost laughed. Divorce papers, he thought. Anything, he typed instead. Before he could hit send, the phone started ringing. He nearly dropped it. Valerie.

“Hey, Val!” he tried to sound cheerful. He was sweating.

“You didn’t look as happy as you sound to get the message, honey” She saw right through it. Good job, surveillance. He couldn’t think of a response. Why did he allow himself to react naturally to the message? He should have faked it, like he’d been doing for the past three years. But today seemed different. “You surprised me, that’s all. I was searching for our picture published in the tabloid. I really liked it so – ”

“Oh, Lee” she sighed. “We both know that’s a lie. You know I have your browser feeds, don’t you? You never leave me a choice. I don’t like it when you hide things from me. It makes me anxious. I lose control. And you know what happens when I …” her voice trailed off.

“So it was okay for you to be keeping such a big secret from me? YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY! And you act like you love me, but you don’t. You never have,” he vented. His wife’s psychotic tendencies had never been much of a secret. Everybody knew. They just never addressed the issue in public. Or in private. He was considered a gold-digger, after all.

“I love you. I love you so much. It’s why I do what I do. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you. You mean the world to me,” Valerie spoke softly. He would believe it if he didn’t know about her obsession. He cringed thinking about the day he found out. She hadn’t been taking her pills. She had used the pills to make a portrait of his face. All the pills – black, red and white – had been stuck in a carefully arranged pattern on the door of a medicine cabinet to form the canvas of his face. He’d never loathed his face that much.

Patience, he told himself. “So to keep me safe, you have to keep a watch on me. You can’t even let me pee without a camera watching. I’m not your husband, Val. I’m just a stray you adopted. You put me in a cage, you – ”

“It’s a beautiful cage, Lee. It doesn’t lack anything. You have the world at your feet. What is freedom when you’re in rags?” She didn’t really have any boundaries. Crazy. Nuts. He was tired. He spoke into the phone, “I know you’ll be coming in a while. Do me a favour. Get a collar. It would help keep me in your sight all the time.”

He disconnected the call. She had been muttering something about not restricting his movement. He wanted to smash the glass windows using that phone and jump. But she’d probably follow him and jump too. He went back to work. He kept working till night, never leaving his disk. Valerie hadn’t come to check on him. That was weird. She liked to keep tabs on him. He was the proof of her sanity (for the world). He hated those parties, those people. She trained his responses and controlled his reflexes. And then he saw it.

The car. He saw her parking her car and getting out. He braced himself for threats. He had tried leaving her before. She had hurt herself and made it look like a case of domestic violence. She would do it again, he knew that. He heard the sound of heels clicking in the passage. And then it happened. The blackout.

***

The first thought to cross his mind was, why did she have to do this now? And then it hit him. This wasn’t Valerie. He looked out. It was a city-wide blackout. He punched the air in excitement. No surveillance, no Valerie. He took his phone and car keys and moved out of the room. He heard her yelling at the staff. He grinned. Poor guys. In that instant, he saw through the dark. She had left her keys on the table. He quietly switched the keys and raced down the stairs. His wife didn’t have any trackers on her car.

He drove and drove till he came to the quarry lake where they had first met. At a party. It seemed to have happened to someone else. He saw himself. Confident and happy. He wanted that person back. He slowly walked towards the lake and tossed the keys and his phone in the water. There was a splash, ripples and then silence.

Liam watched the keys and the phone disappear. He closed his eyes and took more shallow breaths. When his eyes opened, he saw lights everywhere. The blackout had ended. He stood up and dusted his suit. And then he started running.

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