Trapped, by Jillian McFrederick
He made sure he was well prepared before she threw him out.
It had been a long time coming—arguments, slammed doors, disdain and sarcasm marking the loss of love.
When the time came, he left with his head held high.
They watched him go, wide-eyed, shocked, relieved.
She all but cheered as he drove off, his returned key in her hand symbolic of the finality of the gesture. She turned to the worried faces of her boys and drew them to her.
She had no idea of his plans, where he would go, but she didn’t care. The hold that his presence had on her was gone.
She felt lighter and free after eight years.
That night she slept well.
Breakfast, school, work, all followed the next day. The same but different. Better somehow, without the cloud of his disapproval constantly hanging over her.
But if she had checked her mirror as she drove away from home, she may have seen him in the window of their detached garage, watching. The garage with the hidey hole she knew nothing about. Up wooden ladders that he knew she, with her fear of heights, would never climb, hidden from sight and set up with all the stuff he would need.
As he let himself in the back door to the kitchen so recently vacated, he laughed to himself. He sipped her lukewarm tea and polished off most of the remaining cereal in his youngest’s bowl as he waited for his toast to cook.
Later, leaving the house discreetly he skirted around to the back lane where he had left his car, secure in his plan.
They burst through the front door after 5pm, and the sound of chattering and laughter rose through the house.
The hustle and bustle of tea, homework, bath time and bedtime followed, before blissful silence reigned.
She came upstairs early, ran an indulgent bath which she knew would have annoyed him, lay back and luxuriated as she contemplated her freedom.
If she had kept her contact lenses in she might have spotted the little holes in the ceiling through which he was studying her carefully, spying on her, seething quietly. He was biding his time, watching for evidence of her infidelity.
And then…well, he hadn’t decided what he would do yet.
He watched her as she slept and then settled down himself to sleep in the camp bed he had brought up to the attic a few weeks ago, the attic he had recently floored and made sure was well sound-proofed.
He was prepared for the long haul; his need for revenge gave him the motivation he needed.
Over the days that followed he crept around between garage and attic, watching and waiting. He called at the weekend for the boys, aware now of their reticence, their measured behaviour in his presence. It angered him how she had poisoned them against him and he took delight in finding fault.
School holidays approached and he was taken unawares one morning when she began to pack the car. From the attic he listened as they ran up and down the stairs looking for towels, swimming gear, shorts, sandals. He heard the boys’ excited chattering about the weeks ahead at Granny’s, at the beach every day. He had lost track of time; he wasn’t prepared for their departure.
He knew he could follow, could track her phone, keep an eye on them from afar and he reached for his own phone, but then remembered it was charging in the garage room.
He waited as they settled into the car, then he heard her coming back upstairs to check windows, close doors. He heard her pause on the landing, followed by the ominous sound of a bolt being secured in place, then footsteps on the stairs and the clunk first of the front door, then of the car door.
Then his stomach lurched as the realisation hit him. The bolt securely locked the trap door into—and out of—the attic.
It was an extra bolt he had installed to appease the boys—after the story about a monster who lived in the attic.
As the car drove away an observer might have noticed the driver and wondered at her laughter as she checked her rear view mirror.