Faith&Spirituality, Fiction, Short Story, Writing Sample

“Safe” A Short Story


CONTENT WARNING: The content of this short story, although not explicit, deals with mature subject matter.

Her knitted sweater caught on a branch. With shaking hands, she tore herself free, stumbling forward. Night creatures croaked and screeched, raising the hair on the back of her exposed neck. The sound of crisp leaves under heavy feet sent a shiver through her: he was catching up. She ducked, crouching behind a broad tree.

“Lilian,” he called, slurring the syllables of her name. The sting of tears brimmed in her eyes. She was a child playing hide-and-go-seek, the last to be found, the next to be caught.

“You can’t escape me, Lilian.” His taunting voice turned her blood cold. Pulling her legs to her chest, Lilian hid her face behind her scraped knees, trembling. If she couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see her…

A mixture of cigarette and sweat filled her nose, making her gag. His voice cooed with harrowing delight. “Hello, sweetheart.”

She screamed. Was this it? Would this be the end? He wouldn’t be as forgiving this time. Maybe she wanted it to be the end. Fifteen years was a short life but long enough for her.

Pain shot through her from his iron grip as he dragged her to her feet by her hair. Bringing her face to his, he squeezed her shallow cheeks as if inspecting an animal at auction. The pressure of his grip split her flesh against her teeth. She moaned. Tears streaked down over his thumb and finger, carrying the rancid taste of him to her cracked lips. His eyes burned through her with the hunger of a ravenous wolf. A guttural laugh shook his body and he swore at her, bringing her hard against the forest ground.

Her body sank into the scratchy leaves smelling of pine and moss. They offered brief reprieve before his body came down to straddle her, pinning her under his immense weight. This bed of leaves, of pine and moss, wouldn’t be so bad. She could imagine worse. Better outside under a starry sky than to be confined in a room, under the glare of camera lights.

God…it was a cry from her unbelieving heart. Desperate and clear. She wanted to believe, she needed to believe. Then she fainted.

* * * * * * *

Blinding lights and a voice saying, “She’s coming around,” startled her to consciousness. She stared up into the eyes of a man, not him, but still a man. Memory flooded in and she began writhing on a firm, padded surface. Straps across her chest and thighs kept her tethered in place.

Her throat closed and she gasped for air. A woman in police uniform shushed her, untying Lilian from the restraints. It didn’t matter if she was safe or not, the officer was a woman and that was enough reassurance for the moment.

Without thinking, Lilian leapt into the protection and comfort of the officer’s open arms, hiding her face from the onlooking man.

“It’s OK,” the woman said, stroking Lilian’s matted hair. “You’re safe now. My name is Constable Mitiku but you can call me Alice. I’m going to keep you safe. I promise.”

Safe? The words had been used so many times by Daddy. He wasn’t her father but he insisted she call him that. The acid of her bile burned her throat and she swallowed it back. He’d promised her every time she woke from a nightmare that she was safe, that he’d keep her safe. But he was a liar, an abuser, a twisted man.

Lilian pulled away, blinking back tears. Her heart raced and she whipped her head around. “Where is he?” she asked, her voice cracking with emotion. She moved to the front corner of the ambulance. Yes, that’s where she was: in an ambulance with one man, one woman and two doors open to the night. She contemplated making a run for it but her leaded feet wouldn’t move.

“He’s…” The officer, Alice, paused in search of the right word. “…Gone.”

Gone? Lilian studied the policewoman; her skin was dark like Lilian’s, her eyes a rare blue. Lilian wanted to believe she could be safe from Daddy, but too many times she’d been disappointed.

“I wasn’t supposed to be working the shift,” Alice started, clasping a golden chair around her neck. “But a voice…” She faltered. “…A man’s voice said that I had to ‘help her.’” The officer motioned for Lilian to sit but she stayed put.

“I didn’t know who said it. It was dark but at the end of the street the interior lights of a car lit up as its doors opened and I saw a large man carrying something slung across his shoulder.”

To Lilian’s relief, Alice gestured at the paramedic to leave and he closed the doors, giving them some privacy. Slowly, Lilian made her way to the edge of the stretcher, sitting opposite the tender woman.

“I was suspicious but when I called to him, he drew a gun on me.” The officer pointed a finger to a hole in her armoured vest. “It all happened so fast. I fell back, the wind knocked from me but I saw your unconscious, bruised face behind him. I heard his keys drop to the ground, giving me just enough time to react.” Alice took Lilian’s cold hand, rubbing the warmth back. “He’s gone. You’re safe.”

Lilian’s sobs filled the little space. She collapsed in Alice’s arms, resigning to the comfort she found there. “I prayed,” Lilian said through her tears. “I didn’t believe in Him, in God…but I prayed.”

Alice wiped a tear of her own. “Oh honey,” she sighed, putting Lilian at arms length. Taking the necklace from around her neck, Alice placed the gold chain in Lilian’s trembling hand. “I don’t, didn’t, believe in Him either. It was my mother’s,” Alice continued. A smile tugged at her lips and she sniffled. “When I saw your face, so young, so still and beaten, I prayed for a miracle.” She chuckled. “I prayed, ‘Dear God, if you’re real, let me save this girl.’”

Lilian held up the necklace between them, inspecting the delicate cross swaying on its chain. Hope filled Lilian’s tiny, beating heart and a sense of peace washed over her for the first time in almost five years.

Bringing her in for another embrace, the officer held Lilian and rocked her as a mother would her child. “It’s OK,” Alice repeated, “You’re safe now. I promise.”

This story idea originated from the writing prompt, “All the Feels” by Jess Zafarris at Writer’s Digest. The challenge was to show the reader, “His expression made her feel afraid,” without naming the emotion. 

Until next time, thanks for reading and God bless!






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