“You had your chance to be good.” He drew back from her, breathless and rubbing his forearm as if it still pained him. As scared as she was, she was glad she’d hurt him. It was worth the broken tooth and the pain still rattling around in her head to see him suffer.

“I want to get out of here!” she shouted.

He backed up toward the door, scooping up the metal pipe. “Oh, you will, darlin’. I’ll let you go as soon as you give me a healthy baby.”

The kid kicked her hard in the ribs, matching the beat of the heart hammering in her chest. “Why do you want my baby?”

“It’s spoken for. A decent couple who can give it all it deserves.” As he fished his keys from his pocket, a pen fell out and tumbled to the floor, rolling out of sight under the refrigerator. But he was too angry to notice as he rubbed his forearm and then slammed the door behind him. This time the dead bolt clicked into place.

She wrapped her fingers around the manacle and pulled at it, wincing as it scraped her skin. Tears welled in her eyes, but she refused to give in to the pure fear that threatened to swallow her.

She stood and walked toward the door, only to find out that her tether stopped several feet short of it. She had just enough slack to reach the toilet, the dresser, and the refrigerator. The microwave was inches out of reach.

She dropped to her knees and slid her fingers into the small space under the refrigerator. Her fingertips touched the pen, which for several tense seconds rolled just out of her reach. She pressed her bruised cheek to the refrigerator door, stretched her arm, and prayed for the pen, which miraculously came into reach. She coaxed it out from under the appliance and gripped it in her hands. It was a simple ballpoint pen. She pulled the blue plastic top off and tried to wedge it into the lock on the manacle. Unflinching metal quickly ate up the plastic, leaving her with a choice to now use the pen tip on the lock or save it for something else.

She sat for nearly a half hour before she made her decision and shuffled to the dresser, the chain clinking and rubbing as she moved. She pushed the cheap piece of furniture away from the wall, knowing exactly what she wanted.

She’d had months to explore every inch of this room, and she’d found initials on the back of the dresser.




If she’d ever had doubts that there’d been others before her, the initials proved she wasn’t the first and probably not the last. She shifted her focus to the second discovery she’d made eight weeks ago. It was the air vent behind the dresser and two loose screws that were nearly stripped. Initially, she’d thought she’d found a way out, and hope had exploded so violently it hurt. But as soon as the vent cover had been off, she had realized it was too small for any human body. It wasn’t an escape route.

But it was a hiding place.

She jostled the grate free, careful not to make a sound for fear he was still lurking outside her door, listening. As the silence stretched, she grew bold, stuck her hand into the dark vent until her fingers skimmed what she was looking for. Amazing what you could discover if all you had was time.

She removed the magazines, replaced the grate, and pushed the dresser back in place. She never knew when he’d return, and it was always smart to look guiltless.

Copyright © Mary Burton 2018