The Tree House

It’s time for the first very short short story of February. For those of you who were expecting something for Valentine’s Day, I’m sorry to disappoint you. For those of you who like good old-fashioned revenge, you’re welcome. The words I had to work with were cranberry, underestimate, marginal, people and tree house. I didn’t have much time to write this, so I’m extra happy with the result. I hope you enjoy it too.

“Untie me! Now!”

“Sorry, Leo, no can do.”

“You untie me now, or else-”

“Or else what? You’re gonna knock me out? I’d like to see you try.”

“You worthless little bitch! If you don’t-”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s enough out of you.”

Grace stuffed Leo’s mouth with the chloroform-drenched rag she had used earlier. It wouldn’t sedate him anymore, but at least it would shut him up.

She circled him to make sure his hands were properly tied behind the back of the chair. There had been others, who had surprised her in the past, by wriggling their hands free. But she had learned from her mistakes.

As she looked down through the window of the tree house, she spotted the barbecue. Right in place, next to the cranberry bushes. They weren’t going to make it. Collateral damage. A marginal loss in the grand scheme of things.

She turned back to Leo, whose face was no longer purple from the alcohol, but red-hot with anger. He was roaring through the rag. More animal than man.

Grace bent to her knees and put her finger on the rag. “Ssssh, no need to shout. It’s not like anyone is going to hear you out here.”

Even though she still heard his muffled growling, all she saw was fear. It was right there, in his jet-black eyes. Just like it had been with the others.

“To be honest, I did have high hopes for you, Leo. The way you waltzed in our farm, courting my mom with flowers. Taking her to fancy restaurants. Whisking her away on romantic getaways. You almost fooled me.” She came closer and whispered in his ear: “Almost.”

Leo’s voice faded.

“But the thing is, Leo, you turned out to be yet another disappointment. Another lazy drunk who thinks he can knock out my mom and slam my head against the cupboard, whenever he likes. Such a cliché.”

Her gaze held on to his. “But you see, Leo, I’m not like you. I refuse to be a cliché.”

Leo frantically started fidgeting and wiggling, until he tilted over onto his side. “Like I said”, Grace sighed, “a complete cliché.”

She scooched a little to the left, right where Leo had dropped to the floor. “Don’t beat yourself up, Leo. You’re not the first person to have underestimated me. Many people have made the same mistake. The police, previous boyfriends. Actually, in a few moments, you might just meet some of them.”

Leo’s eyes looked at her in despair. He started to thrash around, trying to free himself from his fate. Grace smiled, got up and walked towards the door of the tree house.

As she got on the ladder, she took one last look at Leo. “You know what, Leo. This might just be the best talk we ever had.”

Leo kept wailing and squirming as she descended the ladder. When she got down, she closed the lid of the barbecue, hooked up the propane tank and pushed the ignition button. She looked up at the moon, shining brightly in the starry sky.

“It really is the perfect night for a bonfire, isn’t it?”

“It sure is.”

Grace turned around and smiled at her mother. Her left eye was still swollen. She took her mother’s hand and kissed it. “Let’s go inside, mom. I’ll make you a nice cup of tea.”

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