She huddled in the fetal position in the pitch darkness of the tall and narrow cupboard next to the built-in refrigerator and its lulling hum. The space was cramped for her near 6’ lanky frame. There were awkwardly stowed limbs everywhere, like a contortionist practicing a new act but without the elegance. It was at least 10 degrees warmer in the cupboard and the musty stale air of forgotten dry goods impaled her nostrils. A blinding light seeped in from underneath the door making her eyes water when her gaze had outstayed their welcome. She tightly clasped her hands on either side of her knees wrapping her arms around her legs, uncomfortably forced against her chest. ‘Boobs. Boobs would make this more tolerable,’ she considered. ‘Boobs,’ she repeated, ‘it would at least offer some cushioning’ her mind distracted by her current physically distressing position.
Sweat was beading down her forehead committing hara-kiri on the top of her knees. If she was lucky, the bead of sweat would run its course down over her shin bone. But the current path of choice was running all the way down her inner thighs and straight towards her crotch. ‘Just lovely! If someone finds my body they will no doubt deduce that I inevitably wet myself in my last moments,’ she sulked in the thought. And for a moment, a calmness flirted with her. For a moment, there was peace. For a moment there were even an absent of her current condition.
Then quite suddenly the sound of the squeaky doorknob interrupted her moment and swiftly replaced calm with panic. The door swung open with a little too much force and crashed into the wall with a thunderous bang. The sudden break in silence startled Audrey to let out a small muffled yelp. Quickly followed by both hands covering her mouth as if the gesture can promptly retrieve the sound waves which so freely passed through her lips. The thick rubber soles of a workman’s boots grazing insidiously against old wooden floors caused her anxiety to escalate with every step.
“C’mon please, please, please” she whispered through clenched teeth. Each step seem to have vibrated the floor joist beneath her jabbing her protruding butt bone just enough to make her wince. Adding to her physical discomfort. Adding to her growing angst of what’s about to come.
‘Oh wonderful, now I have to go to the loo?’ she thought to herself with certain indignity. The heavy footsteps ensued with a certain clumsiness. As the wearer of the boots came closer in proximity the steps served to announce its amplified insidious intent. The only barrier separating Audrey and the wearer of the boots was a paper thin plywood cupboard door. She slammed her eyes shut and turned her face from the light to listen. To pray. To beg whoever or whatever was listening. An ardent student of atheism, who was she praying to? What was she praying to? Begging pardon with? Asking to be spared? God? The Universe? Leprechauns? Rainbow Unicorns? Audrey could not resolve to believe in the intangible but at the first sign of impending doom the archaic notion of ‘being a slave to outdated notions of a commoner’ came back to possess her. ‘pffft, famous last words – this is karma for you Hughs’ she thought regrettably.
Audrey listened with such intensity that her racing heart and shallow breath dominated the conversation. She squeezed her eyes even tighter in an attempt to muster additional concentration, as if magically her hearing would broaden its reach. But she heard nothing. Not one sound. Not even the sound of the curtains fluttering ever so delicately in the warm summer breeze. Silence fell because there was nothing to hear. The footsteps had halted. As abruptly as it started it ceased with equal unapologetic bluntness. Her scrawny frame instinctively began to slightly rock back and forth as dismay settles into her bones. ‘Why wasn’t there anymore footsteps? It was not possible to reach the cupboard doors in so few steps. Where the bloody hell are the boots?’ She frantically reasoned with herself in an attempt to employ logic over borderline hysteria ‘Open your eyes Audrey Grace! Open – your – eyes – you – little – coward!’ she berated herself. She let out a soft exhale and obscenely slow peeled her left eye open, then her right. Squinting at the terrible white light, her irises rebelled adamantly making her light green eyes water in an instant. She did her best to clear them, tilting her head and alternating turns rubbing on each perspective shoulder; leaving streaks of tears, mascara, and foundation on her pale yellow shirt. ‘Bloody freaking hell, that’s not going to come out in the wash’ she irritatedly assessed. She blinked feverishly and as the white blur came into focus, she desperately cocked her head in the most unnatural way in hopes to catch a glimpse of the world beyond. Anything. A crumb. A shadow. A sign. Any sign. Any gesture of where the wearer of the boots may have taken up residency.
A shuffling could be heard. Then a step. Then another. Before Audrey could consider the situation her fight or flight instincts kicked in full force and she sprang out of the cupboard with a crazed gleam in her eyes. The wearer of the boots leaped across in no more than three steps triumphantly yelling, “GOTCHA!” His arms wrapped around Audrey so keenly that he could touch both sides of himself. He hoisted her off the floor with her legs flailing and kicking like a fish desperate to find its way back to water.
Audrey screamed loudly in despair and every inch of her body convulsed as if she was having a fit. She squirmed, twisted, and kicked to break free but it was a futile attempt. Her initial fight had relinquished itself to being defeated. Audrey’s entire body fell limp in his arms. A broad cheesy smile flashing his perfect pearly whites encompassed his face. Audrey’s brother 5 years her junior had finally surpassed her in height, strength, cunning, and evidently cockiness. He gave her a few good shakes and Audrey’s arms lifelessly flopped up and down with each shake as if she was a string puppet.
“Say it!” he demanded, “Say IT Audrey!”
With an exaggerated sigh and her head drooping lifelessly she mouthed the words of defeat.
“Oh c’mon! I can’t hear anything! Fair is fair Audrey – say IT!”
With another exaggerated sigh she duly recited the oath of losers. An oath which she created when they were children. An oath that he had recited almost exclusively until now. An oath of complete surrender. An oath that now she had to attest, out loud, browbeaten. Her reign over him is officially over.
“You’re the best. I’m the worst. You’re kung-fu is the greatest” Audrey uttered void of spirit.