A single beam of light formed a little yellow rectangle on the cement floor. She hates it and tries to avoid looking at it, but the room is bare except for a gym mat, a fridge, and four cardboard boxes.
The little yellow rectangle reminds her of a youth spent analysing the shadow patterns made by the tree and sun upon her bedroom’s hardwood floor. How, after travelling millions of miles, the sun’s light so easily thwarted by a few leaves, resembled life. For her, only leaving for school, and then straight back again, the bedroom was a sanctuary — sanctuary from life’s disappointments but also from its possibilities. It had within it everything she could want: a double-sized bed, computer, radio, phone, and shelves and shelves of books — most of which were unread, spines unbroken — indeed, she had loved to read once. It became easier to shield herself from unpredictable experiences and connections with people in life or in stories, by instead safely scrolling on her phone. She thinks back and wonders what she was punishing herself for.
She turns away from the beam of light, and looks at the fridge. She should eat before the yogurt goes bad. She loves the yogurt. The expiry date allows her to guess how long she’s been here — two months, maybe more. It’s become longer between his visits, but she welcomes the respite. The floor doesn’t feel as cold anymore, and the hum of the fridge no longer keeps her awake. She grabs a strawberry yogurt and holds the spoon he gave her after complaining about her sticky hands. It was a child’s spoon, with a wide-eyed Rapunzel on its handle. At first, she found its gaze a cruel irony, but now she appreciates the rapport.
She eats a spoonful and looks again at the four cardboard boxes in the corner — they served as her bed the first few nights. He gave her an old gym mat soon after — she suspected he wanted somewhere more comfortable to pass out on afterwards. She’s happy for the gym mat — she runs her fingers along the deep creases of the Snow White bedsheets.
One of the four boxes was filled with children’s books: board books, Little Golden Books, and Robert Munsch titles — all brand new. The other three had an assortment of fiction and non-fiction: Jane Austen, a Che biography missing its front cover, parenting books with unbroken spines… She’s almost to the bottom of one box. She reads carefully every page, attempting to feel the stories with all senses — so much of what she’d denied herself in her previous life.
She discards the empty yogurt container atop the garbage pile beside the fridge. It’s starting to smell — she hopes he visits soon to take it away. She digs deep into the box, one book left. It’s heavy, and she lifts it out carefully, reading aloud its title to the empty basement: “Grimm’s Fairy Tales.”
She opens it to the first page and begins: “There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a child…”
Anne Lee Guide has been writing fiction since she was six. She enjoys writing flash fiction, short stories, and picture books. In her free time, Anne likes to read, write, and bake. Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Anne Michaels, and Dr. Seuss. Anne’s work was published in University of Toronto’s annual anthology while she completed her HBA in English Literature. Her short story, Blank Face, will appear in the September 2017 issue of Blank Spaces Magazine. She currently works in education, and lives in Mississauga, Canada with her husband. You can find her on Twitter @anneleeguide
Trapped is a Fiction War Finalist entry. Please do not reproduce without permission from the author. Originally published at fictionwar.com. Image credit: @ognaron