Hello, people. In addition to the announcement that More Than Words (Boys of Summer 3, Electric Boogaloo) is out on Valentine’s Day, here is a sneak peak of a new CW novel you didn’t even know was in the pipeline. Enjoy!
I Want to Tell You
By Ciarán West
The sun never comes into her bedroom. He has done something to her window; bricks on the outside, then wood between the bricks and the glass. Because glass can be broken and wood can be broken, if you try a little harder, but bricks are things you can’t break, without some sort of machine, she thinks. Even at eleven years old, she knows there is something important about the bricks. He and she can’t be in a place with other houses around them. Someone would ask questions. A neighbour would say:
“Hey there, why are you putting bricks in front of your window?”
and he would have to answer them. Because the bricks weren’t there the first night, or the second night. He had only put them there when she tried to break the window when he used the bathroom, on the third day. And anyway, she never hears him talk to a neighbour, or to anyone. So, they mustn’t be in the city, she thinks. Maybe in the countryside, where the farms are, and the forests, and where her dog, Scout, went to live, two years before, when he got sick. They didn’t tell her what kind of sick Scout was, just that he would be better off in the fresh country air. She still misses him. A lot.
He doesn’t leave her by herself anymore to break windows. Now he uses the bracelets. He calls them the bracelets, but she knows they’re called handcuffs. Police use them, to keep bad people from running away. She isn’t bad. But she does want to run away. He tells her that she can’t run away. He tells her she can go when he goes, but she doesn’t know what this means, and when she asks him he never gives her an answer, except for:
and she doesn’t believe him that it will be soon, or that he will let her go, or that he will go. But he won’t tell her any more when she asks him, so she doesn’t know what to believe. But she will run away, she thinks, if she gets a chance. But she doesn’t think she will get a chance. So maybe she should believe him when she tells her:
Sometimes he leaves her for hours, while he drives off in a car to get groceries from the store. This is once a week. When he does that, she has to have the handcuffs now, and the feetcuffs, which are really just handcuffs that he puts on her feet, but she calls them feetcuffs in her head, because she likes words, and she likes to make up new ones. He puts them on just one foot, not two, around the ankle, tying her to the radiator in the basement. The radiator is never hot, so it must be broken, she thinks, or he just never turns it on. She doesn’t need it to be hot, or turned on, because it’s still the summer, and it’s hot all the time in the house, even in the night. The walls and ceiling down in the basement are covered in empty blue egg boxes. He tells her that the boxes stop any noises from coming out of there, so she can scream and shout and scream, and no one will come, and all that will happen is she will make her throat sore. She doesn’t believe him; and, on the first day he leaves her to go to the store, she screams and shouts and screams, but no one comes. All that happens is her throat is sore. So now she believes him.
He has a special machine that gives electric shocks. She doesn’t know what it’s called. He used it, that first night, at her house. That was how he took her away. It hurts, she thinks, but she’s not really sure. It’s hard to remember. She just knows that’s how he took her away, because she doesn’t remember anything after he touched her with it, except for waking up here, and it not being her home, and being here ever since. This is how he stops her from screaming and shouting and screaming when he is here. He shows her the special machine, and he reminds her of what it does, and he tells her he’ll use it on her again if she tries anything funny. So, she doesn’t scream or shout, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because she knows that no one will come, even without blue egg boxes on the walls and the ceiling. Because there is nobody to come. They are somewhere far, far away from everyone else. That’s why he has to go in the car to the store, and why it takes so long for him to come back, she thinks.
He brings her new clothes every time he comes home from the store too. Pretty dresses, and jeans, and shirts. He asks her what size she is, and she tells him she’s a kid, so it’s ages, not sizes. He doesn’t ask her what age she is. He just comes back with Age Eleven things. She likes them, she thinks they’re pretty, but she doesn’t tell him that. But he doesn’t ask, so it doesn’t really matter. He tells her to try them on, each time he comes back from the store, but he says she can do it in the bathroom, and she gets the idea maybe she can climb out a window, or shout out a window, or lock herself inside until someone comes. But there’s no window in the bathroom to climb out of or to shout out of, and no lock on the door, and anyway, no one is coming, she thinks.
He comes into the room and sees her. She’s so much more than he ever imagines, when she was just a dream or a fantasy in his head, for all those years. He knows that taking her was wrong, in the normal sense. But also that it was right, in his mind. And they are so far away from anyone else right now, that the normal sense doesn’t matter, or it won’t for a while – all that matters is how he sees it. And how he sees it, is that it was good for him to take her.
He tries to make her comfortable. He feeds her, he gives her drinks. He cooks for her, he buys her clothes (it was too sudden for him to take any clothes from the house, so he’s had to improvise since then, picking things up for her at Target, or TJ Maxx, in the next town over.) He wants her to feel good in the short time she is here with him, but he can’t force it. He can’t make her. She might be eleven years old, but she knows her own mind, and; strong as she is, she isn’t immune to being sad, or to feeling down, or to missing the people she loves. He tries his best, but he knows it will never be enough.
The place is secure. Remote, isolated, no neighbours. He has done his homework. He expected her to be reluctant, of course. That’s natural. He hadn’t expected her to be so feisty, though. Didn’t think she’d try to break the bolted down window in her bedroom. But he’d underestimated her. He shouldn’t have been so naïve. He knows who she is, after all. He built a temporary shut-in outside the bedroom window with some breeze blocks that were lying around. He has no way to make cement, but he hopes the plywood between the window and the wall will hide the fact that the bricks can be toppled with a hard enough shove. She knows the bricks are there, because she watched him build the wall. In her head, hopefully, a brick wall is an impregnable structure, and not the flimsy, vulnerable Jenga thing he’d actually constructed.
He has planned this, for so long, but at the same time he feels like he hasn’t planned at all. This is his first time really meeting her or knowing her. She has always been the variable, in even the most tightly plotted plan. He likes her, though. Even more than he thought he would. She doesn’t like him, understandably. She is afraid of him, and probably with good reason. He has kidnapped her, imprisoned her, threatened her with a Taser, watched her like a hawk. There really is no reason why she would find him personable. And yet, he’s still sad that she doesn’t. It hardly matters, though. Variables aside, he still has a plan, and he’s still sticking to it. Everything has been leading up to this time- for as long as he can remember clearly, and he’s not going to fuck it up now. He has a goal.
He doesn’t like to have to tie her up. He has no choice – she’s no idiot, she’ll figure out a way to escape, and everything will be ruined. And he can’t have that. So he cuffs her when he needs the bathroom, and he locks her in the basement when he has to go to the nearest town. But he doesn’t enjoy it. He hates it. Of course he hates it, because it’s something that makes her feel bad, makes her uncomfortable, makes her frightened. And that’s the last thing he wants for her. Because he loves her.