(1 of 1. Originally posted on February 10, 2023 for the prompt “The Rose.”)
Trigger warning: abduction.
Rosalind didn’t scream when she found a stranger in her kitchen, pointing a crossbow at her. Maybe only because her body froze, her throat constricted. Her brain kicked into survival mode, swirling thoughts and ideas almost too fast to keep up with.
The pruning knife in her hand? She’d never get close enough to use it. Not weighted for throwing. Jim? Not due home for at least an hour. Neighbors? Too far to hear anything. Die trying? Only as a last hope, and she hadn’t given up yet. Do I know this guy? Seen him a few times. Rough-shaven, bulky, looked like he hadn’t showered in months. Saw him in town sometimes, at the supply store. Didn’t know much else.
All those thoughts flashed through her mind in a moment, and left her calmer somehow. Her throat loosened, and her arm inched out to set the knife down on the table. Distract him. Talk. “You’re the one who’s been taking women, aren’t you? I knew they weren’t just leaving on their own, like some say.”
The man nodded. “You’re a quick one. Won’t help you. It’ll be the same with you. Disappeared, never seen again. Try anything, and I’ll make you regret it.”
“I won’t run,” Rosalind pulled off her work gloves. “And I won’t try to fight you. Just let me take one of my roses. I’d like to have one with me, at the end.”
“Hmph,” The man examined her face, as if looking for signs of deception. “Fine. If it’ll keep you quiet. Just don’t try to get clever, leaving a trail of petals or something. I’ll check it when we get there, and if it’s stripped bare, you’ll hurt for it. Wouldn’t help, anyway. Wind would blow them away.”
“I understand,” Rosalind picked a red rose from the vase on the table, trying to convey surrender in her tone. “I won’t try anything. Thank you for allowing me this. I’m ready.”
The man threw her over his shoulder and carried her out. She tried to watch which way they went, but hanging upside down against his back made it hard to see more than rocks and brush, and they all looked the same after a while. The best she could do was keep a tight grip on her rose, try to prevent it from being damaged on the journey.
After what felt like hours, he carried her into a rough cabin and dropped her. “Show me the rose.”
She didn’t try to stand. Leaning back on her right hand, she held up the rose with her left for him to examine.
He squinted at the undamaged blossom, and nodded. “Fine. I’m going to step outside and cut wood. Don’t try to leave. There’s nowhere to go, and I’ll be watching.” He walked out and slammed the door.
Rosalind scooted back against a wall and waited. Thunk. Thunk. An axe beat a regular pattern against wood. The minutes crawled by. Someone shouted in the distance. The woodcutting stopped. Running feet. More shouts. The sounds of a short struggle, and a body hitting the ground. The door burst open.
Jim ran to her and scooped her into his arms. “Rosa! Are you hurt? I followed a trail of blood to get here.”
Rosalind showed him her right palm, dripping red from several small punctures. “No worse than I’ve had from my roses before.”
“That’s my girl.” Jim smiled, and kissed her.