Thursday, March 18, 2010

Flash Fiction 29: Life After Death

She was dead. It was the best she'd ever felt.

She looked out into the sunlight and shivered. She was 19 and it was to have been her wedding day -- she should've been thrilled. All brides long for sun on their wedding days. But to her it was a negative omen; even the weather was conspiring in the deception. As though her marriage were a happy occasion.

A marriage of money to power. The man she was marrying was broke, but politically powerful; a power her father needed on his side. The only way her wealthy father could get the contracts he needed was through this alliance. Her fiancée -- the term had always held such romance for her, now it too seemed to mock her -- her fiancée had made it clear he was marring her solely for the income it would gain him; he had no intention of changing his lifestyle to accommodate a wife. And she wanted nothing to do with his abusive lifestyle.

She had tried to say no; they told the hospital she had fallen down the stairs. She'd always been so clumsy -- good thing she'd have a husband to look after her soon. She ran away; they found her. On the outside, a spoiled teenager who'd been given everything money could buy, too stuck up to even speak to the others at school; on the inside, scared and rapidly sinking into a deep depression. She could see no way out, but despite it all she was proud, too proud to allow herself to be sold to the highest bidder. She'd been privileged to grow up in a free country, but sometimes she felt as though that too were a cruel joke.

She couldn't run -- they were to rich and too powerful. They would find her. She couldn't stay; it was too much for anybody to live with. Her only way out was death. Her mother might mourn, at least a little. Her father and fiancée would be livid that she had spoiled their plans. But perhaps they would realize that they could trade money for power even without her as a pawn. And then they would forget she ever existed.

She hoped.

She planned her death carefully. An eager bride driving too fast up the treacherous mountain road. Would've been better had it been raining, but still believable even in sunlight -- people died there every year. Getting out of having a driver was tricky. She convinced her father that it would be politically unwise for her to show up with a driver while her fiancée had to drive himself, all the while making it seem like she really wanted the limo. The years had taught her to be a brilliant actress and she manipulated the conversation with a skill she hadn't known she possessed. Complete with the almost-hidden sulk when she was ordered to get herself to the church on time. The sulk he would ignore because she tried to hide it and he knew she wouldn't dare disobey. Her parents would go on ahead -- there was work to be done.

She dressed for the wedding she dreaded and left the house only a few minutes earlier than expected. She stopped at the park where the road starts up the mountain and changed as quickly as possible into the jeans and sweat-shirt she'd bought for today. Her wedding dress and shoes she put in a trash bag, and covered with the actual trash she'd taken from their kitchen. The whole collection got thrown in with the many bags in the park trash. The cash she'd been carefully stashing since the day she decided she'd have to die was belted around her waist.
She drove up the mountain, along the winding path. She parked the car and took out her backpack, which held the rest of her cash, some new toiletries and clothes and wig she had purchased. Leaving it by the side of the road she walked up to the curve and peered over. It was a long way down. It would destroy her beautiful little Mercedes. Returning to her car she got in, left the seatbelt undone so if anybody found the car it would at least be plausible that her body was no longer in it, and put the car in drive. She realized quickly this would not be nearly as easy as Hollywood would make it seem; she was just as likely to be killed getting out of the car as going over the cliff. But it was a risk she had to take. Better dead than this life. Holding the door open she perched on the very edge of her seat, with her left foot on the runner, her body half out of the car. And with a deep breath, she floored the gas. The car accelerated with the rapidity it was known for. Right before the road curved treacherously, she set the cruise control and allowed herself to roll out of the rapidly moving vehicle.

She hit the ground hard and it hurt. But it hurt a lot less than being found had. She got up tentatively -- checking to make sure she hadn't broken anything serious; her sweatshirt was shredded and she was banged up, but otherwise ok. The guard was destroyed and her car was gone. Peering over the edge she saw the last of it sinking below; the last of that life. Turning she quickly returned to her bag and ran back down to the park where she'd ditched her wedding dress, ducking off the road into the trees as soon as she could. There she stopped to catch her breath, but the adrenaline was running too fast. She had to keep moving. She didn't have long before they'd realize she was gone and came to find her. She stuffed the sweatshirt in the bag, changing to one of the cheap t-shirts she'd bought and checked as best she could that her blond hair was entirely hidden in her wig, before walking the short distance to the parking lot and hopping on the town bus. Never was she so thankful for the hordes of tourists. She looked like any other backpacker. She hoped.

At the station she stuck beside a group of kids her own age, yet in some ways so very much younger, and when they purchased a long distance hop-on, hop-off travel pass, she did the same -- hoping she'd be instantly forgotten as one of the pack. She checked the schedule and got herself on the first bus leaving. It was going one to New York. She'd been to New York; they knew people there. She couldn't go there. But there were lots of little towns on the way she could stop at. And she would.

She could feel the blood running through her veins. Every sense was super-alert. She was so close to being free. She slouched in her seat and schooled her features so anyone looking would merely see a bored random teen. The bus pulled out of the station, but she couldn't relax. After a couple hours she began to hope that maybe she was free. At every stop she expected somebody to be waiting for her; she changed busses three times in two days before finding herself in a station nearly the opposite side of the country. There she saw the news of her tragic demise broadcast; the body had been swept out to sea. A too young bride, her life cut short as she sped to her wedding. Not wearing her seatbelt. Let this be a lesson.

And though she was young, female, alone, with no id and limited cash, she felt the relief course through her. She was smart, willing to work, and desperate to survive. She would keep moving till she found somewhere she could be safe. A small town where she could settle and live the life she had died to have.


ganymeder said...

OMG, this was great. The final line summed up the whole story perfectly.

It's perfect now, but I would love to see this as a series too. Great job.

Lauren Cude said...

Thanks ganymeder!

Laurita said...

Fantastic ending line. I'd like to know what happens next.

mazzz in Leeds said...

Very good, kept me reading breathlessly!
(small point, I think you might want to swap fiancée for fiancé)

Loved the ending line, and I'm delighted that she got away!

Maryann said...

Love it!!

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