This story was submitted last year, but I removed it from the site after a short time. I have resubmitted it as it is a personal favourite.
Whilst the category is Erotic Horror, this story is less erotic and more horror. There is some sexual content, but it is more of the disturbing rather than titilating variety.
If you don't like horror, please don't read on.
* * *
The scent of cinnamon hung in the air like an exotic perfume and small particles of flour danced in the rays of sun shining through the slats of the venetian blind. Mary stood over the bowl, stooping slightly, her brown hair clasped neatly in a black butterfly clip. She smiled dreamily as she stirred the thick, lumpy cake batter, slowly adding air into the gunky mixture.
Round and round the large wooden spoon stirred. Patiently she sifted the ingredients together, ensuring each precious morsel was incorporated into the mixture. It was stiflingly hot in the kitchen and her face was pink with exertion, dark stains spreading slowly under the arms of her worn, blue housecoat.
Her hands were red and calloused from years of scalding water and bleach. She was fanatical about her housekeeping, almost obsessive about cleanliness. The kitchen would be sterilised after she had finished baking her cake with every surface shining and spotless.
"It's gonna be a beauty!" she muttered to herself. Her eyes danced in anticipation of the perfect sponge cake she would take from the oven soon. It would be so light...it would melt in the mouth. Her cakes always did.
Her Father had loved her cakes...
That sudden thought made her frown and she pushed it firmly from her head. He was not here to eat her cakes anymore. No more cakes for him...oh no. She smiled again and beat the mixture more vigorously.
These days she baked less frequently - and only for 'special' people. This cake was being baked for a special person. Mary smiled softly, her firm stirring of the mixture slowing slightly as she thought about him.
He was special. Only he deserved her special cake. No one else was worthy enough. She stood still, her hand suspended in the mixing bowl, the spoon settling into the glutinous mass.
He liked cinnamon.
* * *
"Cinnamon bun, please," he smiled at the girl behind the counter. The girl smiled back and passed him the last cinnamon bun from the glass display case. Mary frowned darkly as she stood in the queue behind him. She saw she was going to have to choose another cake as he had taken her bun.
For a moment she was cross; but he turned to glance across the room and she saw his handsome features. Instantly she realised he looked exactly like the hero on the cover of her latest book and she was captivated. Mary quickly decided she did not mind him taking the last cinnamon bun.
Brenda smiled at the handsome man and Mary pursed her lips in irritation. Normally the serving girl was rude and disrespectful and Mary did not like her one bit. Mary had seen her type before -- all short skirts and tight blouses - the kind of girl who gave away her favours in dark alleys.
The girl was common as muck and she always tried to short change Mary whenever she went in for a bun and a cup of tea. Mary had her number though; she was no fool. She made sure she checked her change every time - right there at the counter - even when the queue was trailing out the door behind her. She wasn't bothered; people could mutter under their breath and grumble all they liked.
He had taken his bun and his coffee and walked over to a table near the window, still looking cheerful. Mary watched him with a strange butterfly sensation fluttering in the pit of her stomach. She forgot where she was and it was only when she heard Brenda's loud, crass voice that Mary remembered that she hadn't paid for her own bun and tea.
Scowling again at the girl, she pulled the correct change from her old purse, counted the coins out slowly and walked away, oblivious to Brenda's look of disdain. She chose to sit at the table next to the man, taking her gloves off one at a time and placing them precisely on the chair next to her.
Her tea was too hot to drink, so she diverted her attention back to the man. His greying hair was long and touched the back of his collar in wavy strands. Smooth hands lifted his mug to his lips, his fingers long and delicate with the nails trimmed and neat. He looked like an artist, thought Mary dreamily. As she watched, he began to read a book taken from his bag and was soon engrossed in the pages. Judging by the cover pictures, it was a travel guide of the local area.
Her heart sank. This meant that she wouldn't see him again. Gloomily she dropped her gaze. Her tea gradually cooled as she stared unseeing out of the grimy window and she sipped at it carefully, not wishing to burn her lip. The bun she had purchased sat on its plate, tempting her, but she ignored it.
When she had drunk half of her tea, she placed the cup back on the table and picked up the fat bun. Easing it from the delicate paper case, she took a dainty bite. It was delicious. Not as good as her own buns of course, but delicious nonetheless. The ginger flavour burst on to her tongue and she savoured the sweetness slowly. When she had eaten exactly half of the bun, she took a sip of tea. Then she ate the rest of the bun, a dreamy smile on her rosy pink face.
* * *
Mary followed an unwavering routine, every week had a schedule and schedules must be kept. Thursday was library and bun day and every Thursday, without fail, she arrived at the library at ten o'clock sharp to return her five books, (always five), and choose five more.
Mary always borrowed old-fashioned Romances. She loved to read about demure heroines, swept off their feet by dashing heroes, their love sealed with a chaste kiss in the final sentence. Mary firmly believed that was how true love should be. She could not imagine any other kind of love.
Every night she sat in her bed, the small lamp illuminating the pages as she read her stories. Once thirty minutes had ticked by on her old clock, she turned and carefully inserted her bookmark between the pages and placed it on her bedside table. Switching off the lamp, she would settle beneath the covers, ready to fall asleep and dream about the story.
Virginia watched as Count Von Trapp swept Lady Christina round the ballroom. The orchestra played on, the sweet notes rising above the tinkling of feminine laughter and men's voices. Virginia was surprised to find herself feeling a little jealous of her childhood friend; she suddenly wished it was she, not Christina, dancing with the handsome Count...
Once Mary had inadvertently picked a 'modern romance' and she had been shocked with the things described within it. The things that were written were, well...disgusting! Mary shuddered to think about it. It made her feel hot and...not quite right.
She had complained to the librarian. The woman had looked at her kindly and explained that some people enjoyed that kind of book. She had smiled and taken the book from Mary's trembling hand. "Don't worry dear," she said. "I will make sure it is put back on the right shelf this time."
Mary had walked away feeling better. At least no one else would make the same mistake. The book obviously should have been in a different section. She would stick to her Barbara Cartland novels and the classics. She could enjoy those without worrying about coming across filth amongst the passages.
By eleven o'clock, she finished in the library and she would take her books across the square to the small café on the corner by the cathedral. Some days it was busy, others it was quiet. Mary didn't care either way. As long as she had a seat, other people around her, chattering away, did not bother her. She usually ignored them and they ignored her.
She would buy her cup of tea and her bun from Brenda and then sit for a while; just watching the tourists pass by. It made her feel less alone for a time and she enjoyed the company, even if it was distant. Most days she was usually on her own, unless she happened to have her guests staying.
She prized that. Guests were always polite and they complimented her cooking. Mary liked to be appreciated. It had been a rare commodity in her life -- being appreciated. Her parents had not appreciated her at all. They had treated her like a slave most of the time.
Day in, day out, she had washed, cooked, cleaned and tried her best to keep the house tidy. It was difficult with her father drunk most of the time. Her mother stayed out of the way as much as possible; she certainly gave Mary no attention unless it involved a beating for some perceived misdemeanour.
The only pleasure Mary had was her books. A kindly neighbour had given her a carrier bag full of paperback novels one day. Mary had eagerly taken the prize and hidden them away in her room, carefully pushed behind the box of junk at the bottom of her cupboard. Not that anyone came in her room anyway.
But she was not about to have her father take these books away from her. Once a teacher had given her a book of poetry. She had made the mistake of bringing it home and reading it in front of her father. He had snatched it from her hands and thrown it on the fire. Mary had endured a week of detention for the crime of losing a school library book. The teacher had not believed her when she tried to tell her what had happened.
Mary never made that mistake again. She soon learned that people only saw what they wanted to see. Girls like her were always invisible to the world. This was why nobody ever came to help her, even when her father beat her black and blue. Eventually she learned that it was no use crying -- it made no difference -- he just beat her harder.
Punishments were dealt out all too frequently. Father had punished her severely the day she lost his money on the way to the butcher and they couldn't have a Sunday joint. She had been beaten unconscious on that occasion. Her arm had taken ages to heal properly and even now, it was still slightly crooked and it ached terribly on cold damp days
Do this, do that...that was all they ever said to her. She worked hard and did as she was told. It was never enough though; they always wanted more from her. When her Mum died Mary had even more work to do around the house. She had never been encouraged to go to school and by the time she turned eighteen, her Father expected Mary to take up all her Mother's duties as well as her own. ALL of them.
* * *
Mary was shocked when he staggered home drunk one night, slurring his words and lurching into the kitchen. "You, bitch, upstairs now! Your whore of a mother has gone and you can look after me now..." He smiled malevolently at her, his eyes red and rheumy from the whiskey and Mary was confused. She didn't understand what he meant.
Before her mother became ill, Mary had heard her moaning and crying out sometimes, usually at night. Mary had buried her head under the pillow and blocked out the noise. She did not want to know what they were doing. It sounded horrible.
Her father lurched towards her. Mary shrank against the side of the refrigerator, her eyes wide with fear. Whatever her father wanted from her, Mary had a sudden inkling that it was not anything a father should be asking his daughter.
When he groped clumsily at her breasts, she screamed loudly. Quick as a flash, her father slammed his hand across her mouth. "Shut up you stupid bitch! I don't want the neighbours to come a running!" His breath stank of tobacco and booze. Mary thought she might vomit and she struggled to control her stomach. Father would be even angrier if she did that. He would beat her for sure.
The hand slid lower, towards her private places and Mary tried desperately to stifle a moan of horror. Mary knew nothing about what men and women did when they were alone. No one had ever told her. All she knew was what she had read in her novels. The handsome hero kissed his bride gently on the lips and there the story ended. This was more than enough for Mary; true love should be pure and untainted.
Her mother had not even told her about women's things. The day she had her first bleeding, she had been so frightened she had sat outside in the filthy outbuilding shaking like a leaf. She had mistakenly believed she was going to die of a horrible cancerous disease, just like her mother.
Fortunately Mrs Kennedy from next door had heard her sobbing wretchedly and took pity on her. Once Mary had overcome her considerable embarrassment and admitted what was wrong, the kind woman explained what was happening to her.
She had been a lovely lady and Mary missed her when she moved away. The next neighbours to move into number 1207, kept themselves to themselves. They seemed rather frightened of Mary's father, probably because of the shotgun he waved around the yard when he was drunk - it frightened Mary too.
He was paranoid about burglars. They had been broken into twice the previous year and after that he brought the shotgun. He claimed it would be a deterrent and if anyone tried it again, he would shoot the buggers. Nobody did of course. Mary was surprised they had bothered coming back a second time; there had been nothing left after the first burglary.
Once he had a gun to amuse himself with, he found great enjoyment in hunting small creatures in the nearby woods. He spent hours killing for fun. It made Mary feel sick when he came home bragging about all the animals he had slaughtered.
She often fantasised that he would accidentally shoot himself. It would be a fluke of course. He would be out hunting and something would go awry...the gun would go off and he would just crumple to the ground like a rag doll. Mary thought about this a lot.
She imagined him lying there, amongst the leaves and dirt, bleeding dark, sticky blood as his life drained away inexorably. Nobody would find him for days. He would just lie there amongst the forest creatures, cold and stiff. The rain would fall and the wind would blow -- but he wouldn't care. He was dead.
This made Mary smile as she lay in her hard, narrow bed. Sometimes she embellished the fantasy and introduced wild animals into the scene...hungry animals, looking for food; hungry, starving and voracious animals, tearing the body apart, teeth ripping at flesh and bone. It was surprising how satisfying this particular fantasy was.
When Mary's father pushed his hand roughly between Mary's legs, she felt a nameless horror rise deep within her. She knew this was wrong; she knew her father should not be touching her like that. Her revulsion was acute, but she was still too afraid of what he might do if she tried to stop him. He slurred something unintelligibly, his foul breath making her choke and then he collapsed in a heap on the hard floor, unconscious.
Mary was frozen in shock for several minutes. Gingerly she nudged her father's prone body with her toe. He snored and mumbled, but he did not wake up. With a sigh of heartfelt relief, Mary ran from the kitchen and out into the yard. She sat on the cold step shaking and wondering what to do next. When he awoke he would be madder than a skunk; he always was when he had been on a drinking binge. Her mother had usually sported black eyes and purple bruises the day after his bad sessions.
But her mother was gone - the cancer had eaten her away and left a dry husk of bones behind. The shrivelled creature that remained lasted several months before the doctors moved her to a hospital. Mary never saw her again. Her father refused to take her to visit as he said it was a waste of bus fare and she needed to stay behind to look after the house.
Mary sat on the step, thinking about how best to deal with her father. She had a couple of hours at most before he began to come round again. A slow smile lit up her face as a plan formed in her mind.
* * *
The man sitting at the next table glanced up from his book and smiled at Mary. For a moment Mary wondered if had been smiling at someone behind her and she looked at him puzzled.
Then he spoke, "Excuse me, I don't suppose you could recommend somewhere I could stay for a couple of nights? I'm just passing through and I need a Bed &Breakfast."
Mary felt flustered. She wasn't used to strange men talking to her. It was rare that anybody talked to her these days, apart from the guests, of course. But they were always polite so she didn't mind having conversations with them.
Her face lit up like a warm fire as she suddenly realised she could help this man. It seemed that God was smiling down on her today and her prayers were being answered.
"I have a Bed & Breakfast," Mary said shyly, her cheeks growing warm and pink. She lowered her eyes, unsure of what else to say. Suddenly the table was fascinating and she studied the scratches and lines gouged out of the scarred formica surface.
"Really?" the man seemed very pleased and he stood up quickly, his guidebook shoved into the pocket of his long wool coat. It was cold outside and his coat looked nice and warm. "It would be very helpful if you happen to have a vacancy for me. A couple of nights should give me enough time."
His voice was low and melodic, a faint southern accent barely discernable in the cultured tones. Mary found her mind wandering again, hypnotised by the sound of his voice.
Count Von Trapp gazed into Virginia's violet eyes and waited patiently for her to respond to his question. She felt her cheeks blushing pink under his interested scrutiny and she almost stumbled over her words,
"Yes Sir, I do believe that I would like to accompany you for a short stroll around the park tomorrow..."
"Excellent, my dear. I look forward to your exquisite company!" he responded with a bow.
Mary struggled to bring herself back to the here and now of the busy café.
"Yes, I have a spare room if you would like to stay," she offered, hoping he would take the room. She wanted him to come to her home; she felt instinctively he would like her house and her cooking.
"Wonderful! Then we are agreed. Can you give me directions so I can find my way there later on this afternoon?" He continued to smile warmly at her and Mary basked in the glow of his charismatic aura.
Her hand shaking slightly, she carefully wrote down her address on the piece of paper he gave her. He had lent her his beautiful fountain pen. The nib looked like it was gold-plated. Mary knew it must have cost a lot of money and she reluctantly handed it back to him, wishing she could keep it a little longer.
"Thank you," he said politely. "I will be there about six o'clock. My name is John Fisher, - and you are?"
"Mary," she replied shyly.
"That's a pretty name for a very pretty lady!" John commented, his eyes sparkling with amusement. He gave her another dazzling smile before grabbing his bag and striding out of the café purposefully. Mary was left standing dazed and unsure of what to do next. Her routine had been upset and she hated that.
She sat back down at her small table, thinking about her unexpected guest. There was suddenly a purpose to her day and she felt a buzz of adrenaline surge through her veins as she contemplated all that she would need to do before he arrived at six o'clock.
Shopping for food, that was the most important thing. She chewed her lip thoughtfully as she considered what he would like to eat for his evening meal. He seemed like the sort of man who would appreciate a good, home cooked meal. None of that faddy vegetarian stuff for him. Oh no... He looked like a man who would really enjoy a traditional roast dinner with all the trimmings.
She would go to the butcher's now and buy a joint of beef. Standing up again, Mary pulled her gloves back on, tucked her scarf inside her coat and stared briefly outside. It looked like it might snow by this evening. They had forecasted snow by the end of the week for sure. Mary did not mind; she would light the fires and the house would be warm and cosy. Her guest would enjoy that.