Life had seemed idealistic and tranquil. Everything was wonderful for Cathy. She had her loving husband Ben at her side and their marriage was happy until one day everything changed. Cathy started getting sick …
In a blink of an eye murder, betrayal, and deceit shatter the illusion of happiness. Life will never be the same again. Will Cathy survive when evil is lurking just around the corner? Read the story below to find out!
I worked really hard on this one and definitely need some help. Feedback, encouragement, and criticism is highly welcomed. Please leave your thoughts below in the comments. All the advice and opinions really have been helping me achieve my goal of becoming a better writer. The support from you guys is very appreciated!
Thorns That Cut
Written by Samantha James
I sat up against the pillows completely out of breathe. This had been the worst coughing fit yet. It felt like my lungs were trying to come up out of my throat and nobody knew why. My recent health problems were a mystery to even doctors. I struggled to put my red hair in a ponytail. It was starting to thin out in parts. My hair was not as full and shiny as it had been in the past.
“Cathy, why don’t you try to sleep,” encouraged my husband Ben.
I looked over to where he sat on a small sofa near the balcony door of our master bedroom. This was what the poor man had been sleeping on for the last several weeks despite my protest. His legs were much too long for our small bedroom couch. The guest bedroom would have been more comfortable.
“I am not very sleepy at the moment,” I mumbled weakly.
I still had not recovered from the coughing episode.
“Maybe in a little while. What do you want to do then dear?” He asked.
“Can we go outside for a walk? I could use some fresh air.”
“I don’t think that is such a good idea right now,”
Concern clouded his face and darkened his eyes. He was probably remembering the hour I had spent emptying my stomach while he held my hair as the sun came up. We had both watched the sunrise through the little bathroom window.
We did not know why I was so sick or what was causing it. I had been to the emergency room five times in the last month with high fevers, nausea, and pains throughout my body. There had been no answer so far and I had seen several doctors since then. They each gave a different diagnosis. The path to feeling well had become endless and daunting. My health was only getting worse by the day. This had all been so terrifying and sometimes I felt like hope was slipping away from our hands.
“I can read to you out on the veranda, shall I grab a blanket,” offered Ben.
“No, that is okay babe. I will just watch a little television.”
I did not like the dark circles under his eyes that were starting to become a permanent feature on his face. He was so handsome with black hair, blue eyes, and dimples. Ben could pass as a male model. He towered over everyone at 6’4 and had broad shoulders that intimidated most. I had fallen in love with his bright boyish smile almost immediately. I frowned. Ben was not looking like himself as of late.
He hadn’t been right since I had first started getting sick. It was hard to describe the change. Something was just off kilter. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Everything had me feeling paranoid and worried these days. He was just probably out of his mind with fear for my health.
“Is everything alright Cathy? You went really pale just now.”
“Yes. Maybe I should sleep after all. Can you bring me my stomach pills?”
“One moment” He nodded.
I waited patiently as Ben walked across the room and then disappeared behind the bathroom door. I sighed. My stomach felt like it wanted to return the health shake I had sipped for breakfast. I could not keep anything down. The bathroom door opened. Ben held a glass of water and a little white oval pill in his hand. His eyebrows furrowed in a slight scold.
“Make sure that you drink all that you are able. The doctors are nervous about you not being hydrated enough. You need more water Cathy”
“Thank you babe. I am going to close my eyes and rest a little”
I swallowed the medicine and took a long deep gulp from the glass. It was tap water. My stomach lurched in anger. I took a deep breathe and tried to keep it from showing on my face.
“Are you okay?” questioned Ben.
“Yes. Just got a little queasy from the water. I am okay now. Really you should go and relax.” I soothed reassuringly.
“Okay. I do have some business to attend with and calls from the office to answer. Holler if you need anything. I am right here”
Ben leaned over and gave my forehead a gentle kiss. He was so sweet. I offered him a small smile. As I closed my eyes the sound of a closing door filled my ears.
I laid there listening as the footsteps become more faint. Then the only sound was that of my fan sitting on the night stand. The familiar noise was comforting. The breeze was helping me to calm down and relax a little. My body hurt so often now that I could cry over it. Sleep was alluding me. I laid there in silence for what felt like an hour, but sleep was not taking me into its sweet slumber. This was impossible. Perhaps a movie would be nice? I decided this was exactly what I needed. A movie would help lull me to sleep.
I could hear whispers coming from the study. The door was cracked open slightly. Clutching my blanket and the DVD I had chosen, my ears strained to listen. Ben was trying to soothe the caller on the other end of the line. This did not sound like a business call at all.
“Laura, I know! Trust me honey.”
Through a crack in the door jam, I watched Ben pace around the room anxiously. He looked upset. I continued to listen in shock. Who was Laura? Why was he down here in the study and not in his office upstairs? The answer was clear as day. It was not difficult to surmise that Ben had not wanted me to overhear this conversation. He had come down here for privacy but why?
“Babe, you cannot think like that! You and Carly mean the world to me. The two of you are everything. My girls, my loves, and all I cherish in this world. Please understand …”
There was silence as he listened to the woman on the other end. I heard Ben give off an audible sigh of relief. It sounded like he was walking closer to the door. I quickly took a step back worried I might be seen if he got close enough.
“Yes. Yes. This will all be over soon. After it is done then I will never leave you or our daughter’s side again. I promise! Just listen. I need your patience and trust; otherwise, this whole ordeal these last weeks have been for nothing. This is all for you and our family”
My heart was thumping out of my chest as I stood in the hall listening quietly. My brain did not really quite comprehend what was being said. My stomach churned as my mind raced to process everything I just overheard.
“That will have to wait until after the funeral” Ben chuckled.
I peaked through the crack again. He sat leaning on the desk smiling now. His eyes were lost far away in the conversation with this other woman. Ben’s features cut me to my core. I had not seen my husband ever look this carefree and buoyant.
I slowly backed away and made my way into the den. The room was cozy and my favorite in the whole house but offered no comfort as my brain realized many things all at once.
My marriage was over.
Walking back upstairs was devastating. The reality of my husband loving another and having a child with that person threatened to put me into a deep spiral of no return. How could this even be? My heart ached at the emotions boiling to the surface of my consciousnesses. Tears streamed down my face in buckets as memories flashed before me and I relived the doctor telling me over a year ago that I would never conceive a child of my own. That the chances were one in a million. Ben having a daughter was simply adding salt on an already gaping wound.
The truth was crystal clear. Divorce was going to be in my immediate future, but first before anything was revealed my ducks needed to all be in a row, and every “I” dotted.
Ben’s office was just down from our bedroom to the right. This is where I went first. The room was not much to be impressed with. A single desk and one bookshelf sat at the far end of the wall under a large window. There was storage boxes filled with paperwork stacked in a corner. No decorations or other furniture one might find in such a work space. Ben’s office had always been bare. He had no sense for this kind of stuff and simply did not care. This was the only room I had been banned from sprucing up. Ben did not mind me filling our home with décor as long as his space was left out of it.
I looked around and realized something was different; however, nothing stood out at me. It was puzzling. I leaned against the wall because my body felt like it was loosing strength to keep me standing. Muddled thoughts jumped in and out of my head as I rested. My breathe was struggling to leave my lungs. Everything that had happened in this last month was all too much. I was so sick and this only made it all the more harder. How was I going to survive without Ben?
Tears threatened to spill out of my eyelids again. This was terrible! I needed and loved him. We could work things out couldn’t we? I pondered forgiveness but was coming up short. Could one really forgive their spouse for cheating? Would I be able to? No answers responded to my mindless questions. What I really needed was advice and my best friend. She would know exactly what to do. I turned to go in search of my phone but something caught my eye. That is when it hit me. I knew what was so different about my husband’s office. The laptop sitting on the desk was not Ben’s own computer. The foreign laptop was one I had never seen. Had Ben purchased a new one?
Curiosity gave way to action and I opened it in hopes that a password would not block my access. Luck was on my side! The login brought me directly to the desktop page. What I saw on the screen however made me feel like someone had kicked my teeth in. The background displayed a very beautiful woman with light brown hair and dark eyes. She laid in a hospital bed smiling with unabashed happiness. A newborn baby lay cuddled in her arms wrapped in a blanket. This had to be Laura and Carly. Ben stood in the photo off to the side of the bed next to them. He was absolutely beaming with joy as he kissed the woman’s forehead the way he always kissed mine. At the bottom of the image read the name Carly Christina, born 7lbs’ 8 ounces. The date was a little over two months ago. This was very recent and just before I had started to get sick.
Ben had kept a secret family hidden from me for who knows how long and all while something was seriously going wrong with my health. When he was needed the most. I clicked on the web browser icon and was taken instantly to his email account. Scrolling through the inbox did not offer anything of interest. How frustrating!
My head was spinning a bit and realizing I had done too much physically caused me to give up my investigation for the time being. Rest and laying down was crucial. The shock of Ben’s betrayal stung. Time for thinking was needed. When I clicked to exit the browser, a search history box popped up in the corner. What displayed there caused me to remain in the chair. The most recent of searches listed topics like “ Realtor” “selling your house” “life insurance” “nightshade” “undetectable” “Marriage licenses” “alimony” “ divorce” “social security”
All sorts of thoughts were running around as I stood there staring blankly at the screen. On impulse I clicked on the search term “nightshade”. The website displayed a health site with a long list of symptoms . It was a poison. Why was Ben searching about poison? This was quite confounding. As I read the long list of symptoms my incredulity turned to horror. Body pains, insomnia, and weakness were at the top. Symptoms also included digestive problems such as nausea, heartburn, and gas. These all were what I had been experiencing. I turned chalk white at the realization my husband might be trying to kill me.
My heart thudded loudly in my chest, my ears lost its ability to hear, and time stopped altogether. I felt like I was going faint with terrified anger. Then the words from Ben’s conversation downstairs came back to my memory. He had laughed about a funeral. Was he talking about me?
Everything seemed to click together.
I slammed the computer closed and gave off a weary sigh. What was I going to do? Footsteps sounded on the stairway. Someone was walking upstairs. Ben couldn’t find me in here! Shaking with fear I made my away from the desk. Knowing there was no time to leave the room unseen. I called out:
“Ben are you in here?”
“Cathy?” replied a confused voice.
“Oh there you are!” I said weakly before adding “I was looking for you!”
“Oh I am sorry dear! I went downstairs to get some breakfast and got caught up on the phone with work.”
I was trembling and unable to hide that something was wrong. My body did not feel like my own. It was as if everything was at a distance. Focus was hard to find. I wanted to throw up just looking at him: however, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be save if he knew that I had found him out.
“You don’t look too well sweetie” He murmured grabbing my arm.
I wanted to slap him, kick his nuts, and run out of the house. Instead, I offered up a weak smile and let him lead me towards our bedroom.
“I feel awful. Can you help me prepare a bath?”
“Sure, and then I will bring you up a shake for lunch. You gotta get well.”
The shake! That is how he was doing it! Everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner he made me what he called his health shake. Ben said it was filled with vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants. They had tasted normal and nothing had seemed wrong. I began shaking really hard as I realized I had been drinking them every day for over an entire month. How was I still alive?
“Are you cold?”
“Yes. Can you make the water extra warm?” I requested.
Running water could be heard from the bathroom as Ben prepared the tub. He came back into the room and said it was almost ready. I nodded not trusting myself to speak as I sat on the bed holding my “health shake”. My mind was scrutinizing every action of my husband over the last two months. There was nothing in my memory that could have lead me to this moment. I thought he had loved me.
“Well, I am going to be in the office working. Let me know if you need help getting out of the tub. You should try to take a nap afterwards. You look like you need some rest really bad”
I tried to cover the disgust that was beginning to show on my face at his words. He had others so easily fooled with fake concern and kindness. Had he always been this way and I am just now noticing because of all that was on his laptop? I was not really sure of that answer. While Ben had been downstairs preparing my poisonous shake a plan had been formed.
The thought of just walking out of the house with him knowing frightened me beyond believe. There had been too many murdered woman at the hands of their husbands on the ID channel. Late into the night often they would be playing on our T.V. How abused woman get stabbed, shot, or beaten to death for trying to leave their evil spouses. Fear had ceased me and put me on the defensive. Images of bloody lifeless victims played through my mind like a movie. This man was willingly to slowly poison me to death. If I tried to walk out? The answer brought shudders to my body and the trembles came back.
An escape plan that was smart was the only way I could save myself from this nightmare. My thoughts were becoming clearer with this renowned sense of purpose. The survival instinct we each carry was providing the needed strength to do what had to be done. There was stairs off of the veranda in our master bedroom that went to ground floor. That is where an exit could be made.
Slowly walking to the bathroom to give off the impression that I was going to take a bath, I listened to Ben as he walked across the hall and into his office shutting the door behind him. I inhaled and exhaled, making sure to take deep breathe in an effort to remain calm. Sitting in the bathroom I gently set the evil shake on the counter by the sink and closed the bathroom door as I re-entered the bedroom. Tip toeing across the room as quietly as I could to reach the patio. Luckily, the door did not creak as it opened. Sweat ran down my brows as I stepped outside.
The door slipped shut. Holding my breathe, I listened for any noise. While in the bathroom I waited several minutes to make sure Ben did not come out of his office. There was no sound. Taking a deep breathe , I reassured myself that everything was going to be okay. Cold wind hit my face and it was piercing. Shivers made there way up my spine. It was the middle of winter and here I was barefoot with no jacket. The only protection was my flimsy silk pajamas. I had not quite thought this all the way out. There was no going back now.
The steps felt like ice cubes as I descended. The metal and stone stairs harbored no warmth. My hair kept flying up across my face causing me to stop several times to wipe the thick strands out of my eyes.
The narrow pathway leading out to the street greeted me at the bottom of the staircase. It was concrete and did not feel as cold. Our house and a tall full length fence were on the sides of the walkway. Ducking slightly to avoid the kitchen window, I crept forward holding my breathe the entire time. Relief was a very dominant emotion inside me in this direct moment. Ben’s office faced the backyard and not the street out front. He was never going to see my getaway. The goal in my head was to hide out at the Phillips. They were an older couple who lived across the way three houses down.
Barbara Phillips and I had struck up a friendship last spring over gardening. She had taught me so much about plants and taking care of a garden properly. Ben had never met them. He had always been too occupied with his own business that he barely acknowledge me discussing the kind couple. They would help me. Barbara’s husband could take me to the police station.
All would be sorted out and Ben would be arrested. He would suffer the consequences of his crimes and I would once again be safe to live my life normally. Thoughts of Ben being locked up brought comfort to my soul and renewed my strength.
It was with pure resolve I made my way down the path only to be stopped dead in my tracks.
Ben stood at a small door on the side of our house that lead into the garage. His dark brooding eyes searched mine for understanding. He was tall and his frame left a menacing shadow that blocked out the afternoon light. I shrank back startled and horrified. Hysteria threatened to shatter the bravado I desperately grasped for.
“What are you doing out here Cathy?” he questioned.
Confusion colored his tone and put a strain on the usually soft voice of my husband. No words found their way out of my mouth. I was speechless.
The seconds ticked …
“I wanted to go out for a walk. You would have stopped me.” I replied giving off a sigh before continuing my explanation. “I just wanted to feel like a normal person again.”
It was the only thing that came to mind to say. The only reasonable answer. I stood there trying to remain calm under a mask of what I hoped looked like guilt rather than fear.
“Normal people go for walks in their pajamas with neither a jacket or shoes?” he asked dryly.
Ben looked me over. Incredulity now in full display making him look harmless. I knew better. He had to go. Right now Ben stood between me and the street. This was not good. Thinking fast I decided to invite him to go with me. This would give me precious minutes.
“Why don’t you come for a walk with me? Can you get me a jacket and some shoes?” I quietly mumbled.
My voice sounded all wrong. It was not my usual tone. Ben looked at me with an odd expression before nodding.
“Okay. Sure … One moment.”
Ben went to the garage and could no longer be seen. I waited to hear the house door click shut before making a run for the road.
Adrenaline pumped through me as my feet were pricked with wet pointy grass as I cut through our lawn. Terror made my body move faster than I could imagine. The sound of a slamming door told me my head start was not enough.
“Cathy!” shouted Ben.
There was no way I was going to look back. Turning off to the side in hopes the neighbors house might block my view, I quickly ducked. That was when I heard a loud deep earth cracking sound through the air in succession.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Holy hell! It was a gun. Jumping from the heinous noise almost caused me to lose my balance as my body rushed to hide itself behind some trash containers. My heart was thumping and the ringing in my ears made me dizzy. All the energy that was wielded in our mad dash from the house sucked away and instantly left me feeling lifeless. Crap! I was going to pass out. My vision blurred. It was impossible to focus.
“Caaaathy.. Cattthhhy. Cathy!” sang Ben not far off from where I crouched.
“Where are you?” he yelled.
His voice was deadly and leery. A sinister smirk quickly developed across Ben’s face when he spotted me on the side of our neighbors house struggling to breathe.
A shiny black gun barrel focused in my view. Aimed right for my head. Out of instinct I spun away and tried to lower myself to the ground but Ben was faster. A bullet hit me in the back of my left shoulder. Completely stunned I collapsed face first into the pavement.
This was where I was going to die. That was my only thought. Warm liquid slowly ran down my arms and onto the floor. The smell of dirt, rust, and copper entered my nostrils leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. The pain was intense and sharp. My voice wanted to shout out in agony of it all but nothing would come out. Fear and pain left me paralyzed. The sound of footsteps coming up behind me caused my body to stiffen in dread and alarm. A clicking sound cause my heart to leap out and then stutter. Was Ben going to shoot me again?
At this point I succumbed to my injuries and sickness. The world went black and I lost all consciousnesses. I vaguely remembering hearing more footsteps and shouts before fully passing out. The lights went completely out. It was like falling asleep.
I woke up hours later in a hospital. The gun wounds were not life threatening. I had survived; however, Ben was dead. Cops, neighbors, and the trail had revealed the rest of what happened months later when everything was under investigation. A neighbor I had not met before had been witness to it all.
The man’s name was Nathan Wallace. The day everything went down had seen him at home working on brakes for his truck. He had seen me running from my yard while standing out on his driveway having a smoke before working on his vehicle. Nathan said he had never seen someone looking so frightened. My face had instantly put him on red alert. He was about to chase after me to see if I was alright when Ben could be seen yelling my name and holding the gun.
My husband had lost his entire mind and never once noticed Nathan in his violent frenzy. My savior was unable to stop the first bullet from landing in my shoulder but he did save my life. Nathan had tackled Ben to the ground moments before he was about to shoot me for a second time. The two men wrestled on the floor while I laid lifeless. Nathan told me that these moments felt like hours. The struggle was endless. Ben was not going to give up but my neighbor stood his ground and protected me. Nathan stopped Ben from being able to shoot.
During the scuffle several other neighbors had come to assist. The local emergency dispatch office had received over ten calls about the shooting in a five minute period. The whole street was shell shocked over the incident. The cops ended up shooting Ben within minutes of arriving. My husband would not let go of the gun and attempted to aim it at one of the officers yelling to surrender. The results ended Ben’s life. A person cannot expect to point a weapon such as that towards law enforcement and not expect to die. Forever will I wonder if this was on purpose or had he really just lost it. No one will ever know for sure. Some questions will always remain unanswered.
Weeks after my release from the hospital I received good news. The D.A’s office was pressing charges against Laura Mantilini. Ben’s secret lover was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, evasion, and a few other misdemeanors for missing court appearances after being released on bail. They had caught her at the border trying to leave the country with her infant daughter.
During the long intensive trial, lots of information and evidence was provided. Stuff I did not know such as Ben’s method of poisoning me. He had made a special concoction of nightshade, apple seeds, and Pyracantha berries. He would ground up these plants all together into a shake that was served up to me three times a day. It was given to me in just small enough increments and the symptoms were often irregular. This allowed it to go unnoticed. If you are viewing this without any emotional bias. The plan was fairly clever. The doctors would have eventually discovered this perhaps but not in time. Who even knew that apple seeds in large quantities could be poisonous? Laura had encouraged, helped, and participated in the attempt on my life. She received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. This is comforting to me. I am glad that she will never be out in the world free.
It has been nearly three years now and the world has moved on. Some days are tougher then others but I am blessed with someone that fills my very heart and demands all my attention. It is my three year old daughter. When Laura was arrested and taken into custody, there was a small little human left without her mother. Carly had no other family besides my husband and Laura. The tiny little creature was going to enter the foster system. My heart broke during the trial when the judge explained this. When everything was over, I went to Ben’s family. They had already known about the little girl; however, none of them wanted a thing to do with her. It seemed cruel. A child judged by the actions of her parents. My mind struggled with this for weeks until one day I found myself at the child welfare office and requested to be her foster parent.
The process was challenging but last year the adoption was finalized and she will forever remain the bright light that come about from the darkest time in my life. Sometimes I am not sure how I will explain what happened to her birth parents and why her father’s family makes no effort to be involved.
Carly will need the truth from me and all of it. Some day she will be old enough to stumble across newspaper articles about the shooting and the trial. The story had been picked up nationally and various broadcast of the incident appeared everywhere. The whole entire court proceeding had been televised. My daughter will be better off hearing it all from me rather than an outside source but for right now I am happy to just let her be a young innocent child who believes that monster are real and that I have superpowers.
My health is wonderful every since I stopped drinking liquid poison. The symptoms all dissipated and my strength returned. My body gained back weight and coloring. A full recovery.
I never returned to our home after being released from the hospital. My parents offered me my old room and I leaped at the opportunity. The house sold not long after. Carly and I found a beautiful condo with security services. Home feels safe now.
Here is another short story I wrote : The Haunting Of Mackleberry Bridge
© Samantha James and Samantha The Reader Blog, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Samantha James and Samantha The Reader Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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