Terrifying Tales Contest Notable Mention #3: 18+

Getaway

Getaway by A. Breckman, 18+ category, from the Woodinville Library.

People can say what they will about April 25th, but the perfect date is actually October 15th. This year, it was truly an idyllic autumn day. From the car window, Andrea could see the leaves in a multitude of shades, from red to orange to yellow to green. It was sunny but there was a nip in the air that made her pull her sweater close. John drove the car down the narrow, heavily wooded driveway and pulled up to the cabin they had rented for the long weekend. They had found it through a service, but it looked and felt like home as Andrea got out of the car. The rustic cabin was built in an A-Frame style and had an expansive log porch out front. There were even two rocking chairs just waiting to be sat in. Andrea mentally kicked herself for not bringing some apple cider for mulling. She turned away from the cabin to face the densely wooded forest and grabbed her weekender out of the backseat. She walked around the car to join John. He startled her by grabbing her around the waist and leaning in for a kiss. After a moment of hesitation, she made herself relax into it.

They had been married for nearly a year, but this was their first vacation since the honeymoon. Life had been crazy between the pandemic, work, and managing a young relationship, so when the chance came to get away, they seized it. On the recommendation of some friends, they picked a remote area and found a cabin in the woods so they could get away from the stress of the 2020 world. Both were eager for a chance to enjoy some alone time. They were grateful that the nearest neighbor was unknown miles away instead of on the other side of a too-thin apartment wall. Maple and pine trees towered above them, swaying gently in the mid-autumn breeze. The leaves rustling and crunching under their feet was the only sound as they approached the cabin. Already feeling relaxed, Andrea smiled and breathed in the woodsmoke and petrichor scent in the wind. She reached for the doorknob when, seemingly out of nowhere, the strangest thought occurred to her. Out here, no one could hear me scream. Shaking her head at how cliché that thought was, she laughed as she pushed the door open.

Andrea was immediately greeted by an imposing stone fireplace. Dropping her bag, she walked up and looked for a switch to turn it on. It was a few moments before she realized John was chuckling at her.

“What’s so funny?” she turned and glared at him.

“Have you never seen a real fireplace before?” he gestured back at the small but clearly visible stack of wood in the copper holder beside the mantel.

Andrea blushed deeply, realizing her error. Now that she was thinking about it, it occurred to her that she had only ever had a gas fireplace. That was in her old condo, back before she had married John and they had moved in together. A lifetime ago. She grinned broadly and put her hands on her hips.

“Well, we’re going to need more wood than this. Maybe someone should go find some.” She lifted her eyebrows in his direction. He smiled back at her and bowed in an exaggerated fashion.

“Of course, madam, anything else you require?”

She thought for a moment. She was cold despite her heavy knitted sweater and thick jeans and the drive had not exactly been short. “We’ll probably want food sooner rather than later. But for now, I’m going to go take a long, hot shower.” She closed the distance between them and gave him a chaste peck on the lips before grabbing her bag and heading upstairs to find the bathroom.

Once upstairs, the first door she came to was to the master bedroom. The well-appointed room was a dream come true. A plush bed, piled high with various colors and sizes of pillows, was in the center. A shiny, expensive-looking brown fur covered the foot of the bed. Late afternoon sunshine streamed in through white, breezy, floor-length curtains. Two heavy wooden barn doors stood on each side of the room. One, Andrea figured, had to lead to a closet that she suspected was larger than her bedroom back home. She slid open the other door and was stopped in awe of the clean, spacious bathroom that was laid out in front of her. A two-person sized ceramic soaking tub was under a large window that gave a perfect view of autumn’s leaves. Next to it, was a floor-to-ceiling shower stall with opaque frosted glass. She pulled the shower door and her jaw fell open. Ornate tile work and a rainfall shower head over a bamboo bench made Andrea eager to step inside. The bathtub could wait until she had a glass of wine and a good book. Right now, she wanted to be clean.

Andrea cranked the water all the way to hot and stepped back to begin peeling off her clothes. She had never been able to abide a cold shower. Her grandmother always told her that her showers were “hot enough to steam a shellfish”. Once the temperature was scalding, she stepped in and immediately felt the tension and niggling bit of newlywed anxiety flood out of her. Things had been a bit rocky before this vacation and she could feel it in her muscles. Her shoulders and head slowly relaxed and dropped. She let out a soul-weary sigh, inhaled the steam, and closed her eyes.

She did not know how long she stood there, just breathing, and enjoying the heat sinking into her bones but when she opened her eyes, there was a dark figure with her in the bathroom. Her panic spiked and a scream stuck in her throat until common sense could catch up to her racing heart. Clearly her husband had gotten lonely and bored downstairs. She leaned forward and drew a heart in the steam on the glass door. A silhouetted hand traced the heart on the other side. A playful smile tugged at her lips as she yelled over the water, “Why don’t you go ahead and join me?” The shadow moved toward the shower stall and reached out to the door before abruptly turning and leaving the bathroom. Frowning in confusion, Andrea grabbed the bar of soap and continued her leisurely shower. It was lovely but she could not get herself to close her eyes again.

Once she was sufficiently pruned and red as a lobster, Andrea stepped out of the shower. A fluffy cream-colored bath sheet hung near the door which she grabbed, wrapping it around herself. Walking into the bedroom, Andrea noticed that the sun had set considerably since she was last in. The corners of the room were now dim and there were ominous shadows being cast by the large maple trees outside. Hearing footsteps downstairs, she wandered out of the bedroom. At the doorway, she paused and wondered if she should dress first. It was clearly just John and they were supposed to be having “alone time”, so she stayed in just the towel and continued out the door. By the time she was halfway down the stairs, Andrea could see him at the small

wooden dining table. He was holding a white plastic bag, printed with red “Thank you”s on it, the timeless beacon of take-out.

“So, getting food is more important than some steamy shower time with me?” she asked, struggling to keep her tone light and coy while hugging the towel tightly around her. John started and turned towards her, a look of confusion on his face.

“Wait, what? I didn’t realize ‘steamy shower time’ was an option.” He lifted one brow and tilted his head as he replied.

“What are you talking about? I asked you to join me when you were in the bathroom. It seemed like you were going to but then you left. Was your stomach calling?” She felt cold unease creeping rising in the back of her mind, mixing with annoyance.

“Honey…” John’s tone became deep and serious. “I wasn’t in the bathroom. I haven’t even been upstairs,” he gestured to the bag, “I was out getting us dinner.” A grave frown etched into John’s face and heavy silence settled on the couple.

Upstairs, a floorboard creaked.

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