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“I can paint houses, cars, pots and pans, clothes, floors, furniture, even people. Just name it, I can paint it”, she said proudly in her tiny voice.

The masked man looked at her with a glint in his eyes. “I want you to paint the town red.”, he said coolly. “All of it! Start with the house”

She nodded and almost immediately, she found herself in a dark room with a wet and sticky dress. The light came on and after a few seconds of adjusting to it, she glanced to her left. She screamed

Human heads, lots of them, in various stages of decay stared at her with accusing expressions.

“Becca! Becca!”

She woke up in her husband’s arms, gasping and screaming, her pink night gown soaked through with sweat. In her hand was a knife he was trying to remove

“It’s okay. Shhh. It’s just a dream.”

It took her a while to come to and then, the sobs started – her slight frame shaking, this time with relief.

“I’m safe.”

“Yes, you are”

“It’s not my fault”

“It’s not”

She stood up and started pacing, stopped and started again.

“Get out of my house!” She shouted abruptly.

“What?!”

“You need to leave. You need to! What if I stab you? What if you die?!”

“Calm down, babe. I know you’re scared but sending me out in the middle of the night will kill me faster than you think you can”.

He pulled her close despite her attempts to push him away and out

“I’m not letting you face this on your own, ever”

*****

She was a freshman in his department when he first talked to her. Something about her woke up his protective instincts. It wasn’t her petite figure, her tiny voice or her pink shoes. It wasn’t the way she looked either – like his favourite Korean actress without the slant eyes or the ability to blush.

What drew her to him was her sad eyes and the way she seemed to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. His attraction was not strange, he had always had a thing for broken girls.

He got her to open up to him over plates of fried plantain and egg – the only thing that lights up her face. It was on one of those days she told him about how she spent a week in a stalker’s lair, the masked one with the horrible mechanical voice who didn’t mind killing people to get to her; how he made her bathe in their blood; and how she couldn’t speak for a year after she escaped.

That was the story she knew.

He had known her way before the experience she thinks horrible. In fact, it was her spirit that drew her to him – way before the incident. His father had told him he would know the one when he sees her and when she said hi with her blinding smile – long gone now-, he never wanted her to smile at anyone again. He didn’t want it to do to others what it did to him.

Over the next two weeks, he watched her smile at people who were not worth the scum at the base of her shoe and his insides roiled and boiled. He knew he had to test her right away instead of waiting for a month like he planned, see if she is as fierce as she seems. So, he took her in.

She fought. She shouted. She starved herself. She bit and scratched him. She cursed him. But she always, always did what he wanted at the end. His tiger, he had thought proudly. It was when she escaped that he knew she would be the mother of his children.

 


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