Prisoner in Paris

 

Monique Bouton listened intently to the numbers being punched into the security keypad. Her anxiety levels soared as the doorway was filled with the imposing presence of her husband, Etienne. Her eyes darted around the sterile apartment to check that everything was in its place. As he approached her she automatically placed his favourite glass of wine on the cold chrome coffee table.

Etienne walked past her, ignoring his wine. He went across to the kitchen bench where he placed some documents on the stainless steel surface. He reached into the top pocket of his Armani jacket, removed a pen then beckoned her to join him.

Monique felt her pulse quicken as she dutifully approached him. An urge to run overwhelmed her but it would be fruitless to attempt an escape.  She knew all too well the consequences of disobeying one of Etienne’s commands. Monique braced herself and approached like a timid puppy expecting to be struck at any moment.

She knew his behaviour so well; this quiet, calculated gesture was more to menace than to ingratiate.  He dwarfed her as she perused the documents. He was increasing her life insurance and he needed her signature. As Monique took the pen from him, she struggled to control her trembling hand. She had to be strong, fully aware that she was signing her own death warrant.

He smiled coldly at her as she handed the pen back to him. In an instant he grasped the back of her neck, forcing her face onto the unforgiving bench then, in one swift movement, he threw her to the floor. Blood trickled from her nose forming a small pool on the brilliant white tiles.

‘Get up. Clean your stinking blood from my floor and get me my wine.’ His command was vicious. Monique held back her tears as she pushed herself up. Her head was spinning, a cold sensation trickled through her body and a need to vomit overwhelmed her. She held her hand to her mouth; iron from her bloody nose permeated her tastebuds. Monique couldn’t hold it. She convulsed as she emptied her stomach contents onto the tiles. She was unable to stand as the entire room spun and then everything went black as she collapsed back onto the floor.

Gradually, Monique regained consciousness; aware of vibrant classical music coming from Etienne’s study. She had no idea how long she had been out to it. Etienne had made no attempt to clean the vomit and blood from the tiles but that didn’t surprise her. Her soft auburn curls fell limp around her delicate features. Brushing them aside she carefully got to her feet, still a little giddy she used the bench to steady herself. From the wall-sized salon window she could see across the park to the twinkling lights of le Tour Eiffel. It must be near as the traffic of her beautiful was now sporadic.

She made her way to the study door and, keeping as inconspicuous as she could, peered into the room. Etienne was sprawled out, sound asleep on the opulent leather lounge. An empty wine bottle lay on the polished wooden floor and a glass sat precariously on his chest, rising and falling in rhythm with his piggish snores. This was her chance.

Monique retreated and quickly made her way to the laundry, retrieving the bag she had packed and hidden months ago. The most nerve-racking task was to procure Etienne’s car keys from the bureau in the study, where he was accompanying the music with his snoring. She held her breath, fearing the added sound of her thumping heart would wake him. Monique only allowed herself to breathe as she then made her way to the kitchen. She had to be ruthless; there was no other way to stop him from following her. It was either her life or his. She went to the hob and turned the gas up high, then lit one of Etienne’s cigarettes and left it in the ashtray on the bench. For insurance, she lit the Philippi Base candle centre-piece on the glass dining table. 

She had memorised the door code by the sounds each button made. As perspiration beaded on her forehead and then trickled down her neck, Monique shivered as she punched in the code. Each sound seemed louder that the one before it, almost as though it was some kind of added security measure Etienne had installed to keep her prisoner. Strangely this was almost too easy; she expected him to be upon her any second.

Firmly closing the door behind her, she couldn’t believe freedom was so close. She ran down the vestibule to the elevator. The odds were still in her favour as she pushed the button and the elevator doors immediately opened. Five flights down to the car park, the smile on her face caused pain in her injured nose but that didn’t matter anymore. Monique ran to the metallic blue Audi, parked only metres away, but in her haste dropped the keys. As she bobbed down to pick them up the elevator doors sucked open. Her heart skipped a beat as she braced herself for the onslaught, instead she heard a woman’s laugh. She allowed herself to turn and saw who had exited the elevator. More relief, it was only an amorous couple fondling and kissing. The woman giggled when she saw Monique’s perplexed gaze. Monique nodded, managing to smile knowingly at them and continued to the car. Its lights flashed as she unlocked it and slid herself into the leather cockpit. It smelt so good, yet hauntingly, Etienne’s aftershave mingled with the newness. She turned the key and felt the power reverberating from the engine as she excelerated out onto Rue Cler.

Simultaneously, the fourth floor apartment erupted. Glass and flames burst out into the icy night air, while billowing smoke rose into the crystal clear sky. Monique watched as the fireworks of her freedom shrank in the rear view mirror. Laughing out loud, she directed the car onto Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. She crossed Pont Notre Dame and powering past magnificent architectural history and significant signs of opulence and power. Tears of joy and relief ran down her cheeks as she pulled into Gare de Bercy. She parked the car and ran to book a berth on the auto-train to accompany the Audi to and her new free life.

© Leanne Dyson 2012

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