TW: allusions to mental and physical abuse
"Say cheese!” I chirped happily.
Darling screamed at me from behind the duct tape on his curved lips, tears rolling down his long face as he struggled against the ropes on his hands to no avail. I had spent months practicing those knots and it was safe to say he was tied firmly to the chair beneath him. I shook my head and bent down to be in frame with him, smiling into the camera that I held with my outstretched hand before snapping a picture, the film rolling with a purr as the photo popped out of the top.
I ignored Darling’s muffled cries as I stood back up, taking out the photo and shaking it in my hand. As I waited for the photo to develop fully, I turned to the wall, sighing happily at the many weeks' worth of photos, one for each day since he first came to live with me. When I looked down to see the newest photo, my heart skipped in my chest.
It was perfect.
There was no picture that more accurately captured his essence. His eyes were wide with love, the striking green color heightened in brightness by the green shirt I had dressed him in. His chestnut hair was the exact length as it had been at the beginning, wavy and sweeping over his forehead as small bits stuck to the sweat there. I had taken great pains to trim it every day so it would remain exactly the same. His hooked nose was slightly turned, the angle perfectly contrasting with his round cheeks.
It was only then that I realized I could see his cheekbones.
Immediately my blood ran cold. Darling had lost weight. How was this possible? Was he not eating the food I lovingly prepared for him every day and night? Did he not realize how tirelessly I worked to make sure his body did not alter in the slightest bit? I spun around, slamming the camera onto the table and reaching out to grab his face with one hand.
Darling whimpered at my touch and his clear eyes began to water making me groan in frustration. I hated when he cried; it ruined all of his best features and added far too much red to his complexion that was the loveliest when it was rather pale. I especially hated when his eyes turned red from the salty water and they lost their beautiful green sheen.
“What did you do with your food?” I hissed, my blood boiling under my skin.
I suddenly realized the tightness of my grip and I released him with a huff. The last thing I wanted was to leave marks on his flawless skin. I set to work slowly tearing off the duct tape from his mouth, not wanting any skin to get ripped off or irritated. He let out a moan that immediately made me feel weak in the knees, but I willed myself to stay upright.
“Darling. Tell me what you did with the food I made for you,” I demanded as calmly as possible through clenched teeth despite my curled-up fists beginning to shake. He let out a small sob and shook his head.
“Please let me go,” Darling begged, looking up at me with wide eyes. “I’ll do whatever you want, just let me out of here! Please!” he cried, hiccupping through tears. I took a deep breath and brought a hand up to my temple, rubbing it softly. The lack of sustenance must have been the reason for his strange words.
“I want to help you, Darling. What did you do with the food?” I asked again, more clearly this time as I stood above him. The rage was beginning to fill and I didn’t want to unleash it on him, but I was afraid that his answer would unleash it anyways. I watched him gulp as his eyes flitted to the corner of the room. I followed his gaze to see a rat scurry across the floor and disappear under the floorboards.
I snapped my head at Darling and narrowed my eyes before stomping over to where the rat had gone. Grabbing ahold of the board, I ripped it up, eyes widening at the scene before me. Rats swarmed within the hole, gnawing on pieces of rotting, moldy food. The very same food that I had been giving Darling for the past few weeks.
I felt tears being to burn behind my eyes and let out a choked gasp as I turned away from the horrible sight. All of the food I put my heart and soul into was being destroyed by vermin. It was as if someone had reached into my chest, torn my heart out, and stomped on it violently. I brought a hand up to my breaking heart and shook my head violently.
“How could you do this to me?” I asked, turning around to face my darling. His eyes were wide with terror as I moved in closer to him, rage and heartbreak fighting for control within me. “WHY?” I screamed, throwing my arms out towards him in frustration. I watched him flinch as he trembled in his chair.
“I...” he began, his voice small and quiet in the large basement. I took a step forward and slammed my hands down on either side of the arms of his chair, bringing my face to his and scowling.
“WHY?” I screamed into his face. I needed to know why he would do this to me or how he thought he could possibly break my heart like this.
“I just...wasn’t hungry,” he finally said, voice barely audible. I stared at him for a moment, chest heaving as is words sunk in.
He wasn’t hungry.
He wasn’t hungry? How dare he! How could he do this to me after I took him in away from the troubles of the world. Away from his horrid parents that never wanted us to be together and away from his friends that spoke nothing but ill words of our love. I gave him a roof over his head and a room of his own. To think that he could go against me like this, despite the love we so very clearly shared made me gasp for air.
“This is unbelievable,” I whimpered, standing upright once more as I breathed heavily. The tears were beginning to flow freely down my face and I was forced to turn away from him. “If you don’t eat, you’ll lose weight! You can’t change without telling me, you know that! Everything has to be the same! Just like before!” I cried, shaking my head as I paced around the room.
Darling stared up at me through his own tears, eyes flickering between me and The Box I kept in the basement behind lock and key.
“I-I know. I’m sorry,” he stuttered, crying heavily. I took a deep breath and turned back to him, taking his chin in my hands once more.
“You know I love you, Darling, but you can’t do things like this,” I said, a sad smile on my face. He had gone against the rules I had so carefully put in place for us and I was the one who had suffered for it. I couldn’t let him do this to me without fighting back for what I loved most in this world – us.
“I... I love you too,” he said slowly. I nodded and pressed a soft kiss to his nose, and for a moment, it seemed as though we were back to the way things were before all this madness. Back when he would hold me in his arms and I could press all my kisses onto his soft, round cheeks, not these horrid, disgusting cheekbones protruding from his face.
“Good,” I said, pulling away. “Then you should have no problem with The Box.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, Darling let out a sob, his begging resuming at an unnaturally hysterical pace. I sighed heavily as I reached for the roll of duct tape, steadying his flighty head as I pressed the sticky end back onto his pink, pouty lips. I had been looking forward to this date night all week and now it was completely ruined.
I resisted the urge to break down into tears as I pulled out the key from my pocket, hurt at what Darling had done to me, but confident that I could make him realize the error of his ways and bring him back to me. He knew he couldn’t change, just as I couldn’t change. Our love was perfect and anything that changed that love threatened to take it away. Once he was able to understand that, we could finally be together like before but without the hassle of others getting in our way.
It would be just Darling and I.