"It's your mother," Harry said as he passed her the phone. "Don't talk long, I want to get started," he
added stiffly and left the bedroom.
Shirley tried to continue packing and cradled the receiver to her ear with her shoulder. "Mother, what is it? I haven't even showered yet and Harry is anxious to get under way."
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm sure this is going to solve all your problems. You and Harry just need these two weeks alone together at the cabin and all will be fine again."
"I don't think so. He's been acting so --- I don't know, different lately. I think it's over, mother. Maybe he's found someone else."
"Now, baby," her mother crooned. "He wouldn't jeopardize his job in daddy's company and all, just for some --- some a girl."
Shirley sighed. Maybe her friends had been right. maybe Harry had married her for her money. He certainly enjoyed spending it. The flashy car, the expensive watch. These past seven months she'd watched him like a child in a candy store, buying everything he could and charging even more.
"Well, I just wanted to let you know that Harry brought the dog over and your philodendron, and I cancelled the newspaper and told Betsy she didn't even need to clean for you the next two weeks, so everything is set. I know there is no phone at the cabin, so I won't expect to hear from you, but I'll be thinking of you. I just know it will be like a second honeymoon. Bye."
The stall shower filled with steam and the hot water felt good. Maybe mother was right. maybe this was just a mood Harry was going through and everything would be better at the cabin.
Suddenly the air became cooler, as if the bathroom door had opened. Then she heard a thud, as if someone had dropped a board or something.
"Harry, is that you?"
There was no answer. Shirley turned her back to the faucet and began to wash her shoulder length hair. The water massaged her back and she left it on longer than necessry to rinse her hair thoroughly. Then she squeezed out her wash rag and took the small towel off the hook and wiped down the tile. even though they had a cleaning woman now, her mother had taught her this trick for keeping the shower sparkling years ago and it was a habit.
She pushed on the shower door. It stuck.
"Damn! I should have had this fixed, it's always sticking," she mumbled and pushed again. Then through the heavy door, she faintly made out what looked like a two by four braced between the wall and the shower door.
"Harry! Harry!," she screamed loudly. "Is this some kind of a joke? Let me out of here."
There was no answer. Shirley shivered. She called again, but the only sound she heard was the front door closing and a car driving away.
"My God," she thought, "Harry's trying to kill me. No one will come here or even miss me for two weeks. He can come up with one of his fancy stories that I changed my mind and didn't go with him at the last minute, and everyone will believe it was an accident."
She pounded on the shower door with her fists until they were bruised, but the door that looked like glass was made out of some kind of unbreakable, earthquake-proof, shatter-proof plastic that didn't budge. The hinges were on the outside and anyway she didn't even have a hairpin with her. There was a space above the door, but it was only about 10 inches wide. She tried to pull herself up anyway, but her 42 years of overeating and not exercising came back to haunt her. She couldn't even pull herself up to see out. She sat down with the little wet towel over her and cried. After about ten minutes of shivering, she turned on the hot water again. That felt good. "Thank goodness he didn't think to turn off the water," she said aloud to herself. "I wonder how long I can exist on water and no food?" Surely several days at least. Like a fast.
The time went by slowly. She drank cold water and warmed up under the hot water as often as she dared. Maybe Harry had turned off the water heater and she only had a few gallons left. She dried the little towel and let the water spots remain on the blue tile after each hot water bath.
"He probably thought I'd go crazy in here," she said aloud, "But I won't. I'll survive some way, just to get even." She tried to remember the books she'd read about prisoners that had lived through horrible solitary conditions. What did they do? Construct houses in their minds, recite poetry and multiplication tables, exercise, keep their minds alert, what else? She counted the tiles on the wall. Sixteen and a half down, eight across. The same on three walls.
It was uncomfortable to try to sleep, but eventually she dozed off. She couldn't tell day from night exactly, because the bathroom light was on and she couldn't see the window, only a small patch of lavender wallpaper. She stared at it and tried to think what she'd do if she lived until Harry returned.
After what seemed like a week, but she figured maybe it was only three days, she was awakened by the sound of a wrench on the metal pipe outside the bathroom window.
The Culligan man! Her heart pounded. The Culligan man was changing the tank. At first she could hardly make a sound. Then her weak, "Help! Help me!" became louder. "Please, Culligan man, I'm caught in here, save me. It's a matter of life and death, can you hear me?"
"What?" the strange man's voice sounded heavenly to her.
Shirley repeated her plight and told him where the spare house key was hidden.
In a few minutes, he had removed the barricade and she opened the door a crack and he handed her the fuzzy yellow robe. He was surprised when she burst out of the bathroom and hugged him.
She started to dial the police, then slowly hung up the phone. Harry would have to come back and take away the board, so it looked like the door just stuck accidentally. He'd think she was dead, so she'd have the advantage. Maybe she could plan a surprise for Harry.
Ms. Elinor Nauen
Mini Mystery Editor
P. O. Box 6700
Englewood, MJ 07631
Enjoyed meeting you (and sitting with your mother during one of your sessions) at the southwest Writers Workshop last September in Albuquerque.
As I probably told you, I've been a ;publisehd write for 25 years ans now do mostly non-ficdtion articles on assignment, but ever since one of the gals inm critic group sold several articles to your "Be Proud" section (Dorothhy Hole - January 5th issue), I've wanted to sell to WOMAN'S WORLD, too.
The reason I traveled to Albuquerque as to hear you and my editor from Career World, Bonnie Bekken.
Since then I have devoured every issue of WOMAN'S WORLD and hoope that the enclosed Nini-Mystery, The Shower, will suit your needs. Thank you,
Jo received a nice, personalized rejection note for this one.