It’s a secret between us and the woods

“Animals aren’t the only things that hide in the woods…

Rosie and James, both stuck in a loveless marriage trying to find an escape… As their marriages begin to break, they find themselves drawn towards the woods.

A dark romance set in the woods, will they escape? Will their secret be discovered?”

My husband Charlie and I had been married for just over a year and I was miserable. I never really saw myself marrying him but at the time, it felt like the right thing to do. Oh how wrong I was! He was lazy, rude and he didn’t have a clue how to control his anger. I felt constantly trapped. Home was not a pleasant place to be anymore. Therefore I often found myself wandering into the woods during the day to pick flowers and feel free once again.

***

When people speak about domestic abuse, almost 100% of the time people automatically assume it’s the male abusing the female. That is not the case and it certainly is not my case. My wife had been hitting me for our whole marriage and my God, I wish I could escape her. I had never done anything to upset her and I never wanted to. I loved her but I was so unhappy, we barely see each other as she is a barmaid in town and I’m a lumberjack and stay in the woods for the best part of the day. The woods was the only place I felt like I was happy and carefree.

***

I remember it so well, it was a Wednesday afternoon in spring 2010 and my husband Charlie and I had been cuddling in bed one morning. Well, when I say cuddling, I actually mean I was lying there whilst Charlie grabbed my body and snuggled his head into my neck. I wasn’t enjoying it because to be brutally honest, I no longer loved him. I sighed and perched myself up on my pillow and tried to read my book. It was a book on how to make the perfect bouquet of flowers. I loved flowers. Tulips, daisies, daffodils, pansies… All of them. They were so colourful and beautiful and when I looked at them, I felt calm. A vivid memory of mine is when I was a little girl walking in the countryside with my parents, we came across a field full of poppies and I remember being mesmerised by how beautiful they were and from that moment, I knew I would love flowers and everything about them. I was a proud owner of a florist in the village and picking the flowers was one of my favourite pass times. The best place for it was the woods on the outskirts of town, there were multiple ‘hotspots’ where I picked them but the daffodil spot was my favourite and that’s because it was the first place I spotted James…

***

If you asked me what the best day of my life was and I began to tell you, you would be shocked. Because the best day of my life started with my ‘loving’ wife gracing me with a throbbing black eye. Romantic, I know. I hadn’t washed the dishes in the time she had asked me to so that was my punishment. You’re probably thinking how bad my days must be if that was the best day of my life but don’t worry, that was just the beginning of it. This day was the best because I headed out to work early as there was a tall tree that needed chopping in the woods outside of town, even though I had a giant black eye, I was still rearing to go because work was my only escape… That soon changed. I headed over to the tree which my boss had told me about and looked up at the tree, wondering how on Earth they thought this wasn’t a two-man job. I sighed and began my work. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone crouched down in the daffodils, in all honesty it scared me because I had never seen anyone in the woods, not even dog walkers. I looked over and she caught my eye and wow, am I glad she did. She was stunning.

***

I wandered to the daffodil spot and crouched down, singing a song I had heard on the radio this morning whilst Charlie got ready for work. I finally felt relaxed and happy. The woods was amazing, I could actually be myself and feel comfortable being myself without pretending, pretending I was happy and pretending I loved a man when I didn’t. I was minding my own business when I saw a man looking over at me from behind a tree. I laughed to myself because it looked like this man was trying to hide behind the tree despite him being twice the size of it. He looked puzzled, deep in thought… But the more I stared at him, the more attractive he was to me. He was your typical tall, dark and handsome fella. Thick, brunette hair which swooped across his face, tanned skin, nicely built figure and not to be stereotypical but you could tell he as a lumberjack because he had a chainsaw behind him and funnily enough, he was wearing a plead shirt. I felt giggly. I hadn’t felt like that in a long, long time. I wanted to see his smile. I wanted to look into his eyes. He looked… Interesting.

***

I decided to walk over, I mean, what was the worst thing that could happen? She looked innocent enough. Long, wispy brunette hair, small and delicate figure. I wondered what colour her eyes were and I wondered whether she was one of those girls that seemed pretty but her teeth ruined it all, I kind of hoped she wasn’t because she looked beautiful to me. I wonder what her voice sounded, I bet it was soft, the kind of voice that gives you goosebumps when they whisper in your ear. I was driving myself a bit crazy thinking about all of this, I assumed she was looking at me thinking I was an odd bod so I just did it, I walked over.

‘Hey’ I said, my voice sounded so much deeper than it was but man, I sounded attractive just then. What a great impression, I thought.

There was a pause. It began to get awkward. I panicked.

‘Why are you in the woods singing to yourself? An absolutely cracking song – just for the record’ I asked her.’

‘Oh… Hi, I wondered whether you were going to come over, you’ve been eyeing me up for the past…’ she looked at her watch, her wrists were tiny. ‘…hmmm, 7 and a half minutes’ she said.

I was right, her voice was soft and soothing. She seemed funny as well, I didn’t think there was any harm in continuing the conversation with her.

I laughed at her

***

He had a black eye. I wondered why but I felt uncomfortable asking so I just assumed that a branch from a tree fell on his face or something ridiculous like that.

‘What’s your name then?’ I asked him, putting on my best smile.

‘James’ He replied.

‘What happened to your eye?’ OH GOD, WORD VOMIT. Why did I just ask him that?! He’s going to hate me, I’m an idiot.

‘My wife hits me.’

He said it with extreme confidence that it almost shocked me. It was almost like he wanted me to know but I don’t know why he would want to tell a woman he met, literally 4 and a half minutes ago something as personal as that. I felt bad for imagining him getting knocked out by a tree now. I apologised to him and said he didn’t have to speak about it but it turns out, he wanted the complete opposite. He crouched down in the daffodils with me and we spoke for hours, he told me everything about his repulsive marriage and I told him everything about my one-way marriage. It was like we had been put together in this forest to discuss how shit marriage was.

We laughed, we cried and time passed so quickly as James and I spoke about our lives. I know it sounds crazy but when people talk about love at first sight, I’m starting to believe there is such thing. And in case you were wondering, his eyes were a hazel brown – dreamy and easy to get lost in… you know, the best kind of eyes a man can have! And his smile was perfect, he had an impressive set of pearly whites that any reality TV star would envy.

***

Her name was Rosie. She was a florist and she hated her husband. Yep, hours had passed and I knew it all. She was… She was something else. I felt my heart beat faster when we spoke, we really made a connection in the woods, and it was the best thing that happened to me in a while anyway. Her eyes were an emerald green and you know when the sun shines through the trees in a wood and it’s the most beautiful thing ever, well her eyes did that too. It was extremely difficult to focus on anything else when her eyes were that incredible. Her teeth were just fine too, she had a couple of crooked ones on her bottom row but it was adorable. We had been sat in the daffodils speaking for hours and I felt happy. Happier than I ever have before, even happier than my wedding day. Whoever said that was the happiest day of your life was a liar because sitting in the daffodils with a woman I had just met was the happiest day of mine. We made a pact to meet in the woods every day at 3pm by the daffodils. I wanted to kiss her but I hadn’t even kissed my own wife in weeks. Screw it, I thought and I kissed her.

***

He kissed me. It actually felt normal and it felt like both of us wanted it. The kiss was perfect, when I explain it, you will get jealous. He put his arms around my waist and pulled me closer, I thought he was going to hug me as a thank you for letting him pour his heart out but no, his head moved closer to mine and my heart began to beat out of my chest. I felt nervous but excited. As his body got closer to mine, I felt his heart beating out of his chest and together, we were making music. He touched my face gently and looked into my eyes. My tummy fluttered and my cheeks went pink. I felt my lips begin to quiver as his got closer to mine. The moment arrived and our lips touched. We were kissing. It was warm and soft and romantic. In that moment, I swear I felt more alive than I had in my whole marriage with Charlie. To my disappointment, the kiss ended. I felt like I could kiss him for the rest of the evening but obviously, that would be excessive. I would see him tomorrow though so I didn’t feel too sad.

***

I arrived home and my wife wasn’t in so I went straight to sleep before she came back. I already wanted tomorrow to arrive.

The next day my eye was looking less black but more blue. I suppose that was an improvement but still, it wasn’t attractive. My wife still wasn’t home but I didn’t even care anymore, I had met someone better. It was a Saturday today so I didn’t actually have work but I left a note for her anyway.

‘At work – James’ I wrote. You’d think it would be a loving note but no, I didn’t even put a kiss. Why would I when we don’t even kiss in the flesh? I headed out to the woods to see my new love interest and I felt like a teenager sneaking around. I liked it.

***

Thankfully, Charlie was out with his mates all day on a pub crawl so it would be easy for me to sneak off into the woods to see James. I couldn’t wait, all I could think about was that kiss with him. I pretended to sleep early last night so Charlie wouldn’t try anything. I knew he would be devastated if he discovered what I was doing but the heart wants what the heart wants and it wasn’t my fault that I didn’t feel the same way anymore. This marriage needed to be over but I just didn’t have the courage to end it, not yet anyway. I went to our meeting spot and James was sat there with a rug and a picnic basket. I smiled at him and ran over, concentrating extremely hard not to trip over because that’s the exact kind of thing that would happ… Aaaand I trip over a branch millimetres away from him. He didn’t even laugh, he looked genuinely concerned and jumped up and ran over to me. He asked me if I was okay, I laughed and told him not to worry. He helped me over to the rug and we sat down. Today we didn’t even speak about our significant others. We spoke about family, friends, work, holidays… Everything but my husband and his wife. It was perfect, I felt full of adrenaline because I knew it was wrong but it didn’t FEEL wrong. I had a lovely day and yet again, we promised to meet the day after.

Months passed and James and I were still meeting every day in the woods at 3pm and neither of our partners suspected a thing. It felt so different and romantic. We never called or text, we literally just met in the woods every day and that was it, we were both always there and always enjoyed ourselves.

***

After a year, Rosie and I had made love countless times and it was now more than a bit of fun. We had fallen in love. Luckily for me, my wife had left me for someone at work and I was now happily divorced. Unfortunately, Charlie was still madly in love with Rosie and there was nothing we could do about it. She was perfect after all. I wanted to be with her. I wanted to be able to treat her to fancy meals, I wanted to take her to the cinema, go on bike rides and walks and just be with her, out of the woods. The woods knew our secret but nobody else could. Rosie was a local business woman, it would get around so quickly.

***

Winter had arrived and Charlie was going on his monthly pub crawl. He had been acting strange with me that morning but I didn’t think anything of it, I put my coat on after he had left and I walked to the woods. James had made a small fire and I explained Charlies’ behaviour that morning.

‘Do you think he knows?’ James asked.

‘I doubt it, I don’t know how he would.’ I answered.

We cuddled by the fire and spoke about life. It started to get dark and I didn’t want to leave him today, I wanted to lie here forever despite the fact my toes were turning to ice. Suddenly there was a rustle behind us and I panicked. James heard it too. We both jumped up and looked around. I heard someone sniff.

‘I knew it’ a mumbled voice said.

I turned around. It was Charlie.

‘Charlie!’ I gasped. ‘What are you doing here oh god how drunk are you?’

I walked over to him and grabbed his arms. His eyes were red and he stank of cider and cigarettes.

‘I’M HERE BECAUSE YOU GO TO THE WOODS EVERY DAY AND IT’S WINTER NOW AND THERE’S NO F***ING FLOWERS IN WINTER DARLING’ he was shouting now and it was scary. James stood in front of me in order to protect me from my own drunken husband.

Charlie fell to the floor and began to cry. I wish I felt bad but I just didn’t. I apologised to him nonetheless because I was doing such a horrible thing to him and he genuinely loved me to death. He hobbled up off the ground and pulled a pen knife out of his gilet pocket. I screamed.

‘Charlie, put that down. I beg of you, put it down. Don’t be stupid, please, I’m begging you.’ He started to walk slowly towards James, in a threatening manor but I wasn’t worried, James was twice his size and could lift Charlie up with his hand. Charlie ran towards James with the pen knife and stabbed him with it in the chest. I cried.

***

I knew enough about this guy to know he was manipulative and nasty. He was weak and drunk and attempting to threaten me. Rosie and I had been in love long enough for me to do anything for her, I was willing to do anything. I didn’t care about the consequences, she meant so much to me now. Charlie stabbed me in the chest so I kicked him in the crotch and he fell to the ground. I wouldn’t be threatened by this man and I wouldn’t be afraid of him any longer, I kicked him and kicked him and I just didn’t care. Rosie stood there in the snow with tears streaming down her blushed cheeks. She was whispering to herself.

‘I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.’ She was saying.

‘I’m so sorry Rosie, my anger took over me. I’m so sorry.’ I held her in my arms.

‘I don’t care anymore James, I don’t care. I need you.’ She was crying hysterically into my arms as she looked at Charlie on the ground, the snow around his head turning to a deep red colour.

He was too intoxicated to fight back, he was too weak. He had threatened me, knowing he wouldn’t be able to fight back and it was over for him. I had killed my muses’ husband.

***

I couldn’t believe it. We had just committed a crime. A local florist and lumberjack brutally attack drunk man in woods. I could see the headline now. We both panicked after a moment of pure relief. He was an innocent man, he was my husband, he deserved to know the truth, he did not deserve to die but he got both. I would live with the guilt for the rest of my life. I tried so hard to convince myself that it was his own fault. He thought he could beat James up but he was too drunk, I told myself this over and over again simply praying one day it would seem a good enough excuse but nothing would ever make up for what happened in the woods on this cold winters’ night.

James and I dragged Charlies’ cold, deceased body to the other side of the woods whilst the tears in my eyes were turning to ice as they rolled down my cheek. We found a spot in the woods where nobody would ever go and we dug a hole, a hole so deep that a parent would be proud of their kid if they’d dug it on a beach. I wish I could be proud of this hole but I wasn’t, I wasn’t proud of anything in this moment of time. James slid the body into the hole and he filled it with snow and dirt and patted the ground like nothing had ever been there. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life. Much harder than it would have been to tell Charlie I was having an affair but there was nothing I could do about it now. I had to stay at home away from James for a few weeks to talk to policemen about where I had last seen him, his friends had told the police which pub they were at last and luckily, it was in a different town so nobody knew about Charlie venturing out besides James, I and the woods.

***

Weeks passed without seeing Rosie but the minute we were reunited it was as if nothing had happened, we agreed to keep our love in the woods for a few months for Rosie to grieve over her lost husband with family and friends and we knew if we left it long enough it wouldn’t look as dodgy.

We continued our 3pm ritual for another year. Charlies’ body still had not been found but Rosies’ family and friends had accepted that he would most likely be dead. And we finally felt comfortable going out for real dates, it was perfect. We were finally both in a happy relationship and nothing was stopping that.

We prayed every day that the woods wouldn’t leak our secret through the beautiful gaps where the sun shone through on those glorious spring days where I met my Rosie.

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The Wrong Idea

26th June 2013 – One day until the wedding

She couldn’t believe in one day she’d be married. It had felt like she’d been waiting her whole life. Jessica read back on her wedding notes which were all crammed into a bulky, red journal. She smiled to herself and sighed. The journal was overflowing. There were photos of various wedding dresses from tight to wispy, from glistening white to ivory and cream. Jessica stood up with the journal in her arms and danced around the kitchen laughing to herself. She sat down on her bed and continued to flick through the masterpiece she had been creating since she was a little girl.

Claire, who had been friends with Jessica since they were teenagers was always a little concerned about Jessica’s’ obsession with weddings and marriage and often told her to calm down but now that the wedding was only a single day away, Claire allowed Jessica to let her over-excitement loose. The only thing keeping Claire quiet was the fact she knew the truth.

“It’s going to be the best day of my life” Jessica thought to herself as she lay down holding the journal to her chest. She thought about the beautiful dresses her bridesmaids would wear, she had decided on duck egg blue and gold with white roses and sparkling table decorations. James, the lucky man would be wearing a stunning white tuxedo with a duck egg blue tie, his teeth would be perfectly white as he smiles at her down the aisle and his hair perfectly groomed for their special day. Jessica felt herself warming up and getting excited so she took a couple of deep breaths and opened her journal up, she flicked through it over and over again until eventually she drifted off into a deep sleep.

***

A few days before the wedding

Claire had arrived at Jessica’s house and let herself in and wandered up to her bedroom to talk about transport for the big day. She opened the door and Jessica was snoring her head off and her journal laid face down under her bed. Claire had never been allowed to look inside the journal because she had never met James and Jessica always said ‘I want it to be a surprise when you see how gorgeous he is at the wedding!’ all Claire knew was that they met in a bar one night and hit it off and he engaged after the second date because they both believed it was love at first. Claire wanted to meet James but respected her friends’ decision and understood that love does happen in strange ways sometimes. Claire couldn’t control herself, she had to look in that journal whilst Jessica was fast asleep. She slowly tip-toed over to the floor where the book was peacefully sat and bent down and picked it up… She felt like she had picked up a secret recipe that nobody in the world knew about. She took a deep breath and opened the first page. It all looked like a standard wedding planner until she reached the last few pages… At the back of the journal were hundreds of photos of James. Some were photos he had taken of himself and others were of him and a big scribble next to him. There was also a brunette lock of hair stuck to the page with red love hearts drawn all around it. Claire thought it was so strange to have that in the back of a wedding organiser so she turned the page and couldn’t help but gasp. Stuck in the back of the journal was a letter from court which read.

 

Dear Miss Jessica Carter,

This letter is to inform you that Mr James Harrison and Mrs Elise Harrison are taking you to court for harassment. They feel as though you are stalking them and it is affecting their home life and their relationship. A court hearing will be held on June 27th 2013. Until then, I advise you not to be within the same area as Mr and Mrs Harrison as a possible sentence may be given.

Regards.

Claire dropped the letter on the floor and stood there in silence. She had a sudden moment of realisation. That’s why she had never met James, that is why the journal was so private and that is why Jessica was so obsessive. She had been stalking a married couple and potentially causing harm. Claire put the journal back where it came from and went home, she understood that Jessica was ill and that she would be going to the court hearing with her dressed in a bridesmaid dress. The thought of it made her heart skip ten times faster but Jessica was her best friend and she had to do what she wanted to keep her happy.

***

June 27th 2013 – The day of ‘the wedding’

Jessica stood up straight and stared at herself in the mirror. “I look beautiful” she said to herself out loud and began to giggle. Claire sat on the bed trying her best to put on a smile for Jessica. Claire knew today wasn’t going to end well but she tried her best to pretend like she was going to a wedding. Jessica started to fiddle with Claire’s hair and told her she looked stunning. A car beeped its horn outside and the two girls headed out of the door as if it was going to be a great day for all. Claire watched her best friend’s facial expressions the whole journey and she could see right through her fake smile. Jessica suddenly jumped up and shouted ‘WE’RE HERE! We’re at the church!’ Claire looked out of the car window and no surprise to her, they were parked outside court.

Jessica skipped up to the big wooden door in her beautiful, white, slimming dress. Her hair looked incredible, her make-up had been done to perfection and the smile she was braving looked so real that you would think it truly was her wedding day. Claire stood back for a second and took in everything that was about to happen, she took a deep breath and followed Jessica up the stairs and through the door dressed in an amazing duck egg blue dress holding a small bunch of white roses.

The two girls headed to the front of the court room and everyone looked at them in what can only be described as embarrassment. They reached the front and sat down with who Claire assumed was Jessica’s lawyer. Claire looked across the table and saw James and his wife, they both looked exhausted and drained. She then glimpsed at Jessica who still had a giant grin on her face, she was staring at James and her eyes were glowing. It looked like she genuinely did love this man but it certainly wasn’t the same for him.

Hours passed and Jessica’s mascara was now smudged all over her face as she had cried throughout the whole hearing. As Claire listened to James and Elise tell the situation to the judge she wondered what had happened to her precious best friend. She had changed from a little girl ballet dancing with her in a hall to a crazy lady who had stalked an innocent couple and committed horrible acts such as trespassing and violence.  Claire wanted to leave, but as she was about to stand up, the judge announced that Jessica was sentenced to five years in jail for the seriousness of what she had done and the physical and emotional damage she has done to the couple.

Jessica let out a harrowing wail and Claire sat there in silence. James and Elise sighed with relief and two big built men dragged Claire’s best friend away. She stared as Jessica was taken down some stairs as she screamed and ripped her dress ‘IT WILL ALWAYS BE ME JAMES AND YOU KNOW IT WILL!’ Jessica screamed up the staircase. The whole room dissolved into a loud muttering mess and Claire sat there looking into blank space as a single tear slowly rolled down her cheek.