"Punishment": A Status Play Exercise with Dialogue
The exercise provided an opportunity to better understand my characters in a short story I've been working on. I'm struggling with the characters. Their personality, motivation and how they handle situations is not fully developed.
The scene with the abusive husband and his wife precedes my story and will not be included. Although the husband is the aggressor, I wanted the wife to exhibit the strength she'll need to runaway in the short story.
Disclaimer: The following scene contains: explicit violence and adult language.
It was a chilly Wednesday afternoon. Jenny watched the Cooper family smiling as they piled into the minivan. They were heading off to see a movie and share dinner at one of the two restaurants in town. Her smile faded as the pain from her wrists shot through her. The rope restraints were digging into her skin. Luckily, enough rope ran from her bound hands to the bed, allowing her to walk around the room.
Her breathing began to shallow as the floorboards outside her door creaked underneath a heavy step. She pulled her head back from the eyepiece of the telescope as the door opened.
“Have we finally calmed down?”
“What are you doing?”
She tapped the viewing end so it was pointing towards the floor. “Setting the telescope up for the stars tonight.”
“Why did you move it then?”
“I didn’t mean to. You startled me.”
“Why are you so jumpy?”
“Just tired I guess.”
“You aren’t trying to hide anything from me are you?”
“Why don’t you come sit down,” he said, patting the bed lightly.
She slowly walked over, staring at her bare feet.
“So, have you calmed down?” he asked, hooking his finger underneath her chin.
The black pupils of her eyes swallowed the honey brown hue as she met his cold stare. She nodded her head softly, to prevent his finger from digging into her.
He gripped her chin. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”
She hesitated. He moved her head side to side in an attempt to shake the words out. “Yes, I’m calm now.”
“So, what do you have to say to me?”
“Listen, I will only tolerate your insolence for so long. Think before you speak again.”
“My behavior Saturday night at Celine’s”
“You’re damn right. The restaurant was filled.” He swung his arm up. “The whole town heard your little tantrum.”
She leaned away from him.
“Behave yourself and there will won’t be a reason to worry.”
“I don’t see why you need to resort to violence all the time.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“You use your fists instead of words.”
“How else am I supposed to keep you in line.”
“You’re not my father, Charles.”
“No, I’m your husband, Jennifer.”
“You should be loving.”
“I buy you pretty things all the time.”
“Love isn’t an object. It’s soft and sweet like hugs and kissing. Not pain.”
“I try to give you those things, but you insist on embarrassing me.”
“How do I embarrass you?”
“You don’t conduct yourself properly in public.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means your attitude towards my friend Anne Marie was uncalled for.”
“You can’t be serious.”
He grabbed the rope around her wrists, causing it to dig deeper into her skin. “You were completely out of line.”
“She sashayed over and interrupted us while we were eating.”
“I don’t care. She’s my friend and you will treat her with respect.” He let go of the rope.
“She kept her back to me the entire time. Leaning over and putting her hand on top of yours, giggling. I didn’t appreciate the flirting right in front of me.”
“She’s an old friend.”
“Why haven’t I heard of her?”
“I haven’t seen her in months.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“I think you are overreacting.”
“Overreacting? She didn’t say one word to me.”
“Like I said, we haven’t seen each other in a while.”
“You never bothered to introduce me.”
“She was on her way out of the restaurant.”
“Is there something going on between you two?”
“So, you’re telling me you didn’t flirt with her?”
“That’s a lie.” She stood up. “I saw the way you were looking at her. Caressing her hand. The two of you were in your own world.”
His blue eyes were slits as he glared back at her. He pushed her back down on the bed. “You better watch your tone.”
“She wasn’t the first girl.”
“You’re being paranoid.”
“Stop! Why must you insist on such childish behavior?”
“Seriously? You make a fool of me in public and somehow I’m the one screwing up.”
He grabbed her throat. “You think too much.” He forced her on her back. His musk cologne burned her nose as he leaned over her. “You’re too pretty to worry so much.” The soft cotton of his flannel shirt brushed across her nose as he pushed her hair out of her face. He pressed his lips against her forehead.
“Do you enjoy staying in this room?”
“Then, stop your nonsense.” He pushed her into the bed. Then, he climbed off her. “I miss you.”
She sat up, rubbing her throat. “I’m sorry.”
He joined her on the bed.
“Charles, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
He grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking her head back. He leaned next to her ear. “I just don’t believe you.”
He brushed his lips across her throat, and then bit her. She flinched. She reached her hand up to caress his face, and pressed her lips against his.
“Honestly, I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not. Your tone proves you haven’t learned your lesson.” He pushed her away.
“I wasn’t aware you were so threatened by words.”
“Shut up!” He stood up, pacing back and forth.
“Do you think I enjoy being tied up for days?”
“I’ll untie you when you learn to behave yourself, you stupid bitch.”
“And since when is tying up another person, let alone one’s wife, ok?”
“That’s it.” He walked out of the room and moments later returned with a roll of duct tape.
“What are you doing?”
“I can’t stand to hear you anymore.”
“Stop. Please don’t.”
“Too late. You should have thought about that before you shot your mouth off.” He placed the tape on the bedside table. He pulled a pocketknife from his jeans to cut the rope off her hands. “Stop wiggling around. I don’t want to cut you.”
“You forced me to do this.”
“You have completely lost your mind.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“No!” She dug her fingers into his cheek, pulling down past his jaw. His hand shot up instinctively. There was blood on his hand when he pulled it away from his face.
“Bitch!” The back of his hand swung across her face, harder this time. It left her stunned on the bed. He took the opportunity to place her hands into handcuffs on opposite sides of the bed.
The sound of the tape pulling away from the roll brought her back. “Please don’t do this, Charles. I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do. It’s for your own good. You need to learn.” He leaned over her again with the strip of tape. Her protests were muffled as he placed it on her mouth. He kissed her forehead.
“I love you.”
Did Jenny come of as a contender against her husband?