a short story by Sullivan P. Oopy.
She jumped with a start as the phone rang again. The piercing beeps echoed in the empty house. A second time, a third time. It kept on ringing, and yet she wasn’t making a move to get up and pick it up. Instead she was rooted to the spot. Fear? Apprehension? Anger? Frustration? All of these feelings boiled inside her. She wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, to let her tears flow freely, to get up and run far away from that place. But she couldn’t. If she did it would only mean surrendering to her most primal feelings, it would also mean surrendering to him. No. That was not acceptable, it was not an option. She had to remain calm and strong. This was nothing. It would soon be over. She closed her eyes and tried her best to drown the sound of the phone out of her mind. One deep breath. Two deep breaths. As she exhaled for the third time she slowly opened her eyes. The ringing had stopped, the room was silent again.
She could feel her heart slowing down slightly, her breathing becoming less ragged. Oh, she wasn’t relaxing yet! No, not yet. This wasn’t over. It never was. Each time it kept ringing again and again for as long as she refused to pick up. It drove her mad. But this time, this time maybe… Maybe she would be stronger. Maybe she would stand up to him and not cower by answering. That was the kind of woman Hope Wien was, strong and independent, reliable and friendly, someone her friends could definitely count on. That came from her mother, Camellia, from the Wien side of the family, the strong side. Of course it was strong, her mother had somehow managed to convince her father to take her name when they had married, a feat that Hope had not seen repeated anywhere else. Wien was a strong name. Originally coming from the european city itself, and pronounced the same way, it had changed to a softer ‘ween’ when she had arrived to America all those years ago. Reluctant to accept this at first, she had slowly got accustomed to it, even getting her brother, who had remained in Austria, to say it that way when he talked to or about her.
Her brother. Thinking about him brought her immediately back to reality and made her shiver. He was the one responsible for all of this. Slowly and methodically torturing her with those calls. Each year, on the same day at exactly 6pm the phone would ring. Wherever she was, whatever she was doing, whether she was at home or only had her cell phone. It would ring without fail. How he got ahold of her, she would never understand, the point was he did. Every time. He would let it ring for as long as it would: once, twice, three times, as many times as it was necessary for her to pick up. Sometimes it lasted a few minutes, sometimes hours. Once she had just thrown her phone into the river out of frustration. However he somehow had managed to call the friend she had been spending the evening with. He never stopped, he was relentless. As if this call and the feelings it brought down on her was the sole purpose of his life on that precise day.
“You psycho!”, she wanted to pick up and yell at him. “Why won’t you leave me alone already?! What have I ever done to you to deserve this?!”
But she couldn’t manage to do it. Never. Because somewhere, deep down, she knew she deserved it. Once upon a time it had been her who had the role of the torturer and him the role of the victim. Oh how she regretted it! How much she wanted to go back and change it, make it up to him. But time only went forward and karma had caught up to her. She was too far away for him to actually come over but the psychological torture he imposed on her each time seemed to be enough to content him. She sighed once more and looked outside, anxiously waiting for the phone to ring again. Rain started pouring heavily over the city, night was dark and cold. She was prepared this time and yet, as the phone rung again, she couldn’t help jumping one more time. She closed her eyes, repressing her emotions deep inside her and inhaled one last time. Two rings. Then, slowly, she got up and walked to the phone. Three rings. She extended a trembling arm towards it. Four rings. Five rings. She quickly grabbed it and picked up.
“Y- yes?”, she said.
Damn it! She cursed inwardly at her trembling voice.
“Who is it?”, she added in a more confident tone, for the form, despite knowing perfectly well who it was and what he wanted.
Her heart had stopped beating as she now waited for the dreadful reply. At first there was silence, no, not silence, she could hear him breathe! But he said nothing. Then there was a slight change in his rhythm. The bastard is smiling, he’s enjoying this! She couldn’t see him but she knew it. Rain started pouring more heavily and the sound it created against the large windows was harrowing. Come on! Come on! Say it! She silently prayed, wanting this to be over. A flash of bright light momentarily lit up the sky. Tears welled up at the corner of her eyes and she was about to say something when, finally, he spoke.
“Hallo… Wien!”, her brother said as thunder roared outside.