Blackbird (A Hart’s Ridge Novel)

Chapter One

Life was strange. One day you’re going along, and everything is fine—or at least your definition of fine at the time, minus the usual challenges that just being human throws at you—and then suddenly it’s upside down and the only friend you have is a Blackbird.

For the woman trapped in the confines of a dark and dingy room in a madman’s basement, life had become a delicate balance between hope and despair. Every day, as the first rays of sunlight filtered through the tiny window high above, she would wake up and remind herself to stay busy. It was the only way to keep her mind from slipping into the depths of despair. To push away the dread of a visit from him.

Domnus.

The name meant master, he’d told her.

Her response was a blank stare.

It infuriated him.

She lived for the visits from Blackbird. He heard her move with the chain from the other side of the window and knew she was a prisoner. At the close of their visit, he’d lift his head and raise his wings a bit, then call out loudly as he looked around.

Conk-la-ree, conk-la-ree…

It looked and felt like he was trying to tell someone she was there, to come rescue her and release her from her concrete prison. The woman often found solace in the melodious songs he sang, as if the blackbird was an embodiment of her longing for freedom. But as much as she wanted to reach out and touch him, their connection remained intangible, restricted by the invisible barriers that separated them.

She had didn’t know exactly how long she’d been there. Somewhere between eight months and a year. On occasion, he drugged her and when she awoke, she felt it could’ve been hours or days. Her hair, once cut in a short style, was now long. On her head and her body, but then it had always grown fast. She had learned to live in the present, to focus on the tasks that kept her occupied within the confines of her room. Staying busy became her means of survival, a way to drown out the eerie silence that pervaded the space around her.

She had crafted her own routine, eventually finding purpose in the simplest of activities. Each morning, she meticulously made her bed, smoothing the wrinkled sheet and fluffing the faded pillow that graced the soiled mattress in the corner.

It was a small act, but it gave her a sense of order in the chaos of her situation.

Then, she would set about cleaning her meager surroundings. With a makeshift broom fashioned from discarded clothes and a broken handle, she would sweep away the dust and debris that had accumulated since her last cleaning session. It was a never-ending battle against the grit and grime, but it gave her a semblance of control over her environment.

Afterward, she sat by the small, barred window, watching as the outside world moved on without her. Nothing much happened on the ground. A random squirrel. A dog walking by.

But the sky always changed.

The sky was her canvas. The clouds her paint and the tool that allowed her imagination to take flight. She would discover stories in their makeup, imagining what it would be like to be part of that vibrant tapestry. In those stolen moments of reverie, she would lose herself.

Time became her enemy and her ally, as the days blended into one another. She marked the passage of time with the growth of the morning glory vine she’d found behind the discarded wardrobe cabinet. Once just a tiny bud, it had found a way in through a crack at the foundation, dipping in from the ground level and then raising her head inside.

She tended it with care and watched it thrive under her nurturing touch. It reminded her of the resilience of life, and she drew strength from its steady growth.

As each day would draw to a close, the music would start, and he would come.

She’d resisted at first, but he’d broken her spirit after he’d broken bones. A nose that would never be straight again. A wrist that had healed awkwardly.

Pain was a mighty convincer.

The will to live wasn’t easily squashed.

Especially when she had children waiting for her to find her way home.

The music became her refuge, a way to escape what he was doing to her body. She would close her eyes and let the notes carry her away, imagining herself dancing freely in an ethereal realm beyond the prison walls.

And so, she danced. In her imagination, away from the dimly lit room, with the stench of his scent threatening to suffocate her, she twirled and swayed, her movements graceful and fluid, as if she were performing on a grand stage. With closed eyes, she envisioned herself surrounded by an audience, their applause echoing in her ears, a reminder that she was more than just a prisoner.

In those moments, she could transcend the confines of her physical space and the abuse. The room transformed into a vast ballroom, adorned with sparkling chandeliers and ornate decorations. She was no longer a captive but a radiant performer, charming the hearts of those who watched her with awe.

Sometimes, she would choreograph intricate routines, mapping out the steps in her mind as she danced. Each movement became a rebellion against her captivity, a declaration of her indomitable spirit. She would leap and spin, her body a vessel of expression, defying the limitations imposed upon her.

As the music swelled within her, her heart soared, and for a moment, she could forget the bleakness of her reality. In the realm of her imagination, she was free—free to express herself, free to dream, and free to hope.

But inevitably, he would finish, and the music would fade. The applause would cease, and she would find herself alone in the darkness once again. The room would revert to its oppressive reality, and the weight of her confinement would settle upon her shoulders.

The guilt and horror of what he’d done to her was always left in his wake.

Yet, despite the crushing despair that threatened to engulf her, she clung to the fragments of joy she found within her daily activities. She knew that was not just a means of distraction, but a lifeline that kept her spirit alive. It was her way of asserting her humanity, refusing to be reduced to a mere captive.

And so, she would continue to rise each day. Continue to make her bed, clean her surroundings. She would continue to lose herself in the simplicity of a bird, a plant, and the swatch of sky she could see from her window. She would mark each day with purpose, carving out moments of solace and defiance within the bleakness of her existence.

As long as she could stay busy, as long as she could hold onto the fragments of her true self, she believed that there was still hope. Hope for rescue, hope for freedom, and hope for a future where the songs of the blackbird would be joined by her own voice, lifted in triumphant harmony.

And in the depths of her captivity, she whispered to the departing blackbird with unwavering determination, “Thank you for not forgetting about me.”

 

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2 Comments

  1. Judy Perry Drewett on February 21, 2024 at 5:48 pm

    I’ve read every book in Kay Bratt’s new series, Hart’s Ridge. I’m anxiously awaiting this ninth book, Blackbird! Kay Bratt has fast become one of my very favorite authors! Her literary talent is excellent. I hope many others will discover her books and endorse them.

    • Kay Bratt on February 23, 2024 at 12:28 pm

      So much love to you, Judy!

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