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The Best Month of Her Life

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It was just another ordinary day. The sky was cloudy and vibrant. The birds and their ridiculously loud chirping, and you could hear the occasional shouts from different shop vendors accusing one another of stealing their customers. Truth be told I don't particularly like my neighbourhood, but where can a girl go in this economy? I turned down the corner and entered Dr Keely’s office, ready for another day’s work. I sat down at my desk, placed my coat behind my chair, and started transcribing speeches. I love writing, always have, always will. To be given a chance to write for a living felt like a dream come true, and I could not have asked for more. Especially as a 24-year-old woman who has not had much experience as a stenographer, every day at work felt surreal. I was in the zone and was happily writing away when my thoughts got interrupted by Dr Keely.

“You have a job offer by Mr Holmes in Chicago to become his secretary and he is offering you twice the amount you are currently earning. So, are you interested?”

I could not believe my ears. Did I get a job offer to work with Mr Holmes? The young and good-looking man that many colleagues have been gushing over? And I get to work in the city of Chicago? Of course, working at the institute has a certain cachet, but the village of Dwight was no Chicago. Chicago is a city of legendary glamour and excitement, with the world’s fair set to open in a year. Needless to say, I took the job offer, grabbed $800 in savings, and moved to Chicago. Without any hesitation.

It was unbelievable, his eyes, his smile, his charm. Mr Holmes was more handsome in person than I could have ever imagined, and the thought of working alongside him sent butterflies in my stomach. I rented a room in a boarding house near his building and could not wait to start my new life in Chicago. Mr Holmes was such a dear. He would buy me flowers and take me around Chicago. He took me to the Timmerman Opera House down the block and even gave me a bicycle. We would spend the evening riding together on the smooth macadam of Yale and Harvard streets. As I got better at cycling, we would ride out to see the different architecture in Chicago and watch as the world’s fair was built. In my head, we looked like those adorable yet irritating couples you often see cuddling or kissing on park benches or in a restaurant, and I could not be happier. Mr Holmes is every girl’s dream man, and I felt like I was the luckiest woman in the world to have all his attention. I love his warmth, his caresses, his imperturbable calm, and his glamour. To add the cherry on top, he was also the son of an English lord. Sometimes I would wonder if I was way out of my league to think Mr Holmes would ever fall in love with a simple girl like myself. But all my questions and doubts disappeared when he asked for my hand in marriage.

The night of our engagement, Mr Holmes told me to meet him on the second floor of his hotel. The butterflies in my stomach started flapping harder, so much so I thought that I would pass out. My heart rate was ever-increasing the closer I got to his hotel. I took the stairs up to the second level and was unsuccessfully trying to get myself to calm down.

There he was, standing in the hallway, handsome as ever. He held his hand up and led me into a small room, tucked away in the corner of the hotel. The room was as dark as the night, and I could not see anything at all. I was slightly panicking since I was never a big fan of the dark, but then I felt Mr Holmes hand caressing my arm, and I was instantly calm. We started kissing, and he slowly undressed me. He smelled like an English garden, and his touches were so gentle that I was being consumed by him. Before I had the chance to take his clothes off, he stopped and said that he wanted to bring candles to set the mood and told me to wait in the room. He flashed a crooked smile before leaving the room.

I was tingling from head to toes, and I sat down on the floor to regain my composure. Minutes passed, and Mr Holmes still had not returned. How long does it take to get candles? I was about to get dressed and go find him when I realized that my clothes were gone. I could have sworn they would be at the entrance of the room, but it was not there. Before I had time to think about what was going on, a small amount of liquid started seeping into the room. I thought maybe there was a plumbing issue in the hotel he had to take care of, which explains why he still had not come back. Just as I started to keep my cool, I stepped in the liquid, and my feet started to sting.

It's acid. That was acid. I just stepped in acid. Why is there acid seeping into the room? A million thoughts rushed through my head. Confusing, scared, intrusive thoughts. I banged on the door screaming for Mr Holmes, but he did not come. My energy was depleting fast, and that was when I took a whiff of a pungent smell wafting into the room.

And that was gas.

I kicked the door with all my might, but it did not budge. In fact, I think it got a little tighter. My head was spinning, and all I could wonder was, "where is Mr Holmes?". Did he know I was trapped in here? I slowly sank down onto the floor, feeling tired from breathing the scarce amount of oxygen left in the room. My head hit the floor with a thud, and my eyes began to flutter shut.

Where was Mr Holmes?

© 2021 Alison Lian

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