August 28, 2058. Wednesday. 8:15 p.m.
“You’re not going.” Hawk’s heavy step sends a light pulse through the wood porch as he approaches from behind. I’m sitting on the third stair, holding myself, staring at the sunset. It’s one of the rare times that I get to leave the basement, and I’m just trying to soak it up. But of course he has to ruin it.
“I’m sixteen. I should be in school.”
He clears his throat and begins to say something, but I cut him off. “Stow it. I’m not speaking to you, and we’re not having this discussion.”
“You are speaking to me. We need to have this discussion. And I’m telling you now, the answer is no. You’re not going to school, you’re not leaving this house.”
Refusing to look at him, I tip my head slightly and say airily, “You don’t own me. You can’t dictate to me what I can and cannot do.”
“Don’t be flip with me,” he growls, jaw clenched as he whips around to grip me by the throat; practically crushing my larynx. The unmistakable reek of cigarettes surrounds him like an atmosphere. My stomach twists.
“And as a matter of fact, I do own you. You are my property. Or do I need to remind you?”
As if his words are a match, the tattoo on the inside of my thigh begins to burn. Reminding me of the night it was put there. Shaking my head, eyes clenched to hold back tears, I rasp, “N-no, you d-don’t need to remind me.”
Grip loosening, he sits down beside me, setting a heavy hand on my right shoulder and subsequently willing me to look at him. At his release I’ve begun coughing, desperate to regain the oxygen he deprived me of. A frown weighs on my eyebrows so all I can do is glower. There was once a time when I didn’t mind seeing his face or feeling his touch, but things aren’t the same anymore. Not since that night…
“Now, I’m going to be away for awhile, which means I won’t be here to take care of you.”
“I can take care of myself. I don’t need anybody.” After a short pause I add, “And you don’t take care of me anyway. You use me for pleasure.”
“Admit it, you enjoy yourself.”
I refuse to admit it. Because it’s not fun anymore. Not after what he did.
“When he died, I promised your brother I would take care of you. This is taking care of you.”
“Don’t talk about Ian to me,” I choke, getting up and running inside.
“I leave on Sunday,” he calls after me. “When I come back in October, if I find out you’ve gone to school or even as much as stepped foot outside the house, you’re going to get it so hard you won’t be moving for weeks. And I’ll make sure of it. You hear?”
I wish I couldn’t.
Without another word I scramble to my feet and run to the basement bathroom, slamming the door, knowing my punishment will come any moment now.
They say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Gripping the cold countertop in both hands, I glare into my reflection’s eyes, willing her to stay put and stay silent. I don’t feel strong. Upstairs, the door slams and I can hear him stomping through the house. I can hear him readying the chains.
Grabbing at the mirror and pulling it open to reveal the hidden medicine cabinet, I snatch one of the bottles stored within. Unscrewing the white cap, I shake two glittering, midsize pills into my palm. Throwing my head back, I swallow them; they look and taste like blackberries. A sense of bliss comes over me, relaxing every tense and aching muscle just as he opens the door, a knife in hand. I kneel before him at his command and he places the blade in my palm. Slowly, his fingers trace along the flesh of my thighs and forearms, and I draw those lines with the knife. Trembling, blood dripping from my fingers, I dare to meet his gaze. His face is painted. He smiles, taking the knife from me and leaning close to my ear to whisper, “That’s my good girl. Now won’t you sing to me, Melody?”
And placing a hand on my chest, he forcefully shoves me back against the tub; porcelain and spine colliding with a dull crack. The pain dissipates as he forces more pills into my mouth, and soon I’m drifting away on waves of euphoria.