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.
Balled in my lap, I clench my fists. 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, “No, you…you 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 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. This is my cue to undress. Afterward, 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.
Darkness mottles my vision as I stagger from the bathroom, hands faltering to grasp anything that provides stability. Everything hurts and I don’t even need to see myself to know I’m still bleeding.
Chest tight, I attempt to inhale. The action alone sends my spine spiraling in a frenzy of needle-like pains that burn like hot iron. Squeezing my eyelids shut and clenching my jaw, I keep telling myself to push past the pain. I should be numb to it by now.
As I dare to open my lids, light streams down the staircase, sending me reeling before I’ve managed to touch the bannister. Hands flying to my eyes, I shrink to the floor again. No way am I going to oppose him twice in one day.
Something soft and faintly smelling of aftershave hits my face, and I warily close my fingers around the object. Fabric. It’s fabric. From the plushness, I guess it’s sweat material. I open my eyes. A sweatshirt. Ian’s sweatshirt. Daring to lift my gaze, I’m met with Hawk’s green eyes. They’re blank, as usual. Cold. Unfeeling. They weren’t always that way.
“Clean yourself up,” he deadpans, turning on his heel. “You can sleep upstairs tonight.”
Snuffing any excitement, I nod dumbly and make toward the bathroom again. But he shakes his head, as if suddenly changing his mind. “You can use the one upstairs.”
Part of me wants to hope he’s coming to realize how senseless his argument was. But deep down, I know that could never be true. That’s the very thing with people like him–they never change.
The two of us are still for a spell; me, because my joints are stiff, and him, because that’s his way of intimidation. He always feels the need to remind me who wears the pants in this house. Literally.
Glancing down at my bare thighs, vision still blotted with dark spots, I swallow hard at the sight of wounds crusted with rusty blood. The cuts are quite deep this time. And though I know it’s nothing he and I haven’t seen before, I can’t help feeling overly exposed and indecent.
An expression akin to consideration dares flirt with Hawk’s rigid countenance, and he steps toward me. Out of habit I recoil, fearful of his touch. But his hands descend on me anyway, helping me to my feet. I’m shaking so hard, clutching the sweatshirt is all I can do to keep from dropping it. Hawk pulls me close to him and I shut my eyes again, head pulsing with a metallic ache. Bile rises to my throat and I just let it burn there, choking on the acidic fluid. It feels like every muscle in my body is spasming. But I dare not make a sound, trying my best to keep it together for fear he’ll punish me again.
Opposing my fears, his manner becomes gentle. Carefully, he hoists my legs up around his waist, raising me from the cold ground and carrying me upstairs. The temperature difference is already significant, and I find myself shaking even harder. If my vision wasn’t so dark, I’d have a cheery view of the dimly lit living room. Sparsely decorated with a sofa, rug, and a couple of side tables, but still quite homey. It smells faintly of warm coffee with a hint of smoke from Hawk’s jacket by the front door. He doesn’t smoke inside, but the smell clings to him like a paranoid lover.