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Kyle lay gasping on the floor, cold seeping from the cement into his bare skin. He felt as though glass shards were ripping through his throat as he struggled to pull breath into his lungs. His head rolled to the side, a metallic tang filling his nostrils. Black mist overtook Kyle’s field of vision, obscuring the pool of blood spreading out from his body.
Shadowed figures rushed down the wooden stairs, dispersing throughout the darkened basement. Kyle heard dulled voices shouting in the background before his vision went completely black, his world silent.
Kyle jolted awake, his hand flying to his chest, feeling the long-closed wounds that would remain scars forever. He wiped the sweat from his forehead as he slid out of bed. Would the nightmares ever stop? Doubtful. He padded across the plush carpet of the hallway into the bathroom. Kyle turned the nozzle in the shower, hot water steaming up the room. He turned his back to the clear sliding doors. Pressing his hands into the cool granite counter, he leaned forward, staring at his face, blurred heavily by the mist covering the mirror’s surface. He could barely make out his shaggy hair and tan skin. In his obscured image, the scars covering his body disappeared, but the memories behind them didn’t. Flashes of the night he’d been left for dead haunted his dreams, his days filled with torturous reminders of the weeks he’s spent in the secluded basement. Weeks he’d spent in hell.
Kyle kept his head straight forward, his body unmoving. He watched the clock out of the corner of his eye, matching the seconds he counted in his head to the ones that ticked by on the wall.
“Kyle, are you going to talk to me,” the voice in the chair across from him asked.
“Nope,” he replied, completely devoid of emotion.
There was a muted sigh, and then the sound of a notebook being flipped open.
“What do you remember most about what happened to you?”
The cold iron of the shackles that rubbed his wrists bloody, as he struggled day and night to free himself.
Kyle continued to stare, unblinking, not answering.
“Do you wish you died that night?”
In a way he had died; he’d lost so much of himself.
“Who do you blame for what happened to you?”
Kyle blamed the only person it made logical sense to hate. The man who now laid six feet underground, his body riddled with bullet holes.
But, again, he didn’t answer.
“Do you find it hard to trust people? Is it difficult for you to open up to others?”
He considered answering that one. It was hard to not make some snarky reply. But, he continued to sit still and silent.
“Do you ever plan on talking, Kyle?”
“To you,” he finally said, rising to his feet, “no.”
With that, he walked casually out of the plain, sterile, white brick building, leaving the therapist to make sense of his parting words.
“So, how’s the new voodoo doctor,” Rachel asked, plopping onto his unmade bed, the comforter scrunched up beneath her.
Kyle stood on the other side of the room, his back facing her as he did bicep curls in front of the full length mirror.
“Same as all the others,” his voice dripping with annoyance as he thought of all the therapists he’d been sent to, “she wants to rescue the poor injured little boy from the protective shell he’s wrapped himself in.”
“Jeez, that bad?”
“Oh yea, it’s like these idiots don’t realize that it’s been, what: Five, Six years?”
“More,” Rachel snorted as she cut in, rolling onto her stomach, her platinum blonde hair resting against her shoulder, “probably like seven or eight.”
“Exactly! I mean, I get it, I’m traumatized. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a life. At this point, it’s just like, so what?”
“I know. I should just have a suicidal breakdown as the forgotten twin sister. Maybe they’ll send me to therapy too, and we could just, like, screw with them.”
“That’d be hilarious. This new chick’s so gullible she’d probably fall for it,” Kyle laughed.
“It’d teach ‘em a lesson. After all you’ve been through, if you want to be left alone, they should leave you alone.”
“If only, Rach.”
“It’s not like anybody even remembers, like, no offense to your already super-inflated ego, but the world’s so jaded these days that people just don’t pay attention when bad things happen.”
The leather of the chair squished underneath him as Kyle shifted in his seat.
“How did it happen?”
He’d been walking home from baseball practice. All he had to do was walk two blocks from the field to his house. They say that most car accidents take place less than ten minutes from home. Well, this was Kyle’s car crash.
He was throwing the ball in the air and catching it in his mitt, while he walked down the deserted sidewalk. The first of the fallen leaves were being swept along by the wind, following Kyle on his path. A squirrel rushing up the tree next to him caught his attention. The nimble brown blur climbed in circles, its claws digging into the bark.
With his head turned, he lost sight of the ball as it flew ahead.
A man, two houses up, stood in front of a garage door. The grey paint was starting to peel away, revealing a faded pink. He waved his arm in the air, the baseball firmly held in his fist.
“You must have quite an arm,” he remarked, as Kyle ran forward, stopping in between two sedans parked in the driveway.
“Thanks,” Kyle smiled, reaching out to take the baseball from him, “it’s my last ball, and my dad swore he wouldn’t buy me anymore if I lost this one too.”
“Really? Well, I used to coach my son’s team before he grew up and moved out. I got buckets full of them in the garage. If you want them, they’re yours.”
“That’d be awesome!”
And with that Kyle followed the man into his house.
The therapist’s voice flashed him back to the present.
“You never have told anyone the answer to that question, how it happened. Is that because you think it’s your fault? Are you afraid people are going to be upset with you? Blame you?”
Again, Kyle didn’t respond.
“Or maybe you think someone else will think it’s their fault, if they hear the story from your point of view. Your mom or dad, maybe,” she questioned, trying to uncover some sort of reaction
She was good for someone who only had half the story.
“It’s not up to you to protect them.”
Kyle snorted, “Right, I’m the child, they’re supposed to protect me. Is that how it goes?”
“No,” she shook her head, “you protect yourself, but they protect themselves. They decide what they can handle and they learn to handle what they can’t. But it’s not up to you to save them from that.”
“So,” Rachel declared, getting into the car, “I did some research, and if you don’t get that baseball scholarship, there are definitely foundations that give out money to victims of abuse.”
“That’s nice,” Kyle responded sarcastically, rolling his eyes as he pulled out of the school parking lot.
“Well, I think they were originally for, like, kids whose parents beat them and stuff, but, like, what are they going to do, say no to the little kidnapped boy?”
“Rachel,” he laughed, “for reasons I cannot explain, I love you. Now, don’t worry, I’m going to get the baseball scholarship.”
“You better, considering only one of us ever made it anywhere with that stupid sport.”
“Have you ever told your story to anyone, Kyle, opened up to anyone?”
His sister knows. She knows the whole story, from start to finish, every detail. In Kyle’s opinion, she’s the only one who deserves to know.
Kyle sat at the desk, working on his homework. Rachel was on the floor, leaning up against the bed as she flipped through a magazine.
Suddenly, Kyle burst out, “she asks the right questions.”
“Huh,” Rachel looked up, “who?”
“The therapist, she asks the right questions. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like her, and I definitely don’t answer her questions, but she’s asking the right ones.”
“Are you going to tell her about me?”
“What would I tell her about you,” Kyle asked, honestly confused, “there’s nothing exciting to tell.”
“Good,” Rachel nodded, “I don’t like the idea of you talking about me to some stranger. I hate strangers.”
“I know, Rach.”
“Your file says he kept you in a basement, what was it like?”
Cold, and dark, unfinished cement everywhere.
There was no way for Kyle to sit or lie down that wasn’t uncomfortable. He was brought meals twice a day, and there was a bucket just within reach to use as a toilet. Heavy chains weighed him down, the rust coating them would rub off onto his clothes and exposed skin.
He didn’t have to worry about being attacked when the man came with food. The other times threatened him, when the man took his time descending the creaky wooden steps, savoring every part of the experience. That’s when Kyle became frightened; when he heard the unhurried footsteps he started counting the seconds, waiting for it to be over.
“Yea, Rach,” he sat hunched over his desk, staring intently at the calculus homework in front of him.
“What’s your faaaaavorite memory,” she asked, resting her chin in the palm of her hand.
“I don’t know. I’m just curious. Answer the question.”
Kyle turned to face her, pausing before he responded, “seeing you again after it was all over.”
“Are you sure?”
“What is this? A game show? Yea, I’m sure. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”
Rachel nodded to herself as if confirming something, “good.”
“Tell me about your sister, Kyle.”
“No,” he replied sternly.
“She’s off limits.”
“You said that to other therapists as well. Why? Is it too painful to talk about her?”
“No, I just don’t think she’s any of your business.”
“She asked about you today,” Kyle admitted to Rachel, dropping his backpack on the floor and crossing to the bed. Rachel sat in his desk chair, her arms folded.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing, I told her you were off-limits.”
Rachel pursed her lips, thinking carefully before she spoke, “Maybe you should talk about me with her. Tell her at least.”
“What,” Kyle jerked upright, confusion and hurt written across his face, “are you serious?”
She shrugged, “I don’t know. I mean, I listened in on one of your sessions, and, well, I like her.”
“Kyle, listen to me this time.”
“Rach,” he shook his head.
“Just think about it, please.”
“Do you know what today is, Kyle,” the therapist inquired.
Kyle continued to stare at the clock, waiting for the session to end.
“Today’s the anniversary of the day you were rescued.”
He showed no signs of even hearing what she’d said.
“It’s also the day your sister died.”
Kyle’s head snapped to the side glaring at the therapist, “I told you. She’s off limits.”
“Does thinking about her bring pack painful memories?”
They weren’t just painful memories, but memories he’d worked to suppress.
…Her smile as she threw the ball to him.
Her scolding frown when he hadn’t even moved to try and catch it.
The laughter in her voice when she’d informed him, “you’re never gonna make the pro’s if you’re that easily distracted.”
He remembered the warning look on her face when they approached the man.
The way she begged him not to go inside, how he’d ignored her, and she’d been forced to follow him.
He heard her cries as the man raped her in front of him.
She was lying next to him, her pool of blood mixing with his own.
Her shaky arm reaching out to grab his hand.
The knife wounds on her body identical to his.
Except, for some reason, he’d survived, and she hadn’t.
So many whys plagued him.
Why did he survive?
Why did the man choose that night to stab them?
Why did the man abduct them?
Why didn’t Kyle listen to Rachel?
Why did Rachel come back to him?
“To let you know I don’t blame you.”
Kyle looked up. Rachel was standing behind the therapist, her hand resting on her shoulder.
“I really don’t blame you. I love you, Kyle. You’re my brother. You were meant to live, not me. You were given a second chance for a reason, a purpose. You can’t fulfill that purpose if you spend your whole life following a shadow. Talk to her. She’s a good listener and she won’t put up with your bulls***,” Rachel laughed, “or your inflated ego.”
“Rach,” Kyle managed to choke out.
“It’s time for me to go. Places to be, things to do. You know how it is,” she smiled, “what happened to us sucked and the world may be jaded, but I was wrong, not everybody’s forgotten. There are people who do care. Trust me.”
“Goodbye, bro. I love you.”
“I love you, too, sis.”
Kyle sat back in the chair, his head cocked to the side as he caught his first true glimpse of the therapist. Her blonde hair ponytail bobbed when her head popped up, brown eyes locking with his. She looked young.
“Sorry about all that. I had to say my goodbyes,” he explained.
She smiled, “that’s okay. So, what do you say, Kyle, are you ready to talk?”
“You know what? I think I am.”