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Author's note: I am still currently writing this story but i would greatly appreciate comments and criticism.
My teeth clenched together and I held my breath as I listened to the girl crying and begging in my arms. Her body doubled over in agony as she received another punch in her stomach. My eyes focused over her head, not wanting to see how much they were hurting her while I held her arms behind her back. Jared threw his head back and laughed loudly at her pain.
“Ow! Please stop!” she sobbed in anguish. “It hurts!”
The sound of her pleas pierced through me and I felt the tears welling up inside me again. With a resigned sigh, I pushed them back and held her arms tighter so she could not get away. Michael delivered the final punch to her stomach and I threw her on the ground. She whimpered in quiet agony and curled up into a ball on the ground, wrapping her tiny arms around her knees. I could not help staring down at her while Jared and Michael howled with laughter and high fived each other. She laid there at our feet looking fragile and broken.
“Poor baby,” Michael said in a mocking tone. I could see the anger in her eyes as she ducked her head down and hid her face. She knew by now not to respond when we taunted her.
“Jake,” Jared’s voice was amused as he stared down at our victim. “Why don’t you take a few shots at her?”
My body stiffened in horror and the girl looked up at me with frightened eyes.
“Please no,” she whispered. I forced back the lump in my throat and wiped my expression clean of all emotion. I pulled my foot back and swung hard at her, delivering a swift and hard kick to her gut. She shrieked in pain and her hands flew to her stomach. Michael reached down and pulled her off the ground. The two of them held her back for me and grinned widely. Without thinking, I pulled my arm back and punched her in the face with unnecessary force. I grabbed her out of their arms and slammed her body up against the wall. She was screaming at me to stop but I didn’t. I pounded my fists into her roughly and violently. I was barely aware of Jared and Michael cheering me on. I beat her viciously for a while longer before I dropped her.
I laughed loudly with the others and mocked her cruelly. Her eyes stayed focused on the floor as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I want to go home,” she whispered repeatedly more to herself than to us. She closed her eyes and tried to block out the sound of Jared telling her that she was a pitiful and hideous b****. “Please let me leave.”
When they finally grew tired of torturing and teasing her, they smiled down at her, kicked her a few more times while she lay there helpless, and headed back upstairs.
“I’ll be right up,” I murmured still smiling at the girl wickedly. Jared and Michael chuckled in amusement before leaving the girl and me alone in the cold basement. My robotic façade instantly fell down the second we were alone. She refused to look at me.
“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked in a weak voice. “What did I do?”
My heart lurched painfully and I fell down onto my knees at her side. My hand shook as I reached out to her hesitantly.
“Don’t touch me,” she begged. My hand dropped.
“Ellie,” I whispered in a pained voice. “I am so…very, very sorry. You do not deserve any of this. You did not do anything.”
“Then why are you hurting me?” she cried. I did not respond. I stared down at her bruised body shivering slightly from the cold. “Why are you doing this to me!” My head hung with shame.
“I’m doing it for my sister,” I whispered in a pleading voice. I wanted desperately for her to forgive me for all that I had done to her and continued to do to her. “We need the money.”
Two years ago, my parents were killed in a brutal mugging. I was 19 years old at the time and my baby sister was seven. After our parents died, Julie and I were completely on our own. I refused to let her be taken away from me and put in some foster home. For a long time, we lived on the streets and I hated to see the desperation in my sister’s kind and gentle eyes. She knew very well how bad our situation was but she trusted me to take care of her. I could not find a job to save my life. Or my sister’s apparently. I struggled to keep her warm, fed, and clothed.
Nine months ago, I met Jared and Michael and they offered me a job. I took the job immediately without question of what I would be doing. I know now that I should have asked. If I would have known that the job involved selling drugs I would not be in my current state of enslavement. Right now, however, I would rather sell a million drugs than to see this innocent girl being tortured any longer.
“Does your sister know about you kidnapping me?” Ellie demanded in a small voice. “Does she know that you beat me and lock me up in a freezing basement?”
Agony ripped through me again as I imagined my sister’s reaction if she were to find out. My sweet and innocent little sister, sleeping just upstairs in her bed, safe and warm. My little sister who now, thanks to my dirty dealings, went to bed every night well fed, safe, and happy. While this girl with me now went to sleep at night hungry, terrified, and broken.
“No,” I croaked. “She doesn’t know about you. If she did know she would hate me.”
Ellie’s expression remained hard. I could expect no sympathy from her. I stood up and moved to the closet on the far side of the room. I came back with the long ropes, the blindfold and the tape. Her eyes filled with pain again when she saw what I held in my hands.
“I’m so sorry,” I mumbled as I bound her wrists and ankles with the rope, blindfolded her, and taped her mouth shut. She squirmed around helplessly and whimpered a desperate plea. I swallowed hard and forced the tears back again. “I’m sorry.”
Part of my “job” with Michael and Jared involved keeping all drugs, and now kidnap victims, stashed at my house. I had already told Julie a million times never to set foot in the basement. I had all but beaten the message into her head. I did not actually touch her of course. The basement had recently been soundproofed when I received the news from Jared last month that they were planning a kidnapping. A 12-year-old girl, named Ellie, who apparently came from some rich family. The ransom of 2 million dollars was to be demanded tomorrow. The $500,000 that I would get from the ransom was not what made me desperate for her parents to pay. If her family did not pay, they would make me kill her. I can’t do that to her. I cannot take away her life. She was too sweet to deserve all of this. In her eyes, I was already an inhumane monster. Was I? Did the remorse and guilt I felt after hitting her make me any less of a monster? I thought about the way she had screamed tonight when I punched her. I remembered the way she had pleaded with me on her first night here after Jared and Michael had left. That first time that I had apologized to her for what was happening and explained to her that I hadn’t wanted to do this to her. I remembered what she had said to me. She looked up at me with tear-filled eyes. We had beaten her to the point where she could barely move and I could tell that she was in agony.
“I didn’t have a choice,” I whispered to her.
“You don’t even know what that means,” she said in a pained voice. “You had a choice. I don’t. You can leave and be free from all of this. I can’t.”
In that moment, I knew that she was right. I did have a choice. I chose wrong. I am still choosing wrong. I am not any less of a monster than Jared and Michael.
I tiptoed quietly into Julie’s room after Jared and Michael had left for the night. I moved silently to her bed and I leaned down to kiss her cheek. She yawned and stretched.
“Jake?” she whispered rubbing her eyes.
“Shh.” I shushed her and tucked her blanket in around her. “Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm,” she breathed. “Kay. Goodnight Jake.”
“Goodnight sweetheart,” I said stroking her hair. She yawned again and drifted back to sleep. Staring at her in her bed made me think of Ellie downstairs weeping into her blindfold. I crept silently out of Julie’s room. I went to my room and retrieved a thick wool blanket from my closet and a pillow from off my bed. With tears in my eyes, I went downstairs to see Ellie lying on the ground curled up in a ball. I carefully placed the blanket over her and lifted her head to slide the pillow underneath her. She mumbled something into the tape on her mouth. It sounded like she had said “thank you.”
“You’ll be home soon Ellie,” I whispered to her. She mumbled something else into the tape but I could not understand. Michael and Jared were supposed to come over at noon tomorrow. There was no reason why she had to stay bound through the night. I removed the blindfold first and then the tape. She watched me with weary eyes as I untied her wrists and ankles. “I’ll have to tie you up again in the morning,” I mumbled without meeting her eyes. I expected her to say something about how I did not have to do anything. She remained silent. I tucked the blanket in around her.
“How much longer do I have to stay here?” she asked in a small voice.
“A few more days,” I told her gently. I heard her intake of breath and watched as the tears flooded her eyes.
“Are they going to hurt me again tomorrow?” her voice shook with fear. I sighed deeply and nodded. I was not going to lie to her. “Are you going to hurt me again tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“You’re stronger than they are. It hurts more when you hit me.”
“Ellie, I promise this will all be over soon.” My voice was unconvincing and weak. I did not know for sure that it would be over soon.
Her face went pale with terror and she looked up at me slowly. “How much is the ransom?”
“2 million dollars,” I told her. Her face was now green. She looked like she was going to be sick.
“If my parents don’t pay...will they…kill me?” she croaked. I stiffened and shook my head no. “Will you kill me?” My throat closed up and I could not speak. My body was rigid as the tears flooded my eyes.
“It’s going to be okay,” I promised her in a broken voice.
“Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded. “Beat me. Tease me and call me names. Just please don’t kill me.”
“Ellie…” I whispered.
“I don’t want to die! I want to go home! Please!” her voice grew hysterical as she stared up at me with wild eyes.
“We don’t know anything yet,” I tried to comfort her. “We still have to make the ransom call.”
She burst into sobs and shook her head no. “Please don’t do this to me! It’s not fair, I didn’t do anything!” The sight of her crumpling on the ground begging for her life tormented me. I was raking my brain for a way to comfort her and to save her.
“Don’t cry,” I begged in a frail voice.
“I hate you!” she shouted angrily. “Go away!”
I watched her as she laid there on the ground crying loudly. “Ellie I won’t kill you!” I promised rashly. I could not stand to hear her say that she hated me. She just shook her head and cried louder. I was a monster! I pulled her off the ground and held her in my arms. She was still too busy sobbing to fight me.
“I don’t want to die,” she sobbed into my chest.
“It’s okay,” I promised her. “You’re not going to die. We won’t kill you, I promise.” She still did not believe me. Her body quaked in my arms. My hand stroked her cheek gently. I held her in my arms letting her sob into me until she eventually fell asleep. I prayed with everything in me that her parents would pay the ransom.
At about 11:45am Ellie was tied up, blindfolded, and gagged in the basement without the blanket and pillow. Julie had already left for school and I was opening the door for Jared and Michael.
“Turn on the TV!” Jared shouted. Their faces were wild with panic. “We made the ransom call last night!” I grabbed the remote and turned the TV on to see Ellie’s face on the screen and the word, “kidnapped.”
“12 year old, Ellie Santiago, was kidnapped yesterday on her way home from school. Ellie was last seen wearing a blue blouse and jeans with white sneakers. She is 5 feet 3 inches tall, 110 pounds, with long brown hair.” The story goes on to describe Ellie in detail and to show her parents crying and begging for someone to help them find their daughter.
“What the hell!” Michael shouted in disbelief.
I stared at the TV in horror while my head pounded with the fury. Her parents were trying to get her killed!
“So what now?” Jared demanded furious.
“The girl dies today,” Michael said in a hard voice. He turned to glare at me and my body was frozen and rigid. Jared reached into the pocket of his jacket and handed me a gun.
“Today?” I asked in a low voice. The two of them stared at me in disbelief.
“You honestly think her parents are going to pay to get her back?” Jared said roughly. “The girl is obviously not worth saving if her own parents are trying to get her killed! She’s no good to us!”
My mouth was dry and I could not speak.
“I’ll do it myself,” Michael said angrily grabbing the gun from out of my hands and moving to the basement.
“No,” I whispered. They both turned to look at me as if I was crazy.
“Are you trying to help her?” Michael demanded.
“Just let her go,” I blurted out. “What point is there in killing her?” My voice grew louder and more hysterical. Suddenly they were both grinning at me, malevolently.
“Let her go?” Michael said. His voice sounded like he was about to start laughing at me. “Are you punking out on us?” He abruptly threw open the basement door and ran down the steps.
“No!” I shouted in horror running after him. I made it downstairs just in time to see him kicking her hard in her side. She let out a muffled scream of pain. “Stop!” I ran to try to stop him but Jared grabbed me from behind and held me back in the same way that I had held Ellie back yesterday.
I struggled against his grip trying desperately to get to her.
“Are you ready to die!” Michael shouted at her as he kicked her over and over again. She screamed out a plea for mercy. He reached down to rip the tape off her mouth and remove the blindfold. She caught sight of the gun in his hand and began to thrash around on the floor, struggling to get free.
“No!” she shrieked out hysterically. “Don’t do it! Please don’t kill me! Please!” He laughed at her desperate attempts to get away.
“Leave her alone!” I shouted in terror. I fought desperately to save her from the monster who was beating her now. He put the gun in his pocket and began to pound her body with his fists and his feet. “Stop hurting her!”
Jared was laughing at the sight of my struggles and Ellie’s agony.
“No! No! No!” she sobbed into the ground. “Get away from me!”
“Stupid b****!” he shouted at her.
“Oh God! Make it stop!” She finally stopped fighting and curled into a ball on her side to accept her torture.
I yanked against Jared’s hold again and finally managed to pull away from him. I spun around quickly and my fist connected with his face, knocking him down onto the ground.
“Please stop,” Ellie was whispering now. Her eyes were closing and she was whimpering. I grabbed at Michael and pulled him away from her. His hand was reaching for his gun in his pocket and I tackled him to the ground grabbing at his hand before he could reach his gun. Jared was suddenly pulling me back away from him.
“Leave him alone!” Ellie cried out as I received a hard punch in the gut. Michael jumped up and pulled the gun from his pocket. His eyes were locked on Ellie and a feeble cry escaped her lips. I reached around Jared and grabbed at Michael’s arm pulling it down. The gun went off with a loud explosion and Ellie screamed. My head snapped up to look at her in dread. I was filled with relief when I saw that the bullet hadn’t hit her. Michael pulled his arm out of my grip and moved the gun to point it at her again.
“Enough!” I shouted at him angrily. But then, Jared was pulling me away from him and the gun went off again. Ellie gasped and I turned to meet her wide horrified eyes. I stared in horror at the blood coming from her stomach.
My eyes fluttered open and I stared into the eyes of an unfamiliar woman.
“Who are you?” I croaked out in a shaky voice. My voice sounded so hoarse. “Where am I?” I tried to remember something, anything. The unfamiliar woman smiled a warm and comforting smile.
“It’s okay honey, you’re safe now,” she said rubbing my arm soothingly.
“My stomach hurts….he shot me!” I remembered then and my heart began to pound wildly in panic. “Am I dead!”
“No! Of course not! You’re in the hospital sweetheart. The three men who kidnapped you were arrested.”
Three? Oh no!
“There were only two of them,” I whispered. “The third one was trying to save me.”
She stared at me shocked. “Which one?”
“I don’t know his name. He had dark hair, and a mustache, and he had a sister.” I watched as her eyes widened in surprise.
“Jake Patterson confessed to his involvement,” she said slowly. “He told the police that he helped kidnap you and he beat you.”
“No.” I whispered. “They made him do it. He didn’t have a choice. You can’t arrest him! You can’t do that to him!” My voice was rising and growing more frantic.
“Ellie calm down!” she said in a firm voice.
“It wasn’t his fault!” I cried. The tears were beginning to spill down my cheeks.
“Ellie sweetheart, the man tortured you! He had a choice and he chose wrong. He also confessed to selling drugs illegally. The drugs were found in his house. He was a criminal!”
“You don’t know him,” I said through my tears.
“Sweetheart, it’s okay. Everything is going to be fine, just rest.”
“What happened to his sister? And where are my parents?”
She flinched slightly at my questions. “Just rest for now,” she said in a careful voice. “You’re still recovering.” She stood up from her seat beside my bed and walked out of the room. I stared after her, my vision still blurry from the barrage of tears. As soon as she was gone, I began to sob in earnest. Kidnapper or not, Jake Patterson was the first person in my life who actually cared about me.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Ellie.” His voice was warm and trusting as he smiled at me. I tried hard to trust him. I wanted so badly to trust them both. I tried to see them as Jake, but they were not him. The smile on my face felt fake and out of place and I struggled to give them a genuine smile. They appeared to be nice enough.
“It’s nice to meet you too Mr. Warner,” I replied in a kind voice.
“You can call me Brett,” he said reaching out to shake my hand. I hesitated for a half a second before I extended my hand.
“Brett,” I said staring down at the floor nervously.
“So Ellie, shall I show you your room?” Wendy Warner smiled at me carefully. I could see that she was kind as well and just as shy as I was. It was easy for me to see this woman as a mother; the kind of mother that I would have chosen for myself if I had been allowed to choose from the beginning. The kind of mother who would not have waited three days to report that I had gone missing and then ignore my ransom. Thinking of my parents put a lump in my throat and I quickly swallowed it. Now I had Brett and Wendy, my new foster parents. I knew that they would take care of me the way that parents should.
“Sure,” I responded politely. Her hand twitched toward me as if she was going to offer me her hand. Just as shy as I was. I reached out shyly and took her hand so that she could show me to my new room. She led me up the stairs and down a long hallway.
“We took in another girl yesterday just a few years younger than you,” she said conversationally. “Would you mind terribly sharing your room with her?”
“Not at all,” I assured her. I felt her instant relief at my side and I smiled. We stopped at the end of the hall in front of a white door. She knocked softly.
“Come in,” a small voice came from the other side. She sounded like she had just been crying. Wendy opened the door slowly and peeked her head in.
“Julie? Ellie is here.” Her voice was soft and careful as she spoke. She opened the door all the way. I walked in slowly to see a small brown-haired girl sitting on one of the two beds. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying so much and she looked up at me forcing a smile onto her heartbroken face. I smiled back. Then I froze in shock.
“Ellie? Are you okay?” I felt Wendy’s hand on my shoulder. “What’s wrong?” I walked slowly forward to the table by Julie’s bed.
“Jake?” I whispered staring at the picture with wide eyes. My knees felt weak and I could feel the lump in my throat.
“How do you know my brother?” Julie’s voice was shaky as if she had an idea but did not want to accept it. I stared at her with wide horrified eyes. My heart plummeted and fell into my stomach. I felt like one of my kidnappers was punching me in the stomach again.
“Julie Patterson?” My voice was barely audible to me.
“You’re…her?” she whispered in a voice that sounded like she just had her breath knocked out of her. “You’re the girl he….” She could not seem to get the word out but it did not really matter for two reasons. First, we both knew what she was going to say. Second, I had already fainted.
No!” I heard Jake’s horrified voice followed by the sound of feet running down the stairs. My heart started to pound loudly and I struggled to free my hands. Unexpectedly I felt a sharp pain in my side and I screamed in agony. Oh god, what is happening?
“Are you ready to die?” one of them shouted down at me. The sharp pains kept coming again and again as something or someone struck me repeatedly in my side. The words reverberated in my head and I lost it. I screamed hysterically and sobbed into my blindfold. I was dead! I was going to die! Through the pain in my side and my desperate shrieks, I could hear Jake’s voice shouting. The tape was abruptly ripped off my mouth and I yelped in pain. The blindfold disappeared next and I stared into the eyes of one of my tormentors. For a brief second I was aware of Jake struggling to get to me but being held back by the other man. Then, I saw the gun and my blood froze in my veins. After the first second of shock, I started shrieking. I struggled violently on the ground desperate to get away.
“No! Don’t do it! Please don’t kill me! Please!” It was useless. I began to sob loudly, hysterically. I heard him laughing at me loudly as if there was something funny about my mortal terror.
“Leave her alone!” Jake screamed in a horrorstruck voice. I could see him staring at me in terror. His eyes were filled with pain as my attacker suddenly started to beat me brutally. He was hovering over me and slamming his fists against my face, my stomach, and everywhere else. The pain was worse than any of my prior beatings. Worse than when my parents hit me, worse than the beatings I had received since I got here, even worse than when Jake hit me. Part of me was wondering if he was going to shoot me or just beat me to death. “Stop hurting her!” Jake pleaded. The pain continued to get worse and worse. I was positive now that I was going to be beaten to death.
“No! No! No!” I sobbed. I rolled over onto my side and ducked my head down in a desperate attempt to protect myself from his fists and feet. The pain continued to come at me. “Get away from me!”
“Stupid b****!” he yelled at me.
“Oh God make it stop!” I blubbered. I tucked my knees up to my stomach and cried in agony. Why me? Why is this happening to me? Please god make him stop hurting me. I can’t take anymore it hurts too much. Please please please! The torture continued. “Please stop,” I whispered weakly, praying that he would have some mercy on me. I could feel the blood now, warm and wet spilling down my body. I closed my eyes and laid there waiting for death to find me.
The fists that were slamming into my body mercilessly were suddenly gone. My eyes flew open in shock but I was still in far too much pain to move. I saw Jake tackling my tormentor to the ground. The other one suddenly grabbed at Jake and yanked him away roughly. My eyes flashed back to the one with the gun who was standing up. Before the terror could get at me, I saw Jake being punched in the stomach.
“Leave him alone!” I cried out in a pleading voice. My heart was squeezed with fear but not for myself. Jake’s eyes stayed focused on me as he tried to get to me again.
He was going to get himself killed trying to save me. Tears filled my eyes. The one with the gun was back on his feet and his eyes were locked on me. The mortal terror returned to me as I saw the furious look in his eyes. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut and waited to die. The sound of the gun going off made me scream. My eyes opened as I realized that it had not hit me. I looked to Jake in terror and our faces simultaneously grew relieved as we ascertained each other’s condition. The gun was abruptly pointed at me again and I cringed away in terror.
“Enough!” Jake screamed loudly as the gun went off again with a deafening explosion.
Pain. I gasped loudly in fear, pain, and defeat. I looked down to see the fresh blood coming from my stomach then up into Jake’s agonized eyes filling with tears. I closed my eyes and started to sniffle softly.
“I love you Jake,” I whispered before I blacked out.
“Ellie? Ellie sweetheart?” A frightened voice called to me and I opened my eyes slowly expecting to see Jake kneeling over my bleeding body.
“Brett,” I whispered weakly. I felt something cold on my forehead and I reached up to feel a cold cloth. “What happened?” I whispered. I looked over to see Wendy sitting beside me. She looked like she had been crying.
“You fainted honey,” she said stroking my cheek gently.
“Jake,” I whispered suddenly remembering the picture. It was all that I could say. “Jake.”
Brett shushed me gently. “He’s in jail sweetheart. He can’t hurt you again.” I did not respond. My eyes filled with tears. He pulled me up off the queen-sized bed that I was lying on and hugged me gently. “It’s okay Ellie. You’re safe.” My body was stiff in his arms. I wanted to tell them that Jake never wanted to hurt me. I wanted to tell them that Jake Patterson loved me. Nothing that I said would have mattered. I held my tongue and buried my face into Brett’s chest. Suddenly, another memory flashed across my mind.
“Julie,” I whispered before I passed out again in Brett’s arms.
My eyes fluttered open to darkness. I was lying down in a big soft bed swaddled in warm blankets. I closed my eyes again and laid there, not wanting to move from where I was. The contrast between the bed I was in now and the freezing basement that imprisoned me a few weeks ago was surreal. The blankets and sheets that covered me were a million times better than the tight ropes that hurt me. I lifted my head tentatively and looked around me, trying to see where I was. The Warner’s room, I guessed. The room had a very homey feel to it. The walls were painted a color that reminded me of sand at the beach. The room and the blankets smelled clean and fresh. The carpet was a pristine white and it looked like it would be as comfortable as the bed. The furniture looked like it was new as well, fresh out of the store.
I sat up slowly still holding the blankets around me. I listened carefully for signs of Wendy, Brett….Julie. I glanced over at the clock next to the bed. 8:45pm. I stood up and moved away from the safety of the bed. I crept to the door softly and stopped to listen for anyone in the hallway before I opened the door and tiptoed into the hallway. I recognized my new bedroom door down the hall and I tried to control the spinning in my head. I moved toward the stairs as quietly as I could possibly manage.
“What do we do?” a tear filled voice whispered from downstairs. I froze at the top of the stairs and listened fearfully. “They can’t stay here together.”
“Shh. It’s okay honey.” His voice was calming as he soothed her.
“But we can’t send them back now. Those girls need us.”
“We’re not sending anyone back. You’re right. They do need us.” I felt slight relief at his words. I leaned down and saw them sitting on the couch with their backs to the stairs. Brett’s arms were wrapped around Wendy comfortingly.
“What about Ellie? She has to be terrified.”
“Julie didn’t hurt her. Jake did.” His tone seethed with rage when he mentioned Jake. “The bastard is in jail now.”
“Jake loved me!” The words were out before I could stop them and I threw my hands over my mouth. They turned to see me crouched down on the stairs with tears in my eyes. I could see the shock in their eyes and I started to sob. I buried my face in my hands so I wouldn’t have to see the look in their eyes. I heard them standing up off the couch and moving in my direction. Wendy’s arms were suddenly folded around me holding me against her. The smell of her perfume and her hair was soothing to me. Once again, I felt the safety and protection of a real mom. But then I remembered Jake’s arms holding me after I told him I hated him, when he promised not to kill me. Part of me had wanted to pull away from the arms of the man who had hurt me so much. The man who, earlier that night, had kicked me in my stomach and punched me in my face. Even worse, the man who had called me hurtful things and told me that I deserved to be beaten. A stronger part of me wanted to be understanding towards the man who had cried for me and given me the blanket and the pillow. A stronger part of me understood how much it sucked to not have control in your life. More than anything, the strongest part of me yearned for the comfort of his arms, the comfort that I had never gotten from my parents. Right now, that same part of me yearned for Jake’s arms. The shrieking sobs shook my body and terrified Wendy.
“Ellie?” Brett’s voice sounded slightly frightened for the first time. “Honey?” I couldn’t respond through the shaky sobs in my chest. “Ellie what do you mean he loved you? Did he..touch you?”
“No!” I sobbed loudly, horrified at the accusation. “He loved me! He wanted me to be safe!” Wendy’s arms stiffened around me.
“Ellie he kidnapped you. He hurt you.” she whispered. Her hand rubbed against my back soothingly.
“He didn’t mean it! He didn’t want to!” I struggled to defend him. Nobody would listen to me, not the nurse, Brett, or Wendy. None of them understood what it was like to not have a choice. None of them had had to live on the streets and still struggle to take care of somebody they loved who trusted them to make everything all better. None of them had been forced to sell drugs and kidnap 12-year-old girls for the sake of staying alive. None of them had to deal with parents who beat them and told them that they hated them and wished they had never been born. None of them were forced to be slaves for their own parents and cook and clean and sleep in the attic. Nothing that I said was going to make them understand how much it sucked to have no life of your own.
I could see the looks of worry in their eyes as they questioned my sanity. I buried my face into her chest so I wouldn’t have to see those looks. She lifted me off the stairs and cradled me against her chest as she stood up and headed upstairs. When I opened my eyes I saw that she had brought me back to their room and was placing me on the bed. The sobs that wracked my body had subsided as she tucked me in and sat down beside me.
“It’s going to be fine Ellie,” she whispered keeping one arm around my waist. “Just rest.”
“Jake really did save my life,” I whispered. “He never wanted to hurt me.”
“Shhh.” Her fingers brushed the tears from my cheeks. I closed my eyes and forced back the tears. “Sleep,” she murmured softly.
I woke up to the soft plinks of the rain hitting the windows. I moaned softly and rolled over in the bed. Memories from yesterday suddenly engulfed my mind and I shot up out of the bed like a pop tart causing my head to spin dizzily.
“Did I wake you?” a soft voice came from the foot of the bed. I started at the sound. I turned to see her sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked like she had been crying again. I searched her eyes for signs of the completely justifiable anger.
“Hi,” I whispered quietly.
“You’re Ellie?” she asked in a soft voice. No anger.
“Yes. And you’re Julie.” I said not meeting her eyes. I stared down at my hands and twisted them nervously in my lap. “And no you didn’t wake me.”
The corners of her lips turned up slightly, carefully. We sat there for a moment in silence, neither one of us knowing what to say.
“What did you mean yesterday?” she asked abruptly. “When you said that...he loved you?”
My cheeks flushed and I felt a lump growing in my throat. “He didn’t want to kidnap me. He didn’t want to hurt me. He tried to…he did save me life.” The tears started to fall down my cheeks. “I should’ve died. He should be free. He should be with you.” It was getting hard to speak as the sobs built up in my chest and shook my body violently.
“He did it for me didn’t he?” she asked in a tear-filled voice.
“He loved you too Julie,” I managed to get out through my tears. “A lot.”
“Ellie?” she whispered.
“It’s my fault you got hurt. I knew about him kidnapping you.” My head snapped up and I stared at her with wide eyes.
“I saw them beating you. Jake told me not to go in the basement, but one night when he wasn’t home I snuck down there. I heard him coming home and I panicked and hid. I saw them throw you down the stairs and I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. When I saw Jake coming down the stairs I couldn’t believe it. I heard you begging them not to hurt you and screaming for help. I wanted to help you. I was about to scream, but then I saw them starting to beat you and I was too afraid. I thought that they would hurt me too.”
She was crying now with her face buried in her hands. My hand reached out hesitantly to touch her shoulder. “You did the right thing. Jake wouldn’t have hit you but Jared and Michael would have. You didn’t need to be hurt because of me.” She shook her head and cried louder.
“You looked so hurt and you were begging them to let you go. When Jake started hitting you I fainted. When I woke up they were gone and you were tied up and blindfolded. I went over to you and I saw the bruises all over you and the blood. You didn’t hear me there. You were crying. I left you there. I crawled out the basement window and then crawled into my bedroom window.” She lifted her face from her hands and looked at me with tear-filled eyes. “I kept thinking about you down there crying. I could have saved you but I didn’t.”
I wrapped my arms around her while she sobbed. She hugged me back, apologizing again and again. “Julie?” She didn’t respond. “You were scared. You didn’t have a choice.”
She lifted her face and stared at me. “Neither did you.”
Finally. Somebody understood. I smiled at her widely and she smiled back shyly.
“I forgive you Julie. I forgive Jake too.”