Fragmented

She has many masks, all a forger's masterpieces to appease her nameless captor until she earned his trust. Yet, as he liberates her of her modern-day dungeon, she hesitates to leave.

Fighting her angels and demons, the nameless girl undergoes a harrowing journey that strains on her emotional being until the very day she breaks. It is too the day she escapes.

To outsiders, she has a clinical form of Stockholm's Syndrome. To her, she cannot redeem herself for what she has done. To her, she is irrevocably damaged. To her, she cannot be saved.

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1. A Short Story

 

 

Light, quivering warmth fell upon her face, stirring her from slumber. Washed over with the residues of her dream, her ears still rang with a whisper of her name.

            Anna…Anna…Anna…Anna

            It sounded unfamiliar, like an inexperienced tongue rolling over the vowels. But it didn’t matter, because it was hardly her name anymore.

            Walking barefoot to the tiny bathroom, she struggled to separate herself from the dream. However, as she showered under cold water, she could still hear it, a torturous word, one that might drive her to insanity.

            Anna…Anna…Anna…Anna

            “Nicole, my dear…”

            Chills perforated her spine. However, it passed as soon as it came. She calmly tucked the edge of her towel under her arm before turning around, flashing a smile towards the voice.

            “Good morning…” he mumbled, burying his face into the curve of her neck. She stared at the mirror above the sink. The voice in her dreams vanished at once. I am no one, she thought.

 ***

He ate with a hearty appetite, complementing her cooking as he shoveled in mouthfuls. She handed him another plate of scrambled eggs and began washing up. With a burp and a few more insignificant exclamations over her cooking, he got up and kissed her goodbye.

            The house was quiet, with only the pitter patter of her feet against the kitchen floor to disrupt the throbbing silence. She explored the house once more, finding nothing that she hadn’t known before. Sometimes, when she was tired, she would close her eyes and explore, her feet agilely stepping over the creaking floorboards, her body expertly weaving through mundane obstacles in the form of furniture, her fingers running over each surface of each object. She knew the house by heart.

            After the quick exploration, she sat down at the kitchen table, staring at the open kitchen door. Sometimes, the little boy next door would drop his ball into the flower garden she tended to. She would throw it back, smiling as she heard a soft thank you. Sometimes, the neighbor to the left would poke her head over the fence, supplying polite, neighborly conversation. Most of the time, no one came.

            She hesitated between the kitchen door and the garden, an invisible cord tugging her back into the house. She debated with herself, do I love him? But I can’t love him. But I do, don’t I? Why do I stay, if I don’t?

            Finally, she walked out through the kitchen door, shutting the door with a soft click. She came out into the front through the garden door, feeling the heat of the pavement against the soles of her feet.

            The heat was unbearable. As she staggered through the eerily quiet neighborhood, her head throbbed, her vision blurring. Children were in school, adults at work, no one tended to the barking dog somewhere, no one answering the door to an exasperated visitor.

            As she neared a more bustling part of the suburb, she saw a signboard. It was an attention demanding signboard, with photographs of children, teenagers and adults plastered over it. Above hung the words, MISSING, a rather hopeful word, yet, despairingly saddening as well.

            There was a girl, not quite fourteen, with a baby-faced frame, not quite a teenager, yet certainly not a child. Fourteen was an awkward age for her. The soulful grey eyes resembled hers. Besides that, she no longer looked fourteen. Below the picture was the girl’s name – ANNA SHERMAN.

            She looked away from the signboard, tears welling up. To avoid the eye-catching board again, she turned an unfamiliar corner. As a car whizzed past, she stopped short. Doubt clouded her mind, wrestling her logic.

            She had freedom. Not always, but she had it a long time ago. She earned it with every smile, every adoring gesture, every consent. She remembered the first few years, after her day was over, after he turned the lock, when she felt sick to her stomach, disgusted of herself, for giving in, for obeying, for clinging so pathetically to an undignified life.

            Self-loathe bubbled in her. At first, during the first few months, she did fight, she had hope, she fiercely believed that he shouldn’t destroy her. During those moments, when she kicked and scratched, her mind was burned with one word, rape. As she lost her fight, hope trickling away with the years, she begun to succumb. Every time she looked into the mirror, she was reminded of what she became. It wasn’t rape anymore if she consented; it wasn’t rape anymore if she forgot.

            She could’ve escaped a long time ago. Instead, she stayed. Instead, she offered smile after smile, laugh after laugh. Instead, she bounded herself to him. Who would believe her now?

            But she couldn’t go back.

            What’s wrong with me? She thought, repulsed. What the fuck is wrong with me?

            Energy drained away as she felt caught in between two worlds. If she went back, she would never forgive herself. If she was found, no one would forgive her. Her feet swayed. Unable to continue, she sat down by the window of a shop.

            Time went by unnoticed. For all she knew, she was stuck in a limbo of decisions, a lifetime of unending contemplation. Her catatonic state was shattered as a hand shook her shoulder. She looked up wearily.

            ‘Miss, are you all right?’ it was a woman, early fifties, with a face of concern.

            She wanted to turn away, but something caught her eye. Around the neck of the woman hung a silver locket, a tiny, rectangular clasp-on frame dangling.

            She remembered, as a baby, one of her earliest memories, the fun of chasing the silvery locket, opening and closing her pudgy hands, waiting to hold onto the prize. Her mother would laugh and wave the rectangle locket between her eyes, teasing her on. She had caught it once, and sank her teeth unto it. The soft metal was dented, forever imprinted was the mark of her youth.

            At last, she still turned away, slowly getting up and walking to wherever the road led. Tears formed once again, yet they did not recede. As the tears touched her lips, she winced at the bitterness. Anger shook her very core, leaving her at her most vulnerable. Twelve years had passed since that day he took her. Twelve years that she hoped her family was looking for her. Twelve years of fervent prayer.

            She hoped that her mother would say her name, her true name when they met. She hoped that she could still be Anna, that she could still easily fit into the space left in her family, picking up where she left off, forgetting the unforgettable.

            She found her way back to the signboard. Half an hour ago, she thought she was found when her mother touched her. Here she was again, missing.

 

 ***

Eleanor Sherman looked on as the woman staggered away, a word tugging at her larynx.

            ‘Anna.’

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