The Thorn in my Flesh *shortlisted for Movellist of the Year 2013*

Escaping captivity was just the beginning. “My breathing speeds up as I slowly come to realise what is going on, why I’m here, why I’m bound up, why he’s attempting to be nice to me: I’ve been kidnapped.” My name is Farrah Fisher, and I was kidnapped for nine years. Even though I escaped, am back home, the nightmares of the long, torturous days I spent in captivity still haunt me. The secrets I buried won’t stay hidden for long, no matter how hard I dig. Even I know that. Jordan Frost is hailed ‘the best defence lawyer in the City’. But when he takes on the most complicated and mysterious case he’s ever had, will his reputation be destroyed? For Farrah, escaping captivity was just the beginning.


2. Chapter One

2007 – Nine years later


    I sit in the chair, my insides mushy.

    Since it happened — since I’ve come back — I haven’t mentioned it. Of course, I’ve heard and read about it; heard what other people felt about the past. It’s like I don’t even exist – like my feelings about what happened to me don’t matter – the journalists know, don’t they? The ‘whole wide world’ thinks it knows how I’m feeling, but not in reality, they only want to know if it makes good television, good dramatic news. Only I know one hundred per cent how I am feeling about it. No one knows how different the world is to me, how…unreal it is. Everyone keeps pushing me, continuously asking me how I feel about it, how I feel to be home. The more they ask, the more I want to recoil into myself and not say a word.

    So, that’s why I’m here: to tell a goddamn counsellor how I feel. My mum, Cindy, thinks it’s ‘such a good way for me to express how I am feeling.’

    “My name is Farrah Fisher. I’m twenty-one years old. When I was twelve, I was kidnapped,” I answer, as I do every time I come here.

    By whom, I hear you ask; well, here, in this place and at home, we don’t speak his name. Of course, the entire world knows who it was, but his name is never mentioned by me, the counsellor or my mum. And yes, in answer to her next question, I escaped.

    And that same question is the one she asks me every single time I come. My name, what happened, my age. Apparently – and I read this on the internet –by getting a victim to answer this every time you meet, they will start adjusting to themselves, their environment and they might start to believe in themselves.

    The Internet; such a great invention. Seriously, I’d known nothing about it until about two months ago, when my mum had shown me what it was. And…wow.

    “And what happened? How did you get home?” the counsellor glances up from the rim of her glasses.

    I’m sure she doesn’t care how the hell I got home; she doesn’t even care about my feelings anymore. And why should she? For two months now, we’ve been meeting like this, and I know she’s lost all interest in me. I refuse to talk about it and she keeps pestering. The tapping foot, the clicking pen, and the glare tell me all I need to know. I guess as long as her pay check from my mum is huge, she will care.

        I am well aware that in contrast to her, I’m sticking out like a sore thumb – my Primark clothes, my dirty black Converse trainers – against her Gucci, Chanel and god knows what else. I feel so out of place.

    “I escaped, I ran. I ran until I couldn’t breathe.”

    In the back of my throat, I can taste the freedom, the panic, and the bitterness. My chest tightens suddenly, and I can recall all the familiar feelings, the memories…my mind opens the vault and I smell the rank room, feel the god-awful darkness, see the creepy smile…

    Shaking my head, I try to make the vault lock again. When it refuses, I put my hands to my head, grimacing.

    I feel like screaming at my memory, but I clench my teeth instead.

    The memories keep flashing like picture cards in my brain, making me feel sick. Each image bringing with it the horror of the memory; the rasping of my breath, trying to get rid of it until I just can’t take anymore. I know I have to get rid of it.

    Inhaling, I hold on to my breath for a minute, and then open my eyes one at a time. The counsellor is just staring at me, scrutinizing.

    Unclenching my teeth, I relax and the vault locks on me.

    “How does it feel to be home again?”

    “Like I’m a fraud,” I murmur, unaware I said it until I am asked ‘why’.

    “It’s like everyone knows. The entire world thinks they know what really happened, but they don’t,” I rant, clasping my mouth with both hands when I realise what I have just blurted out.

    “How do you feel toward him now?”

    I’ve been home for about two months now, and, believe me, I’ve thought about nothing but what I’d been through, what I have left behind.

    But the one thing I have yet to work out is how I feel about him; or my ‘kidnapper’ as he is dubbed. I mean, sure he took me from everything and everyone I know, but if anyone else has been through even half of what I have, then they too will realise why I may feel something nice toward him.

    I mean, I know that my paranoia, intense claustrophobia and my panic attacks come from him, and the situation he put me in. I also know full well that the dreams – no, nightmares – I suffer from are down to him and what he did to me.

    “You know, Farrah, it’s perfectly normal to be confused about how you feel after being in your situation,” she says.

    You may be thinking why I act so hostile? Well, let me tell you why.

    See, the thing is, I hate talking about what happened to me. To anyone. Even my mum doesn’t get to hear what I have to say about my experience. Especially to a counsellor, I mean, why would my mum think it might be a good idea to speak to a stranger about it, when I don’t even talk to her about it?

    I think back to the statement: ‘perfectly normal to be confused…’ Just thinking about it makes my brain ache.

    “Farrah, we’ve been seeing each other for two months now, and not once have you mentioned anything about yourself,” she sighs, looking up. “So, you live at home with your mother. Does your father live at home with you?”

    I sigh deeply, reluctant to say anything, but this isn’t trivial stuff, so why not?

    “No. My mum and dad split up when I while I was…away. I’ve been living with my mum since then,” I answer.

    Yes, I hate it. I wish my mum and dad were still together.

    I remember when my mum told me when I escaped, still in the hospital. I cried for an entire day.

    She’d told me ‘just because two people love each other doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together.’ And apparently, the strain of my disappearance made them fall apart, distant from each other. This last part, I only learned a month ago. I wish they could be together again, I really do, but it’s not my decision to make, and not something I’m going to discuss with a counsellor.

    “So, how do you think the claustrophobia is coming along, Farrah?” she asks with a nearly fake interest. “Do you feel it’s gotten better since our last meeting?”

    This office used to make my claustrophobia come back; it’s a medium sized room, like a spare bedroom in a flat with the walls painted white. It used to feel like a prison to me, but not anymore. I’ve been coming here regularly enough. 

    Running a hand through my hair, I remember how long it took me to get my hair back to normal again. I stare at the counsellor.

    “And that brings the session to a close,” she suddenly announces, making me jump.

    “What?” I ask.
    “It’s four o’clock. I’ll see you next week, Farrah.”

    And with that, she gets up and walks off.

    I stand up and gape at the chair where she had been sitting a moment earlier. Sometimes, I can hear my mum’s voice yelling at me to reveal something, to just tell her how I feel, what happened, why I don’t say a word. When I hear her voice, I then feel really guilty, so I start to say something, to spill things. Then, just as that noise begins to leave my mouth, my head stops me saying anything, and it traps all those thoughts and feelings inside me to sit there and simmer. Maybe part of my problem is that I don’t give anything away; or that’s what the counsellor has said before anyway; that I have a constant poker face about what happened and I keep everything inside of me.


    I meet my mum in the reception area. I put my hood up and my hands in my pockets as we open the doors and face the reporters. They know when I come here, how long I’ll be so that when I come out, they can try and get pictures, an interview, something. The only thing they get is a photo at best.

    My mind wanders to the counsellor again. She is such a patronizing cow, she really is. I mean; is it ‘perfectly normal’ to love and hate the person who kidnapped you for nine years? Perfectly normal is not how I feel. I feel like a child stuck in an adult’s body, I really do.


    The drive to my home from the counsellor’s is about fifteen minutes. My mum purposefully picked this one because of her closeness to our home.

    We’re silent in the car, the only noise is the faint sound of some music on the radio. The song that’s playing, I know it: it’s called ‘Lost’ but the artist I have no idea about. I remember listening to the radio before I was…before. It used to be all Britney Spears, Steps, other pop artists like that. This new music, it just doesn’t sound right to me. It’s too much change.

    In annoyance, I reach out to the radio and slam my hand over the ‘off’ button, turning off that annoying jazz song about his love not being lost.

    “Why’d you turn that off? I love that song,” Mum complains.

    I don’t bother with a response, I just turn in the chair so my body is facing my door and she’s no longer in my line of vision.


    Since I came home, my mum’s been keeping a close eye on me, always making sure she knows where I am, where I am going, when I’ve got to be home… she’s way too overprotective. Although, I do get it, I just feel it’s too much, like she’s too overpowering.

    To look at, my mum is overpowering as well. She’s really tall, so when you’re my height, it looks like she’s up in the clouds.

    The car suddenly stops. We’re stuck in a queue; we can’t move anymore.

    Looking at the road ahead, I see it. We’re at the end of that road.

    The road I got taken from.


    I’m staring at the point I will never forget and always recognise. My heart pounds against my chest, my head throbs and my throat dries out.

    My brain starts to shout out at my eyes to stop looking and to my mum to try and move the car from the road faster.

    The screech of the car echoes in my ears. Closing my eyes, I clearly remember thinking only about getting to the park to meet Lori and Deanne, my best friends since I was three; the flash of a deep blue car in the corner of my eye.

    The car begins moving again, taking me away from the memories, tearing them from my head.

    As we drive around the corner, my head instinctively moves to the right so I can see the road again.

    When I eventually return my gaze to the road ahead, I feel the utter relief from my entire body. It feels like a wave has just washed over me, and the tide has gone back out, taking with it a huge weight off my shoulder.

    It’s when we turn the corner into our road that both my mum and I sigh in annoyance. The flashing cameras, the yelling…

    It’s the press. The journalists, wanting a story, wanting my take on things. Again.

    “Ignore everything they say. Block it out, just get into the house, okay?” my mum says, the first thing she’s said the entire drive. They clock our car as it pulls into the drive, where they’re waiting like vultures. But, as soon as they see me, they rush up in one huge group.

    “Farrah, what do you think about it?”

    “Farrah, did you know?”

    “Where were you?”

    Fighting past the crowd, I keep my mouth tightly closed. They follow me regardless, flashing their cameras for a photo, yelling their questions constantly. No doubt I’ll be in tomorrow’s papers, on the national news. There are usually press outside our house, but never like this, they’re not usually this excited about me, about something. I don’t even understand what they were asking me about, so something must’ve happened.

    I wonder what’s going on this time…

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