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.


4. Chapter Three



    At home, I switch on the TV to watch the latest of what people are saying about me, wondering the reason for more media outside the house than usual. I wonder what they are going to say today.

    Instead of it being some big headline about me, which I have to admit, is kind of relieving; I find this instead:

    ‘Breaking news: Police have found the body of Brian Cooper, the man who kidnapped Farrah Fisher nine years ago. Recently, he escaped police custody after being found and charged on kidnapping, and has never been found since. A police statement released earlier today states that the police believe it to be a homicide; but a more thorough investigation will reveal more. More on that story as it develops.’

    A picture of a house comes up.

    I know that house, I’m sure I do…


    Like a train going at full speed, the knowledge smacks me in the face. The face on the screen gleams out at me, smiling that all-too-familiar smile that I have been watching for nine years. That grin, that welcoming, evil…

    It’s not just any kidnapper that happened to take a girl nine years ago. This is no coincidence:

    This is my kidnapper who’s been murdered.

    Tears fill my eyes.

    I laugh out loud.

    That man deserves it


    It is all over the news.

    Exactly the same broadcast.

    On every channel.

    All the same questions.

    Broadcasting everywhere, in every country.

    Pictures of the house.

    Apparently, the kidnapper – who only got caught about one week ago and who escaped police custody – has now been found, dead, in his home, the house where he kept me, concealed to anyone else. And of course, the question on everyone’s lips: who did it? Why?

    Tears fill my eyes and they flow down from my eyes and land with a drop, drop, drop on the floor below me.

    After the initial laugh, my heart lurches out me, and my breath gets stuck in my throat. I can’t breathe and my head hurts. My legs turn to jelly and I fall down to the floor with a thump. The walls close in on me and it seems like I’m back there again, reliving it all, the pain, the agony, and the tears…


    I must have zoned out because the next thing I know is I’m being hugged and spoken to by my mum. Anything to keep my mind from the real world.

    Yeah, still living with my mum. Apparently, she wants to keep an eye on me ever since I was found and she never wants to let me go again. Whatever, I’m not complaining, I get everything done for me and paid for… especially now, I haven’t been in the ‘real world’ for a good nine years.

    My mum and I have a strained relationship. It’s been like that ever since I came home. She’s overpowering me, and I don’t like it. As much as I know it’s for my own good, I’m twenty-one-years-old, you know?

    Okay, so I am not like any other twenty-one-year-old in Southampton, but still…I have been legally an adult for three years now.

    We never really speak like mother and daughters usually do, we use small talk, I don’t speak about my experience and she doesn’t ask about it. To be honest, we don’t even know each other anymore; all I know of her is what she was like before. And that’s all she knows of me. 

    I don’t even hear what she says; I just rock myself back and forth for about twenty minutes when I shake her off and stand.

    “Farrah?” Mum asks me, sounding like she’s pitying me.

    I look at her and say, “He deserved it,” without any expression in my voice. Although, while I say it, my heart’s telling me I am wrong, and that he doesn’t deserve it, he doesn’t deserve to be hurt, ever.

    I can’t believe how confused I am about what to feel. Sure, I am happy, but I’m sad as well. I just don’t know exactly how I’m feeling. As I walk out the room, I feel her shock and bewilderment boring into my back. Ascending the stairs to my room, I feel myself turn and my mood become calm and still.

    Sitting cross-legged and closing my eyes, my mind just empties and I begin to meditate – a technique I learned while I was a prisoner – and begin to deep breathe while my mind calms itself.

    Opening my eyes, I silently dart my eyes around the room. Nothing here reminds me of the past nine years, that’s good.

    See, the thing is, my mum re-decorated my room every year, to keep it up-to-date with my age. Now, it looks simple; like a twenty-one year-old that still lives at home; painted cream with one wall a deep red. There’s dark coloured furniture – chest of drawers, wardrobe – and my bed is big enough to be considered as a double bed. I have no ornaments, posters or photos, but I have a hairbrush, a collection of make-up, straighteners, a hairdryer and a mirror. All very basic, and very minimal, but it does the job.

    I know that she actually did clear out the spare room and put all my art supplies in there. I’ve since moved the paper and pencils in my room so I can draw if I feel like it. I have not properly drawn something since I was taken and since I’ve been home, I’ve been hoping to get my drawing bug back, but in reality I haven’t even picked up a pencil in fear of losing my ‘artistic flair’ as my art teacher used to call it.


    I approach the mirror slowly and look into it, scrutinizing the reflection in front of me: a five-foot-four woman is standing there, long silky blonde hair, pale skin, piercing blue eyes that are leaking salty tears. Looking at the reflection makes me feel sick. Not being able to stand it any longer, she turns from the reflection. I wish I could be a stranger.

    Sniffing back the tears, my legs hit out at me in tiredness. As I lie down, my eyes roll back and my lids close. Forcing my lids open with my fingers and staring at the blank ceiling, I think about the last time I saw him.

    He never expected me to run. Not in a million years. Nor did I for that matter; I’d thought about it, sure, but executing that idea; never. But I did it, and now look what’s happened; he’s dead.

    Is it my fault? Well, yeah, of course it is.





    “Farrah!” I yell.

    No response. She just runs up the stairs, not even looking back. I jump as she slams her bedroom door behind her.

    I stare at the stairs, where she’d just been standing and let out a sigh.

    The bastard is dead, been murdered apparently. He got what was coming to him for taking my daughter and keeping her for nine years.

    I remember it, clear as a bell, the day she disappeared.


    Farrah was twelve years old. Just twelve. She was on her way to the park to meet her friends. As it’s so close to our house, I had let her walk there, naively, but just as long as she was back for dinner at six, when her dad, Michael got home from work.

The feelings return to me, the anger at six pm when Farrah didn’t return on time.

    “Damn child,” I’d complained to Michael when he got home.

    “She’s twelve, Cind, she’s bound to start pushing the limits. She’ll be home,” he had assured me.

    He’s right, I had thought, She’ll be fine, she’ll be back. But when she does, there will be hell to pay.

    It was by nine pm that I had phoned her on her mobile phone, after a row with Michael about worrying. He’d thought that I should leave her alone, let her come back of her own accord, but I had thought differently. She’d promised to be home, to phone me. I’d phoned her and found that her phone wasn’t on. Her phone was always on; she was obsessed with that thing.

    “Michael, she’s not home, she’s not answering her phone,” I’d panicked. “It’s been three hours now.” Farrah was – and still is – my only child and, after my husband, my only real love.

    If anything happens to her… I’d thought; my mind unable to finish the sentence. She’s my baby.

    Michael finally started worrying an hour later, when Farrah still hadn’t come home. He’d gone to the park himself to see if he could find her, but she wasn’t there. I’d phoned Deanne and Lori’s – Farrah’s friends – mums, but apparently Farrah hadn’t even turned up at the park.

    I can clearly recall the ache in my chest as I related the information to Michael. I can clearly recall the daggers in my chest.


    We’d phoned the police at eleven-pm, given them photos, even given them her damned art work just in case they see something in it, information on things like clothing that day, her looks, answers to things like ‘why wouldn’t she have gone to the park’ and ‘why wouldn’t she have come home, or phone’ which were ‘we don’t know’.

    Apparently, they were going to start looking straight away, but they can’t classify it as a missing persons case until she’s been missing for twenty-four hours. The police officer gave us a number to phone if Farrah turned up, contacted or we had any questions.

    As they left, I clearly remember sitting on the couch, falling helplessly into my husband’s worried embrace with only one question: ‘why is this happening’?


    Feeling completely useless, I turn the goddamn television off, not wanting to hear or see any more of the torment. The reporters outside are bad enough.

    How many more times do I have to tell them I know nothing? How many more pictures do they need?

    It’s only when I step into the kitchen that I collapse in the chair. Tears stream down my face, full of helplessness, confusion, anger…satisfaction.

    Nine years of torment, of torture, hoping, praying, wishing Farrah’s alive. Waking up every day, hoping that the knock on the door or the ring of the phone is the one delivering my only daughter home, alive.

    After nine years, I finally get that call, and now…I still don’t have my Farrah back. That happy, sarcastic, quick-witted, smart, beautiful girl isn’t here anymore. He took her and replaced her with a quiet, withdrawn, spaced-out…stranger.

    Even after countless time and money trying to bring her back, even now he’s dead, all hope of my daughter returning is diminished.

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