She had a painful past, one that made her put up barriers against everyone. When she is alone, she feels an odd connection to nature, as if there was something she is missing out in the wild. She brushes it off, but it never leaves. But when a mysterious man who knows more about her than he should wanders into her town and offers her a better life, she decides she has nothing to lose. As her life starts to look up however, she begins to have strange dreams. Suddenly, she is faced with questions about her life. What do the dreams mean? Who is this man? Could she really open up to someone, or would she get hurt again? As her past begins to haunt her, she must decide who she’s willing to trust. Will she shut out another person to protect herself? Or will she finally let her guard down and learn to love again? Only time will tell.


20. Dangerous Liasons

Highway Chapter 20


            I couldn’t move. It was as if my body was frozen in a block of ice, immobilizing me. My worst nightmare was standing casually in front of me, looking down with a smile on his disfigured face. The grin made his wound even more ghastly than before. I didn’t remember what it looked like, but I could see it now.

The eye was completely destroyed, a slit running across it. But the cut didn’t end there. It started at his eyebrows, coming down to the end of his nose. It was gnarled and scarred, a faded red color. It was an awful sight to see for anyone, and I wondered how these men hung around him like this. He bent down, crouching in front of me.

He reached out for my face, and I couldn’t even flinch. Lifting it with caution, he examined where I had been slapped. I couldn’t even think anymore. He frowned, the scar contorting at odd angles.

“Who did this?” he asked, that voice causing uncontrollable shivers to rise again.

When I didn’t answer, he stood up.

“Well?” he asked, his voice loud and commanding, “Who was it? This couldn’t have been an accident during the struggle.”

He gestured to me. When it grew quiet, he wandered around the circle, scanning over each man. He came to stop next to the two men who had brought me here.

“Jack? Marshall? Could either one of you have something to do with this?”

His voice was casual and light, but it held a deadly undertone. The man who had hit me, Jack, fidgeted nervously.

“Come on, fellas,’ he said breezily, “Things happen, I understand. Just tell me.”

Jack spoke up.

“She had just bit me, that’s all. She was thrashing around and I was mad. I know you don’t like that though boss, so I’m sorry.”

My father drew in a deep breath, as if preparing to say something. Then, without warning, he lunged at Jack. He punched him in the face violently, knocking him to the ground.

“If you knew I didn’t like it, why would you consciously do it? Because you were mad? If I acted on my emotions like you did, you would have just gotten a lot more than a punch.”

He looked at him with disdain, the anger written on his features.

“I’ll have you know that you picked a terrible person to hit, my friend,” he said, dark and annoyed, “This happens to be my daughter, and the only other surviving member of the family. Do you still think it’s okay you hit her?”

He shoved him as he tried to get up. On his way over to Jack, he tripped on the other girl’s foot. She screamed, much louder than one would have thought could have come from such a small girl. She didn’t stop, and so he rounded on her.

“Shut up!” he said, leaning close to her face.

The gruesome sight made her look faint, and she seemed like she was going to collapse right there. He sighed, pinching his nose.

“Put her with the others,” he commanded to another man, gesturing to a small unit off to the side.

He picked up the frantic girl, slinging her over his shoulder. When he went for me however, my father intervened.

“No, not her. I need to speak with my daughter about some very important matters. We need to catch up. Isn’t that right, darling Veronica?”

His smile made me feel sick. He told another man to take me to the dressing room first, and then to his office.

“To be clear, she isn’t one of the normal girls. If I find that anything has happened to her, whoever did it will have to face the consequences. Does everyone understand?”

They nodded, looking away. The man picked me up, and began to walk away. He went inside, and my spell was broken. Now that I was not under the influence of my father, I could move again.

“Let go of me you freak! Put me down! I said let go!”

I pounded on his back with my fists, kicking in the air. He winced as he shifted me, picking up the pace.

“Oi!” he shouted, “Stop fussing! Watch what you say to me!”

I continued to attack him, elbowing his neck as best I could.

“Oh, yeah?” I asked, challenging and defiant, “Or what? Are you going to hit me? That didn’t go over too well for the last guy.”

I smirked at him, attempting to show my contempt. I didn’t understand my father being here, but I still wouldn’t let them bully me. He hesitated, and shrugged.

“He didn’t say I couldn’t carry you the whole way, or even that I had to take off the restraints when I set you down.”

I smacked him in the head one more time out of spite, thinking of a plan. If I could make the man mad enough, I could get injured again. That didn’t sound fun, but the more incapacitated the group was from fighting with my father, the better. I called him several names, and hit him every chance I got. Why wasn’t he doing anything? I suppose after the display outside, they were all scared of my father.

Where had they taken the girl? What was my father planning on doing that required me to be separated? The questions flashed through my mind like the lightning, and I didn’t have the answers to any of them.

The man stopped inside a small room, one of many inside the unit. They must have been offices. The room was littered with outfits, ranging from formal wear to Halloween costumes. I was sure I knew the reason why they were all here. The man dropped me to the ground, finally glad I wasn’t on his back.

“The boss wants you to change into something.” He said, gesturing to the racks of clothing.

No way in hell was I about to change for him.

I glared at him in defiance, saying, “And if I refuse?”

I was going to make this as difficult as possible. He looked entirely frustrated, and I wondered if I had finally gotten to him. Instead of going after me, he pulled out a walkie talkie. I cursed myself as I remembered mine, sitting back at the hotel. A whole lot of good it’s done me.

He spoke into the radio, calling my father.

“What?” came his irritated reply, crackling through the device.

“She doesn’t want to change, what do I do?”

They conferred for a moment before ending the transmission.

“He gives me permission to dress you if I have to. Your choice, really.”

God, he was disgusting. The look on his face told me that it would be his pleasure to follow out the instruction. No way. I thought about attacking him, but I was still handcuffed and he was too large for me to win.

“You’re sick,” I spit out at him, wishing looks could kill.

He shrugged.

“So what’s it going to be?” he asked.

I gave him a glare.

“I don’t need your help, you freak.” I responded.

He shrugged again. Why wasn’t he uncuffing me?

“Do you expect me to be able to change with handcuffs on? You’re even more stupid than I thought. I guess you can’t expect much from the help.”

His face grew red with anger, but he still refrained from action. My father must have really done some horrible things to people who didn’t follow orders. He stormed over to me, unlocking and wrenching away the handcuffs. When he didn’t leave, I snarled at him.

“What, are you gonna stand there? Enjoy the view? Get out of here! Or should I say you hit me? I could easily smash my face into one of these bars.”

The fact that they feared him could be used to my advantage, and I was going to milk it for all it was worth. Without another word, he went out the door, where I heard a resounding click. Great. After he was gone, I sank to the floor.

Why was I here? Why me? I had finally become happy again, and then this happened. And it wasn’t even a normal kidnapping, where I could free myself with more ease. The spotlight was on me, and there wasn’t a way to get out.

Where was Matt? What if he couldn’t find my clues? It wasn’t raining as hard as before, but it was still dark. What if he wasn’t even coming? The small doubtful voice had come back. Maybe he gave up. He isn’t going to track you down in the rain. You pushed him away too many times. He won’t find you, or even try.

No! He would find me, right? I bet right now he was running through the rain, racing to find me. But… What if he wasn’t? I switched between my thoughts. He hadn’t shown up yet. He wouldn’t be able to find the trail at night. Maybe he was even dead. Those men left behind could have killed him. But it would take a long time to run here, and my shirt was neon green. And he seemed to be such an experienced fighter; I couldn’t believe they would have killed him. But what if they did?

I felt tears start to well up in my eyes. Stop it! I told myself, this is no time for crying! I needed to be strong here, or I wouldn’t make it out alive, much less with my sanity. Matt wasn’t dead, I told myself. If he was alive, he would be coming to rescue me, and there needed to be something to rescue when he got here.

Even if he was dead, I still needed to make it out of here. I had gotten myself out of sticky situations before, and I would this time. Both my brother and Matt had worked too hard for me to just give up now. It would be a disgrace to them.

Thinking of my brother gave me strength. My father had killed him, but not before he gave him the same scar he bears today. I won’t let you down, I promise. I thought, gazing at the ceiling above me.

If my brother could hurt him at my age, so could I. I wasn’t a kid anymore, or at least I wasn’t so small. I was almost an adult legally, and he couldn’t bully me around anymore. The initial shock of seeing him was wearing off, and I could think much more clearly now. Next time we met, I wouldn’t freeze.

I stood up slowly, leaning on the wall. I rubbed my wrists, now bloody and bruised from my fussing. They had dug into my skin when I used the worn down serrated edge to cut off parts of my undershirt.

The rain pattered softly on the roof, creating white noise in the background. I wondered if the storm was ending. Sighing, I set off to look at the outfits. They were all entirely too revealing, which made sense. Still, I wasn’t going to put any of them on.

After a few minutes of searching, I spotted a formal dress at the end. It was a dark blue, with thin straps. Contrasting light blue flowers ran across the side, outlined in glittering rhinestones. It was a ball gown, flaring out at the hips. It was way too girly for me, but it was the most decent thing in the room. Sighing, I unzipped the dress and stepped into it.

The fabric rustled from underneath as I zipped and hooked it. I wondered why they had such a formal gown in here, but decided not to think about it too much. There was a full length mirror leaned on the wall, and I saw myself reflected in it.

My hair was a dripping mess, sticking out and tangled. My face was still swollen where I had been hit, a black and blue bruise forming. Still, I could have looked worse. The blue dress complemented my pale skin, and looked good with my hair. It was a beautiful dress, which made it seem even more wrong to be in a place like this. I didn’t appreciate my hair hanging in front of my face, and I looked around for something to put it up.

There were makeup cases littered about, but I would never give them the pleasure of seeing me with it on. I wasn’t one of their girls, and I refused to even act like it. I spotted a basket full of hair accessories across from me. Why did they have all of these things? Did they like to dress up the girls? I wouldn’t be surprised. If they were sick enough to kidnap girls, they were sick enough to dress them up.

I shuffled through it, finding a large hair clip shaped like a Plumeria. It had blue jewels encrusted along the edges, with a white substance like porcelain used for the flower. I wondered if I could break it to make shards for a weapon, but it seemed too synthetic. I twisted my hair into a bun and used the clip on it.

I hated my hair when it was put up, but it was better than it hanging in my face, dripping on everything. After tucking in the strands and making sure it was going to stay, I looked around.

There were no windows except one at the very top of the wall, as I had first seen when I came in. I wondered if I could stand on one of the racks and try to reach the window, but I was doubtful. Still, I was going to try what I could.

I shoved the racks, and the wheels on the bottom shifted. After I positioned it below the window, I climbed on top of it. The dress hindered my movement, but I managed to reach the top. I was too short to reach the window, but it was within jumping distance. My still wet shoes were slippery, and slid on the metal bar. I leaned against the wall unsteadily, and took them off. I also peeled of my socks, for I would need relatively dry feet to do this.

Could I pull myself up if I could get a hold on the edge? Just as I was about to try, I heard a knock.

“I’m coming in,” The man from before said.

“Just a minute,” I called, “I’m not ready yet.”

I lunged for the window, but my hand slipped on the ledge. I sliced my hand against a nail, but didn’t cry out.

“The boss wants to see you, hurry up,” He said.

I had bought a little bit of time, but I heard a key turning in the lock. I leaped down from the edge, almost falling forward. If he saw me trying to escape, he would handcuff me again. If I wanted to have any chance of getting out of here, I needed to remain unrestrained.

He appeared just as I had reached the mirror, and I pretended to fix my hair. He looked at my figure slowly, his eyes traveling up and down. He didn’t hide his look of appreciation.

“Hey,” I barked at him, “Keep your eyes to yourself, pal.”

He looked away, but I already felt disgusted. He had said that I was going to see my father, so I looked frantically for anything last minute I could use as a weapon. I couldn't get the man with it and try to escape, but I had an element of surprise with my father.

“Come on,” he said, nodding to the door, “He’s waiting. You don’t want to make him wait.”

I didn’t have anything I could use. Suddenly, I spotted a metal hair comb in the basket, the edges sharp and strong. It wasn’t much, but I could get my father in the other eye if I timed it just right. But how was I going to get it with the man still there? He would see me if I just picked it up, and I couldn’t pretend to put it in my hair because of the clip already occupying it. Realizing I didn’t have any shoes, I hoped to distract him that way.

“Do you expect me to go without shoes? You didn’t have any, and now I’ve just been sitting here without shoes. The floor has so many things on it. I don’t think my father would appreciate if I got an infection because somebody told me hurry up and I got cut.”

He looked at me incredulously, saying “They’re right over there!”

He pointed to a box. It wouldn’t have hurt to walk over there, but I did see several pieces of sharp things.

“I can’t go over there! I’ll get cut by those pieces. Bring them over here!”

He seemed like he was going to say no, but changed his mind. Apparently fear was a big factor here, and it was a good thing too. He turned, grumbling and went to get the box. As he was facing the other way, I swiftly grabbed the comb.

Where would I put it? I don’t have any pockets. I had seen a girl put a gun under her dress in movies before, so I tucked it between my leg and the folds of material. It wasn’t an ideal place, but it would be unseen and I could reach it if I was in a bad situation.

“Hey,” he said, sounding confused.

My heart froze, for I thought he had seen me. But he wasn’t looking at me still, and I wondered if he knew I had moved the rack. Don’t notice, don’t notice, don’t notice, I chanted in my head. I hadn’t had time to move it back before he came in, and it the mistake could’ve just cost me my freedom. The man turned towards me, and I forced myself to keep a straight face. If he hadn’t noticed, I couldn’t give it away.

“You don’t look like the boss very much,” he continued, “Do you look like your mom?”

My heart gave away to relief, and I sighed to myself with relief. I gave him another glare, not inviting conversation. He set down the box, and I looked at them. I was too clumsy for the heels, which was unfortunate due to the number of them in the box. I spotted a pair of small strappy ones, the heel only a few inches off the ground. Thinking it was the best I could do, I reach for them.

The man was watching me now, and I panicked when I almost dropped the shoe. I had carelessly forgotten about my hand, which was bleeding now. It wasn’t serious, but it had made my hand slick. I wouldn’t be able to hide it from him if he was watching, and he would demand to know what happened.

Hoping to distract him, I answered his question.

“I don’t know,” I said as he looked to my face, “I don’t remember her. But my brother says I did, and I believe him.”

Although these people didn’t deserve to hear about my brother, talking about him kept my thoughts clear. I strapped on the shoes as I continued to talk, slipping twice. I stood a little unsteadily, and gestured for him to lead the way. Now was the time to be on my best behavior, for I needed them to let their guard down.

“Walk in front of me. I don’t want any funny business, all right?”

I scoffed, but nodded anyway. He pressed a hand against my back, and I resisted the urge to slap him. I closed my hand, putting pressure on the cut to stop the bleeding.

He led me across the warehouse, taking several turns into aisles. I tried to memorize the path, in case I needed to bolt. I wondered why they didn’t blind fold me. Was it just because this didn’t seem like a permanent hideout? Did they think they would never see me again? Or was it something more sinister?

We came across another office like the one I was just in, and the man told me to stop.

“He’s just inside.” He commented.

I didn’t want to go, but I didn’t have much of a choice. But before I saw my father again, I needed to ensure I wouldn’t freeze. I thought of my brother and Matt, all of the good memories. Then, I thought of how my brother stood up to my father, of him stabbing his eye. He had bled back then, and so he could now. He was not invincible.

I thought of Matt, how strong he had seemed when he stood up to the boy who had tripped me. He was coming; I would just have to wait. Then I thought of all the bad things my father had done to me, the memories flooding back.

My brother had shielded me from most of the abuse, but the rest of my family wasn’t given the same protection. I thought of my mother’s ankles, so pale, covered in bruises. Her milky white skin always had some color in it. My brother would joke that he got dirty when I would ask why his face was dark in places, but it would never wash away. I knew then at least a little, but it was clear to me now.

Even when he was sober, my father was still violent if you made him mad. Thinking of these things made me angry, and I used that anger to clear my head. If I stayed mad enough, I would be able to drive away the fear. I steeled myself, resolving to piss him off but stay away from the breaking point. Even though I wasn’t as small anymore, he was a bigger guy.

If I could drag out the time it took to talk to him, Matt might be able to get here before anything could occur. I didn’t know what was going to happen afterwards, but I couldn’t let that distract me now. The only way to survive this was to focus on the moment.

I gripped the doorknob, slowing turning it. When I entered, I heard the door lock behind me. The sound of the click startled me, but I didn’t let it show. My father was standing in front of a desk, looking over a large book. He didn’t turn, and I wondered if he heard me come in.

I could hear the rain outside come down harder, and the wind howled ferociously. I peered outside the small window, hesitant to look away, but curious about the storm. A flash of lightning lit up the mildly dark room, a large crash sounding almost immediately afterwards. I flinched slightly.

I had told Matt I wasn’t too fond of lightning, but I was actually very scared of it. It reminded me of nights I had spent alone, under a table. My father was still facing the desk, and I began to grow irritated. The man who had tormented me and my brother for so long couldn’t even look at me?

“Hey,” I called, making my voice as snarky as possible, “Are you going to stand there all night?”

He laughed under his breath.

“She speaks,” he said, “I had thought you might have gone mute. Your lack of reaction was surprising.”

He turned to me now, smiling. He had put on an eye patch now, covering most of the scar. Why was he acting so nice? He must have wanted something, but I didn’t know what. I hoped it wasn’t the reason the other girls were here, or he was even sicker than I had originally thought.

“Could it be that you perhaps don’t remember me? Sometimes young children repress memories.”

He asked, looking at me curiously. I wish I didn’t remember you, you scum. I don’t want to have any association with you.

“Oh, I remember you. I could never forget such a lowly piece of scum like you.”

The anger was keeping me alive, but I needed to be careful I didn’t push his buttons too much. He frowned, looking mildly upset. Then, he laughed. It was a loud, roaring laugh, as if I had said the funniest thing in the world.

“I knew you would grow up to be sassy. You’re a tough one, just like your brother.”

He wiped his eyes, leaning backwards on the desk for support.  Again, he was acting suspiciously kind for what he used to be. He obviously hadn’t changed, or he wouldn’t be running this operation. If anything, he had become even crazier. I proceeded with caution, attempting to gauge the situation.

I could feel the comb against my leg, but I wasn’t close enough to cause enough damage. Since the door was locked behind me, I would either have to get his keys or attempt to escape through the window as I had before. Either way, I would need an ample amount of time.

I also couldn’t make much noise, for I was sure the man was waiting just outside. His mention of my brother made me boil on the inside, but I forced it down. Ever since I had been with Matt, I had become much better at controlling my anger. I decided to use the voice he used to talk to uncooperative locals, but not quite as polite.

“Why am I here?” I asked.

He seemed to ponder the question for a moment before leaning back.

“Why? Because fate brought us back together, my dear.”

I bit back my retort.

“You see, I run this fine operation,” he said as he gestured around, “And we move around. I pick up naughty little girls who need help and give them new homes.”

He made it seem like a positive thing. His lunacy had definitely increased since I last saw him. He was sick, a perverted old man. Still, his eyes held that gleam of intelligence and cunning, and I knew him not one to be trifled with. He may have aged, but his mind was just as sharp. He had also seemed to have taken good care of his body, judging from his speed and strength when he punched Jack.

“I knew you were a sick bastard,” I said with defiance, “But I didn’t think you were this disgusting.”

He seemed discontent with my comment. There was no laugh following, and I wondered exactly where he drew the line. He was too hard to read, and so I couldn’t judge what did and didn’t affect him. He moved away from the desk, pacing around the room. My eyes followed his every movement, and I tensed in anticipation. He still wasn’t close enough for me to deal sufficient enough damage.

Suddenly, he stopped.

“The fact that you’re here means that you haven’t been a very good girl. But the case is different with you, Veronica,” he said, “I’m not going to find you a new home, because you’re going to come back to your first one. I’m sorry that I left you, because I haven’t been there to have the proper influence on your life. It seems clear to me now that you need me. You’ve become unruly and wild, and so I’ll just have to fix that.”

Before I could react, he slapped me, in the very same place as the man before. I tried to get up from where I had sunk to the floor to attack him with the comb, but I stopped myself. He had retreated just far enough away that I couldn’t reach him.

My face burned with agony, having been abused twice in the same day. Fighting back the reflexive tears, I spat at his feet. This was going to be painful, but I would just have to wait.

He looked at me hard, and I recoiled by reflex when he stepped towards me. Damn it, I thought. I hadn’t meant to show any type of weakness. My brain was strong, but my body wasn’t. He bent down on my level, leaning forward ever so slightly.

“You look beautiful in that dress, darling. Your hair looks better pulled back, you should keep it that way.” He said, a hint of madness seeping through his voice.

Just lean a little closer. He was so close, I could almost jab him right now. I had wanted to drag out the conversation in hopes of help, but this was already getting out of hand. Much to my disappointment, he stood up again.

“You know, with each passing day you look more like her. But you aren’t quiet like her; you’re more like your brother. Too spunky for your own good. The kind who doesn’t like to take orders. These things are good some of the time, but not in excess. And so, I will take it upon myself to embark on the noble task of saving you from yourself.”

He was a lunatic, and I knew it. He was insane, thinking himself a good guy. He wasn’t even drunk, or at least not that I could tell. He was messing with me, and I could start to feel my anger rising. He was waiting for me to give him a reason to beat me into submission.

I wouldn’t fall for his little tricks. I refused to play his game. I knew how to play, but it wasn’t as a pawn. I had known enough manipulation in my life to push his buttons too.

“Yes, you are such a noble man. If you can still even call yourself human. Do women run away from you now? My mother was a beautiful woman, but she would never marry you now. That face of yours is absolutely hideous, if I do say so myself. How do you even look at yourself?”

He whirled around, his face livid. Had I gone too far? He stormed over to me, picking me up from the ground. He slammed me violently to the wall, his hands at my throat. My head exploded with pain, and I felt myself become dizzy. I tried to reach for the comb in my dress, but I was trapped.

He shook me, saying, “You stupid girl! How dare you say such a thing to me! I killed your brother and I can kill you!”

The exclamation startled me, as I was not expecting such a violent response. He stopped, looking at my surprised face. He shoved me into a different wall, where I leaned for support. My back was scraped now, having been pushed against the rough concrete walls. He was standing across from me looking smug.

“That’s right,” he said. “So you remember that night? Your brother confronted me when you came back. I was irritated that he would challenge me, but you two left before I could respond. He always took you everywhere, trying to keep you away from me. Then your mother wouldn’t shut up, and so I made her. But your brother, he was a bit more difficult. He thought he could take me in a fight, and he was very wrong. He may have given me this scar with your help, but I still killed him. He was too defiant, but I made sure to take care of that. Will I need to do the same to you?”

I was furious now, and had given up any ideas of sparing him. I lunged, trying to tackle him in fury. I wanted to hit him as hard as I could, to leave him with more scars than my brother could ever hope to give. He caught my hands as I reached him, pulling me into an awkward embrace.

He had his hands on my wrists, arms wrapped around me so that I was facing away from him. I struggled to get out, attempting to elbow him.

“Don’t you dare talk about him! He’s too good for you! You don’t deserve to even think about him. Let go!”

He only laughed increasing his hold. He was still so strong. I was struggling with all my might, but I still couldn’t gain any leverage.

“But is it I who doesn’t deserve him? Are you sure you should even speak of such things?” \

What? What did he mean? 

"I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, you crazy idiot.” I shouted, still struggling.

“Why, I only mean the fact that you helped me kill him.”

I froze. No, I thought. What was he saying? He noticed my rigid posture and leaned in, brushing up against my ear.

“Yes. You know it’s true,” he said, his voice sickeningly sweet, “You killed him as much as I did.”

I tried to draw away from him, but he was impossible to get away from.

“You’re insane!”

He chuckled, the vibrations against my back causing shivers of revulsion to go down my spine.

“Yes, my dear, I am in a sense. But you know I speak the truth. You rushed into the house after he had sent you out, and caused a distraction. He gave me the scar, but didn’t check if I was dead because of you. You were crying, and you selfishly called to him. If it hadn’t been for you that night, I would have died and he would have lived. I thank you.”

No. No. he couldn’t be serious. I wasn’t… I wasn’t the one who got him killed. He had stabbed him. But it was true that I had interrupted him.

“I was only seven!” I shouted to him, suddenly flashing back to that night.

All I could see was his blood, the wound, his beautiful smile. I was still, slack in my father’s grip.

“But a seven year old has been around long enough to understand responsibilities and follow orders. You were bad, and you didn’t listen. Look where it got you. You killed him. It was all your fault, and you know it. Why even pretend? Just accept you helped me,” he said.

He turned me around to face him, but I hardly even noticed. I had hurt him, it had been my fault. He would still be alive today. Why had I killed him? Didn’t I love him? He had done so many things for me, and this was how I repaid him.

“It’s okay,” my father said, “Because you only wanted to help me.”

He held my face in his hands, and I felt my tears start to fall.

“You killed him, and that’s bad. But I forgive you. It was a horrible act, one that broke my heart, but I still love you. Because you will always be my daughter, no matter what you do. You did it because you love your daddy. Isn’t that right? You’re daddy’s little princess.”

He pulled me into a hug. He still cared. Did I even deserve someone after my brother? He was warm, and his voice was gentle as he murmured something into my hair. But why did this seem so wrong?

I was confused, and I was becoming dizzy. The room spun around me and blurred. Where was I? Suddenly lightning flashed, and the room was illuminated. I was in the storage house, my father holding me. Why did he not smell right? He smelled like a basement, dank and musty. I felt like I should be expecting mint.

Why? Who smelled like mint? The image of Matt flashed into my brain. That’s right, I thought. He smelled like mint when he comforted me after a nightmare. What had that been about again? The flashes came back to me, coming as quickly as the lightning.

My father's grin as he stood over my mother. The bruise on my brother’s face. His laughter at our pain. They all conflicted with what was happening. Wasn’t I a daddy’s girl? I was his princess he said, even though I didn’t deserve it. Why was I having flashbacks about him?

They kept going in my mind, all of the times he hurt us.A bruise, a scrape, a cut. Once, a broken arm. I was confused, my vision fogged up like an early morning horizon. Then, the night with Matt. The yelling. What had he said?

“Don’t you ever say something like that again!”

What had I said? I had told him about my brother, about the truth. My head began to clear as I recalled that night, and the dream. The memories came back better than before, showing me all of it, down to every detail. My brother had been looking at me before I had said anything. I might have called to him, but he was more worried than I was.

Then my father had stabbed him, and tried to make it seem like a ruse. How could I think him a good man? He was running a slave operation here for girls, and he beat his employees. He had messed with me psychologically, and I had fallen prey to it. But the vicious storm outside filled my vision with light, and I began to think.

Matt was right. I hadn’t killed him, and I needed to stop blaming myself. My brother had loved me too much for me to fall into a trap as simple as this.

“No,” I said, so softly he couldn’t quite hear.

“What?” he asked, tilting his head.

“No!” I said, this time much louder.

I pulled out the comb from under my dress, slamming it into his shoulder where my head had just laid. I shoved him as violently as I could, and he ran into the corner of the desk. He looked at me in shock, sliding down to the ground.

“I did not kill him, and you know it. You’re nothing than a murderer and a sick psycho!” I snarled, “I will never let you control me. If you haven’t noticed, I’m not the same little girl you can manipulate anymore. If my brother could almost kill you when he was my age, I can finish the job.”

I stood several feet away, my head held high in pride and contempt for him. He was bleeding profusely from the shoulder now, but it hadn’t been sharp enough to do any serious damage. I had wanted to go for his face, but it was too late now.

He pulled out the comb, and stood shakily. He began to laugh, a crazed high pitched laugh that increased in frequency. Just like mad scientists on television, my father was laughing uncontrollably. He walked to the other side of his desk, still chuckling.

Without a split second in between, his voice dropped.

“You really got me there,” he said, his voice deadly quiet, “You think you can take me? Ha! What a laughable comment. Tell me, Veronica, if you remember everything, do you recall this?”

He held up a knife, glittering in the moonlight. Was that?

He nodded to me, saying, “This is the very same knife I had that night. I brought it as a… memento you could say. It gave me satisfaction every time my scar would hurt.”

He was walking towards me now, slowly as if he had all the time in the world. Then quick like a snake, he shot out with the knife, slicing a spot on my cheek. It stung, but it wasn’t my major concern. He still had the knife poised and ready.

Had he truly lost his mind? He laughed at my reaction, and leaned close to my face, before violently ripping off his eye patch. He grabbed my face, rubbing his cheek against mine. It felt like sandpaper as it grinded up against my skin, the gaping hole molding around my cheek.

I screamed louder than I ever had before.

“Do you feel that, Veronica?” He screamed, “Feel how rough it is? That’s what I live with everyday! Feel what your brother did!”

I struggled to get away, my stomach churning. This was absolutely disgusting! I kneed him in his groin, but missed slightly. I jolted away, slamming into a wall.

I looked frantically for a weapon. Why didn’t he keep anything else on hand? The only weapons in this complex were with henchmen. Come to think of it, where was the man who had brought me? He had probably gotten tired of waiting and had gone to get a drink.

My father was advancing now, still keeping a slow pace. I knew his reflexes were fast now, so I kept myself springy and ready, in case he jumped again.

“I think your mother’s face doesn’t quite suit you,” he said, sounding strangely lost, “I think you need to look more like me. I know! I’ll give you a scar to match! Then we can look alike, father and daughter!”

Something in his brain had snapped, more than before. He had an intense look in his eye, one of a dog with rabies. Did he plan on carving a lash into my face? What was I going to do? He had the only real weapon in the room, and he had a tight grip on it.

“Come here,” he soothed, “It’ll only hurt a little. Then you can be just like me.”

I circled with him, avoiding various items lying around. If I tripped, it would be over.

“Go to hell, you worthless, bottom feeding, piece of insignificant pond scum!” I shouted to him, hoping to make him lose his focus.

We continued our dance, him lunging and me withdrawing. I continued to taunt him, to make him even more enraged.

I blocked him with his desk, both of us running around the other side. He wasn’t tall enough to reach across, so he just twisted with me. We were at an awkward stalemate, neither of us moving. My heart was racing so loud I almost couldn’t hear the thunder outside.

Thump thump! Thump thump! Thump thump!

The noise filed the room, my heart beating in an opposite rhythm of his. There wasn’t anywhere left for me to go, and I couldn’t find where the comb had been. My father winced as he shuffled along with me and had to lean on his shoulder. It made me satisfied that I had caused him pain and made him bleed, even if it wasn’t serious.

Just as he looked like he was about to lunge forward with his knife to cut me, we heard the door click. We both froze, our joints becoming rigid.

Who was at the door? I couldn’t take on two different people. As the figure came into view, my heart exploded with joy.

Standing there, sopping wet and ruffled in appearance, was Matt. He surveyed the situation, and I felt how strong he was, both in mind and body. He would be able to take these people, and he would save me.

He smiled at me, giving me a wink.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said with a grin, “You wouldn’t believe the storm out there.”

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