"But, Mom," the girl whined. "If you hated him, how come you married him?" She couldn't have been more than eleven-years-old.
Her mother's melodic laugh, made her sigh slightly in envy. "That was at first, sweetie. Slowly, I grew to love him. Of course, it took time…and a truckload of tokens of his affection." The woman winked at her daughter.
The girl pouted. "I still don't get it. Love and hate, they're two totally pole-to-pole feelings! If you can grow to love the person you hate, then it means you never hated them at all," she stated defiantly.
Her mother smiled, her emerald eyes twinkling as they gazed down at her daughter's identical ones. "Maybe," she answered, shrugging. "Besides," she added, leaning down with a mischievous smile, "if we hadn't turned our hatred into love, you would never have been born, would you?" She grinned.
Her daughter rolled her eyes. "Whatever," she muttered.
The mother laughed softly and got up to leave. "Just remember one thing, sweetie. Love and hate, they're both very extreme emotions. There's a very thin line dividing the two of them," she said, smiling softly. She then turned around and walked out of the room.
The girl, rolled her eyes, and flopped down on the sofa, turned on the TV and flipping through the channels. An hour later, the whole conversation was forgotten.
The next time she remembered it was five years later, in a stranger's lair.
I woke up. Slowly, the black and white fuzz started clearing and I could see my surroundings. I rolled over onto my back and stared at the low white ceiling. For a moment, I wondered about my strange dream.
There had been something familiar about that woman. And the girl…I blinked. Those green eyes, the wavy brown hair…it was my mom. And me. Eleven-year-old me.
I turned my head to the left, the side from which light was streaming in and warming my face. The sky outside was a bright, forget-me-not blue, stretching on and on in infinite expanses. I remembered a time when my mom had told me that its timeless, unwavering beauty gave her the strength to get up each morning and go about with her life after my dad had passed away.
As I watched the clouds drift lazily across the vast, blue canvas, tears blurred my vision. My mom. Thinking about her had made the enormity of the whole situation suddenly erupt violently in front of me as if reminding me of where exactly I was.
I cried in soft sobs, too afraid to make too much noise lest I should bring any of my kidnappers in. It was as if I was a cloth being wrung vigorously after being washed, twisted until the very last drop of water had abandoned my body. My pillow was drenched.
What had happened to my mom? Was she okay? Or was she…? How about Jake and David? Had they been able to escape to somewhere safe? And Andy? And Brad?
Questions ran through my mind in whirlwinds as sobs racked my body. As the part of my brain which was still able to think logically assessed each question and brought out the list of possibilities, I gasped harder and clutched at the rough blanket and pulled it closer up to my chin.
All the while, the sky continued to be just as blue and the clouds continued to float languidly, all in their own dreamy world, completely unaware of the mayhem that had happened the night before.
Then, my sadness turned to anger. How come the sky was just the same as any other day, all blue and happy and…hopeful? What right did the friggin' clouds have to move so slowly when there were people down below running for their lives? And, most importantly, what right did those goddamn men have to separate me from my family? What had I done to them? I didn't even know them!
My mouth contorting into an angry grimace, I clenched my hands into fists. I wanted to scream. I wanted to burst my lungs screaming.
Just as I was about to succumb to my furious idea, the sound of a door opening made me turn my head a full one hundred and eighty degrees to the right. I held my breath as I heard the door close and footsteps walk the short corridor into the room.
In less than two seconds, I saw him. And my eyes widened. He was…well, handsomer than I expected. He couldn't have been more than twenty. His raven hair was settled on his head in soft waves, a strand flopping onto his eye, making him look like the dangerously handsome man that he was. He stood at six feet, towering over my laying figure. The masculinity of his presence seemed to fill the tiny room. And his eyes…they were just as black as his hair…and they were looking straight at me.
I gulped, thinking it would have been easier if I had pretended to be asleep. I tried to keep the fear out of my eyes. I had never expected such a violent person to be so good-looking. Though, thinking about it now, I thought how illogical that notion had been. And the fact that he was so handsome made my stomach tighten involuntarily.
The fear, it was completely logical though. I had heard millions of stories about lust-consumed soldiers. And really, I thought, why else would he keep me alive? Unconsciously, I tightened the blanket even more around myself, trying to grasp onto the warmth it sheathed me in.
"Is your head still hurting?" he asked, his deep voice reverberating inside the small room. His face remained expressionless.
I looked at him, fear stalling my voice. He narrowed his eyes slightly when I didn't answer. I could see he was not used to being disobeyed.
"I asked you a question," he said, his eyes still narrowed menacingly at me. I shivered.
Forcing apart my parched lips, I croaked, "S—still? W—what do y—you mean?"
"There's a cut on your forehead. You got it when you so foolishly jumped out the window last night."
I slowly pulled my hand out of the blanket and gingerly touched my forehead. A low hiss of pain left my lips. I looked back at him.
He wordlessly went to a cabinet and started looking for something in it. I stared at his back, wide-eyed. Another set of numerous questions entered my mind.
Without thinking, I asked, "Y—you speak English?"
He turned his head towards me, a long inky eyebrow raised pointedly. The look in his eyes clearly said that he thought I was mentally retarded. I blushed, kicking myself inside.
Forcing myself to stay silent, I looked around me. The room was sparsely decorated. The only furniture was the double bed I was laying on, the cabinet through which he was rifling through, and a long table backed up against the wall. On the table lay a deadly-looking polished rifle and one of those curved daggers you saw in Aladdin.
I tore my eyes from the weapons and looked at the bed. The bedspread was plain and dark grey. The blanket around me was made of rough, cheap, white cotton.
I was broken from my observations by his large tanned hand coming down heavily, but gently, on my shoulder. I jumped, my shoulder burning with the heat from his calloused skin.
He dropped his hand but brought the other one, which held a wad of cotton soaked in what smelt like alcohol, up to my forehead. I backed my head away, a sudden surge of hatred and anger rushing through me. Was this his way of making up for kidnapping me? If so, I thought, he was poorly mistaken.
He pursed his lips slightly and threw the wad onto the blanket. Then he turned away and pulled out a wicker chair from the little corridor out of my sight and sat at the table. He began looking through some paperwork. Diagrams, from what I could make out.
I was somewhat thrown by his lack of persistence. I had expected him to keep on trying. For reasons unknown, I was miffed. This was a man who didn't allow himself to be belittled at any cost, I realized. His attitude was a very 'suit-yourself' one.
Sitting up slowly, I picked up the wad of cotton and dabbed at my forehead gingerly. I couldn't help letting out a low hiss as the alcohol stung my wound.
He turned to look at me. I ignored him and continued dabbing gently.
"What is your name, girl?" he asked, breaking the tensed silence.
I narrowed my eyes at him, forgetting my fear for the moment. "Excuse me? Girl?" I asked rudely.
He raised his eyebrows a little, turning the chair around to face me and looking at me impassively. "Yes, girl. What else are you?"
"I am a girl but…but you don't have any right to call me that. Firstly, it's rude. And secondly, what are you? You're barely a man, yourself," I said hotly.
The way his eyes blinked and then narrowed dangerously told me that I had gone too far below the belt. My heart thudded loudly in my chest.
"What is your name?" he demanded tightly. His smouldering gaze bore into mine, making me flinch. He was trained, I could see, at making people do things his way.
"S-Susannah," I mumbled, looking down at the sheet. I plucked at a loose strand nervously.
"Well, Susannah, this will be your home for the next few…for some time. Don't try to get out of this room," he said, turning halfway back to the table.
The way my name rolled out of his mouth so easily and deeply, made me grow hot. Taking a deep breath, I asked, "What about you? What am I supposed to call you?"
I expected something like 'master' or 'sir' or 'captain'. What I got instead was—
I blinked. "That's it?" I asked stupidly.
He turned back to look at me, the 'you-are-clearly-retarded' look back on his flawless face. "Yes, that's it." He turned back to his work.
I flushed, annoyed at how easily he made me grow all hot and bothered. Quietly, I climbed out of bed and tiptoed across the tiled floor to the other door in the room, which I assumed led to the bathroom.
The bathroom was surprisingly clean for one that belonged to a man. It was tiny, only a toilet seat, a sink and a tap fixed into the wall. A bucket and a small plastic mug stood beneath the tap. He had hung a fresh towel on the hook behind the door for me. Clearly, he was a man who missed nothing.
I cleaned myself up the best I could with no toothbrush or face wash or clean clothes. I made a mental note to ask him to get a few necessary goods. Suddenly, I paused wiping my face. It seemed like I was going to be here a long time. And worst of all, it looked like I was getting used to the idea.
I was torn. I didn't know what to do. Should I defiantly show my hate for him, risking my life in the process? Or should I be practical and accept the turn of events, at least until I found a path of escape?
Walking out, I cleared my throat.
"Umm…Jesse?" It felt strange calling a person of the kind that I had never thought I would meet by his first name. He turned back to me. I thought he was getting tired of turning to me and back again.
"H—how long will I be here?" I asked, tears rising under my eyelids. I desperately tried to hide them but failed. I lowered my eyes as the tears traitorously spilled over. Hastily, I wiped them with the sleeve of my thin sweater.
For the first time, I saw some kind of emotion flit across his face. After a second, his face was just as expressionless as before.
"If you mean, when you are going to be returned to your family, the answer is never," he said stoically.
My eyes widened to their limits. I thought my knees would give out below me.
"What? Never? I…what…I, NO!" I gasped in horror. "Aren't you just keeping me for ransom or something?" Fear. Fear that ran like a wild jungle predator swept through me.
He stood up suddenly, the weak chair he was sitting on, almost toppling over. Calmly, he walked over to me and put a hand under my chin, tilting my head up so I was looking directly at him.
Shockingly, my body responded with tingling anticipation. He leaned his head down, until his nose was tickling mine. Everything was still, only both of our breathing could be heard.
"Because," he whispered softly, his dark-eyed gaze enrapturing me. "You are mine."
I ripped my chin out of his grasp. He looked slightly angered. Of course he would. He most probably had women at his feet all the time.
"What? I am yours?" I said, almost laughing at the stupidity of what he said.
"Yes," he answered, stone-faced.
"Yours…what do you mean?" I asked, momentarily curious. He spoke like he came from the dark ages or something.
"I captured you, meaning you belong to me now," he replied. Leaning down for emphasis, he added, "Forever."
Angrily, I shoved his hard chest with all my strength. He didn't budge. "Listen," I hissed at him. "I don't know what it's like in wherever you're from, but in here, people are no longer sold like objects. Nobody belongs to anyone."
He made no answer, as if he hadn't heard a word of what I'd just said. Turning back, he walked to the door and opened it. There, he turned around and said hardly, "If you want to remain in one piece, you will not venture outside this room." Then he walked out, closing the door loudly behind him.
Anger boiling hot inside me, I looked back outside the windows. Gazing at the azure sky, I thought of what my mom had told me, once again. But I couldn't find a shred of the strength it had offered to her.
Because, for me, there was no hope anymore. I was bound to that…brute for the rest of my life.
Or, in his words, forever.
A/N: Like? :D Please review!