Amy

Amy Bowden ran her finger down the length of her right forearm, tracing the still red and inflamed scar, her mind a million miles away from where she sat, perched on a brown leather couch.

“What do you think about, when you touch it?” Dr. Karl sat back in his recliner.

“Why was I rescued?” Amy’s eyes never lift from the scar.

“From the house?”

Her finger stopped its trek, her eyes shifted to a painting of the crucified savior across the room.

“Yes.”

“Is that why you did it; you don’t think you should have been rescued?”

A tear streaked down her cheek, “No. I did it because we all should have been rescued.”

“Who, Amy? Who should have been rescued?”

‘The girls. Monica. Ryan.” Amy swallowed back the last name; the pain of it irritates her throat.

Dr. Karl reaches for a small digital voice recorder on the end table next to him. “Do you want to begin, now?”

“Do we have to do this?” Amy’s voice is barely audible, scratchy.

“No one is forcing you, Amy. If you want to be free, free from the grip he still has on you, this is the best way.”

“I saw him on the news.”

Dr. Karl set the recorder on the ottoman in front of him, close to Amy. “When?”

“Tuesday.” Amy traced her scar again.

“Before you cut yourself?”

“Yeah.”

“Amy, I want you to take me back to the beginning, to your family vacation.”

Amy folded her hands together and leaned forward with her elbows on her thighs. “Can I get something to drink first?”

“Of course,” Dr. Karl stood up and walked to the far side of the room where he poured Amy a glass of water.

After he returned and handed Amy the glass, he sat down in his recliner and pressed the record button on the digital recorder.

Amy stared at the glass in her hand, musing over the possibility of drowning herself within its contents rather than do as the good doctor asked.

“Ready when you are, Amy.”

~~~

Amy hid herself in her room as soon as she came home. She wasn’t ready to relive everything Dr. Karl asked of her. Not now, and she didn’t know when she would be.

A soft knock came at the door and Amy buried herself deeper underneath her blankets and pillow. In the seclusion of her bedroom, she hoped to find peace, even for just a moment.

The knock came again.

“Amy?” Her mother’s voice came from the other side of the door.

“I’ll be down later, Mom. I just want some time alone, please.”

“How did it go with Dr. Karl?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Ok,” a brief pause, “dinner will be ready in half an hour, sweetie. Will you join us?”

Amy didn’t answer and closed her eyes to drift away, far away from everything. She didn’t know how long it was before she heard the shuffle of feet on carpet and stairs, indicating her mother left the front of her room.

It had been a long time since Amy ate with her mother and father. She tried it when she first came out of her coma, but the absence of her brother proved more than she could handle though.

Amy shifted in her bed and pulled back the covers and pillow, allowing herself to stare at the popcorn ceiling. It reminded her of snow; it reminded her of that winter. Everything reminded her of that winter.

She was tired of being reminded.

~~~

“I’m ready.” Amy stood at the window of Dr. Karl’s office, looking out on the Chicago skyline. Raindrops clung to the glass, a crack of lightning lit the sky, and thunder rumbled in the distance.

“Would you like to sit?” Dr. Karl asked.

She watched her tiny reflection in a raindrop slide down the window and off the side of the building. “No.”

“Ok. I want to begin by saying that I’m proud of you, Amy. I’m proud that you’re taking this first step.”

“I just want it to be over. I want to forget.” She followed another raindrop’s trek with her finger.

“This won’t help you forget, Amy, but it will help you. He won’t have power over you anymore. He won’t dictate your life anymore.”

Amy turned and leaned her back against the window. She took a deep breath and looked to the floor. “Okay.”

“All right.” Dr. Karl leaned forward, pressed the record button of the digital recorder, and sat it on the end table next to him. “You can begin when you want.”

“Even if I’m over here?”

“It will record you, don’t worry.”

“Where do I begin?” Amy shifted again, her gaze onto the streets below.

“Why don’t you start with that day?”

“Okay.”

~~~

“Eight years ago, and I’m 14 years old. It was winter break from school, and we all wanted to leave the grime and slush of Chicago behind for the sunshine of Florida. More importantly, Disney World. It was the first family vacation that I could remember.

“Ryan was 10, and he couldn’t wait to see Mickey Mouse. It was priority number one to get the mouse’s autograph. Most people said he still had the mind of a five or six year old. I think he was much smarter than they gave him credit for.

“His excitement was contagious. It made me laugh.

“It was the last time I remember laughing.

“Ryan and I talked Mom and Dad into letting us hit the park by ourselves. I wanted to prove that I was responsible. I don’t know why, maybe if they saw I was responsible they would give me greater freedom when I got older. I really wanted a car when I turned 16.

“We promised to meet them at Dumbo around noon and we would get lunch, but until then, we were free.

“To be honest, I’m still surprised they agreed.

“We of course hit Space Mountain first, and that’s when I met Jimmy. He let us cut in line. I don’t know what got into me, but I flirted with him. I knew he was older, but I was 14. I mean, what else was I going to do when a cute older man pays that much attention to me?

“After Space Mountain, and a couple of turns on Splash Mountain, we ran into Jimmy again. This time he had his friend Brian with him. They flirted with me and I ate it up. They made me feel like I was the most beautiful girl there.

“What girl wouldn’t like that?

“I guess I lost track of time, because when I looked at my watch, it was almost noon. Still, I didn’t want to leave Jimmy. I was in my own little world with him by my side.

“The Jungle Cruise was going to be the last ride before Ryan and I met Mom and Dad. Jimmy had Fast Passes for us, and it was going to be just him and me. I could barely contain myself. I know, I left Ryan alone with a friend of a man I barely knew, but this was a dream.

“It was only supposed to be ten minutes.

“We got off the ride, and Brian was gone with Ryan. I panicked, but Jimmy calmed me down. He called Brian on his cell phone and said that he had gone back to their van, because he forgot something. Ryan was with him.

“Oh, God. Why didn’t I see? I mean, I could start to feel it in the pit of my stomach, but still I went with Jimmy. I had to get Ryan.

“Once we were in the Parking lot, it didn’t take long for me to see them in the distance, with Ryan waving his arms. I ran as fast as I could to him. As I got closer, I started to realize he wasn’t waving his arms at all. He was unconscious, and that sick bastard was waving his arms.

“What the hell did I do? I could feel it in the pit of my stomach the whole time, something was wrong. I knew it as soon as we stepped off the ride, but I kept telling myself that everything was fine. We’d get to Ryan, and everything would be fine. I was so stupid, God help me. How could I do that? Tell me! How could I do that? Some guy smiles at me, and…I just want to know, why? I miss him so much; I miss my baby brother so much. God, why was I so stupid?”

~~~

Just the memory of that one day was too much for her. She ran from Dr. Karl’s office and passed her mother in the waiting room.

Amy wandered around until she found herself in Grant Park; standing in front of Buckingham fountain; staring at the inviting water. It called to her, assured her that it could ease the pain and take away all her sorrow. She stepped in and felt the spray soak her to the bone. The cold air mixed with the freezing water numbed her quickly, and she knew she would have given herself over to it if the policeman hadn’t pulled her out.

He mumbled something at her, but his voice was too far from where she was in order for her to hear. She walked off, feeling the blood flow through her again, and feeling the bite of the cold night air.

She caught the Metro back home and found her mother already there, keeping her distance. Not even a question of why she was still dripping wet. It wasn’t the first time Amy did this. She knew it was breaking her mother’s heart, but she just wanted to be alone. She still couldn’t face her, or her father, knowing that she killed their little boy.

Amy barricaded herself in her room, stripped herself down, and buried herself under her covers. She could still hear her mother on the phone.

“I don’t think it’s working, Dr. Karl. I just don’t think she’s ready. Can’t you see that?”

~~~

Amy woke disoriented; her heart was pounding. It was dark, but familiar. She knew where she was, and fear washed over her, making her choke back her impulse to vomit.

Jimmy found her.

She tried to move. Her wrists and ankles were tied together, just as they were that day eight years ago; her mouth was gagged and taped.

Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she saw a pair of eyes staring back at her. The eyes of her brother, Ryan.

He’s alive?

He was whimpering, bound and gagged the same as she, and trying to say something to her. Although it was muffled, she could understand it perfectly.

“I’m sorry,” he cried.

Amy writhed around, screaming in the back of her throat as loud as she could. Nothing came of it, she couldn’t even hear herself scream, only Ryan’s whimpers.

She put her ear to the floor of the van, but there was no sound. Were they stopped somewhere?

The front door opened and closed, with a strange echo that seemed muffled and distant. With her ear still on the floor of the van, she could hear footsteps, again with the same eerie echo that sent shivers down her back. The van was stopped, and Jimmy was getting gas. This time, someone would hear her.

Amy screamed as loud as she could, but there was no sound. She rolled around, kicking and banging the side of the van, but still no sound. Ryan repeated her every move, but the only thing she could hear from him was still his soft, “I’m sorry,” over and over.

The rear doors of the van flung open and sunlight scorched across her eyes, blinding her for a second as they adjusted.

Jimmy didn’t say a word, he just stared at Amy and smiled. She felt the warmth her own urine as it soaked her back.

Brian appeared from nowhere and hopped into the back of the van and reached down for Ryan. Amy couldn’t move, though everything in her wanted to smash his leg, take him out, but she just laid there.

Brian reached down, grabbed Ryan by his shirt, and dragged him out of the van. Ryan flopped to the ground crying and pleading through his gag for mercy. Amy pulled at the rope on her wrists and ankles, trying in vain to break free.

“Now, sweetness,” Jimmy hopped into the van and kneeled beside her. “Brian here is going to take good care of your brother while you and I continue on our merry little way. I promise you, if you do as I ask, he’ll be quite all right. If not, well…”

Jimmy nodded and Brian pulled a large knife from his back pocket. Without hesitation, he buried the knife into little Ryan’s right thigh. Amy watched as her brother screamed and writhed in agony.

Instinct caused her to wince and turn to her right, where she saw Ryan laying, staring at her, still whimpering. She shot her glance back to where Jimmy and Brian were, and Ryan was on the ground, still screaming from the knife in his leg. Again, she shot her glance to her side, where Ryan was whimpering beside her.

What the hell is going on?

~~~

Amy woke, soaked with sweat and the smell of urine. She jumped out of bed and flipped on her light, her sheets were soaked.

She sat on the floor and pulled her knees to her chest, rocking herself slowly. There was no way she was going to let herself go back to sleep.

~~~

“You’re mother told me that you were watching the news again today.” Dr. Karl offered Amy a glass of water. When she ignored him, he sat it on the coffee table in front of her.

Amy stared blankly at the table, knees to her chest and arms folded around her legs as she sat on Dr. Karl’s couch.

She didn’t speak.

“She told me you were watching the latest on the search for your brother.”

“Eight years, and they’re still searching,” her voice quivered.

“They still hold hope, just like they did with you. You don’t hold any hope he’ll be found?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do know, Amy. I think you watch, because you do still hold hope.”

“I do hope. I hope he’s dead.” Amy let her legs slide out, touching her feet to the bottom of the coffee table.

“Why, Amy? Why do you hope he’s dead?”

“Oh C’mon! Do you really have to ask that? He’s retarded for God’s sake! What do you think enduring all of this did to him mentally? Huh? Yes, I hope he’s dead! I hope he’s dead because that’s better to think that he’s in the arms of Jesus than to think he endured all of this, all of what I went through or worse for the last eight years! So Yes, I hope he’s dead!” Amy was on her feet, fists clenched, her teeth gritted.

“Interesting to hear you say that you hope he’s in the arms of Jesus. Do you believe he would go to Heaven?”

“The hope of Heaven is the only thing that makes me know I’m not in Hell already.” Amy relaxed her fists, and stared at the painting of Jesus across the room again.

“Is that why you tried to kill yourself?”

“Can you blame me? To die is gain, right? Isn’t that what what’s his name said?”

“The apostle Paul.”

“Whatever.” Amy sat back down on the couch and took a sip from the glass of water.

“What do you want to talk about today?”

“I don’t.”

“I know, but…”

“Save it. I know, but you’ll be closer to being free if you open up… I know.”

“So, tell me about the house.”

~~~

“Jimmy picked up another girl from where he left Ryan, a young black girl named Monica. He actually introduced her to me as he tossed her unconscious body in the van next to me.

“I stood in a foot of snow while he untied her, and looked around to see if I could figure out where we were. The house was probably a couple hundred feet from me, and there was nothing else except trees and a few cars. The license plates were New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and a couple of Canadian ones.

“Didn’t help me, you know. To try and see where I was. Just made me realize where I wasn’t. Home.

“The house itself looked like one of those plantation houses in the movies. You know the ones with slaves.

“‘All right girls; let’s get you out of the cold, shall we?’ Jimmy was doing his best to be charming again, but it wasn’t working.

“I want to say it was the snow that kept me from running. It was deep, and it numbed my legs, but it wasn’t it. Fear kept me from moving unless Jimmy said so.

“He grabbed Monica and me and dragged us across the field to the house, ‘cause if he would have parked closer it might have scared the customers. He always parked away from the house.

“Inside is where we first met May. She ran the place, though she still listened to Jimmy. Everyone was afraid of Jimmy.

“I don’t know how old May was, still don’t. She was old though. Not sure how long Jimmy had her in America either, cause she still didn’t speak English very well. For a long time I didn’t know even where she was from. Not ‘til Monica told me it was Korea. Didn’t know which side. I didn’t care. I didn’t like her.

“We stood just inside the house and she came from a room to the right of us. She kept it closed, I don’t know if for us, or for her guests.

“She didn’t say much. No greeting. Just grabbed me and spun me around, pinching and groping me like I was fruit or something. I froze stiff, but it made no difference to her. She still moved me around as if I were a doll.

“Then she did the same to Monica.

“‘Well?’ Jimmy asked.

“‘Oh, they will be fine additions. I can see that these two will be quite popular. Clients do like the young flesh.’ May smiled her crooked, horrible smile.

“That’s when I threw up all over her.

“She wanted to hit me, beat me, but Jimmy stopped her.

“‘Now, now. We need to make them presentable. Get the Cuban to clean up in here while you shower. I’m sure this one is sorry, but you have to understand that this is all so very new to her.’ He let her arm go, and she stared at me with hate, but like I said, everyone feared Jimmy.

“‘Mael!’ She screamed.

“Mael came rushing from the same room May came from. She had to stop and run back so she could close the French doors behind her again.

“She was scared, and never lifted her eyes to May, even though she was taller. She was older than Monica and me; that was for sure. At least, it looked like it with all the makeup she was wearing, and the red velvet teddy.

“When I first saw her, I thought I was dead. I thought Jimmy was going to kill me, because there was no way I was going to look like that, no matter how much padding and pushup crap they forced me to wear. I actually thought I was going to let him down without even doing anything, and I was dead.

“If only it were true, if only he would have just killed me instead.

“‘What is it May?’ Mael asked after a little curtsey.

“‘Clean up this mess while I clean myself up. Also, Get Amber and Angel in here. I want them to help our two new sisters get acclimated to their new home.’ May didn’t wait for a response, but stormed off down the hall at the back of the foyer, where we were standing.

“‘Pardon me one moment,’ Mael curtseyed again, still never lifting her eyes from the floor, and exited through the French doors.

“The doors opened again, and Amber and Angel came out, dressed just like Mael was. Angel was from Haiti, and Amber from Bolivia. They came in and did the same curtsey in front of us, without saying a word.

“‘Sisters,’ that’s how Jimmy introduced us to them. As if he was their dad, and we were just adopted. Told them to ‘take good care of us’ and that his ‘Fantasies of the World’ was soon complete. He got about as excited about that as Ryan did about meeting Mickey.

“They complied without ever looking up at Jimmy. Amber grabbed me, and Angel took Monica. They rushed us though the French doors and through the room, and up a set of stairs at the back of the room. I tried to stop, I don’t know why I did, but I wanted to see my hell. Amber squeezed my arm a little tighter and pulled me.

“We were on the third floor. There were eight rooms total, four on the second, and four on the third. I tried to reach out for Monica. I didn’t know her, but I knew she was in as much trouble as I was, and was just as scared. We only had each other to trust, but she wasn’t there. I didn’t see where Angel rushed her off to. I know to her room, but then I didn’t know.

“Amber and I stopped at the second room on the floor. She opened the door to a pink, powder puff, cheerleader nightmare sort of room. Every guy’s fantasy, right? Have sex with the cheerleader? With someone who was still so innocent and pure, that she still played with dolls?

“Screwed up sick bastards.

“‘I’m sorry to rush you, but we mustn’t keep Jimmy waiting.’ Amber said just before she ripped my clothes off.

“She helped me step into a crow’s foot bathtub and circled a shower curtain around me; I wasn’t going to fight her, or anyone, anymore.

“‘The left is hot, right cold, center is for the shower. I’ll hand you shampoo and soap, but you have to hurry. He wants you spotlessly clean for inspection. While you clean up, I’ll get you fresh towels and clothes, so be quick about it.’

“That’s when I heard the door close, and I curled up on the bottom of the tub. I stayed like that for a long time.”

~~~

“Why did you stop, Amy?” Dr. Karl sat with his legs crossed, noting on his pad of paper.

Amy had drawn her legs to her chest again with her face buried against her knees. Slowly she rocked back and forth on the couch. “I don’t want to go on.”

“What happened, Amy? What happened that night?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Did Jimmy visit you that night? What was the inspection they were preparing you for?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Amy squeezed her arms hard around her legs. If she could disappear from existence at that moment, she wouldn’t hesitate.

“Did he touch you? Did he rape you that night?” Dr. Karl set the note pad aside.

“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!” Amy leapt to her feet, fists clenched, teeth gritted. She stared at Dr. Karl with malice and contempt dripping from every pore.

“Ok, Amy.” His voice tried to be soothing, she knew he only wanted to help her, but sometimes he pushed too much. “In your own time.”

She relaxed her fists; all her fingers throbbing from reflow of blood. Again she sat on the couch, and then she lay down and curled up in the corner.

“Is there something you do want to talk about? Monica, maybe?”

Amy closed her eyes.

Monica.

~~~

“Year in, Year out, I played my part. For Ryan, I made sure I did exactly what they asked. Five years I endured. The kind of men that would visit the house didn’t surprise me anymore. Everyone from garbage men to local congressmen. Not one of them treated us right, but why should they. To them, we weren’t even human.

“They did like to talk, though. I learned we were on the outskirts of Albany, New York. Still didn’t help me any. We had no phones, and not one of us ever stepped a foot outside of the house. Not even May.

“Monica amazed me though. With all the hell we were going through, she kept a smile. Irritated me to no end at first. Thought that maybe she actually liked it, but no one could like it. Not what we were going through. I don’t care how sick and twisted they are, no one would enjoy it.

“But she kept on smiling and I kept resenting her for it.

“Two years in, though, it happened. I knew it was just a matter of time, but I got pregnant. Contraception failure or something, I don’t know. I was scared out of my wits. I was 16, what was I supposed to do? Huh? I thought for sure Jimmy would kill me once he found out, no one was a help. Everyone avoided me. I mean they would go out of their way to avoid me, except for Monica.

“She let me know I wasn’t alone. I mean, it sounds kinda stupid, but just to hear someone tell you that. It made a world of difference to me. She didn’t know what to do about the baby either, but at least she wasn’t abandoning me.

“She proved herself true.

“Jimmy found out and paid me a visit…

“Anyway, she proved herself true. Monica stayed by my side as I was recovering. She would sing to me, and read to me, and pray with me.”

~~~

“What happened with Jimmy’s visit, Amy?” Dr. Karl sounded as far away as the cars in the streets below.

Amy kept her eyes closed, her arms tight around her legs, curled up in the corner of the couch. She didn’t say a word.

“Well, I think you’ve done wonderfully today Amy. I know we’ve hit a couple of roadblocks, but we’ll get passed them. Do you want to try again tomorrow?”

Again Amy didn’t say anything, nor did she move an inch. She laid there, remembering.

“Do you want me to call your mother in here?”

Nothing.

Amy listened as Dr. Karl stood and walked across his office. His office door opened and she heard him softly call for her mother, patient as always in the waiting room.

“How is she?” her mother whispered.

“She’ll be fine. She’s made some wonderful progress today, but she’s come up on some very painful memories. I think two of the worst ones. I think she was about to talk about the abortion that the doctor’s mentioned when she was first found. I don’t think it was her choice, but we can’t know that, nor can she put it far in the past until she can talk about it.”

“Oh, God. My poor Amy.”

“Can we go, please?” Amy asked, opening her eyes and sitting.

“Of course, baby. Of course we can.” Her mother rushed to her and helped her to her feet. They walked out of the office slow, without Amy lifting her eyes from the ground.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Amy.” Dr. Karl said as she walked passed.

No response.

I don’t know if you will.

~~~

“You believe in God, right?” Amy’s voice was distant, even to herself, as she watched the busy Chicago nightlife pass by the passenger window of her mother’s car.

“You know I do, baby, I always have. That’s why I never gave up hope, and I still won’t.”

Amy sank deep into the passenger seat; anxiousness pitted itself in her stomach. “Do you think God forgives child murderers?”

“There is nothing God can’t forgive, baby, now why would you ask that?” Her mother sounded distracted as she merged onto the Kennedy Expressway from West Ontario.

“I want to know, that there is still hope for me.”

“What?” Amy’s mother swerved slightly, eliciting angry honks from speeding motorists. “You are not a murderer Amy. Why on earth would you think that?”

“I am. First Ryan…”

“Now stop right there, young lady. You did not kill him. All right? Get that out of your head right now. It’s not your fault, and we don’t know that he’s dead yet anyway. They’re still looking, and we’re still hoping, ok?”

“And my baby.”

Dead silence for a moment. Amy knew her mom was gathering her thoughts, trying to find something reassuring to tell her.

“He stole your baby from you, honey. You didn’t do that. That’s not your fault, either.”

“He didn’t steal anything, mom. I wanted it gone.”

Minutes passed without a word. Ten, twenty, Amy wasn’t sure how long. The tears rolled down her cheeks, and she looked over to see her mom crying, also.

“You’re not going to say anything?” Amy choked back the tears a little, just to get the words out.

“What do you want me to say, Amy?” her mother gripped the steering wheel tight, her knuckles turning white.

“Anything, I don’t know. Tell me you still love me.”

“Of course I do, sweetie. Of course I do, but why?

“Why? Why do you think mom? I was 16! I was confused! I was getting raped five times a day, every single day of my life! Why the hell do you think?”

“But, your baby…”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Amy pounded her first into the passenger armrest, “Don’t you think that plays in my head every single day? Don’t you think it has since I did it? I know mom! I know! I would rather be dead than live with this guilt.”

“Amy, honey…”

“Can Jesus still love me?”

“Yes baby,” her mom let out in a soft whisper. “Yes.”

~~~

“I’m glad to see that you came back today, Amy.” Dr. Karl held the door of his office open as he motioned for Amy to come in and take a seat.

Amy walked in, silent, and sat down on the couch with her hands tucked underneath her legs. Not a word passed her lips, but it wasn’t her usual misery that kept her silent. At least, not in whole.

“It’s been three weeks since our last visit. Can’t say that I’m happy about that, but I am glad that you finally came back.” Dr. Karl closed the door, walked to his chair, and picked up his notepad and pen.

“I’m sorry,” Amy whispered, her eyes still averting him.

“Not to worry about. I have to say though, I notice something different about you Amy, do you care to talk about it?”

Amy lifted her eyes and glanced quickly at the crucifixion painting across from her again, “Hope.”

“Really? Do you want to talk more about that hope? Is it hope for yourself, or for Ryan?”

At the mention of Ryan, Amy’s eyes dropped. She sank back into the couch and folded her arms in front of her. Again, she was silent.

“Okay, Amy. Do you want to try and talk about what we started last time you were here? Do you want to talk about the two particular instances of Jimmy visiting you? The first time, and then the one two years after you had been there?”

“No.”

“Ok, maybe you can tell me more about the girls. How did they treat you? Can you talk about that?”

~~~

“Amber and Angel took to Monica and me like they were our mothers. Maybe it was because they were picked to prepare us that first night, I don’t know, but they watched out for us as much as they could. Made sure Jin and Mabel kept out of our hair.

“Jin and Mable were from Thailand. They hated us at first. I guess not so much because of who we were, but what we were. Reminders. Constant reminders of the hell they had to endure, and a childhood they lost as well.

“Mael kept to herself. Quiet and very polite. May was especially hard on her. Amber told me she was the first they brought to the house, with her sister. She told me they killed her sister just months before Monica and I showed up.

“May could be sweet, when she wanted. In her own way, I think she was trying to get us numb as fast as possible to everything. That way, it wouldn’t hurt so much. Lord only knows what that woman went through before we ever came across her path. I’ve seen the scars, by mistake. On her back, there are all kinds of scars. Big ones.

“When I got pregnant, all relationships dried up between any of us. That made everything worse, because at least we had each other. I know that sounds weird, but you take what you can get, you know? After that though, it was back to just Monica and me. That was all right though. She was enough. Everything that annoyed me about her before that didn’t matter. She was a strong woman for a girl so young.

“After what happened when Jimmy visited me, Monica didn’t judge me.  She never even brought it up, as if my pregnancy was never an issue in the first place. I was surprised, cause she was religious and all. Did you know she was a preacher’s kid? From South Carolina. Of course you knew that, because of the news, but anyway. Even though she was a preacher’s kid, she didn’t judge me. Didn’t hate me.

“She would sit by my bedside and tell me stories she remembered from the Bible. Of course she didn’t know some things word for word, but she did know a lot. Told me about the story of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery. That’s why she didn’t judge me either. I told her I didn’t know Jesus, she joked and said that’s why God let her be in that place.

“Do you get that? God would put that poor girl through hell, just so she could tell me about Jesus? I don’t believe it. I don’t know why he put us through it, but I am glad she was there with me. I just wish…

“At any rate, she told me something else that changed my world while I was there. Something she memorized. ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul, but rather fear Him who is able to kill both body and soul in hell.’

“God, I’ve forgotten that. Just saying it makes me feel so…I don’t know. I wasn’t the only one listening when she told me that verse though. Seems Mael had taken to sitting outside my door whenever Monica would come visit.

“She didn’t do it that day, but soon she started to join Monica on her visits. We’d sing, pray, tell stories. Mainly we’d listen to Mael sing. Damn she could sing.

“With that kind of Angelic voice roaming through the house; it didn’t take long before the others joined us. Even May would stand at my doorway and listen. Just listen. You wanna know how I know God was with us at those times? Cause somehow, no matter what, when we got together like that, not one customer ever showed up. Not one interruption.

“The house was still hell, it was still prison. The rapes didn’t stop; the parade of men every day. It never stopped, but we found an escape. We found a way outside of those walls. It helped us breathe just a little.

“I’d forgotten how to breathe, but I’m starting to remember.”

~~~

Amy and her mother walked along the manmade pond in their backyard, listening to the gentle trickle of the rock waterfall that fed it.

“Dr. Karl says you’re making some really great progress, sweetie. He said your last session was a breakthrough. You actually left there with your eyes off the ground.”

“It was a good memory, if you can believe it.” Amy looked into her mother’s eyes, and they both smiled briefly.

“We never talk about it, you know. I want you to know, you can talk to me if you want to. You do know that, right?” Amy’s mom reached out her hand and brushed Amy’s shoulder.

“I don’t even like talking about it with Dr. Karl. You don’t want to hear about it, Mom. Really you don’t.” Amy stopped and stared into the pond and watched the goldfish swim around in circles.

“But I do, Amy. I want to hear about it. I want to know what went on, so I can help you.”

“What do you want to hear Mom? Huh? Do you want to hear about the fat, sweaty men that would come in and lay on top of me, rape me, then leave? Or how about the power assholes that would beat me, throw me around the room, then rape me and leave? Which wonderful story do you really want to hear Mom?”

Amy’s mom stared at the waterfall, silent. Amy took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then put her hand on her mother’s back.

“Tell me about Michael,” the elder woman said.

“What?” Amy dropped her hand from her mother’s back and turned her attention back to the goldfish.

“I want to know about Michael. More than what we already know.”

Amy stood silent for a minute or two, and let out another deep sigh, “Fine.”

~~~

“Michael started coming around three months before it all happened. He was a college freshman, and somehow I was part of orientation, thanks to his dorm buddies. I thought I was in for another rough night when they all swaggered into May’s, but once he was alone with me in my room, his attitude changed.

“He didn’t make a move, just wanted to talk. I was wary, but relieved. Kept coming back at least three nights a week, just to talk. That lasted about a month.

“I looked forward to his visits, May must have sensed it. She picked up on his schedule and made sure I was free when he came around. We started just holding hands, and then we would kiss. I was actually being the aggressive one, I don’t know why. Last thing I wanted was sex with another man, but this was different. I wanted to be with Michael.

“He wanted to take it slow, though. Talked about how much he liked me, and wanted to get to know me more. Said it was strange for him, but he thought he was falling in love with me.

“Can you believe that? He was falling in love with me. Thing was, I thought I was falling for him, too. Things actually started to get serious between us over the next month and half, but he never did more than kiss me. I couldn’t believe that I would end up finding someone who treated me like that in the middle of that place.

“And then it happened. He asked me to marry him. I didn’t know what I was saying, but I said yes. Oh I was so stupid, but I said yes. He made me promise one thing though.

“‘Amy, baby. Promise me you won’t sleep with any more guys. I know it’s your job, but I’m gonna take you away from all of this. Just promise me you won’t.’

“The fantasy crashed around me right at that instant. I finally took my head out of the clouds and realized, he didn’t know. He didn’t know the truth about who I was, or what this house was. I wasn’t going to tell him. I couldn’t tell him, what if he would run away and never come back?

“I should have told him. We were gonna elope that night. He confessed to me that none of his family knew about me, which really wasn’t a surprise to me. He said it would make it easier for them to meet me if we were already married. You know, for a college man, he was stupid. Of course, all I saw were his dreamy eyes and his promises of getting me out of there.

“When he left that night, I told Monica everything. For the first time ever, I saw the pain of rejection and abandonment in her eyes.

“‘You’re leaving me? You’re just gonna leave me here? Leave all of us here?’

“I promised her that as soon as I got away, I was going to the FBI or someone. I would get help to them fast; it would only be a day or so.

“She said she believed me, and was happy for me. We hugged and we all went to bed for the night.

“I still don’t know how Jimmy found out.

“Monica woke me in a panic. Kept telling me that I needed to get up, and we needed to get out of there immediately.

“I heard May and Jimmy yelling on the stairs. I couldn’t make out what was being said, but the argument stopped and I heard someone falling down the stairs. I knew it wasn’t Jimmy.

“He kept yelling for me, and every time another door would open he would tell them to get back in their room, or he’d kill them. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. Monica yanked me out of bed and we ran out into the hall, only to see Jimmy standing right there.

“‘Where the hell do you think you’re goin’? He screamed at us. ‘Thinking about leaving me?’

“‘Now, Jimmy…’ Monica tried to intervene. He roared and threw a balled up shirt at me. It hit me and fell to the ground and I saw what it was.

“It was the same shirt Michael was wearing when he visited me. Bloody and full of rips and holes, my heart stopped and I almost fell over.

“Monica grabbed my hand and pulled me back into my room. She slammed the door shut and locked it, hoping to keep Jimmy out.

“It didn’t work. He kicked the door and rushed us.

“‘No one leaves Jimmy! I’m the only one who loves you!’

“I can’t believe that was the last thing I remember hearing him say, just before I felt the glass of my window break against my back, and watched Monica as she fell next to me out the window. I don’t remember the fall stopping.”

~~~

Amy and her mother stood silently embracing each other beside the pond for a long while. It was the first time she talked to anyone about that night. Really, it was the first time she allowed herself to think about it. The vividness of it shook her, and she couldn’t stop the cries and sobs. It was the reason she asked Dr. Karl why she was rescued, but not the others.

She learned, after she woke from her coma two and half years after that night, that Monica didn’t survive the fall. Amy was left broken and vegetative, but Monica died instantly.

May survived falling down the stairs, but she would never walk again.

It turned out Michael was the son of an FBI agent. Amy wished more than anything that he had told her that, and she told him everything. Maybe they all would have been rescued.

May pleaded guilty when she got better at the hospital. She cut some deal against Jimmy and was serving 15 years in a prison hospital.

All the other girls though, more tragedy than Amy could keep. Each of them were sent back to their home countries, since they were all here illegally.

They all told Amy once that they were running from something. Bad families, bad governments, something so horrible that it made working in a brothel more appealing to them.

Now, they were right back where they started. Every night, Amy still asked God that they were still alive, and he was protecting them.

“Stacy! Amy!” Amy’s father yelled down to them from the house. They both turned to see him standing with the phone in his hand, face soaked with tears.

“What is it dear?” her mother asked.

“They found him.”

“What?” Amy’s head spun.

“Ryan, they found Ryan.”

Amy fell to her knees as the full measure of the news hit her. She began to cry, for reasons she wasn’t really sure. Joy, sorrow, pain, relief, all of it. It all overwhelmed her, and she couldn’t stop the tears.

“Where?” her mother’s voice was broken from her own sobs of emotion.

“In Georgia, a suburb on the north side of Atlanta. I really didn’t care where, just that he was found.” Her father moved to embrace both of them, but Amy couldn’t find the strength to stand just yet.

“Thank you God.” Her mother whispered.

“They said we can come see him, but not to hope of bringing him home just yet. There’s no telling what he’s been through, or what state his mind is in right now. Seems there was a shoot out between the police and the guy who was holding him. He was killed right in front of Ryan. God help us, we’re gonna need to be patient, and be prepared for anything.”

“I’m ready.” Amy stood, slow and steady, and grabbed the hands of her mom and dad. “Let’s get Ryan.”

~~~

“That’s wonderful news, Amy! So that’s where you are now? On you’re way to meet him in Georgia?” Dr. Karl didn’t sound as excited about the news on the other side of the phone as Amy had expected.

“Yeah. Dad said it would be faster for us to drive to Atlanta than it would be to fly, so that’s what we’re doing.” Amy sat in the back of the sedan as her dad drove the Dan Ryan towards Indiana.

“That’s great to hear. You see, hope is a good thing, Amy.”

“Dr. Karl, is something wrong? You don’t sound as happy about this as I thought you would.”

“I am Amy, believe me, I couldn’t be happier. There is some news though that I need to share with you, that I thought would be best in person. However, I think it best I share with you before you find out another way.”

Amy’s heart sank, “Go ahead.”

“Jimmy was killed by another inmate, Amy. I’m sorry to tell you this.”

“What does this mean?” Thoughts and emotions flooded her like she never knew they would. Anger, elation, relief, guilt, all of it spun around in the pit of her stomach, in her head, and her chest. She could barely breathe.

“For one thing, it means no trial. It means you won’t have to face him again.”

“No more meetings with you?”

“Now, I was helping you get prepared for it, but I am not a court psychiatrist. I am your psychiatrist, Amy. I am here whenever you need me. That doesn’t stop.”

A brief pause.

“Tell me how you’re feeling, Amy.”

“Happy. Is that wrong? I mean, isn’t that what all this is about? You and me. Getting me to forgive him, so I can move on with my life.”

“Forgive, yes. Even a monster like him, but that does not mean you are wrong for feeling some relief at the hearing of his death.”

“Dr. Karl,” Amy stared blankly out the window next to her, watching the world fly by.

“Yes, Amy.”

“I’m going to hang up now.”

“OK, dear. Call me whe…” Amy didn’t wait for him to finish before hanging up her cell phone.

What was she supposed to feel? Surely the whole thing was to make him out to be human, and not a monster. That way she wouldn’t have to fear him. Should she be happy at the death of another human?

It was less confusing when he was just a monster. At least then, she knew she could rejoice and not feel guilty about it.

God, why do I feel sad for even the death of him?

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