She is twenty-two with a broken heart that is four years eleven months and twenty-seven days old.
She began shedding her identity three days and sixteen hours after leaving Seattle, ditching Samantha Puckett in her wake as she drove and never looked back.
She went from blonde to brunette in a gas station bathroom that smelt like stale sweat in Olympia. She salvaged flat irons from a trash can in Portland. She stole boxes of hazel coloured contact lenses from Wal-Mart in Salem. She adopted the name Stefanie Plackett in Sacramento by swiping a wallet containing all the I.D she needed from an unsuspecting young woman's purse. She stopped eating in San Francisco so her face lost its roundness and her sharp bone structure began to show through, all chiselled cheekbones and razor sharp chin, protruding hip bones and visible rib cage. She walked away with a suitcase belonging to a girl who looked around her dress size in a coach station in Fremont. She dyed her hair and stole from stores and changed her name whilst thinking of the new life she was paving for herself.
She became a shadow of her former self, exactly what she wanted to be. There was nothing left to tie her to her old life in Seattle and she was stupid enough to believe that she could forget everything that happened with a click of her fingers, with a metamorphosis into a brand new girl.
Subconsciously she was turning into the girl she never was but always wanted to be. Brunette, brown eyes, ring any bells?
Jealousy, along with other factors, makes you do crazy things.
She was eighteen years twenty-one hours and ten minutes old when she left Seattle, her broken heart riding shotgun as she sped from the Rain City.
She is back in Seattle and she doesn't know how it happened, why she is here or what she is doing.
She's sat on the sidewalk and the heavens open up above her, pouring enough rain on the city to match the tears sliding down her face, her clothes soaked through and her nose red from the cold. Her car is parked a half-mile away in a parking lot beside an empty warehouse but her limbs ache and the weight on her shoulders is too heavy for her to move an inch. She is wet now anyway. The sanctuary of a car with a broken heater will not make her dry.
The sky is an empty dark canvas and she has no idea what time it is, let alone what day of the week it is. She's been counting the days since her departure because it is the one solitary thing that is holding her back from the brink of insanity. She thinks the sky looks beautiful, an empty black void to match the hole in her chest where her heart should be and she becomes so engrossed in the vastness that she fails to hear the feet coming towards her, slapping in the puddles on the pavement. Leather shoes come to a stop beside her and she looks down at the shoes before diverting her eyes to the water splashing in the gutter, hoping that whoever it is will go away and leave her alone to piece her puzzle together.
Only the person is persistent, annoyingly so, and they sit down beside her on the dirty floor, risking catching a cold at her expense.
"Excuse me, are you okay?" The person asks and although she can barely hear over the pounding rain she knows the voice belongs to a male and she shrinks away from him, hoping he isn't assuming she is a prostitute waiting in the torrential downpour for a customer, seeing as no one else in their right mind would be out in this weather.
She doesn't do that anymore. She isn't so desperate for cash that she feels the need to sell her body in a Las Vegas brothel.
"I'm fine," she bites back, sweeping a hand across her face and spreading her smudged make-up further down her hollow cheeks.
She's not fine. She's been to hell and back. She sold her soul to the devil. She is in a city that feels like a foreign country. She has no idea what she is doing. She has exactly fifty dollars to her name. She is going to have to sleep in the backseat of her car with threadbare blankets. She doesn't want to be Stefanie Plackett anymore. She'd like Samantha Puckett back. She wants a reset button to take her back to the time she was young and beautiful. She wants to throw herself under a truck. She has a heart that has been broken for four years eleven months and twenty seven days.
And she is twenty-three in three days.
"Look, I have a nice warm apartment and you need to get inside before you catch your death," he speaks again and the voice sounds familiar, but she passes it off as her mind playing tricks on her because she hasn't slept in nearly thirty-six hours.
"How do I know you're not a serial killer?" she sneezes as rain drips from the end of her nose, still not looking up as she stares at her bare feet.
She knows how to look after herself, knows she has to be wary of men. Men steal your innocence. Men hurt you in ways you never thought were possible. Men rip your dreams to shreds. Men break your heart. Men leave you cold and senseless. Men never return your love.
Men rape you.
Those two words hit her like a bullet to the chest, knocking her back to seventeen and in love, heart in tact and never happier. They are like a stab in the gut, the pouring of blood bringing the flooding of memories that leave her doubled over in pain, head in her hands as she begs for the voice stuck on repeat to stop taunting her. Trust me. Trust me. Trust me and I'll break your heart. She dares a glance at his face and it is the catalyst that sends her world spiralling into turmoil. She sees him beneath the thin layer of stubble and sad eyes, behind the mop of dark hair and chapped lips. Of course she knows him, how could she not. His eighteen year old face is burnt on the back of her eyelids as a constant reminder of her past, of what she left behind.
She has to laugh, bitterly, due the fact it has to be him to find her completely broken when he caused it all. The inconvenience is so hysterical she cries.
She wants to scream out that she trusted him before and that got her nowhere, wants to punch and kick and leave him for dead in the street so he knows exactly what pain feels like. She wants to break every bone in his body and kiss him to death at the same time. She is torn, indecisive after years of knowing exactly what she wanted to do and how she was going to do it, and she realises that karma always has a way of coming around to rip your throat out and scissor kick you in the teeth.
This is her pay back for leaving all those years ago, for getting out when she had the chance instead of sticking it out like the fighter she convinced everyone she was. She didn't stay, couldn't stay, fists and slaps and vicious taunts rendered useless against everything he had against her.
She nods, agreeing to go with him and the overhead street lamp illuminates his face as he smiles, the smile that once reduced her to a quivering wreck. Her heart would ache if she still had the muscle. He looks at her with eyes full of pity – what a sad little girl – and she can tell he doesn't see the honey blonde hair and piercing blue eyes underneath the mundane brown she's been sporting to hide her true self. Clearly it is working if the one person she doesn't want to recognise her doesn't bat an eyelid, doesn't give her a quizzical second glance before declaring he knows who she is.
"You stay here and I'll get my car from around the block." He won't stop smiling, but it is forced, the kind you use to be polite to strangers in the street, and she considers her chances of fleeing the scene once he rounds the corner. They're slim, her cut-up legs numb from sitting awkwardly and she knows if she tries to stand she'll just fall back down again.
He is half way down the sidewalk when he turns and shouts to her, "I never told you my name. I'm Freddie Benson."
Later she'll blame it on her lack of food, blame it on her emaciated frame being too weak to withstand the abuse she has been putting it through.
She said "I've got a broken heart, got a broken heart."
She said "Can you help me fix it please?"