***Warning: Rape is involved in one of the later chapters. It is not physically violent; it is more about one person's absolute control over the other. But it is still rape so if this topic offends you, please stay away.***
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Chapter 1- Imprisonment
Throbbing pain, like my skull had been split open. Something cold and hard was pressed against the side of my face. I slowly opened my eyes, but my vision was blurred and I couldn't make out my surroundings clearly. Everything was dark, or maybe darkened by my unreliable sight. I felt cold and wet, as if I were lying on a puddle. My body felt heavy, unable to move. It was a struggle to keep my eyes open.
I could hear footsteps hurriedly approaching. A door opened and closed. I could see people approaching me, but only their legs and shoes. Was I really lying on the ground? Where was I and what happened?
Someone was kneeling in front of me, a blurry face came inches from mine.
"Is she dead, mate? I told you to be careful with the broad, she's no good to anyone dead." The voice that spoke was further away. The man near me remained silent and was searching for something around the area of my neck.
"Damn it, I can't find a pulse."
A pulse? Is that what he was searching for? Of course I had a pulse! I was not dead! But I couldn't open my mouth to let them know. I couldn't scream or move or give any sign that I was alive.
More footsteps were approaching, more people entered the room.
"Pick her up." A male, deep voice firmly instructed.
"I don't think she's going to make it, boss. She took a nasty beating, and that last blow to the head looks pretty bad," the man still kneeling next to me replied.
"Did I ask you how she's doing? I can see her. And you better pray she doesn't die, or you'll be visiting the bottom of the Chicago River."
I felt several sets of hands lifting me up from the ground. I still couldn't move but the pain in my head grew worse than ever. I wanted to scream in pain. I began hoping I would die. The pain was surreal, cut through everything, took over everything. I heard my own ragged breathing and my eyes became watery, making my vision even more obstructed.
My lids grew heavy and it was becoming impossible to keep them open. I couldn't see anyway, so I saw no point in struggling with the inevitable. I knew if I fell into unconsciousness I may never wake up again, but anything, anything was better than enduring this pain any longer.
I succumbed to the blackness, the silence, and the unknown.
I didn't die, or at least I don't think I did. I pulled in and out of consciousness for what could have been days. I saw people looking after me, trying to repair whatever damage was done to me. I felt whenever needles poked my arm, or a sharp light was directed to my eyes, or when the wounds in my head were being sutured. The pain came and went, along with this feeling of either blissful weightlessness or immobilizing heaviness. I actually enjoyed them both; it's the pain I didn't care for.
I dreamt about my life. Recollections of my childhood, adolescence and beyond flashed through my mind. I dreamt about the day I left home for college, last time I ever saw my father. It was a horrible last encounter, such deep, wounding words echoing through the high ceilings of my then home. I loved my father, but ever since I can remember, I had known he was unlike other dads.
I was brought up like a princess. My mother had died giving birth to me and my father had never remarried, never gotten over his one true love. Instead, he had directed all that love to his only daughter, his only child, and had showered me with gifts and affection. I had everything my heart desired.
I went to the most prestigious private school. A Dutch nanny slept in my bedroom until the age of twelve. I had a pony for my eleventh birthday and a purebred only three years later, nothing was ever denied to me. I simply became accustomed to having a driver at my disposal, spending summers at the family villa in Tuscany, weekends in Paris for me and my friends, trips to London simply to attend a play or concert my father fancied.
But all along I had known something was wrong, people simply treated me differently, and there was always a lingering fear behind their kindness. By the time I was fourteen I had started to pay attention to the rumours, to the whispered gossip between the help, to my father's strange midnight meetings in his study.
It is a hard truth to face when you realize the father you cherish is everything you've ever thought was wrong with human kind. He was a real lord of the underworld, a man so perverse and powerful he was above the law. And so I saw no alternative but to get away, to part from my father and everything he represented.
But getting away was no easy feat, so the plan was to leave for college and leave this life behind, give up my family name and birthright. Give everything up for a life away from such violence and vice.
My dad had not taken the news well, and this last encounter is what I envisioned in my dream, the dream that seemed to replay every time I succumbed to sleep. I saw my father torn between rage and sorrow, my nana Helga weeping silently, the help gathered by the stairwell frightened by the scene before them.
I had packed only what essentials I needed. I left my jewellery behind, taking only my mother's locket which hung from my neck on a white gold chain. My father alternated between pleading and threatening me. Neither worked.
My last words were final: "If you want me to stay, Father, you'll have to kill me- or rather have one of your men do it, since I know you'd never dirty your hands with blood."
Dartmouth had become my new home and life. I studied Philosophy and then earned a Master's in Ancient Languages. I took a teaching position even before my Masters was over. I was one of the youngest teachers there, and I loved my relatively simple life. My salary was reasonable but afforded nothing near to the lifestyle I had been brought up in. I loved it. I had a small flat near the campus, a lovable dog that kept me company and a couple of close friends to have the occasional drink with.
I had had two short-term love affairs that ended badly: the first one because of youthful impetuousness and the second because someone had forgotten to mention they were married. Not me. So men had taken a backseat in my life. Something that was perfectly fine by me for the time being. Like I said, I had a dog.
"Can you open your eyes?" Another flashlight was pointing my eyes. I was not sure if this wasn't simply part of another dream. The male voice asking the question was unfamiliar, but the kindness behind it was not lost on me. I tried to answer, but my mouth felt dry and I could hardly open it.
"So what's the verdict, doc?" This other voice triggered a memory in me, but I couldn't place it. It was a beautiful voice, masculine, flowed with a softness that was almost musical, but I could still detect absolute control behind it. I realized I was lying on a bed, not my own. I could see two figures standing by it.
I blinked my eyes several times hoping to attain better focus. The man holding the flashlight was an elderly chap with a worn, kind face. The second man, standing further down the bed, was much younger. They both wore dark suits. I recognize neither.
"Sweetheart, can you understand me?" I looked back at the older man who I guessed was the doctor. I think I managed a small nod in confirmation.
"Can you talk to us?" he inquired further, the kindness and patience still there. I cleared my throat several times in an attempt to speak.
"Mmm.. ma.. may I have some water, please?" My voice was low and hoarse, but it's the best I could manage.
A nurse I had not noticed before lifted my head from the pillows, and held a glass of water to my lips. I took a couple of sips. The water felt like scorching lava sliding down my throat, but it helped a bit with the dryness.
"Can you tell us your name, sweetheart?"
"Isabella." I could manage no more than my first name.
"Good. Go back to sleep now, Isabella. Everything will be all right." There was a faint smile sketched on his face. He looked a bit younger when he smiled.
I closed my eyes gratefully. The last thing I heard was the doctor telling the other man there was no apparent brain damage, and that in a couple more days I should be able to walk again. I should have been terrified, how did I undergo such severe wounds? But I felt too numb and heavy to care for now.
I apparently still knew my name, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what happened or how I came to be here. The dreams were claiming me once more, and I didn't have the strength to refuse them any longer. Oblivion was too tempting.