*This chapter contains some violence, painful situations and sensitive subjects to some. If you are easily offended by abuse then please stop reading...now.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Falling away like ashes:

Khloe's experience

*Song: New World in my view by King Britt*

I can see me, sitting at the dressing table in my childhood home, I'm fourteen again and my heart is pounding in my throat…this is just a bad dream, right?

In my mind, the levee that keeps my suppressed memories at bay crumbles like a sandcastle. I feel as though I'm drowning within myself.

What's happening to me?

White-hot heat, course through me…the memory of my uncle burning me with a branding iron surface, and I can't breath…I'm struggling to swim to the surface…I don't like this.

The memory faded as quickly as it came but the pain of being burned remains…the cracking whip of fire, the suffocation, the helplessness….I need to scream but I can't.

In my mind, I can see myself flailing in the water and my god, it burns. It's the lake of fire my Aunt Fern used to preach about on Sunday afternoons with her church group…the God-fearing aunt who'd make me kneel on rice and pray for my 'heathen' soul…I'm the bastard out of Lafayette, Louisiana. Born to a flighty mother who's dreams of being a singer where ripped away when I was born. The memory suddenly falls away like ashes in the wind.

"Why are you doing this to me?" I scream, asking someone, anyone who can hear me. My echo surrounds me and it pierces my ears, I sink back to the bottom to make it stop.

I'm the fifteen-year-old girl sneaking out of her grandmother's house in the middle of the night to talk to my mother's gravestone. I hate her for leaving me but I can't cry, the river of fire will not allow it. Her face flickers in my mind like an old picture show before slowly burning away.

A thick whip of fire cracks at me again and I'm sinking further into the fire, I don't fight it this time because the farther I sink, these memories fade and I can breathe a little easier.

I'm the sixteen-year-old praying to a God I'm not sure I believe in, begging that my grandfather would be too tired to come into my room and beat me again…beat me for being illegitimate or whatever reason he could think of for that day. I stop breathing when the door to my room creaks open, I hear clinking of his belt against his thigh. My grandmother sits outside my room, knitting another blanket while I silently take the whipping I get. I hate her. I hate them.

This memory whirlpools and flushes itself down into the river, I can breathe again.

I'm seventeen and it's three-in-the-morning. I'm quietly packing my clothes while the walls around this home crumble around me. I tip-toe into my grandparents room and I can see their figures lying asleep in bed. I take the two-hundred dollars from my grandfather's wallet and the forty from my grandmother's sewing bag. I don't feel guilty when I write 'sinners have souls, too' on the mirror of their dresser with my red lipstick. I scale down the open window of my room to the waiting cab. Before I get in, I take one last look at the house of my youth and watch it crumble into ashes.

I sink further down, and it burns more…I welcome it this time.

I'm a freshman in college and I meet Roxanne and Bella. Late-night study sessions and movie nights flood my memory. We share secrets and cry together…it's therapeutic, it's what I needed…they are my family now.

No, this is a memory I want to keep. I'm fighting against the scalding waves, reaching out into nothingness as the memory runs away from me, I forget why I'm fighting and let myself sink again.

The fire whips at me again, scathing my back and I'm flailing again…this is quickly becoming unbearable. I can't open my eyes, I feel like they'd melt away if I did. I don't understand what's going on, I don't understand why I'm here suffering through this. I can hear the fire crackling within me. My heart flutters like a helicopter and I can feel the wind in my face…but it's not soothing, not at all.

I'm in Bella's apartment and Joe's standing over me, massaging his fist. My head is throbbing and I can taste blood in my mouth…blood, the smell of it makes my throat burn and I can't understand why. "Is this what makes you feel like a man Joe? Beating women...oh your such a man you fucking prick." I can hear myself say, my vision is blurry but I can feel him pull my hair. My body lifts effortlessly and I can smell the whisky on his breath. The fire engulfs me again and I'm laying under him, something in my head pops like a balloon and I can't feel his blows anymore. His calloused hands run over my chest. He stops and turns his attention to the door. He hides and I see Bella, she screams and rushes to my side. In my head, I'm screaming for her to run away but words fail me.

My heart is fluttering, I feel like a fish out of water. He pulls her hair and I can't help…this kills me. Oh my-

Am I dead? Is this what happens when you die?

My heart pounds against my chest. I feel like it's going to explode any second now. The lake of fire seems to be getting cooler the further I sink. That memory fades like all the others and the soles of my feet are no longer burning. I grip my chest and feel my heart slow to a halt, I begin to panic. "I don't want to die!" I scream, "I'm not ready to go yet!"

In response to my pleas, the fire whips across my face and I'm flailing again, fighting it with everything I have. My body stills as the fire wraps around me like a blanket, pulling me further into the lake.

I see an young man standing in front of a group of older men, I don't recognize him and it's as if he's from another time. He has blonde hair and so handsome, but his face is troubled. The men behind him carry pitch forks and large wooden crosses. Some carry bibles, others carry rosaries. It's as if they're searching for something…one man screams in agony…I think they find it.

I don't understand…is this a witch hunt?

The young man is running down a dark alley, he is holding his neck and crying into the darkness. The mob is after him now. He hides in trash, surrounded my rotten potatoes until the streets fall silent.

The burning turns into cool bursts of air. It's comforting but my insides feel as if they are cooking, I can't be still….it hurts too much.

I can feel someone touching me. It's quick but a finger moves across my forehead. My hair is being brushed and people are whispering around me. The fire is all but gone but the dryness in my throat carries a faint memory of the hell I've just been through. I can breath but I don't need to. I feel light and for the first time in a long time…I feel whole again.

"Khloe?" A musical voice calls out, touching my cheek. "Can you hear me?"

"She's not ready yet, Irina."

"How can you tell, sister?" The girl giggles, touching my face again. "Do you have her on a timer?"

"Cute, Irina." Their voices sound like echo's in an empty hallway, I can feel my fingers move on their own accord and someone's breath catches. "I think she's coming out of it."

"It's about time…it took longer than usual."

"She was badly hurt," the motherly voice said. "Khloe?" She said, gently tugging on my arm. "I know you can hear me, child. Don't be afraid…we're here to help you."

My eyes flutter open and I see two of the most beautiful women I've ever seen staring down at me in wonder. Both blonde-haired with honey-colored eyes, they smile at me adoringly as they help me up from the metal slab I was laying on. I notice that I'm hooked to an I.V. machines and a breathing respirator that I don't think I need anymore. I don't remember anything expect for the burning pain and the memory of that young blonde-man…I'm so confused.

"Come," the taller blonde says as she pats my shoulder. "Let's get you fed and then we will explain everything…there is so much to tell."

"Fed? I'm not…who are you?" I ask, pulling away from her embrace. "Why am I so thirsty?"

"My name is Tanya." She smiles, putting her hand on her chest. "And this is my sister Irina."

"What happened to me?"

"We will explain everything… but for now, let just get you fed. You will feel better once the burning in your throat subsides."

"How did you-"

"Trust me, child…there is so much to tell and we have eons of time." Tanya laughed and rose from her seat, pulling me with her. "You must learn to be patient…it will make sense very soon."

I AM SOOOOO VERY SORRY FOR THE LENGTH OF TIME BETWEEN UPDATES. I was suffering from a major fit of writers block with this story. I promised I'd finish it and I will. I will begin to update regularly in the new year, I promise.

Thanks to all who are still reading it, update is coming in January. ..STORY!

I appreciate all my gorgeous readers! xoxo Thank you for your understanding AND patience.