"I see you."
The acidic contents of my stomach up-heaved as I heard the hard-bitten death sentence, but I swallowed down the acrid taste with great difficulty. My breath left my lungs in an agonizing whoosh rendering my body bereft of life force and circles started swirling in-front of my eyes. Maybe, that's what happened to every being when on the verge of departure. When the call of the Angel of Death becomes too persistent, with wings spread wide open in all of its glory, welcoming the damned one to the realm of the darkness.
Death is a certainty, not a possibility so I'd always wondered how I'd die, not the act but the place and the circumstances. Not even in my most wildest of thoughts had this scenario of my last moments ever crossed my mind. But now, after seeing the demise of my father I'm convinced that a quick death might even be the easy way out for me at this point. My sub-conscious sneered at me 'like you had a choice damned one.'
I was not ready to die. I suppressed the sob that threatened to escape my painfully chapped mouth. I refused to give scary guy the satisfaction of seeing me cry. I wanted to live. Maybe come out as a well-known belly dancer someday. Find true love. Have children. Try and avenge my daddy, then die old and gray. What about my dreams? What about my daddy? My eyes welled up.
The scary guy cocked his head to the side and looked at me with mock softness. The eerie looking deep grotesque old scar on his face gave off an illusion of a crescent moon, starting from the hair-line on his forehead and ending down on the side of his neck.
"Now who's been playing The Peeping Tom. Come here sweet child, come to me." He gestured towards me with his hands and softly opened the closet door. I whimpered out of fear and looked down at my feet trying to will them to attain some super powers and fly away, taking me as far away as possible from scary guy and this nightmare.
"Peeking, weren't you?" He grabbed my chin in his rough, cold hand almost too tenderly and stroked my hair with his other hand.
A whine left my throat which constricted my lungs resulting in a hiccup coming out of my already opened mouth. My watery eyes met his unyielding ones. His tender touch belied his hard face. He eyed my tangled hair and runny nose while stroking my cheek with his bloodied thumb.
"Shame! What a cute little pretty face. I'm almost sad that I'd have to kill you sweetness." He crouched down in-front of me on his haunches and grabbed my face with both of his hands with forced tenderness making my lips protrude out resulting in a pout.
"How very adorable." He stroked my protruding lower lip with his thumb and slowly stood up forcing me to follow his lead.
I resisted the urge to gag under his fake gentility and turned my face sideways trying to pry it away from his hands but to no avail. He clicked his tongue as he shook his head "Uh uh uh. How long have you been hiding here?" I ignored his question and looked at his face trying to find an ounce of mercy in his cold dark heart by searching his eyes. I saw nothing but my demise written in there. My sobs unknowingly to me started wracking my body and I felt something wetting my cheeks, must be tears. He searched my face inquisitively. What's he finding so amusing about my situation? I swallowed a sob in my throat which resulted in pain-filled hiccups.
He granted me with an evil sadistic smirk and I shrank back. "P-please." I begged scared out of my wits.
"Please what?" He cocked his head to the side.
"D-don't, P-please. P-please don't kill me." My voice shook. The looming fear of death was indeed nothing like I'd ever felt before.
"How old are you sweetness?" He ignored me begging for my life and countered back with his own queries.
"S-seventeen and a h-half." I hiccuped.
"And what's your name." He again granted me with a sweet smile. The smile that I was starting to dread.
"Ana." I whispered sniffing.
"Full name." He raised his eyebrows in mild anticipation.
"Anastasia Rose Steele." I croaked out from my weathered out throat.
"Steele..." He whispered in a contemplative manner. I nodded my head subserviently.
A melodic tone rang out nearby bringing him out of his thoughtful stupor. He pulled out his phone from his pants pocket and answered.
"Yes boss. Yes I've swept the house carefully." He said whilst giving me the look that warned me to keep my mouth zipped.
"No I didn't find anyone." Was he not killing me? I blinked up at him while he threw cautious glances my way. I shrank back submissively.
"Yes, Okay." He clicked his phone shut after a pause. His one-sided conversation that I heard was freezing my brain with the onslaught of different scenarios as I was unable to think coherently after witnessing the murder of my father and Joanne.
He started pacing back and forth in the hallway with hands behind his back and stared at me in contemplative silence. He started, after looking like he had reached a decision that satisfied him.
"You know, now that I think about it, It would be a shame for such a pretty little morsel to go to waste. Shame indeed! Tell me Anastasia Rose Steele. Do you want to live?" His beady eyes leered down at me. I shrank back in my skin further. What did he require from me? They already killed my father. I only wanted my daddy back...I-I wanted to live...B-but going to waste?
"Y-yes." My self-preservation kicked in and my body switched to survival mode. I croaked out with great difficulty despite my suicidal thoughts, I wanted to live. I'll live. Daddy would want me to live and continue with my life. I had to bide my time, enough time to escape. Yes, Daddy would like that.
"So it's a deal then. I pay my debt and maybe get some cash and you get to live. Come." He jerked his head and walked towards the main entrance and opened the door. Gesturing with his head at me to walk past him. I managed to lift my feet slowly and crept towards the door. Still wary of the scary guy, I did not turn my back on him lest he changed his mind about killing me.
"D-deal. What d-deal?" I finally asked him as I looked into his eyes for a second before receding my sight downwards as I neared him, hoping to collect the gall to look him into his eyes once more.
"Enough with this bullshit! No questions. Take it or leave it. It's your last chance. Do you wish to live or do you want to die?" He startled me with his loud bellow and fed-up tone.
"I w-want to l-live, p-please." Begging seemed like a really good idea right about now and a drowning man would even clutch at a straw for support. This scary guy happened to turn out to be my straw.
"Now that's more like it sweet pea. Follow me." He pushed me outside by man-handling my arm.
I had a moment of uncomfortable premonition of fear and uncertainty. An icy sickening sinking of my heart which plummeted me into the depths of doubts. I did not trust that man one bit and rightfully so.
He dragged me to the back of my house where they must have parked their vehicles. I spotted a rusty old black Chevy truck.
"You gotta excuse the rotten vehicle sweetheart. I'm new with these Greys, not been bestowed by their generosity yet!" He gave me a cheeky looking bipolar grin while I numbly just blinked up at him incredulously. Did he really thought after experiencing what I just witnessed I'd humor him?
He gave me a sheepish look at my blank stare and opened the truck door for me to sit in. I quietly slid into the seat and stared ahead feeling numb. I didn't know how I was able to function. I was sure my manual system was ruined and ran out of fuel and now I was running on auto and the leftover batteries.
I had conscience enough to warrant that I was passing through the denial phase. My experience and instincts warred within me. I knew that after this phase I'll collapse into a dreary and hysterical depression.
I didn't know when he started the engine and drove me away from my house, all I remembered was a small warm house that got smaller and smaller as the distance grew. I kept looking back even after my home disappeared from my line of sight. Goodbye. My heart whispered a final gut wrenching farewell.
Why did it had to end like that? I'd never see daddy again. My silent tears never stopped, now that everyone had abandoned me, seemed like they were my only yet eternal companions left, one that had promised not to ever leave me alone.
He drove the car for hours...maybe, and even offered me water which I blankly declined. My stomach churned at the thought of eating or drinking anything. I was busy having a rather vivid recall of everything that I witnessed happening. My head felt like it was going to burst into flames.
I tried to reassure myself with delusional prospects, everything would be back to normal, somehow daddy would come back and I'd eat Joanne's baked goods again. I should've fed Mimi, she gets grumpy if left unfed. Joanne baked goods will rot if kept out on the kitchen shelf for too long. Daddy gave me three of his shirts to sew their buttons back on, he had a bad habit of pulling on them and then ripping them off. I should've sewn those shirts before leaving. I finally had successfully persuaded Joanne to let me dye her snow-white hair to classic blond. She was so slight, short and delicate, I knew it would look good on her. She finally consented when I promised her she'd look like a doll and Antonio would love it!
I felt a smile cracking from my dry mouth as those memories invaded my brain like a beam of sunshine in the midst of black rain. But unlucky that I was, the day's events rushed back into my mind raiding it like an unwelcome oppressor as I tried to block them out by switching my focus to my chipped nails, they must have broken when I scratched the walls in order to control my screams.
When the voices inside my head grew too loud, amidst the silence, I suddenly asked the scary guy "Where are you taking me?" Not that I cared anymore. He looked at me askance and shrugged nonchalantly "Beggars cannot be choosers."
After that I did not utter a single syllable throughout the whole journey and drowned myself in my sorrows once more. I felt sleepy because of exhaustion and hunger. I didn't eat lunch in the haste to not get late to my belly dance lessons. I succumbed to sleep after struggling to keep my lids open. No gain trying to fight it, that was my last thought as lethargy claimed me.
I awoke jerkily when the Chevy gave a loud roar as it screeched to a halt effectively bringing me out of the sleep filled hazy fog. It took my brain a moment to register that what happened and was happening was not a dream and indeed a reality. Oh how I wished I was woken up by my dad beating down on my bedroom door, threatening to take Wanda if I didn't get to school on time. Guess school was the thing of past now, I thought gloomily.
"What is this place?" I asked scar-face as I looked at a red bricked warehouse type edifice with the words The Scene written in bold on the top.
"Your prison, Your salvation. Whatever appeases your heart, sweet pea." He sing-songed in an upbeat tone as he gestured with his hands for me to get off the car and pulled out his keys from the ignition at the same time. One man's loss is another man's gain. At-least one of us is happy. I inwardly laughed at myself as I ridiculed my own patheticness for trying to find happiness in one of my family's assailant's gain.
I slowly opened my door as he appeared out of nowhere to help me out and maybe to make sure that I wouldn't escape. Don't worry, scary guy, even if I wanted to I wouldn't be able to run as I had no life force left inside me at the moment.
"Now listen here missy." He started, I gave him a sideways glance and then immediately looked down. "Your past ends here. You're no longer a Steele. Your name is Anastasia Rose. No Steele. If the word Steele ever got passed your lips, we're both dead. And now comes the real shit, you're not familiar with the name Grey or it's your funeral." I just looked at him, was that suppose to concern me? "Understood!?" his tone was authoritative and I just nodded.
He clamped his large hand over my arm and ignored the front entrance pulling me towards the back of the building. He pushed through the threshold of a small door and, we ended up in what I assumed was a supply room. I kept my head down, never looking up and arms crossed across my torso as he still held onto my arm. No need to get my hopes up. I'm not afraid of these guys. I've survived the worst, I'm strong. I can probably take them on. I wanted to cry for myself at my mind's reassurances, even I knew it was a burlesque attempt of evading a blow.
I heard music blaring out of a closed leather door. It was a club of sorts if I was not wrong. Still I didn't dare to lift my eyelids, I kept them lowered. He pulled me into a lobby and out of my peripheral I saw skimpily dressed girls moving about, some talking, some laughing and giggling and others looked plain old mean and angry. I resisted the urge to cry again and closed my eyelids to avoid danger like a naive little robin...It was yet another habit of mine since I was a child, closing my eyes in the face of danger. It was a childish belief in my own impeccability but it used to work before, it might come to my aid again.
Where was I? Most important question, why was I in a place like this where I was seeing semi nude girls?
The possibilities in my mind twisted and turned but I didn't want to go there yet.
He guided me towards another door. The camera besides the door - for security purpose I guess - flashed on our faces and the automatic door opened eerily. It lead to a stairwell which further led to a basement. My body stiffened like a board as I heard screams coming from somewhere down the basement. The stairway was very dark and gloomy looking. The dark stairway stopped in front of another doorway. A flash resounded, must be another security camera. The automatic doors opened letting us enter the basement facility.
Scary man pushed me into a room, it was not very well-kept, with rusted door handles and cracked wall paint. There was a man sitting at a desk in the middle of the room. He gave scary guy a surprised and acknowledging nod and then looked at me curiously.
"Connor. You've got some nerve showing up like that?" He stood up and walked towards Connor and me.
"I brought a peace-offering Jada." Connor said hurriedly and gave me a little nudge towards the other man as I firmly planted my feet on the uneven ground.
"Now where did you find this innocent little jailbait?" The other guy circled me as I firmly kept my eyes down.
"Where's Hyde? I don't answer to you Jada. It's Hyde I want to meet and make a deal with." Connor said impatiently, pulling me towards himself and away from Jada.
Jada leaned forward and gave my hair a little few sniffs and said. "Sweet." He backed away and turned towards Connor. "Hyde is not here. He just left, may get back in a while."
"I want to meet Hyde, when can I meet him?"
"I'll let you enter. Make no mistake though, he's very angry with you." Jada motioned us towards the other door in the room.
"I know!" Connor replied dryly as he clutched my arm again as Jada opened the door to grant Connor entry.
"Good luck!" I heard Jada intone as the automatic doors closed behind us.
"Remember what I said." Connor whispered and I resisted the urge to shiver with disgust as his breath tickled the nape of my neck.
There was a whole new world packed in that so-called basement. It was bustling like a mini third grade community where people were moving about doing their business, shady stuff.
We passed a long hall where I can see rows of rooms on the both side. Connor ignored the other hallways as he yanked me to move forward. After passing a corridor, he stopped and knocked on a huge oak door. Someone opened the door for us and I lurched forward as Connor pulled me inside with him. The men inside the room moved forward with an effusive air of welcome. I crept near Connor and clutched onto his biceps for dear life.
My body froze for a moment as I tried to accumulate what my eyes were seeing.
Girls. Every age and color. Different types. Some were huddled in a corner while a few were scattered around in a heap. I fearfully looked at Connor while he gave me a nonchalant shrug because there was nothing to be reassured about. No...
My mind was gathering a roughed up idea that I was supposed to end up like one of those girls. I looked around, appalled with speechless disgust and spotted a petite girl of round about my age or maybe older, crying continuously - she couldn't be more than 19 - curled up in a corner while the guards looked at her with disinterest and resignation.
The door opened with a boom and in came a bear of a man wearing dirty slacks and a bloody t-shirts and muttering. "Got into a fight, Hyde's still stuck there."
He stopped dead in his tracks when he spotted Connor. They stood eye to eye as I slowly moved back. He suddenly jerked his neck and gave me a long lingering stare. "Samuel." Connor exclaimed while gulping his saliva. "I came in peace." Connor lifted his hands in surrender.
"Well well well, look who's finally decided to grace us with his presence. Connor!" He turned around and sat on the wooden chair in the middle of the room. "So what brings you here Connor, I thought you'd never show yourself after doing what you did huh!? Taking our money and running away. You have some nerve." A guy brought him a water bottle which he gulped down and splashed on his face whilst giving Connor the death stare. He didn't hesitate to stare at me time after time.
"I-I know I'm sorry. I was in a bad shape that time." Connor gabbled as the new guy crossed his legs in-front of him.
"But that doesn't excuse for what you did, now does it?"
"I'm back. With payment. You buy girls. I brought you one. She's worth way more than the money I took. Just look at her. She can be one of the high-priced ones." Connor thrust me forward as I fell down at the new guy's feet. I braced myself for the drop, my arms shook as my hands took the full impact of my fall.
Samuel took my chin in his hand and scrutinized me as I tried to hide myself behind the curtain of my hair. "Innocence at its best. She's bringing out the animal in me." I tried to slap his hand away but he tightened his grip and trailed the fingers of his other hand on my face and caressed my neck. My throat suffocated with rage and embarrassment as I tried to get myself away from him.