The first few drops hit my skin just as a feminine voice breaks into a passionate cry. I close my eyes as the warm droplets form a hot steam which envelopes my body, soothing my reddened skin and releasing all tension. I stand there without moving and just allow the melodic notes to cascade over me as the water rinses the product from my hair. Before I know it, I’ve relaxed into the song, and I join in as it crescendos into a spirited chorus. I lose myself in the music, but all too soon the heated streams of water turn icy, ending my carefree singing. I turn off the shower, slowly stepping out and flinching as my bare foot touches the cool tile.
“Cold,” I mutter to no one in particular as I change into a pair of grey sweats and a fitted blue tank-top. Another song begins to play on my phone and I hum along as I pull a comb through my unruly, auburn hair before weaving it into loose braid. I apply a quick layer of moisturizer. Satisfied, I smile in the mirror before exiting the bathroom. I make my way into my bedroom across the hall still humming.
Just as I enter my room, I hear the door close behind me with a definitive slam. Startled, I quickly turn around only to come face-to-face with the barrel of a gun. Before I’m able to scream, a hand reaches out and clamps down over my mouth, silencing me. I quickly shift my eyes from the hand muffling my cries to the man to whom it belongs.
A man in a mask stares back at me, his emerald eyes hold a wicked gleam, and a vile laugh escapes his crooked smile through the holes in his mask. He forces me back onto the bed, never slackening the painful grip he has on my face.
“Just stay nice and quiet, girly,” the man says as he slowly drags the pistol down my cheek. "I don’t wanna hurt nobody, less I have to. Especially one as pretty as yaself,” he states as he rakes his eyes over my body. “No screaming.”
Tears flow freely from my wide, panicked eyes, and I slowly nod my head. The man looks me over for a few more seconds before he slowly releases my face and backs away. He reaches down and picks up a black duffle bag off the floor before roughly tossing it on the bed.
“Fill the bag with your clothes, and make it quick, will ya? I hate being kept waitin’.”
I will my body to move, but I’m trembling far too much to stand. The man sees my hesitance as defiance and harshly slaps me across the face with the back of his hand. I cry out in pain as the familiar metallic taste of blood fills my mouth.
“Move, dammit!” he snarls.
Not willing to be on the receiving end of another blow from the man, I grab the bag and hurry over to the closet, nearly tripping over myself as my foot catches on the blue rug below me. I begin stuffing random clothes into the bag, trying to ignore the throbbing pain of my busted lip and bruised cheek. The man throws a pair of shoes at me and I barely have enough time to slip them on before he begins to roughly pull me out of the room by my arm.
The masked man sharply rounds a corner, causing me to slam into the wall, and he only laughs as I whimper at the stinging sensation. I glance up and gasp as I take in the state of my once clean home. Everything was destroyed; drawers and papers lay scattered around the house, pictures lay in broken frames and piles of glass shards litter the floor. I bring a hand up to my sore mouth and I openly sob.
“Quit your crying, girly! You wanna get beat again?” the man shouts.
“N-no,” I quickly shake my head as I try to choke back another sob that threatens to escape.
“That’s a good girly.”
We enter the living room and stop as another masked intruder comes into view, carrying two black duffle bags I can only assume were filled with my family’s valuables. The second man looks over at us and freezes, dropping the bags. His eyes, wide as saucers, bore into mine. He appears shorter than the other man, younger even. He slowly opens and closes his mouth as if looking for the words to say, but he remains silent.
“Pretty ain’t she, boy?” the man gripping my arm calls out. His words snap the other man out of his shocked state.
“Y-yeah,” the younger man states. “She does.”
Suddenly the man releases my arm and forcefully pushes me forward. My face collides with the other man’s chest, and I whimper in pain as I cradle my now swollen cheek.
“She’s all yours,” the older man draws out. “Think of her as a reward for all the hard work.” The man cackles as he picks up the bags from the floor before gesturing to the door with a tilt of his head. “Let’s bolt, no tellin’ when the rest of the family shows up.”
With a hesitant nod, the younger man grabs hold of my arm, though more gently than that of the older man. We quickly shuffle out the door and I shiver as a cool wind blows past my exposed arms. The younger man must have noticed as he pulls me closer toward his chest, wrapping an arm around me and blocking some of the wind. Startled by the sudden embrace, I begin to struggle in his arms, panicking as he tightens his hold on me. My struggles attract the attention of the other man. I earn another hard blow to the head, this time with the back of the pistol. I can see stars bursting behind my eyelids; my head is throbbing and I can taste the bile rising in my throat.
“What’d I say about being quiet?” the man seethes.
I swallow thickly, trying to contain my cries and slump back into the younger man, my legs giving out underneath me. The younger man quickly catches me before lifting me up and carrying me. The world is spinning around me; my ears are ringing and my vision is decorated with fuzzy black and white dots. My body goes limp in the man’s arms, too exhausted to struggle, let alone call for help.
The two men walk in silence up the road before coming to a stop in front of a dark-colored van. The older man slides open the side door and tosses in the three duffel bags while the younger man climbs into the back seat with my body strung across his lap. He ties off my hands in front of me and gently places a gag in my mouth. The other man climbs into the driver’s seat, slams the door and starts the engine. The car jerks as the older man turns the vehicle around and we speed off down the road. His booming laughter fills the car and I feel my body begin to trembling again.
Glancing to the side, I look through the window and glimpse a sudden flash of blue, immediately recognizing of my father’s pick-up truck. I’m overcome by anguish and I desperately call out my father’s name. My cries, however, are muffled by the gag.
I can feel the man shifting behind me. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, his voice eerily familiar. He places a cloth over my eyes and everything goes black.