Rain patters on the hood of my jacket as I begin running. I can typically clear my mind and focus on runs, but not with today’s weather.
My mind keeps spinning onto different thoughts, making me certain somebody is following me. I turn to see a bulkier figure, who keeps making the same turns as me. I try to run faster, but I can’t seem to lose him.
A strange man is now by my side, wearing a jacket and shoes covered in thick dirt that the rain is slowly turning to mud. I glance again to meet piercing green eyes.
“Hi,” he mouths toward me and looks away. We keep running.
“You aren’t taking her with you,” my mom said with a wrinkled brow and stern tone.
“I will do whatever I want to; you certainly do,” my father screamed back.
“Why do you even care? You have never taken the time to know her! I feel like a single parent.”
“A single parent? Are you kidding me? You have never worked a day in your life! At least our daughter respects me for giving her all the privileges she has today. She knows that I only miss out on things because I am working my ass off to provide for this family.”
“She would be miserable without me! I’m taking her with me, in fact, we are leaving right now.”
After that, I thought I might never return to Boston.
Four weeks later, an older woman came up to my door and said, “You’re a beauty if I ever saw one! We are going to enjoy each other, I already know.” I was about to close the door, having never met this woman before, when suddenly, she said with the sweetest smile, “Now, why don’t you invite me in for a cup a’ tea sweetheart?”
I obliged and let her in, assuming a small-framed woman in her old age was harmless.
Once I poured her a cup of tea, she introduced herself as Rose and began explaining why she was there. After a few hours of small talk, she explained that I was technically under my father’s custody and because of that, I would be attending a boarding school in the city. It didn’t matter whether I liked it or not, but Rose hoped, “I’d like it, or at least come to like it”.
My mom was heartbroken when I told her. “But like the lady said,” I explained, “there’s really nothing we can do.” Part of me wanted to return to Boston, but I also longed for my mom to come with me. She refused. Only a month after we had taken off, I returned back to my city with Rose.
Blurred visions occur before me. Light peers in through the sides of whatever this is. The sides are steel, the bottom has foam, and there are no windows. It seems like a shipping box. It’s too tight to be anything else.
I have no recollection of how I got here, only that I feel very sore. I hear car horns in the distance. But everything sounds faint. I’m moving, it’s bumpy, and I can hear dirt moving. I’m not in a box- I’m in the trunk of a car.
Wait. I’ve never heard of a gravel road in Boston. Where am I?
I try to slide the top off, but my arm is practically immobile.
My eyes were drawn to a hummingbird zipping around my school’s garden. It flew from red roses to sunshine colored daffodils all the way to the tree that arched above my head. I wonder what it would feel like to know nobody will ever be able to catch you. Freedom. But not a slavery type of freedom. The type of freedom that lifts weights off of shoulders and inspires somebody to live their best life.
I crave this freedom, to live my life the way that I want to. My opinion doesn’t matter to those around me, even to my own family. If my father wanted what was best for me, he would not have sent me to this school and he would have been honest with my mother when he no longer loved her. He made us believe that we were a family, but never treated us like one. In a family, you make sacrifices for one another; something he’ll never understand.
If only that bird could convince me that her freedom isn’t as good as I hoped and that my life is fine the way it is. I would be cured of my longing if that were to happen; but then I would have to hope for something else and it would be just as painful.
Now I long for the other freedom, the type derived from slavery.
It has been forty-two days since I’ve been here. I think. It is hard to keep track of time without windows. The space he keeps me in looks like an unfinished basement. It’s always cold, but even worse, it’s filled with a numbness that cannot be attributed to the cold because it’s bitterly internal.
Everything feels hazy. I am malnourished from living on one meal a day and depressed from being locked in this basement. I want to go home.
Her name wasn’t actually Rose, It was Analise-Gerald. I liked how she picked her own name and I decided I’d do the same. Except, I was unsure of what my new name would be.
Rose and I talked about names and the best way to grow flowers and everything in between. She was one of the only people at that school that I could relax around and feel safe with. I truly enjoyed our garden talks, even when they were just about the life’s little things.
Today, we talked about marriage and how hers fell apart. She didn’t have any kids and I thought that was a good thing because kids never understand arguing. They feel scared and uneasy because they know something is wrong. They just come home one night and tell their parents that they should stop fighting and just love each other like they used to, but it isn’t that easy. Then she would worry because she still didn’t understand all the aggression and have to be carried off the kitchen floor and into her bed.
Or maybe that was just my experience.
Of course I tried to get out. I tried everything. The vents. Picking away at the wall. Reasoning with him. Yelling whenever I hear any sounds. Everything. Yet I am still here. My best assumption is that he is lonely and wants a companion. I’m not sure how he could think that I will become complacent one day. I keep trying to figure out why he chose me, but I am certain that I do not know him.
Every morning he lingers after he drops off my food. I have no idea what he expects. It is almost like he wants to speak, but can’t. If he is planning on having a conversation with me, I at least need a nice mattress, three home cooked meals a day, and, most importantly, to not be here.
“Juliet!”, Gina exclaimed as she saw me walking towards her. I ran up to her and gave her a hug. It wasn’t one of those hugs you give to somebody in class, but a long emotional hug you give to a sister. It was broken when she said, “Are you sure you can’t come back to WES prep?”
“I don’t think so… I have to go here, at least for now.”
“Good thing I only live a few minutes away! We can still have fun together, right? You aren’t going to replace me with some of your new cool friends, are you?”
“Never. You will always be my best friend.”
“Just making sure,” she said smiling, “So did you ever meet up with what’s his name? Justin? Joshua? Oh, that’s not right. But you know who I’m talking about.”
“Jacob. I wish. I haven’t seen him in awhile.”
“We should go visit him! Is he at Boston College or Boston University? We could just take the train up there and tell him that we are in the area, you know all casual and stuff, and then ‘accidentally’ bump into him at school.”
“I don’t even have his number.”
“Oh yeah, you’re shy, I forgot. If you’re not going to talk to him, could we at least go to a concert or something? I heard Marian Hill is performing next Friday. As Miss Music Lover you can’t refuse this”, she said in a matter-of-fact tone. And she was right, I couldn’t refuse it.
“I brought you oatmeal today. And a peach,” he says as he sets down the food.
I give him a different look today, a look of contentment. Usually my face automatically glares at him, but not today. I have a plan that relies on me playing a part. I try to smile, but that is impossible.
“Are you all alone here?”
“What? No. People come and go.”
“But nobody actually lives here? You know, with you?
“Maybe I could come up there and give you a little company. It isn’t doing you any good keeping me down here.”
“Why not?”, I said. As I walk closer, I see a flicker of fear cross his eyes. Fear of what though? It can’t be me. “What if we took a spin to the grocery store? You have to need to go there once in awhile.”
“I don’t think you’re ready for that.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve been before.”
“You’re going to try to escape if we go to the store together. We both know it.”
“You’re a bit paranoid. C’mon, I’ve realized that I’m yours now. I’ve accepted it. Just get me into the sunlight.”
Suddenly, he moves closer. I don’t know what came over him. I think he is going to kiss me. Or choke me or kill me. Either way, I know what needs to be done.
I shove a plastic knife down his throat as his eyes bulge up, giving me a look that says I trusted you and you betrayed me. It’s validated.
He isn’t thrilled to have to run after me while coughing up blood. But he did anyway. Amazing how fast he is. Or how slow I am.
I almost did it. I almost escaped. I should have waited longer.
Our first kiss was awkward. We were both nervous about how to approach things outside of the friend zone. He was my first boyfriend, first kiss, first everything. I didn’t need some random guys to hook up with or to date some jock who doesn’t know a thing about actual relationships. Jacob always knows how to cheer me up and let me know he is there, but also respects my boundaries. It’s the little things that let you know if somebody is mature enough for a relationship.
So it wasn’t true. I did have Jacob’s number. But I can’t tell Gina because then I would also have to tell her about the countless nights we’ve spent together. I do not want to hide it, but the relationship isn’t technically legal. He is just a few years older than me, but we are at that awkward age where the law doesn’t permit certain relationships. It’s a harmless age difference, seriously.
I thought he was going to kill me. Get rid of me easily. There was no purpose for keeping me anymore. I had betrayed him. It wasn’t going to work out.
I was wrong. He keeps me as if I am some misbehaved animal that needs training.
At least he talks to me now. I don’t care about the interaction, but I like analyzing what he says and trying to figure out the psychology behind why he is so messed up.
Today, he is wearing a Boston University sweatshirt. Maybe he is a friend of Jacob. But how could Jacob be friends with somebody like him? Jacob is sweet and caring and has common sense. He would never prolong a friendship with a crazy person.
“Did you go to BU?”, I ask.
“Yes. I was a biology major,” he replies, “with a specialization in human anatomy.”
“That’s a difficult subject. What year did you graduate?”
“Just this year after the spring semester.”
My jaw dropped. It was too late to cover my reaction.
“Don’t worry. Jacob’s okay. I only want to get to know you better.”
“What are you working on?”, I said as I leaned over his shoulder. It was a nice day to work outside, complete with crisp air and turning leaves.
“Nothing important. I’m working on an essay for my human anatomy and movement class,” Jacob replied.
“So you’re studying the science behind exercise?”
“Yeah. We had to choose a form of exercise and write about the biological and psychological sensations it creates. This guy in my class suggested we go on a run together and analyze how we feel, then compare it to corresponding scientific data.”
“Sounds smart”, I said smiling up at him, “just like you.”
“I don’t get it. What is so special about you?”
“What?”, I ask.
“Seriously, what makes you so special? Why did he always talk about you?”
“Maybe I’m special because I’m not a psychopath,” I say. Wait. “Do you mean Jacob? So you do know Jacob? Like actually know him?”
“Of course we know each other. Now, before I do something you’ll regret making me do, answer my question: why are you so special? I have been studying you for months and I don’t understand.”
“How would I know? Nobody knows what makes them special. That’s what other people are for.”
“I was thinking it might be how pretty you are, but Jacob wouldn’t risk everything he cherishes in life just because you’re pretty.”
“You’ve never had a relationship, have you?”
“If you had, you would know that when you really love somebody, nothing else matters.”
“You told Rose?” Jacob asks. I could tell he was irritated.
“Yes. I honestly thought she was cool. I didn’t think she would tell people,” I reply.
“We talked about how you can’t just throw this relationship around. I’m five years older than you, which might not seem serious to you, but it is a big deal for a lot of other people.”
“I know, trust me, I know. I will talk to her. I can fix this.”
“You can’t fix this. The damage is already done.”
“Maybe she can go to BU and say that she made a mistake and assumed our relationship was toxic, when it really isn’t.”
“They won’t care about that. It is still breaking the university honor code rules. I don’t know how this could be fixed,” he pauses, “I don’t even know how we could be fixed.”
Those are the sounds of heels. A woman must be here.
“Come down here! He is holding me hostage! Get me out! Please, get me out!” I scream. The walking stopped. Dear God, please help me.
The door slowly opens. “Hello?” says a groggy voice.
“Yes, down here. The light switch is right outside. I need help walking up the stairs.”
The lights turn on and I see a familiar face. It’s my mom, but I think she was in a fight too. She looks black and blue and fatigued. I think she is even hobbling a bit. Just like me.
“Jules, I can’t–”
“WAIT MOM DON’T CLOSE THE DOOR”, I say realizing this is all too similar, “He did the same thing to me, it’s somehow a trap. He planned this.”
“What? No, Jules, I’m fine. He didn’t do anything to me,” she says running toward me, “I’m okay. You’re going to be okay too. C’mon, let’s go.”
“Mom, you need to leave. Now. He will be back soon. I know he planned this. He had to.”