With the blanket the EMT gave her draped over her shoulders, Seraphina continued with a severe limp, down the dark sidewalk heading deeper into the outskirts of the city. I kept my distance, staying in the shadows so she wouldn’t see me. Did she know I was following her? And if so, where was she leading me?
Fifteen minutes turned into thirty. Forty-five. Nearly an hour of walking endlessly, up one block and down another, through traffic and past stores, I knew she had no idea where she was going, or even where she was. And if she was just f**king with my head—which was always possible—she was doing a damn good job of it.
I followed her all the way to a homeless shelter, where instead of even going inside, she sat down in front of the building on the cold, hard concrete of the walkway and wrapped the blanket tighter around her shivering and bruised body.
She raised her eyes when I stepped up in front of her.
“Hello,” she said cautiously.
I tried searching her eyes for the same recognition I thought I saw in her earlier, but it wasn’t there.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
She looked up at me again, afraid to make eye contact. She pressed her bare knees together and clasped her hands around the knit fabric underneath the blanket. Puffs of breath moved through her lips. She wore no shoes.
“I’m just sitting down,” she said with an absence of understanding in her own answer.
Leery of her, and halfway expecting her to slice my ankles open with a knife hidden beneath the blanket and then run away grinning back at me, I took a step back and crouched down in front of her, the ends of my long, black coat touching the sidewalk.
Black streaks of soot were smeared across her reddened cheeks. The whole right side of her face was one large series of scratches, as if someone had grabbed her by the head and scraped her face against the asphalt until it bled. She shook from the cold and from her fear of me.
“P-Please just leave me alone,” she said, looking up to keep me in her sights, but trying not to make eye contact.
I stopped myself and said instead, “What’s your name?”
“I don’t know you. Please just leave me alone.”
“Do you know your name?” I asked. “If you can tell me your name, I’ll leave you alone.”
A large part of me still didn’t believe her. I believed she was suffering from amnesia, yes, but I was still convinced that once she remembered who she was, the game of a lifetime would be back on and pick up where she and I left off six years ago.
And I wasn’t about to lose it this time.
After coaxing—and manipulating her, taking advantage of her obvious vulnerability—I talked her into going home with me, and once I brought her to Baltimore, she became my prisoner. I would make her remember who she was and have her in my grasp the moment she did.
“…Only, when she did finally get her memory back just days ago, I never expected it to be the memory of a girl who I never knew.”
I stare out ahead of me, the words lost on my lips, my mind lost in the memories as if the events just happened all over again. I can hear Izabel’s soft breaths expelling gently from her nostrils she’s sitting so close. I can almost hear her thoughts, loud with confused ideas and broken sentences. She wants to say something, needs to, but can’t quite figure out yet what to say.
“Didn’t you tell her who she was?” she asks after a long pause, turning on the bench toward me. “If she couldn’t remember, didn’t you tell her her name?”
I shake my head once. “I almost did a few times, but I was so intrigued by the fact that she couldn’t remember. Intrigued by her strange, delicate personality. The darkness inside of me wanted to understand her, to study her. I had never seen such frailty in a woman before, and to see it in someone like Seraphina—of all people—I was intrigued.”
“What did you do then?” Izabel asks almost breathily beside me as she hangs onto every one of my words.
“I tortured her”—I pause, bearing the pain of the memory of what I’d done—“And the whole time I tortured her, my conscience was telling me that she was innocent. I ached for her as I drew blood. But I didn’t stop. She was still Seraphina, after all.”
“Why don’t you just tell me who you think I am?” Cassia cried from my interrogation chair as I stood behind her next to my tools. “Please! Please! I don’t know what you want from me!” Sobs racked her body, covered by nothing but a pair of white panties and a matching bra.
“It’s not going to work like that, love,” I told her, stepping around the chair with a long razor in my hand. Her eyes grew wider than the sockets that contained them when she glimpsed the silver blade dangling from my fingers. “You’re going to tell me on your own, who you really are. I want to hear you say it, love. I’m the one in control of the game now.” I stepped right up to her side and peered down into her shrinking, tear-soaked face. “And I can do this for six more years,” I taunted. “Until you remember. Until you tell me your name.”
“My name is Cassia! Cassia Carrington!” she screamed so loud her voice momentarily went hoarse. She strained against the leather restraints that held her against the chair at her ankles, wrists, torso and forehead.
I positioned the blade in my fingers and started my cutting on her legs…
“Cassia’s admission of her name shocked us both, though I ignored that while I tortured her. She had remembered something about her life so soon. Just days before, when I took her from the street in front of the shelter, she couldn’t remember anything. But she had remembered her name—though not the name I wanted—and it took absolute terror to make her see it again. I knew then that it was how I was going to draw Seraphina out and bring her back to me. With fear. And pain. And eventually…,” I stop and swallow down the guilt of my transgressions.
Izabel’s hand touches my shoulder.
“Eventually what, Fredrik?” she asks in a soft voice.
Eventually, with sex, I want to say but can’t bring myself to admit aloud because I feel as though I’ve taken advantage of her even though she wanted it every time. I feel guilty and ashamed for defiling a girl so fragile and innocent. I feel unworthy of someone like Cassia because she is so kind and compassionate and pure. And each time I was inside of her, I hated myself more and more.