“Tell me,” he went on in English, “how long Izel do this to you?”
I shook my head in a nervous motion; tears began to fill my eyes again. I didn’t want to tell him. I couldn’t because if I ever ratted her out, the things that Javier would do to her would be worse than death, and then she would take it out on the other girls. Javier didn’t protect the other girls like he protected me. Most of them were fair game. But the most beautiful ones, those destined to be sold to the highest bidders, not even Izel would hurt or disfigure because she shared the profits they brought. But the other girls, the ones that no one had bought, those who had physical flaws or who wouldn’t succumb to their new roles as slaves, they were fair game. And Izel was a dirty player.
More pain racked my body, this time causing my neck to come off the back of the tub and my arms to collapse around my belly. My eyes clenched shut, my teeth bared, and I cried out in agony, still tasting blood in the back of my throat from the earlier beating.
Javier rose into a standing position immediately and went over to the door, swinging it open and calling out in Spanish to his men on guard, “Get the doctor! Apúrate!”
I doubled over, my upper-body lifting out of the water, my arms gripping my stomach. I screamed out in the small space. “Javier! It hurts bad! Javi—.”
Minutes later that felt like hours and I was being whisked out of the bathroom and into our bedroom. Javier laid me down upon our bed. Five women entered the room—the same ones who delivered my stillborn thirteen months previously—with clean towels and water and other sterilized supplies.
Javier moved away from the bed and went toward the door.
I reached out my hands to him. “Javier, please…don’t leave me here alone.” Tears streamed down my cheeks, tears not so much from the physical pain now as it was from the emotional pain of knowing he was going to leave. “Please…”
He looked across the room at me through brown, almost black pools; flashes of his dark brown hair and handsome, roughly chiseled face moving in and out of my vision as people moved about the room, preparing in a hurried fashion to deliver my baby. Javier’s baby.
And then he was gone.
I stared at that door—angry and sad and lonely—for as long as I could, until another contraction came and forced me to focus only on the pain killing me from the inside out.
A half hour later, I gave birth, but to a boy or a girl, I didn’t know.
I reached out my hands for it after they’d cleaned it up and wrapped it in a blanket. Its tiny cries filled the room and my ears and my heart. The nurse just looked at me with my baby in her arms, her brown, weathered face framed by black curly hair and black eyes, held absolutely no emotion.
“Por favor…let me have my baby.”
The woman turned her back to me and carried it away while the doctor went to stitching me up.
“Javier!” I cried out. I screamed his name so loudly, over and over until I was hoarse. “Javier! Por favor! Por favor!” Tears barreled from my eyes. “Mi bebé…,” I cried out softly just before I passed out from exhaustion.
Nora looks at me from across the table, her caramel-brown eyes seeming full of something I never quite expected—sadness and shock, maybe.
I feel so ashamed that I can’t even look at the hidden camera in the vent. My stomach twists with worry and guilt, only able to wonder what Victor must be thinking of me right now.
Nora says in a soft, intent voice, “That must’ve been very hard for you.”
I don’t grace her with an answer. I hate the bitch for forcing me to experience it all over again.
“How many?” Nora asks quietly.
Reluctantly, I answer.
“That was the only one that ever lived,” I say. “I miscarried one and, like I already told you, had a stillborn.”
“But you were with him for so long.”
“Yeah,” I snap. “I was. So what.”
Nora struggles to find the right words to form her questions.
“What did you do the rest of the time?” she asks.
I sneer at her coldly, just wishing she’d drop these fucking questions and let my turn be over.
“And why wouldn’t he let you keep the baby? His baby?” She appears mortified underneath that creamy skin, but is trying to maintain her dominant place between us by not showing too much emotion.
My only question is why does she seem to care at all?
“Javier didn’t want children running around the compound,” I say. “Many of the girls got pregnant while they were there. The babies were sold, just like the girls were, though to families with money who couldn’t have children of their own and didn’t want to go through the years of waiting for their chance to adopt.” I look off toward the wall, remembering that day I saw my baby being taken out of that room. “Javier said that in our way of life there was no room for children. Not even his own. I wanted to believe that he made sure our baby was sold to a loving family, the best family, but in my heart and because he was as much a cruel man as he was loving at times toward me, I could never convince myself of that. After that birth, I told him no more. I slapped him even. I screamed in his face and I didn’t care what he’d do to me as punishment. But I wasn’t having anymore.”
I stop, my gaze hard and focused, recalling that day.
“What did he do as punishment?”
I look back at Nora, moving only my eyes.
“Nothing,” I say. “At one time Javier loved me. He would never hurt me. This was during that time. Instead, he sent me to a good doctor and I got on birth control pills and he made certain that I was never without them. He never wore condoms, but he started pulling out of me. Not always, but sometimes. I was lucky never to get pregnant again. But the other girls, they continued to give birth. Baby factories.”
“Were they Javier’s babies?”
I shake my head. “No—at least I don’t think so. The girls were often raped by Javier’s guards; some had sex with them willingly. I started secretly giving some of the girls, a few who were closest to me, my birth control pills. I had so many of them that I could spare to help a few for a while. Until Izel figured out what I was doing and she started stealing my pills, leaving just enough for me to get through every month, and there was nothing I could do.”
“What happened to Izel?”
The images of my dark past disappear from my mind and I look back at Nora.