I awoke in a dry bed, sunlight lightly warming the skin on my face and arm. Confusion swept over me as I wracked my brain for an explanation to this strange place. When I sat up, deep throbbing pains attacked my head, and I reached up instinctively. My fingers brushed the dried blood intertwined with the strands of my auburn hair. A lump protruded from my skull. I fingered it, struggling to remember…
"Dad, this is crazy. We can't just walk around this part of town." My older sister, Jenna, had insisted we take the long way, avoiding the rough part of town. My dad, always stubborn, made us cut through.
"Mom's waiting for us, and besides, it's pouring out here!" We all held our hoods up to block the rain, hustling through the back streets of London. I had to admit; even I was getting nervous out here.
"I still think it's a bad idea." Jenna grumbled, rounding the corner before either of us did.
Her bloodcurdling scream was the last thing I ever heard from her.
"Oh my god!" I felt queasy. Swaying on my feet. Understandable, I suppose, after watching your sister be murdered.
"Run!" My father took off at top speed, and I wasn't far behind. We faltered, coming upon the scene of a brutal brawl. Bodies and blood flew everywhere, and I jumped back just in time to see my father falling, lifeless, to the sodden pavement.
Screams slipped from my ever-parted lips while I dashed as fast as adrenaline could take me in the other direction.
The slamming of a door woke me from my nightmarish reverie. A small, frail woman strode in with a breakfast tray. It was filled with an abundance of food choices, all of which would've made my mouth water at another time. Now, they all made me sick to my stomach.
"Hi, I Marie." The elderly woman set the tray on a side table, staring at me with huge eyes. Everything about her was faded and grey, as if with age she had been drained of color. Her wrinkles in no way showed disgusting age, but memories of brighter times instead. Her accent was thick, but I couldn't place it.
"I bring you breakfast. Eat?" She slid the tray closer to me, but I shook my head. No way was I taking food from these people.
"No." My voice was hoarse, scratching out of my throat like sandpaper. The woman motioned again to the plate.
"Eat. I make for you, so you have something in stomach. Did men hurt you?"
I swallowed, half out of nervousness and half so my voice could be distinguished from a croak.
"Eat, then. You will feel better. More strength. Men will be scolded, don't you be to worry."
I made no response. Scolding was not in any way satisfying to me, and I didn't want to make Maria mad by saying something offensive. It seemed as though she was saner than her sons. I lifted a forkful of eggs to my mouth with trembling hands. It slid down my grateful throat surprisingly easily. This seemed to satisfy Maria, and she slipped back out of the room.
I sipped the juice warily, my need for liquid overpowering my discomfort. It tasted fresh, and I remembered that I had gone since yesterday's lunch without food. Now starving, I consumed most of the breakfast before pushing myself up off the bed.
There was a window across the room; the source of the warm sun beams haphazardly thrown around me. The latch was broken and it was sealed shut, clearly keeping me from escaping this way.
"Hey!" I spun around, nearly losing my balance with the motion. Fear struck through me as one of the men approached. "How are you doing?"
I guess this was the nicer one…Jay, was it? He stood, expecting a reply. When I didn't answer, he reached out to grab a strand of my hair. I recoiled from his touch, but he didn't even flinch.
"Sorry about that hit. Didn't mean to make you bleed so much." Still I made no reply, so he took my arm in a gentle grasp. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Powerless, I followed him down a short hallway covered with pictures of people and flowers. I thought it was strange; the colorful blossoms lining this horror-filled house.
We turned into a spacious bathroom, and he let my arm drop to its side.
"Here, a nice shower should be good for you." He made no move to exit, so I just looked at him expectantly.
"I'm not leaving." His ice blue eyes softened slightly. "I promise I'll give you privacy."
"I don't trust you." I whispered, barely able to speak through the fear. He took my hand delicately.
"Don't worry about me, okay? Just get yourself cleaned up." He turned, facing the wall. Too disgusting and in need of a nice hot shower to oppose further, I slipped out of my clothes and got the shower running. All the while, my eyes flickered constantly over to Jay in the corner, making sure he was being true to his word. He was. I didn't know what was up with these people, but they were surpassingly perplexing.
After letting the hot water rush wonderfully over me for a few minutes, I went about cleaning the blood out of my hair and the stale rain out of my skin. It was twenty minutes until I was ready to come out. Shutting the water off and waiting a few seconds, just to make sure Jay got the hint, I peeked cautiously around the floral curtain.
He was in the corner, face to the wall. Feeling somewhat confident in his privacy promise, I stepped slowly out from the shower. Steam had filled the room, significantly raising the temperature. It was nice to me; warm and comforting. I noticed Jay had taken his shirt off, obviously not as comfortable in the lavishing heat, and couldn't help but stare at the chiseled muscles and flawless skin that covered his body.
Drawing in a breath, I continued dressing into the clothes he had left for me on the sink. They were a size or two larger than I normally wore, hanging loosely from my body as if they were a pair of comfortable pajamas. Nevertheless, I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and cleared my throat.
"I'm all set." He turned, gathering up the wet towel and my still damp clothes. His sculpted chest and abs caught my attention again, and I wondered idly how someone so awful could be so perfect at the same time.
"Do you need anything else?" His expression was somewhat uncertain, portraying his discomfort in the unfamiliarity of the situation.
"Can you please let me go?" I spoke meekly, praying he'd consider but knowing he wouldn't.
"I'm sorry, we just can't." His eyes were still soft and striking under his shaggy, jet-black hair. I could feel the blush spreading up my face as I thought of him this way; knowing I shouldn't but not being able to help it.
Harsh voices sounded from down the hall, though they spoke in a language I didn't understand. Jay sighed, silently offering me his large hand. I instinctively shrunk back, gripping the smooth edge of the marble countertop for support.
"What's your name?" He asked, a strange undertone to his voice I couldn't quite decipher.
"Scarlett." My voice was a small whisper, barely audible if you weren't listening closely.
"What a lovely name." Jay smiled slightly, presenting his hand again. This time, I took it, but not without caution. My trembling fingers looked so small and breakable within his as he lead me into the kitchen area. Really, I had no idea what to expect.