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My vision blurred. The forest around me spun and spun until the foliage blended together into one big green and brown vortex, like staring up into the eye of a tornado.

I’d felt safer minutes earlier, staring into King’s hate-filled eyes.

I tried to get up. I sat up on my knees, but I slipped in the mud and fell forward onto my forearms. Unable to find the courage to try again, I turned onto my side and pressed my cheek into the mud, holding a hand over my exposed ear.

I needed to be invisible. I needed to disappear into the dark, and then just maybe the dark would disappear around me. I hugged my knees to my chest.

Twenty-four hours ago, I thought I would be set up in some biker’s bed by now, basking in the comfort of a roof over my head and food in my stomach. I wouldn’t have my dignity, but I hadn’t had the luxury of dignity since I woke up in the hospital. Instead, I was barefoot and cold in the middle of the woods. And as the moon disappeared behind dark storm clouds, I was enveloped in complete blackness.

I tucked my bare feet as close to my body as I could to keep the chill off my toes. My chattering teeth turned into a full body shake as the rain pummeled me. Each icy drop felt like a pin-prick into my skin.

Why the hell did he kiss me? Why the hell did I let him?

I was mad at myself. For not fighting him off, for liking it.

I’d done a lot of fucked up things in the last few months. Eating out of dumpsters. Sleeping in abandoned cars. But nothing I’d done left me more disgusted with myself then yielding to his kiss.

What was even more fucked up was, that more than anything, I’d hoped at any second the tall grass would rustle and he’d appear out of the brush to rescue me from the dark.

King wasn’t the rescuing type, I reminded myself.

He was the killing type.

My body shuddered. Still angry. Still scared. Still really fucking cold.

Still turned on.

In the light of day, it was easy to push things aside with the distraction of survival to keep me busy. But alone with only my own thoughts in the dark, I became more aware that without memories of the past, lessons lived and learned, I was a mere shell of a person.

I was a stranger to myself.

I was an alien, invading the body of a girl I didn’t know. I stole it from her, entirely by accident, a byproduct of a tragic event that wiped her from the earth and set me up in her place.

On nights like these, when the panic threatened to consume me, I talked to her out loud.

I know it’s weird But in an odd way, I miss you. I know I tell you this all the time, but I’m so sorry. I’m sorry if what I’m doing isn’t what you would do. I wish you were here and that I wasn’t, because starving on the streets isn’t a life I want for you or for me. I am so sorry that I’m failing you.

I hope every day that when I wake up that you will be back. And I’m so sorry about earlier, about trying to sell my body for protection. It was a moment of weakness, but I’m over it now. I can do this on my own. I can protect myself. And I’m sorry about what just happened with King. I don’t know how far I was going to take it, but I promise I wasn’t going to let him fuck me.

Or fuck you. Fuck us both?

Weirdest fucking threesome ever.

I laughed manically into the mud, accidentally sucking some into my mouth. I coughed and gagged until it dislodged from my throat, spitting onto the ground.

I’ll try harder. I promise. I can survive…for you.

Chapter Nine

Doe

The moment the sun made an appearance, I started walking.

I made my way to a road with more potholes than asphalt, and for hours and hours I trudged on, covered in dirt that grew tight around my skin as the sun baked it onto my body and it hardened like clay.

Each step through the hot grass lining the side of the road was nothing short of complete agony. They call them blades of grass for a reason, as each one felt like a tiny knives against my already bare, bloodied, and battered feet.

I was limping my way to nowhere when I finally came across the first sign of civilization: a one-story apartment complex.

I needed to get to a phone, or a police station, or a church. Anyone who could help me, but I didn’t have the energy to look any further and needed a place to sit and regain my wits because my mind was a cloud of confusion, exhaustion, and dehydration.

Why did King let me go?

There was something unsettling about his indecision that nipped at my nerves. I half-expected him to pull up along the side of the road at any second and drag me into the car. Maybe, it was the kiss that changed his mind. He thought he could use me for whatever perversion he had in mind, but when he kissed me, he must have realized he’d only be disappointed. So, he’d let me go.

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