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“You’re a rapist, Leroy. Say you’re a rapist.” He will not. I realize that to beg me to stop would be like Leroy admitting he was wrong, and he doesn’t think what he did was wrong. Leroy is narcissistic and delusional. I hold the lighter to his skin until I have burned away my anger. He stopped screaming a long time ago. His eyes look sloppily around the room, one roving left, the other staring up at the ceiling. The room reeks of sweat and human flesh. I am tired. I turn my back to retrieve my knife, just for a minute. A minute too long. It’s so quick I don’t even feel it. When I wake up, I am the one bound and gagged.

HE KEEPS ME IN THE BASEMENT—a cold and unfair prison since I at least had the decency to tie him up in his own bed. It’s damp and barren; there aren’t even boxes or junk. I’ll die of pneumonia before he can kill me. He’s old school. The knots he’s used to bind my ankles and wrists look like something you’d learn in Boy Scouts, though I doubt anyone loved Leroy enough to put him in Boy Scouts.

I can’t move; he made sure of that before he tossed me onto the cold concrete.

He doesn’t rape me, but I didn’t think he would. I do not fit the look of his victims, with my white-blonde hair and pale eyes. I am not a mother. I’m just the girl who found him out, and now he’s figuring out what to do with me.

I hear his footsteps upstairs, something being dragged across the floorboards, then the solid pop of a hammer. I tortured him until he screamed and wet himself, so I’m sure he has something truly remarkable planned for me. I wait, hog tied, wishing I could gnaw on the rope around my ankles, wishing I hadn’t been so arrogant. Arrogance makes your senses dull. I didn’t think he’d trump me. I didn’t even hear him try because I was so filled with my own small victory.

I roll onto my knees, shivering. My head aches at the base of my skull where he hit me. I close my eyes and let the pain flair and furl. It’s a concussion. I know because I’ve thrown up, and all I want to do is sleep. If I could get out of these ropes, I could reach my thigh—my backup plan. My carefully placed precaution. A Band-Aid—square, and the size of my palm. The type that sticks so hard you need water and a quick rip to tear it off. On top of that is another Band-Aid the same size. And nestled in between the sticky tape, resting on the patch of white in the middle, is a small razor blade. If I could get to it, then I could slit Leroy’s throat before he slit mine.

After about an hour, my knees begin to ache. I roll back onto my side. I tell myself that Leroy isn’t a murderer. Just a rapist. Maybe he won’t kill me. I spend the hours wriggling my wrists back and forth trying to loosen the rope. I was going to be one of those girls who just disappears, no one to even notice I’m gone. Just a smudge on the map of existence. You’d have to lean in real close to even notice I was there.

I float in and out of consciousness. Once I hear the basement door open and the creak of a stair, I bolt upright, forgetting I’m tied to myself, and pull a muscle in my back painfully. I wait, tense, then I hear the door close and Leroy’s footsteps across the kitchen floor.

“Why don’t you just do something, you fuck!” I yell at the ceiling. I am tired of waiting. I want it over … whatever he’s planning. I can dish it; I can take it. I fall asleep, my left breast in a puddle, my throat burning, realization as thick as mud. I am going to die.

When I wake up, I am being dragged across a floor. My head aches, and my skin feels like it’s on fire. My wrists and legs are no longer tied together, and I’m able to flail about as my shoulder hits the bottom stair. He has me by the hair. I imagine he’s pulling out chunks, and I picture myself yanking away from his grasp, leaving him with handfuls of it. I realize, at once, that I am very sick. So sick I’m finding it difficult to fight, and each time my head or shoulder slams into one of the concrete stairs, I find it harder and harder to open my eyes. The light in the kitchen is bright. I catch a glimpse out the window and see that it is night. I smell bleach and cooked meat, and I want to vomit, except there’s nothing in my stomach. I am a rag doll, popped and propped at his kitchen table. He reties me as I gaze at him through half-open lids; hands behind my back, he leaves my ankles loose. I need to piss. I tell him so.

When he doesn’t respond, I say, “I can do it right here, but then you’re going to have to clean it up.” This seems to change his mind. He hauls me up by the scruff of my neck and shoves me toward the bathroom. I notice the bandages on his arms and wonder how bad the burns are. I want my pink lighter—a thing of security to me. He frees my wrists and ankles and stands in the doorway with his arms crossed.

God, I think. I should have just killed him when I had the chance. He watches me pull my pants down, his eyes on my crotch as I lower myself to the seat. I keep my hands on the top of my pants and lean forward to skew his view. My thumb grazes the band-aid on my thigh. I work at lifting it, swiping my thumbnail back and forth until a piece of the corner raises.

“What are you going to do to me?” I ask. He looks at me with hard hatred, and my toes curl in my boots. It’s in that moment that I want my mother. I jar at the thought. How strange that, in this moment, taken and tied in a serial rapist’s kitchen, I want the woman who abandoned me. I sniff and look out the window. Leroy looks as if he’s deciding whether or not he wants to say something.

“Well?” I say.

He moves quickly, retying the ropes around my wrists and grabbing my arm. He half picks me up as he drags me back toward the basement. I struggle against him. I don’t want to go back down there into the cold, but, with my hands tied, I have little to use against his bulk. I don’t fall this time. Leroy failed to retie my ankles, and I’m able to catch myself as he throws me down the stairs. I twist my ankle before I can grab onto the railing.

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