Sloan nods. “Go ahead, tell me what happened next.”
“Nothing much really, after breakfast he helped me get dressed. Then he tied me to the bed, gagged me, and left for a few hours.” I know where he went now – he went to the bank, but I don’t know if I should tell Sloan or not. Then again, Reed already knows about the money. “He went to the bank,” I add. Sloan flips through her paperwork and writes something down.
“Why isn’t Reed here? Why the both of you at different times?”
“Agent Reed and I have different job descriptions. He’s interested in the case; I’m interested in your well-being as well as the case.”
“So he doesn’t give a shit about what happens to me, is what you’re saying.” I’m not shocked by the information; it’s something I already knew to be true, but still, it stings to hear it from someone else.
“I didn’t say that. Please don’t put words in my mouth,” Sloan says. I think I’ve made her uncomfortable, but I can’t say for what reason. “Agent Reed says you kissed him?”
My eyes open wide and my mouth is slightly agape. I can’t believe he told her! Why would he do that! “So!?!” My face is heating up, and I’m positive it stems in equal parts from anger and embarrassment.
This is a side of Sloan I haven’t seen yet, her brow is arched and her mouth is a little tight at the corners. “I’m not your enemy. Please stop acting like I am. He told me because he’s concerned for you and the only reason I bring it up is because you were just telling me he doesn’t care about you.”
“Fine! I kissed him.” I look away from Sloan and toward the windows. Only Reed uses the kindergarten interrogation room to talk to me. I probably make him nervous. Good.
“Because he had something I wanted.” The words fall right out of my mouth and although I know the picture they paint of me, I can’t say I care. I’m fixated on the pigeon walking back and forth outside my window. I’m envious of the pigeon. It doesn’t have a care in the world beyond eating, sleeping, and defecating on park statues. That’s the life.
“Is that the only reason?” She’s trying to keep her words innocent, but I know nothing she says is innocent, not even her stories about interpretive taxidermy. It would be easy to forget Sloan is a member of the FBI and she’s trained to handle cases like mine. She comes off as very empathetic, and even a little vulnerable herself, but she wouldn’t be where she is today if she weren’t a wolf under that wool suit.
My head swivels toward her and away from the window. I make myself smile brazenly, “Are you jealous, Janice?”
She doesn’t miss a beat, “Of what, Olivia?” I smile again and this time there’s an answering smile on her face. Yeah, Sloan has teeth. I like teeth.
We go back and forth for several minutes. She asks me a question and I turn it around to pose the same question of her and she turns it back on me again. It would seem like useless conversation, but I think we’re both learning little things about one another with each exchange. Still, I’d rather be talking to Reed. I tell Sloan as much.
“That isn’t unusual, you know. Some victims of abuse tend to gravitate toward strong, authoritative men…like Agent Reed. They also tend to mimic the behavior expected of them by their abusers, especially when that behavior is of a sexual nature.”
I feel like she’s just doused me in hot oil. “Don’t. Don’t do that bullshit psychotherapy crap on me. It was a fucking kiss, not a pledge of my undying devotion. And for the record, I’m not some broken rape victim you have to put back together. I’m fine.” I’m crying again and I hate myself for it. Why won’t my face stop leaking!
“I’m sorry, Livvie. I didn’t mean to upset you,” Sloan says. She sounds sincere and that almost pisses me off more than her suggestion I’m some basket-case.
Aren’t you? You don’t know who you are anymore. You have no place to go from here.
“I think we’re good for today. Do you want to stop? We can go have some lunch in the cafeteria. Maybe play some cards in the rec room, or maybe checkers? I love checkers.”
“You’re doing it again.” I wipe the tears off of my face and blow my nose with some tissues – funny how they’re ready and waiting by my bed.
Sloan lets out a deep sigh and leans back in her chair. Her expression is inscrutable, as though not even she knows what she is feeling, or thinking, or wanting to say. Finally though, she nods slightly to herself and opens her mouth. “I don’t think you’re broken. I don’t mean to ‘psychoanalyze’ you, well…” she laughs without humor, “at least, not out loud, but I do think there are some cracks to be filled in. You’ve been through so much in the last few months, and I’m incredibly impressed all you have are cracks. You should be broken, but you’re not. Cracks can be mended and believe it or not, you have a lot of people who want to help you mend.”
I swallow really hard. I don’t want to cry any more. I don’t know what I want, except for Caleb. I think I would gladly go back to the mansion, if it meant I could be with Caleb again. I would live it, all over again. I know it isn’t healthy and I worry that maybe, just maybe, Sloan and Reed are right. I’m fucked in the head and nothing I feel is real.
“You don’t know what you want, Livvie, and what you think you want, you’ve been brainwashed into wanting.”
Even Caleb said my love isn’t real, but…I feel it. I feel my love for him more strongly and deeply than anything I have ever felt in my life. I think if it turns out they’re right and I am wrong…that will break me. Survival…it’s the most important thing.
It’s been an okay morning, I guess. I didn’t care for talking with Sloan, but playing checkers with her was slightly amusing. I could tell she was still analyzing me as we played, asking loaded questions beneath the guise of conversation, but for the most part we just talked about life outside the walls of the hospital. I missed a lot of things over the summer.
For starters, I missed graduation. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I suppose I don’t really care, but it’s strange not to. It had seemed so important four months ago. I guess I’m still a graduate. My grades were exemplary before I left.
Left, that’s funny.
Nicole started college. She’s called the hospital a few times and we’ve chatted a little – not about anything important. I avoid that. She’s offered to leave school for a few weeks and visit me, but I asked her not to bother. I’m fine and I have a lot of stuff going on anyway. It was shockingly easy to get her to agree not to come. Life goes on. Even if yours is over.
Sloan has left the building, but she says she’ll be back later today. As if I’d asked or even wanted her here; the woman is daft. I’ll take: Answers to questions no one has asked, for $100, Alex. Still, I wish I had something to do besides lie in bed and watch TV. I’ve raided the library, but it’s all so unimpressive.
Reed is supposed to come interview (more like interrogate) me soon and I can’t help but feel a little excited about seeing him and talking to him. When he gets angry with me I can almost see Caleb in his brown eyes. It’s silly, but I almost live for those little glimpses.
I’m not sore anymore, haven’t been in days. My bruises are gone and my scrapes are scabbed over. When they heal, it will be as if all evidence of my time with Caleb has been erased. I wrap my arms around my stomach and squeeze until the thought passes. If you had told me a month ago, I’d be sad to have unmarked skin, I’d have called you stupid and smacked you around for good measure. But here I am: a girl without a mark, and without a reason to keep moving forward.
“That’s not true, Pet. You have every reason,” Caleb’s specter whispers in my ear. I don’t know if hearing his voice in my head makes me crazy, but I don’t care either way. It’s what I have left after the scrapes heal. I can’t give him up. Besides, I know the voice isn’t real, no matter how much I wish it were.
I like to play his voice in my head at night, when the hospital is quieter and I can concentrate on making him as real as I can. I spread my legs and finger myself to the memory of his mouth sucking on my tits and his fingers flicking back and forth over my clit. If I try really, really hard, I can hear him, feel him, even fabricate the smell of him – but I can never get him to kiss me. I usually cry after I come. That’s exactly the kind of thing I don’t tell Sloan. I’m fairly certain she’d have a field day with that information.
I make use of my time waiting for Reed; I take a shower and put on the oh-so-sexy hospital lunatic outfit they give me to wear: gray pants and shirt. You would think they’d have something more cheerful given the scenery, but then I think of the crafts room and decide it’s just as well. My skin tone does not do yellow. My lunch arrives and I pick through the soggy carrots, eat the gravy covered, yet still tasteless beef, and drink my milk. I eat the green Jell-O too. Caleb fed me better food during my kidnapping than these people. I laugh at my own joke.
“Something funny, Miss Ruiz?” I look up from my tray and see Reed.
“Yes,” I say, “something is very funny, Reed.” He smiles, no teeth, but it’s still pretty nice just the same. I wonder if Reed has a girlfriend. He’s not wearing a wedding ring. What would Reed’s girlfriend be like?
“Care to share, or do you have to extort more concessions out of me first?” he says and casually walks into my room and stands at the foot of my bed.
“You’re funny, Reed. Me extort you, that’s rich.” He smiles again and shrugs. I mimic him. “I was laughing because the food here is awful and Caleb fed me way better stuff. Seems like this place is real captivity.”
“Say the word and I’ll have you transferred to The Pentagon; I hear they serve amazing spaghetti every Thursday.” He sets his briefcase on the chair and leans against the wall.
“Gee, thanks. But I think I’ll just put up with the horrible food. If I’m going anywhere from this place, it’ll be to my new digs in whatever mid-western town you’ve decided to hide me in.” I give him my sweetest, condescending smile. “How’s that going by the way?”
Reed shakes his head, unfazed. Not that I really expected to get a reaction from him, this guy just doesn’t lose his cool…unless you make out with him. I smile again, wider, all teeth, and my smile isn’t remotely sweet. The idea has promise, as it seems to be the only thing we have in common.
“Let’s get right down to it then, Miss Ruiz. I’ve been doing some more research on your boyfriend and his terrorist friends and I have a few questions for you, starting with: When did you meet Muhammad Rafiq?”
Leave it to Reed to ruin any semblance of a pleasant moment. The man is an automaton and his programming is set to one objective: get the bad guys by any means necessary. I would respect him if he weren’t trying to ruin my whole life. Just another way he reminds me of Caleb. “That’s not where we left off, Reed. You said I could tell you the whole story.”
He sighs. “Dr. Sloan called me after she left the hospital. I’ll get all of her notes later, but for now, she said the only thing to come out of your time with her today was an acknowledgment it was Caleb who left you the money in Zacatecas. Two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars is a lot of money to transfer and deposit for a girl he planned on selling. I definitely want to talk about that, but for now the important thing is to find out more about Rafiq. When did you meet him?”
Reed has been here for less than ten minutes and he’s already managed to royally piss me off. “I didn’t know that’s what he was doing. I didn’t know until later he’d left me the money.” It takes me a second, but then the rest of his words sink in and then I’m angry with Sloan as well, the only thing to come out of our three hour talk is that Caleb went to the bank? That’s pretty cold. Everyone around me is just full of surprises lately.
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