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The Paths We Take #25: Open Your Eyes

Aug 7, 2018






Open your eyes . . .


I blinked. I was alive — whether I wanted to be or not. The warm tears trickled down the sides of my face as I thawed in the sunlight. The soft fleece itched my bare skin as I tried to lift my arms, but they were trapped. I kicked, but my legs moved only inches in the struggle. I could feel the cool air colliding with the warmth under my chin as I lifted my head to see where I was. The sun was blazing through the skylight in my room.

I managed to get one hand out through the opening near my neck. I tried to free the rest of my body, but I was entombed. My breaths turned to gasps as I clawed for the opening with my other hand. My fingers brushed metal, but my eyes were blurred with tears and I couldn’t clasp my fingers against the object.

“It’s okay. I’ll help you,” a soft voice — a woman’s voice — cut through my panic.

I felt a hand grab mine and guide it to the metal object, a zipper. Rough fingers wrapped around mine as I pulled down on the zipper, the warmth fled as I unzipped the sleeping bag down to my waist and sat up.

Nancy was sitting next to me. I put my arms around her and pulled her close as the tears poured onto her cardigan.  She caressed my hair, like a mother consoling a frightened child.

“It’s alright,” she repeated as I sobbed. All the tears that I’d been holding back since I arrived flooded my eyes.

Nancy draped a blanket over my shoulders. I hadn’t realized that I was completely naked. She handed me a coffee mug and encouraged me to take a few sips. The tea burned my parched throat as it worked its way down, thawing me from the inside, calming the violent shivering in my arms.

“How’d you find me?” I asked.

“You were never lost. I knew where you were the whole time.”

I pulled away from her. My eyes mimicking my mind, bouncing around the room for answers, but there was only Nancy in her burgundy cardigan, sitting cross-legged on the chair beside the bed — a plain smile on her plain face. She was waiting for me to realize it, like a kid waiting to reveal a surprise Christmas present to her parents. Nancy was the punchline to the sinister joke.

“You did this?” I stammered, still trying to grasp the idea that sweet, simple, plain Nancy could have been a part of all this.

“No. You did this. You and all the other girls who whore yourselves out to men that you shouldn’t be with in the first place.” Nancy said.

She seethed behind her smile, her eyes glaring at me as if my very existence was scalding her like boiling water. She stood up, looking down on me as I sat on the edge of the bed. I found myself standing up, even without shoes, I was six inches taller than she was. She took as step back, pulled a small revolver from her cardigan pocket, and then pushed the revolver into my forehead, forcing me back. I sat back down on the bed, the gun still pressed between my eyebrows.

“You’re a feisty cunt, aren’t you? I knew you would be. That’s another reason you’re here,” Nancy laughed. “You think you’re here because you are beautiful —”

“She is beautiful,” a man’s voice boomed from the doorway.

Nancy lowered the gun and stepped back. Marks walked up to me, took a few strands of my hair in his fingers, and put them to his face, breathing in the scent like he did before all of this.

“We were good together Claire . . . my kids loved you, we had fun, you were . . . good for me,” Marks said as he brushed the side of my face with his hand. “I’m a cop though, and I needed to know if you were the kind of girl you said you were, but, turns out, you weren’t — you’re just another slut. You’re no different than my ex-wife.”

“Fuck you,” I burst out.

He took me by the hair and pulled, almost lifting me off the bed, a sharp burst of pain like an axe splitting my head open made me scream out for help. Nancy just stood there with her close-lipped smile, amused by my agony. He let go and I fell back, grabbing my scalp which felt like it was separated from my skull.

“Like Nancy said, you’ve got fight in you, but it won’t do you any good. You see the clients that you do because they want you to have some fire to go along with that beauty, even if they don’t know it. That’s what distinguishes you from the other girls.”

Marks pulled at the blanket while I kicked at the air, missing him by inches. He laughed until he decided to let go of the blanket, and then he walked over to Nancy, gave her the room key, and disappeared through the doorway. I stared at Nancy, who hadn’t taken her eyes off me since I awoke.

Nancy pointed the gun back at me and inched towards the bed. The cold metal nudged my forehead. I thought about the day I was taken again. Nancy sported that same smile that she wore then. You can’t trust a smile — it’s the universal sign of deception.


Close your eyes . . .


I did. If she was going to shoot me, I didn’t want the last thing that I saw on this earth to be her, but I could only muster images that hurt. I imagined home, and I pictured my mother standing in front of me instead of Nancy, her hand shaking as she pressed the gun into my skin. She started to cry, and then pulled the trigger.

I felt the barrel leave my forehead, and when I opened my eyes, Nancy was sitting back in the chair beside the bed, sipping tea from a yellow mug. She wasn’t looking at me anymore, just staring beyond everything.

“My husband used to love the girls here. Before he got sick, he would come here three times a week . . . He thought I didn’t know, but I did. I knew everything. Just like I knew he would go to The Dollhouse when I took over for him at the store at lunch time,” she said.

I didn’t respond. In a way I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t know why. She had just held a gun to my head.

“It wasn’t his fault. How could he resist girls like you? I blame you girls. You trap good men — you’re in the business of ruining lives,” she scoffed.

Rae appeared in the doorway in a black lace robe. She walked in and started rummaging through my closet.

“I need these shoes,” she said as she retrieved a pair of red heels from the shoe rack. “Lucky we’re the same size.”

“Get out of here. You can’t just do anything you want around her. There are rules,” Nancy scowled at Rae.

“Sure, old lady. I’ll be sure to ask before I borrow any of your clothes . . . I mean . . . If I ever need to borrow something for a Civil War Reenactment,” Rae laughed as she skipped out the door.

I was jealous of Rae in a way. Life was a game to her, and she always won. She didn’t care about the rules, about whether what she was doing was right orwrong.I knew it was all probably just a front, like Nancy’s smile, but she was in control.

“Do you think that someone is looking for you?” Nancy asked, her hand still grasping the mug as she tipped it to her lips. “Would someone die for you?”

Rage warmed my blood as it ran through my veins. I wasn’t sure why I was angry — I didn’t know if anyone would die for me. I thought of Michael; I thought of the mysterious man who watched as they pulled me into the van. I felt connected to him. He had the look that I see in myself sometimes when I look in the mirror — a longing for vindication.

I stood up and went over to the dresser. “I don’t know about me, but there’s no way in hell someone would die for you,” I said, just audible enough to catch Nancy’s ear, as I pulled a tank top over my head. I could hear Nancy get up from the chair. I stepped into a pair of jeans, which had belonged to Ariel, as Nancy’s footfalls closed in behind me. I closed my eyes . . . I was ready.


Open your eyes . . .


I swung at Nancy with my right arm as I turned around, catching Nancy’s arm that held gun pointed at my back, knocking Nancy off balance, the pistol falling from her hand at the force of the strike.

I grabbed for her throat with both hands. I could feel the skin sliding underneath my nails as I squeezed and pressed her into the floor. I didn’t see the gun on the floor. Nancy swung her arms in distress, grabbing at bits of hair and my shoulders, trying to grip anything that she could. Her eyes looked like glass with red-line fractures, and her mouth searched for air as she tried to roll me off her.

Nancy’s grip on my shoulder started to loosen, and the life in her eyes started to fade, when I felt a strong hand grab the back of my neck, pulling me up until my heels were dragging on the wooden floor. I tried to grab the door frame but couldn’t get a grip on the edges.

“You never learn,” Gramps’ gruff voice sounded in my ear as Nancy disappeared from view when we turned the corner into the hallway. He loosened his grip on my neck and helped me stand as I kicked at the floor with my bare feet.

“You’ll be okay . . . Pretty Girl,” Gramps whispered.


© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.