Captive in the dark, p.14
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       Captive in the Dark, p.14

         Part #1 of The Dark Duet series by C. J. Roberts
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  real to me, more real than anything.

  I hated him, but I didn’t either and I didn’t understand anything anymore, least of all myself.

  I cried for a while, taking solace in the comforting lie of his embrace. The illusion, the fantasy, it helped. I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay here forever, held tight to his chest, his fingers stroking my hair, his heart beating against my ear: you’re-safe, trust-me, love-you. Love. Did I want him to love me? Yes. I wanted someone to love me. And what was love if not someone risking their lives to save you? Caleb had saved me. Did it mean he loved me? A part of me wanted to think so. To believe in a romantic ideal that didn’t exist. I wanted to believe the lie. But more than that – I wanted it not to be a lie.

  After a while, I forced myself to pull away. The longer I stayed, the more I doubted I could keep my resolve to escape and that was dangerous. I was torn, constantly, between emotions that continued to fight each other. Caleb was dangerous. And not just because he was bigger, stronger, and more sadistic than I cared to think about. “Can I see a mirror?” I asked warily, sniffling. It wasn’t about vanity. I needed to see just how close I’d come to losing my life, and I wanted it to mean something real for me. A harsh dose of reality to shake me free of all my stupid fantasies.

  He was very slow, dare I say, reluctant, to release me. Even as I tried to put distance between us, his fingertips wiped gently at the corners of my swollen eyes and the look on his face said the hurt, pain and superficiality didn’t matter. His words echoed the sentiments I read on his face. “It’s not necessary. The damage isn’t permanent.”

  “That bad, huh?” I asked, but the look in his eyes shifted, turning harder, colder and it told me all I needed to know. Those sons-of-bitches had done a number on me. My arm bent behind my back. Pain. Laughter. A cock pushing against me, looking for a way in.

  “It’s not necessary,” he repeated firmly. “The damage isn’t permanent.” He paused, the hesitation odd in his otherwise firm and confident demeanor. “I made them pay.” Caleb was not a man who hesitated or questioned anything. And yet, I felt him doing so at that moment. There were things he wanted to say and wasn’t. “I know you’ve been through more than enough.” He reached out and tilted my chin gently, meeting my eyes, “But promise me you’ll never do it again.” I turned my head slightly away. He was telling me, not asking me, to never run away from him again. Without saying it, he was chastising me, letting me know that by taking matters into my own hands, I’d just gotten into deeper trouble and all on my own. It was a bitter pill to swallow...because he was right.

  “Yes, Caleb.” I paused, “Yes, Master,” I whispered dully, feeling hollow again. Caleb frowned but nodded. I didn’t know what was more frightening, that in that moment I meant it or that Caleb had expected it.

  His fingers continued to play softly across my jaw. He was tentative, pensive, and wary of causing me any pain or discomfort. I couldn’t stand it. There was always confusion when he was near. A conflict over what I should do and what I wanted to do.

  I thought about my life, the history of my existence, a past that revolved around my mother who’d ushered me in this world. About the way my wants had led to this moment. Just the same way her wants had led her to hers. As hard as I’d tried to not be like her, I felt like I was becoming exactly like her. It was so unfair, and as I stared at Caleb, and his fingers danced across my lips so delicately and intimately, I reaffirmed that life was anything but fair.

  I pushed his hand away, not roughly, but firmly issuing my denial of his touch, and oddly, I knew, in the corner of my mind, that it was my denial too.

  There was a flicker of something primal in his eyes before he schooled his features into an impassive mask. He sat up straight with his back against the headboard. The foot of space between us may as well have been an ocean. Our silence, an uneasy calm before an impending storm. He did have a plan for me. And he still wasn’t telling me what it was.

  “Caleb…”

  “It wasn’t, you know.” He must have read the confusion on my face and expected it because he pressed forward seamlessly, “In your sleep. You said it wasn’t all your fault, and it isn’t – none of it is your fault. It’s…. It just isn’t.”

  There was a hard knot in my throat. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t swallow it down. It was just stuck there, choking me. Caleb’s fingers slid across the bedspread toward my leg, then faltered and returned to his own personal space. Why couldn’t he just keep being an evil, soulless bastard so I knew what his role was and I knew mine? Why did he have to continually switch back from cold and unforgiving, to comforting and warm?

  “What did they do to you Kitten? Can you tell me?” His eyes slid closed and I wondered at what he was hiding. Was this about me? It hardly made sense. He had tortured me, kept me prisoner, beat me, forced me into situations beyond my imagination. And now, now he felt...something for me?

  A voice in my head reminded me that despite everything he’d done to me, there had always been some semblance of mercy. Yes, I was still alive, and he hadn’t tried to do what those animals had tried. I had not been a person to them. I understood the fine line between what Caleb was doing with me, and what he could have done so easily to me. He was always in control of himself. Had always explained why he was doing one thing or another. He kissed and caressed me, brought me ecstasy.

  I was as real to him as he was to me and it struck me just then that I meant something to him. In whatever capacity he was able, I meant something. The irony of that epiphany made my gut twist. Now that I knew what real horror felt like I knew I had never felt it with Caleb. Even when he hurt me, when he made me feel shame, he was there to massage me, hold me – take responsibility for me. He would never do the things those motherfuckers had done. I knew that. But did any of it matter? I didn’t know. Perhaps nothing really mattered.

  I had tried so hard to be something, someone. I had tried to make my life mean something. But, sitting here at this moment, desolate, empty and still held hostage, I knew I was never going to write a screenplay, or a book, or direct a movie. I felt like I was never going to be anything more than what everyone presumed I would be. Nothing I did mattered. Never did. Never would. And I’d been completely naïve in assuming otherwise, but hoping and dreaming had never seemed such a bad thing.

  I finally answered his question. “It doesn’t matter anymore Caleb.” I sounded brittle, tired. “Nothing does.”

  He was quiet for a few seconds but I could tell he was angry. But so was I. Even in my numbness, I was seething. I watched him. Subtle changes that I wouldn’t have noticed in the beginning were completely visible to me. What window did I now have into him? Did he know I saw him? Worse, could he really see into me? “You and I both know the truth. What they did to you matters.” There was no anger in his voice, only certainty. “Everything matters. Everything is very personal. You know that just as I do. Don’t act so defeated, we both know it isn’t like you.”

  I laughed, but it died in my throat and it came out as a ragged choke. “How would you know?” He had never answered me fully before and his words often smacked of half truths, but in some odd way, I sensed it was because he didn’t know how to answer. In other words, he wanted to answer me. “You don’t know me. Not the simplest things, not even my name.”

  More silence. I stared at him intently, waiting for his rage, wanting it. I needed to pick a fight with someone I knew wouldn’t really hurt me. I needed to rail. In that moment I knew Caleb was right, giving up wasn’t like me, no matter how much I wanted it to be. He remained calm, kept his eyes closed. His beautiful golden hair was tinged reddish brown, there was blood caked in his hairline. I shuddered. I made them pay. Delicious, beautiful words, something I’d never hear from anyone but a man like Caleb.

  There was a shift in his body, muscles in play but he remained utterly still. His expression was cold, stark but it wasn’t directed at me. “You’re right. I don’t know your real name. But I
don’t know mine either and it’s never stopped me from knowing who I am or taking what I want.”

  His words were the last I was expecting. I sat dumbfounded and confused. He was telling me something important but I wasn’t sure what to do with it or if it’d ease my pain. I understood it was something few people knew and by his expression, it mattered to him greatly. It made my heart speed up to know he’d just opened up to me in some way. I realized I wanted to know how he’d become the person sitting next to me. Caleb. It wasn’t his real name. He didn’t know his real name.

  What happened to you Caleb? Who did this to you? And why are you now doing this to me? I watched his face, the lines hard but not cultivated to project his usual demeanor. I felt it then.

  There is a moment, in all my studying of movies and scripts, that I’d realized something elemental about human beings and why I’d been attracted to that imaginary world. Each piece of work was attempting to describe the human condition, in all its good, bad and ugly glory. At first, it’d been an extension of my own life, strangely mirrored in this world of ‘fiction’.

  Each story wanted, no—needed—to reveal a human fragility, a human bondage which tied people to the things they did and to be the person they held in their heads. Those stories were something true and sometimes horrific but people were people and the parts didn’t just tell the whole story. I’d seen parts of this man, Caleb. What was the whole man, unshielded, and vulnerable? Who was this man that could do this to me, to anyone, and live with himself? And what type of person was I, to see some light in him that was somehow redeemable? Why did I try? But then, more importantly, why did he?

  He waited. I waited. I wanted to press him, to dig for more, but I knew it would only push him away. He had thrown down a gauntlet. He would only give as well as he got and if I wanted to know more, then it would be up to me to make him beholden to me. Perhaps the more we knew about one another, the closer we would become and maybe, possibly, I could convince him to stop hurting me.

  Surrender, he had once said. He had wanted me to surrender. Not just my body. My mind. I would try. I would try for him. Not for the sadistic, confusing man sitting next to me, not for Caleb. I would try for the handsome stranger underneath. The one I had met on the sidewalk that fated day – the one with no name. I was willing to try and understand him, piecemeal, and what came of it, I’d let fate decide. I made the first move because he wouldn’t. Maybe he couldn’t.

  “Part of me thinks I’m actually glad – to be away from my old life.” I could tell he was surprised by the detour of our conversation and it felt nice to surprise him for a change. “Not that this is much better, but at least you wanted me back...I don’t think my mother would.” I licked my dry lips and forced myself to continue. “She thinks I did all this to myself. That I ran away...that I’m a whore. But she’s always thought that.” The lump in my throat moved down instead of up. Surprisingly, my muscles loosened. It felt good to say things out loud. I had said things about my past to Nicole, but this was different. Caleb was strong. He wouldn’t flinch. Somehow I knew he could bear the weight, and not feel the burden and uncomfortable unease associated with it, like Nicole had. “She hates herself, and I’m a part of her, manifested.”

  Caleb’s eyes opened slowly, his brows furrowed, intent on listening. I continued, “When I was thirteen my mother caught her boyfriend kissing me. Or rather, she caught us kissing. He was younger than her, an immigrant looking for a green card. My mom was looking for a man who couldn’t leave her.”

  “His name was Paulo.”

  “I never meant to cause my mother any problems. I just wanted to be like other girls, wear things they did, do things they did. But she was too strict.

  I kind of…,” tears spilled from my eyes, “I kind of…liked the way he looked at me. Boys at school didn’t really look at me you know. I was always wearing these long, ugly dresses. But Paulo…he looked at me like I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.”

  Across the bed spread, Caleb’s fingers drifted slowly toward mine. Before he could pull back, I hesitantly placed my open palm, face-up on the bed. Without a word, his fingers intertwined with mine. “What happened next?” His voice was rough, edged with some emotion I couldn’t discern.

  “My mother was sleeping. I was out in the living room watching television. There was this movie on Cinemax starring Shannon Tweed.” Caleb didn’t recognize the name of the most infamous soft-core skin flick actress of all time. It almost made me smile. There was something sweetly innocent about it. Something innocent beneath the façade of Caleb.

  He squeezed my hand, urging me on. I felt like I had someone who was on my side and the irony of it didn’t escape me. My mother hadn’t believed me, but I knew, I knew, Caleb would. Because I said it was the truth.

  “There was this…sex scene. I was alone, so I…started touching my breasts. I knew it was wrong to be watching it, but…everything I did was wrong.” I squeezed Caleb’s strong hand in my own as my anxiety grew and old shame threatened to rip what was left of me apart.

  “Paulo caught me. He was wearing this bikini underwear and I could see he was really hard. I’d never seen that before. They never showed that in the movies.” More tears ran down my face, I was blind with them. My vision swimming in a water-color of memories.

  “I tried to get up and go to bed but he stopped me. He was drunk. I could smell beer on his breath when he pressed me back down into the couch. He put his hand over my tank-top. I told him to stop. But…he said if I didn’t kiss him he would tell my mom what I’d been doing.” Without meaning to I sobbed.

  “It’s okay Kitten, you don’t have to tell me anymore.” Caleb’s body was close to mine, his warmth pressed against my side, but he only held my hand.

  “No! I just have to say what happened…why she doesn’t love me anymore.” I squeezed my eyes tight, blasting myself with both physical and emotional pain. I wanted him to know this about me. I wanted him to do what he always did after I was wrung out. I wanted him to take the pain away.

  “He kissed me. It was my first kiss. He tasted like beer, but that wasn’t such a bad thing. For some reason, I’ve always liked the smell of liquor. He kissed me and my head swam. When he told me to open my mouth…I did. It was different after that. I didn’t like it anymore. His tongue was slimy and he kept moving it in my mouth like a snake, in and out. It was gross. I tried to pull away but he wouldn’t really let me.”

  “My mom walked in on us. Paulo jumped up. His horrible fucking erection pressing against his ridiculous underwear. But she wasn’t mad at him. She was mad at me. She looked at the TV and back at us. I tried to explain but she just said, ‘Is this what you do when I go to bed Livvie? You put on your puta clothes and try to seduce your father?’”

  “‘He’s not my dad.’ I said, but that wasn’t the point. I tried to explain how he was the one who kissed me. I didn’t ask him to. I didn’t want him to, not really. Paulo didn’t say anything. It was like he knew the entire thing was about us, about me and my mom.”

  “‘Act like a whore and you’ll get treated like one Livvie.’ That’s all she had to say to me.”

  I cried for a while after I repeated my mother’s words. They were the words that echoed through my head whenever I thought about rebelling against my mother in the years after that night. Caleb sat silently. His hand loosely holding mine. I wanted to look at him but I didn’t dare. I couldn’t bear the look of disgust he might be giving me. Or the look of pity.

  “Paulo got deported. But my mom never forgave me. She stopped paying attention to me, focusing on my other brothers and sisters…especially my brothers. It was like I was a ghost in my mother’s house. There, but not really.”

  “I tried to get back into her good graces. I was the perfect fucking child. I didn’t date, I didn’t go out. I got good grades. I wore the most unflattering clothes I could find. But…”

  Caleb’s voice broke through my memories, “But she blamed you for ruining he
r happiness.”

  I nodded. My numbness had finally returned.

  I felt my arm being lifted slowly and then I felt Caleb’s soft lips pressing against the back of my hand. “For what it’s worth Livvie, I never thought of you as a whore. And youare…the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

  I lifted my face to his. God he was beautiful. So beautiful because for the first time, I was seeing him and however long this moment lasted, I’d take it for what it was. He smiled gently and I knew he was disguising so many things. My face was a hideous mess and he still thought me beautiful. “Well…maybe that’s my problem then…too pretty.” His smile fell and I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. I struggled to make it right, “Hey, you know my name now.”

  He smiled thinly and slowly withdrew his hand from mine. The warmth between us was quickly dissipating. Tears welled in my eyes again as he stood, “You’ll always be Kitten to me…Livvie.”

  It was my turn to smile weakly. His words, as ever, could be a double entendre.

  He circled the bed and made his way to my left side. He leaned toward the nightstand and opened the top drawer. “This is for the pain.” He held up a syringe and pulled the cap off.

  “What is it?” I asked, dreading the needle.

  “I’ve told you already.”

  “What if I don’t want it?”

  He looked slightly amused now. “In a little while, when the last dose fades, you’ll want it.”

  “Will it make me sleep? I don’t want to sleep.”

  “No.” I had the distinct impression he was lying. “It just makes the pain easier to deal with.”

  “And you?” I was suddenly anxious. And shy.

  “What about me?”

  “Are you just going to leave me here alone?”

  The long silence had me wondering how much I’d imagined the past few minutes. “If you want, I’ll stay.”

  Caleb stared, but I said nothing. I couldn’t bring myself to admit how vulnerable I was feeling. My mother had let me go. I was free of her, but not free.

  “Kitten?” His voice was calm, his blue eyes filled with emotion I couldn’t put into words but his gaze and tone had taken on a faraway look. He shook his head abruptly, waking from his brief daze. Where did he go?

  After a moment of hesitation, I said hoarsely, “I don’t want to be alone.”

  “I’ll stay,” he said softly.

  My face felt like it had been hit with a bag of hammers. But he was here. Taking care of me. Because he knew I needed him to. He pulled back the sheet gently and watched me as he lifted the nightgown I wore to just above my hip. I gasped. My legs were covered in bruises, some of them in the shape of boot soles. “Eyes on me Kitten.” Our eyes met just as I felt the prick of the needle.

  Moments later my lids were heavy, and I was flying, free falling then flying again. I didn’t dream, I just flew toward the horizon neither black nor white.

  Caleb could and would hurt me. Not today, but maybe tomorrow or the next day. Still, for the first time I knew he could not destroy me. It would matter to him if I didn’t exist. And no matter what happened, I’d land on my feet because Caleb had shown me I had it in me. It was a strange gift, from an unexpected source.

  FOURTEEN :

  I especially didn’t want to envision Nicole, beautiful Nicole, lost and wandering around Mexico looking for me. I would never forgive myself if something happened to her. I tossed and turned as anger, sadness, and worry turned my mind inside out. The pain in my shoulder didn’t help and my tossing and turning had created a dull ache that felt like it was part of the bone.

  And then there was the inevitable. The hushed voices. The memory of being held down as they pulled my clothes off. The way they ignored my screams as they sucked and pulled at me. I felt it all over again – that horrible beating.

  Against the strength of the drugs I forced my eyes open and screamed. I sucked air into my burning lungs and tried to focus my eyes.

  Caleb’s body jerked from the chair he’d been sitting in, and he turned on the light.

  Realization hit.

  I’m safe. I’m here. Caleb’s here. He’s not going to hurt me.

  I gasped. My voice was laced with unshed tears and thick with emotion. “It was so real. It was like they were….” Caleb sat next to me and I went to him, seeking comfort, solace, anything. I didn’t need to say anymore.

  “It’s alright. They can’t hurt you anymore.” His words were perfect. So right and comforting. I reached around him with my right arm and pulled him closer.

  For long, blissful seconds there was only the feel of his arms, the hard plane of his chest, his heartbeat pulling me away from the horror of my dream. I inhaled. “You smell like soap,” I whispered weakly into his shirt. I didn’t like the thought he had left me alone. I didn’t want to be left alone in the dark, not ever again. His fingers sifted through my sweaty hair.

  “I waited until you fell asleep. It didn’t take long.” That surprised me some. I was so accustomed to Caleb’s snide comments. I had been expecting something more like, ‘My, my, Kitten, what a big nose you have.’

  Were things so different now? Were we different? In some ways, I knew the answer.

  “You didn’t have to sleep in the chair.”

  “Really?” Caleb’s voice was slightly mocking but lacking harshness or condescension. I realized he was teasing me.

  “Asshole.”

  He held me a little tighter, “You always have a retort.”

  It was his tone that caught me off guard. “Is that suddenly a good thing?”

  “It means you’re not broken.” He laughed softly and it made me want to do the same. But I didn’t have a laugh in me just yet. So I sighed contentedly.

  It had been that strange, morbid humor that could only exist between Caleb and me at that very instant in time. We both tried to hold on to it, but it faded just as quickly as it had come on. And then we were just quiet. Holding each other and knowing there were a million things that needed to be said, or asked, or explained and knowing neither of us was looking forward to it.

  “We have to leave this place today.” Caleb whispered the words, as if by doing so he could lessen their impact. Sweat bloomed anew across my body, but still, I couldn’t let him go. I should really get up.

  Right the fuck now.

  But I didn’t want to move. Not while Caleb’s lips rested near my temple and not while the feel of his lean and muscular body wrapped around mine gave me a sense of security and belonging I’d yearned for all my life. But, in the end, it was too dangerous to stay.

  I obviously felt things for Caleb. Some feelings were clear, but others weren’t. If I let myself trust him, with my safety, my comfort, my life, or…my heart, I was going to end up hurt.

  Again!

  I winced at the internal reminder.

  It had always seemed to me as though I were split into two people, but not equally. One of us, the less dominant, was strong, confident, snarky, and not to be fucked with. She was the one who told Caleb to go to hell, she was the one who threw elbows and bit through shoulders. She was the one who forced me to keep going.

  I was the other one. I was the one who needed love and validation. I was the one who didn’t want to let Caleb go because I was convinced he was important to
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