Rachel works with Lucy’s boyfriend, Jake, to try and track Lucy down—but every step brings Rachel closer to that reality where her two lives collide. She can’t anticipate what the consequences will be. Neither can anyone else.
Part One: Commencement
Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. She lay on the floor, cold seeping through the thin gown she wore and chilling her skin. Every shiver wracked her with pain, but all she could focus on was her breathing, making sure that her chest continued to rise and fall and air flowed into her lungs. After a few minutes, she tried to open her eyes. The swelling meant that she surveyed the room at a squint.
Sometime after that—minutes, hours—she raised her head, only to immediately lower it again, whimpering when she hit the floor a little too hard. Her head pounded at the effort. Nothing broken there, though. Not even her nose this time, which was a godsend.
Her left shoulder was dislocated. The pain from that would come when she set it later, when she could bring herself to move. For now, it was another nagging voice at the back of her mind, trembling among the other injuries she had yet to catalogue.
She closed her eyes and prayed for unconsciousness, but the pain jagged at the front of her skull and she opened them again. No respite. No sleep, not for hours yet. And she knew, when she woke, it would hurt all the more as the stiffness and the aches set in.
A light flickered out of the corner of her eye. The camera, her ever-present watchdog. She turned her head, swallowing down the nausea the movement triggered. The red light shone above the camera, the light that was always on.
It flickered off and she smiled. On, then off. On, then off.
He was there.
He was watching.
She didn’t know who he was. She didn’t know how she knew it was him. Sometimes the thoughts came, the doubts and the paranoia and suspicions, that he was one of them, that they were building up her tiny reserves of hope only to eventually crush her even further than they had already managed.
She knew, in this moment, her body alive with pain, that he was on the outside. Her nerve endings sparked and she clenched her teeth as the buzzing in her ears grew.
Louder and louder it became and she wondered how they didn’t hear it outside of this room, how they didn’t race in and shout and break her down even more— But she knew they couldn’t. She could hear it; they could not.
Now she could hear him.
“I’m coming,” he said, his voice frantic as it echoed through her mind. It was like listening to a whisper in the rain but she squeezed her eyes tight and clung to it, to that voice that never yelled or swore or tore her to pieces. “I’m sending someone. You have to get yourself out. She doesn’t know…”
Boots on the floor outside.
Her eyes shot open and the buzzing quieted, fading into the background.
They opened the door and she couldn’t hear the buzzing above the hum of the fluorescent light above her head, over the thump of her heartbeat in her chest.
Two men walked in. Shiny black boots stepped into her line of vision.
“C’mon,” one said. His voice was rough and she could smell cigarette smoke on his skin. He bent and took her shoulders.
The other took her legs and when they lifted her, a scream tore its way from her throat.
“Time for another round,” the other said.
She didn’t struggle. She couldn’t. Instead, she looked to the camera. The light blinked one more time and she closed her eyes again, swallowing her fear, her anger, her hatred.
It could wait. Could nurture and grow inside her.
She could wait.
She wouldn’t have to wait much longer.