by Amber Smith
Sami sighed as she stepped out of the filthy nicotine stained shower. The worn, tattered bath mat was a welcome sensation after standing, kneeling, falling and lying on cold concrete all night. She wrapped an old bath towel around her freshly scrubbed skin and walked across the bathroom and stared into the foggy mirror.
“Look at yourself, Sami.” she whispered as she softly touched the blurred reflection of her face.
She slowly wiped the fog from the mirror and stared into a face she no longer recognized. The once brilliant emerald eyes with golden specs have faded to a dull brownish green and sit farther back into her head than they once did. The memory of her wavy auburn hair diminished as she focused on the limp locks, now wet and freshly washed, hugging her swelling cheek. Even through the swelling she can see the imprints of the brass knuckles just above her cheekbone. A solitary tear traveled from her lifeless eyes down her swollen cheek and stopped for just a moment at her chin before falling to the floor. Sami carefully wiped her cheek and for 97th time; she began to nurse and bandage her wounds. She started from the bottom and worked her way up. She had tweezers to pluck out the gravel, cotton balls and vodka to prevent infection, and any deep wounds would be wrapped with paper towels and duct tape.
As she worked her way up her thinning frame she came across the small scar on her arm. She gently traced her fingers across the T, the K and the 6 and felt nauseous at the memory. This scar, while one of the smallest she had acquired over the past 6 months, was the first. She reminisced for a moment, and wondered what she could have done differently. Could the series of events have unfolded in another manner? Sami closed her eyes and imagined the conversation she had with her mother just hours before she was branded like common cattle and left with this scar.
“Sami, I just don’t know how I feel about you going out alone with this guy. I haven’t met his parents, I don’t know who he is, he has never been a part of your group of friends – ”
“Mom!” she shouted as she cut her off. “I promise everything will be fine, we have hung out before, he comes to the football games, he graduated last year and lots of the seniors know him!” she pleaded and begged with her beautiful green eyes.
As Sami looked back at the memory she recognized the worry and love in her mother’s eyes. But in the heat of the moment all she saw was an obstacle preventing her from seeing Thomas.
“Fucking Thomas.” she said aloud as she began to examine the wound on her face. It could probably do with some stitches, unfortunately doctors aren’t known to frequent whore houses. The swelling had not gone down at all and she was worried something had broken. She squeezed the open cut together and placed the ends of a piece of tape on either side of the cut so as to hold the skin together.
“That doesn’t look so bad,” she murmured to herself. “At least he missed my eye”.
Sami dropped her towel and slid an oversized navy blue tank top on and slid on her stained cotton shorts as she walked to her pathetic excuse for a bed. A fitted sheet stuffed with old pillows, the few outfits she was allowed and a small collection of cotton balls she managed to acquire from various first aid kits.
“I don’t think I will ever get used to this.” she softly cries.
As Sami laid her head on the bed and closed her eyes; she was again taken back to the memories of the day she was taken.
Her mother had finally relented.
“Fine,” she sighed. “Keep your phone on you, be aware of your surroundings and be home by 10.”
“11:30.” Sami had argued.
“9:30.” her mother replied.
“Fine, 10.” she said with a smile.
Sami suppressed a cry and bit her lip as she remembered walking out of her childhood home without so much as a goodbye. As she lay alone in her own personal prison she wondered what her mother thought of that last encounter. Neither had said “I love you.” or “goodbye”… there was not a hug or a glimpse of emotion shown between the two.
“I do love you Mom and I am so sorry.” Sami gave into the tears and she clenched her shirt in her hands “You were right and I wish… I wish I could take it all back and just stayed home with you. I would give anything to just be in the same room as you right now, just to listen to your advice. I need you Mom! I .. I” Sami unsuccessfully tried to muffle her cry and began to sob“I miss you so much…”
As Sami cried herself to sleep she dreamt of that night.
She happily skipped up to Thomas with a grin, thrilled to be rid of her overprotective, nagging mother. She kissed his cheek and took his hand when he offered it and asked him what the plan was for the night. Thomas merely grinned at her question and insisted that he wanted it all to be a surprise. He wrapped his free arm around her and hugged her in a way that made her insides tremble in anticipation before he led her to his black Ford F150.
Once they were in the truck Thomas’ demeanor began to change. He refused to answer her questions or acknowledge her presence. Sami naively thought he was joking at first. But, as he drove out of town; the street lights became more scarce, the paved roads turned to dirt and dammit she was scared. Thomas continued to ignore her pleas to turn around. Her boldness began to fail her and what was intended to be a strong “Turn this car around NOW!” came out as less of a command and more of a meek suggestion.
Suddenly, Thomas slammed the brakes and Sami was thrust forward as her seatbelt locked and whipped her back into her seat.
“Thomas, what the hell are you -”
Sami didn’t get a chance to finish that sentence before Thomas grabbed something long and hard from the side of his seat and knocked her out cold.
When Sami woke a few hours later she was handcuffed to a metal bar in a dark, cold and damp room that reeked of old food and piss. If she were to guess she was in some sort of basement or bunker. Her head ached where Thomas had hit her and her arm burned as though it had been set on fire. When she looked at her arm she saw that someone had in fact burned her arm. She had been branded with a T, a K, and a 6.
“TK6? What the hell does that mean? What the fuck is this?” She stared at the letters and number and wondered what the hell had happened to her. What was going on?!
She didn’t have to question it for much longer. A man reeking of cheap beer and cigarettes stumbled into her personal dungeon; mumbling something about Thomas and the insane amount of money he had to pay to break her in. As he shifted closer to her he grabbed her by the face and told her she better be worth it.
Sami, overwhelmed with the realization of what she had been forced into and recognizing the gravity of the situation; looked into the man’s emotionless face with fear in her eyes and was overcome with the sudden sensation to run. She spit into his face, stomped on his foot, brought her knee to his groin and screamed as loud as she could.
“Let me go! Let me out! Somebody help me!” She struggled and fought trying to escape the metal that held her captive. The man fell to the floor and cried out in pain; it wasn’t long before Thomas appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and a brick met Sami’s face just before her world went dark.
Sami sat up quickly gasping for breath as she awoke from her nightmare. She frequently dreamt of that night. In all honesty it wasn’t even close to the worst night since she had been taken. But, it was the night everything changed. The night her life ended and another life began. It was the night where so many mistakes were made, where she still had a chance to go back. It was the night she failed herself. She took a few deep breaths and laid back down. She closed her eyes and with her finger she gently traced her branded scar until once again, she drifted off to sleep. T… K… 6… … T… K… 6… T… K