I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 24

SILVIA

Laying on bed on my side, I absentmindedly played with the silver necklace around my neck. A bird cage with a bird set free, that was the necklace.

And in the small box, a card written in a familiar neat handwriting:

"I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

From Jane Eyre, my favorite book along with Pride and Prejudice.

Behind the card, there was added:

To the most fiercely independent woman I’ve ever met. Never back down. Your demons, from time to time they might seem to be winning, but they never will, because you won’t let them. Keep fighting, baby. Always.

-Jake

Very simple words, I know, but they cut deep. Just as much as his very simple holding me close while I was crumbling down. It felt like more than a hug. It felt like Jake was holding together the shattered pieces of my heart and soul. And I guess that’s why I kept thinking about it all day, despite having Ryan right there.

Jake knows me. Not in the classic way. He just ... knows me. He knows me without even knowing me, he knows how to read through me, he knows what I have inside even without speaking, he knows what it means to feel such pain, he knows. He just ... knows. Every time he looks into my eyes it’s like he’s doing more than just that, it’s like he’s reading me, feeling me, breathing me in. Those hazel-green eyes pierce through me, but not like a sword, no, more like ... I don’t know, light piercing through darkness.

Set aside his feelings, the point with us is that we keep withdrawing from a deeper bond, in fear of, not a friendship becoming more, but in fear of that friendship taking us too farther into each other’s soul. I know he fears the same, even if he won’t really show it. I know he doesn’t want me too close because then I’d read through him as much as he reads through me, I’d see the darkest demons of his past and I’m pretty sure he absolutely doesn’t want that. Just as much as I don’t. I know we’re both afraid of each other deep down.

I’m afraid of how attached to his soul I could get, I’m afraid of seeing those demons and not being able to pull back. It’s probably a selfish fear, I know, but I can’t get rid of it. It’s like ... I don’t know, fearing of getting too deep into the water when you bathe – ah, no, that’s a horrible example for me.

I’ve got a very difficult relationship with water, pools in particular. Pools are a nightmare for me. A literal nightmare. Because I often have found myself waking up in a sweat at night. Those have been sort of fading lately, but I still have them, at least a couple of times per week – against the earlier every single night, that is – and these weeks, when I had my boyfriend beside me, I’ve also had to gag myself, not to worry him.

I don’t want Ryan to know, not ... yet. We’re only at the beginning of our story, I can’t bring in such heavy secrets. After all, I never have to anyone. Tess only, aside from my parents, knows. And even her, she knows the story, she, as much mom and dad, doesn’t know what I’ve been repressing deep inside me all these years. Nobody knows, because nobody could understand.

Nobody can relate, for as much as they want to help, nobody knows what it feels like to lose the best part of you when you were convinced you’d have grown old with her, when you’d already been planning for the both of you to never ever part, no matter the superior motives. True love doesn’t dwell only in romantic relationships, you know. Sometimes true love lies simply in two little girls growing up together, well, that would have grown up together, hadn’t demons gotten in the way.

I closed my eyes, tightly gripping my necklace, who knows why. I’ve been playing with this little thing all day, since I put it on, and I have no idea why is it so important. After all, it’s quite simply a kind thought from a friend, a symbol of my attachment to freedom and independence, nothing more than that. Yet I feel like holding on to it like you would with a cherished relic. I feel like I get strength from it, better said, as if it was meant to convey the strength I need to go on, like those amulets in stories. If only fairy tales were true.

If only it was possible to rewind the story and go back what it was, maybe she’d still be here. Yet it’s been 10 years already. Or it will be in a few months. Ten years ago, I lost the one person that completed me. Ten years ago the best part of me was taken away, and I haven’t been able to feel anything else but incomplete, maimed, partial, and damaged, broken, shattered. Yeah, I hide that pretty well, don’t I? I’ve learnt to pretend so well that, nobody that doesn’t know would see the truth.

Well, nobody except for one single person. One single person that goes by Jake Watson. Somehow, he’s able to see past my badass surface, he’s able to read through me, to read through the layers of barriers I put in protection of my soul. He sees. He reads deep inside me. And he loves me nevertheless. Why does he?

Right. He doesn’t know the story. All he knows is that I suffer from depression. If anything, that breakdown last night told him I do, which is somewhat true. He doesn’t know what caused that, though. If he did, I’m sure he wouldn’t look at me in the same way, actually, I’m sure that, if he knew, he’d blame me as much as I blame myself.

Because we’re kindred spirits, and in one way or another, we end up thinking the same things. And because he’s ruthlessly honest in his opinions, and I know he wouldn’t spare much thought in despising me.

Maybe revealing him my past would be the most efficient way to have him forget what he feels for me. Drastic, I know, but if he came to know the truth, he’d despise me, and I guess that, consequently, his feelings for me would shrink ... maybe that would be the most efficient way of saving him from all the hurt I’ve been causing him. I see no other way.

But telling him would also mean sharing something too deep, and you know what’s the root of our trouble, that we cannot afford to have such an intense bond. Though it’s hilarious, because we’re keeping away from that dangerous line not to hurt each other, yet look at me, I’m only giving him pain. Then again, I don’t do else. I only hurt the people I care about. That’s just me. Whether I like it or not.

I’m the worst person you could ever care for, yet I have not one, but two amazing guys in love with me. For some absurd reason, despite everything, Ryan and Jake love me, they’re in love with me. Why, I still don’t grasp. They don’t know what’s in the deepest corners of my soul, they barely know the surface of what I am. So how can they love me, if they don’t know me? But maybe they both fell exactly because they don’t know the real me.

To anyone, Silvia Banchi is a strong woman that fights her own battles, cares for nothing, is stoic, impassive, reserved, she might even seem shy in the beginning. That’s Silvia Banchi to you.

But let me introduce you the real one: she is weak, fragile, shattered, damaged, she has needed, and sometimes still needs, antidepressants, because there are times when she cannot cope with herself and what she did, sometimes she hates herself so much, that she might recur to self-harm.

This Silvia Banchi, the one that nobody has ever seen, the one that not even her parents have met, has reached such desperate levels as to even cut herself, to slash her wrists.

It was due to her having reached the deepest gutter, to her being down the most lurid drain, and not being able to cope anymore. But that was her idea, her daydream of a fragile teenager, it wasn’t the fact that pain was overwhelming her, crushing her, destroying her, no. It was only being in the hard years of life. After all, teenagers do take things too seriously, don’t they? They do have this exaggerated way of living things, right? That’s what the shrink said, at least.

The Silvia Banchi you see, will never have a moment of dismay. The real one hides her antidepressants from her boyfriend, just not to let him see how broken she really is. To anyone, she is in perfect control of her life. In truth, she doesn’t even know life.

To anyone, she lives a fairly common life, working, spending time with her friends and her boyfriend, dedicating to her hobbies. In truth, she only does that not to think. Just because someone smiles, it doesn’t mean she’s not dying inside. Just because I seem normal, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything killing me on the inside.

So, why do they even love me, if they have no idea who I really am? Not even Tess knows that I have antidepressants in a locked drawer. What do Ryan and Jake really know about me that is enough for them to say they are in love with me?

I’m not saying I don’t believe them, I know for sure they do feel those things – even if they shouldn’t – I’m just saying that, if they actually knew me, they wouldn’t love me, they probably wouldn’t even want me in their lives. And they’d be right.

I think that Jake is the only one person that’s ever gotten close enough to see what I really hide inside. He’s the only one that’s ever read through me. That’s what scares me the most about our bond.

If he reads through me so easily, he will see every single fault of mine, every single crack of my being, and I know it might be good, better said, I know that his intentions are the best, but if he knew the story, the whole story, he would despise me, therefore leave me. And I couldn’t endure another loss. More specifically, I couldn’t endure losing him, too.

I need him in my life. I’ve never needed anyone as much as I need Jake. Anyone after Matilde, that is. She was what kept me whole, she was my completion. Without her, all these years, I’ve only been a numb envelope that’s pushed through life as best as she could. I am too close to caring for Jake as much as I cared for Matilde.

All these years, I’ve kept people at a safe distance, sometimes caring, but never enough to get hurt. All these years I’ve guarded my heart more than the Pentagon, as Tess says, I’ve kept it safe from any kind of harm, tucked it far, far away from any kind of peril, and I know that anyone would deem that as not only cowardice, but also wrong choice, because it meant not really living, but if your heart had received the trauma mine has, you would understand. Or at least try to.

Yet these months I’ve let my guard down, I’ve convinced myself that my walls, my barriers would withstand the blows coming from someone that was set on bringing them down. I’ve convinced myself that anyone that has tried, has failed, therefore he wouldn’t succeed, so I could afford getting just a bit closer, at least enough for him to be a friend in the same was as Tess. And he is.

But somehow he managed to get deeper inside and ... while he got stuck between the two levels, that sort of limbo that divides romantic love from fraternal one, him being closer to the latter but not enough to be part of it, he still stepped onto an uneven ground, one that would have normally had my defenses immediately raise, hadn’t they been disabled, either by him or by myself; one that has my heart burn at the sole idea of losing him too.

I know what you’re thinking, I am in denial. Tess tells me that all the time. Says I know what I really feel, I’m just denying it. You’re wrong. You’re all wrong. I do not feel the same as he does. And that’s what kills me the most.

Because it might be the same affection I felt for her, and losing her cost me everything. Whoever said that one gets stronger after every blow, is wrong, dead wrong. Because my heart has more than weakened, it has shattered, and when something is shattered, it’s hardly restored, despite the efforts. Another blow like that would kill me and my soul once and for all.

Ten years ago I lost myself, if I found myself in the same predicament now, I wouldn’t cope. I know I wouldn’t. That’s why I cannot take such risk. I should have taken a step back when I could, I guess. I should have listened to that voice, the one that told me how dangerous it was for me to get attached.

Now I find myself torn. Because I swore to myself I would never come to care so much for someone as to feel weak, yet I let Ryan tear down my walls, I let Jake sneak through the layers of protection I put up. And now there they are, both high up in my heart’s ranks, both deep down my soul.

Tess says I’m denial, she has no idea how much I’m struggling not to step back. I should have gone to Aspen, I could have, Ryan wanted me there. I said no. She thinks it’s because of Jake, but she doesn’t know how wrong she is.

It’s not Jake. It’s not about feelings I’m supposedly repressing, as Ryan himself doubted when he saw us there in that closet last night. It’s actually the opposite.

The more time passes, the happier I am with Ryan, the more I feel like I’m making a huge mistake. Every day I feel like I’m eroding his light. Ryan erodes the darkness that envelopes me whole, day by day, but to what cost?

I’m dragging him down with me, and I don’t know how to stop that. That’s why I didn’t go to Aspen even though I badly wanted to. That’s why I keep stepping back every time it seems we might progress further. We’ve been creating such a tight bond that it frightens me.

I’m terrified. Of both of them, and for both of them. Tess keeps telling me how wrong I am to have picked Ryan over Jake. She simply doesn’t know I’m on the verge of letting go of both.

After all, wouldn’t it be easier? Ryan would live a much better life without me. Jake wouldn’t hurt as much if I wasn’t in the picture.

I suppose that’s why I didn’t exactly try to convince my boyfriend nothing happened in that closet. I let him storm out, mad, I let him go back to Aspen angry, while my throat burned to restate the same lie I keep telling myself over and over again: I love him too much to hurt him.

How false that is. It’s exactly because I love him so much that I’ll inevitably hurt him. I always do. I have this innate ability to pain the most especially those people I love deeply. I’ve put my parents through hell, I keep doing and saying things that hurt Ryan, I keep on breaking Jake’s heart.

Tears streamed my cheeks, inevitably, and rationally I knew what this was. It happens every time. Every time I’m alone with myself, every time pressure gets to me, every time I dig deeper into my emotional side.

That’s why I stretched my hand, and reached for the last compartment of my nightstand, forgetting it was locked, therefore I had to stand up and fetch my keys in my purse, so that I was able to finally open that drawer and take what I needed. Normally antidepressants are used to cure insomnia too. Normally they don’t work on me in that sense, but I keep trying when I really need too, and this time I really do.

***

Two girls were cheerfully walking down the streets. The eldest was 16, the other was 14. They were holding hands, as they always did, because nothing could divide them. They were sisters, but not just any kind of sisters, they were kindred spirits, two of a kind.

The two girls were coming from school, better said, the eldest had just picked up her sister from there. They were going home, where they would be alone till seven, when their parents would come back from work.

Normally the two girls would stay at the library, devouring every book they hadn’t read yet, or playing games at the computer, and their father would pick them up on his way from work, but today the youngest decided she wanted to go home earlier, because there was a new cartoon that was starting on TV and she wanted to watch it. As usual, her sister complied, because she loved making her happy, whatever the whim.

The streets were pretty much empty, as usual, theirs being a very small village that counted no more than 1500 inhabitants, and, as obviously, at five o’clock in the afternoon they were all working. The two girls liked that, because it meant being the only two people outside, and it felt like one of those sci-fi novels they’d read together.

It was at five o’clock that they were going home because, it being Tuesday, the youngest had afterschool, while the eldest had her artistic gymnastics trainings, which combined perfectly, especially because the trainings were at a gym only a block away from her sister’s school.

They walked hand in hand, chatting cheerfully, laughing, grinning, simply happy to be together, as they always were. They were, admittedly, each other’s best friend, and not because of the lack of others, but simply because their bond went beyond age, blood relation, beyond every single possible label.

“Do you think we can have pizza tonight?” The youngest asked, hopeful.

Her sister smiled. “I think yes. But only if we bribe dad. You know how.”

The youngest grinned, knowing that when they ganged up on their father, showering him with kisses and hugs and lots of I love yous, he was never able to say no to whatever they asked.

The two girls kept walking, straight home, also because their parents had often recounted them Red Riding Hood’s tale, and they didn’t want to meet any wicked wolf, but the main road home was blocked, because of some repaving, therefore they had to take another path. One that was a little scary, because of how secluded and silent it was, and even though it was still daylight, the alley was dimly lit, and it was narrow, therefore there wasn’t much place to escape.

And that’s why the suspicious man that had been following them all the way from school was easily able to grab them both and capture them, as easily having them faint by wrapping a small handkerchief drenched in chloroform over their mouths. Easy to drag them away now that they were both passed out.

***

The youngest was the last to open her eyes, and she found herself tied to a chair, in front of her there was a pool. It was dimly lit, if there was any light, it came from the water and the couple of lamps that barely worked anyway.

“Are you okay?” A familiar voice came from beside her. She turned, and was relieved to see her sister there with her. She nodded slowly, despite the fear devouring her. “It’s going to be alright, okay? Don’t worry. We’ll get out of here, I promise.” The eldest stated, sounding confident.

The youngest gulped down the lump in her throat and nodded once more, then looked around the pool, barely being able to tell that there were changing rooms on their left and a net in the water. “W-Where are we?” She asked, hoping her sister could answer, but the other only sighed, shaking her head.

“I don’t know ... but don’t panic, okay? I’m sure mom and dad must be out there looking for us, they –”

“They’re not gonna find you.” A deep male voice came from behind them, causing them to recoil, their hearts starting to race. A wicked chuckle filled their ears as a dark figure came into their line of sight. “Not in time, anyway.” He added.

The youngest bit her tongue not to shriek, the eldest was soon brave, glaring at the bald man in his forties that stood in front of them in rotten clothes. “Who are you? And what do you want with us?”

He grinned evilly as he shrugged, and the eldest was horrified to notice the gun in his right hand. “I’m taking back what’s mine, I guess.”

He responded, sounding nonchalant. Before she could ask any other question, he went to kneel in front of her, still grinning, as if he’d just found what he’d craved since long. “You see, there is something that was stolen from me 15 years ago. And I want it back.”

The girl swallowed, forcing herself to be strong, be it only not to let her little sister see she was afraid too and therefore panic. “And what is that?” She asked, glad she hadn’t stuttered.

The man sneered, making her shiver as he raised her chin with the barrel of his gun, gleefully replying: “You, darling.”

Her eyes widened in shock. What did he mean? She had no idea who this man was, she was sure she’d never met him in her 16 years of life, what was he talking about? Certainly he was crazy.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” He asked. She shook her head, while her sister watched in panic and horror. The man clenched his jaw, pulling up as he muttered through gritted teeth: “Obviously they erased your memory. Brainwashed you.” His right eye started twitching nervously. “But don’t worry, honey, we’ll fix that.”

He raised his gun and turned to the youngest girl. “And you.” He spat, the twitching of his eye became more frantic as also his jaw started doing the same. “You have no place on this planet.”

Her eyes widened as he pointed the gun at her head. The eldest screamed a ‘NO!’ that barely had him flinch, if anything, he only smirked as he turned to her.

“You don’t need her.” He said.

“Do not touch her!” The eldest sister spat.

He looked at her in disbelief. “Why not?”

He waved the gun in the youngest girl’s direction, who was doing her best not to shudder in fright. “She’s not worth it.” He made a face of disgust as he looked her up and down. “She’s the product of them both, she could only be worthless.”

“You mean our parents?” The eldest asked, just to gain some time. Hopefully their parents were already searching for them. The village was so little, how long would it take before they found them? And this pool, it was certainly the one at the edge of town, where only vineyards were. Sure, it was a little out of reach, but not that much out of reach for anybody to find them. There were even houses a few blocks from there! Someone would find them. Certainly. They had to.

At her question, the man’s jaw nearly smashed as he turned to her. “Our?” He hissed. “You mean hers!” He pointed the gun back at the other girl. The eldest frowned, confused. “You are mine! Not theirs!” The man yelled, pointing at himself.

She didn’t understand what he meant, but that was beyond the point, she had to find a way to leave that place, or at least save her sister.

He went on yelling so many words and curses altogether that they weren’t able to catch them all, they looked at each other, the eldest winking at her sister to reassure her they would make it, the other swallowing, hoping she was right.

“They stole you from me, and now I’m taking you back!” The man yelled out of the blue, louder, making them shudder at how his voice thundered and echoed throughout the whole room. He pointed the gun back at the youngest, whose eyes widened, her heartbeat increasing rapidly.

She wasn’t able to take her eyes off of that silver thing in his hands, fearing the moment when he’d just pull the trigger and ... it’d be the end of her. She’d seen enough movies to know that a single bullet, especially if it hit the right spot, could kill someone on spot. She was hopeless. But worse was that her sister would come next.

Yet, the man didn’t pull the trigger. Actually, her sister was saying something: “No! Don’t do it! Please! I’ll come with you, just ... don’t hurt her! Please!”

What was she doing? Why was she complying with him? It was stupid, even she knew that. The 14-year-old turned to her sister, shaking her head as she pleaded with her not to do it, but the other gave her one of her sweet smiles, those that already had boys fall at her feet. “It’s alright.”

“But ...” The youngest girl argued weakly.

Her sister winked. “Remember, everything’s going to be okay in the end ...”

“... if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

The eldest smiled wider, nodding. “Exactly.” Then she turned to the man, trying to be just as sweet. “Let her go. Then you and I can leave and go wherever you want. I’m gonna follow you anywhere. I promise. Just ... let her go.”

The man stared at her, pondering. In the end, he nodded. The youngest screamed and shouted, even as he freed her, trying to convince her sister to change her mind, till he just slapped her face harshly, having her fall to the floor, blood already filling her mouth.

Tears filled her eyes at the pain, but she forced herself not to cry, looked at her sister, pleading with her, with both eyes and words, and she kept on begging even as the man grabbed her arm and pulled her up, dragging her away: “Please! Don’t do it! PLEASE!”

Her sister smiled sweetly, repeating: “Everything’s going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

*********

“NO! No! Matilde, no! Don’t do it! Please!” I woke up screaming, tears in my eyes, all sweaty as I tossed and turned in bed, till I realized that I was indeed only in my bed, and not in that Hell. That only had me burst out crying, though. What did I tell you? Antidepressants don’t help anymore. Nightmares just keep coming. And this was only the lightest.

I hugged my pillow tightly, reliving that day in my memory for the thousandth time as I cried all my tears. Why did she have to do that? Why did she have to sacrifice for me? Why was she so stupid? We could have found a way, we could have come up with a plan. She didn’t need to throw her life away for my sake. She didn’t have to. Her life was much more worth it than mine, she was so much more worth it than I.

I will never forget that day. I keep reliving it every single night. And I guess it’s fair, because it was only my fault. Mine and mine only. If I hadn’t wanted to go home sooner, our dad would have come pick us up at the library, we would have been safe. If I hadn’t been so selfish, she would still be here with me. If I hadn’t been such a coward, she’d have had at least one chance. Even only one would have been enough.

***

JAKE

My eyes snapped open, the shriek still echoing in my ears. What did I just dream of? I’ve had nightmares pretty much all my life, but never this one. I wasn’t even there. Well, I was and I wasn’t. I could see but not intervene. I was like Scrooge when he relived his past Christmas. What exactly was that? A flashback from another life? Maybe a déjà vu from a movie?

I saw two girls, very young, one teenager, the other presumably 12 or something. They were in a pool, tied up to a chair, and there was a man in front of them, he had a gun. He pointed it at them alternatively, yelling things I couldn’t hear, but, judging from his tone, he was furious, about what, I don’t know. The eldest spoke to him, she pleaded with him to do something, and I understood what only when he finally freed the youngest.

The dream was so vivid that I felt myself shudder at the pain, but what’s truly creepy is that I even felt the blood in my own mouth as the youngest girl did. I could feel everything. Or rather, I could feel what the younger girl felt. I could feel her pain, her terror.

Maybe it was just a dream, many people have the weirdest dreams, so I shouldn’t worry about it. But it remains creepy. I could feel that girl’s emotions all too clearly. How is that possible? And why? If I was only a powerless observer, why could I feel her pain? Even the physical one.

Ugh. This is insane. The only dreams I’ve ever hadthat were so vivid are my nightmares, but in those I could feel only my pain,here I could feel only the girl’s one. Why, why, why? I mean, what exactly links me to this little girl?

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