“Oh Jaleeeeenaaaa……” his voice echoes through the hall. “Come out, come out, wherever you are…”
I shrink further back to the wall of my closet, hoping he won’t find me here. But I know I’m being stupid. He always finds me. His heavy footsteps stop in front of my bedroom door, and I squeeze my eyes shut. My heart is racing a million miles an hour in my chest. Please walk away, please walk away, I chant in myself. The doorknob jiggles and I hold my breath.
“I know you’re hiding, Jaleena,” he pauses. “But don’t you know by now? I will always find you.” There is silence before the door crashes open and I scream.
Covering my ears I try to block out his taunting voice. In three quick strides, he opens the closet and grabs me by my arms, there will definitely be bruises tomorrow. Dragging me to my bed, he pulls me into his chest.
“You know how I feel about you hiding for me, don’t you?” he growls in my ear.
He tosses me onto my mattress, before grabbing my legs to slide me to the foot of the bed. I close my eyes and focus on my happy place, but he knows me better than I know myself sometimes. He pulls his arm back and backhands me on the right side of my face. Biting my lip, I try to hold back the grunt that tears its way up my throat.
“You will look at me, Jaleena. You will not hide from me. Not with your body, but definitely not with your mind,” he grunts. The sound of his belt buckle makes me freeze and I stare blankly at him. I won't give him the satisfaction of knowing how scared I am. Still trying to focus on my happy place, I feel hands gripping me from a distance.
No, I don’t want to go back. I want to stay at the beach, with palm trees and a beautiful sunset. I don’t want to go back to feeling his filthy hand on my body. Images of Levi on top of me, squeezing my throat while he pounds into me replace the white color of the sand. The palm trees slowly disappear from my sight, leaving only the bright red color of the sun behind and Levi’s face comes into my focus.
“No, no, no. Please stop. I want to go back. I’m supposed to be safe there.” I whimper.
“Jaleena. Wake up, baby.”
The voice sounds familiar. How did he get here? I try to reach out to him and Levi’s face slowly fades, but I can’t quite get there. I drop my head, knowing it’s no use. My throat tightens and silent tears are running down my cheek.
“Go away! You’re not supposed to be here.” I yell, trying harder to find the beach again.
I don’t want to do this anymore. I’d rather be really dead than constantly feeling the fear of wondering when he’ll be back. It’s not even Levi himself that I’m frightened of. It’s knowing I was used, that my body was not my own anymore and the pain between my thighs that lingers for a few days. It’s a constant reminder of him. Of what he did. Of what he’ll keep doing until the day I die.
“Baby, it’s just a dream. You’re safe, you’re not there anymore,” another voice whispers.
I open my eyes with a gasp and stumble out of bed, the image of Levi still fresh in my mind. With heavy breaths, I look around, right in the eyes of Cass and Julian that are filled with worry.
“Are you okay?” Julian asks.
I nod, closing my eyes to lose the dreaded feeling in my stomach. I try to swallow the bile in the back of my throat but his face keeps flashing before my eyes, so I turn and hurry inside the bathroom. I fall on my knees on the cold tiles, just in time to lose the remains of my dinner. Someone holds back my hair while I heave again, but there’s nothing left. I close my eyes and wipe the back of my hand over my mouth, while one of them daps a wet washcloth over my forehead.
“This is embarrassing,” I mumble. They should be running for the hills. Having sex with a girl and then have to watch her vomiting.
“Jaleena,” Julian hesitates. “What did you dream about?”
I shrug, trying to create some mental distance. “Nothing,” I answer.
“Are you okay?” Cass repeats Julian's question softly with his deep voice.
No, I’m not. But I don’t want to talk about it, so I just nod. I slowly stand up, accepting the hand that Julian reaches out. Cass looks at him and nods before leaving the bathroom.
Julian clears his throat while he looks at me in the mirror. We stare at each other for a little while, both not knowing what to say. He sighs in defeat and smiles a little. It’s the first one I see from him that actually reaches his eyes. Hell, I haven’t even seen a fake smile. He always has a scowl on his face every time our eyes meet, so it startles me a little.
“I know what your nightmare was about. I woke up from you screaming and when I went inside your room to check up on you, Cass was already trying to wake you up. You really scared him, Jaleena. I never saw him with such a broken look on his face. He was powerless.”
I lower my eyes, not able to look at him anymore. They both don't realize they haven't even seen the worst of it. This nightmare was bad, but not the worst I've had.
“Why would you do that? You hate me,” I ask him.
He sighs. “I don’t hate you, Jaleena. I didn’t know you, only your reputation and of course, I know your father.”
He wipes his hand over his face and slowly raises his hand to cup my cheek so I’m forced to look at him.
“I know I’ve been an ass and I’m sorry. They were right, you’re not your father and I should’ve seen that right away, just like they did. God, you were screaming so hard, begging whoever was with you to just stop. To end it.” He pauses again and turns his face away, staring in the distance.
“You said you wanted to die,” he whispers.
I freeze and look up to lock eyes with him.
“Because I did,” I whisper back. Not wanting to mule over his words and what that would mean, I turn around and walk back to the bedroom.