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It hurt a lot more than she expected it would. It felt like something ripped inside of her, like she was stabbed. The only indication of the pain that she gave was digging her fingers into his back. He didn’t really seem to care; he was enjoying himself. That was good, though. Maybe now he wouldn’t have any doubts. At least, she hoped he wouldn’t.

When they finished, he just laid on top of her, kissing her neck. She hated how it tickled.

“That—that was your first time?” he whispered.

“Yeah,” she whispered back. She heard him chuckling softly, then he positioned himself up on his arms so he was looking down at her.

“I don’t believe that, because you were incredible,” he murmured, kissing her again before laying back down on top of her. He’s not gonna lay on top of me all night, is he?

She couldn’t believe she was even able to get sleep, but she was shocked when the sun started streaming through the windows. And the intensity of the light told her that it must’ve been at least eight or nine in the morning.

At first, she didn’t really remember where she was or what happened. Then, seeing the guy she despised and feared so much reminded her of the terrible thing she’d done. She hated herself for doing that, but on another note, she was impressed that she’d gone so far to protect her family. And herself. She remembered him threatening to force her to eat that godforsaken black rice.

He stirred after a moment, and he hoisted himself back up on his arms and smiled down at her. She smiled back at him. She was relieved to see no distrust in his eyes, only happiness and sleepiness.

“Morning, Princess,” he said, kissing her on the forehead. “How was your night?”

“It was fine. How did you sleep?” she asked, pushing herself to sit up. She covered her breasts with the sheet, not wanting to give him a chance to see them again.

“Really well,” he beamed, caressing her cheek again. “You made me sleep really well.” She smiled at him again, and he smiled back. She looked away when he was getting his pajamas back on. She focused her attention on getting her own pajamas back on. At least he doesn’t have anymore doubts, she thought. She looked at the window. The sunlight was hurting her eyes, and she looked away. He started for the door.

“I’m gonna get you some clothes to wear,” he informed, then turned back and smiled at her. “Don’t go anywhere.” He said this in kind of a joking way, like he believed she was going to stay.

“Where would I go?” she chuckled, smiling back at him. He left the room, leaving the door unlocked. A part of her wanted to just get up and leave, but that was a stupid idea: she was in a completely unfamiliar house and had no idea where any exits were. That’d be like a mouse running through a maze to find cheese. So she sat on the bed and patiently waited for him to come back. This was also a good chance to fight down the urge to vomit after remembering what she did with him.

When he came back, he was holding what she considered an outfit that Joan would wear, not her. It was a sleeveless black dress with a turtleneck, a pair of black knee-high socks, and a pair of black knee-high boots. You’d think I was going to a funeral, she thought. She also saw that he had a brush in his hand.

“I thought maybe you’d like to brush out your hair,” he offered. She smiled at him.

“Thank you,” she said. He set the outfit and brush on the side of the bed, then started getting dressed himself. She stripped off her pajamas, then slipped on the dress. It was actually really soft on the inside, and the bodice was padded so that, even if you weren’t wearing a bra, no one would be able to tell. Once she had the boots slipped on, she started brushing out her hair until it was all soft and not tangled.

Chyll came up from behind and kissed her on the cheek.

“I’m gonna go and talk with the people setting up the wedding. I’ll be right back,” he explained. She nodded, and he left the room. Then she let out a soft, irritated exhale. The wedding. She’d forgotten about that. She’d already slept with this guy; she didn’t want to marry him.

The door opened again, and she straightened up. It wasn’t Chyll. It was a woman, maybe in her forties, light-blonde hair and blue eyes. She was wearing what Joy thought was a really pretty dress. It was yellow, strapless, and knee-length. There was something oddly familiar about her, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Maybe she’d seen this woman when she was being forced into Chyll’s room and just dismissed it.

“Joy, come quickly,” she ordered. Joy stood up.

“How do you know my name?” she asked. That was probably a stupid question; a lot of the people in this house probably knew her name. The woman didn’t answer, just made a hastened “come quickly” movement of the hand. She didn’t hesitate; she followed the woman, closing the door behind herself. The woman led her down the hallway and down a flight of stairs, checked to make sure they were unobserved, then pulled Joy out the door and into the forest. The sunlight burned on her skin, and the woman led her under the shade of the trees. She led Joy to a tree, and pulled her through it. Good, out of the sun, she thought.

She stared at this woman, trying to get a good look at her face. She looked back at Joy and smiled. She’d seen that smile somewhere too.

“If you don’t mind my asking, who are you?” Joy asked. The woman stopped and turned, looking Joy up and down.

“You’ve really grown up to be a beautiful young lady, Joy,” she breathed. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have intervened sooner. I only realized it might’ve been you when Chyll mentioned you were albino.” She turned back around and continued pulling Joy along.

“You seem to know who I am, but I can’t put my finger on where I’d know you from,” she remarked.

“That’s because I was taken while you were still a baby,” the woman replied. Taken while I was a baby? Then it clicked. She’d seen her before, with that kind smile. In a photograph, but with dark hair and tan skin.

“Mom?” Joy murmured. The woman turned and smiled at her. Yes, this was her mother. Now a Diwata herself. She didn’t think she’d ever meet her mother, much less like this. She felt a tear form in her eye, and she quickly wiped it away. They stopped, and her mother grabbed her arms and looked her dead in the eye.

“Joy, I want you to listen to me very carefully: I want you to convince the family to leave. Chyll is relentless, and will do anything to get what he wants,” her mother explained.

“Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that he wants me?” Joy asked.

“What do you mean?” her mother asked, giving her a confused look.

“I mean, I read that albinos are the product of an affair between a human and an engkanto. So, wouldn’t that mean that…” she didn’t want to finish that sentence. The idea freaked her out a bit; she didn’t want to say it.

“Don’t worry, you’re not related,” her mother said.

“Good,” Joy breathed.

The trail ended back at the tree in her backyard. She embraced her mother for the first time, then waved goodbye. She was about to head inside, but a large hand grabbed her arm and pulled her into a tight and smelly embrace. She hugged the Kapre back as tightly as she could. She was happy that it was okay. She’d never hugged it before; it stank of tobacco.

“I’m happy to see you too, but I have to go inside and see my family,” she exclaimed. The Kapre released her, and she ran back inside. Her father was not on the couch and Joan was not sitting in the chair.

“Dad! Joan!” she called out. No reply. She started upstairs. “Dad? Joan?” Once she got to the second floor, she walked over and opened Joan’s door. She was in there, lying down on her bed. Oh no, what if he struck them with the illness, she thought. She rushed over and started shaking Joan’s shoulder, and she shot straight up in shock. Good, she wasn’t sick; she was just listening to music.

“Oh, my God! Joy!” she exclaimed, and embraced her tightly. Joy hugged her back.

“Where’s dad?” Joy asked.

“He’s in his room,” Joan said, and led the way to his room. He was lying down on his bed in there. Joan walked over to him and started patting his arm. He lifted his head up slightly.

“What is it?” he asked. Joan pointed to Joy, and when he looked over at her, he bolted up, ran across the room, and embraced his daughter.

“Oh, Joy! I thought I’d lost you forever!” he shouted. A little bark came from the hallway, and Charlie came trotting in, yipping happily.

“Dad! Mom was there! Mom helped me escape!” Joy informed. He just stared at her for a moment, then fell to the ground and burst into tears.

“He’s been drinking a lot, so if he seems really emotional, that’s why,” Joan pointed, then looked at Joy. “What do you mean ‘mom was there’? Where were you? And who was that guy?”

“That was an engkanto. He kidnapped me and tried to force me to marry him. Mom got turned into a Diwata after being taken by an engkanto,” Joy explained. Joan just stared at her for a moment, then shook her head, confused.

“That’s real?” she asked. “I overheard your little conversation with dad the other night, and that was a real thing? I thought he was just telling you a story so you wouldn’t wander out at night.”

“Joan, I’m seventeen, and so are you,” Joy said, then she and Joan burst out laughing and started hugging.

“Dude, whatever happened, I’m just glad your safe,” she beamed. Joy smiled at her, then knelt down so she was facing her dad.

“Dad, you have to listen to me. We have to get out of here. There’s a really good chance that he’s gonna come back. Mom said he’s relentless, and that he’ll do anything to get what he wants,” she explained.

“Move out of the town or out of the country?” her father asked.

“The country. He said he’d strike you and Joan with an illness that any kind of medicine would never be able to treat,” she continued. Her father looked down at the floor, then got up and headed out into the hall.

“You’re uncle Mel lives in Spain. I’ll ask him if we can move in with him,” he said.

“Uncle Mel?” Joan asked.

“He’s my half-brother. We were pretty close. I’m sure he’ll allow us to move in with him,” he clarified. “In the meantime, you girls start packing up. I’m going to buy the plane tickets today, and see if we can get a flight that leaves early enough.”

“Okay dad,” Joan said.

It took their father a little while to sober up, and to pack his things and talk with Uncle Mel. By that time, some pretty heavy clouds had rolled in and it started to rain again. There was also no airport in their town, so he had to make a half hour drive out to the next town’s airport to buy the tickets.

While he was busy sobering up and catching up with Uncle Mel, Joan and Joy started packing their bags. They were going to leave the furniture behind and only take the necessities, like clothes and sundries. While Joan was cheerfully packing away her clothes and things, Joy couldn’t get the details from that horrible night out of her head. It was like some kind of torture program set to play over and over and over again. She couldn’t handle it.

“Still thinking about your time over there?” Joan asked. Joy looked over at her as she continued packing and lazily shrugged her shoulders. “Did something happen? Did he make you do something?” Joy stared at her twin for a moment, then looked at the open door. It was killing her; she had to tell someone. She got up and closed the door, on the off chance that someone was hiding behind the corner and listening in on their conversation. The door being closed made her feel more comfortable to talk.

“Listen Joan, I have to tell you something and it cannot leave this room,” she began, taking a seat on the edge of Joan’s bed. Joan nodded and took a seat next to her.

“Sure. Does it have to do with what happened over there?” she asked. Joy nodded, staring down at her folded hands in her lap. After this, she would never speak of this again to anyone, not even her father. She told Joan secrets all the time, and Joan never gossiped.

“Okay, so over there. You know how I told you he was trying to force me to marry him?” Joy asked. Joan nodded. “Well, like I said, he threatened to strike you and dad with an illness that medicine wouldn’t be able to cure. So I agreed, but he didn’t seem completely satisfied; I don’t know why. I felt that he was going to just hurt you and dad anyway, so I was trying to make him believe that I was accepting on the terms that I actually loved him, you know?”

“Yeesh,” Joan groaned, fidgeting uncomfortably in her seat.

“Yeah. It wasn’t for that reason alone. It was also to protect myself, because I was sure that he was going to make me eat that black rice.”

“Black rice?” Joan asked. Joy nodded.

“Yes, it’s said that if you’re invited to dinner and are offered to eat that black rice, you shouldn’t because if you do, you won’t be able to leave. After a little while, I think he believed me. Then I asked if he was going to keep his promise and not hurt you. And then he realized my lying, so I…I…” She couldn’t get herself to say it. She could feel her eyes tearing up and the tips of her ears getting hot. She just stared at her sister in the eyes. Joan, after wearing a momentary look of confusion, seemed to realize, judging from her eyes widening and her look of confusion turning to a look of pure horror. Joy didn’t stop the tears from trickling down her cheeks.

“Oh, my God,” Joan breathed.

“I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t see any other way,” Joy exclaimed between her sobs. Joan wrapped her arms around her and hugged her tightly. “I didn’t want him to hurt you, and I didn’t want to stay there forever.”

“Shh, it’s okay. I’m not gonna let him take you,” Joan reassured. Her voice was very soft and calming.

“And I’m not gonna let him hurt you,” Joy breathed, wiping her tears away. She hugged her sister back. “I just hope we can move out of here before he comes back.”

“Me too. Hopefully, dad’ll get tickets to a plane that’ll leave soon,” Joan chirped. “Don’t worry. We’ll board the plane, fly to Spain, and you won’t have to worry about that guy again.”

“I hope not,” Joy said. Joan let go of her after a moment and gave her a smile.

“There must’ve been times when he left you alone. Didn’t you try to escape?” Joy shrugged her shoulders.

“No, for two reasons. A: He locked the door. B: It’s an unfamiliar house. I’d be like a mouse looking for cheese in a maze,” Joy explained. Joan laughed, and Joy laughed with her.

“Okay, I guess I can see why,” she chuckled, then returned to her suitcase. “By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask: what did you do with that outfit you had on?”

“I burned it in the fireplace,” Joy said. “I don’t feel safe keeping it.”

“Smart,” Joan remarked.

Their father called at noon to say that he’d be home a little later than expected; there was some pretty heavy traffic back to their town because of a car accident. He said he’d gotten the plane tickets, and that the plane would be leaving in three hours. Good, Joy thought. Better to leave tonight than tomorrow.

In the meantime, Joan and Joy started making lunch. Joy was making herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Joan was making a grilled cheese. Joan loved grilled cheese sandwiches.

“So what do you think Spain’s gonna be like?” Joy asked.

“Probably really nice. Really scenic. I once did a presentation on Spain for my History class, and the pictures looked really nice,” Joan guessed, placing the cheese on the bread. The sound of the buttered-bread sizzling made Joy’s stomach rumble. It’d be good to get some food in her; she was hungry.

“By the way, when you…lose your virginity, does it hurt?” Joy asked. Joan shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s what I’ve heard, but I can’t say for certain,” she said, heading to the pantry. “Hey, do you know where we keep the cans of tomato soup. I wanna try the grilled cheese as how Americans do.”

“Top shelf,” Joy informed. While Joan was reaching up, looking for the soup, Joy started slicing the sandwich in half; that’s how she liked it. While she did so, she hummed the tune of the song she sang for the first night of the festival. She felt that night had been her crowning achievement: she’d finally been able to sing on stage in front of a bunch of people. She wasn’t even used to talking to a bunch of people, much less singing in front of them. She remembered how the Kapre had sat there with her, giving her support.

“Hey Princess.” Chyll’s voice came so suddenly that she spun around and stumbled back toward Joan. He’d been right behind her and whispered that right into her ear, it scared the daylights out of her. Joan dropped the can of soup in her hand and just stared at Chyll, eyes widened in horror.

He did not look happy, at all. Usually when she ran from him, he just seemed either disappointed or annoyed; now he seemed genuinely pissed. Joy ran and hid behind Joan.

“’Where would you go’, huh?” he asked. “I should’ve known. But I’m impressed with how far you’d go to keep a charade up.” Oh, don’t remind me, she thought, burying her face into Joan’s shoulder.

“Get out of here, you psycho!” Joan yelled, picking up the can of soup. She backed up so that Joy would be hidden behind the pantry door.

“This doesn’t concern you,” Chyll growled.

“If you’re targeting my sister, then yes it does,” Joan exclaimed. Ugh, we should’ve just stayed the night at Dina’s house. At least then he wouldn’t know where to look, Joy thought. That was actually a better idea. She looked back up at Chyll: his attention was more on Joan than on her.

“I guess I could dispose of you first,” he said, reaching out and grabbing Joan around the neck. She countered his attack by bashing his arm with the can of soup.

“Keep your hands off of me,” she ordered. She went to hit him with the can again, but he knocked it from her hands, grabbed her arm, and threw her back into the kitchen. Her back struck the edge of the counter and she sat on the floor in pain.

“Stop it!” Joy yelled. He didn’t pay any attention to what she said, just glanced back at her for a split second.

“I’ll deal with you in a second,” he threatened, walking over, kneeling over Joan and wrapping his hands around her neck. Oh, my God, he’s trying to kill her, Joy thought. Yeah, that was definitely what he was trying to do; she could see Joan’s eyes bulging from their sockets. She looked around for a weapon and found a pretty sizeable can of chicken broth in the pantry. It’d definitely do a little more damage than the soup can. She seized it, stepped forward, and threw it down on his back. It made him let go of Joan’s neck, so thank God for that.

“Leave my family alone!” she yelled. Now he was turning his attention to her. Nothing in his eyes now but anger and hatred. It terrified her.

“You bitch,” he said under his breath. He stood back up and started coming over towards her, and she instinctively backed away. She tried to run for the sliding glass door, but he grabbed her arm, forced her against the wall, and started trying to squeeze the life out of her. She could feel his thumbs digging into her larynx. She was kicking at him, but it did no good. What to do? What to do? She stared into his green eyes.

“Please Chyll…don’t d-do this…” she pleaded in a choked voice. He disregarded what she said.

“Shut it,” he mumbled. She glanced at Joan; she was trying to get herself standing, but kept falling back to her knees and coughing.

“No, please…I love you, I really do,” she claimed.

“Yeah, right. That’s why you left,” Chyll said.

“No, it was just a…moment of w-weakness. I really do love you,” she began. She looked into his eyes again. It was hard to tell, given the life being squeezed from her, but it looked like he was starting to believe her. Keep it up, she thought. “I thought that…I’d be happier here…but I missed you when I left. I…realize now, I really do love you. I-I want to marry you, and…we can live happily in the woods. W-We can…raise a family…and be h-happy together.” She could feel herself getting weaker. Don’t give up, she told herself. “I-I’ll be happy…to leave here…with you. I-I love you.” After a moment, the strangling didn’t cease. Then he let her go, and she dropped to the floor, coughing and sucking air back into her lungs.

“Is that really what happened?” he asked. “You really missed me after you left?” She looked back up at him, looking him dead in the eyes. You are the most gullible person I’ve ever met, she thought. Thank God.

“Of course…I did,” she managed between her gasping breaths. “You’re the only…one I truly love.” Please believe it, she thought. His stern expression broke into a smile, and he knelt down and helped her stand.

“I missed you too,” he said, and embraced her. She hugged him back, looking over at Joan. She was able to get herself standing again, and Joy motioned over at the knives with her eyes. While Joan crept over to the knives, Chyll released her from his embrace and kissed her. She kissed him back, trying to keep him oblivious to the fact that Joan was creeping up on him with a butcher knife in hand.

She plunged the knife square into the center of his back. He pushed Joy back in shock, and turned to look at Joan. Joan stumbled back, trying to keep away from his grasp.

“You bitch!” he coughed. He was trying to reach for the knife, trying to pull it from his back, maybe to use it on Joan. Joy seized the opportunity and kicked at the handle, trying to make it go deeper into his back. It did, but it also forced him onto the ground, gagging and writhing in pain. She didn’t stop; she continued kicking at the knife until the handle broke off, and the only evidence that there was a knife in his back at all was the blood oozing from the wound and the little sliver of metal poking up from his flesh. He forced himself up on his arms and turned to look at her, life fading from his eyes. She was expecting to see hate, but there was none; only shock.

“J-Joy…” he whispered, then collapsed. She held her breath, waiting to see if he’d pop back up. When he didn’t, she stepped around him and ran to Joan. They hugged each other tightly, sobbing in each other’s embrace.

Their father came in soon after, and was left standing in shock and confusion. He was staring at the sight of his two daughters sobbing and hugging each other, and a bloody corpse lying face down on the floor.

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