Knock On Wood (Riders of Tyr #6)

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Happy Places

Tamie

I look myself in the mirror naked as I am. I have to look perfect, exactly as I am ordered to be, as is demanded of me. I have all my curves now. My breasts are big and full, my hips are round but my belly is flat and soft. They feed me regularly and well so my cheeks are rosy.

At the thought, I chuckle cruelly. I am like Hansel in the stories. I am fattened to be eaten by evil just as that boy was. As I think of the story, a memory comes to claim me whole. Iris loved that story. I used to read to her every night. I loved books, I borrowed as much as I could from the library and got lost in their world. And Iris was always there with me.

“Iris,” I whisper softly as if her name is a sacred secret.

And it is. It’s my secret, my responsibility, my fault. I was not pleasing enough for Daultrey, I didn’t make him happy. I was not a good girl. That’s why he sold me to these men. I let Iris down. I have promised I would always protect her and I let her down. I was a kid, didn’t know how to please a man. I do now. And I will use it to be back close to her.

“Iris,” I pray once more.

I fear for my baby sister. She was always the frail one, the weak, the shy. When we were given to Daultrey, I saw how he looked at her, still a child. I threw myself at him, I begged him to do anything he wanted to me, just leave my baby sister alone. And he did.

He took pleasure seeing me so compliant, so eager to keep Iris out of his scope. And he loved to threaten me with her just to see me shake with fear. Then Daultrey got sick. His... member wouldn’t function. He was harsh before but after, he got really cruel. And he took his rage out on me.

He hit me and violated me with objects, just to have the illusion of penetration. But it wasn’t enough. He was bored and sickened by me, he couldn’t stand my face anymore. That’s when he sold me out. And where did that leave my little flower? What has happened to Iris?

I take one deep breath and I grab my comb. I drive it through my hair over and over while looking at the mirror. A sad girl is looking back at me. Sad and worried, her lips drawn, her cheeks pale from fear.

I shake my head. That won't do, they won’t like it. I need to be happy and smiling, good for the men that come, good for the camera. So, I smile into the mirror with all my fake smiles, the ones I have perfected over the years: the coy smile, the brash smile, the seductive smile. That’s better, I am again the doll I am supposed to be.

I will be that and more, whatever they need me to, whatever it takes to gain their trust and some leeway, enough to have a little freedom. Enough to bring me back to Iris. I will not break. I will not let them take control of who I am.

“NO!!” A scream fills the hallway.

It’s the new girl next to me. I cringe but I straighten my face. She always screams and yells and throws her food away. She spits on the guards, fights the men that come. She will not survive this.

When I hear her door close, I go to the wall that connects our room and place my ear over it. She is crying, I can hear her sobs. She needs to be strong. They don’t like it when you cry. They give you to the sick men, the ones that need to hurt and most girls don’t...

“Geraldine,” I whisper. “Hush, Geraldine, please.”

For a while, I get no response but then she shuffles closer and I hear her voice through the thin wall.

“I can’t, Tamie,” she says. “I can’t do this. I want to die.”

My heart breaks as I hear her slip away. My mind instantly goes to my sweet Iris. What if she is out there, alone, scared and scarred, unprotected and defenseless? I would like to think that maybe someone is watching over her. And I need to return the favor and help Geraldine. Help her survive and endure.

“You will not die, Geraldine,” I say in a soft voice. “Just close your eyes and find a happy place. The last you remember being free and careless. Can you do that for me?”

Silence.

“I... With my mother before... We went on a picnic one day.”

“That is good,” I bite down my tears. “Where did you go?”

“By the lake,” I can hear her smile. “It was my birthday and she had made me brownies. It was so hot that we practically ate them in the water,” Geraldine chuckles.

“You go there, Geraldine. You go there every time. You will close your eyes and you will go to that lake and eat your Mum’s brownies. They can't find you there. They can't hurt you there. OK?”

“OK,” she replies. “Thank you, Tamie.”

I caress the wall and then I go back to brushing my hair. I take one deep breath and I muster my smiles once more. I am a good girl and I will get out of here.

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