It was dark.
I pressed my hands up against the wall, trying to feel my way to the door. The textures felt familiar. I felt peeling wallpaper, I ripped some of it off, and I was instantly hit with fear.
I dropped the piece of wallpaper and continued trying to find the doorknob. I couldn’t even see any light coming from anywhere, everywhere I looked it was dark. I couldn’t see anything.
I hear a knock and I freeze. Someone opens the door and it takes me a few seconds to have my eyes adjust to the new light.
It’s a little girl. It’s me as a ten year old.
I look sick. Malnourished. My eyes are sunken in, I could see my bones peaking out underneath.
“Help me.” She says with tears in her eyes.
I wake up screaming.
It takes me a few seconds to realize that it was a dream. I am full on drenched in sweat from that nightmare.
“I’m okay.” I say to myself repeatedly trying to get it through to my brain. I was on the verge of a panic attack.
I have to walk to my mirror, I take one look at myself and I don’t look good. It doesn’t make me feel better. My bangs are stuck to my forehead because of the sweat, I can visibly see my clothes sticking to my body.
I am flushed and feel like I’m going to pass out.
“You’re not ten anymore. You’re twenty eight. You have this apartment, and are independent. Your last name is Wilson not Schuyler. You’re not locked in that closet anymore. Your apartment is filled with food that you can eat at any time.” I say to myself, still trying to talk myself down.
Eventually the words work.
I drop to the floor and break down into tears.
I haven’t had a nightmare this vivid since I was a teenager. I thought I was over what happened to me so many years ago. It’s been over eighteen years, I should not still be having nightmares.
I don’t remember a lot about those three days in the closet. It was dark. I was hungry. That’s all I know. The last thing I remember was my dad putting me in the closet, they were already so high when I got home.
I had been locked in the closet before, but I usually was let out in time for bed. Even walking into that house eighteen years ago, something felt different as soon as I walked in.
The only clear memories I have from that event was being locked in, and then it was like I blinked. I woke up in the hospital with Officer Dawson sitting next to me, he was Riley’s dad, she’s my best friend.
I remember being terrified, I was hooked up to so many IVs and I had a feeding tube going through my nose. I almost ripped it out when I woke up, but they told me it was necessary because they didn’t want to shock my body by giving me too much food, so they were trying to control the amount I ate until I had the green light to eat.
I was put into therapy by my grandmother after that happened, for two years. My therapist believed that my brain blocked out everything that happened in those three days as a way to protect me.
My grandmother was so happy that I couldn’t remember the horror I went through. I was also glad that I couldn’t remember it.
But now, it’s been so long. Why was I having nightmares again? What dug up those memories?
Feeling the wallpaper with my hands, I knew that was not part of the dream. That was real. I could recall it, it had to be a memory.
I looked at the time. It was close to seven in the morning. There was no reason to even try going back to bed. It was time to start getting ready for work.
I sat at the end of the table with Riley, she was showing everyone her engagement ring. This is the first big meeting we’ve had in a while, so no one has been able to see it since she got engaged over two weeks ago.
“Alright, don’t want Carter getting on our asses, so we should probably all get back to work.” She says and we start to get up.
“Everyone is so excited for you, I’m very excited for you.” I got to help plan part of the proposal with Grant, I thought it was sweet he wanted as many of her friends and family to be there.
“Thank you.” She says to me with a smile.
If someone took a look at Riley and I, they’d be surprised that we were friends, let alone best friends.
Riley is not much of a girly girl, she hates wearing makeup or dresses. She’s feminine in her own way, she’s much more about natural beauty, and she has it. Big blue eyes, dark hair to contrast it, and she’s petite.
I, on the other hand, love pink. For a few months last year my hair was pink, I love dresses, I love getting my nails done, and makeup is my second love. Photography being my first.
I walk with Riley towards her office, I have to pass hers to get to mine. “Engagement party soon?” I ask her.
“We’re trying to find a good time, you know once wild fire season is over. It might be a few months.” Riley almost lost Grant last month, they had actually broken up because she didn’t want him fighting wild fires, but she also wasn’t going to tell him to give up his dream. That’s love if you ask me. She put his needs over her pain.
“I can’t wait for your wedding, imagine all the hot firemen I will get to meet. Maybe I’ll be able to snag one.” That makes Riley laugh.
“Aren’t you celibate?” She asks me.
“I might not be by the time your wedding rolls around.” This makes her laugh even harder.
“I’ll see if Grant has any single friends.” I smile and then look ahead towards my office. There’s someone standing near my office door that I immediately recognize and it makes me want to run and hide.
“What? Do you not want me to?” I stand in front of Riley.
“It’s Oliver, Riley.” Her eyes widen.
“What’s he doing here?” She asks in a whisper.
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him since...you know.” Since I miscarried our baby in the hospital and I screamed at him to leave.
“I guess now is your time to talk things out.” Riley was rooting for us, I knew that, but there was a lot more going on behind the scenes that she didn’t know about.
It was all complicated.
I turned around and he was now looking at me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but I knew if I didn’t move forward and meet him, he would walk this way.
I made my way over to him. I didn’t break eye contact with him, even though his gray eyes were hard to look at because of what I said to him months ago. I caused him pain.
“Oliver.” I say.
I lost my ability to speak and just motioned him inside of my office.