My feet marched from one side of my room to the next as I pivoted on my heals, pacing back and forth. The food on my bedside table was not only disgusting to the sight and smell, but I had no desire to nourish my body. Perhaps, I thought, if I refused to eat he would have no choice but to bring me to my children. My logical mind was tired from the psychological and emotional beating it was taking each day. My strong will was being weakened and he knew it was only a matter of time. Blane wasn’t allowing me to love him at all. He was trying to force it. Although I did greatly enjoy his company, the other side of my emotion told me something was wrong.
I heard someone at my door again, but it was not the wolf that I desired, but the dumb sheep who followed him. Leila came in and pulled the door shut behind her. The corners of her lips turned up, giving me the slightest regard. She began fluffing my pillows and pulling the sheets taut. I seated myself at the vanity keeping silent as she busied about. I caught a glimpse of her looking at me. When I looked back at her, her eyes darted away. I gave my hair a soft brush. Then, I squeezed a tube of gloss on my dry lips. She brushed against me as as she walked past. The tube of gloss squirted everywhere.
“Forgive me, Liza,” she said.
“Let me go. Please. I need to get my children,” I responded.
“I’m sorry,” she said in a low voice. She continued to busy herself dusting my nightstand.
“You haven’t eaten. You have to eat or Blane will be upset.”
“I don’t give a fuck if Blane is upset or not. He can’t keep me here forever and he knows it.”
“You know Liza, you’d do well to consent to his demands,” she said.
“Please help me get out of here Leila. How do I get to Issiryth’s island?” I pleaded.
“Did you hear the storms last night? It was pretty terrifying if you ask me,” she said as she began straightening up the things on my dresser.
Her nervous, trembling hand knocked over a music box onto the floor. It began to chime a familiar song. You Are My Sunshine. Slapping her hands up to her ears she attempted to muffle out the sound. She gave the box a swift kick. It slid across the floor and crashed into the wall.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, picking it up.
Her eyes narrowed with a frantic expression. She retreated from the room, locking the door behind her before I could say another word. I could hear her just on the other side as I pressed my face against the smooth, cold wood.
“Please help me, Leila. I know you remember your past. I know you know you’re a prisoner here too. I know you know Leila. Please, please help me!”
“I can’t Liza, I just can’t,” she responded through the door. I put my back up against the door, sliding down into a seated position. Leila was contemplating. I could hear her shuffling footsteps from outside the door.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,” I sang
“Stop it, Stop it!” she cried.
“You make me happy when skies are gray,” I continued.
“Damn you Liza!” she sneered.
“You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Oh please don’t take my sunshine away,” I finished.
“Shut up!” she screamed as her back hit the other side of the door and she slid down into a seated position just as I had.
“Leila, what did he do you to you? How did you get here?” I asked.
“Stop it! Stop it, Liza!” she exclaimed. “I don’t remember!”
I waited with an anxious anticipation when she fell silent. Was she still there? Had I scared her away? She re-entered my room. She held her lips shut as the tears streamed down her round cheeks. Her wide hips swayed as she walked by, seating herself next to me.
“It’s okay Leila. I’m here. I won’t let him hurt us okay?” I consoled.
“You don’t understand,” she said, hanging her head.
“What? What don’t I understand? If you tell me maybe I will,” I begged.
I could tell she was hiding something important. More than anything I wanted to understand how she got on Blane’s island. Perhaps in knowing her story, I would gain a better understanding of my predicament.
“If I tell you how I got here, will you promise never to tell anyone?” she asked.
“Of course, anything you want,” I promised.
She licked her lips as she made herself comfortable on the bed facing me. Her gentle voice became as strong as the trunk of a hundred-year-old tree as she began to spew the details.
I remember walking down the hallway, clutching my school books in front of me as my black, stringy hair fell down around my eyes. I would only look up enough to see where I was walking. The designs on the tile floor beneath guided me along. My chubby thighs would jiggle as I made my way through the crowds of high schoolers cutting up, socializing, and admiring their own reflections in the mirror doors of their lockers. My braces scraped against the walls of my cheeks causing horrible blisters. A fresh pimple had erupted in the most inconvenient place between my right nostril and lip. Despite the despairing pain in my mouth and white, puss filled abrasion on my face, I still found cause for hope that day when a flier found itself beneath my saddle oxford shoe. The break in the design of the tile floor piqued my curiosity as I picked up the crumpled paper.
“Today is your day. Audition for the school play,” I read aloud just as a young lady with long, blonde locks of hair bumped into my arm. Her icy, blue eyes were glazed over with a pensive intensity.
“You better do what he says,” she said in almost robotic tone.
“What who says?” I asked looking up to find her, but she had disappeared into the crowd of students trying to scurry off to class as the school bell rang.
I’m quite certain I had never seen her before and I most certainly have not seen her since, but her serious disposition gave me cause to heed what she said. As I stood there in the hallway, a bit overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of those around me, one of my classmates hurriedly breezed by me without a word, flinging my glasses into the crowd. Like a herd of cattle they stomped away at once while I scrambled to find them. They dispersed like a roaches nest being sprayed with poison, going on to their respective classes. They had finally made me a clear path to find them. There in front of me were the remnants of my crushed glasses, which I tried to gather up and shove in my pocket as fast as I could before dodging into biology class. I remember sitting there thinking that perhaps if I made it in the school play, that people would finally notice me. I took the flier under my shoe as a sign from the universe.
My voice shook my entire body all the way down to my knees as I fumbled the words out of my mouth.
“I had a dream,” I mustered squinting my eyes to read the tiny print.
The crumpled paper pushed into my hand as I tried to make out the words. Nervous still, I trembled as I tried to take a guess at the blurry word. The script must have said something compelling, but the director dismissed me before I could finish.
“Thank you, Leila,” she interjected. “Next!”
There was a small glimmer of hope flickering inside of me as my heels clicked on the stage while I was leaving. I thought maybe, just maybe, she would change her mind and indulge me with a small part in the play, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. My finger slid down the sheet of paper listing each person’s role on the bulletin board outside the theater room. Line by line, I went as the other students crowded around me to take a look. The high-pitched screeching of Cynthia’s voice as I read her name pierced through my ears like a spear in a cantaloupe. Her success was always expected and a part of me just wanted to be like her, but it was such a far cry.
My head hung down as I resumed my walk, observing the designs of the tile beneath my feet. My name had not made it to the list. When I realized that fate was not quite as magical as it was in the storybooks, I tore the fliers from the walls and destroyed them from beneath my shoe.
“Easy there killer,” said Brad, a handsome jock, who must have been observing my erratic behavior.
I looked up at him with red, puffy eyes as tears came down my round cheeks and stung the pimple beneath my nose. I had scarcely noticed boys, but having captured his attention at all caught me off-guard none-the-less.
“What’s that on your face? You don’t have an STD, do you?” he laughed as he walked away.
That was when I lost my will to live. I had no real reason for my existence in the cruel world anyhow. My feet marched against the tile as I walked down the hall. This time my head was not looking down at it to guide my steps, but rather straight ahead at the door at the end of the hallway. I was ever so certain that as soon as I stepped foot outside of it, I would never return this horrible place called high school again. As my hands pushed against the long metal handle of the door, the warm, outside air breezed against my cheeks making the hairs on my arms stand at attention. The release of freedom rushed through me as I sprinted toward my home down the street.
“Leila, what’s the rush about?” my mother asked as I busted through our front door and down the hallway to my room.
She could see that I was distraught, but it was quite apparent that she didn’t want to push me further into my tearful crisis. The sheets of my bed slapped up against my belly as I fell in face first to cry away my sorrows. My mother’s footsteps could be heard from behind me as the heel of her shoe thudded against the hardwood floors. Her gentle touch pressed down on the back of my head like a single feather falling to the ground. As my muffled cries from inside my pillow bellowed out, she attempted to quiet me with that song.
“You are my sunshine,” she began to sing, but my ears would not hear such a thing.
You see, I hated her for lying to me and telling me I was something special. If I was indeed this special person, then why had life treated me with such disdain? My hand reached up from behind me to push her away as I lifted up off the bed.
“Just go away, you stupid bitch!” I yelled as I pushed her out the door.
“Leila, please. I’m only trying to help,” she pleaded as she fought me away.
“Yea, well you’re not,” I snarled, slamming the door in her face.
I could hear her on the other side of the door trying to reason with me, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I locked the door immediately as I resumed my place on the bed. Trying to think of a way out of it all, I mulled over all of the options in my head. My eyes scanned the room for an answer or sign of what was yet to come. I can’t quite explain why, but the only thing that caught my eye was the dinner dishes I had left on my bedside table from the night before. I had often had dinner in my room just to hide away from the outside world, even from those who loved me. The steak knife I had used sat on top of the plate where I had rested it after stuffing my face. A small voice in my head continued to tell me to slit my wrists. It said that If I did, all of this would go away.
I grabbed the knife from its resting place as my trembling hand pressed it down into my arm and began to cut. The first drop of red blood came peeking up from the skin as I began to feel light headed. I felt the knife drop out of my hand before I had the chance to finish the job, but my body had fallen limp and paralyzed on the bed. The lamp on my bedside table began to flicker on and off as the floor beneath me shook like an earthquake. Droplets of blood smashed against the floor one-by-one like a leaking faucet as the shaking in my room persisted. I was frightened, but being unable to move left me in quite an assailable position. The rattling of my closet door began to warn me of an inevitable emergence. Closing my eyes, I tried to convince myself that none of this was real and I would soon wake up to my mom telling me it was time for school. Such a thing didn’t happen, however, as the knob to my closet door twisted and opened to reveal a tall, handsome man with raven black hair.
“What’s the matter Leila?” he asked.
“Who are you?” I asked with a shaking voice.
“I’m Blane. I’m the one who sent you the flier. Won’t you come with me?” he asked. He came up to me as I labored to move my heavy body off the bed unsuccessfully.
“Why would you send me that? To watch me fail? Like everyone else?” I sneered.
“To bring you home of course. Won’t you come with me?” he asked.
“Home? Where?” I asked.
“To a place where all your dreams can come true,” he said.
“Well, first of all, I can’t move and secondly, I’m not really interested in sexual encounters with men. I don’t know why you’d want me for that anyway. Surely you have many pretty women of your own,” I replied as if the proposal were ordinary. He laughed.
“You can move if you want to Leila. I don’t want you for sex. You see, I live alone on a mountainside overlooking an ocean and I need a housekeeper. If you live with me, you’ll never be sad again. I promise,” he said.
As the tip of his finger touched my arm gently, I could feel a surge of joy jolting throughout my body. My skin tingled with delight as every cell miraculously began to heal itself. I could feel the blisters in my mouth shrinking down to nothingness as the once sharp metal of my braces depleted into a smooth surface. My body jolted up into a seated position as his black eyes looked down into me like a concerned father. I took his hand as he guided me to the mirror that hung over my dresser.
“Look at you. Just beautiful,” he said. I mustered a small smile, revealing my perfectly straight, white teeth as my tongue licked the smooth surface.
“So smooth,” I laughed, placing my fingers on each side of my cheek. “My skin too. It’s perfect. How did you do that?”
“I have more for you,” he said extending out a small wooden box in his right hand. As he flicked open the brass clasp, a tiny dancer began to spin around as it played a familiar song.
“Stop it,” I said slapping the wooden lid down on the dancer.
“I’m sorry. Have I upset you? I thought perhaps the song could have a different context for you,” he said, placing it back down in his pocket.
“I want to go with you, Blane. Anyplace is better than here,” I said.
“There’s just one more thing. You have to promise to stay with me forever,” he explained.
“Forever? But what about...” I began.
“Forever,” he interjected.
“Okay, then. Forever,” I agreed. I could hear the sound of rushing water from my closet as I took his hand, but unfortunately, I couldn’t resist the urge to look back. There on my bed, I saw my lifeless body still holding the knife in my right hand. Blood had devoured the sheets as I could hear the shrill screams of my mother beating on the other side of the locked bedroom door.
“Leila! Leila open the door! Please!!” she screamed.
“Mom! Mom, I’m sorry!” I cried, but it was too late. She couldn’t hear me. Blane’s arm wrapped around me from behind as he held the music box up to my right ear. As the music box struck each note I could feel his tight grasp around my waist as I tried to reach my grieving mother. His breath warmed my left ear as his whispers tunneled through my eardrum.
“Shhhh. It’s over now. She can’t hurt you anymore,” he said as he pulled me down into the rushing water. As the bubbles covered me like a carbonated drink, I began to sink down into a new level of existence where my past was erased as if it were only scribbled down on a dry erase board. I didn’t remember that day, my mom, or anything else after that. I became Blane’s housekeeper and he kept his promise that I would never be sad again. He’s never spoken one harsh word to me or forced me to satisfy him sexually. He may seem like a monster to some, but to me he plucked me from a worthless existence and gave my life meaning. So, if that makes him evil, then I don’t want to ever find anything good. You see, I love him. He’s like a brother to me. I may be trapped here, but there’s no other place I’d rather be.
“That sounds horrible,” I scoffed.
“What can we do, Liza?” she asked. “I feel like I’m happy here. Blane isn’t a villain to me like he is to you. I am filled with joy each and every day. I don’t miss the life I used to have.”
“I don’t know that Blane is a villain, but I do know that I’ve been locked up in a room for days because I won’t comply with him. I know he knows how to get my kids back and won’t help me. I know he makes me feel great and claims to love me, but tries to control and possess me. Leila, you’re the only one who can help me get out of here. Are there any others who haven’t complied with his requests? Are there others who can help me?”
“I don’t know Liza. I don’t venture out into the village. I live here with Blane, serve, and keep his house. I have no outside friends or anything like that.”
“Has he brought any other women here to the house? Has he tried to seduce anyone else?” I asked. Leila looked down at the ground. I had asked a very disturbing question.
“Yes,” she said. I grabbed the bottom of her chin, to make her look up at me.
“Well,” I said with a questioning expression. “What’s happened to them?”
“I suppose they are living somewhere in the village, but I’m not really sure. Blane always talked about having a child of his own. When his lovers were unable to bear a child, he would find a new place for them and move on to the next woman. I’m not really sure why he needs to have a child, but I assume it has something to do with his curse. I don’t ask questions, Liza. I just serve. It’s that simple.”
“So, he discarded women who were unable to have a baby? That doesn’t seem like the kind soul that you’ve described to me,” I said.
“Well, you have to understand Liza, Blane found them a new happiness. He never killed them. They eventually forgot about him. If they let the materials of this world do their work, then they easily transition into the next phase. Some people want to forget. That’s the thing, I wanted to forget. So, I did. That is until you reminded me.”
“But why would you want to forget? Why would you want to be at someone else’s will? What about your thoughts, beliefs, and dreams?”
“I had no dreams when Blane took me, only for the pain to cease to exist and that’s what he did. I haven’t aged in 234 years. I’ve lived here as his servant, but my life has been pleasant. Yours can be too if you just surrender to him,” she said.
“I can’t stay here Leila. I have to get my sons and I have to go home. This isn’t my dream okay? My dream is to work, provide for my kids, and lead a life with its ups, downs, and in-betweens until I die an old lady in my bed. I don’t need a man to come in and offer me paradise on a silver platter, not at this price.”
“Okay then,” she said. “You’re not going to get out of here by continuing to resist Blane. It’s only going to make him more frustrated. He will only try harder to win you over while keeping you captive. If he makes you forget, then you’ll stop trying to get the children back and if you stop trying to get the children back, then he’ll let you out of this room,” she said. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my brain.
“Leila!” I exclaimed. “You’re a genius! That’s it! I have to pretend that I’ve forgotten then.”
“What? I didn’t say that!” she said. “I didn’t say that at all. I’m not sure that’s a great idea.”
“Please Leila,” I pleaded. “It’s the only way. Besides, you have to pretend yourself because now you’re exactly like me again.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” she said . “So, what do we do?”
“I’ve got it, Leila,” I said. “I’m going to give you the night off tonight.”
“The night off?” she asked. “I never take the night off.”
“Well, tonight you are. Do you have any of those silver discs handy? I’m going to need a few things.”
“Well, yes. Blane always leaves me one just in case I need something.”
“Okay go get it, and ask it to fetch me a long skirt, a string of pearls, red lipstick, and a ham. I’m going to surprise Blane tonight with a home cooked dinner. Blane won’t know you’re behind this at all. Do I have your support, Leila?”
Leila thought to herself for a while, contemplating this proposal.
“Yes, whatever you want Liza. I’m on your side.”