Tormented

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If You’ll Have Me

Salem

She just keeps screaming. I don’t know who she is, but I need her to stop. She’s giving me a headache. Her wails of despair shake the ground, sorrowful vibrations that pelt my heart like bullets.

Why is no one comforting her?

She hurts—I can tell. No one screams like that unless they’re in pain. I want to help her but I’m not sure where I am. I can’t open my eyes, they’re far too heavy. How long have I been in the dark? I’m not sure.

I kind of like it here.

My body is exhausted, it’s like it’s given up trying to live, and my mind is barely hanging on. My mind is very tired too. Being here is a nice, peaceful break from reality.

Except for the screaming girl. She’s really ruining the atmosphere.

She’s been screaming for days, I think. Maybe. I don’t know. Time doesn’t mean much here. I’ve finally found the desolation I craved for so long. I just wish it was quieter in desolation. I want to tell her to be quiet by my throat is dry, every word that tries to escape like a knife. No, I can’t console her.

Agony.

She cries for someone to help her—she says she’s dying. Her pleas are met with silence. My heart breaks for her. What has she done to deserve this torment?

She sobs, begging for anyone. She asks for Leo.

My Leo?

Regardless, Leo doesn’t answer. Is he here with me? In the darkness? I want to ask for him to, but the knives in my throat are too painful.

He wouldn’t come to me anyway. Leo is too bright for the darkness—he’s good in every way. If he knew about what I’ve done, he’d hate me.

Oh yeah, he does know.

And he does hate me.

The girl screams, a piercing cry so loud that I swear my eardrums will burst. She’s panting, out of breath and gasping for air. She pleads one more time, desperately asking for Leo. She apologizes to him, telling him that she’s so sorry for hurting him.

I can’t imagine anything worse than what I’ve done to him.

I hear shuffling, and I wonder if Leo will go to her. A voice calls to him, telling him not to give in. It’s my mother’s voice.

The girl calls to her now, a different kind of intensity in her hoarse voice. She tells her she can’t take anymore. She says she’s dying.

My mother says nothing in return.

What did this girl do for them to hurt her this way? Why is she suffering?

I don’t know how long she continues to cry. I’ve almost become numb to it—to the pain she inflicts on me.

But it’s hot now. So hot.

I wonder if I’m in hell. I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m pouring sweat, and it’s hard to breathe. The girl is crying heaving sobs. I think she’s in hell with me.

Even in darkness I can tell that the room is spinning. It makes me feel so, so sick. The girl is sick too, I can hear her gagging.

My mother tells Leo to go—she’ll keep him updated. A door slams in the distance as the girl throws up. Again and again and again, even when there’s nothing left, she keeps throwing up.

And then she’s angry. She yells and screams and threatens to kill my mom. She threatens to kill everyone.

She tells my mom that she hates her. She hates Leo. She hates her life. She says she’s going to kill herself.

My mother doesn’t budge.

Next is a string of profanities, hurled at my mother because there’s no one else.

And then finally, it’s quiet.

I force my crusty eyes open, and the light filtering through the windows is blinding. I groan, my voice croaking out painfully. It takes a moment for my vision to clear, and I realize I have no idea where I am.

But I recognize the salt circle.

I was the crying girl.

I stand, but my body is weak and I stumble out of the salt circle and into the plastic folding chair that my mother has vacated. I’m covered in bodily fluid and soaked in sweat. The smell of vomit fills my nostrils and I gag. I spot a bathroom in the old, dusty room, and make my way to it, walking like a clumsy toddler.

I strip off my clothes immediately and toss them in the trash, stepping into the shower and letting hot water rinse off my skin. There’s no soap, so I use my hands to scrub my skin. I didn’t think about how I’d get out of here with no clothes and no towels, but I find an old hospital gown hanging on the back of the bathroom door. Still dripping water, I pull the gown on backwards and tie it like a robe.

Everything comes rushing back to me and I leave the bathroom and collapse back into the chair. I pull my knees to my chest and let my eyes close.

I’m relieved that I didn’t do too much damage, and unlike the last time I exited the salt circle, I allow myself to drift peacefully to sleep.

I vaguely remember my mother calling my name, and helping me to the car, but I’m so exhausted that’s it’s all a blur.

The next thing I remember is waking in my bed. Relieved, I cuddle closer to my pillow. I don’t want to get up, but the faint smell of leftover throw-up has my stomach churning. I force myself to my feet and shower for the second time, but this go around, I use my favorite soap and I scrub everything. I massage shampoo into my scalp forcefully. I dry off with my towel and then blow dry my hair with a large round brush. Feeling normal for the first time in weeks, I do my makeup and dress in a pair of leggings and an oversized sweater.

As soon as I walk from my room I’m attacked.

“Thank God,”Leo says, crushing me to his chest. He pulls away then and looks me over, an expression of worry and doubt on his face. “Are you okay?” He breathes.

“I’m fine,” I say softly, and then his lips are on mine. I’m confused, but I allow it, reveling in the feel of his mouth once again.

“I was so worried about you,” he whispers into my neck, pulling me back into him.

“You aren’t mad at me?” I force myself to ask.

“No,” he says, as though that was never even a possibility. “I was at first… I didn’t understand… but I get it now. I want you, Salem. We’ll figure the rest out. As long as you’re safe.”

I’m soaring. Leo knows what I’ve done, and he’s found a way to forgive me.

I suddenly remember something and pull away from him, looking up into his eyes.

“What Ezra said before… was that true? About me? And my dad?”

“About him being the reason your magic took over?” He asks, carefully sidestepping the fact that I’ve killed people. “As far as I know, yes that was the truth. Ezra said—”

I cut him off. “What Ezra says means nothing. Ezra tied me to a chair in a basement and tortured me for days until I forgot you. Until I was angry with my mom, until I thought that my dad was a hero!”

I’m breathing hard, panic creeping up as I remember being back in that room.

Leo nods, his jaw locked. “I know what Ezra has done—to an extent. I don’t know the details, and I’m not forgiving him for what he’s done, but he did help me to get you back.”

I just sigh, and then finally notice my surroundings.

The lights are off, candles lit on the coffee table. Next to them is a bottle of champagne and white styrofoam takeout boxes. There’s blankets piled on the couch and the TV is on, Netflix pulled up.

“What is this?” I ask him.

“We have a lot to figure out, and we don’t have much time, but Ezra is keeping your dad at bay, and your mom thought you could use a normal day, just to relax.”

“Just me and you?” I ask, my heart racing.

“If you’ll have me.”
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