33 | a dreadful dream
I, on the other hand, was just in my towel. I suddenly regretted not just staying in the bathroom because now he could see the marks that man left on me. It was utterly disgusting and I felt shameful as if it was my fault. It was not, I knew that but I couldn't help it. I didn't even want to be touched by anyone. I wanted to steer clear from everyone. It was as if their mere presence disgusted me, even Antonio. Especially him.
He stared at me silently as if complementing what to do with me. His face gave nothing away. All I could see in him was that he murdered two people in cold blood. But I couldn't look away either, afraid to offend him and fear the same fate.
"Have you ever seen a murder, Francesca?" he finally asked. I finally looked down, not because I had to but because I couldn't meet his eyes.
How was he able to ask me this so casually as if this was what normal people do? I never experienced anything normal and only from Sophia and her family, I realized what normal is. Remembering Sophia, I had to still send her a quick text.
"Almost, yes. I heard it and then saw the body but I never witnessed it in action," I said, gripping my towel to make sure it doesn't fall.
He hummed in response. "I hadn't known you were a virgin to this."
"Burning a man alive and forcing an innocent woman to suicide is wrong. Of course I was kept away from this!" I quickly clamped my mouth shut. What had I done?
Silence. Deathly silence. I didn't dare look up in fear to see the rage in his eyes.
"I suppose," he finally said, concealing his true emotion. "But it doesn't bother me as it does to you, Francesca."
This time, I didn't feel any butterflies when he said my name. Instead, I felt like he was warning me to behave properly. It was like he was telling me that he was disappointed in my reactions and my lack of skills in hiding my emotions. But shouldn't he realize that this was all wrong and that I was only open to this to an extent? Women didn't get involved in business and he knew that so why did he expect me to be just okay. He didn't get it. He didn't understand what I was feeling or going through. He was just like everyone else.
"You wanted Jasmine so why kill her?" I just couldn't keep my mouth shut. Even though I feared him and was disappointed in him, I still felt a burn in my heart seeing him with another woman. However this relationship was, I wanted to be his only one.
"Yes, I did." He didn't even deny it. "But not for the reasons you're thinking."
"Then why did you choose her?" I snapped, looking up and fiercely meeting his eyes.
Antonio narrowed his eyes at my tone. "Do not talk with that tone, la mia bambola," he warned. "I do not have to answer to you." (My doll)
I lowered my gaze but didn't change my annoyed expression. He was a man. He could easily overpower me without a second thought and I couldn't face any more trauma. I needed to play smart. I needed to manipulate the master of manipulation. Even a small victory would mean a lot.
"Sorry," I whispered. To be honest, I wasn't sorry. At all. And he knew it too.
I waited for him to leave or at least do something. I visibly flinched when I heard a drawer opening but I didn't look at him. I couldn't because every time I did, he reminded of the burning man and the hopeless look on Jasmine’s face.
I saw his feet in my line of my vision. I gasped when he pulled a shirt over my head before pulling off the towel. I wasn't comfortable anymore. At least, until I was fully covered.
"She knew your name, Francesca. She knew who you were," he stated, helping me push my hands into the cozy long shirt that reached just above my knees. "I couldn't risk her with that information. She had to die."
But it was still wrong. I let that information sink in. How hadn't I realized that before? But still, killing her was not right. It was not her fault.
"But what about the other people who heard her say my name?" I was suddenly scared for all those girls in there who heard Jasmine. They all had heard my name too.
He rubbed my arms with his warm hands making the goosebumps disappear. "They didn't know you, bambola. She did."
I nodded. It made sense even though it was very illegal and wrong. "When you said you wanted her you didn't mean it in that way?" I couldn't believe I was asking this. He wouldn't have raped her.
His lips titled up a bit into an almost smile. "And what is that way, my wife?"
"You know what I mean," I muttered as a bit of relief started to sweep in. Knowing that he wasn't going to rape her made me feel calmer than before.
I couldn't get Jasmine’s face out of my mind but I knew that there was no point in being angry at him because I knew that if anyone got my identity, they'd be killed whether they were a friend or foe. I couldn't be mad at him but that didn't mean that I wasn't hurt. Oddly, I just felt disappointed after all this. An innocent soul died because of the crimes that she had no hand in. She didn't deserve that. No one deserved that.
He stared at me before muttering few words. Oddly, in a very soft tone. "Get some sleep, bambola."
"Yes, of course," I replied just as a good wife would. I didn't have anything better to do either and right now, I was in no mood to talk to him. Husband or not, he didn't deserve it.
• • •
"Do you want a chocolate?" a man asked. His name was Anthony.
Father stood behind him with a sick grin. I was confused. Where was I? Why was he asking me if I wanted a chocolate? I was thirteen. And why did he look black and white? Why did everything look black and white?
"No..." I trailed off.
His gaze hardened. "You will have a chocolate!"
"Why...?" I gave him a weird look.
He grinned. "Because it'll make you like me."
Was he an idiot?
Father then spoke. "Fuck off, Anthony. She's claimed. He’ll burn you alive if you ever touched her."
“But he wouldn't know, would he? Plus, she's not betrothed yet—."
"Oh, he knows everything and my doll is my golden chicken. I ain't gonna kill it for your uncontrollable urges."
The scene changed. Now I was in another room. It was dark and cold. My feet were bare on the marble tiles.
"H-Hello?" I stammered out.
A sigh of relief left my lips when I saw a man. But it quickly changed back to fear. Was he a rapist? Was he a murderer? Was he Father?
I padded closer to the stranger. He had his back toward me. I could tell he was smoking with the smoke coming in front of him.
"Excuse me?" I called out.
When he didn't answer, I didn't have a choice but to tap his shoulder. A scream left my lips when the man fell backwards. I quickly moved away only to stumble upon another body—a female's body.
Her face was ruined with scars and blood. It was as if someone bashed her head. I looked away as bile piled up in my throat but the man caught my eye.
And his face was burnt off.
• • •
A scream tore out of my lips. I felt fear claw my gut as I only saw darkness around me. Where were the bodies? Where was I?
Softness touched my bare legs. My hands flared around to find the light. I felt movement beside me and I quickly tried to get away.
I squinted as the lights came on. There were no no bodies. There was no basement. I was in my room and it was all a dream. Tears streamed down my cheeks as sobs made my body shudder.
"W-Why?" I stuttered. "Wh-Why w-would you s-show m-me...?" I couldn't even complete the sentence.
I leaned against the headboard as I folded my legs to my chest, wrapping my arms around them. I lowered my head in between but couldn’t close my eyes.
My cries were full of terror. I heard him walk. I didn't want to be alone. I quickly looked up to find him standing before me. He furrowed his brows in a thoughtful expression before he sat down. I was thankful that he sat away and gave me my space. Getting close to someone was not something I could handle right now. Husband or not.
I placed my face back in between my knees, unable to look at him.
"What I did could never be justified. I know that, bambola. But I did what I had to do," he finally said. (Doll)
Anger soared within me. "What do you mean?" I snapped. "Why would you s-show me something you know would b-break me?"
He didn't even flinch and I hated that he was so composed. "You had to see it," he whispered.
"Why?" I wiped my tears off my cheeks. I didn't want to cry in front of him anymore.
"Because this is all just the beginning and the most you could do is prepare."