The mattress sank as my weight shifted onto it. I gawked aimlessly at the dull white walls of the room, my eyes tracing the pattern of the borders of the wall panels. The fragrance of cherries filled my nostrils as I took a deep breath and let out a sigh. The clock struck 9 yet my wait didn't seem to end. It had been more than an hour since Lizzy left me alone.
While I was sitting alone, events that occurred today replayed in my head.
* * *
"Giselle!" Elizabeth exclaimed. Her eyes grew as wide as her billion dollar smile and after my scary encounter with Lucifer, seeing a familiar face comforted me.
I thought I had changed, that I was no more the scared child that I was before.
After I fled my 'home', I'd grown stronger. I didn't stutter while putting my opinion forward. I feared nothing but the thought of being taken back home but his image had sent chills down my spine. I could no longer speak in full sentences.
"What are you doing here?" She asked, interrupting my chain of thoughts.
"Mariella got an order for deserts for some gala that's happening here tonight. I accompanied the rest of the staff members".
"Oh," she said. "But what are you doing here? The ballroom is downstairs".
"I lost my way and ended up here" I explained.
"From the look on your face, I assume you met my brother" she guessed. Was it that apparent?
"He's one scary bastard". She burst into a fit of laughter. That was the first time I'd seen her laugh and I looked forward to seeing more of it.
"He might be all scary and dangerous-looking but he's a big softie right here," she said, pointing at her heart.
"I beg to differ. Who speaks that way to the person who saved his sister?" My objection caused her face to frown.
"Anyways, what is this gala about?" I asked, trying to divert the topic.
"It's a celebration. Now that he has created his business empire from scratch, he wanted to celebrate." She said.
"Also, it's a welcome home party for me. Or I'd like to assume". She added. I nodded my head as she explained me.
"Come. Let me show you my room and introduce you to my best friend". She grabbed my hand and led the way.
Her room was half the size of my apartment. The walls and the decor of the room were a combination of a dull white and a nude shade of pearly white. It looked peaceful.
Pink and white curtains were held agape. A white veil behind the layers of curtains fluttered as the window blew wind inwards.
The circumference of the headboard had been coaxed into pale golden flowers that swirled around the edges. A creamy fabric was pinned to the headboard at multiple equidistant points. The mattress was covered with creamy white sheets and a pink quilt lay over the mattress. Oval and square-shaped pillows rested on the bed.
Behind the headboard, the wall panels resembled agape curtains that revealed a pink design consisting of kite-like structures. The design conjoined at the top and we're held at various symmetric points, the curved of the circumference resembling arcs of a circle. It was bordered by a thick rectangular border which was blunt from the sides.
An extravagant dressing table stuck to the right wall. The mirror followed the same pattern that the wall panels exhibited. A white chair with shiny pink upholstery stood ajar from the table, suggesting that someone had been sitting there.
A white ottoman with pink upholstery that matched with the rest of the decor stood in between the bed and a small rectangular coffee table.
The east side of the room was occupied by a small asymmetric couch on which a blonde girl had been sitting. She sipped liquid from her glass. A layer of whipped cream floated on the brown liquid. Her head tilted towards me as her gaze met mine.
Her blonde locks veiled around her. Her lips had been coated with cream. She sat sloppily on the couch, not even attempting to fix her posture to leave a good impression.
'Girls don't sit like that' my mother's voice involuntarily simulated in my head. I shoved her voice aside.
"Giselle, this is my best friend Inessa. Inessa, meet Giselle". Inessa's eyes grew wide open when my name was mentioned.
"Are you the badass who saved Lizzy?" She asked.
"Yes and I'm not a badass" I replied to which she stood up and tried to pull me in an embrace. As soon as our skin made contact I spontaneously flinched. She looked at me with concern.
"I prefer a handshake over a hug" I tried to explain myself. We shook hands when
Elisabeth invited me to sit on the couch. I accepted her invitation and sat down. We chatted for a while who mostly was Inessa talking about how my bravery and my presence of mind inspired her. After a while Inessa left, leaving Elizabeth and me alone.
I wanted to talk to her about the incident in the alleyway but I had no words to express what I meant. I had never talked about emotions or trauma to anyone but I knew I had to take the initiative. I took a deep breath and began.
"Elizabeth, I want to talk to you about what happened today".
"Call me Lizzy" she insisted.
"Okay, Lizzy. I don't know if you want to talk to me about what happened but all I wanted to say is that no matter what happens to you, don't let bad things get to you."
"Traumatic incidents like these can leave a deep emotional scar and I want you to deal with it. Not by avoiding your emotions but by expressing your grief. It could be anything."
"Maybe you can sing or paint. Maybe even dance if you're interested. I tried journaling and it worked for me. Maybe it could work for you too" I continued. Lizzy listened attentively to what I said.
"To be honest I want to confide in you. Can I?". Her words surprised me. She wanted to confide in me, a total stranger.
"Sure!" I enthusiastically replied.
"I still can't wrap my head around what happened today. It feels so bad like I'm hurting on the inside but nothing is wrong with me, at least physically. I feel so ashamed that I was unable to defend myself but I also feel hurt. Every time I try to distract myself, as soon as the distraction ends my mind wanders back to the pain".
For a moment we sail in silence. I knew exactly how she felt but I couldn't do anything to help her. Without any second thought, I pulled her in a tight hug. We both hugged each other, trying to help each other to stand up to outlet trauma. Our embrace lasted for a long time until I pulled back.
"You don't need to feel ashamed. It was not your fault. It's that assholes fault" I said. Lizzy giggled.
"Are you supposed to cuss in front of kids?" She mockingly asked.
"Sorry," I said apologetically.
"It's Ok. My brother cusses a lot so I'm used to it" she said.
No matter how Lucifer was, I knew that he loved his sister to the moon and back. He'd do anything for her happiness. It was the only thing about him that I liked but I have no clue why he hated me so much. Is he like that around everyone?
"It's showtime Lizzy" Inessa chimed. They were all set for the gala. In their makeup and dresses, they looked older than their age. Lizzy looked more like her age but Inessa looked like a woman in her twenties.
"I need to go but wait for me. My brother is throwing me a birthday party at midnight and I want you to join us." She said. I sweat if I was alone is, I'd burst into tears. Lizzy had a heart of pure gold. No one in their right mind would invite a total stranger to something like a sweet sixteen party. They both left for the gala as I stretched on the couch.
* * *
I took the liberty to lay down on the bed. I tried to nap before they came back but every time I closed my eyes, clips of Lucifer sitting in front of me playing in my head.
His intimidating posture and his hateful gaze were etched in my mind. His intentions may or may not have been bad but my gut instincts had told me to get out of his room as soon as possible. The river of torment that once ran dry had started flowing. A drop turned into a stream and soon painful memories started flashing in my mind.
* * *
I stood in front of the door, my hands barely reaching the metal knob. I wiped my tears in my black frock as the door opened. Two huge men stood at guard with guns strapped to their waist.
To a normal child, it would have been intimidating but I had gotten used to it. Men in my family always carried a gun.
He sat in the lounge chair, his legs spread wide as a towel enveloped his lower body. He downed the amber liquid from the glass that he held in his hand as he noticed me. For a split second his gaze terrified me. 'He's family', I reminded myself. His lips twisted in a crooked smile as the skin around his eyes crinkled.
"Come here, Giselle" he called out to me. I stumbled forward and stood in front of him. Through the towel, I could see his private parts so I chose to look away from him.
"Look at me, my sweet child" his sweet coated voice rang in my ears and I obeyed. I tried to notice his wrinkled forehead to avoid my gaze from going to his private parts.
He stood up to refill his glass which caused the towel to drop. He didn't seem to be bothered but for some reason, he took longer than usual to grab his whiskey. I cupped my hands on my face and looked away from him. I heard the upholstery of the chair sink as he sat down and poured whiskey into his glass.
"Come closer, Giselle" I could sense the smile behind his honey-coated voice. I moved closer to him, my knees brushing against his inner thigh. He pulled my hands away from my face and placed them at my side.
"Open your eyes, Giselle," he said but this time it sounded more stern. My eyelids fluttered open, trying to process what was going on. I focused on his face, my eyes pointing out flaws in his skin. He gently pulled me beside him and seated me on his lap.
My eyes were fixed on him as panic took over my body. I knew I wasn't safe but I didn't know what was happening. He tugged a strand of my hair and tucked it behind my ear.
"You have been such a brave girl. Despite your father's funeral today, you stayed strong. Your father must be so proud of you." He purred in my ear. Despite his encouragement, I didn't feel comfortable.
He pulled me a little closer, the edge of my tulle skirt brushed against his penis.
"But as your uncle-" he continued "-I must teach you some things". His words confused me as well as scared me simultaneously.
"You're nine years old now and without the protection of your father, to secure your future you must marry," he said as his fingers brushed my knees. I knew that I would have to marry but I didn't want it to happen so soon.
"So soon?" I managed to ask in a feeble voice as my eyes started leaking again.
"Yes, my dear. It is for your safety but before that, you must be taught how to please a man" he said. I had no idea what he was talking about but I nodded like I knew what he was saying. His hands crept around my inner thigh. I tried to wade his hand away but he was persistent.
"I don't like it, uncle," I said but his hands didn't stop.
"You don't have to, my sweet child. Your father has left you to me. It is time that I taught you how to be a woman. Unfortunately, I can't take you but I have other ways to teach you" he said. His grin widened. I felt something gooey oozing on the rim of my skirt. It had leaked from his penis.
"Take me? Take me where?" I asked him. He spoke nothing but chuckled at my naivety.
"You'll know when you grow up. And you'll want it" he said.
"But I don't want it!" I shouted.
His palm connected with my jaw and a smack boomed across the room. Tears that we're dripping had begun streaming, its wrath leaving me breathless and broken.
I stood up with a sudden jerk, causing my head to spin but my legs involuntarily reached for the guard, begging him for help but it felt like my screams didn't reach his ears. I tried to open the door but it was locked. My tiny fists connected with the abdomen of one of the guards but he didn't seem bothered. Uncle laughed as I failed.
"Why won't you listen to me?" I squealed
in frustration at the guards.
"Because they listen to me". His face suddenly appeared near mine, his hands tightly gripping my shoulders.
At that moment, I felt like my heart had been yanked out and stamped upon. The man whom I'd considered my family was trying to hurt me but I wouldn't let him. I squiggled under his ironclad grasp but failed.
"Let me go!" I screamed at his face. Another slap smacked against my face.
"No one is coming to get you" he whispered against my ear as his manic laughter rang in my ears.
Suddenly, everything seemed to disappear. It was only me and my sinking soul. The pain flooded through me as tears flooded my face. There was no escaping. 'No one is coming to get you' his voice rang in my ears. Dread and despair took over me. All hope was lost.
With my father's death, my uncle was made the boss of the family. No one goes against his word. Anyone who doesn't obey him dies. There was no hope for me.
His hands pulled the zipper of my dress down and he yanked it off of me. I stood there, in nothing but my underwear. He ripped my underwear, causing it to fall to the ground just like my heart did. The last barrier that protected me from him had been ripped apart.
The pain wasn't external but it crept in my veins like a monster, refusing to leave. Gasoline was coursing through my veins and his touch was like fire. Every time he touched me, blood burned in my veins.
He sat down on his chair, hauling my body onto his. I was seated on his lap, so close to his privates that it brushed against my knee. He pulled my hand and placed it on his penis. He covered his hands with mine as he moved them up and down his shaft.
He glared at his men and in response, they turned around. I stared at them blankly. When I begged and screamed for help, they didn't hear me but even without speaking, they could understand him.
He kept rubbing my hand until something squirted out of his penis, my hand was covered in his liquid. His head cocked back and his eyes shot into his skull. He groaned as she spoke.
"You're a fast learner, aren't you, my sweet little girl?"......
* * *
"Girl are you okay?" Asked a voice, interrupting my flashback.
"Yeah, why?" I asked, sitting up on the bed.
"You were crying when we came in," said Inessa. I didn't know I was crying until I felt the wetness on my cheek.
"Is everything okay?" Lizzie asked. I nodded.
"If there is anything you want to talk about, we're here for you" Lizzie assured me as she held my hands in hers.
"Yeah," I said, pulling my hands away to wipe off my tears.
"So you got permission from the devil?" I teasingly asked.
"Hush! Don't call my brother that." Lizzie defended as Inessa rolled her eyes.
"Yeah don't insult the devil" Inessa taunted. Lizzie threw the nearest pillow at Inessa. The three of us burst into laughter.
They both sat down next to me and we got engrossed in a conversation. It was past eleven o'clock when we realized we had talked too much.
"Let's go down for your birthday party" Inessa insisted.
"It doesn't begin till midnight. We've got forty minutes at max." Lizzy said as she stretched her arms and laid back on the headboard.
"Yes but Lucifer has a surprise for you" Inessa revealed. Lizzy sat up, listening to her attentively. Inessa finally had her undivided attention.
*What surprise?" She asked.
Inessa left the room and came back with a navy blue garment bag. She pulled the zipper down to reveal a breathtaking pink dress. A sea of gems and pearls had taken over the stiff pink fabric. Inessa pulled the garment bag away and fluffed the flares of the fabric, causing it to bloom in its prime.
Beams of light shot around the room, reflecting off the dress as she held it for us to view it.
Lizzy's eyes turned pearly as her hands cupped around her lips. She attempted to speak but ended up stuttering.
"It's so beautiful!" She barely managed to speak. Lizzy stood up to examine the dress.
Her hands traced the golden vines that wrapped around the dress, then to the pearls that were arranged around a topaz, resembling a flower. Her hand moved to the flares of the dress that were blossoming beneath.
"How did you know what I wanted?" Lizzy asked as her head turned to Inessa.
"When we were browsing through my Instagram, I noticed that you couldn't keep your eyes off this dress. So I saved it. When Lucifer 'asked for my help'-" she air-quoted "-I showed him this dress."
"He spoke to the designer and bought the dress" Lizzy squealed with joy after Inessa's explanation.
"He's the best brother in the world!" She exclaimed.
"Indeed he is" I added.
"Don't you wanna get in that dress already?" I asked. She eagerly nodded her head.
"Then let's get started," I said.
For the next half-an-hour, Inessa and I buzzed around the room, exchanging makeup brushes and hair styling products.
A maid entered the room carrying two garment bags.
"Why two bags?" I asked.
"For you girl. You're coming with us" Inessa replied.
"Why for me? I mean isn't this supposed to be a family event?" I asked her.
"You saved me today and helped me get through the trauma. It's the least we can do for you" Lizzy spoke. Her eyes shone with so much affection that I could not refuse.
"Fine. But let's focus on getting you two dressed".
All the time we spent on dressing up Lizzy was worth it. She turned around for the final reveal. The rim of her eyelids was coated with thick black eyeliner. Her eyelids were perfectly smeared with pearly pink eyeshadow that blended with her skin tone. A soft shade of pink stained her cheeks as the bronzer highlighted her cheekbones.
With the magic of concealer, the bags under her eyes were covered. The dress perfectly fitted her. The sweetheart neckline of the dress pushed up her immature breasts, making them look bigger.
On the other hand, Inessa went full-on with her bad bitch look. She wore a hot pink dress with matching heels. The fabric of her dress was knotted on one side. Her cleavage ran deep. Her highlighted cheekbones gave her a more J-Lo look but her strawberry blonde hair begged to differ.
I changed in the bathroom so I could hide my bruises. Luckily, the dress was full-sleeved. I straightened out my dress as waves of baby pink swathed down my knees. Golden vines branching out into flowers wrapped around the upper half of my dress. The lower half was left untouched, just the way I like it. I tied my hair into a loose bun and embellished it with a few braids.
I chose to go with a natural makeup look and a baby pink lip gloss that I borrowed from Inessa since the no-makeup look was the only look I could pull off. I was thankful to Sarah for gifting me a makeup pouch. After the final touch-ups, I went into the room.
" Everyone ready? Let's go"......