I'm sure I looked stupid.
I know I looked insane.
I didn’t really care though. The smile on my face that the guys brought back felt too good and I didn’t mind if the other people on the subway gave me strange glances.
I was surprised they had been okay with me heading back to my apartment alone. Admittedly, it took 30 minutes to get them to agree, and a promise that I would text one of them when I got back safely.
I couldn’t deny that there was an instant connection between the five of us. The second I stepped out of their elevator I had felt like I could finally take a breath. God, I missed them so much.
By the time I got back to my apartment, it was dark out and I welcomed the late-night calm. It had been a long day and all I wanted was to put on my sleep clothes and rest. I quickly climbed up the three floors it took to get up to my apartment and stepped inside.
My apartment wasn’t much, but it was home. After everything, I had gone through these past years having space that just mine gave me a sense of peace and hope.
I knew the guys were going to be curious about my past. Keeping this from them felt wrong, but I was terrified.
Terrified of what they would think of me.
Terrified they would reject me.
Terrified that my past might catch up to me, and hurt them in the process.
I stripped off my clothes from the day and turned the water on in the shower. Stepping in, I let the hot water cascade over my body. Washing away my fears and worries, if only for a short while.
I grabbed my lavender body wash and thought back on the events of the day. That smile reappeared on my face like a sunrise breaking across the night sky. They were so different now, but also so familiar. I wanted to get to know them all over again.
Those boys... they were as much mine as I was theirs.
Although their girlfriends would probably disagree with me on that. I had noticed the resentful looks they cast my way, but I wasn’t sure if any of the guys noticed as well.
The stab of jealousy I felt thinking about Colt and Aiden dating them surprised me.
I lathered the shampoo in my hear with more force than necessary as if I was trying to remove that feeling.
I had no reason to be jealous. It’s not like I was in a relationship with any of them. Before we were separated, I don’t think I was anything more than a little sister to them. Someone to tease and cover for you when snuck out of the house.
Meanwhile, I had harbored little crushes on all of them. The butterflies I felt whenever they had called me Lark, or let me in on their secrets was something I cherished. They made me feel special. Whether they meant to or not.
I turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. The chilly air from the rest of my apartment had me wrapping the towel tightly around my body. I stood in front of the mirror and wiped off the steam. Looking at my reflection, the girl staring back wasn’t the same girl from this morning.
Her eyes were brighter. Her smile was broader. Her head was lifted higher.
Walking over to my dresser I grabbed a large t-shirt and some shorts. I pulled them onto my body and wrapped my arms around my torso. The feeling of the clothes brought me a sense of comfort. I walked over to the wall and turned the lights out.
As I was walking towards my bed, I heard a door slam in the apartment above me. I jumped and before I could calm myself down, I felt my anxiety peak and a flashback had me curled in a ball on the floor.
The springs in the old mattress I laid on dug into my skin. Piercing me in a way that kept my exhausted body from giving in to the oblivion of sleep I so desperately needed. I was curled in a ball under the thin sheet I was given to sleep with. Despite the fact I was kept in a dark, cold, cellar I wasn’t allowed to wear clothes or have anything thicker than a sheet to cover my body. I could hear Gio’s voice in my head telling me I wasn’t worth clothing. He loved to remind me that I was property. Not a person.
I was just about to fall asleep when I heard the door to my cellar slam open with a force I thought would take the hinges off. I immediately sat up. My chest rising and falling rapidly as I heard footsteps approach.
“Ahh Emilia, good. You are still awake.” Gio’s voice was deep and menacing. You’d think after two years it wouldn’t still give me chills. He stalked closer to me and grabbed my chin roughly, jerking my head up to meet his eyes.
“Get up. We have a job for you. There’s a very stupid boy that backed out of an important deal with us.” He spoke to me in the same way a pet owner would talk to their misbehaving dog. “We need you to ... persuade him to become friendly with you. You have 20 minutes to get yourself cleaned up and to see Anita for clothing.” He let go of my chin with a shove that forced my body back into the mattress.
He turned on his heels and started towards the stairs that led to the door. Before he hit the first step, he paused and slowly turned back to me. His left hand coming to rest in his pocket while he looked to be inspecting dirt underneath his fingernails on his right hand. Without looking at me, he gave me a warning that I would have been stupid to ignore. Again.
“Emilia, dear. Please try not to stray from your purpose this time. We would hate to have to remind you what happens when you tell stories to people.” He let that hang in the air for a moment before looking up and meeting my eyes.
The look in his eyes telling me he would love to remind me. I flinched back and subconsciously touched the scar on my hip. It was the result of the last lesson he had taught me.
Smirking at my reaction, he finally turned and headed back up the stairs.
He gave me 20 minutes to get ready. Which meant I could take one minute to fall apart. My hot tears ran down my face and onto my knees.
*End of Flashback*
When my mind finally released me from my memories I worked to slow down my breathing. My body slowly uncurled no longer feeling like it needed to protect itself. I crawled to my bed and sunk below the covers. Anchoring myself in the softness of the blankets and the sounds of the city from beyond my window, I finally felt myself return to a state of calm.
That wasn’t the first flashback I had ever had. It likely wouldn’t be the last. I forced my lungs to take deep breaths before shutting my eyes.
Sleep overcame me.
Luckily, my nightmares did not.