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The lives before

There is an undeniable moment of tension, when the silence poisons the air.

He clears his throat.

“So, did you sleep well? I know it’s all a bit clinical but it serves a purpose. We think of ourselves as a military base and it has served her well so far.”

“Alright, thanks. Ah, hence the whole ‘yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir’ full act. I get it now even though maybe it would be more hospitable without everyone having a broom shoved up their arses. So bloody uptight.”

“Yes, I guess they are,” he releases a small breathless laugh and continues, “you are referring to Jason, would I be right? He is a nice boy but he needs to learn how to remove the aforementioned stick from his backside. I did not teach him that, just in case you want to blame me for that.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, father dear. Now, let’s cut the crap; I have questions, you have answers. Let’s put them together to create clarity.”

That was rather more poetic than I was expecting. Go Elektra.

“ Ask away. You think you’re the only one with questions? I want to know what my daughter has been through the past ten years. You ask a question, then I do. Total honesty. Ladies first.”

I have so many questions. Of all the questions I want answers to which do I want to ask first. Of course I know. The question that has been tearing at the inside of my mind ever since I can remember.

“What was I like as a child?”

“You were the sweetest little thing. You were always so wide-eyed and curious. Image of your mother, you were. You still are, so like her. I never thought you’d grow up but looking at you now, the strong young woman you’ve become. I’m proud of you, so proud.”

I look like her. The words I always wanted to hear from my father. He is proud of me but then again, he doesn’t know me. He knows nothing about me. That raises another question that has been nagging at me. It’s only half complete.

“What happened to her?”
“No, one question. It’s my turn now. What was your old group like?”

What do I tell him? Do I tell him about Rita? Roman? The kids? It is still a sensitive area that I don’t want to delve into. Does he really want to know or is this just small talk?

“Yeah, they kept me alive which I am grateful for. Anything I am comes from them. Roman, the eldest member of the group, was...more than a friend but I had to leave them. I am an adult and I needed an escape. I wanted to find you. And my mother. Now, you spoke about her in past tense, what happened to her?”

I feel that was sufficiently vague.

“She became ill a few months after you were taken-”

“Infected?” I interrupt

“No,a different kind of ill. Mentally ill. Felt like it was her fault. I was the one to find her. Hanging. From a tree a few metres outside of the compound. She didn’t snap her neck so she would have suffocated. You have to understand, you were our little girl. The only thing that mattered to us was keeping you safe and ignorant. We wanted you to be a child for just a little while longer. It was John who convinced us to take you out there.”

“John? John never mentioned he had ever been part of another group. He said the group he had founded was the only one he had been in.”

“Then he’s a fucking liar like he always has been!”

Sensitive area. I think that has successfully been established. How could John have been involved in my parents’ group? More importantly, if he knew my parents and they seemed to value his opinion, why did he take me from my parents? Why did he want me to know the ins and outs of this world before I should have? Was that even his plan? The man with the real answers if nothing more than ash.

“Excuse my language but every time I think about what that man did, what he caused...if I every find him, I will kill him.”

“No need. He topped himself a few weeks ago. That’s how I found out that you might be alive; he let that slip before he took his final breath. So there’s one less job. I am sorry; no one should have to see someone that they love take their own life.”

I want to sound bitter. Resentful towards John which is what my father wants to hear. That I hated John and, in the end, wanted him dead but I can’t. Knowing that John lied to me doesn’t change the fact that he raised me and tried to protect me as a daughter. I can’t hate him. It is not physically possible.

He sighs and rubs his eyebrow. My tone deceived me. I can’t feel the way Marcus wants me to feel because our experiences in the world are so different. He saw one side of John and I saw the other.

“Were you and John close in some capacity?”

“He was my mentor, so yes. We were close which isn’t exactly what you want to here but it is the truth. I understand he lied to me about everything in hindsight but he was a good man. What was John like, when he was a part of your group?”

I have to know. I don’t want to know but I have to. It may help me to understand why he did what he did. Why he felt he had to lie to me about everything. I have to understand.

“John? He was...different. He was infatuated with you and your mother. He was quiet, that is all I can really say about him. I always sensed there was something...unwholesome about his relationship with you. It made me uncomfortable because you were just a little girl. I should have done more to stop him; maybe I could have avoided all of this...”

“Don’t you dare blame yourself! If it brings you any peace, John probably would have taken me no matter what you did, I think. Now define unwholesome.”

I swallow all of the excess saliva that has built up in my mouth. I am starting to feel physically sick but it was my choice, to tarnish a dead man’s memory.

“I can’t help myself,” he says, adjusting his position, “he used to spend a lot of time with you. He would go into your bedroom at night and then he would come out ten minutes later, his flies undone or his shirt untucked...I also suspected there was something else.”

“What? Do you mean...he was a kiddy fiddler,” I then vomit the contents of my stomach onto the carpet flooring of the room. How could he do that to me? That is a bloody vicious and conniving lie if he is deceiving me. Why would John do that? I refuse to believe it. Wouldn’t he have continued once I was a little older? Unless he got off on touching up little children. Oh I feel sick. I feel physically ill.

Marcus runs around the desk, grabs a bin from by the side of the desk and keeps my hair off of my face while I take the bucket. I was a little girl. I was just a little girl. I don’t want to believe it but why would he lie to me? What would he hope to achieve but to poison me against John?

“Bring up Elektra, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told you but I thought...I thought maybe you could take it. He didn’t do it to you again then? When he had you all to himself?”

I try to compose myself while wiping buttery vomit from my chin. Thought I could ‘take’ it? Bullshit. I can’t remember anything about my past and then he springs this idea that a man I admired used to rape me when I was a child. Bullshit. I open my mouth but the words won’t come out. I am in shock.

“I...I....,” I mutter, trying to articulate my thoughts. Maybe it’s better that I can’t remember my childhood. My innocence was ripped away from me when I couldn’t have even known what sex was. He violated me, potentially. The words repeat in my head, poisoning each thought in my mind.

Marcus puts his arm around my shoulder. I don’t stop him or pull away; is there the possibility that he could be lying? I want Marcus to be lying, making up spiteful stories but there is something about his tone that makes me think he is being completely genuine. Ugh, why did I ask?

I guess subconsciously I must have known. My lucid dream and the hymen incident. Oh my god, why would John do that to me? Was he using me as a power play over my father? Once he had me, asserting himself over me was made void. If he wasn’t dead...I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore.

“He never touched me, if that’s what you’re asking. I...I just need a moment. Oh my god, fuck. He never showed any display of physical affection to me; he only hugged me a few times in the ten years I knew him. Fuck,” I can just about muster up a mutter. I cannot think of the right words. Is it possible to know what to say?

“I’m sorry to bring it up. I have never been able to stop thinking about that bastard, hurting you. I have had the image in my head for the past ten years, torturing me. But, you’re alive and he kept you safe and he didn’t hurt you. That’s one thing,” he rubs my back, trying to comfort me but that isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be comforted; I want to understand why! Why John did it?

I can see where I get it from. Marcus knows how to play people like violins, just like me. He is trying to emotionally manipulate me. I am not buying the bullshit he is trying to sell.

“Yeah,” I whisper.

“Your question now,” he asks, in a jovial tone.

“How did John steal me? What happened the day I was taken and please...don’t....bullshit....me.”

I cannot take any more lies or deceit. I just want to know what happened; it’s in the past so nothing can change it but at least I can understand more about myself and those I’ve trusted forever.

“It was his idea. To take you with us on a run. John thought you needed to know what it was like out there and your mother agreed. We just wanted you to be a child for as long as possible. You would always play and question things; you were the one innocent thing in our world. Did you ever play once you joined John’s group? How long were you a child?” He shifts his weight onto his other foot and sighs. He then decides to sit back down into the chair.

“Anyway, we took you with us. You were frightened but you were still like this ball of flaming energy. We were about 2 miles away from the compound. You, John, your mother and I. We suspected nothing. John called for you and you ran, like a pocket rocket. You idolised him and I never understood why. It was either idolisation or fear, you never made it clear. Next thing we know, he has his hand over your mouth and is pointing a gun at us. You struggled. He let go. The force overpowered you and you fell. You hit your head on the concrete.

He shot your mother in the stomach and he shot me in the head,” he lifts up a bit of hair from his forehead to reveal a jagged scar, “they always said I had a thick skull. I passed out and your mother watched you go, unable to do anything. I don’t know what happened after that. I mean what I said Elektra; there has not been a day over the past ten years that I have thought about you and the woman you became. I always knew you were alive. Paternal instinct if you will.”

A scar like mine, in a way. Carved by a bullet’s path. My kidnap was premeditated; he made my mother watch as he took me while she lay, helpless. No wonder she lost it because she felt like she failed me. I still feel sick. This is a game changer. Complete bloody game changer. He tried to kill my dad. He probably would think that they were dead and that it was his bullets that severed their life cords. I genuinely wanted John to come out of this smelling of roses but now...I can’t feel anything but contempt for that man. I hate him and that is something I never thought I would feel. I hope he rots, the evil, pedophilic bastard.

But I don’t.

I don’t know what I want to believe right now.

“Matching father daughter scars, ironic,” I say with the essence of a smile. I lift up my top, exposing my bullet wound. Dad walks up to me and traces the line of my scar and, then, looks up at me.

“Who did this to you?”

“You think this is bad, you should see the other guy.”

Am I really cracking a joke at this moment? But then again, I am stating a fact. I may have an ugly looking scar but at least I’m not worm meat.

He takes me in his arms and forces me into a tight embrace. I reciprocate. I guess this is what I need: comfort. I want my father. I need time. I have to go. I have had the questions I needed answered, answered.

“Please excuse me, I need some air. I will...see you later.”

“Okay, see you,” he moves to kiss my cheek but I move away before he has the chance. I am repulsed by male contact at the moment.

I walk over to the door and walk out into the corridor. I walk, not focusing on any of the details around me. I am pretty good at remembering routes so I find my room in a relatively speedy time. I open the door to my room and then lock it behind me. Damn. I still cannot believe everything I have heard.

John is the other father figure I can remember having and now...what? Am I supposed to just accept the fact that John was mentally damaged? There have been things he has said, in the past, that were bizarre and should have warranted concern but that was just the way he was. Did I even know John at all?

I don’t want to think about it. Any of it. I know the answers that I have been searching for which provides some liberation from my ignorance. I am more unnerved than every but I can no longer claim ignorance. I just can’t understand why. Why? Why?

I drop down onto the bed. I need to compose myself and I have no idea how. Everything I thought I knew is a lie. Is there any truth in what I know? I look up at the ceiling. It’s becoming more and more difficult to breathe. Small rapid breaths escape from my lungs. I feel like I am hyperventilating. My eyes begin to burn and burning hot tears spill over. Great heaving sobs leave my chest. I can’t deal with this. I am not detached; I am too involved with this. Why did I choose to find him? I could have lived in ignorance for the rest of my life. Now I feel dirty. I feel violated by a man who I trusted with my life.

Oh my god.

I am sobbing like an overgrown child but I’ve earned that right, I feel. I can’t control my breathing. How is anyone supposed to know how to bear that knowledge? I deserve this. I mean I wanted honesty and I wanted answers. How the hell can I complain? But did I deserve it? Did I deserve to be used as some form of power play? Did I deserve to know this?

I have to get up. Compose myself somehow. I can’t deal with these emotions right now. I walk over to the wall and proceed to hit my head on the wall. Again and again. I’d rather feel physical pain than this psychological agony I have been forced to endure. I can’t deal with this. I don’t want to. I am not ready to deal with this.

My head is becoming cloudy. I can see blood on the wall where my head comes into contact with it. I have to stop but I can’t force myself. I am hoping that this will help me lose consciousness. I pause. I know what I have to do. I hit my head again on the wall with such a force that the world goes black.

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