I woke up with my cheek cradled in the palm of someone’s hand. Below my eye I was caressed slowly. I had a splitting headache. The side of my head throbbed. I was slightly dizzy but not as bad as I was earlier. As all the memories came flooding back my eyelids flew open and I found Jamie crouched beside me. I jolted up right, causing his hand to drop from my face as I scooted away from him. My back came flush with a cold wall.
I looked around the room and my eyes filled with tears. All four walls were covered in pictures of me. All were of various sizes. Some black and white— And some colored. A thin chain dangled from a light bulb that lit the room. The small rectangular window was covered in black plastic. The cement floor held paint stained. A table was off to the side with a monitor. Photo scraps and scissors lay atop it. Is that where he had been watching me? Silent tears ran down my face. My chin quivered. My palm began to sweat and I closed my eyes, concentrating on my breathing. I pretended Gage was talking to me; walking me through the panic that was trying to take me over.
“Baby, you need to breathe. Take a deep breath for me— That’s it. Take another one. Now, let it out slowly.”
I drew my legs to my chest and pressed the palm of my hand to my ear, pretending it was his chest my ear pressed against and not my hand. Recalling the rumbling of his chest as he spoke, I played it over and over in my head and imagined his arms around me.
“Good— That’s good, baby. You did good.”
I was suddenly pulled back to reality when Jamie spoke. “I’m not going to hurt you, Jay.” I jumped and smacked his hand away when he ran his hand down my arm.
My eyes flew open. “Don’t touch me.” I screamed. I began to shake. “Get away from me, Jamie.” I hated that I started to cry. I wanted to be stronger. But, this man had nearly killed me. He tormented me. He put a fear in me that ate at me like a plague.
“Come on, Jayden...Don’t be like that. I love you. You gotta know that.”
I ignored the pain that laced in his voice.
“I love you, beautiful.”
“Don’t call me that.” I choked out.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I would never hurt you, Jayden. Just trust me.”
“Trust you? You tried to rape me.” My throat hurt from screaming. “You tried to kill me.”
“No— Jayden, you don’t know what you’re saying. I would never do those things to you. I will always protect you.” He looked sincere and it scared me even more. “ You need to understand that it wasn’t me. It was Beak.”
“Who’s Beak?” I choked.
Jamie’s features turned grave. His voice was filled with sorrow. “Someone I can’t control.”
“Then let me go.” I was so confused. I didn’t understand what Jamie was saying. He was dressed just like the man who attacked me. “Please.”
“I can’t let you go, Jayden. I finally just got you.”
I smacked his hand away as he tried to touch me again. “Get away from me.”
“Shut up, Beak.” Jamie stood and stepped back.
I looked around the room trying to see who he was talking to. I hadn’t heard anyone but perhaps I had drained out the voice when I screamed.
“Leave her alone.” Jamie seethed.
My heart dropped. Was Beak in his head? The thought terrified me. I went to stand when Jamie took a step towards me and held his hand up in warning. “Stay there, Jayden. You’re safe right there. Don’t move.”
“Don’t hurt her again, Beak.” Jamie pleaded. “Please, just don’t hurt her.”
Was he crying?
I found my voice though it came quiet. I thought perhaps talking to him would help. “Where’s Beak, Jamie?”
Jamie, pounding the heel of his palm against his forehead, replied, “In here.”
“I know you didn’t want to hurt me, Jamie.” I tried to reason with him. If Beak was the one who attacked me and meant me harm, perhaps I could keep him at bay by keeping Jamie’s attention to me. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was just grasping at straws.
Jamie blinked back his tears and did his best to smile at me. “You do?”
I nodded. “I do.” I swallowed hard. “I know you are just trying to protect me.”
Jamie sniffed and looked me over. “You’re not— You’re not just saying that?”
“No.” I shook my head.
He took a step towards me and I flinched. I saw pain wash over his face and his shoulders slumped. “Jamie— I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to flinch from you.” I cried. “I’m just scared.”
“Of me.” He said quietly.
“No.” I wiped the snot running from my nose on the back of my sleeve. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“You’re lying, Jayden.” He said it as if it was a matter of fact. I was glad to see he held no hostility.
“No, Jamie...No I’m not.” I tried to stand.
He rushed towards me. “You need to sit down, Jayden. Don’t move. You’re safe. I can protect you while you’re there.”
I sat down quickly. I thought that if I eased my way into calming him perhaps he would let his guard down and I could sneak out.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is protect you, Jayden.” He shook his head. “You’re so beautiful. And kind. I just wish you loved me like I love you.”
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t love him. If I admitted it wouldn’t that just make him angry? Would Beak resurface again? If I lied and told him I did, would he see through that? Would he question my relationship with Gage?
“When your parents died all I wanted to do was hold you and take your pain away. I wanted to hold you when I saw you wearing that pink dress at prom with Max.”
“You did hold me at prom, Jamie.” I said. “You asked me to dance and we did. Don’t you remember?”
“We danced...But I didn’t hold you. Not like that. Not like he did.”
He walked over to me and squatted down.
It took everything in me to not scoot away.
“Can I hold you? I just want to hold you. Just once.”
He reached for me and I flinched.
“See...” Now he looked mad. “I knew you were lying. Why are you lying to me? I’ve done nothing but be honest with you.”
“If you’re not lying then let me touch you.”
When he reached for me I swatted his hand away. “Don’t touch me, Jamie.”
“Jayden—” His lips thinned with warning. His eyes darkened. I couldn’t explain it. It was as if another person suddenly morphed into Jamie’s body. He tilted his head and raked his eyes over me slowly; lingering on my hips, stomach and breasts.
“Beak?” It frightened me, addressing Jamie as another. I had never witnessed a person with a split personality before let alone speak to both sides. Especially one that wanted to do me harm.
A slow smile crossed his face. “So...you now see me. Took you long enough.”
His smirk faded and it was quickly replaced with a heavy snear. He balled his fist and slammed it into his open palm, causing me to jump. “Do you know how hard it is to stand on the side lines and love someone while they throw themselves at another?” He seethed. “For years I had to listen to you talk to Lily about the men you dated. I had to watch you and Brock fool around. I had to watch you and Gage—” His jaw tightened and his face turned red. He then shouted, “It’s fucking hard, Jayden. Not once did you look my way.”
I scooted to the side to create more distance between us.
He moved along with me and when he leaned in I feared what he might do. Pressing my back to the wall I kicked him square in the chest; knocking him backwards. I got to my feet and ran for the door. I was nearly there when he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me against him. His arms snaked around me. Knox’s voice rang in my head. “Now…when I say go, I want you to stomp on my foot and throw your head back. Alright?”
Lifting my foot I slammed my heel on the top of his foot. He loosened his hold and when he leaned forward I threw my head back. I heard a crunch and tried to ignore the instant pain to the back of my head.
“Ah— Fuck!” Jamie screamed.
When he stumbled back I ran out the door. I navigated my way through the shelving made of two by fours. I was filled with hope when I saw the stairs leading up. When my hand grabbed the railing, I screamed out in pain as Jamie’s fingers threaded through my hair and yanked me back.
I heard banging upstairs. “Jayden?” Gage yelled as the door burst open.
I screamed his name. “Gage!”
“Shut it bitch. Gage and Jamie can’t save you.”
I screamed for him to let me go. As he drug me back to the room I kicked and clawed at him. I heard Gage run towards the stairwell above. Police sirens were faint. I was suddenly filled with hope. Gage was here. The police were on their way. And perhaps...Perhaps Jamie wouldn’t get away.
I kicked his shin and he shoved me to the floor. Suddenly my head was yanked back and pain shot through my face. I tasted blood before everything went dark.