|Posted on June 1, 2010 at 12:26 AM|
The days that followed were strained. Kenny was treating Amanda as if she were made of glass. He was always hovering, trying to make sure she was comfortable, needed anything to eat or drink, telling her she should rest, tucking blankets around her; it was extremely trying. She knew he meant well, and he probably didn’t know quite what to do with her, but she was never alone in a room and it was making her feel like a burden. Even when she went to the restroom, he was always nearby when she came out. She had no time to try to figure things out for herself.
“Kenny, I’m fine,” Amanda told him one day after lunch when he’d asked her –again- if she needed to take a nap. “Just go do what you normally do during the day. It’s been two weeks.”
“I don’t want to leave you alone so soon.”
“Nothing is going to happen, I’m fine Kenny,” she told him again.
He looked at her for a moment before sighing and saying, in a teasing tone, “I suppose I should go on a grocery run. We are running low on chocolate ice cream.”
“Hey! If you went three years without chocolate ice cream, you’d have some every day too!,” she replied, poking him in the chest playfully.
“Alright, I’ll leave you to yourself then. The number for my cell is on the notepad by the phone. I shouldn’t be long so just call if you need me.”
Closing and locking the door behind him ten minutes later, Amanda sighed audibly with relief. Alone at last! She thought. Deciding to take a bubble bath to relax, she headed upstairs. While the water slowly filled the tub, she looked at herself in the mirror.
Some of her bruises had completely disappeared, while others were just fading to that yellow color they turn just before fading away. Her brother had asked Mike to get her some clothes that actually fit her after they had been home a few hours, so she was finally starting to look like her old self again—except for her eyes. She tried to act like she was getting along fine, but she knew her eyes gave her away every time. Even when she smiled, the smile didn’t quite reach her green eyes that had once sparkled with mischief but were now dull and wary. She’d been through too much fear and pain for her 20 years. Much more than anyone should have to experience in a lifetime.
Mike and John were easy to fool with her forced smiles and laughter when they stopped by to see how she was doing, but Kenny looked at her like he knew she wasn’t the same and it killed her that the difference between the girl she used to be and the girl she was now was so obvious.
Shaking her head to clear the thoughts, she grabbed a hair tie and twisted her long blonde hair onto the top of her head. Stepping into the tub and submersing herself under the warm water, she realized just how tense she had been as she felt her muscles slowly relax as she settled in. Just as she was finally feeling calm, she heard the doorbell ring.
“Great,” she said aloud as she rose from the tub and reached for her robe. Thinking it was probably just a delivery, since Kenny had ordered some new photography equipment, she hurried to get to the door. However, when she peeked through the small stained glass window in the door, she didn’t see a delivery man. It wasn’t anyone she knew, and Kenny didn’t often get visitors, mostly just Jake, Mike, and John since they had all become friends after the day they helped her escape. Amanda reached for the knob, but before she touched it, the man rang the bell again startling her. her hands were suddenly sweaty, and she noticed she was trembling.
“Calm down Mandy,” she whispered to herself as she wiped her hands down the terrycloth of her robe to dry them. “Just open the door and see what he wants.”
But she couldn’t. she couldn’t make her hand open the door for the strange man on the porch. Instead, she saw a scenario in her mind of what would happen if she opened the door. She saw the man push the door open, knocking her down and doing awful things to her… just like the men at the apartments had done. She saw the man slapping her and yelling at her to stop crying…just like the men at the apartments had. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes and the wetness of them as they zigzagged down her cheeks and dripped off of her chin… just as they had at the apartments.
Amanda didn’t even realize she was crouched on the floor against the front door until Kenny had knelt to pick her up. As soon as his fingers touched her skin, she began to scream and claw. He quickly stood and backed away from her with his hands out in a surrendering gesture.
“Mandy,” he said calmly. “It’s only me. I’m your brother remember? I’m not going to hurt you. You’re home now… you’re home.”
He repeated those words to her over and over for what felt like forever before she finally stopped screaming and kicking at the air while pulling her robe tightly against herself. Slowly her breathing became normal and her eyes regained focus. Kenny knew that if he went any closer to try to comfort her, she would start all over again so he lowered himself to the floor at the foot of the stairs five feet away from where she lay crumpled on the floor, to wait.
When she raised herself to a sitting position and began wiping at the tears on her cheeks, he asked what happened.
“I don’t know,” was her soft reply. “I was coming to answer the door, but it was a man I didn’t recognize and I couldn’t open the door. Kenny, I couldn’t even answer the door without seeing all those men and what they had done to me. Why did those things happen to me Kenny? Why me?”
He sat speechless as she looked at him expectantly for the answers to her questions. “I don’t know Mandy, I don’t know,” was all he could say just then. He was so shocked at the simple thing that had set her off that he didn’t know what to do. He had known she wasn’t the same, but he had no idea how deeply Jeremy and the people that worked for him had hurt her emotionally. She had been doing strange things since she’d been home, but he figured she would soon realize it wasn’t necessary. She had some boxes of cheese crackers hidden in her room along with some bottles of water. He had no idea why she would think she needed to hide food away, but he knew it was connected to the time she spent at those apartments. She still hadn’t talked about it that much, and he understood why, but the experiences she’d had there suddenly seemed five times worse than anything he had imagined.
Watching her slowly get up from the floor, he told her, “I don’t know why they chose you Mandy, but none of it was your fault. I want you to believe me when I say that.”
With tears in her eyes still, she nodded twice while giving him a tired look that told him she didn’t believe him at all. With that, she walked past him to go back up the stairs leaving him to gather the groceries that had scattered on the floor once he saw his baby sister crouched on the floor with eyes as big as plates stammering about the men.
As he was putting the last few grocery items into the cupboards, Kenny’s cell phone rang. A quick look at the caller ID showed that it was Mike calling.
“Hey Mike, what’s up?” he asked into the small phone.
“I was wondering if you and Amanda would be interested in a barbecue tomorrow night at my place.”
“Tomorrow night? Um, sure. I’m all for it, but it really depends on Amanda. She kind of freaked out just now and I’m not sure she’ll be up to socializing.”
“Freaked out? Kenny, what happened to her? Is she ok? Did someone hurt her?” Mike was talking so fast that Kenny didn’t even have a chance to answer one question before the next one was out.
“Jeez, calm down Mike. Nobody hurt her. Actually, I’m not even sure exactly what happened, but I think she’ll be fine.”
Kenny told Mike about the incident and that Amanda was up in her room now, resting. Mike wasn’t satisfied that she was really alright, so he told Kenny he would be there shortly and their conversation ended.
Upstairs, Amanda had dressed herself, then laid down on top of her narrow bed trying to stop the river of tears that continued to run down her face. Throwing her arm over her eyes, she squinted and tried not to think about what just happened. Opening the door when someone rang the bell was such a simple, everyday thing. Why couldn’t she do it? She felt so worthless. Suddenly her mind was flooded with a thousand thoughts all at once. How was she going to function in the world? She couldn’t live here with her brother forever. She knew she needed a job, but if she couldn’t even answer the door here at home, how was she going to deal with the unexpected at work? What would she do if someone showed any interest in dating her? She knew she wouldn’t react well.
“I wish you were here mom. This is so hard. I want to go back to normal, but I’m so afraid. I miss you,” she whispered softly to the empty room. Rolling to the side, she fell into an exhausted sleep.
Downstairs, Kenny was just pouring himself a cup of coffee when Mike stormed through the back door startling him and making him slosh the coffee onto the counter.
“What the heck man? You don’t knock anymore,” Kenny asked as he wiped the counter down.
“How is she,” he asked in reply, his face anxious.
“I told you she’s upstairs resting. I’m not going to keep barging in on her. she told me she wanted some time to sort things out for herself, so I’m going to give it to her,” he said as he dropped the coffee soaked paper towels into the garbage.
Mike just eyed Kenny with an odd expression for a few minutes before he turned and headed up the stairs to check on her himself. He remembered how she looked that day they took her back. She was too skinny and she was covered in bruises. Her feet were bare and the clothing she wore was torn and seemed almost painted on, they were so small. All that aside, it was her eyes that made him feel protective of her. her eyes that were fearful and anxious and tired all at once. Her eyes that made her look like a child trapped in a woman’s body, so innocent yet so broken at the same time. He tried not to look at her too much on the ride home because whenever he did, it made him want to gather her in his arms and convince her that everything was going to be alright.
Sighing when he reached the door to her room, he gently turned the knob and opened the door just wide enough for him to peek in. Sure enough, he saw her curled on her side sleeping peacefully. He opened the door all the way and quietly walked into the room to place the quilt hanging over the foot of her bed over her small body. It was then he noticed that she was crying in her sleep. He tucked the blanket around her carefully then crept back out.
To Be Continued.....