Pennies Page 2

The one thing I didn’t find was any paper. Not in the drawers of the weathered desk or in the cupboard beneath the non-functioning television. The only apparatus I could write on was toilet paper, and the pencil wasn’t too keen on that idea, tearing the soft tissue rather than imprinting its silvery lines.

Nevertheless, I was determined to leave some sort of note behind. Some piece of me that these bastards hadn’t taken and never would.

Taking another deep breath, I shoved aside my current conditions and clutched the pencil harder. Glancing at the door to make sure I was alone, I spread out my square of toilet tissue, making it tight and writable, and continued with my note.

I wish I could say a monster killed me. That a terrible accident caused this. And I can say that…to a degree.

However, the real reason I’m dead and a new toy about to be sold is mainly because of my upbringing.

That poise and confidence my mother drilled into me? It didn’t grant me in good stead for a profitable career or handsome husband. It pissed people off. I came across as stuck-up, a know-it-all, and vain.

It made me a target.

I don’t know if anyone will ever see this but you, No One, but if they do, I hope they forget what I’m about to admit. I’m an only daughter to a single parent. I love my mother. I do.

But if I ever survive what’s about to happen to me, and by some miracle, I find freedom again, I’ll keep this next part to myself when I recount my time in purgatory.

I love my mother, but I hate her.

I miss my mother, but I never want to see her again.

I obeyed my mother, but I want to curse her for eternity.

She’s the only one I can blame.

The one responsible for me becoming nothing more than a whore.

TWO DAYS passed.

In the world I’d been stolen from, two days was nothing. Two alarm clocks, two lessons at university, two evenings of talking on the phone to my friends, and two nights of wonderfully protected sleep where I stupidly believed no one could harm me.

In this new world?

Two days was enough for me to scratch at non-existent itches just to feel something. Two days meant I wore down my pencil then slowly picked at the wood to reveal more lead so I had something to occupy my time.

Two days meant I continued writing my toilet paper novel, all the while not knowing that at the end of forty-eight hours, my brief stay in limbo was over.

My processing was over.

My sale date complete.

They came for me at dinnertime. Instead of the usual bland rice and chicken or watery stew shoved through the hole in the wall, the door opened.

The door opened!

For the first time in weeks.

I’d been so alone with only grimy mirrors reflecting my slowly sallowing complexion for company that the visit clutched my heart. When I’d first been taken, I’d been curvy with adolescent softness, perky breasts, and rounded tummy. My brown hair curled and dyed a rich chocolate thanks to an appointment with my personal groomer at my mother’s demands to look my best for her charity function.

The same function I’d been stolen from.

Before, my thoughts had been superficial, wondering how to lose my puppy fat and apply my makeup like models on YouTube. Despite my prissy appearance, I was smart and had just enrolled at a prestigious university to study psychology—just like my mother wanted. Following in her footsteps like she’d arranged all my life.

Now, my appearance and thoughts were of an entirely different girl. No longer a teenager, but a woman. My hair had faded back to its normal dark treacle brown. My frame had lost its curves thanks to the low-calorie infrequent menu I enjoyed.

I supposed I would’ve been happy if I still had my freedom. I got what I wanted. I was a little skinnier and no longer cared about hair dyes and fashion. Instead, I hated my transformation because it added another chain to the proverbial collar webbing around my throat.

“Come.” The man clicked his fingers.

Seeing another human ought to have filled me with some sort of relief. Something intrinsic inside me needed company—even if that company was my doom. But I couldn’t see his eyes or mouth or nose. He was a phantom, a caricature, hidden behind the Venetian face mask of a black and white joker with tears dotting his cheek.

Were the tears for me? Or just a mockery?

I took a step toward him, hating the obedient cower they’d instilled in me the first few days of my imprisonment. The bruises had faded, but the lessons had not.

But then, I stopped, looking back at the toilet tissue sheets of letters.

Letters telling my story.

A story that would forever change the moment I left this room.

I had nothing of value anymore. The rags I wore from so many previous trafficked women weren’t mine. The pillows I cried myself to sleep on weren’t mine. My life wasn’t even mine anymore. The desire to keep my scribbled thoughts was nonsensical, but I refused to leave yet another piece of me behind.

If I must face this new trial, I would do it with my past fisted in my palm like a talisman reminding me if I could breathe it, I could write it, and when I wrote it, I would find freedom from it.

“Now, girl!” The man stalked into the room, his mountainous posture ready to hurt.

Before he could grab me, I scurried to the desk and scooped up the flimsy pieces of my life. Clutching them tight, I ducked around his large girth and vanished out the door.

Out the door!

I’m out of the room.

The familiarity of my imprinted space was gone as I padded barefoot down the corridor graced with the same gold and bronze carpet. The heavy footfalls of my captor thundered behind me.

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