Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 7
The sun shining in my face awakens me, and I squint toward the window, spotting tiny flecks of dust floating in the beam of light, like microscopic faeries in flight.
Sometimes, I wish I were a faery that could just fly away.
Mornings are still confusing to me, even a year after returning to society. When I was held captive, I’m not quite sure when I went to bed. I just slept whenever I felt tired or bored. I think I usually took a few naps during the day, but I never slept for long periods. The ritual of people going to bed at night, staying asleep, and then getting up in the morning to start a new day is still a bit hard for me to get used to.
Waking up in my dedicated weekend-visit bedroom at my parent’s house is no exception. Funny, I thought sleeping and waking here would feel different, since it’s where I slept for the first eight years of my life. It’s the only place I felt safe and had a routine. I thought a certain degree of contentment would return to me, but it hasn’t. The room feels uncomfortable. The paint is too new, the bedsheets and comforter too stiff. Maybe if I had been in my old room, where Lizzie now gets to sleep and feel safe, I would feel like I was really home.
But this isn’t home, not anymore, and it scares me inside to realize that I really don’t belong anywhere. I’m still lost and alone, living an illusion, a ghost haunting my own past.
I rise from the bed, stretch, and go to the window to look at the tree-lined street of huge houses that all look mostly the same to me. I wonder if the prince lives in a house like that, but I quickly decide he wouldn’t. He would live in a castle on a hill that touches the clouds or in a cottage deep in the forest.
Please come get me soon, I silently beg, hoping he will somehow hear me, wherever he is.
A knock on the bedroom door distracts me from my hopeful subliminal message. “Holly?” Mom’s voice is muffled through the door.
The door opens and she walks in, smiling at first, but her expression immediately changes to disgust when she sees me at the window.
“Holly! Get away from that window. You’re barely even dressed!” she yells.
Startled, I back away from the window and look down at myself, confused. I’m wearing a long dark blue cotton nightshirt that hangs to just above my knees. Feather sleeps in the same thing, and so do some of the girls I see on television.
I cross my arms over my chest and cower slightly. The bad posture the counselor at Merryfield tried for months to get me to change returns in an instant. “I just woke up. This is what I slept in.”
She shakes her head and raises her hand to her mouth. “You cannot walk around like that. You’re a young woman and shouldn’t be half naked. Didn’t they teach you that?”
I blink at her, completely confused.
“How many times, little girl, have I told you not to stand unless I tell you to?”
“Um…I don’t remember anyone telling me what to sleep in…it was in the pajama section of the store, though. Feather got one too.”
“I don’t care what Feather does. I’m going to buy you some proper nightclothes.” She crosses the room to pull the curtains over the window. “Please don’t stand like that by the window. You don’t want the neighbors to see you, do you? It’s bad enough they know what…happened to you,” she stammers. “We don’t need to feed the gossip hounds.”
“I’m sorry. I only wanted to see outside.” Windows are still something I consider a luxury, along with everything that comes with them. Like the sun, and the clouds, and birds, and the sky. And air.
The usual forced smile crosses her face. “It’s fine, honey. You don’t know any better. Daddy just went to pick up Grandma. She’s so excited to see you.” She goes to the closet and pulls out another gray wool skirt, black leggings to wear underneath, and a black turtleneck.
“Wear this, you’ll look lovely.”
I try not to let the cringe I feel on the inside show on my face. “I don’t like those kinds of neck shirts,” I protest. “I feel like I’m strangling.”
His hand tightened around my neck, cutting off my air, suffocating me. “I can kill you now if I want to…”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s very soft.”
I wish she would listen to me and try to understand that I’m not being ridiculous. I just want to get through my days without some kind of reminder of something bad happening to me. I don’t remember my mother being like this when I was little, before I was taken. Or maybe she was, and I forgot over the years that passed. In therapy, we talked about how sometimes we romanticize people in our own heads, make them better than they actually are, to make ourselves feel better and to justify liking them and missing them.
“You should get dressed, put a little makeup on, and come downstairs. I can’t help both you and Lizzie get ready, I have things to do myself before your father gets back with Grandma.”
Apparently, my mother thinks I need supervision. Does she think I don’t get up and dress myself every morning? I may have been held against my will by a sick man for years, but I would have gotten dressed in new clothes every day if I’d had a choice. Even at eight years old, I knew I was supposed to get dressed every morning.
“I’ll be down as soon as I can,” I reply. “I’ll brush my hair and my teeth, too.”
She nods and leaves the room, closing the door behind her, oblivious to my mild sarcasm. Dr. Reynolds tells Feather and me we shouldn’t make sarcastic comments, but sometimes it just comes out, and it kinda feels good.
When I’m sure my mother won’t be coming back into my room, I tiptoe back to my window and pull the curtains open.
“Oh my, look at you, my sweet baby! Come here.” My grandmother comes directly to me as soon as she enters the living room, where I’m sitting on the couch wondering how mad my mother will get if I take these uncomfortable shoes off. I stand, and Grandma immediately pulls me into a hug. At first I stiffen, but then my body relaxes and I let her embrace me. I can almost feel the love pouring from her as she clings to me, rubbing my back. I put my arms around her too, gently, as she’s shorter than me and feels very frail, like a little bird, and I’m afraid I may hurt her.
“My sweet Holly. I missed you so much.” She says with a sob. “Every day I prayed for you.” She pulls back to look at me, tears in her eyes, her mouth quivering. Her hands lightly touch my hair, then my cheeks, before finally resting on my shoulders. This woman loves me. I barely remember her, and I wasn’t allowed to see her until today, but her love for me is overpowering, in her touch and in her eyes. She honestly, truly missed me.
“You’re so beautiful,” she says softly, and all I want to do is let her hug me again. Now I understand the comfort of a person’s arms around you. “So grown up, but so much the same. I’m so glad you found your way home while I’m still alive. I would have died with a broken heart if you hadn’t come back.”
“Mom, can we save the morbid talk, please?” My father shakes his head as he walks past us and goes into the adjoining kitchen.
“I’m sorry, Grandma.” I have no idea what else to say. I don’t want to break anyone’s heart or make anyone sad.
She grips my hand in her thin, boney one. “Don’t you dare apologize. Come sit with me, I have something for you.” She holds onto my hand as she sits on the couch, and I sit next to her, captivated with the rings on her hands, all diamonds and colored gems. I remember these rings. When I was little, I used to call them stars because they sparkled and shone.
“You still wear the stars on your hands,” I murmur, and her entire face lights up at hearing those words.
“You remember…I was so afraid you would forget me.” She squeezes my hand even tighter, and I decide it’s okay to let her believe I didn’t forget a moment with her. Deep down, I wish I actually did remember more of her because I can feel in my heart that we were close. I haven’t felt like this with anyone else. This pull of remembrance, of belonging and feeling loved.
“Lizzie… bring me my bag that’s over by the front door,” Grandma says, and Lizzie gets up from where she’s been playing quietly on the floor to retrieve a large shopping bag that Grandma dropped when she saw me.
“Do you have a present for me, Grammy?” Lizzie asks, peering into the bag.
“Not today, sweetheart. Today I have a special gift for Holly because she hasn’t gotten any in a very long time.”
Lizzie nods absently and goes back to her game, and Grandma reaches into the bag, pulls out a wrapped, rectangular box, and hands it to me.
“But it’s not my birthday or anything,” I say, placing the box on my lap.
“That’s okay, this is just a special gift.”
Intrigued, I tear off the wrapping paper to find a dark burgundy photograph album with the word “memories” embossed in fancy script on the front. I glance at my grandmother, and she gives me a warm, encouraging smile as I flip the book open. The first page is filled with photographs of me as a newborn baby, and I don’t even have to ask if it’s me because Grandma has added a little strip of colorful paper beneath each photo with my name and the date and place in pretty writing. A lump forms in my throat as I slowly turn each page, watching myself grow older, playing with my brother, blowing out birthday candles, at the beach with my father holding me at the edge of the water. Suddenly the photos of me have stopped, but the pages continue with pictures of Zac, my parents at parties and holiday dinners, and photos of my grandparents. Seeing the photos of my grandfather brings back vague memories of him, but I don’t ask where he is. I’m afraid to hear that answer. I turn a few pages and there are photos of baby Lizzie, and she looks just like I did earlier in the album, with wispy blond hair, bright eyes, and a big smile. I see Zac’s prom photo, and I’m delighted to see Anna standing next to him in a pretty dress when they were both so young, then Zac graduating from high school, then college, Lizzie’s first day of school, and so much more. Every photo has been labeled by my grandmother. My hands shake as I flip through the pages of memories that should have been mine, in my head and not here in photographs, but I am so very grateful she made this for me.