“Goddamn it, Ellie. I know you are up there. I’m not above breaking down this door. Please, it’s you I want and need, not Whitney. You have to believe me. It’s not what it seems.”
It is for me. It’s ingrained in my skull, pushing into my bones and it’ll probably live there forever.
“You were on top of her,” I whisper once more. Afraid if I speak louder, he’ll hear me. “You didn’t come after me. Worse, if she knows about me and you, then her brother does too.”
It sits like a pillow over my face. I am suffocating and smothering from it.
I can’t let fear take me over again. Always looking over my shoulder waiting for Shadow to catch up to me, but I can’t deny he’s out there plotting inside of his sick mind either. I can’t escape the threatening thoughts that Shadow will find me. They take up every square inch of my mind.
“I need to find my strength again.” It’s like it vanished into the air.
“Ellie, baby girl. Sit, and I’ll get you something to eat. Run you a bath, anything you want. You don’t have to talk to him, sweetheart. You owe him nothing. You owe yourself everything. Don’t you let that beautiful mind of yours take you back to that night, do you hear me? You are strong, a survivor.”
Renita is here. Oh, thank God. She must have caught the first flight home she could get.
I barely remember Norah calling her last night. The last thing I recall was our neighbor Eric helping me out of the car, and up the stairs and the minute my feet hit the landing, I ran to my bathroom, dropped to my knees and threw up. I sobbed while Norah held onto my hair and held me, and Eric apologized over and over that he thought I knew Logan was married. He carried me to bed, and I bawled into the crook of Norah’s neck until I couldn’t see through my bloodshot and puffy eyes.
“I’m sorry once again, Ellie.” I hear Eric as he continues to speak, but I’m not sure what he’s saying. It sounds distant and muffled.
It’s clawing up my chest and squeezing.
I clamp my eyes shut, my mind searching for anything to grasp hold of and hang on. I see nothing but the painful scars Whitney split open, and here I thought if I saw her again, I’d stand my ground and kill her.
I have to get out of here. I need to run far away.
Fear rushes through my veins, and a strange, intense sensation rises and slithers down my legs. I swallow hard, body shaking out of my control in a shroud of fear. What if Shadow knows where I am? What if he’s standing outside the door? What if he comes after me in the dead of night?
An invisible hand clasps over my mouth, and in an instant, I’m back to that night, the night where I was raped and beaten.
I gag, my skin itching to be clean. I recall how my body jarred with each dirty thrust that tore through me, how the pain seared through my skin and took away every feeling of safety I ever had.
It was brutal.
My death sentence.
That’s what it felt like, and I escaped it for so long. Now it’s back with a vengeance that rips right through my core of strength. Anxiety.
I can feel it constructing like a snowball in the pit of my stomach. Rolling and rolling as it grows into a giant ball that smashes against my insides and takes the air out of my lungs. It slams into my heart, building a wall that cages in dread, horror, and that ungodly emotion that never goes away. Terror.
I’m surrounded by these emotions. I can’t get away. Can’t claw my way out. They are uncaring and controlling and drowning me.
“Ellie, are you alright?” someone asks.
No. I’m not. I think I’m in the middle of a panic attack.
“Help,” I squeak, having no idea if anyone hears me or not—my legs wobble. Everything inside of me goes tight. I feel my ribs crowding as if bound by ropes, straining to inflate my lungs. My head is a container of disarray spinning and spinning and pushing my mind into blackness.
I want to run far away.
I turn to face Eric, Norah, and Renita, the three of them giving me sympathetic eyes.
“Help me; I can’t catch my breath. Oh, God. He’s coming. Shadow is coming.” Everything begins to spin, and it feels as if the ground is giving away under my feet. I collapse onto my hands and knees, my breathing shallow and quick.
Not long ago, I wondered how much more I could take before I broke. I’m breaking, and until Whitney and Shadow are both dead, I might never be able to put myself together again.