Home > Tied (All Torn Up #2)(3)

Tied (All Torn Up #2)(3)
Author: Carian Cole

Disappointment and concern shadow her face. “You can talk to me. You’re safe now. The doctor will be in soon, and she’s going to have a nice talk with you and the police officer, so we can find your family and get you home.”

My heart jumps to my throat, and air rushes up my lungs. Home? I can go home? Mommy and Daddy will finally come get me?

He told me I’d never see my family again and I’d never be going home again. Not ever. He said they didn’t want me anymore and had replaced me with a new little girl who was better than me. Is it possible they’re really coming for me?

My head falls back onto the pillows, my eyelids growing heavy. I remember beds and pillows now, how soft and warm they are. I don’t ever want to lift my head from this softness again.

Clutching my backpack close to me, I let the wave of exhaustion take hold of me so I can dream of my prince with his bright blue eyes. I always knew he would come save me.

Strangers wake me up and smile unfamiliar smiles at me as they talk and whisper among themselves in the corner of the room and in the hallway outside my door. I have no idea how long I’ve been here, or how long I’ve been asleep. There’s a clock on the wall, but I forgot how to tell time a long time ago. The sun shining through the blinds is startling, and I want to go to the window and stare outside. I want to feel the warmth on my face.

I don’t know who these people in my room are, but they’re wearing uniforms so they must be important.

“Where is Poppy?” I finally ask, to no one in particular.

“Who is Poppy?” the nearest woman asks, taking a step closer. The others turn, waiting for my reply.

No one has talked back to me in so long that I’m surprised whenever these new people respond to me. I’m used to watching people talk on television, and sometimes I talked to them, but they never actually talked back or asked me questions.

“My friend,” I answer.

She smiles encouragingly. “Was someone else being held with you in the woods?”

“Yes, Poppy.”

“Is Poppy a boy or a girl?”

“A boy.”

“What happened to Poppy?”

“Poppy ran away. We have to find him. The bad man might get him and hurt him.” Fear, confusion, and sadness wash over me in a wave. Poppy and I need each other. He must be just as scared as I am right now.

The woman steps closer to the bed and holds up a photograph. “Is this the bad man?” she asks, her voice low, almost soothing. “Or is this Poppy?”

I shake my head, my eyes locked onto the photo. “No. That’s the prince. He came to save us.”

She nods slowly. “I see. Can you tell me your name?”

I stare back at her, only wanting to take the picture from her so I can keep it. I have been asked my name so many times but…“Hollipop,” I whisper.

The woman smiles again, nodding vigorously. “Yes, that’s very good. It’s Holly,” she says. “Holly Daniels.”

Her words make my breath catch, and those two words repeat over and over like an echo: HollyDanielsHollyDanielsHollyDanielsHollyDaniels…

I pull my backpack closer and lift it onto my lap. On the back, across the top, are faint letters written in black magic marker. Mommy wrote them so I would know it was mine.

The woman leans closer, following my finger as I run it slowly over the faded letters, which are just barely visible. “This is you,” she says softly. “You’re Holly Daniels. You were kidnapped when you were eight years old. Do you remember, Holly?”

Yes. I remember the bad man pulling up to my friend, Sammi, and me on the sidewalk while we were walking home from school. He grabbed my arm so hard I screamed. My friend screamed too, and I watched her run away. I watched her leave me alone. I remember being yanked into the backseat of a dark car and a big hand being held over my mouth. I remember the taste of blood when I bit him.

“You’ve been gone for ten years, Holly,” she tells me very gently. “You’re safe now, and your family is on their way here right now.”

My hands grip the tattered backpack filled with my books. Ten years…that can’t be true…it just can’t. I know how to add—I practiced with rocks and my books—and ten years is so many. Ten years is a big pile of little rocks.

All the questions made me remember my time with the man, especially the beginning. At first, I cried nonstop and begged to go home. When that didn’t happen, I prayed for someone to come get me. When that didn’t happen, I tried to find a way out of the room I was trapped in. When there was no way out, I read my books, over and over and over, losing myself in the stories until I became a part of them. That’s how I found out the prince would come save me. It was in all the books, clear as day. So I waited as patiently as I could for him to come.

Even after the bad man gave me a television, I continued to read the books every day. They were my lifeline and the only thing I had that was mine, from before the bad man. I slept with my head on my backpack, using it as a pillow, and the words from the books inside seeped into my dreams, saving me little by little, telling me not to give up hope. Sometimes, the man would take me out of the basement, cover my head with something dark and smelly, and carry me to a hole in the woods. He’d leave me there, to make me appreciate him more. I have no idea how long he kept me in the hole each time, but it felt like forever. And he was right. I was always glad to see him when he came back and pulled me out. Even he was better than total darkness and silence.

I didn’t realize it had taken the prince ten years to finally come, but he did, and that’s all that mattered. I wonder when he’ll be coming back for me, to take me to the happily-ever-after part.

I hope it will be soon.

As much as I kick, scream, and play dead, people continue to fuss over me, making me feel very uncomfortable. They wash me and brush my hair, and I scream the entire time until they finally leave, allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief. I wish I could change the channel and see something else now. I don’t like this show anymore.

I pick at the food they gave me, leery of its hidden agenda and odd textures and flavors. I yank it all apart with my fingers and nibble on tiny pieces, my tongue searching for a hint of acrid flavor that will make me feel tired and sick. After my meal, I huddle on the bed, pulling the thin white sheet against me, wondering what’s going to happen next. My question is answered instantly when a group of people burst into the room and close the door behind them.

Trapped in a moment I once begged and cried for, I feel numb, both mentally and in my heart. They stare at me, and I stare back. At first, I don’t recognize them, but slowly their faces merge with my memories and small flickers of recognition speed up my pulse.

My parents look older, with slightly graying hair, but they still look like they do in my very dim memories. My mother looks a lot like I remember her, still with shoulder-length blond hair, the same color as mine. She’s beautiful, like a movie star. My older brother is a handsome man now, not a fifteen-year-old boy who used to give me rides on his shoulders and push me on a swing in our backyard. My father looks like an older version of my brother, with the same light brown hair, although my father has gray streaks through his. They have the same brown eyes. Both of them are big, strong, and athletic.

I shift my attention back to the TV on the wall, unease rippling through me at the way they’re looking at me. Like they’re waiting for me to do something that I don’t know how to do, or expecting me to say words that will take away the pain and confusion in their eyes.

I’m in a cloud of surrealness, and I feel nothing but curiosity about these people as they stare at me. As the seconds tick by, I become more and more uncomfortable under their intense expressions and sobs, and I wish they would go away. I want Poppy. I want my prince. They don’t look at me this way.

My parents suddenly come forward and try to hug me, and my body stiffens from the unwelcome, foreign touch. I should know them, and feel safe with them, but I don’t. They’re just as much strangers to me as the nurses and doctors who have been coming and going.

Instinctively, my hand rises in self-defense when my mother reaches out to touch my face, and she starts to cry so hard my father has to console her and guide her away from me. I let my mind drift back to my stories, where it’s safe and comfortable.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl…

“Holly? Are you listening?” My brother has pulled a chair next to my bed and lightly touches my arm. “Holly?”

“Huh?” I shake my head and blink at him. I didn’t realize he was talking to me. I forgot Holly is me.

“You’re going to be okay,” he says hesitantly. He smiles, but when I don’t return it, it falters. “I always knew someday you would come home. I missed you. We all did. We just can’t believe you’re really here.”

I nod and hug my backpack tighter. He reaches a hand toward me again, but I shrink back. He blinks at me with a look of surprise and hurt at my reaction and pulls his hand away.

“Whatever happened, it doesn’t matter. It’s all behind you now.” He pauses, his expression sincere and almost hopeful as he leans forward. “All that matters now is that you’re home where you belong, and you’re safe.”

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