Home > Tied (All Torn Up #2)(9)

Tied (All Torn Up #2)(9)
Author: Carian Cole

I let her drag me into each store and choose clothes for me because it seems to make her happy. And she’s good at it. Everything she picks out fits me perfectly. When our hands are filled with shopping bags, she brings me to a salon at the far end of the mall for us to get manicures. Then she talks me into getting my hair dyed a lighter color blond then cut and styled while she gets her hair fixed. Even though I feel completely overwhelmed and anxious to get back home, I go along with all of it, hoping to feel excited about girl things because it feels like it’s something I should like, and I want to fit in.

“You look gorgeous, Holly,” Feather says when the stylist finishes with me. I smile at her reflection in the mirror of the stylist’s station and lift my hand to touch my hair, which feels incredibly soft and silky. I never knew hair could feel so soft. As I stare at myself in the mirror, I realize I look like a young version of my mother. I actually look pretty; the hair highlights bring out the color of my eyes in a way I didn’t know was even possible. I look so…normal. Just like the pretty girls on TV. I know that, out here in the real world, the outside of people seems to matter more than the inside. I quickly learned that the illusion of appearance will always outweigh the truth of what’s really inside.

“Thank you,” I reply automatically. “It feels so different. I love it.”

“It was like straw before. You seriously look amazing.” Feather unzips her purse, rummages around, and triumphantly pulls out a small silver tube. “Let’s just give you a little bit of color to polish you off.”

I freeze as she comes at me with the lipstick, the waxy tip bright blood red. Be a pretty, bad little girl for me… “No…” I whimper. I pull back and swat her hand, sending the lipstick flying. It lands on the floor and rolls underneath the sinks. “No!” I scream, bursting into tears. “I don’t want to do that anymore!”

Feather and the stylist look at each other and then at me, forced awkward smiles on their faces.

“Holly, what’s wrong?” My roommate asks, glancing around the salon at the other women staring at us.

“No more lipstick,” I whisper, my body shaking. “I don’t want to be a bad girl anymore.”

“Jesus Christ,” Feather mutters, taking a deep breath and tossing her newly styled hair over her shoulder. “Another trigger? I’m so sorry. What the fuck kind of shit did he do to you?”

The stylist hovers behind us, her hand at her throat. “Is everything okay? Can I get you some water?”

“She’s fine, Marcel.” Feather flashes her a friendly smile. “She just had a flashback. Just give her a sec, and we’ll be out of your way.”

Marcel gapes, her eyes wide. “Oh! I thought you looked familiar…” Her tone is hushed but still loud enough for everyone nearby to hear. I feel my cheeks flush with warmth. “You’re the one that was taken years ago, right? My goodness, I’m just remembering all the media coverage from the day you were found… I hadn’t realized…that bastard deserved to die.”

Trigger. Taken. Flashbacks.

I fill my lungs with air and count to ten, avoiding my own reflection in the mirror. When I think about the bad man, I feel conflicted and sick to my stomach. As much as he hurt me, he was the only person to show me any kind of attention or care for ten long years. He was all I had, other than Poppy and the TV. Of course, I know now that his actions weren’t caring at all and I was merely a toy that he kept alive to play with. But at the time, he was all I knew. I was only a child and needed someone. I’d learned to wish for his presence, to stave off the darkness and the never-ending silence while stuck in that dark basement. While my young mind knew he had taken everything away from me, I also knew that he was the only one who could give me anything. It spawned a very confusing love-hate conflict in me that only grew over the years.

When I think of the other him, my prince, I feel a sense of calm and safety inside, like I felt that day when he pulled me out of the hole and held me. He was the first person to make me feel something new, feelings so completely different than anything I’d felt in those past ten years. Sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can almost feel his strong arms around me, protecting me, saving me. I can still remember the way the blue of his eyes took my breath away, and how his unique ragged voice soothed me. He still infiltrates my dreams and haunts me in my waking hours. I haven’t forgotten him, not for a moment, and I’m still waiting for him.

I’ll never stop waiting and hoping for him.

I often wonder if he even remembers me and if he ever thinks about me.

He does. I know he does. We just have to wait for the right time.

Feather pats my shoulder, which should be comforting but is not. Not when I’m wishing for him right now. “Yes,” she says to Marcel, a bit sharply because neither of us wants to be remembered as the victims we once were. “But she’s fine now. I just scared her by accident.” She squeezes my shoulder, trying to comfort me and sending me a hint to please not embarrass us again. Her eyes meet mine in the mirror. “You’re totally cool now—right, Holly?”

I nod and force my lips into a smile. It’s a mask I have a feeling I’ll be wearing for most of my life. “I’m fine. I’m so sorry. Red just isn’t my color.” I shake my new bouncy hair like she did a few moments ago and boost myself out of the chair. “I’m a total spaz. I’m ready to go.”

Feather and Marcel share a relieved smile that radiates to the other women in the salon, who all go back to talking and texting and burning color onto their hair and flesh. The crisis is over. Nobody had to confront the bad thing in the room.

My heart is still racing as Feather and I walk past the lipstick on the floor and head to the front lobby, where she grabs a few bright pink bottles off a glass shelf. “Let’s get some really nice shampoo and conditioner. We can share it at home. We deserve to have the best after the evil shit we went through,” she says casually. Like nice shampoo and conditioner will somehow remove the “evil shit” we’ve had done to us. Buying things seems to comfort her, but it leaves me a little befuddled. I don’t think any of these people will ever understand me, maybe not even Feather. Dr. Reynolds has told me to accept that and to not hold it against people. It’s just how the world is—people don’t want to get personally involved. They cover things up, bury them, and mask them.

I’m not sure I can live that way. Or if I even want to.

I wince at Feather’s words and smile awkwardly at the questioning glance the girl behind the counter flashes at me. She averts her gaze back to her register.

“That would be great,” I reply, using my go-to phrase. It makes everyone happy, puts them at ease even if my delivery is less than great. Finally, we leave the salon, and I let Feather take the lead so I can take a break from faking smiles. My face is starting to hurt from forcing myself to look happy when all I want to do is get home and hide in my room for the rest of the night. I can only venture out for so long before I start to feel stressed, and my no more of this meter is teetering on level ten right now.

On our way back to the mall exit, Feather pulls me into a boutique that sells jewelry, clothes, and home decor made by local craftspeople. I’m in awe of all the beautiful things to choose from, and she helps me pick out a few scarves and a bracelet and necklace made of hand-blown glass beads. I’m so taken by all the pretty things that it almost erases the salon fiasco from my memory.

Her cell phone rings and she raises her finger to me as she answers it, signaling that she’ll be back in a few minutes. Nodding, I continue to wander around the store until a collection of small, black-framed photographs on the wall catches my eye. There are four, all taken of a lone fir tree in the snow-covered woods, decorated with Christmas ornaments. In one photo, a small red fox is sitting a few feet away, staring into the camera as snow falls around him. I was born on Christmas day and, when I was little, I was fascinated with all things Christmas. Those are memories I never forgot. The one thing I looked forward to while in captivity was watching all the holiday movies and cartoons on my television. Of course, I never knew when they would be on, so it always came as a surprise when Christmas commercials and movies finally started playing. I was never given any gifts by the bad man, but I was grateful for the fantasy world the TV let me live in.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” A salesgirl has come up next to me as I gaze at the photographs, and I silently pray she doesn’t recognize me.

I reach out and touch a frame, as if in some way it will connect me to the photo more intimately, bringing me into its scene and letting me stay there. “They are,” I say, my voice low with awe. “I love them.” And I mean it. I’m in love with these photos, and I have no idea why.

“It’s a cool legend.” She nods at the photos.

“Legend? What do you mean?”

She tilts her head at me and smiles, no recognition in her eyes. “You must not be from around here. It’s a cute children’s legend in this town—the Forest Santa.”

“Forest Santa?” I’m instantly intrigued.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Tied (All Torn Up #2)
» An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (An Absolute
» Demon Magic and a Martini (The Guild Codex:
» Two Witches and a Whiskey (The Guild Codex:
» Dark Arts and a Daiquiri (The Guild Codex:
» Three Mages and a Margarita (The Guild Code
» Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)
» The Lost Night