Hell And Back(3)

By: Natasha Madison

Each time he would strike me first, right before he had his way with me. I may have been Adam’s, but he was more than happy to share me—and my body—if it meant he could keep his high going longer.

That time was the worse it’s ever been. My baby girl was thrown in a closet with a pillow and a blanket. The last thing she saw was Adam tying my hands to the bedposts above my head. My last look at her was with tears running down my face. The light in those brown eyes never shone. She was almost as empty as I was.

They left me there, bleeding, one of my ribs broken for sure. My body covered in fingerprint-sized bruises, raised red welts, and caked with dried blood. They at least untied my hands so I could crawl over to the closet to rescue Lilah.

I couldn’t breathe as I winced with each movement my body made, but I managed a sigh of relief as I made it to the door, only to painfully gasp when I opened it and found her curled up in a ball and soaked with her own urine. She crawled over to me carefully, making sure not to touch me, but still getting close enough to me so we could protect each other.

A knock on the door has me holding my breath, while Lilah squeezes her eyes shut. No one knows we’re here. No one knows where this house is. As the panic begins to rise in me, my only thought is how did he find us?

Chapter Two

I don’t even know why I’ve come over here. I woke up at the ass crack of dawn, something on my mind, something I couldn’t even explain. But then my thoughts went to that scene I watched last night. My mind was running with questions.

Not knowing what to do with myself, I went downstairs to my weight room where I spent the next two hours sweating my ass off as I pounded out a few miles on my treadmill and worked my muscles till they burned and begged me to stop with a punishing lift session.

I stood under my rain shower, the water set on cold, the pressure of the water feeling like ice pellets on my tired and sore muscles. Towel drying my short blond hair, I’m glad it’s just long enough on top to be pushed back. My day-old beard is not bothering me enough to take the time to shave it this morning.

I make my way downstairs and fill my travel mug with coffee to go. Looking over at the house across the street, I make a decision I’m not even sure is right.

My feet are moving before my head can comprehend what is going on.

She obviously doesn’t want anyone to know she’s here since I’ve only seen them outside at night.

Before she came, the house had been abandoned, the old lady passing away right on the porch. But I know enough about that girl inside to know she needs help. I’m just not sure I’m the help she needs.

When I moved in, the lady across the street would always wave when I came or went, then she started making me cookies. God, did I fucking love those chocolate chip cookies. Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, she always brought them to me warm, so I wound up licking the chocolate off my hands. Fuck, but those were good cookies.

She was always outside on the swing. Lonely is the word that comes to mind. She was fucking lonely, looking for anyone to talk to. Her stories could go on for hours. She did hang with the other neighbor next to her in the last four years.

It was during one of those talks when she raved about her granddaughter. She said they grew apart. But the pain in her eyes said something else. I wasn’t good at my job if I didn’t know how to read people, and she was one of them.

In exchange for her baked goods, I mowed her lawn. Before she passed, I was doing it at least once a week, but lately I’d been slacking. The house looked abandoned, and it was my fault. Something I vowed to rectify the minute I saw that lady rocking her kid outside.

Which is why I’m standing here, way too fucking early in the morning. Hoping to talk to her and let her know.

I knock one more time, knowing she is in there, but also not hearing anything else. The shadow darkens underneath the door, so she must be up.

“Is anyone in there?” I ask, knowing full well she’s right behind the door. Probably with her ear pressed to the door, holding her breath.

“I’m Jackson.” I lean in so I don’t have to yell. “I live across the street. I cut your grandmother’s grass.” I stop when I hear movement from behind the door. The lock flicks open, the door creaking open just enough so I can see one of her eyes, the rest of her body hidden behind the door.

“Hi,” she says, almost in a whisper. “I’m just waking up.”

I know right away she’s lying because while there are dark circles under her eyes, they aren’t squinting at the light that has just invaded her face.

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