I accepted my duffel from Marshal and then turned away from the car. We had driven from the transport to Deling City, quizzing each other on different details from our new lives. The apartment we were to stay at that night was owned by the security division of the Network - Galbadia specifically - and used for situations such as this. The rentor was named Blake Rankin, Marshal's assumed alias.
Apparently Marshal used it on a frequent basis, so the managers would recognize him on-sight and call him by name. How my presence was to be explained I didn't know. It didn't matter, either. It would be a one-night stay.
I stared past the car rental facility into the streets of the bustling city. Loud. Busy. Everything I had come to despise. Yet here I was again. Voluntarily returning to the city I hated. Thank god it was only one night.
Marshal came to stand beside me. "Okay, love-bug. Let's go."
I glared at him.
Marshal chuckled. "Okay, okay. No stupid pet names." His expression grew serious as he presented a hand. "What do you want for dinner?"
I momentarily balled my hands into fists before reaching out to take his. I fought back the shiver and everything else. This is my mission. My mission.
"Salad," I answered simply.
We struck out toward central Deling and Marshal/Blake's apartment.
"Salad?" he asked, apparently concerned. "You not feeling well?" He really played up the part of devoted fiance.
One of the couples we passed continued to stare. I clenched my jaw and just kept from giving them a cold glare.
"You want to stay in tonight?" Marshal asked.
Another few people passed. Stares. Whispers. I balled my hands into fists and felt a returning grip in one. It started again. Because of my hair and the scars... and now my eye. I would always be seen as a freak.
"Yes," I said through clenched teeth.
"Sure thing. I'll order in, and we can grab a movie on the way."
Another whisper. A stifled gasp. Rage boiled, but I fought it back. Deling had always been daddy's city. The bars and clubs. The women. The noise. That's why I hated it. Because it treated me the same as he had.
"I know we were only gone the weekend, but it feels longer. What about you?"
Me? It feels like forever. '...five damn years...' I forced my hands to loosen. "Five years."
Marshal regarded my profile before releasing a deep breath and scrubbing at his scalp of black hair with his free hand. "Dammit..." He looked over at me again. "Sorry. Didn't know," he whispered.
No. He didn't. Only Seifer knew, and that only because he had been there. I wouldn't have told Marshal. I didn't tell anyone anything. It had always been better that way.
We stepped into a video rental place and looked through the maze of shelves and racks. At one point I thought I saw my father in the adult movie section and went rigid, my brain and body bombarded with images and memories of screams and pain-- I cringed and hunched as I again balled my hands into fists. The returned pressure immediately came again.
"This one looks good. I've heard great stuff about it. Come on."
So we rented the video and stepped out, me leaving the images and screams behind as we again headed for 'home'.
Marshal sent me a long glance, but I didn't meet it. I only stared ahead, trying to stay calm as we walked closer and closer to those apartments I had lived in, losing my entire childhood and young womanhood to a man filled with hate and anger at the loss of his wife. The reminder of his child. The guilt at the blame--
I clenched my jaw tighter and pushed it back, but each step toward the apartments made its fight against me stronger. It wouldn't be ignored. I had faced my father. I had told him how I felt about what he'd done. But now I had to-- I flinched. I couldn't do that. Anything but that.
"Ahndra?" - And I still heard daddy's voice mixed with Marshal's - "Are you okay? You look a bit green."
'Dammit, Ahndra! I can't hear you!' slap
Marshal kept sending me glances, but I wasn't going to say it. No, I hissed. I won't!
'What did you say to me, girl?' smack
I cringed and released Marshal's hand. He covered by switching the video bag to that hand and retrieving his apartment keys.
"Home sweet home," he said, and he turned to climb the entry steps into 'Haven Apartment Homes'.
I looked to my left with a cold stare. My old apartment was across the street. I fisted my hands and turned away to follow Marshal up to the second floor. First door on the left.
I stepped into the apartment and immediately felt as if I didn't belong. The apartment was brightly lit. Landscape photographs on the walls. Bright and colorful furniture. Spotless carpet. Everything looked as if it had been taken from my childhood dollhouse--
Marshal set his keys on the kitchen counter, drawing my attention. He pulled a handheld from his back pocket as he set down the video. "Here, Ana. Why don't you set this up while I try and find the phone book."
I scrambled for my calm and control as I stepped forward to retrieve the video. He began scanning the apartment for foreign or unapproved technology. I stared down at the video and then set it back down. Marshal continued to send me glances.
I turned and headed for the only bedroom. "I'm tired," was all I said.
After the door closed, I leaned against it in terror and horror and panic. I tried to fight against them, but I knew I was drowning. I had faced my father, thereby opening Pandora's Box. Now my inner-demons wanted to play.
I fisted my hands before pushing away from the door to stand in the middle of the bedroom, remembering those images I hated the most. No. No! It wasn't my life. Hadn't been for five years. I wasn't going to accept it back. I was Seifer's second-in-command. I was part of a team. I wasn't his Ahndra anymore.
"Go to hell," I hissed.
I flinched and turned as the door was tried and opened, letting in the light of the hall. Marshal signaled one unidentified device in the main room. "Ahndra, I'm going to stay up and watch the movie. I'll try and keep it down. Okay?"
He regarded me a moment as he scrubbed at the back of his neck. "Good night."
He hesitated another moment before closing the door. I turned away and got ready for bed. Night. Night. I hated the night. Dreams came at night. He came at night.
...a small apartment in a bustling city... Deling City. Traffic sounds invade the sleeping silence of a young teen's room. The fumbling of a key in the lock of the front door doesn't wake her. Neither does the unsteady twist of the knob. The door is pushed open to reveal the reddened face of a man in uniform. He staggers forward, glazed eyes searching the apartment as he wipes spittle from his lips with the back of his hand. His glazed eyes struggle to focus on the first room down the hall.
He smirks and staggers forward.
The young teen within still sleeps.
The man - her father - stumbles into the doorway, leaning hard against the frame as his eyes focus on the slight form in the small bed. The glaze in his eyes changes as he steps forward and rips the covers from the bed. The young teen gasps and looks up, eyes widening in terror as she focuses on the expression of the man standing over her.
"No... please," she cries softly, scrambling backwards.
He grabs her ankles and yanks her roughly toward him.
"Come on... Ahndra..."
"You know you want it." He pulls her closer, one hand groping to remove clothes as she pushes and cries.
"No! No, I don't. I don't! STOP!"
His face looms closer, his breath hot against her face as his weight presses against her--
I screeched and pushed away from the touch, my eyes wild as they snapped open.
"Easy. Easy. It's me," Marshal soothed with hands raised. He was sitting on my side of the bed.
I moved my gaze away and covered my face with my hands as I tucked my knees to my chest. "...dammit..."
My body shivered as my insides crawled. The pain burned so clear. The weight... that damned crushing weight-- I choked and shook my head, desperately trying to shake his hold off my mind. Why did he have so much power? Why couldn't I be free? What did I have to do to get his touch off?
I lowered my hands and slipped off the bed, pushing Marshal out of the way. He didn't resist, and he didn't say anything as I made my way into the bathroom. I turned on the shower, cranking up the hot water as I stepped in, fully clothed in a long-sleeved t-shirt and leggings.
I huddled in the corner as the hot water splashed against my face and head, burning and then cooling through my clothes and against my skin. Again I tucked my knees to my chin, wrapping my arms around my legs as I hid my face there. I heard Marshal come into the bathroom after, but I didn't care. I didn't want to feel that touch anymore. I didn't want that to be the only touch I remembered. I didn't want it...
Marshal stepped into the shower while whispering "I'm gonna hold you, Ahndra" and kneeling down to do just that. I tensed but didn't move. He did. He moved to sit behind me, wrapping his arms around me and my legs and arms. The recognizable whole-body shiver came and went, followed by the continued prickle.
No crushing weight.
No revulsion as I was violated--
I choked again, and the arms adjusted themselves around me. Somehow erasing a memory. Burning away the burning. Giving something else to remember...
...so I could finally sleep.
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