Fragile as We Lie
And in the corner chair
Soft and soap scented
My darling cries apologies
We foresee the mercy that's been shown
My young limbs will not go unthanked or unseen
Wake up in the morning
I shall wake up, and so shall you and I
wake up, the sun is beautiful
And it is warming you and I
Fragile as we lie
-One Day I slowly Floated Away
Chapter One: Acts of Evil and Acts of Mercy
Alice fumbled with the lid of the medicine bottle, her hands shaking uncontrollably. The sound of a lamp breaking elsewhere in the house startled her so badly she dropped the bottle. The capsules scattered across the bathroom tile. A flurry of unintelligible shouts followed the crash, and Alice cringed. She supposed she should be grateful she couldn't hear the vile words her mother and stepfather were spewing towards one another, but her mind wasn't processing it.
Instead of bending down to retrieve the capsules, she closed her eyes and collapsed on the edge of the tub. She felt as if she was going to jump out of her skin at any moment, and she couldn't concentrate on anything but the worry that was permeating her mind. The last time she had entered a room when her mother and Bill were having a fight, they'd started arguing about her. She had no desire to hear Bill complain about the cost of her medicine, or her mother claiming that if she had known Alice would be a delicate basket case she would have let her father have full custody. Her mother never said such things to Alice's face, but it was hard enough to hear the woman spit out the vile words to her husband.
Alice opened her eyes and knelt on the cold blue tile. She methodically began scooping up the pills, hoping the actions would pull her mind away from her anxiety. Unfortunately, she wasn't so lucky, and another shout nearly caused her to drop the bottle once more. Once she counted the pills to make sure she had captured all of them, she screwed the lid back on, and set it on the counter. Whenever she got into one of these anxiety attacks she couldn't force anything down her throat. Her stomach churned as if she'd eaten something rotten, and her head was throbbing with the threat of a tension headache. Her hands still shook, and she knew if she tried to speak all that would come out would be nervous stutters.
The shouting got louder, and Alice knew that if she didn't get out of the house she'd succumb to a full blown panic attack. And that would only make Bill more disdainful and her mother Kathy exasperated. Alice counted the days down to her eighteenth birthday in her head. Only two more months, and then she could do whatever she wanted. It wasn't like Kathy cared too much anyway. Alice frowned, and opened the window of the bathroom. She vaulted up onto the sill, and crawled out onto the roof overhanging the backyard porch. She crept along the roof, taking care to not make a noise, and stepped onto the forking magnolia tree tucked against the corner of the house. She hopped down, with an ease born of years of practice, and moved around the side of the house. Once she made it to the street, she set off at a dead run.
Alice wasn't really a runner. In fact the only times she ran outside of gym class were when she was too anxious and on the verge of a panic attack. Her feet pounded the pavement, her brunette hair whipping her face. It didn't matter; the street was too dark to see. She was dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie, just dark enough that if the streets had been any busier, she would have jumped off the street and onto the sidewalk to avoid being hit by a car.
After two blocks she slowed to a labored jog. She ran for six more blocks, not knowing where the energy came from. She usually only manged six blocks in total before she had to fall to the ground to avoid passing out. Now, at eight, she stopped herself and leaned against an oak tree at the edge of an empty lot, with overgrown grasses waving in the night breeze. The moon was just a sliver in the sky, and the stars were mostly obliterated from the bright lights of downtown Kansas City.
Her breath came in gasps, and she fought the blackness twinkling on the edge of her vision. It was just light enough in the neighborhood for her too tell that it was the black spots of her exhaustion and the oncoming faint. Despite her gasps, she stopped breathing at once. She thought she heard a rustling behind her, and her pulse thudded in her ears. Figuring it was just a neighborhood cat or a rabbit, she let herself breathe again. Her breathing was starting to return to normal when she heard the noise again. She spun around, and saw a tall, dark figure coming towards her. Behind him was the light on the house of the property behind the empty lot. She started shaking as she realized he could see her perfectly well when she could see nothing but the fact that he was a good several inches taller than her.
Hoping it was just one of the neighbors, she started backing up towards the street. The man followed her, as his build was too squarish to be feminine. She didn't make a sound, but she marveled at her legs being able to move backwards. Usually when she started shaking, she couldn't get her knees to obey her.
"Excuse me," a vaguely familiar voice called. "Are you lost? You shouldn't go running around in dark clothes."
"I'm fine," Alice replied, her voice stuttering on the 'f' sound. "I'm just going home now."
"I'll give you a ride. You must be exhausted. You nearly fainted there."
Alice shook her head. "No, I'll just be on my way."
The man strode forward more quickly than she anticipated, and grabbed her elbow. "You misunderstand me, Alice. I'll give you a ride. You don't get a choice." Before she could scream, the man had twisted her around and slapped a hand over her mouth. Her adrenaline returned, but not as strongly as it had with her initial run. She struggled and kicked wildly at the man, but she tired long before she even so much as drew blood. Her arms were pulled behind her back, one of the man's strong arms looped through her elbows and yanking on her shoulders hard. His other hand was holding her head still and gagging her mouth. His grip was too tight for her to get a good bite in.
Alice was so completely out of her mind in hysterics that the full enormity of the situation hadn't quite descended upon her. If it had, she probably would have completely blacked out and gone into emotional shock. As it was, she was shaking violently, though she gave up her struggle, and felt the man drag her back towards the street where a dark car waited. He shoved her into the trunk, and before she could spring out, he closed it and she heard the latch lock. She didn't move a muscle voluntarily, but her entire body was trembling in little shivers. Her breath came in little gasps, and she could see absolutely nothing.
She was too far gone to even cry, or to even have the panic attack come on in full force. The emotional shock was closing in, and she felt herself shut down, almost as if her consciousness was leaving her body. She felt the car start vibrating as the engine turned over, and she felt the car then begin to move. The man drove, from what she could tell in her strange out of body experience, at an ambling pace. He obviously was in no great hurry. After what had to have been either moments or an eternity the car engine cut out, and she heard footsteps very muffled. Then, the lid of the trunk popped open, and was lifted. She gazed at the man, his face still concealed by shadows. She was still trembling and letting in those little gasps, but her entire body was paralyzed. The man grabbed her, and threw her over her shoulder, confident that either she wouldn't scream or no one would hear her.
As he carried her towards a broken down house, she noted they were well outside the city limits of Kansas City. Whether to the east or west, she had no idea. For all she knew he could have taken her across the border into Kansas. Now, he kicked open the door of the abandoned house, and threw her on the floor. She curled up into a ball, the banged elbow and hip not registering quite yet.
"Well, Alice, now that we're alone..." He chuckled, and lit a hurricane lantern sitting on a crooked table. They were in what looked like a front sitting room. She looked around wildly before her eyes landed back on the man. She recognized him after a moment.
"Mr. Daniels?" she managed to wring out. She recognized the man from Bill's work.
"Oh please, call me Ethan." He turned his back to her, clearly indicating he didn't think of her as a threat, and placed a bar over the door, like an old fashioned house. He turned, slowly, to face her. She could make out his features just barely in the flickering lamplight. He was handsome, but had a cruel turn of the lip. He was well built and tall, and more than a few women had flirted with him at the Christmas party Alice remembered meeting him at. He had brushed them all off to pay attention to Kathy and Alice.
Alice backed up, crawling backwards, until she hit the wall of the room. Ethan just advanced on her slowly, that cruel smile even more sinister as the shadows cut deep across his face. "I waited a long time for this, Alice. You should be honored; I usually don't wait so long for someone as young as you."
"Y-y-ou sick bastard!" she shrieked.
"I suppose I am sick, but I take offense at the bastard part. My birth was perfectly legitimate, unlike your own." He laughed then, and Alice's hysteria bubbled back over, and she felt herself gasping for breaths with little cries. It only seemed to amuse him more, and he knelt down just in front of her. She buried her face in her arms, trying to block out his horrible handsome face. "I'm not going to kill you, Alice. Just play with you for a little while. And you're not going to tell anyone I did it. And I'm going to be very careful not to leave any DNA evidence. Do you know why you're not going to tell anyone?"
Alice let out a sob, and Ethan stroked her hair. The contact made her start trembling anew.
"Because if you so much as point a finger in my general direction, I'll find your father, Dr. Luken Pope, resident at the general hospital in Omaha, and kill him. And I can do it from jail, my dear. I have resources."
Alice didn't for one minute disbelieve him. He grabbed a handful of her hair and yanked her head up. She let out an earsplitting shriek, and shrieked again when he dragged her from the corner towards what she could only assume was a bedroom.
She felt her mind leave her body again, and what happened next would be burned into her memory for the rest of her life.
Johnny pressed the radio button with a sigh. There was no good music on the waves nowadays. He glanced at the CD case on the seat next to him and rifled through while trying to keep his eyes on the dark road. Picking out a Beck album, he loaded it in the CD player and cranked up the volume. He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to the beat as he rode along on the interstate. His visit home had been pleasant, but he was eager to return to the band and get the new songs worked out to perfection.
Plus, he had Ben's textbooks in the trunk and the bassist needed them back to do his homework before his classes the next day. Though it was nearing one in the morning, Ben would be up at the crack of dawn anyway, so Johnny didn't feel guilty at cutting it close. Ben could just do the assignments in the morning and turn them in at his class in the afternoon.
As he planned out the next band practice, scheduled for when Cat got off his delivery shift at 8 the next night, he didn't pay as much attention to the road as he should have. Which is why he nearly hit the girl shuffling along the side of the road. He hit the brakes, and swerved, nearly going onto the shoulder on the other side of the interstate. Luckily, the road was nearly completely empty. Concerned that no one was stopping to see why the girl was walking, as he could tell it was a girl by her long hair and the fact that her bare legs were rather shapely, he pulled back to the other side of the road and put the car in park right behind her. She shuffled along, her arms around herself. She was dressed in a thin t-shirt and a pair of panties that glowed white in the headlights. If he wasn't mistaken, he thought he saw bruises on her legs and arms, and even a few spots of blood. Sickened, he vaulted out of the car and ran towards her.
"Miss!" He called, coming to a stop in front of her. "Miss, are you alright? You look beat up."
She looked up at him, her eyes bleak. She didn't say anything, just stared emptily.
"Shit," Johnny said, getting a good view at the black eye forming on her face and a ring of bruises around her neck. "I have to get you to a hospital." He reached out to take her arm and she pulled away so violently she lost her balance and fell onto the shoulder of the road, no doubt scraping up her legs something fierce. A semi passing by honked. Johnny fought the urge to make a rude gesture, and instead ran to the girl's side. "I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. I just want to help you."
Gently, he slipped an arm under her knees and another arm across her back and lifted her. She didn't weigh very much, and this time she didn't struggle against him. He carried her back to his car, and set her on his feet. "I think I have a pair of Cat's shorts in here, so you aren't half dressed." He said, though she didn't seem to be hearing him. He opened the back door and moved all the crap off the backseat. He found Cat's skater shorts, and handed them to the girl. She looked at them blankly for several moments before putting them on with exaggerated slowness. Once done, she started shaking violently. Before she could fall into a faint, Johnny caught her and laid her in the backseat. He shut the door, and ran around to get in the driver's seat.
He put the car in drive and started driving faster, taking the exit towards the hospital. He was definitely speeding, but he didn't care if he got pulled over. He had a good enough excuse for it. Except that a cop might think he'd hurt the girl. He lifted his foot from the gas pedal slightly. "Can you tell me your name?"
"You can't take me to a hospital," she said, her voice breaking with every other syllable.
"You were beaten up, miss, and the fact that you weren't wearing any pants suggests you were raped. I have to take you to the hospital."
"I was raped," she confirmed. "But they won't get any DNA."
Johnny felt like banging the steering wheel in frustration. "What's your name?" He asked again, glancing at her in his rear view mirror. She was still shaking, and she curled up in a tight ball. Her hair covered her face until she lifted her chin revealing a beautiful face. She was a small, slender thing, and looked as fragile as fine china. For some reason, despite her stony expression, he was reminded of a rabbit. Though why a twitchy animal was anything like this girl was beyond him.
Well, at least she told him that. "I'm taking you to the hospital whether you want to or not, Alice. Please, let me help you."
She didn't say anything, but she uncurled a little bit. Johnny remembered hearing somewhere that raped victims often times couldn't stand the touch of a man. Alice had let him carry her, and take her to the hospital. So that was good, right? Or maybe the full enormity of what had happened to her hadn't hit her yet. He had heard that could happen. Or maybe she was in a shock? He wouldn't be surprised. Something as traumatizing as rape could kill a person emotionally. He briefly wondered if she knew her rapist. She seemed very reluctant to seek help, but he also remembered vaguely that it wasn't an unusual reaction.
He hoped as he drove, and prayed though it had been years since he graced the doorways of a church. Every few second he glanced at Alice, completely unnerved by her silence. She just sat in her little ball, looking ridiculous in Cat's large shorts, but not humorous in the slightest. She shook, her eyes eerily dead and expressionless. Johnny felt his heart break to pieces to see such a pretty girl utterly devoid of emotion.
It wasn't until they were halfway to the hospital that the sobs came.
Author's Note: This is a bit darker than what I usually write, but Alice's story got stuck in my head and begged to be written. Hopefully it won't be all doom and gloom, as Johnny's bandmates will be the comic relief. I, like Alice, suffer from anxiety, though not quite as bad as hers.