Jump

I rested my arms on the ledge and just stared out in wonder. This would be the last sunset I would ever see. I wanted to enjoy it.

I was so tired. Tired of trying, tired of fighting everyday. I couldn't do it anymore. This was a battle I knew I couldn't win, it was designed to break you; to shatter you and it did. I knew that if I tried and failed to escape he would kill me. I also knew that if I succeeded in escaping he would hunt me down until the end of my days, and drag me back.

The sun had set. It was time. I lifted myself up on to the ledge and crouched there for a moment. I thought of my family and a few friends that I hadn't seen in the years I was taken. As much as I wanted to see them, to talk to them, I couldn't face them as I was now. I am not the same person they knew all those years ago. A couple of faces stuck in my mind longer than others, my little sister and my best friend.

My beautiful little sister, so outgoing and carefree. Able to dish back more attitude and sarcasm than most people her age, but one of the kindest and most caring souls anyone would ever meet. My best friend, always there for me when I needed him, always giving me a hard time about who I dated, but always able to make me laugh with long forgotten memories when things went bad. Never would I see them again, but it was for their own good. No one needed to see me like this.

Just as I was about to stand I heard the door to the roof open. I turned just in time to see a man walk out. He didn't see me, but I could just make out some of his features in the sudden light of his lighter as he touched it to the end of his cigarette. I watch him for a moment, his face was like a vision from a dream, so familiar yet I can't place it. As he turned to close the door I could hear him singing a song and it's the song that sparks a distant memory.

"If your feet hurt from walking too much, then I will tend to them, with a velvet touch. If your lungs don't want to work tonight, then I will preform a mouth to mouth until you're okay." It was a song he would always sing when I was having a bad day and needed cheering up. It would always make me laugh because he would try to do what the song said. As he turned back his familiar face gets a name. My long lost best friend, I hadn't seen him in years, and yet there he stood, just feet from me, on the night I escaped, on the roof I planned to jump from. Did my reminiscing call to him?

"Gavin" I whispered to the wind, afraid he would hear me and stop me. With a sigh I turned and faced the open air again. I stood lifting myself high above the streets. I heard a curse behind me, telling me that he has seen me, I could hear the crunch of the roof as he ran across it. "I'm sorry Gavin" I whispered. Before I had even a second of weightlessness, one second of freedom, his arm was around my waist pulling me back onto the roof.

We landed hard, air knocked from both of our lungs, but still I tried to scratch my way to freedom. I scratched and kicked and fought with what little strength I had, but his arm was like a vice grip around my waist. Fight as I might, I wasn't going anywhere. As I continue to fight him, he moved to sitting on me, restraining both my wrists above my head, which instantly stilled me. As I looked up at him all I saw is pity on his face as he took in my appearance, all my bruises, all my scars. Then shock hit him like a boulder to the head. His mouth dropped open as he recognized me, "Jess?"

The disbelief in his voice was understandable, I had been gone for years. I don't think he truly believed it was me. I looked up at him for a moment, then sighed. "Hi Gavin."

"What are you...? How are you...? Why are you...? Did you really just try to jump?"

"Yes, Gavin. I really just tried to jump and if you would be so kind as to get off me, I would like to get back to doing just that." As soon as the words had left my mouth, I knew I had made a mistake. His eyes grew darker and pinched at the sides, while his hands tightened on my arms. He was furious.

"No!" he roared and I could hear an almost shake or tremble to his voice, and I knew my words had affected him. He doesn't understand, he wasn't there. He didn't live through the pain and the constant torture. He has no understanding of who I have faded into. That I am no longer the person he remembers from all those years ago.

Looking up into his face, I could see the pain he was feeling, the pain my words were causing him. I hated myself for it, but it needed to be done. He needed to let me go, I'm not who I was. Yes, we were best friends, and yes, I had harbored deeper feelings for him, but that doesn't change anything now. I'm bruised, battered, and broken. Ready to throw myself off a roof. Used, weathered, damaged beyond repair and he needed to understand that.

"Gavin, just let me go, please?" I sounded defeated, and I was. Nothing I could do would ever be right. Nothing either one of us could do would fix me. I am beyond any help and its not right of me to let him think he can help me. I'm too weak, too lost, I'm not savable, not fixable, no matter what he thinks.

"No! I'm not letting you go, I won't ever let you go." His words confused me. Not letting me go I understand, I mean, I'm about to throw myself off the top of the building. 'I won't ever let you go.' What did he mean by that? Why would he never let me go? Was I going to be just as trapped here as I was there? He wouldn't... right?

As these thoughts flew through my head I could feel my eyes widening and fear running across my face. I started to struggle more against his hold, trying in vain to get away, but his hold stayed firm. He looked me in the eyes and I saw confusion and concern.

"Please, please don't trap me here like I was there. I just escaped from that. I can't. I won't do it again. I won't let you trap me here." Much to my dismay tears started to track their way down my cheeks. The thought of being trapped again was more than I could fully comprehend.

"Jess what are you talking about? Trap you? Why would I ever trap you? You just escaped? Jess where have you been all these years?" Question after question was thrown at me some I couldn't answer, others I didn't want to, but knew that I had to eventually. When I didn't answer any of his questions right away he sighed, and said, "Jess I would never keep you here against your will. You know me well enough to know that, or at least you did."

"What does it matter? It's not like you know me anymore. It's been years. How did you even find me?" This last question had me most concerned. If Gavin could find me, even just by chance, he was in danger.

"I didn't find you, not really anyways. You found me. This is my apartment building, I've lived here for about a year. As for not knowing you, I will always know you. We have known each other for far too long, what was it, summer camp back in first grade or so that we met? We always find each other in the end, no matter how long its been."

I smiled at the memory. "So it was just by chance that you found me? That's almost worse. I'm putting you in danger just by being here. He will track me here, and he will find you. I can't have him find you." I sighed heavily and leaned my head back against the rooftop, trying and failing to blink back more tears. "I'm so tired Gavin, tired of fighting for my life, tired of constantly being scared. I can't take it. Things will never change. For as long as I am alive or he is, it won't change. Please, just let me go so I can rest, truly rest, for the first time in years."

"No. I won't let you go, you found me, not the other way around. I won't lose you again. Do you have any idea what it was like these past five years? Not knowing where you were, or if you were okay or even if you were alive? Do you know how often our last fight goes through my mind? That was the last time I had spoken to you in person. I hate myself for ignoring all those texts you sent me, all because I was mad. Five years Jess. Its been five years. I can handle danger. I can't handle losing you again. Its not like all those times we just stopped talking for a little while. You were gone. Taken from us, from me, and there was nothing I could do."

"It's not like I've been away on vacation this whole time, ya know. I just escaped a couple days ago. Do you remember that ex of mine who had turned stalker? The one we were told had backed off and wouldn't be bothering me anymore? Well his family lied. He found me. I was walking back to my car after work one night and he was waiting there for me. I didn't realize it was him until it was too late. I was held in his basement, never seeing the sun until a couple days ago. He lived alone, only bringing girls back every so often, not that it mattered. I was gagged on those occasions so they would never know I was there. He used me as he wanted, beat me when he got angry or drunk. He would starve me when he felt like I wasn't cooperating. I was constantly kept chained to the walls so I couldn't do anything but sit there day after day, unless he decided to move me to another spot or position. He took great joy in pulling my arms above my head until only my toes were touching the ground and shocking me."

The whole time I talked he was slowly rubbing circles with his thumb on my wrist and moving off me. He probably didn't want me to associate him sitting on me and everything that had happened the last five years. Every time he drew a circle he would get closer to the scars that circled both wrists. With one more circle he found it and his eyes almost bugged out of his head. He let go of both my arms completely and jerked away.

"What is that?" he demanded as I sat up.

"It's a scar. Well, actually its two scars." I told him as I flipped over both my arms to show the underside. There was a scar just under my palm and one a couple inches lower, both circled all the way around, from the manacles I had worn. "For the first few months I was there all I did was try to escape, so I was constantly pulling and twisting against the manacles he made me wear which cut up my wrists over and over. The other scar that runs the length of both forearms was from the first and only attempt that I made against myself while there. I had been there for what I think was six months when he finally trusted me to feed myself without trying to stab him with the fork or knife. I took the knife and ran it up both arms thinking he wouldn't notice, but I was wrong. He noticed just before I passed out. I was punished severely for that, there are still some bones that I know didn't set right in my hand."

As I was explaining everything to him I noticed our positions. He was sitting next to me only touching my wrist and hand. I could easily push him over and run to the ledge, it wasn't that far, I could probably make it. However, it seemed like he was reading my mind because his grip on my hand tightened.

"I know what your thinking, so stop. You won't make it. Don't even think about trying, you'll just hurt yourself." His eyes were hard and dark again, which proved to me that he was right, so I just sat there, silent. "Come on, let's go inside, it's getting colder out here and you're not wearing a jacket." He grabbed my hand and helped me to stand, never once letting me go. Probably thinking that if he did I would take off for the ledge, and he was right, I would. I was still putting him in danger by just being here.

"I'm not cold." I told him and I wasn't. I hadn't felt cold in such a long time.

"You? Not cold? How is that possible? You're always cold." he remarked as we made our way through the roof door and down a couple flights of stairs. As we reached his door, I told him.

"I don't know. I don't get cold anymore." Looking around his apartment I could tell he was the same old Gavin as before with all his posters and paraphernalia all over the place. I noticed a clock sitting in the corner next to a couple books and saw that it was close to midnight. "I'm guessing you still have work at four in the morning." I looked over at him and saw just how bloodshot his eyes were and felt guilty for keeping him up so late.

"Yea I do, but I will call out. You are much more important. Have you been to a hospital yet? The cops? Well we will need to go to both in the morning, hospital first, and from there I'm sure they will notify the cops, saving us a trip. Then once that is over I'm sure your family would love to see you. They never gave up on you. Your sister especially, we talk some times, catch up. She asks for old stories of you every time. You will be so proud of her, shes grown up to become an amazing young woman."

"Gavin I..."

"But we can start all that after some sleep. You look like you haven't slept in days."

"I probably haven't, I don't sleep much anymore."

"Well come on, you can sleep on my bed. I'll sleep on the couch. When was the last time you slept on a real bed?" He watched me for an answer probably thinking I would be grateful, when in reality all his words did was push me head first into a memory I wanted very much to avoid. I knew my eyes grew distant as I watched the memory play out in front of me because I didn't see Gavin approach me, I did flinch away when he touched me, which brought me back to reality. "I'm sorry, I didn't know saying that would cause such a bad reaction."

"It's okay, I didn't know just mentioning a word would bring back such a powerful memory. You can go sleep in your bed, its fine. I don't mind the couch, I don't think I'll sleep anyway, so one of us might as well use the bed for sleep and you look ready to fall over. I'll just sit here and read a book or something." I walked over the books I had seen upon entering and picked one up to look at the back.

"Okay, but I'll be right in here if you need me, I'll leave the door open so you can get in. Sleep well, or happy reading. I'll be up in a few hours. Good night." He looked like he wanted to give me a hug, so I walked over and hugged him for the first time in years. It felt good. I hadn't been hugged since I was taken, its not something you miss until you get one after a long time. He hugged me back gently at first then with such strength I thought he might crush me. When he pulled away I thought I saw tears in his eyes, but this is Gavin, he doesn't cry.

"Good night Gavin, and thank you. Sleep well." I went and sat on the couch pulling the book onto my lap and opening it to the first page. I pretended to read, until he walked away, I could hear him moving about in his room, and then the sounds of a bed creaking as a body moves around on it.

I waited until his apartment fell silent, and then let a half hour pass. Once I was sure he was sleeping I crept to his door and looked in at him. There he was sprawled across his bed, facing the door with closed eyes, like he is watching for me even in his sleep. I rested my head against the door frame for a moment, just watching him, silently thanking him for the images he gave me of my little sister and the time I got to spend with him. I turned to leave when I spotted a picture tucked into a corner next to his door. It was worn as if he touched it often, as I got closer I recognized the picture. It was an old prom picture of the two of us, one I had never seen before. From its position you can't miss it when leaving the room, I look back at him again in wonder. Apparently my family wasn't the only ones who hadn't given up on me.

Turning back to the rest of the apartment I looked around. If I stay I will be poked and prodded, asked a million questions and made to remember that which I have buried deep in my mind. I will get to see my family, but I will have to face them as I am now, damaged. Or I can jump off the roof into freedom. Where I will be free from all memories, and questions and facing him again if they ever catch him. I will miss out on seeing my family, but I won't have to explain to them how damaged I am, or see how hurt they are by what I have turned into. My choices are a permanent freedom in death or a false freedom in life. Disappointing those I love by jumping off a roof or disappointing those I love by telling them all that happened.

I don't have long to make this decision. Gavin will be awake soon. Can I handle everything he says needs to be done? Or should I just do as I wanted to in the first place? Jumping is sounding better and better the more I think about it. I turned to the door and just as my hand touched the handle I heard a voice call out in the darkness.

"Please don't leave again." I turned and Gavin was standing in his bedroom doorway. His hand was reaching out to me and all I could do was look at it and him.

"I'm sorry" was all could say as I whipped the door open and rushed out. I could hear him cursing and running after me but I had the slight advantage of being fully awake. I pushed the roof door open and ran through just before he could grab me. I was up on the ledge just as he crashed through the door. I turned to face him and he was watching me. I put both arms up in the air as if making a cross with my body and whispered one last time "I'm sorry Gavin" I leaned back and finally felt the freedom I had been looking for.

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