NOW – ELLIE
I don’t know who he is.
And yet something in his eyes seems strangely familiar.
Erin told me these people were looking for me, that they know who I am, and where I came from. I know nothing of who I am. All my memories are like nightmares, some of which I don’t know if they are real, or fake. I don’t know my own name. I don’t know anything about my past. I only know that for the last ten years, I’ve been Raven. A girl with no past. No family. Owned by a monster. A monster disguised as a saint.
Raven isn’t my real name.
I’ve always known that.
I just couldn’t quite remember what it was.
He took everything from me, little by little, and now I’m nothing but an empty shell, grasping, trying to figure out who the hell I am and what my purpose in life is.
When I escaped, and came back here, the only place where I knew I might find answers, I didn’t know where else to go. I didn’t know anything, and I was terrified. This place. It was the only thing I knew with certainty. It was the tiny piece I held onto, through all his torment. It was the reason for my being, I knew that. I just didn’t know why. So, I came here. Only, once I got here, I didn’t know where to go. Utterly terrified, I was left flailing around blindly.
That’s when Erin found me.
Cold, wet and crying on the street. She helped me, took me in, took me to the police, but what could I give them, when I knew nothing of myself? I don’t know his name. He was always just master, to me. I don’t know where I was kept. I found out it was a church when I tried to escape, but that’s it. I don’t know my real name. As I said, I’m Raven.
I’m an empty canvas. Only behind my mask, I’m a tormented mix of agony.
And then my face showed up on a missing persons ad, and Erin told me about it. Ellie. That’s my name, or so it says on the flyer. I went missing ten years ago. Any information, will be hugely rewarded. Erin told me it was my choice if I followed it up, but I’d been with her for a year and a half now, and it was the closest we’d ever come to having some information about me.
The police have been trying to get in contact with me. They’ll come around soon, no doubt. They’ll want to know more. They’ll want to talk to the mysterious strangers that showed up at my doorstep. They’ll want answers. Because, like us, they too have none. And they too, have spent the last year and a half trying to find out who I am, with no luck.
This is it.
But I’m utterly terrified.
Because, deep down, I don’t know who to trust, and who not to.
Erin is the only person I rely on.
She’s the only solid I have.
These men could be working for him, for all I know.
But, if I’m trusting my gut, that’s telling me they’re not.
But they’re terrifying, big and muscled and tattooed. Wearing leather jackets. They don’t look like home.
They don’t look safe.
“You don’t have to talk to them, Raven,” Erin whispers. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”
“Her name is Ellie.”
The man, the one who hasn’t taken his eyes off me, says this in a gruff tone. He’s terrifying. His eyes seemingly black pits, full of despair and pain. That is written all over his face, but his eyes hold his greatest secrets. He’s big, huge even. Bigger than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s muscled, tattooed, and has a scar on his face that tells of his rough life.
And yet he’s incredibly breathtaking.
So beautiful, I’m struggling not to stare.
But holding his eyes makes me nervous, and I can’t bear to keep looking, in fears I won’t be able to calm myself down.
“Maybe to you,” Erin snaps, “But Raven is all she knows. So for now, until we know you’re telling the truth about her, Raven is who she is. And if she doesn’t want to talk to you, she does not have to. Ya’ll might be big and scary, but I promise you I will fight you if you even attempt to come any closer to her without her permission.”
One of the men, who is also wearing a jacket, but has lighter hair than the rest, laughs. “I like her.”
Erin glares at him.
She’s been my rock.
I couldn’t have gotten through without her. She makes me feel safe. She makes me feel stronger. She’s always lifting me up. Helping me through. Getting me through my darkest days. That first six months was hell, a mix of nightmares and fear, and she was there every step of the way.
I owe her my life.
And I trust her with it.
“Can we at least talk to her?” The big man says, still staring at me.
I step a little more behind Erin.
“She agreed to let you come here when we saw the ad, but if you so much as push her, you’re out. Do you understand?”
“What’s your name?” Erin asks. “I didn’t catch it when you called.”
“Slater. Slater Knight.”
I search my memories, for something. Anything. But it’s blank. Empty darkness. That’s all I see.
“Come in,” Erin says to the three men who turned up. “Don’t push me.”
I step behind Erin and stare at the floor, too terrified to even move as the three men walk in, and sit at the dining table. Erin turns to me, her big brown eyes locking on mine. “You do not have to do, or say, anything you don’t want to. Do you understand? Nobody, and I mean nobody is going to make you do anything. The second you want them out, they’re gone. Do you understand?”
I swallow, and nod. “Yes.”
“Come on, honey.”
We walk over to the table, and I sit, far too close to Erin but I’m too afraid to move away from her. I stare down at the table surface, not really sure what to say.
“You say you know Raven, and it was you that put up the signs searching for her, want to explain that to us?” Erin begins.
“Been the love of my life since I was twenty-one years old,” The man called Slater says, his voice gruff.
The love of his life?
I was...with him?
So many questions swirl through my mind, and my heart begins to race. He must be wrong. I’d remember him. If we were in love, I’d remember him.
I take a staggering breath, and keep staring down at the table surface, running my eyes over every tiny scratch, too afraid to look up.
“Care to elaborate a little, anyone could come in here and throw that one at us,” Erin says, her voice calm and collected.
“Was gettin’ to it,” Slater growls, his voice low, and deadly.
“Easy brother,” Someone else says. “Been waitin’ a fuckin’ long time for this, go easy.”
He’s been waiting?
Curiosity burns in my chest, and I want to know more, yet I’m hellishly afraid of the answers.
“She lived in a foster family, next door. Moved her in when she had just turned seventeen, I was twenty-one. Her parents died when she was young, no siblings, no family wanting to take her in, so she went into the system. Me and my brothers took a liking to her, she became like a sister to them, but the moment I laid eyes on her. She was mine. She was always fuckin’ mine.”
I can’t breathe.
My breath comes out in hard pants.
This is too much. Too much.
“Go on,” Erin says, reaching over and squeezing my hand.
“She was always soft, and quiet, and she took a liking to us. We all became like family, but her and I, we were a fuck load more than that. We were a fuck load more, Ellie.”
He’s talking to me.
I know he is.
I can feel his eyes burning into the top of my head as I stare aimlessly at the table surface.
“You and I were best friends, lovers, soulmates.”
“If that’s the case,” Erin says, saving me before he sees my trembling. “What the hell happened?”
“I fucked up,” Slater says, his voice dropping lower, if that’s even possible. “I got into some trouble, and we...ended. She got taken because of my fuckin’ mess, and that was the last I ever saw of her. Worked for the man who had information for over ten fuckin’ years to try and find her, but...I didn’t. Then one of the girls from the club had the idea of putting out a missing person’s report and sign. Didn’t think it would work...”
“How do we know you’re not lying?”
There are some shuffling sounds, and then Erin reaches out. She has something in her hands. She stares at it, more shuffling sounds, and then she releases my hand and says softly, “Honey, you’re going to want to see these.”
I look up at her, my hair falling over my face, too scared to stare at the men who are all watching me. Erin has some photos in her hands, and she gently pushes them towards me. For a moment, I’m too scared to even move, but slowly I put my hand out and take them, glancing down at the first picture.
It’s of me and the man who appeared at my doorstep.
Only we’re younger.
He’s not as muscled, and he doesn’t have so many tattoos, and he has a smile as bright as the sun.
I’m younger, but it’s most certainly me. And I’m smiling.
He has his arm around me, and mine is around him.
We’re at the beach.
Vomit rises in my throat as I move to the second picture. It’s us again, only we’re with three other men, all who look similar to Slater.
We’re all laughing.
Slater’s arm is thrown over my shoulders.
The third is of us kissing, under the moonlight, on the sand, tangled together.
I shove a hand over my mouth and move backwards so quickly the chair skitters across the room. Erin moves, so does everyone else. The photos go flying, and I shake my head, side to side.
This is too much.
I can’t deal with it.
“No,” I scream, pressing a hand over my ears and shaking my head. “No, I can’t do this. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know you.”
I finally look up at him again, and his eyes lock on mine, and in their depths I can see how brutally broken he is.
“You do know who I am. You fuckin’ do.”
“No,” I yell, clutching my face. “Get out. Please. Get out.”
“Please,” Erin says, grabbing my shoulders. “Please leave.”
“I lost her once, I’m not goin’ to fuckin’ lose her again,” Slater barks.
“C’mon brother,” Someone says. “She needs time, give her time.”
“Not fuckin’ leaving until she looks me in the eye and lets me talk.”
“You’re leaving!” Erin yells, her voice firm. “Or I’ll make you leave. You don’t scare me, Slater. Not even a little bit.”
“I can’t fuckin’ lose her again.”
I press my hands over my face to fight the tears.
“Give her time. Give me your number, we’ll make contact if and when she’s ready, but that time is not right now.”
“Give the number, and let the girl be,” One of the men orders. “Goin’ to take time. Pushin’ ain’t goin’ to help.”
A long moment of silence.
Then Slater hands Erin a slip of paper.
I keep my hands over my face.
“Not here to hurt you, Ellie. You might not know who I am, but I’ve spent nothin’ short of a decade tryin’ to find you. I’ll wait another decade to have you, if that’s what it takes. But know this, I won’t give up. When you’re ready, we’ll talk. But we will talk.”
With that, I hear shuffling and then the front door closes.
I slowly drop my hands, tears streaming down my face, and look to Erin.
“That was me, Erin,” I whisper. “In those photos...and yet, I remember none of it.”
She grabs my shoulders, pulling me close. “I know. And I can only imagine how confused you are. We’ll get to the bottom of your story, Raven. I promise you that. We’ll get your answers. Just know, I’m here. I’m always here. And I won’t leave.”
Because I really don’t know who else I can count on.
I’m completely and utterly lost.