Ashley H.

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Chapter One: Stolen


Amy freezes in place in a patch of moonlight. She can hear noises upstairs. A sigh. A creak. The noises quiet, and she exhales a breath she hadn’t known she was holding. She quietly opens a cardboard box labeled ‘Supplies’ in a familiar handwriting, and roots around inside.

Her delicate fingers touch a cardboard cover, and her eyes widen. Does she dare hope?

She pulls her prize out and grins. She dives her hand back inside the box and touches a plastic tube. She thinks herself lucky. She scurries softly back to her bed, lying down and arranging herself in such a way as to be able to feign sleep if needed. In a shaft of moonlight, she puts pen to page.

“My name is Amy Roscoe and I live in the basement. There’s not much down here, but I’ve managed to find a ballpoint pen and a child’s second grade math notebook. The child never used it, because the pages are pristine. That notebook holds the tale I’m about to tell. I suppose you’re wondering what I’m doing down here in the dark, and why I’m writing only the moonlight filtering through a miniscule window. You could think that there’s a cot down here, along with some warm blankets and my favorite pillow, because maybe my parents are redoing my bedroom for a Sweet Sixteen birthday. You could think that I said ‘there’s not much’ because I’m used to having a room full of things, clothes and magazines. You’d be wrong. While there is a very old military cot down here, I live in the basement because I’m forced to, and I haven’t seen my parents in ten years.

“I was kidnapped when I was six, in the midst of playing a game of hide-and-seek in the park with my mom. I don’t remember her very well.  I know she was pretty. I know she had long hair, but I can’t remember the color. I remember her voice, singing lullabies to me when I was scared. Sleep, my child and peace attend thee, all through the night.

Amy dabs at the damp page with the edge of her plain black t-shirt.

“I’m sorry about the blurred ink. As I was saying, I was kidnapped just after I entered first grade. He stole me when I was six. He simply grabbed me from behind my tree and walked off. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t even have the presence of mind to scream or protest. I was limp as this strange man handled me roughly, throwing me in the back of his black van like I was a rag doll with no nerve endings. Unfortunately, small girls do have nerve endings, and I whimpered pitifully when I landed hard on my arm. He told me to shut up, slamming on the gas and making me slide across the cargo bay to hit the back door. I curled up into a little ball and cried into my sweatshirt hood. It smelled like my mom’s perfume, and that made me cry all the harder. I was miserable.

“I don’t know how long we drove, but I do know that when he finally stopped the van, it had become night. ‘Come here.’ he ordered. I looked up, scared. I could smell fish, and so my juvenile mind processed that we were probably in the downtown fishing district of the nearby Big City.  I was rudely snapped out of my reasoning as Jesse grabbed my brown pigtails and dragged me to him. He took my chin in his large hand and made me look at him. I stared up into the face that I would soon grow to know as well as my own.

“He was about twenty at the time, and his face hasn’t changed much in these ten years. His facial structure is still strong, all sharp angles and shadows. His skin has been and always will be olive, due to a bit of foreign blood. His eyes, God, his eyes, are still as piercing as ever, a dark emerald green that is sometimes overtaken by malevolent fire. His teeth could be in a toothpaste commercial, as white and straight as they are. A black ring stabs through the right corner of his lower lip. His gaze is intense on the best of days, and on the bad days it can rival Medusa’s.

“ ‘What is your name?’ he asked, and even I could detect the anger hidden in his tone. I didn’t know what he was angry about, but I knew that if I made him any angrier, it could spell big trouble. In hindsight, I could’ve lied, but I was a little kid. Little kids are more honest than big ones, it seems to me.

“ ‘M-my n-name’s A-Amy.’ I stammered, terrified. ‘A-are you g-going to h-hurt m-m-me?’ I asked, tears threatening in my eyes. ‘I w-want my m-mommy.’

“ ‘That’s a pretty name, little girl.’ He told me, smiling kindly, with all traces of his anger gone. Then he slapped me – right across the face. That answered my question with a silent, terrifying NO. I’d never been slapped before, and the pain made me cry. ‘You ask too many questions.’ he grumbled, grabbing me and slinging me over his shoulder. ‘I am not taking you home. Stop crying.’

“I took a shaky, hiccupping breath as silent tears dripped down my face, watching helplessly as I was carried away from the black panel van that could’ve taken me home.

“He carried me across several streets, until we came to a large house. On first glance, it looked very out of place in this dirty city, as the front was white and pretty, with a wraparound porch and a hammock. However, upon closer inspection, it did fit in. The shutters were crooked, as if they were too tired to hang straight, and the porch railings looked like broken teeth. The sidewalk and steps in front, rather than being covered with colorful chalk or toys like the houses of my own neighborhood, were littered with junk and graffiti. The house looked broken, sad and tired, and I felt sorry for it.

“He carried me through the front door with the red spray paint ‘KEEP OUT’ and dropped me on a couch that sent up a cloud of dust. I coughed, and he told me once again to shut up. He came around to the front of the couch, towering over me.

“He ran his hand through his hair, and that’s when he looked his age, a young man wondering what on earth he’s done. He began mumbling to himself, and I wondered if he was crazy. I didn’t know which would be scarier, being kidnapped and held captive by a sane man, or by an insane one.

“He swayed in front of me, pacing back and forth in front of the couch, talking to himself all the while. He must’ve done that for a good ten minutes before he took me to the basement.

“That first night in the basement was the worst. I had never been in the complete darkness before, because I had always had a nightlight. Though it was old and faintly musty, the cot he provided was pretty comfortable, which was good, because I stayed up almost all night, listening to the old house creaking, cars going by, and the hoots and hollers of the people who populate the streets at night.

“Finally, as the light began to shine through a little window high above the floor, I fell asleep.

“Of course, shortly after that, he woke me up. ‘Amy. You need to wake up.’ He said gently, but firmly.

“ ‘Mommy, can I have five more minutes?’ I mumbled, rolling over and feeling the cot’s metal frame digging into my side. Metal frame? I realized, then, that I was not at home.

“If I needed any more proof, I got it a second later, when he said, ‘I am not your mother.’ in a voice that could’ve frozen hot chocolate.

“I bolted up then, clutching my sweatshirt around me, my legs tangled up in the sheets. ‘Get up. It’s time for school.’ I had the fleeting idea that he was sending me back home. Of course that would have been a stupid idea, but at that point, I needed any hope I could get.

“Rather than being sent to a real school, I got taken to an upstairs room with a slash of black chalkboard paint on the white door. My new classroom’ was about fourteen by fourteen feet, and the dominating feature was a big chalkboard on the far wall, facing the door. Just under the board, there was a large teacher’s desk, in front of which was a small desk, just right for me. There was a bookshelf on the right wall, packed with first-grade textbooks, readers, and children’s books like the Junie B. Jones series.

“ ‘This is your classroom. I am your teacher. You will finish your schooling, up through high school. I will teach you everything you need to know. Sit down. The lessons begin now.’

“For ten years now, he’s taught me everything that normal kids learn. He’s only lost his patience a few times, when his mean side showed through. I have the faded scars to prove it, reminding me of the times when he struck me across the arms or the hands with his metal ruler.

“Those first two weeks, he let me get used to the idea that I was not going home. He only taught me school, and I acted nearly like a normal child, quietly working and doing my homework.

“On third week, and onward for four years, he developed a weekday routine. He roused me at six a.m. in the mornings, and taught me academics. In the afternoons he taught me housekeeping skills, showing me how to make simple meals, and then teaching me more complex recipes. By now, I could be a professional, if he will ever let me go.

“In the evenings, I did my homework, and made dinner, sometimes with his assistance, but most times on my own. He sent me to bed at nine p.m.

“On the weekends, I had the days off. Sometimes we went on field trips, to the zoo or to museums.

“He bought me everything I needed, but nothing more. I had clothes and I had schoolbooks, and occasionally a toy or a fiction book. He reserved presents for special occasions, such as birthdays or exceptional work. You could point out that this was a good thing, that it prevented greediness and instilled thankfulness. And you would be right. You could observe that I was a very well-behaved, self-sufficient child. That’s also true.

“It seemed like the perfect existence, save for the fact that he was not my brother, as he claimed when we were out; in fact, he was no relation at all. And of course, there was a large hole where my heart had been. I cried myself to sleep at night. I was six, torn from my parents, my world, and nothing could mend that rift.

“Oh no. It’s morning now, and Jesse’s calling me. He no longer shakes me awake, because now I’m a light sleeper. A call from him will get me awake and running up those stairs. I must go.


Until I Write Again,

Amy Roscoe

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