The night sky was dark, and the world was illuminated by the moon and stars that floated about in the sky. My body moved slowly as I hoisted myself up onto the window sill. I was silently returning home way past my curfew. The house emitted a low light into the air. My mission was clear: to make it to my room without anyone noticing. Yet, my mistake was choosing the same window I always used to sneak in. The window led into the library, my favorite room in our three-story house. Within the library sat my father, the secretary of state. He sat in a reading chair with a cigarette lit in between his yellow teeth. One of his many books sat in his lap as he looked at me over the top of his glasses. The room had the smell of smoke, signifying that he had been in there for a while.

“So, where were you this time?” he asked with an exhale of smoke. His tone was calm, but anyone that knew him could easily tell he was mad. The way his shoulders were set and how his hands were crossed in his lap gave way to his true mood.

“The mall,” I stated to him as I slowly climbed down from the ledge I was perched on. My father sighed, getting up and leaving the room, telling me that the conversation was over.

When I woke up this morning, I was informed my bodyguard had been fired, and I was getting a new one today. I felt a tinge of guilt in my chest; he was fired due to my sneaking away. I brushed off the feeling as he wasn’t the first one that I’ve gotten fired and certainly won’t be the last.

The house bustled with maids and workers as they fumbled around, completing their tasks for the day. I swiftly moved around them, used to the crowds in the halls. I was making my way to the dining hall for breakfast and to meet my new challenge, my guard.

Dad had already left for work, and my mother sat at the head of the wooden table, blabbing on her phone to all her friends. I should be happy she is even home, but all I can muster is to send a glare in her direction. Being too deep into her conversation, she, as usual, missed me completely. As I took my seat near the other side of the table from my mother, a plate was placed in front of me. My usual breakfast of toast and a smoothie sat on a porcelain plate accompanied by a glass of water.

My father soon entered the room with his usual entourage of guards, but this time a younger gentleman accompanied him. I nodded at his arrival, and he returned the gesture before kissing his wife on the head and stepping into a meeting room. My mother put on her fake smile that accompanied her fake teeth and gushed over the fact that my father was home before returning to her friends.

When I finished my breakfast, I made my way into the library in hopes of finding a new book to read. I would likely end up rereading a book or two, though. The library was modeled after the beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast. The walls were covered with shelves that you needed a ladder to reach the top of. There was a reading area by a fireplace. The room gave off a warm glow to invite you in. I took pride in this room, as I was the one to design it, from the wall color to stitches on a blanket thrown across a chair.

I soon found the ladder and started climbing it to reach my favorite section mystery. It can go anyway: your favorite character could have been the villain the whole time. Mysteries keep you interested as you try to discover who did it before it is revealed to you. The mystery section was near the ceiling so close that if I reached up, I could touch the paint that kept it white. The books were worn from how many times I’ve opened and closed them.

“Everleigh!” my father called for me as he entered the library. I rolled my eyes and blew out a breath before removing my feet from the steps and sliding down the ladder with my hands on either side. ‘I didn’t even get to choose a book,’ I complained within my mind as I looked up, willing a book to fall into my hands. I turned around, crossing my arms to stare accusingly at my father for interrupting my story seeking process.

“I have someone I want you to meet,” my father informed me, swinging his hand out to the person behind him. The gentleman from earlier stood there in a black suit with light gray accents. He stood tall, arms crossed behind his back, and legs at shoulder-width apart, military stance. His muscles were tight, and he stood ready for anything. His eyes were blue like the ocean with light brown hair that makes his eyes stand out against his dark tan skin.

“New babysitter?” I asked with a mocking tone around the word babysitter. He knew I hated the men he sent in to “watch my every move.” My dad glared at me before huffing and walking away. Must not be in the mood to deal with me, I thought.

As he left, he shouted out, “His name’s Greyson! Don’t lose this one.” I let my eyes take in the new guard one more time before letting a sinister smile cross my face as I already set plans on how to lose him. I turned around, climbing back up my ladder to finally find a book.

The night was dark as I stepped on the sides of my feet as to not create a sound. My body automatically knew where the ground would creak, and on reflex, my feet missed those spots. The front door was coming into view, and I was so close to my escape before a hand clutched my forearm, applying more pressure than necessary. I let out a small yelp of surprise before a burly hand was placed over my mouth to silence any further noises. In a second, my mind blanked of what to do. Every time I had prepared for this moment vanished from my head. It was as if my feet were rooted to the ground, and my hands lost all feeling. All I could hear was the ringing of bells. Then reality hit me like a truck, and it all came back, the wiggling of my finger, the breath leaving my lungs. The next thing I know, my elbow was in my captor’s stomach, causing them to let out a grunt and loosen their hold on me. I spun around, my hair twirling around me, and got into a fighting stance. Knees bent, legs shoulder-width apart, keep yourself grounded, so they can’t push you over, and be prepared for anything.

The lights turned on in a flash, and an army of black appeared, security. I was grabbed by my waist and pulled away from my attacker as they were pushed onto their knees and restrained. As my eyes adjusted to the light, I finally made out the burly face of my most recent bodyguard, Andrew. His eyes had a dark tint to them, and his face had a scowl etched onto it. His brown hair was unruly on the top of his head, and his body gave way to how drained he was, both physically and mentally.

“You got me fired,” he shouted in my direction. His body shook as he tried to fight the restraints. I stared at him, mouth agape as I registered what he was blaming me for. I may have gotten him in trouble, but it is his own fault he lost me. I’m not that hard to spot in a crowd with my tall figure of 5’7″.

My father emerged from the circle of black with a stern look on his face. He stood in front of Andrew, looking down on him as if he were a bug.

“Get him out of here,” my father seethed with a wave of his hand. In a quick turn, my father was glaring at me.

“See what you caused?” He all but raged in my face. I was used to his temper, and the outburst went unfazed, at least on the outside it did. On the inside, my heart deflated. I had little hope he would comfort me, but that would be a sign of weakness, and in his eyes, this was my fault.

After I was released, I went back to my room with Greyson in tow. He tried to follow me in even after I slammed the door in his face. As the door opened again, Greyson sauntered in and sat in a bean bag chair as I took my desk chair. Just like that, we sat analyzing each other. He had a blank expression but had to work hard not to allow his eyes to reveal the secrets of his soul. His eyes held sympathy, which was the one thing I didn’t need. Especially not from him of all people.

“He’s usually like that,” I answered his unasked question with a shrug. I could almost see the question on the tip of his tongue. Was my father usually like that to me? Cold and distant, blaming life on me? In a way, I became my father’s outlet from the world. He could blame me for anything, and he knew I’d take it with a blank expression.

“Let’s talk about it,” Greyson replied as he allowed his muscles to loosen. He leaned back in the bean bag and now actually looked human, instead of like the robots which usually get sent here. Merely by looking in his eyes, I could feel my walls breaking. He, unlike all those before him, wanted to know about my struggles and didn’t simply use me for the promotion that could come with “taming me.”

“No, thanks,” I replied in reflex. I would not break from just a look of pity from a man who would be gone in a month at most. None of them ever stay. I turned on the TV, and we fell asleep to an intriguing murder documentary.

The break-in was on everyone’s mind for the following days. My mother decided to go to Hawaii to escape the “suffocation of the house,” as she said. In reality, she was mad. The attention was on me and decided a vacation was the way to fix it. My father entered his office the night of the break-in and still hasn’t reopened the door, which left me alone with my thoughts and a new guard to get to know.

I got close to Greyson as we spent more time together. He was a quiet soul with a hard exterior that he had to work to keep up. From what I’ve gathered, he is the oldest of his siblings and has three younger sisters. So, in hopes of reclaiming his masculinity, he joined the secret service and got assigned to babysitting. He only told me the part about him having sisters, but my mind likes to find connections. I learned his likes and dislikes; he was a reader just like myself, but he preferred nonfiction, which to me is the way to fall asleep. I slowly allowed him into my world, but only what I allowed him to perceive. We both analyzed each other’s every move, which made everyday life interesting.

It was a Friday afternoon, and I stood in the kitchen, staring into the abyss that was our pantry. Nothing seemed good enough for my taste buds. I seemed to want cookies but would prefer not to burn the house down. Greyson came up behind me, leaning against the counter as he watched me glare at the health nut foods my mom keeps stocked.

“Do you know how to bake?” I asked, turning in Greyson’s direction. A small smile lit up his face as he pushed himself off the counter and into the pantry.

“One of my many talents,” Greyson responded as he rummaged through ingredients. I sat perched on the counter, silently admiring the way his muscles flexed under his t-shirt as he reached up for the flour. As Greyson baked, I stood back until I got bored and had to cause some mischief. My hands reached out and grabbed an egg and hid it behind my back before he noticed. When I had the perfect opportunity, and Greyson’s back was turned to me, I took the egg and flung it. The egg splatted exactly where I intended drenching Greyson’s brown, luscious locks. Greyson turned around with an expression of shock, and his mouth was wide open in disbelief. Greyson reached out for me and grabbed my arm, pulling me forward. He took the half-finished batter and dumped it on my head, creating a war. We raced around the kitchen, throwing food and laughing at each other. As I slid around the counter again, I failed to notice an egg smashed on the floor. My feet slipped out from under me, and before I knew it, a pair of hands grabbed onto my waist and held me up. We stood there staring into each other eyes, our faces slowly moving closer together. As I felt his breath on my face, there was a loud noise throughout the air. My mother was home. We pushed off each other, and each bent to clean up the mess of a kitchen we created.

After that event, my need to push him away before he got too close was starting to show through, and I seemed to start to close off while around him. I know I have deep-rooted abandonment issues with a mother who cares more about her friends than her family and a dad who is always working. So, in retaliation, I get rid of anyone who could become close, including bodyguards.

I was tired of being trapped within the confines of the four walls of the house, so I made my escape. This time, I was using a different window and the vines that stuck to the side of the house. I swiftly climbed down using the side of the house as support. My feet soon were able to reach the ground, and I took off running, blending myself into the darkness of the night.

As soon as I passed the gate, it was as if a flashback happened, and everything repeated. My arm was grabbed, and a cloth was put over my mouth and nose. I stopped breathing, praying that I didn’t suck in any of the chemicals, and tried to fight my way out. As I fought, my vision became blurry, and I lost control of every part of my body, one by one. Just like that, everything went black.

When consciousness started to come back to me, I slowly moved all parts of my body, my fingers, my toes, etc. When I had control of everything around me, I opened my eyes to reveal a room, and I lay atop a bed. The room was plain with nothing in it except a bed and a chair in the corner—no art or plants to give it any life. The walls were a cream color, and the bed and chair were white as if to replicate a hospital room. Across the bed was a door, but unluckily for me, it was locked. So, I sat on the bed, muscles taut, watching the door for any movement.

I fell asleep again after a couple of hours. I awoke due to a creak from the old wood door. There within the door, to no one’s surprise, stood Andrew. He had a proud smirk on his face as he stood tall. He was struggling to dominate the room and take the power within. I pushed one of my eyebrows up in question, hoping and praying for a reaction.

“So, how much is the ransom?” I questioned, examining my cuticles, which needed work.

“Fifty thousand dollars,” Andrew replied with a smug expression. That’s about a year’s worth of salary. I wish him the best of luck in getting it. My father is not someone to throw away money, especially when his daughter is involved.

Over the next few weeks, the tiny white room became my home. It was dreary and left me too much time to overthink. I was fed what could be compared to prison food, but that would be nice to prison food. I tried to escape a total of 5 times but failed each time at the gate that surrounded the compound. They had some darn good snipers hidden somewhere. It was easy to tell by Andrew’s demeanor he was planning to have already gotten paid. Each time he came to visit, his knuckles were clenched, and he seemed to almost be bent over from the anger flowing through his body.

“He’s not going to pay,” I told Andrew as he came in with my meal for the day. I lay on the bed with my legs crossed, lazing about. There was not much else to do, and it seemed I had already come up with every scenario of how this could go down, and most were not good. I realized that this was my fault. So, it seemed only fitting that I deal with the consequences. After all, I am the reason Andrew got fired.

“We will see about that!” Andrew seethed as he left the room, slamming the door in the process.

That night, the house was awoken by a round of gunshots. I knew immediately what was happening. Looks like dad finally got the balls to get his daughter back, I thought. My feet rushed to the door as I picked the lock with my last hidden bobby pin. I pushed open the squeaking door into an empty wooden hallway; luckily for me, I knew the way out, and everyone was already preoccupied.

First left, third right, careful of the broken wood… I repeated the directions to myself as I took them. My body was glued to the wall in hopes of blending in. Just as I turned yet another corner, I bumped into a wall that wasn’t there in my past explorations. My eyes went up, and I was met by the pair of blue eyes I’d been craving.

“Greyson,” I breathed out in a whisper as he grabbed me, pulling me into his chest. My head only reached his shoulder, but I welcomed the comfort he brought. He then pulled away and grabbed my hands, inspecting them before letting out a sigh of relief

“They sent fingers saying that they belonged to you,” Greyson explained, dropping my hands, and grabbing my face instead. He brought my face up to reach his before setting his forehead against mine. Butterflies erupted in my stomach as I almost wished for him to kiss me. I let myself become selfish and grabbed his face, smashing his lips to mine. Then the reality of the situation returned, and I reluctantly pulled away. I grabbed his hand, and together we escaped to the outside world.

The desire to turn around and see how he reacted to my attack almost took over my body, but my adrenaline prohibited it. We raced through the halls, me leading Greyson as he watched for any signs of a threat.

The sun was bright, and my eyes were unprepared for the attack upon them by the rays. To save myself, I stuck my head into Greyson’s arm. I could feel him chuckling, and I enjoyed being able to cause that emotion to spread across his face. As my eyes adjusted, I slowly removed my head to search the field. I hoped to see my father, but of course didn’t. A frown slipped onto my face as I took in the fact that even now, he wouldn’t be here for me.

A hand grabbed my chin and guided my face to look up at Greyson. “He’s in the van,” he said to reassure me. I looked up at him, slowly nodding before following the direction of his eyes to the van in question. A small smile broke through before I gained control over it. I grabbed Greyson’s hand and gently pulled him towards the truck to see if what he said was true.

Lo and behold, within the truck, sat my father, who looked more worn out than I had ever seen him before. When my father’s eyes landed on me, he jumped out of his seat, grabbed me, and pulled me to his chest.

As I stood in my father’s arms, the fear that this escape was just another dream took over my senses. I couldn’t move, and I went rigid. I couldn’t even blink as I feared when I did, I’d open my eyes to the cream room. Greyson sensed my dilemma and pried my body from my father. He cupped my face within his hands and stared into my eyes, searching for an explanation for my fear.

“When I wake up, you’ll be gone,” I confessed, looking to the ground.

“It’s real,” Greyson reassured me. I still doubted him, and he knew that. The next thing I knew, there was a slight pressure on my lips as he connected his with mine again. My eyes closed automatically, and I wrapped my arms around his neck. A second later, we both moved back.

“See? Real,” Greyson said with a grin, and I’m sure my face matched his.

Featured Image by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

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