There was perspiration on her skin as she looked up, at the large supermarket sign and the sun that glared down at her intensely.
Though the heat made her thirsty and seemed to drain her energy, she didn’t seem to mind. Emily was comforted by the mere fact she was another year older.I’m eighteen,
she thought, beaming with pride while she walked up to a stand and purchased a bottled water.
Physically she looked no different. There was still those wide, curious brown eyes that looked directly at anyone who passed by. The strands of brown hair she had pulled up into a ponytail practically shined in the light when she tilted up her head.
Emily’s skin was a light brown, a result of many days in the sun, days like this in which she would wonder the supermarket for hours.
At the age of sixteen Emily was emancipated from her foster family and had been living on her own since, working two jobs, living in a small, run down apartment.
Anyone who knew of her felt sorry for her – sorry that she didn’t remember anything about her past, that she lived alone and supported herself.But what’s there to be sorry about, really? I’m happy to be alive.
Emily took a large drink from the bottle and smiled. It was refreshing amongst all the heat and commotion of people.
“Elizabeth?” inquired a voice, a voice vaguely familiar to the girl.
She whipped around, eyebrows raised at the source, the name not familiar but the voice sending tingles through her body.
Making sure that the startled male wasn’t looking at someone else, she glanced behind her.
Sure enough – his gaze was fixed on her, eyes the same dark brown, wide as they took her in. Even his hair and the slight smile on his face was similar.
Feeling a bit uncomfortable and mistaken for someone else, the girl smoothed down the short sleeves of her yellow summer dress before looking at him and attempting a polite smile.
“I’m sorry, but I’m – that’s not my name. I’m Emily, not Elizabeth. I hope you find her though.”
Nodding her head, she turned back around quickly and began to walk away.
The male followed suit, grabbing her arm tightly.
“Stop – don’t touch me!” Emily exclaimed as she yanked her arm from his grasp and took several steps back, gasping.
There were tears running down his face and he stared at her with such love she nearly choked when he spoke.
“You’re Elizabeth – I know it. I feel it inside my heart when I look at you. This is going to sound insane but I’m…I’m your brother, Alexander. You have to believe me—“
Emily shook her head and took off, not wanting to hear another word.
She was scared. Her heart hammered in her chest, her legs shook, and every breath she took in was more forced than the last.I don’t know him. He doesn’t know me. I’m Emily, not Elizabeth! I don’t know him, I don’t know him!
Feeling panicked and confused, she fled from the supermarket and onto the streets of the city, near community buildings and malls.
Even as she denied what he’d said, the name registered with her just barely, like something trying to click in the back of her head. It was true that she had been brought into foster care when she was seven. It was true that she didn’t know who she was, had been given a new name and a new life. But that didn’t mean
that he was her brother, that she was Elizabeth…“Elizabeth! Stop!”
he screamed, so close behind her, sounding more panicked than she was, afraid of losing her.
At the sound of that name she stumbled – just a mere hesitation – and was sent tumbling to the ground, her bare skin making contact with the pavement.
Emily yelped in pain, her hands scraped, knees bleeding.
“Are you okay?” whispered Alexander as he kneeled next to her, reaching out his hand to help her up.
She slapped his hand away hastily, and stumbled to her feet, sucking in deep breaths and staring at him, her hair standing up in several directions.
The boy’s brown eyes darkened further and he frowned, balling his hands into fists at his sides. Yet no matter how upset he looked, he didn’t part his gaze from her.
“Don’t…please. Just – can I explain? I’ll explain everything if you listen. You have
to be Elizabeth. I saw the…scar on the back of your neck.”
Emily gaped at him, biting her lip, shaking her head in disbelief. She didn’t want him. She didn’t want to discover any of her past or what it entailed. She was Emily
. No one more, no one less.
“I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to know. I’m not Elizabeth. You’ve got the wrong person. I…I have parents and brothers and sisters,” she added hastily, lying through her teeth, shutting her eyes tightly.
She didn’t have to look to know that his expression had fallen. She could almost see a younger, childish version of him, crying.
“Are you…sure there’s no way?”
There was a long moment of silence and Emily bit her lip until it bled, the pain from her knees and hands distracting her.
When she opened her eyes again, he was closer, his hand almost on her face – she gasped and went to pull away.
Without warning, however, he grabbed her again, pulling her to him, hugging her so tightly she could barely breathe.
“It is you…it is…”
The moment Emily realized he was crying, her heart sank, and reluctantly she wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
He was comforting, inviting and warm, his arms not loosening around her for several minutes.
For those few minutes he shook from head to, whispering to her that everything was “okay”. That she was “safe now”.
“When we were just kids you were kidnapped. They held you for ransom. I know it sounds crazy, Eliz—Emily, but you have to believe me. We were separated when we couldn’t meet the demands for the money. That asked for billions, and we had it, but we didn’t get to you in time. They told us they’d drowned you and that you were dead. Gone.”
Several days later.
There was a phone ringing.
A phone…I don’t have a phone,
Emily thought sleepily, reaching through darkness for the source of the noise.
When she grabbed the cellphone and touched the speaker icon on the screen, Alexander’s voice filled the room.
“Eliz—Emily? We want to see you. All of us. No one believes me that it’s you, even though the press has gotten a hold of the story and it’s all over the papers…”
There was a pause, rustling of what sounded like papers and coughs. Emily sighed, burying her face into the flat white pillow that she slept on each night. The old mattress creaked in disagreement.
“You’re not safe at that place of yours. Come here, with us. We’ll take care of you. We’ll tell everything, show you pictures – we’ll prove it to you if you’ll only give us the time of day.”
There was a sigh, a moment of silence before she turned her head, peering at the bright screen in the darkness, lips trembling and tears trailing down her face.
Over the past few days she’d recalled bits and pieces of her past. Only short moments, bits of conversations or a face. But she’d seen Alexander – a younger, happier Alexander that tugged on her sleeves and led her through large gardens.
She knew too well that he was telling the truth. The thought of facing that truth, however, was unbearable. She had a whole family
that believed she was dead since she was six. It was so much to take in, and even though he’d given her the phone and had allowed the two of them to part ways, he’d been calling her every morning to inquire of her whereabouts and to be her to “come home”.
“Look…just…call me back, Eliz—Emily. Call me when you can. I promise we’ll protect you. I can’t ensure that you’re safe where you are. It could happen again, you know…someone could hurt you…”
Sitting up, she reached for the phone, falling off her bed and nearly answering it when she heard the dial tone.Alexander.
On the floor she shivered, the cold tiles waking the girl up completely.
The market place again. She was cautious, a red hoodie covering most of her small body, basket of fruit in her hands as she made her way around.
Emily navigated in the shadows, away from the sunlight that she usually strode towards daily.
She was quiet. She was reserved.
People could practically feel the waves of gloominess and fear that radiated from her with her head lowered and shoulders hunched.
She felt so distant from everything, everyone, from the people that sold her the items and from the people that bumped into her and mumbled apologies. Each stand was a potential threat to her. Each passerby could be Alexander or someone who wanted to take her hostage.
“I shouldn’t have gone out today…” she whispered, recalling that she’d spent the past few days inside, calling in sick to work and using up her vacation week for the other job.
Just as the words were ushered, a tall, dark skinned male stopped her in her tracks, knocking her back with the sheer force he bumped into her.
Startled, Emily looked up, blinking in surprise at the black eyes that looked down upon her.
He was grinning. She didn’t like his grin.
In fact, she didn’t like anything about him. The fact that he was dressed in nice suit attire, the fact that his hand was in one of his pockets, with a firm grip on…
Gasping, the girl began to scream before a hand clamped over her mouth from behind.
In the shadows, amongst all the noise of daily life, no one noticed.
No one heard her, saw her kicking and punching, trying to keep her grasp on the basket at the same time.
“Help!” she finally managed out, teeth sinking into the hand of the dark skinned male.
He growled, startled enough to release her for a moment, the other man preoccupied with barking orders into a cellphone.A moment was all she needed.
In an instant Emily was gone, pushing her way through people, tripping, falling, running.
It seemed to go on forever – she would believe herself to have gotten away until she saw the dark skinned man with the black eyes, his grin terrifying her and stopping her in her tracks.
She’d turn the other direction, run, trip, fall. Push people. Run some more. See him again. Turn another direction.
Emily didn’t notice that she had gone to the opposite end of the super market, the end that led out of the city and into the woods. The woods stretched on for miles, some of it reservation, other areas merely the wild not yet touched by technology or men.
When she began tripping stumps and branches, tumbling down a grassy hill, she finally realized she’d left the city and entered the forest.
She didn’t know if her predators were still close behind.
When she blinked, she saw their faces, as though engraved there long ago to strike fear into her being.
Each time she thought of being caught, she would run faster, only stopping to suck in deep breaths for continuing on.
It was night time when Emily stopped, crying, panting, the red hoodie tied around her waist and the basket empty of its contents. She still clinged to It even as she fell for what seemed like the last time.
She was exhausted. Covered in bruises. Cuts. Her ankles hurt, her legs were sore, and her throat burned.
The world blurred and the girl shivered, dropping the basket, falling to the forest floor, leaves gathering into her hair, dirt streaking her tanned skin.
Shivering as the cold night air sunk deep to her core, she managed to put on the red hood, curling into a ball, eyes shut tightly.
“Let them…find me, then.” She whispered, voice hoarse.
She was too tired to run anymore. Too scared to venture any further into the blackness of the forest.
Dots filled her vision and she thought she heard Alexander’s voice in the back of her head before everything went black.