Chapter 3...

She could feel her heartbeat quicken with every step, her anxiety rising and rising. Her feet felt heavy and she stopped for a moment and let her uncle pass her. He took a few hesitant steps forward and once he was past her, she began to move again. They walked together, every few seconds, Natalie checking to see that Aidan was still at the bottom of the stairs. She kept remembering in her head how she had grabbed his arm so quickly. She had frightened him and probably hurt him a little. Would there be a bruise? The thought made her chest tighten and she wanted nothing more than to scream. No. No. No.

The first door was the bathroom. Joshua glanced at Natalie quickly before slowly opening the door. Nothing special was there. It was just a bathroom. Joshua went room by room, checking the closet, the master bedroom, the attic, another closet. He couldn't understand what she was so upset about. The last door was Aidan and Natalie's room. When Joshua reached out for the door handle, he could hear Natalie's breath catch in her throat. He hesitated for a moment and then twisted the handle and opened the door.

The bay window was open, the white curtains fluttering in the wind. Joshua entered the room and closed and locked the window. He turned to Natalie with a comforting smile.

"Natalie. I'm sorry, but there isn't anything up here." He said. She frowned and stared at the worn carpet. "I think you just had a nightmare, okay? Nothing's here." He went to hold her again, but she tore away from him and locked herself in the bathroom.


Her chest hurt so badly with the pain of wanting to scream. She wanted to scream so loud the whole world would hear her, but when she opened her mouth to try, she could only sob. She dug her fingernails into her palms and released them slowly. Then she did it again. And again. And again…When she looked up from her knees, the room suddenly seemed so small. It was as if the walls were closing in on her. She turned quickly and pounded on the door. Let me out. Please God let me out.

"Natalie, unlock the door." Came a quiet whisper. She stopped her pounding and remembered that no one was keeping her there. She unlocked and opened the door and found her cousin and her uncle sitting outside the room. With shaky hands she took her pen and pad out of her pocket.

I'm so sorry, Aidan.

The boy looked at her in confusion and shook his head. He smiled at her and reached for her shaky hands and held them softly between his small hands. Joshua once again felt out of place; Aidan simply understood Natalie, he knew what she was thinking and how to comfort her. Why could no one else get it?

"Natalie, have you taken any of your anxiety pills today already?" Joshua asked, trying to push his many thoughts out of his head. She held up one finger and fumbled in her pocket for the bottle. It was filled with little white pills a little less than half way full. Aidan took it from her, popped the top and took out one of the little pills and handed it to Natalie before getting up and moving to the bathroom to get her a cup of water. When he returned with it, she quickly downed the pill before pulling her knees to her chest.

That night, Aidan slept in his parent's bedroom, Natalie lying at the foot of the bed in a sleeping bag wide awake. If she felt herself drifting off, she would get up and walk back and forth in the hallway or chew on her bottom lip or clench and unclench her hands. Anything to stay awake. Anything to not see that in her head. Anything.

Aidan woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of her pacing. He prepared to get up and quiet her, until he heard her words again in his head, "Don't say a word." If he moved, he would wake his parents and they would see and she would be mad at him. Aidan couldn't bear the thought, so he rolled over quietly and tried to ignore the sounds she made in her desperate attempts to stay awake.

Natalie sat in the Fellowship Hall picking at the edges of her nails that were mostly bitten down completely. She sat with her knees to her chest, trying not to think or feel anything. She just wanted her mind to stop, to just be numb for awhile so she didn't have to feel anything. Her computer and notebooks lay untouched beside her. She was afraid to write it down yet. It scared her too much. She was too confused still.

A draft blew over her and she heard the main door to the building close quietly. She didn't look up, continuing to focus on her nails. A shadow poured over her, blocking the poor lighting from the old double lights. Her senses exploded. She felt wrapped in his smell, covered in his sight, smothered by his deep voice.

"Hey Nat, you haven't changed much." She was on her feet in seconds. She dashed by the kitchen and made it all the way to the bathrooms when he caught up with her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her to his side, making it look as if they were walking arm and arm.

"Natalie." Allan walked out of the main office, papers in hand, looking surprised at the strange man in front of her.

"Hi," He introduced himself, "I'm Natalie's father; it's nice to meet you."

"I'm Allan; I'm the new pastor here." Allan shook hands with the stranger. His hands were freezing cold and when he looked toward Natalie, she refused to even look at him. Something seemed wrong. They walked off before he could make any more conclusions. But he made up his mind to say something to Janet when the stranger steered Natalie into the handicapped bathroom and locked the door.

He ran to the woman's office. "Jan, there's a man here claiming to be Natalie's father, and he's in the bathroom with her." Aidan jumped off the couch and ran for the door, but Allan caught him seeing Janet's panicked look.

"Oh my God." She muttered grasping at the phone.

"Janet, what is it?" Allan asked. She looked up at him as she dialed 9-1-1.

"Natalie. When she was little, her father abused her." Janet said. Aidan was struggling in Allan's arms, desperately trying to run to Natalie's rescue. Janet's voice was echoing in the background, calling the police. Allan knelt down to Aidan's height and held him squarely by the shoulders.

"Aidan, I know you don't like me, and that's fine. I know you're worried about Natalie, so am I, I swear. But you can't help her right now, okay? The best thing you can do for Natalie is to stay here until the police come, because if you go after her, she'll hate herself, Aidan." The words poured out of Allan's mouth before he realized he was even talking. Surprisingly, Aidan backed away from the door and sat down in the corner, beating his arm rhythmically against the carpet. Allan left the room and walked back out to the foyer of the main office, staring at the bathroom, completely understanding how Aidan felt.

"Well, well, look at you." He said stroking her hair softly, "You've grown up to be quite beautiful. You look so much like your mother." She cringed away from his touch, backing up into the wall and wishing she could be part of the wall and not herself. "Oh, what's the matter? You didn't used to run away from my touch, you used to wait for me." The bile rose in her throat and she swallowed it down. He pulled her close to him, a hand on the back of her head. "Don't worry, your father's here now. I won't let them separate us again."

She couldn't understand. Why did he say such things? Was he conning himself into thinking she missed him? Or was this just another sick game? She struggled against him, but he just laughed and slammed her forehead into the wall behind her. When he turned her to face him again, she could feel the cold, wet slipping down the side of her face and she began to feel sick again. Every movement she made felt so difficult. There was no escape. Just like then. Nothing changes.

He laid her down on the cool tile floor. As she felt his hands on her blouse, the tears welled up in her eyes and as he continued further down, she couldn't control her crying. He laughed again and moved up to kiss her, licking the tears off her face. "Poor little dear." She felt the tightness in her chest again, and she cried harder. "But you can't do anything can you? My little mute." He laughed. Why did he have to laugh? "I dare you. I dare you to scream." He said. And he repeated it over and over again as his hands moved down.

She looked up at his face, opened her mouth and screamed with all her might. And for once, sound came from her throat.

AN: Unfortunately, it's a little shorter than I really meant it to be, but I'm pleased with it. This is the story that I'm currently using as means to work out my writer's block, so if it's a little choppy in places, I apologize. Constructive critism is loved if you should feel the need. Review and I'll return the favor (eventually, psych has me really bogged down). Thanks to everyone who's supported this so far!