Charlotte couldn't have been any happier with her new boyfriend, Kyle. She loved that he wasn't shallow, that he couldn't give a damn about her crooked teeth, lifeless hair or the permanent dark circles under her eyes. No. The only thing that Kyle cared about was her 'beautiful heart'. He'd told her himself, and the memory of it was enough to put a smile on Charlotte's chapped lips.

They'd been sitting in the park, just watching life go by. It had been a warm day, and the sounds of laughter and dog barks filled the place. Charlotte hadn't been smiling though. She was sweating like mad and hiding behind her hair, afraid that the sun would cause another nasty rash if its light hit her face. Lord, she had sensitive skin.

A group of girls walked by and she envied how toned and tanned they were in their short shorts and crop tops. She envied how long their legs were and how their golden hair bounced with each step.

'Please, let them not see me.' she thought, feeling disgusting.

Kyle had noticed her discomfort and pulled a strand of her mousy hair behind her hair. 'Hey, what's wrong?'

'Nothing. I-I feel like everyone's looking at me.'

Kyle smiled.

'What's so funny? I'm serious. I feel like a freak. I sometimes wonder what made you want to ask me out in the first place.'

Yes, she really had been wondering this for quite a while. It was just too much of a mystery to her as to why Kyle, with his beautiful chestnut curls and dimpled smile, would want to be with someone like her.

Kyle stopped smiling. Charlotte could feel herself melting under the gaze of his chocolate-coloured eyes. He placed his hand on hers and said, in the most sincerest of tones, 'You shouldn't feel that way, Lottie. You want to know why I fell for you? It's because I know that you've got a beautiful heart.' he brought her hand up to his lips and brushed his lips against the knuckles. 'It's what's inside that counts to me, Lottie. Everything else is trivial.'

Charlotte continued to smile at that sweet, sweet memory as she got ready to go to Kyle's 'd been a couple for exactly a year now and she'd enjoyed every second of their time together. She felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

...

Kyle's house still disturbed Charlotte to some degree. It seemed that, to Kyle, no room was complete without a skull, an anatomical model or some unidentifyable specimen in a jar full of formaldehyde. An entire bookshelf in the living room was dedicated solely to medical journals and old textbooks on human pages were worn and falling out.

Charlotte knew that it was because Kyle was studying to become a doctor, specifically a surgeon, but that fact still didn't make the skeleton in his room, called Max, any less freaky.

'You alright?' he said, passing her an icy drink. It was fresh lemonade, her absolute favourite. She gulped it down in one go.

'Yeah. I just hate your skeleton.'

Kyle chuckled. 'I thought you'd have warmed up to him by now.'

'I don't think that will ever happen.' Charlotte giggled, taking a seat on his bed. 'So what's the plan for tonight?' she asked.

Kyle broke into a smile. 'I'd tell you, but I'd rather it be a surprise.'

'Oh, please, Kyle. The suspense is killing me.'

Kyle knelt down in front of Charlotte and took her hands into his own. He looked up at her. 'Hmm, well, let's just say that tonight, your heart will be mine.'

There was a moment of stunned silence. And then they both broke out into laughter.

'God, you're so cheesy!' she said, and then bent down to kiss him. 'That's one of the things I love about you.'

'Well, I do try to make myself lovable.'

'Mmm, and you succeed. And for the record...' Charlotte lowered herself so she could whisper in his ear, '...my heart is already yours.'

'Ahaha, now look who's the cheesy one.'

Charlotte smacked his head jokingly. 'I can always take it back.'

Kyle wrapped his arms around Charlotte's waist. A contented smile was plastered on his face. 'Don't. I'm happy you said that.'

Charlotte smiled back at Kyle and stroked his soft hair. She was feeling very euphoric, but also very sleepy all of a sudden.

'Kyle?'

'Yes, Lottie?'

Her eyelids felt heavy and Kyle's face began to blur. She was beginning to breathe very deeply.

'Kyle, I feel really sleepy. I think I'm going to...'

her voice trailed off as she slipped into unconsciousness.

...

When Charlotte awoke, she was still slightly drowsy. That drowsiness quickly vanished and was replaced with panic once she realised that she was tied to a chair in a dark, cold room. She tried to get lose but coarse rope dug into her delicate skin, making her wince. She tried screaming but she was gagged with a foul-tasting piece of material.

The tears in her eyes made everything hazy but that didn't stop her from noticing that someone was standing in the corner. She couldn't see the person's face, but she recognised the silhouette. The tears increased and she prayed that it wasn't who she thought it was.

When Kyle stepped into the dim light, she felt as if her heart would break. Was this the surprise he was talking about? Was this some cruel prank?

'No need to look at me like that, Lottie.' He removed the gag from her mouth, and Charlotte let it all out.

'What the hell is this, Kyle?! Some fucking prank?'

Kyle was silent for a heartbeat. 'You really don't give me enough credit, you know. A prank? You think this is a prank? I'm not twelve, Lottie.'

She rolled her eyes. 'Okay, then what is this?'

'What do you think this is.?' Kyle asked, taking a scalpel from out of his pocket.

Charlotte paled at the sight of the blade. 'Oh, shit.' The tears continued to fall from her eyes. 'So... it was all a lie, wasn't it? When you said you said you loved me?' she laughed bitterly. 'I should've known. And now you're going to hack me to pieces, am I right? You sick bastard.'

Kyle flinched, which surprised Charlotte because she hadn't expected him to be hurt by her words.

'It wasn't a lie. I really do love you, Lottie. You're truly beautiful, and I want to showcase how beautiful you are to other people.'

'What? I-I don't understand what you mean, Kyle.'

Kyle sighed. 'I realised that true beauty can only come from within. How good someone looks on the outside, is nothing compared to the potential beauty on the inside. I hear people everyday talking about perfect teeth and pretty hair, but such things just don't compare to a strong set of lungs... or a healthy heart. These are the things that should be awed just for the fact that they keep us alive. You probably don't care, but the level of detail that goes into your circulatory system is astounding.' Kyle smiled. 'And that's why I'm so happy that you said your heart is mine..'

Everything seemed to fall into place and Charlotte was speechless. Her throat was dry and her stomach felt uneasy, like she'd throw up at any second.

'You're going to take my heart?' the words didn't sound real.

Kyle placed his hand against her chest, making Charlotte more aware of how hard and fast her heart was beating. 'It's so strong...so unlike hers.' Kyle whispered. His eyes glazed over as he continued, more to himself than to Charlotte, 'She was fucking hideous when I opened her up. Her lungs were black with tar, and her liver was barely recognisable. You'd think she'd be pretty inside, being a model and all, but she was hideous. Looks can be so deceiving.'

'You've done this before?! Kyle, listen to me, you don't have to do this again. I'm ugly inside too, okay? Kyle, this isn't funny, just let me go!' Charlotte began to scream, so Kyle had her gagged once again.

'No, Lottie. I know you won't disappoint. And you know what? I think your heart can wait. I want to see the rest of you too.'

Muffled screams filled the room as Kyle stuck his scalpel in Charlotte's abdomen. Her eyes bulged and the rope dug deeper into her skin as her body contorted from the pain. Before she could even exhale, Kyle was dragging the scalpel down, tearing the flesh of her belly with so much ease it was as if Charlotte was made of paper. The harsh rope continued to draw blood from her wrists and ankles as she squirmed. Charlotte prayed that she would pass out. She was in hell.

'Look, Lottie, at how rich the colour of your blood is. It's practically wine.'

Charlotte didn't want to look. She focused on the orange light of the lightbulb that dangled from the ceiling.

'I'm going to put my hand in you now, Lottie...'

Oh, Lord, no.

The feeling was indescribable. It felt weird. Unwanted. Intrusive. Sore. His cold hand caressing her innards. He reached inside to clutch her stomach and gave it a hard squeeze. The bile rose up to Charlotte's throat and, with the gag still in her mouth, she began to choke on her own vomit. The acrid taste made her feel even more sick, and her head began to spin. Almost mercifully, Kyle pulled the gag out if her mouth.

'There, there. Let it all out, Lottie.'

'Fuck you! Why don't you just rip my heart out already!' Charlotte spat.

Kyle laughed. 'Wow. I didn't expect you to be so eager. Don't worry, babe. I'll get to that part once I'm done with your intestines.'

Intestines? Charlotte felt delirious. How had things come to be like this? She knew it was a waste of energy, but she let out another scream.

...

She gasped. Suddenly, it was dark. It took her eyes some time to adjust, but eventually she saw that she was in Kyle's room. In his bed, to be specific. She quickly sat up and checked her belly for signs of injury, but found nothing. Her shoulders relaxed and she sighed in relief. It was all just a dream.

'More like a nightmare.' she muttered to herself. She wiped the sweat off her forehead and got out of bed to open the lights. Everything was normal. The freaky skeleton, Max, was still grinning in the corner of the room. Charlotte had never been so pleased to see him. She could quite literally have kissed his teeth.

The door opened and Kyle came in, snacks in hand. 'You're awake.' he said, smiling. When Lottie didn't respond, the smile was replaced with a look of concern. 'What's up? You look as if you've seen a ghost.'

Charlotte pulled Kyle into a hug and squeezed him as hard as she could. 'I'm fine. I just had a bad dream. It was only a dream.'