I opened my eyes and suddenly felt the pain surging through my battered body. I whimpered before I could stop myself but since it went unpunished I knew I was alone in the basement area. I sat up on the table I had been lying on and winced in pain. I would have cried out but then I knew better than to upset him. I eyed the instruments that I could see on the nearby desk and shuddered as I saw blood, my blood, clinging to some. How had it come to this?
Oh yes, my fault, always my fault.
I looked over at the sink knowing that I needed to drink some water. I moved slowly and slid my legs off of the table. As I tried to put my weight through my legs pain shot up and down them and they collapsed beneath me. I grabbed the table for support and cried out in agony. I would have clamped my hands over my mouth due to the noise but they were gripping the table. I bit my lip to try and silence myself and took several deep breaths until the pain subsided a little. I tried to stand again but my legs gave way beneath me and I fell, knocking things from the table and hearing them clatter noisily on the floor.
I bit my lip realising that he must have heard the noise. Indeed now there were footsteps and the grating noise I always heard before the door opened. I tried to scuttle into a corner to hide but the pain was making me breathe heavily and feel physically sick. I had no choice but to stay near the table and await my punishment. I started to shake as I wondered what my punishment might be.
The key turned and the door was pushed open slowly. Unusual, it was usually thrown open before he ran down the stairs, did he have company today? Oh God if he did and I had made that noise then he would kill me! Well, no, not kill, he enjoys watching me suffer too much for that.
Footfalls on the stairs now, so slow, a new way to punish me? I curled slightly, hiding my face in my arms as he stepped into the room. “I am sorry… I didn’t mean to be noisy at all… Please don’t…” My voice trailed away as I looked up into a shocked face rather than his cold expressionless one.
I was seeing things surely? He would never let anybody see me let alone his best friend. I just stared and watched her expression change from surprise to concern.
Charlotte had long, dark hair which curled softly to frame her small face. Most of her face seemed to be taken up with large green eyes. Her dark clothes hugged her figure which is one I had always admired. It also showed off her pale but flawless skin and accentuated the glint of metal from her lip ring. I had always fancied her although I had never had the courage to tell her that. I think Mark liked her too but I wasn’t sure as he wasn’t the type to hide feelings. I just stared at the girl before me who just returned the gaze. Why on Earth would Mark let her down here?
She came forward and stretched out her arm. I shied away from her touch and winced as I did so. “Don’t touch me,” I almost begged. Her hand stopped and she looked at me before dropping it. She was staring at me as if I wasn’t real which is probably the same way I was looking at her.
The door banged upstairs and I knew then that she had innocently investigated the noise. I stared at her and I whimpered the word “Run!”
She didn’t though; she just kept staring at me. “Simon,” she whispered softly and I could have cried with pleasure at hearing my own name after so long. She turned to face the one coming briskly down the stairs. “Mark, did you know…?”
Mark looked a bit like me but then he was my brother after all. His shaggy blonde hair hung over his cold blue eyes. He was tall and thin whereas I was shorter and dumpier in my build. He was dressed now in figure hugging jeans and a skinny white t-shirt. I was dressed in the thin cotton clothes he provided for me.
“Of course I knew, idiot!” My brother snapped angrily, his lips a thin, angry line as he regarded his friend. I always feared my brother, well I had learnt to, but now I was scared for Charlotte. She didn’t know Mark like I did which was evident from her blank expression. “Now so do you so welcome to my dungeon, Charlotte!”
“No!” I almost screamed the word then followed it with, “you can’t keep her here. She has done nothing wrong!”
“When I want your opinion runt, I will ask for it!” He snapped, sharply kicking me so I cried out. He leant towards me and I felt my cheek sting as he slapped me so I fell silent with my head down. “Better!” I couldn’t help her now; I was powerless against my younger brother. I realised how wrong my own thought sounded but it was true none the less.
Charlotte stared at Mark in shock. “How can you do that to him?” she questioned, “to your own brother?”
Mark shrugged. “I own him and now I own you to so let’s get one thing sorted shall we?” He strode towards Charlotte and struck her with a length of pipe that he picked up from the table. Charlotte fell down, clutching at her arm and Mark grinned as she cried out in both shock and pain. “I ask the questions here.” He spun on his heels and left, the door locking behind him.
As the door closed and locked I put my head down. Getting myself trapped was one thing but to bring it on to someone else wasn’t good at all. Of all the people who could have been dragged into this situation Charlotte was a worst case scenario for me to consider. All because I had made a noise and the reason behind the noise was my wanting a drink. Oh, I could be so selfish at times. Mark was right; I brought this all on myself. I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts now that I hadn’t noticed Charlotte crawling to be beside me. Her soft touch made me jump, which made me whine in pain. I met her concerned gaze. “I… I am so sorry.”
Charlotte stroked the blonde hair from my face. “I had no idea that he was doing this to you. I thought you had just gone like he said. Simon, you should not be the one who is sorry down here.” She put an arm loosely around me, so that she was hardly touching me, and I rested my head on her shoulder. “What is going on here, Simon? I don’t understand why you are here and why he is doing this?”
“It is my fault; everything is always my fault,” I said quietly.
“No Simon, you are… Well, you are the victim.” She replied, frowning slightly. Charlotte looked about and saw the mattress in a corner and she half carried me over to it. My muscles screamed in protest but all she heard were gasps, the hot tears scorching silently down my face. She looked at me with a deep pity before going over to the sink. She came back with a rag, a bowl, and a glass which she held to my lips. “Here, drink this babe, and then I will get you cleaned up.” As I drank the water gratefully Charlotte walked to the cupboards and saw that everything medical she could have wanted was there. She raised a brow as she realised that Mark wanted me to heal. She returned with armfuls of supplies and painkillers that she watched me take.
Charlotte moved to peel the shirt from my body and she made a noise of horror as her eyes took in the various cuts, bruises, and marks littering my bare torso, plenty still oozing blood. She took my thin trousers off too, leaving me in just my boxers. Oddly though this didn’t leave me feeling exposed as her gaze swept over my body.
Gently she began to clean me and dress what wounds she could. She wrapped the small blanket around me and held me loosely against her side.
I leant against Charlotte and the selfish side of me was glad that I wasn’t alone here anymore and that I had someone to look after me. I tucked my arms around her waist slowly to see if she protested. When she didn’t seem to mind I relaxed even more against her. “He didn’t hurt your arm too much with the pipe did he?”
"Not too much; it’ll just be a bruise. I am more concerned about what he has done to you than I am by my arm. Does he do this all the time?”
I shook my head which made me grimace as pain radiated around my form. “It isn’t this bad all the time, Charlotte. I am here if he has had a bad day I guess.”
“I wish I had known. Mark had said you had just gone away for some reason he never explained and that we should forget you like you had forgotten us. I was confused by it all and never really dug very deep. Mark wasn’t concerned by it at all so I just kind of accepted it. Baby, I doubted you and trusted him and for that I am so sorry.”
“Everyone should forget me, I just don’t deserve anything.”
“That is so far from the truth, Simon.” Her fingers fluttered in my hair as she stroked it lightly. “You certainly don’t deserve what you are getting.” She was silent for a while, her fingers working their magic and making me drift towards sleep. “Sleep now, we can talk tomorrow and you can explain it all to me then.” My head slid into Charlotte’s lap and her hand continued to stroke my hair. “Sleep now, you’re safe, I am with you.”
For the first time since my imprisonment I fell asleep with a smile curling my lips. I felt so safe in Charlotte's embrace.
I smiled happily and waved a greeting as he came towards me. He smiled back and came to look down at the sketch pad that was sat on my knee. “It’s just an idea for a character that I had,” I said looking down at the picture of a girl all dressed in black with a shock of electric blue hair. “I haven’t got the story or anything but I wanted to draw it right away. She hasn’t even got a name yet but maybe I can do something with her and get into writing.”
He gave a hollow laugh. “Just what you need that; another string to your bow.”
I looked at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“Oh for Gods sake, Simon, you are just so fucking good at everything you would probably be a best seller overnight and show up my failings even more!” He looked at me levelly as he spoke while I just stared blankly, unable to comprehend his meaning. He frowned at me then stood up to pace away from me. “Is there nothing you can’t do?” He asked angrily. “How can I compete with someone like you? Someone who can do anything they want?”
I put aside the sketchbook and stood to cross to him. “There are many things I can’t do, Mark.” I was confused; I didn’t see us as competing at all. We were far too different from each other; not to mention that our interests were in other areas. I had always been the introvert with hardly any friends and he was the social butterfly with friends and relationships. Honestly, if nothing else, I envied that about him and so I decided to tell him. “Mark, I can’t make friends like you do and…”
He spun to face me, the knife that had appeared in his hand dragging over my chest making me stagger back in pain and shock. I stared at him wild eyed as I felt the warm liquid spill against my skin. “All I ever hear is why can’t you be more like Simon? I am so sick of hearing it trust me.” He stepped towards me and I shrank back in sudden fear. He smirked at me, obviously enjoying his moment of power. “People can’t ask me that if you are dead now can they?”
I didn’t know what to do but the blood loss was starting to make feel dizzy. I looked at my brother. “I… Mark? I never meant for you to be competing with me and I am sorry if you feel that…” My knees gave way then and I slid to the floor where I looked up at him. “There must be another way?”
He drew the knife slowly up my arm, leaving a trail of red as blood seeping from the broken skin. I whimpered and he struck me hard across the face. “I dislike that noise, Simon.”
I bit my lip. “Sorry?” I mumbled unable to look away from the knife that I was sure was going to kill me. I couldn’t believe my own brother was the one holding the handle with so much hate in his eyes. “Mark… Please…”
He reached to tug at my hair, forcing our blue eyes to meet. “This is the only way I can be out of your shadow,” he told me in a way that suggested he had been plotting this for a while. Mark raised the knife and I closed my eyes giving a whimper of fear. He struck me again and growled. “I told you about that noise.” Before I could respond to that in any way I felt a sharp pain in my side as the knife dove deep inside of me. I screamed louder than I thought possible but his free hand clamped over my lips to silence me. The pain continued, white flashes and a blinding light shot from my side and I felt the hot tears flowing down my face.
Then suddenly everything went black and I felt nothing which was a blessing.
“And then you woke up here?” Charlotte asked as I showed her the angry looking barely healed scar in my side. She reached out and touched it gingerly, drawing her hand away as I inhaled sharply with a jolt of pain. “I am so sorry baby, I won’t do that again.”
I looked at her and shook my head. “No, please don’t… I like… Ah… It really isn’t a problem.” I bit my lip and looked away, colouring slightly as I had been about to say that I liked her touching me. As true as that statement might have been the last thing that I wanted to do was to freak the girl out with my feelings towards her. So instead I drew my knees to my chest and hugged them before continuing with my story.
“I woke up down here but I didn’t know where I was then. I was in a lot of pain and I cried out but he struck me so hard that I nearly passed out again. He told me that he had found something that I couldn’t do and that was to die. He said he couldn’t let me go though and so I was his prisoner here forever. He said that he would not put up with any noise or questions. I get punished for any of that along with what he refers to as baby noises when he is with me.”
I took a deep shuddering breath as I dragged up the memories of when I first came here and before I understood it was my fault. “I argued that he couldn’t keep me here and he beat me until I changed to pleading but then he beat me even more. He told me that it was my own fault for eclipsing him with my perfection and also for not dying. He had to keep me here because of that and so he was going to teach me to be the perfect captive.”
“When he left I found all the medical stuff and I tried to patch myself up but it seems I didn’t do a good job. Mark had stitched it up to stop the bleeding but he never really wanted to pain to stop so he did nothing else.” I glanced at the scar and sighed. “He is a trained nurse you know so he can do these things.” I rested my head on my knees. “I could never do that and I was so proud of him. Like he said though, because of me nobody even noticed him doing that.”
“That just isn’t true,” Charlotte said, her hand skating over my back. “Simon, we had a party for him when he graduated, don’t you remember?”
“Yes, but I had just got the job at the network the very same day, remember? So it became a joint celebration and so his achievement vanished before his very eyes. This is the way it always went so, you see, he is right Charlotte, and I am a bad brother.”
“This isn’t your fault,” Charlotte told me as she moved to give me a hug. “I would do anything to have a brother like you.” She squeezed me gently and I turned slightly to loop my own arms around her small frame. “Mark’s insecurities cannot be your fault.”
Oh, she would learn to blame me in time just like I had done.
I sighed then as I hoped that she wasn’t going to have to learn the lesson in quite the same way. I couldn’t watch Mark hurt Charlotte, I would rather die. Unless this was actually the plan and Mark’s newest game to mess with my head. Maybe Charlotte wasn’t trapped here by chance and Mark had sent her. Maybe Charlotte was the thing going to drive me over the edge; the final torture. I leapt back with a small cry, actually believing my own paranoia.
“Simon?” Charlotte frowned as I cowered away from her. “I am not going to hurt you, baby.”
‘Mark’s best friend’. The voice in my head hissed the warning and I shrank back further. “You are the final nail in my coffin,” I murmured in the end and she stared at me in a stunned silence. “You were sent!”
Charlotte shook her head gently, her dark hair wafting with the movement. “Why would he send me?”
My arguments faltered in my head and I blurted out the first thing I thought of which was, “because you are the one thing that I love enough to die for!”
I staggered back, my hand clamped over my mouth. “I didn’t mean… Oh, God, Charlotte, I…” My voice trailed away and I looked down rather than meet her green eyes. I looked up after a few moments of silence out of curiosity but she hadn’t moved from her position. She was just staring at me although her expression did not give away her thoughts. I shuffled my feet, squirming a little under her steady gaze. “Charlotte? Are you all right?”
Charlotte just inclined her head slightly in reply and kept her eyes locked to mine. “What did you mean by that?”
I stared at her dumbly, wishing something about her expression would tell me what she wanted to hear. “I mean that you… Well, that is that I…” I sighed and decided that now I would have to come clean and reveal my feelings. I turned away before speaking very quickly. “Charlotte, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for you and I would do anything to keep you safe.” I sat down heavily on the floor as I thought this through. “Except I brought you here and now… And now I am what has put you in this danger.” I lay my head on my knees. “I have failed again; I really am good for nothing.”
Charlotte crossed the room and sat next to me. “Si, look at me.” I looked into her green eyes and she put a hand on my cheek to hold the eye contact. “Mark knows nothing about your soft spot, trust me. How could he know something that even I had no clue about? I wish I had known that a while ago Simon, but… Oh, never mind. Look as for failing I don’t see me being here with you as a failure.” Her fingers stroked gently at my skin and she smiled softly. “You need someone to share this with and baby, I am happy to be that someone.”
I felt confused by that, why would she want to share pain? Was it simply because she was the only thing between me and my brother? I stared at her and bit my lip in frustration as her thoughts remained a secret from me. I was still slightly scared about the possibility that Charlotte was sent here. Was she toying with my emotions now? Building me up before a fall so to speak?
“You are shaking.” She said, continuing to stroke my cheek. “I am not here to hurt you and he did not send me.” Charlotte let her hand drop in order to grab mine so that she could hold it to her chest. “Cross my heart,” she muttered as she moved her other hand to clasp at my wrist.
I just stared at her as I felt that steady heart beat underneath my fingers. I believed her but then you would believe one who spoke with such sincerity. If she was here as some kind of spy I almost welcomed it. Somehow, the pain she would cause was justified by the contact. “I believe you, Charlotte,” I whispered, feeling myself relax against her grip on my wrist. “I honestly do.” I didn’t quite believe her yet to be honest and I wasn’t sure what she could do to convince me.
“Good,” she stated simply as she drew me into a hug. I winced slightly as her arms tightened around me. She instantly loosened her hold. “Sorry Si.”
“What the fuck do you two think you are doing?” Mark’s angry voice made us spring apart guiltily and turn to face him.
“I lock you down here for a day and cabin fever sets in and causes you two to grope at each other!” Mark said to Charlotte before pointing to me. “And you grope that no less.”
“He has a name.” Charlotte shot back with a glare. Charlotte grabbed my hand and smiled confidently at me, maybe to relieve my shaking which had started again. “For your information a hug is not the same as a grope!” Neither Mark or Charlotte saw me look down in dismay as I had been hoping she had feelings for me other than pity. I disguised a sigh and looked into her still smiling face showing that she didn’t know she’d crushed my glimmer of hope. I was back in hell and even though her hand was entwined with mine I felt alone once more.
Mark turned and grabbed that length of pipe before bringing it down hard on our linked hands. “We will have none of that!” he announced as we both howled in pain and our hands separated. He lips twisted in satisfaction and then he turned his attention fully to me. “Here is another thing to add to the list of things you have stolen from me. My best friend. Unbelievable.” He brought the pipe down hard against my shoulder and I gave a small cry which warranted a slap. I fell silent then. “I will have to think up a suitable punishment for that.”
“He didn’t steal me from you,” Charlotte stated. “You lost me as a best friend when you locked me down here!”
"Whose fault was it that you came down here?” Mark said, turning to Charlotte. “Who made a noise your curiosity had to investigate? Hardly my fault now is it?”
“You locked the door!” Charlotte persisted and got rewarded with a blow to the side of her head from the pipe.
“No!” I squealed as I tried to get between the two. “Take it out on me; you know it is my fault!” I looked behind me at Charlotte who had put her hands on the floor, trying to steady herself following the blow. I turned back to Mark. “None of this is down to her,” I murmured as a plea. “We both know it was all down to me in the end.”
“We do but she doesn’t see it that way and that needs changing.” He reached over me and dragged Charlotte to her feet and over to the table. He cuffed Charlotte’s hands and feet to the table before Charlotte realised what was happening. Mark looked at the variety of instruments while I rushed to Charlotte’s side. “Don’t even think about helping her," Mark said in a low warning tone.
I looked in Charlottes eyes and could have wept at the fear I saw there. “I am… I am so sorry for this.”
“You are not responsible for this Si, I won’t be blaming you.”
“Oh but you will,” Mark said as he turned back with his arms full of various things.
“How do you work that out?” Charlotte asked with a frown.
“Simply because he is going to be the one who does it to you,” Mark said with a gleam in his eye. “That is the only way you will see the truth that my brother is to blame for everything.”