A Stolen Life - A Memoir Part 2
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Since my return back into the world, I find myself collecting pinecones. I ask the people I know now when they go on trips to bring me back a pinecone. I have pinecones from Lake Placid, Maine, and Oregon. My therapist and I finally solved my obsession. A pinecone was the last thing I touched before I was taken away by Phillip. A hard and sticky pinecone was my last grip on freedom before eighteen years in captivity.
My head feels like it's spinning. I think I must have fallen asleep. When I come awake, we have stopped again. It is still daytime. The man tells the other pa.s.senger that we are home and then whispers something else that I can't hear. I still can't see the other pa.s.senger but can hear someone exit the car. The man that grabbed me tells me to be quiet and I won't be hurt. He says I need to be very quiet or I will upset his very aggressive dogs. I do not want to do anything to anger him or the dogs. He seems big to me. He says he is going to take me in the house and for me to be quiet and not say a word. He throws a blanket over my head and leads me somewhere. I want to go home. My brain feels less foggy than it did before. I tell myself I am having a dream and any minute I will wake up and my mom will be there to hold me and tell me it was all just a bad dream. But of course this is reality I must survive. I don't ever remember having a nightmare quite this vivid. I was afraid of ET for a while when I first saw the movie. I used to think that ET would come to my house and be all dressed up like when the little girl in the movie dressed him; in my dream, he was mad at me for that for some reason. That was a crazy dream but nothing as scary as this.
When we are inside the strange house, he takes off the blanket and instructs me to sit on the wicker sofa. He is a very tall man. He has very light blue eyes and brown hair that is thinning on the top a bit. His nose is kind of long and his skin is a bronze color. It looks like he spent too much time in the sun. He does not look like a bad guy. He looks like a normal guy. Like any ordinary guy you would see in everyday life. But he is not! He couldn't be ... could he? He shows me a black thing with metal ends that look sharp. He calls it a "stun gun" and he says he will use it again if I try to get away. He turns it on and I hear the strange zapping sound I heard before when my body would not work. The sofa I'm sitting on has a lot of cat hair. I look up and I see a cat sitting on a was.h.i.+ng machine. The cat looks like a Himalayan Persian tortoisesh.e.l.l and there is another one that looks like a very fat, tabby torty. I ask if I can pet them. He says if they come to me, then I can. One comes over and I give it a pet. Its hair feels silky and real. I think this cat is the only thing that feels real right now; everything else feels like a nightmare but this is too real to be a dream. The man says to follow him.
Looking back on that day, feelings of dread come to mind. I was eleven years old, still very much a kid. I was very scared and alone. I didn't know what was going to happen and if someone had told me what I would be enduring for the next eighteen years, I would never have believed them. I had no idea what was going to happen to me. What this man had in mind for me was like a foreign language. I had never been subjected to any form of s.e.xual abuse before, hadn't ever heard the words either. My only reference to s.e.x was what I had seen on TV or movies and then acted out when playing Barbies, which would be in the form of Barbie and Ken laying in the bed together side by side. That is what I thought "s.e.x" was. I know-silly, right? But that is the truth. My aunt Tina says that I asked her once how babies were made and she explained it to me. I do not remember asking her this question and I don't remember her answer to me. Even if I had understood or remembered what she told me, it still would not have prepared me for what Phillip did to me. No amount of preparation could have helped me understand why another human being would do what he did to another human being, a little girl, for that matter. I still don't get it.
The Secret Backyard
I follow the man. I don't have a choice. There is nowhere to run. There is nowhere to hide. I have no idea where I am. Everything is turned upside down. All I can do is wait for my mom to come and find me. I wish I could be back at home right now. I would even like to hear a criticism from my stepdad Carl; anything familiar would be okay. Anywhere other than being here with this stranger that has hurt me with the stun gun. When we arrive at the bathroom in this stranger's house, he closes and locks the door. The shower is running and the strange man says that he wants me to take my clothes off. No, I say! Why does he want me to take my clothes off? I am very self-conscious of my body. The man says if I do not do it myself, he will do it for me. I am too scared to move, my body is shaking, so I do what is easy: I just stand there. He pulls down my pants and takes off my s.h.i.+rt. I am naked and very embarra.s.sed. He stuffs all my clothes, shoes, and backpack in a bag. He doesn't notice the tiny ring on my pinkie. I am relieved. I was afraid he would take that, too. He takes off his clothes and I try not to look. He asks if I have ever seen a naked man before and I answer no. He says that's hard to believe at my age. I have never seen a naked man before and know that I'm not supposed to look. The strange man tells me to look at him. I glance real quickly and want to start laughing in spite of my fearfulness. His private part looks so funny. In spite of myself, I smile, sometimes I laugh when I'm nervous; I don't mean to, it just comes out. The man says to touch it. It is small and squishy. The man says to make it grow. In my mind I think this man is crazy. This is the strangest weirdest man on the planet! I do not want to touch his private part, but the man insists, so I hold it in my hand. It is soft and paler than the skin around it. He says that's enough and tells me to get into the shower. I want to resist, but the man pushes me into the shower. He gets in the shower, too. He tells me to wash up and hands me the soap. I want to be asleep in my own bed not here in the shower with this strange man. I do as he tells me, not knowing what else to do. He then asks me if I have ever shaved my underarms and v.a.g.i.n.a. I say no, I haven't. I think to myself, this man wants me to do the exact thing that I have wanted to ask my mom if I can do, but why does he want me to do it in front of him? My upcoming field trip was going to be to a water park and I had been wanting to ask my mom if it was okay if I could shave my armpits and around my legs. I was embarra.s.sed to be seen with all that hair, but I also didn't know how to ask my mom. The night before, I remember going to her bedroom wanting to ask her "the question." But instead I just sat there and never asked. I wonder what my mom would have said if I had asked her "the question" last night.
Now I am with this stranger who is asking me strange questions and all I can think about is my mom. My mom must be worried. Has anyone told my mom that I was taken by some stranger? How will she find me? The man shaves my armpits and legs and then he says he's going to shave my v.a.g.i.n.a hair. Why? I think to myself. When he's done, he says I can get out of the shower. I feel like I am in a nightmare that I have no control over. Silent tears start spilling over my cheeks. They feel hot against my cold skin. I start to s.h.i.+ver. I am so cold. I try to stop the tears. I tell myself I must be brave. It feels like my life is not my own anymore. My whole body feels heavy and I just want to collapse. This cannot be real, I tell myself. It's only a dream. I will soon wake up in my own bed. The man hands me a towel. I gladly wrap myself in it. It feels warm and safe. I want to bury my head in the towel. The feeling of safety the towel creates brings memories of when my mom would wrap me up after my baths-the floodgate in me opens and my silent tears become giant sobs. The man looks like he doesn't know how to respond; he tells me to calm down and be quiet, that he is not going to do anything more today. The man takes me in his arms and offers comfort. I do not want comfort from this awful man, but there is no one else here and I reluctantly lean into what comfort he gives. Up until now I have not cried one time. Only on the inside. Now I feel like a rabbit being comforted by a lion. I am so scared. My tears continue to run down my cheeks; I can feel them wet and warm. They once again become silent tears running down my face into nothingness. The man is saying things, but I'm not listening. The man speaks again in a louder voice, I become afraid because his voice is stronger; I make an effort to listen. He says he's going to take me somewhere else and that I must be very quiet or I will get in trouble; if I'm quiet and a good girl, everything will be fine. I ask him if I can put my clothes back on. He chuckles and says no. I ask him when I can go home. He says he doesn't know but he will work on it. I say my family doesn't have a lot of money, but they would pay a ransom to get me back. He looks at me and smiles and says, really? I said he just needs to let my mom know where I am. He just stares at me.
I walk in front of him down the small flight of stairs to the downstairs porch. Once again he puts the blanket on me. I have nothing on but the towel and the blanket now. My backpack is gone. My clothes are gone. My shoes are gone. All I have is the tiny b.u.t.terfly ring on my pinkie that my mom gave me. I have nothing but this stranger and my feet to guide me. The first thing I feel is the hardness of concrete. Then my feet feel the tickling cold sensation of wet gra.s.s. I can't see my feet because he is holding me by my neck and my head can't go down. But I can feel the ground and I can hear a train. I think to myself I must remember that there is a train nearby so that when I am found I can tell whoever finds me that I was being held somewhere where I can hear a train. The next thing my feet feel are sticks or some kind of small branches and dirt. Some are pointy and sharp, and I can also feel rocks which hurt my feet. I try to tiptoe, but it's hard because he is leading the way and walks very rapidly. The rocks pa.s.s and now I feel we are back on hard cold concrete. I hear a gate or fence being pushed open and closed behind us. We walk a little further and I hear him fiddling with something that rattles and jingles. It sounds like a lock. I briefly wonder where the other person from the car is. I feel teeny tiny pebbles on my feet. He tells me to watch my step, that I need to step up to the step in front of me. I miss a little because I can't see it, but he has my arm, so I don't fall. I make the step up and feel hard carpet on the bottom of my feet now. Not the soft kind but the low-to-the-ground kind. I hear the door shut behind me. He leads me a little further into this new room. Then we enter another door. He takes the blanket off my head, and I see a bunch of blankets on the floor. Like what I used to sleep on when we moved into Carl's apartment. It only had one bedroom, so Carl said I could make a "pallet" in the living room. That's what he called putting an egg-crate mattress with blankets on the floor. This looks like that minus the egg-crate mattress. He says I can sleep there. All of a sudden I realize how tired I am. I feel like I can barely stand up. My whole body is shaking from head to toe. He says he will be back later and he wants me to stay in here and to be quiet. He says the door is locked and reminds me of the dogs outside that don't like trespa.s.sers and says to them I would be a trespa.s.ser. He says he has to put handcuffs on me, but that they have fur on them so they won't hurt too much. I shake my head no and say that I won't try to get away. He says he has to because he doesn't trust me yet. He says to put my hands behind my back. I continue to sit on the floor. He bends down and turns my body so he can put the cuffs on me. I can feel the cold metal and the soft fur. I don't like the way the cuffs feel heavy on my wrists. He helps me to lie down on my side. It is not comfortable to lay on your side with your hands behind your back. He says he will be back later to check on me and bring me something to eat. Then he is gone and I can hear the lock being put back on the door. The tears start again, softly at first then my silent sobs rack my body. I cry myself to sleep alone.
To this day when I close my eyes and think back, I can still hear the sound of that lock. I can hear the squeak of the big, thick soundproof door closing me in. It gives me a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think of the many long hours I spent in that room all alone.
Today I sometimes struggle with feelings of loneliness even when I am not alone. I think this feeling began in that room Phillip put me in. Hours turned into days, days to weeks, and weeks to months and then years. I have spent a lifetime alone, or so it seems to me sometimes.
I have gained a lot of freedom this past year. Being with my family and meeting new friends and reuniting with old has been a dream come true. People and animals keep the loneliness away. I know the feeling of loneliness is just in my head because I am not alone, but it still creeps back at times. I do enjoy time to myself. I love to read and write and spend time with my pets. I don't always mind the feeling of loneliness; it has given me the time to know who I am. However, my mind pulls me back to those days of confinement and I feel myself needing to call a friend or make a plan for lunch-anything to not be alone. I am working through these feelings. I enjoy life so much more now, and I try hard to appreciate each and every day, but deep down I am still afraid it will be taken away.
Alone in a Strange Place
When I wake I am alone in a strange place. I wonder how much time has pa.s.sed. I woke up crying, which is strange because I've never had a dream scare me so much that I've woken up crying before. I realize that my nightmare is real. Why is this happening? My body feels tight and it hurts. My mind wants to leave and be somewhere else. I struggle to gain a sitting position, but the handcuffs make it difficult. I finally manage awkwardly. Maybe I should just try to go back to sleep. My mind is worrying about all the things I was supposed to do that day. What happened when I didn't show up at school? Will I get in trouble? Does anyone know what happened? Where is my mom? Is she still at work? Is she looking for me? Did Carl see this man take me? Is he sending someone to get me? When can I go home? Will this stranger take me home? All these questions go through my mind. My head still feels fuzzy. I don't know what to do. I want to get up and see if the first door will open so I can see what's in the other room. But every time I try to sit up I fall back down. I am so tired. I turn so I am now lying on my back more, which is a little more comfortable. This room is small. My bed back at home would not fit in this room. There is a window above my makes.h.i.+ft bed. There is a towel and blinds covering the window, so I can only see a little bit of light. It looks like moonlight. I wish I could see the moon. My mom and I used to love to sit out front of my grandma's house and look at the moon. We would debate about which moon was better, the crescent or the full. I always voted for the full and she liked the crescent. I wonder what kind of moon is out tonight. It feels like I have been here forever. Has it been an hour or more? I have no way of telling. There are tall, heavy-looking tables in two corners of the tiny room I'm in. The legs are covered in carpet. There is also some strange-looking equipment on tables. I can't really see the tops because the handcuffs prevent me from getting up all the way. They are big and from what I can see from this angle have sliding dials on them. There is also a big pane of gla.s.s in the wall that separates this room from the next. The walls are made of some kind of wood. It looks like a lot of different woods all mixed together to create a panel that has many colors. I think it is called particleboard, but I'm not sure. I want to feel it but instead sc.r.a.pe my knuckle along the side of it. It is very rough and I think I got a splinter in my knuckle. I wonder what will happen to me. I can't get comfortable. I move from side to side. I want to get up and walk around. My legs feel like they are falling asleep and are getting cramps. I lay back down and fall asleep quickly.
The towel on the window shows that the sun is up. This room is getting hot when I wake the next morning; at least I think it is morning. There is really no way to know for sure. I feel like I can't breathe, it's so hot. I am so thirsty and I'm starting to sweat. How much time has pa.s.sed? I close my eyes thinking, Will I ever want to open them again? Maybe if I go to sleep, then when I wake up I will be in my own bed and this will be just a bad dream. I close my eyes and give in to oblivion once again.
He did come in that day to check on me. He brought me fast food and a soda. It's hard to remember day-to-day things after this point. I think he came in at least once a day to bring me something to drink and eat. I became totally dependent on him for everything. He would take off the handcuffs while he was there so I could eat. He brought in a bucket for me to use as a toilet. I hated when he would put the cuffs back on when he left, so eventually I looked forward to seeing him and getting them off. Even though they were covered in soft fur, they still bit into my wrists and made my skin raw. It was hot in that room and I would sweat buckets all day. He said he was working on getting a cooler for the room and that would make it cooler for me. In the meantime he brought in a fan, which helped a lot. I would ask him every day when he was going to let me go home. I guess I can kind of figure out the answer to that even if I don't remember his exact words.
He would try to make me smile with all these silly voices he would make. He had an English accent, a Texan accent, and an Australian accent. I feel this was all part of his plan to manipulate me into being compliant with him. He used his powers of persuasion to gain my trust. He became my entire world. I depended on him for food, water, my toilet. He was my only source of amus.e.m.e.nt. I craved human contact so much by then that I actually looked forward to him coming to see me; it felt like he was bestowing a gift to me ... his presence. He was all I knew for months. I slept a lot during this time. There was nothing else to do and sleeping helped to shut off my broken heart. I didn't have any more nightmares like that first one about being taken; I guess I was living the ultimate nightmare so my mind couldn't think of anything worse. When I dreamed, I dreamed I could fly. When I would wake, I would have no concept of time. A little light leaked through the towel on the window, but other than that not much light. I learned to gauge the time by Phillip's visits. I knew it must be night when Phillip would bring my dinner. He didn't touch me after that first day in the bathroom until one day about a week later ...
A Stolen Life - A Memoir Part 2
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A Stolen Life - A Memoir Part 2 summary
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