A girl sold into slavery swears that one day she'll have her vengeance.
|Tasiya kept her eyes closed, one hand resting firmly atop her stomach. She thought that if she concentrated hard enough, she could still feel the little life inside of her. That little spark that had suddenly made her want to live again, that had made her want to dream and hope again.
But like her hopes and her dreams, that little life too had been taken from her.
In her mind's eye, she tried to glimpse a different world, a world in which she might have held her child and raised it, a world in which her father was alive and they were happy. But the vision was perpetually ruined by a splatter of blood, by the memory of that horrible day when the herbs Brynmore had forced her to choke down finally did their awful work.
Blood! So much blood! She almost screamed to herself. Instead, she wept. Soon her body trembled and sobs overtook her just as they had every day for the past few weeks. She heard the chatter of the other girls around her come to a slight pause as she sobbed. She knew they were uncomfortable around her pain, but fuck them. What do they know? What do they understand?
A gentle hand suddenly touched her hair and she blindly fell into Demetra's welcome embrace. The woman held her for several long minutes before finally whispering against her brow, “You have to move on, child. You have to put this pain behind you.”
Tasiya looked up into the woman's dark eyes, fury in her own. “How? How could you say that? It was a baby—they killed my baby!”
She could feel the other girls staring at them, but Demetra remained calm, composed as ever. “And what kind of life would you have given that baby if you'd birthed it? It was more merciful that the child died before he could draw breath from this terrible world.”
Tasiya clenched her teeth, anger boiling in her veins. Rage filled her thoughts, but what angered her even more was that somewhere in the back of her mind, a part of her agreed with Demetra. I can't be a mother. I'm barely a person.
“I wish I was with my father,” Tasiya moaned against the woman's shoulder. “I wish he hadn't died.”
Demetra slowly pulled herself back and held the girl's shoulders in her hands. “Listen to me,” she said with sudden severity. “There's no sense in longing for the past. The past is dead. Do you understand? It's dead and it's never coming back. What's dead is dead and there's no coming back from death.”
Tasiya tried to pry herself away, but the woman held on tight, forcing her to listen. “You don't have the past anymore. All you have is survival.”
“I don't want to survive!” Tasiya roared, finally tearing herself free. “I just want to die!”
“You don't mean that,” Demetra murmured.
“I do!” the girl all but screamed. “Why live like this? Why?”
Suddenly Demetra's hand cracked against her face. Tasiya fell silent, more shocked than wounded by the slap. “Because life is all we have,” the woman hissed through clenched teeth. “It takes more than youthful arrogance to face down death, Tasiya. You've only had a brief taste of death. But you haven't seen it. You haven't seen people you knew and loved become unmoving heaps of cold meat.”
Tasiya swallowed into a dry throat, unable to do anything else but stare into the woman's dark, angry eyes.
“You think you're the only one of us who's been with child?” Demetra grabbed her again by the shoulders. “You think you're the only one of us who's suffered the death of that child? Yes, you could let this pain destroy you. You could make yourself become useless to them. But do you know what happens to girls who become useless to Brynmore and his master? Do you?” the woman nearly spat with sudden fury. “They don't just stop feeding you and toss you into the street, Tasiya. They start giving you to the worse men, they start letting anyone use you. People who like to do awful things.”
“You...you were hurt too,” Tasiya whispered, finally finding her voice.
Demetra slowly looked away. “I had a family once, like you. My country was overrun by the Dominion a long time ago. My parents and their parents were Devadasan. Once, that meant something. Devadas used to be something long ago. During the war, my parents fled into Kassia—I guess it was called Atreya back then. They weren't alone. I heard that a lot of my people poured into the border.”
“What happened?” Tasiya forced herself to ask.
The woman shrugged nonchalantly. “The Dominion came to Atreya. The capital city of Bri was taken by the Fire Lords, and everyone scattered again.” She closed her eyes, as if seeing again the horrors she spoke of.
“Your family died,” the girl surmised.
“I wasn't too much older than you, I suppose,” Demetra murmured. “A young girl alone in a fallen world. I eventually heard the rumors of a shelter for women. A place where we could be fed and sheltered. It was called a Gaspard House.”
Tasiya winced at the name. She'd heard it before, she knew.
“Brynmore's master,” the woman explained. “Brynmore eventually found me there. He took a liking to me and brought me here to help expand his master's business.”
“And you agreed?”
Demetra scoffed. “What was I to do? I'd learned that obedience can reward you better than defiance. Brynmore has me instruct his new girls on what to do and how to please his customers. In return for that, I'm not beaten or mutilated.”
Tasiya looked past the woman and to the other girls in the room. “You were there for all of them, like you're here for me.”
The woman smiled softly. “Not all of them, and not as much for some of them. Sometimes a girl gets it in her head that she wants to die, and she doesn't quite realize what that means.”
Tasiya took in a deep, shuddering breath. “I can't do this.”
“Trust me,” Demetra whispered, pulling her into a hug. “Obey them and they'll continue to give you to the better clients. Just please them, Tasiya. Fight them, and things will only get worse.”
Tasiya closed her eyes as she once more fell into the woman's embrace. “I don't see how things could get any worse.” She felt her anger still boiling inside her, demanding release. She still wanted to scream, wanted to run out the door and kill the first man she saw. “I just want them to die.”
“So do I,” Demetra murmured. “But things will get worse if you fight, Tasiya. Just because you don't see how doesn't mean it won't.”
For the first time in countless days, Tasiya joined the other girls in the main hall for dinner. It was a tasteless stew, as was the usual fare. Seldom were they fed meat, and even then none of the girls dared question what kind of meat it was.
Afterward, she returned to the upstairs room she shared with half a dozen girls. The room was sparsely occupied, as most of Brynmore's clients visited during the late hours of the night. Demetra sat atop one of the pallet beds, gently running her fingers through the tangled blond hair of a weeping girl kneeling before her. The girl was older than Tasiya but her pain looked just as fresh.
Tasiya quietly approached the duo and caught a glimpse of a purple bruise covering the girl's eye. “Next time, do as the man asks, Abby, and the pain will be less,” Demetra softly whispered. She glanced up at Tasiya and shook her head sadly.
Tasiya held the woman's gaze, knowing that Demetra was silently showing her one of the many prices of defiance. Of pride. The example had the opposite effect, however. Rather than feel her anger withering under the weight of fear, Tasiya felt only fury. Only rage.
She continued to hold Demetra's stare until a man opened the door. It was one of Brynmore's thugs.
“You, Tasha, you're spreading tonight,” the man said.
“Tasiya,” she said sternly. She could hear Demetra suck in a quick breath.
“Whatever,” the man grumbled. “Whore—you have a client. Garvey. He seems to like that cunt of yours. Paying well for it, too. Now get dressed.” He tossed her a flimsy piece of cloth and walked out.
Demetra shot her a warning look. Tasiya ignored her but changed into the skimpy outfit nonetheless.
~ * ~
It was awful. Tasiya tried to feel nothing, tried to pretend that her body was numb, just as Demetra had repeatedly instructed her to do. She tried to focus on something else—anything else other than the man that was atop her, thrusting inside of her. But her mind refused to wander, refused to abandon her body. Thus was she painfully aware of what was happening. Thus was she painfully aware of Garvey's wiry body excitedly humping her while he groaned and moaned in her ear. His rough hands roamed her body, squeezing.
With every touch, with every motion and every grunt, she felt herself nearing an edge, walking towards a precipice she was all too eager to jump into.
Then he tried to kiss her. His mouth made its way up along her throat, approaching her chin. What the fuck does he think this is? His lips touched hers and Tasiya felt her heart burn like never before. She screamed into his mouth and before she knew what was happening, her nails dug into the skin of his face, tearing. She didn't know what was happening—all she knew was that she was angry. Angry at her mother for betraying her to this. Angry at the world for delivering her to this. Angry at everyone and everything. All she knew was that it felt so fucking good to have her nails in that man's face, to pierce him for once.
He screamed and pried himself away. “You fucking whore!” he wailed, his hands going to his face and coming back bloody. “You fucking worthless whore!”
Tasiya started to climb out of bed, but Garvey swung on her, his fist crashing into her face. She fell hard, stunned.
“You like it messy, cunt?” he hissed, his eyes suddenly wild, mad with fury. “You like it bloody?”
Her head still swimming, her skull buzzing from the blow, she was only partially aware of him reaching for his clothes. Then, still naked, he was standing over her with something gleaming in the lamplight. A knife!
“No,” she moaned, but he was atop her again. His fist smashed into her as his body forced itself back into her. She heard him breathing hard as her hands flailed for his bleeding face. “No!” she cried, suddenly terrified, suddenly all too aware of what Demetra had been warning her of.
But it was too late and the knife came down. She felt the coldness of it graze her cheek—and then there was heat. So much heat! It was icy cold and burning hot all at once. She screamed and screamed, struggling beneath him. But he held her down, his knife slicing her skin, cutting her face.
“I'm going to make you look like the ugly whore that you are,” he sneered, his face so close to hers that she could feel his spittle spraying into her torn flesh. She sobbed and she shrieked, her face burning as skin was shredded away.
“Get off of her!” someone roared from behind. Suddenly Garvey was on the floor and through her blood and tears, she saw Demetra standing over him, a broken mop handle in one hand. Behind her, through the open doorway, she could see two of Brynmore's thugs running from down the hall.
“So many fucking worthless whores!” Garvey screamed. Demetra swung the mop handle for him, but he moved aside and suddenly darted forward. Demetra's eyes grew wide and she gasped.
It was a moment before Tasiya understood what she'd witnessed. Garvey shoved the woman down to the floor, his knife still buried in her stomach. “Demetra!” Tasiya wailed, throwing herself down onto the dying woman. “Demetra!” she screamed, heedless of Garvey standing over her. “Demetra!”
The woman's eyes focused on her and she swallowed hard, as if trying to find her voice. “Tas...” it was all she managed to utter, a quiet, guttural whisper from what had once been a beautiful voice.
Tasiya heard a commotion behind her and looked up to see that Brynmore's men had Garvey pinned against the wall. In the doorway, she saw the faces of other girls who had been drawn by the screams, their guards too distracted by the commotion to keep them confined.
“Help her!” Tasiya shrieked, pleading with the men before her. “Help her!”
“Release me!” Garvey snapped. The men hesitated but continued to hold him still.
“Help her!” Tasiya wailed again, the fire in her face forgotten under the sounds of Demetra's sudden, bloody coughing.
“What the fuck is going on here?” a new voice demanded. Brynmore stepped through the crowd and into the room, looking from the naked Garvey to the two women on the floor.
“Release me!” Garvey roared again.
“Let him go,” Brynmore commanded, his voice stern, his face hard.
“Your whore attacked me, Brynmore,” Garvey said, casually donning his clothes. “I'll take my coin back and you'd count yourself lucky that I don't do more.”
“Yes, Lord Garvey,” Brynmore said through clenched teeth.
“Help her!” Tasiya screamed again, staring at them all. Why were they just standing there? Why weren't they doing something? Demetra was dying!
Brynmore looked down at the women again and then back up at Garvey. “You killed one of my women, though. You will be paying for that.”
“Fine, fine,” Garvey muttered, tying his shirt. “There should be enough coppers in there—” he tossed a pouch to the other man.
Brynmore caught the pouch and looked inside.
“That should cover the whore's life,” Garvey said before shoving his way past the gathered girls and out into the hall.
“Stop him!” Tasiya shrieked. She looked down at Demetra, cradling the woman's head in her lap. “Demetra—please! Say something!” She begged the woman over and over again, squeezing her hand, her vision becoming increasingly blurred by tears and blood, her head swimming with pain, her heart burgeoning with agony.
Demetra's grip felt suddenly limp and Tasiya screamed, all her anguish ripping out through her throat.
“Someone throw that whore's body away and clean up this mess,” she heard Brynmore say.
Anger abruptly surged back into her, and she looked up at Brynmore, glaring into his uncaring face. “She wasn't a whore. She was a person—she was my friend!”
Brynmore held up his hand, the one with the pouch of coins. “This says she was a whore. Now go get your fucking face cleaned up. It's disgusting.”
His men grabbed her by the arms, roughly dragging her to her feet and away from Demetra's unmoving body. Her own body trembling with sorrow and rage, she hissed through clenched teeth, “One day I'll kill you. I'll kill all of you.”
Brynmore held her gaze and smirked. “You're a whore, Tasiya. And now you're an ugly whore. I was kind to you before.” He leaned forward, his eyes gleaming with menace. “You better pray that your face heals, or you're going to become a worthless whore.”
She glared after him as the men took her away. One day, she swore to herself and to the world itself. One day, I'll kill you all.