I allowed myself to be enfolded into my father’s bear hug. I had been abducted sixteen months earlier and my abductor had made no request for ransom. With reason. It hadn’t been the common abduction where the intention was to get money. No, he hadn’t asked for money. He didn’t want money no matter the amount.
Once he was done holding me captive, he had left me in the family church in the early hours of the morning with my bags and phones intact.
As I sat in the large sitting room in my home, I could hear the various talks that filtered through the room. Where had I been? What had he done to me?
‘Is it just me or does she look fatter?’ I heard one of my friends ask.
‘I don’t think it’s the fat,’ another friend stated. ‘Her busts are bigger and so is her hips.’
‘Clearly, whoever took her took good care of her.’
If only they knew, I thought, trying not to think of the long months spent with him. What had I felt for him? Had I truly been in love with him or had I been experiencing Stockholm syndrome. I guess I would never know, now that he was gone with the gift he had taken from me.
What happened in that house in the middle of nowhere would go to the grave with me. I feigned partial amnesia and I would continue to do so even if I had to do it for the rest of my life. I didn’t want him found. It wasn’t in my best interest that he be caught. No, a lot of cans would be opened and I would most likely be hanged for it. No, I couldn’t live with the consequences of being found out.
The gift was but a small price to pay for my continued silence.
I sighed, watching detached, as talks filtered in around me, responding to the questions from the police officers, carefully picking my words to buttress the amnesia, schooling my expression from years in the drama club in school.
The intimacy that had taken place the first two nights of my capture had been without my consent but the others – no, I wouldn’t think about how easily I had given myself to the man who had seemed quite familiar but remained a stranger. All that had ceased after eight weeks when I missed my period. The moment my pregnancy had been ascertained, all intimacy had stopped. I’m ashamed to admit that it wasn’t because I had resisted him. No, I had wanted him even more but the hatred in his eyes at that point had been unexpected (or had it always been there and she had chosen not to see it?)
And then I had made the mistake of thinking that once our child was born, he would feel something for me once more. But that hadn’t happened. He’d welcomed the birth of our child, carrying out the delivery himself, probably better than a midwife would have done. He had come prepared. I had the necessary medication required for my pregnancy. He’d even bought unisex baby clothes.
I had wondered why he had chosen to have a baby with me, making no demands from my family. I guess I had even entertained what was happening between us to be like something from a romance novel where he confessed his love for me and then sought my hand in marriage since I was a widow. But that shows how stupid I was and I was not known for stupidity.
I nursed our child for six months, falling in love with the little bundle of joy who stole my heart with his first cry. Six months and then I was asked to wean him. Only then did he provide the answer to the question I had asked from the moment he had brought me there.
‘Who are you? And what did I ever do to you to deserve this?’
‘It is amazing that after being in my company for so long you still do not recognise me,’ he had said, albeit too calmly. ‘Was I so insignificant that you didn’t spare me a thought long enough to keep a mental picture of me?’
‘Who are you?’ I had asked again, a feeling of dread taking over me.
‘He put a knife to my throat and forcefully stole my virginity. I thought I would die from the pain and the humiliation…’ he had mimicked in a falsetto voice.
And then recognition had dawned on me at the moment. My heart had slammed into my chest and I began to hyperventilate.
I hadn’t given him a thought in ten years!
I should have known that my sins would come back to haunt me.
This young man had saved me from attempted rape and I had turned around to accuse him as the perpetrator of the offence so that I could marry a minister’s son! In his drunken state, my fiancé had attacked me and Khaled had been unfortunate to be at the right place at the wrong time.
The events of that night had set off a chain of reaction. He’d saved me and then left the scene in a hurry. The plan was hatched to keep what my fiancé had done a secret considering who his family was and I had agreed to it because of the status I would be occupying once we got married. Because of the delay in apprehending him, it was assumed that his family had been informed of what had happened. He had recognised the minister’s son and had to be taken care of.
A hit was arranged to take him and his family out and he had somehow survived, losing everyone he held dear. His home had been burned down. The official story was that the fire had started as a result of an electrical fault and smoke inhalation had taken out the family before the flames consumed their bodies. However, in the absence of an autopsy, no one realised all the victims had been killed before the fire. Khaled had survived with second degree burns which explained the scars on his body.
It had taken years for him to recover from the injuries sustained from bullet wound and the fire, haunted by the death of his family and the fact that he had been a lone survivor. For ten years he had planned his revenge, the revenge of his family and he had succeeded. Telling the truth about what happened that night wouldn’t have yielded fruit since there wasn’t any evidence. And coming against her family without the requisite connection would have been stupid and so he had done the next best thing: Gotten a family through the woman who was responsible for the hell he had gone through.
I had known from the start what was going to happen to him, to his family. I had suggested it. My fiancé had intended to have Khaled taken out but I had suggested that everyone who would remotely find out about what happened from him be taken care of. That was the only we could get married and stay married without raising suspicion. The other option had been to pay Khaled off but that would lead to future blackmails.
Once I had been told of his death, I had pushed him down the recesses of my mind where he had remained until he revealed his identity in that house in the middle of nowhere. He knew I would never say anything about what had happened in order to save my name and myself. My husband had died in a plane crash and I was a wealthy widow. If what I had done came out in the open then I would be ruined.
‘You’ll find our son only when you tell the truth about what you and your husband did to me and my family.’ Those had been his last words to me before he had knocked me out.
I had regained consciousness in the church, and with the knowledge that Khaled was gone for good.
Tell the truth! I couldn’t lose the current life I had. As much as I missed my baby, I couldn’t tell the truth. That was my sacrifice. That was my punishment. I would feign amnesia and get on with my life.
He would never tell anyone what had happened in that little house in the woods and neither would I.