I walked to the ledge and looked over. I was tired, tired of trying, tired of keeping a peace that would never hold. Tired of being in the middle or of being forgotten. They didn't understand all that they were truly doing to me. He didn't understand all that he had done. I was tired of fighting this forever losing battle. So I was going to do what I had thought of often. But even though I thought of it often, I never really thought I would do it. But things change. I'm ready now.
People say that those who take their own life are cowards, but in truth they are strong, for it takes a lot of strength to endure what they do for as long as the can. It also takes great courage to go as far as taking your own life. But I am at that point. No, I do not consider myself to be strong or courageous, I consider myself to be tired and worn down to nothing. I am not who I once was.
I step closer to the ledge, thinking about my family one last time. Thinking of them how they were, before everything happened to tear us apart. Suddenly the roof door opens, and a man steps out. He doesn't see me, but I can see him just fine. His face is like a vision from a dream, so familiar yet I can't place him in my memory. As he turns to close the door I can see he has headphones in, he lights up a cigarette as he starts mumbling the words to the song. Slowly I can feel a memory surfacing, the one that I know him from. I can just make out the lyrics from a long forgotten song, the song then sparks a memory, the memory a face, the face a name. The song is Self-Conclusion by The Spill Canvas, the face, a boy from what I consider a past life, when really he is from a time when I was happy, happy and carefree. It's ironic that it would be him that I see on this night. This night when I have given up, when I am no longer happy or carefree.
Jake is his name. I whisper his name softly as he turns towards me, still unseeing. I turn away from him, looking back out at the roof tops of the buildings around us. I look down at my feet to see that all I had to do was step up to the ledge, and then off. So I take that last step up. I can hear him cursing behind me, telling me that he has spotted me. I can hear his feet as he runs across the roof. I close my eyes as I lean forward and whisper "I'm sorry Jake." As I start to lean over the edge, I feel an arm wrap around my waist and jerk me back onto the roof. We both land hard back on the roof, his arm still around my waist, him breathing heavily in my ear. I start to scratch at his arm, trying to get it off me so I can jump. I want to feel that freedom at least once before I die, but he holds me tighter, even straddling me so he can pin my arms down to stop me from hitting him.
As he looks at me I can see the pity on his face as he sees all my bruises, all my scars; then shock as he seems to recognize me. "Danielle?" he whispers with disbelief, almost like he can't believe it's really me.
I just look at him for a minute, until I sigh and say "Hi, Jake."
"What are you... How are you.... Why are.... Were you really going to jump?" he asks, jumping from one thought and question to another faster than I could really follow.
"Yes Jake, I was really going to jump, and if you would just get off me I could do just that." I tell him. If I hadn't been so lost in the ever growing black hole that is my mind, I probably would have known not to say that, especially to him. As soon as those words were out of my mouth I should have known he would never let me go. He was my savior, he has always been my savior, my rock in the past. I don't know why I thought it would be different now.
His grip on my arms got subtly tighter, the look on his face almost furious. "No!" he says and I can hear an almost shake or tremble to his voice, and I know my words affected him. I cant understand his reaction. Ive known him forever, but I have never meant anything more than a friend to him. He was a source of happiness to me because of the feelings I had harbored, deep feelings for him. Hiding them from him when I couldn't be with him. I could never tell him my feelings for him when I finally understood just what they were and how strong they really were. It was a secret I always had to keep. I tried so hard to forget them, to forget him, but it was impossible. Starring up at him now, I realized just how impossible it really was to forget him, or the feelings I felt for him, especially when all those feeling can rushing back. I looked up at him and hated myself for causing the look of pain on his face.
"Please Jake, just let me go." I asked. I sounded and felt defeated. Nothing I could do would ever be right. I would never be right for him, I am too weak, too lost. It would be too unfair to him to have to save me, to fix me; I'm not savable, not fixable.
"I am not letting you go; I won't ever let you go." His words confused me. Not letting me go I understood, I was ready to hurl myself off the building, it was the not ever letting me go part the confused me. Why? Why would he never let me go? Was he going to be like the person I just escaped from? Wait... why would I ever think that? Of course he wouldn't be; this is Jake. But then why would he say that? He can't have feelings for me right? I mean I'm me. Bruised, battered, broken, and ready to throw myself off a roof. Used, weathered, damaged. Nothing. That's what I am. I am nothing. So it can't be that. Maybe it's because we've known each other so long, maybe he feels obligated because of that. Then again, it's been years since I last saw him, so it's not like he knows me anymore. Maybe it's because he thinks he's saving the person he knew all those years before. But he can't, it's not possible to, she's been dead for years.
"Why Jake? It's not like you know me anymore?" I asked him. I needed an answer. "How did you even find me? No one should be able to find me." This was something I was more desperate to know. If Jake could find me after all these years, then the one I'm running from would be able to find me, and that, that can't happen, ever.
"I didn't find you, not really. I live in this building; I have so for about a year. As for not knowing you, I will always know you, we've known each other for too long for me not to know you, no matter how long it's been." He told me, which answered everything but the why. "Why should no one be able to find you though?" he questioned.
"But why Jake, why won't you let me go?" I repeated; I really wanted an answer. "No one should be able to find me, if someone can find me, he can find me. If he finds me I'll never be able to escape again and I won't go back, I can't go back." I had just escaped not a couple days before, and I would never go back. "I'm tired Jake, I'm tired of running, tired of fighting for my life every day, I'm tired of being scared all the time. I can't take it. Things will never change." I said with a sigh. It was true, all of it. "I'm tired; please just let me go so I can rest for the first time in years. Please."
"No, I won't let you go, I didn't find you, you found me. I live here. This is my apartment building. What do you mean you just escaped? Who is this guy you keep talking about? And fighting for your life? Why are you fighting for your life every day? Why did you never call me, you know I would have come to save you, don't you remember? I will always be your night." He said, trying to keep calm. I could see how angry he was getting, feel it in my arms where he held me. I could tell by how he asked the questions, that he was trying to process what was really being said. That he didn't quite believe what I was saying.
"My ex. He found me a few years ago, took me, held me against my will. I fought for my life every day I was there, because he had one purpose in mind." I looked away, blinking back tears, as I remembered every life I held, and every life I gave up. "You don't believe me do you, the bruises aren't enough proof? Well look at my back, that should be proof enough for you." He gave me a look, which said he was unsure, but that he would look anyway. He grabbed both my arms in one hand; it was easy enough seeing how underweight I was. He lifted off me just enough to allow me to roll over. As he started to the back of my shirt I heard the intake of breathe, I knew then that he could see it, well at least some of it.
"What is it?" he asked.
"They are burn marks. One for every child I lost." I could hear him counting slowly, and closed my eyes against more tears as the number grew higher and higher. "I did try to call you, the few times I was alone with a phone nearby, but I never got it to ring more than a few times, before I had to hang up."
"Eight, there are eight burn marks here Danielle, are you telling me, you were pregnant eight times within the past couple years?" He asked me, sounding outraged.
"No, I'm telling you that I was pregnant eight times that he knows of, and that was his punishment for me. No, I kept my own record, and it was longer than a couple years." I told him, talking more to the ground than him.
"How many? How many times Danielle, and how long?" He demanded, rolling me back over as he did so.
"Ten. Five years... I think. I don't really know for sure anymore." I told him quietly, trying to remember just how long it had really been. "The last thing I remember before being taken was our fight."
"Our fight? The one we had last time we saw each other? But how? I saw you a few days after that?"
"It was about a week later, I had been writing you a text, apologizing for the things I had said, when I looked up and saw him walking towards me. In the few seconds it took for me to realize who it was, he had me." I told him, sure that he would pull the wrong conclusion what I said.
"You didn't have to apologize, it turned out you were right, but I'm sorry, if I had just listened to you, then this wouldn't have happened." He told me, doing as I thought.
"No Jake, for a while I thought the same thing, but then I realized that no matter if we had fought or not, if you had listened to me or not, I still would have been walking, that same road at that same time. It would have happened no matter if we had been talking or not." As I explained this, he moved off me and let me sit up. I'm not sure if he realized that he had, or if he was testing me. His thumb was making slow circles on my wrist, each time getting closer to the scar I knew he would find.
It was two different scars melded into one. The first one ran all the way around both my wrists, from when I had been chained up, the scar was from the metal cuffs. I pulled against them, strained against them, again and again, cutting and scaring my wrists over and over. The second was a scar that ran the length of each forearm. It had been my one and only attempt. I had found a piece of jagged metal and figured, 'no one has found me yet, no one ever will, why stay?' he found me just before I passed out. I was punished severely for that one.
He found the scar, and demanded to know how it got there. As I told him, I was looking at how we were sitting and how far the ledge was. It wasn't far, and in our current positions I could push him over, run and probably make it.
"Don't even think about it. I know what you're thinking, so stop. You won't make it." He told me, eyes hard and dark, I knew he was right, so I just sat there, silent. "Come on, let's go inside, its getting cold out here, and you're not wearing a coat." He grabbed my hand and helped me up, never letting me go, probably thinking I would take off for the ledge as soon as he did, and he would be right.
"I'm not cold." I told him, and I wasn't, I hadn't felt anything for a long time, I wasn't going to start now.
"You? Not cold? How is that possible? You're always cold." He asked as we made our way down a couple flights of stairs. As we reached his door, I told him.
"I don't get cold anymore, I don't get hot either. In fact I can't feel much anymore, I just know if someone or something is touching me." Looking at the clock I noticed it was really late. "I'm guessing you have work in the morning, well a couple hours really."
"Yea I do, but I can call out, and we can go visit your family, I'm sure they would love to see you." My family. I hadn't thought about them in a long time, it made me too sad, too guilty. To see them, to be with them again. What I wouldn't give.
"OK we can go see them, but in a few hours, you look ready to fall over and I'm sure they are all still asleep. You go sleep I'm going to look at things for a bit." I told him, going to look at his book case by the couch.
"You sure, you could come sleep too. You look like you haven't slept in a while."
"That's because I haven't slept in a couple days, but I'm fine, I can usually go a few more days without much sleep, and I'm sure your girlfriend or wife or whoever wouldn't like that very much. No worries if I get tired I'll lay on the couch. Go get some sleep. I'll be fine." I turned back to the book case and ignored him until he heard him leave.
I waited about an hour, before silently poking my head around the corner and seeing him passed out on his bed. I smiled slightly, I had missed him, so much, and I'm glad that I got to see him one last time. As I turned to leave there was a picture tucked into a nook. It was of an old prom photo, cropped so that I was just us, and added too so that it held one more person. I remember giving him this picture for his birthday, just before I was taken. I can't believe he still has it.
I slowly and silently made my way to the door, I saw the code he used, even though he tried to make it so I couldn't. I typed it in, then retyped it and left. I made my way back to the roof, back to the same ledge. To see my family would be amazing, but I couldn't put them through everything I had been through. I had told Jake a lot, but I hadn't told him everything.
I took one lore look out over the city, thought of him, smiled, and jumped. As free as I would ever be.