Read Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 Online

Authors: H.M. Ward

Tags: #New Adult Romance

Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1 (4 page)

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
12.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“HELP! IS ANYONE THERE?” My throat is on fire and my fists feel like they’ve been through a trash compactor. Slapping a metal door hurts. My skin stings a little more each time it impacts the cold rough surface of the door.

Then it dawns on me: Erin is the only person who knows I'm here. Once the crew strikes the decorations and the DJ takes off, no one will ever mention it again. It’s not like people brag about being at an illegal party. They’re smarter than that. There will be no evidence to prove a rave took place here tonight, save the girl trapped in the upstairs storage room. That’s the moment my world tips on its axis, and logic slides away like pudding off a plate. Panic, raw and real, takes its place. A shiver climbs up my spine and tightens my throat. Heart pounding, I slam my fists against the door, wildly banging on it, trying to make as much noise as possible.

"HELP! SOMEONE LET ME OUT! HELP! PLEASE! I'M IN HERE! HELP! " Repeating variations of the same words over and over and over again, I continue to yell and bang on the metal. I continue to bang on and kick at the door, yelling for help even though the inner rational part of me recognizes it's pointless. This room is so far away from the crowd, and the music coming from downstairs is so loud, there is no way anyone can hear me. I know this, but fear takes over, and I keep screaming until my voice is hoarse and my fists are too sore to take another hit.

Throat raw and hands aching, I finally slump down onto the ground, defeated, my back resting against the door. Tears spill over and roll down my cheeks. Every loud sob feels like a handful of sand making its way down my throat, it's gritty and hurts like hell.

I hate being weak, but I hate being stuck in this small, dirty and stuffy storage room even more. Who knows how long it will take before I am found? The thought is terrifying. I could be stuck in here for days. How long can someone survive, without food or water, in such a small space?

Tugging my collar, I shift a little. The air is stagnant and warmer than before, or it seems that way. My hand moves nervously to my necklace and my fingers start to roll the small pearls.

I hope it doesn't take Erin too long to notice I've gone missing, but I'm not counting on it. She’s probably in the middle of a sexcapade. I pull my legs up to my chest, wrap my arms around my ankles, and rest my head on my knees.

Sometimes I wish I were more like Erin. She’s a free spirit, flighty at best, always living in the moment. If I'm not in her face, I don’t exist—out of sight, out of mind. Anthony is so busy with med school we sometimes go days without talking. Even though he said he was going home to sleep, it wouldn’t be unusual for him to work a double instead. My parents won’t even notice if I’m gone for a few days, being preoccupied with our family’s business. My dead phone won’t alarm anyone, because it’s something that’s been happening a lot lately. I dropped the damn thing and it won’t hold a charge for more than a few hours. If I’d found time to buy a new battery, I wouldn’t be in this mess. I could just call Erin to open the door.

There is no one else. I've always been too shy to stand out. I have a few close friends and that’s it. If I stood out, if I was the life of the party—or hell, if I said yes to Ferro—someone would have noticed I went missing. No one will even notice I’m gone.

I'm so screwed.


10:23 pm


In my panic, my mind begins to play tricks on me. The walls appear to be closing in and it’s getting harder to breathe, like I'm running out of air. It’s just in my head, but it doesn’t stop a bead of sweat from rolling down my temple. I sigh and rest my cheek on my knees, then rock back and forth, gently.

My next logical plan, my last hope, is to just sit here and wait until the music stops and then resume my noisy attempt at being discovered when the cleanup crew packs everything up. Maybe a pair of horny partygoers looking for a secluded place for a quick tryst will come by and open the door. One can only hope. With my shit-for-luck, it'll be Ferro with another random floozy.

I don't know how long I've been sitting here, rocking back and forth, but the music stops abruptly, mid-song. It can't be the end of the party already. There must be some technical glitch with the sound system. Cocking my ear toward the door I listen and wait, but the music doesn't start up again. A surge of hope fills me. This is my chance. With the music off, I need to be as loud as I can. They have to hear me.

Jumping up, I bang on the metal door. As soon as my hand connects with the metal I scream, or croak. My voice is gone. I’m making horrible troll sounds, as if a goat wandered onto my bridge. Cradling my hand against my chest, I freeze.

I can hear people, but it’s not the type of party noise I heard before. A chill races up my spine and I press my ear to the door trying to hear better.

Through the thick metal, I hear cries that chill me to the bone. People are yelling, not insults or profanity, but the blood curdling screams of panic and fear. Something horribly wrong is going on down there. Oh, God. I press my hand to my chest and step away from the door, wide-eyed.

Visions of a mass murderer wearing a hockey mask and waving a chainsaw pop through my mind. But that's just ludicrous. There were no gunshots. If I could hear the music, I should have heard if someone went nuts and shot the place up. No, it’s something else. Something worse.

Frantic, I look around, trying to find something that I can use to pound on the door, but there’s nothing but a few boxes of paper filled with old receipts. As the screaming from downstairs increases, my blood races faster through my veins. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears.

If people are screaming—if something is that wrong—the cops will come. If the cops come here then I’m toast. I’ll get my ass thrown in jail for hosting a rave here, and Daddy will get hit with a ton of fines. Worse still, they could toss him in jail, too. Cupping my hands to my face I take a shaky breath and try to hold it together. I did this. Whatever happens is my fault, and I’ll take the blame. They aren’t going to pin this on Daddy or anyone else.

Pressing my back to the wall, I slide back down to the floor. At least they’ll find me before a rat makes me his bitch. At least things can't get worse. Just as I think it, I push my hair out of my face and notice it’s damp because I’m sweating like crazy. God this room is hot.

As I stare at the ceiling I talk into the air, “God, if you get me out of this I’ll go back to being a good girl. I promise.” I’m hoping there’s not a stampede downstairs. If someone gets hurt, I won’t be able to live with myself. Sitting here is driving me nuts and I’ve sweat through my shirt. I need to get out of here so I can help. Tipping my head back against the wall, I look up. “Give me a sign, what do I do?”

As if in answer, the sprinkler in the ceiling above me goes off and rains down on my face, as the blaring of the fire alarm deafens me. Great! Now someone pulled the alarm. More fines. I’m so going to jail for this. Daddy is going to kill me. When I lower my face, I blink twice and try to wipe the water away from my eyes. I sniff the air and then do it again. No. It can’t be.

Is that smoke? Black puffs seep under the crack in the door. I laugh bitterly and stare at the door with my jaw hanging open. It wasn’t a false alarm. It’s real. The building is on fire. That’s why they’re screaming. That’s why I’m so hot and something is burning my throat when I breathe. I thought it was from yelling, but that’s not it. I’m inhaling burnt air filled with chemicals from downstairs. The little light overhead flickers and dies, leaving me in darkness.

For a moment, I freeze and the world stops. Fight or die. Get that door open Gina or you won’t see another sunrise.

Jumping up, I race to the door and pound wildly as I scream. The tiny room is filling up with smoke swiftly and turning into an oven. Black clouds billow from under the door and through the vents in the floor. I feel them filling the room as it becomes hotter and hotter. Vapors burn as I desperately try to gulp the air, but I can’t. It burns my nostrils and lungs making me scream out.

Bending over, I choke, unable to stop. I claw at my throat and feel panic overtaking me. My hands are around my neck as my knees give out. As I fall to the floor, I hear something snap. My tiny fresh-water pearls scatter.

I can’t die like this. Not now. Not here.

Crawling toward the door, I feel for the hinges and dig my nails in trying to pry them off of the wall. My nails snap and my fingers ache as I try to force them to do something they weren’t made to do. I try one last time to get some leverage, to feel for a weak spot on the frame of the door, but there’s nothing—no way out.

The smoke keeps coming. I try to hold my breath, but I can’t. I gasp, inhaling a dangerous amount of the toxins before doubling over with a fit of coughing and try to catch my breath. My skin is slick with sweat and I’m too hot. My head is getting that weird spacey feeling, and it feels like the floor is tipping sideways.

Lowering my body, I press my cheek to the old wooden floorboards. It's not until I feel a sharp stabbing sensation that I realize I'm clawing the ground. Splinters lodge in my nail beds as tears mix with water and run down my cheeks.

I wasted it. My life is over and I wasted the whole thing.


11:17 pm

The one time I break the rules, I go down in flames, literally. The little storage room is so hot, I feel like I’m being cooked alive. The air won’t go down my throat and every time I try, it feels like trying to breathe through plastic wrap. Tears streak my warm face, rolling off my cheeks, and onto the wooden floor. I watch it darken for a moment, and then the ring of tears shrinks until another takes its place.

This was all for nothing. My entire life amounted to nothing. I wasn’t kind. I didn’t help anyone. There’s no reason for anyone to remember me. My life will be reduced to a pile of credit cards and a social security number. My name is worthless—no one will remember Regina Granz.

The thing is, I thought I'd have more time. More time to be brave, to be bold, to be daring, to become whoever I was supposed to be. While I waited for that girl to show up, I fell in line, doing as I was told, never asking why…never speaking out. I was so focused on what everyone else wanted for me that I never asked what I wanted.

Now it's too late.

I’ve found the spot on the floor with the coolest air. There must be a crack in the exterior, because a tiny wisp of blissfully cool air meets me now and then. It’s no bigger than a thread, but it’s there. On the other side of this wall is fresh air and freedom.

I make promises to myself, and then finally to a deity I rarely talk to. I don’t know if He’s here or not, but if there is a God then He can hear my thoughts, my pleas. I’ll do something with my life if you spare me. I promise.

I won’t be the self-absorbed, overly cautious Gina I’ve been for so long. I’ll make a difference; I’ve always wanted to, I just didn’t know how.

I manage to roll onto my back and I turn my head toward the ceiling, letting the water from the sprinkler above fall down on my face like rain. It's eerily soothing. My limbs turn to lead and I struggle to keep my eyelids open. Smoke lingers above me. I know it’s there, even if I can’t see it. The swirling heat is getting closer, filling the tall room from the ceiling, creeping toward the floor.

My fear is gone, leaving my imagination to run wild with an unending parade of wishes and regrets. I dig my fingernails into the floorboards, trying to stay awake, but I feel the heaviness upon me, pulling me under. I fight it, letting the pain from broken nails and old splinters stab a sharp sensation up my arms.

Pictures flicker like an old movie behind my eyelids, until my mind wanders to the one thing that has always brought me solace—dancing. The ghosts of past performances play through my mind. Every step, every controlled movement, the raw pain from dancing on point for hours on end, toes blistered and bleeding, and loving every excruciating minute of it.

I focus my mind on a single routine, forcing myself to be in the dance and not in the burning storage room. I feel pride in the control I have over my body, as I move into perfect lines and curves. I feel my muscles pull into each position, the way they stretch and move, strong and sure. I feel each spin, lunge, and leap, sparing me from the regret crushing my chest. The moves are vivid in my mind and overpower my fear of dying, my lost dreams. I push back my sadness, knowing I won’t say goodbye to my mom and my daddy. Each mental movement hides the despair swimming in my stomach because I couldn’t breach the barrier keeping me from safety. Each mental movement conceals the disappointment that consumes me most—that my life was meaningless, I did nothing, achieved nothing.

Confusion obliterates reality and I feel it slip from my grasp like a fallen rose petal. In my mind I continue dancing, turning, and feeling the strength of my body—strength that is gone. This is my last dance. Giselle dies of a broken heart in her lover’s arms. Stage lights flash in my eyes, blinding me so there is nothing, no one out there. The audience is a mass of black, fading until there is nothing left except me and the wooden floor of a smoke covered stage. My fingers release from the planks, and my hand lifts enough to finish the scene.

But the dance isn’t over. Giselle’s lover discovers her lifeless body and the dance continues. His body is strong and sure, but I do not dance. These legs will not move. Sleep calls me in a thick deep voice, over and over again.

A distraught man, Giselle’s lover, lifts me up and cradles my dead body in his arms. With one hand around his neck and the other, on his shoulder, I rest my head on his strong chest and sigh one last time. This is my final bow. The curtain falls and plunges me into darkness like I’ve never known.

BOOK: Life Before Damaged, Vol. 1
12.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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