I shivered behind the middle counter.
I saw her. I know I saw her.
In my panic, all I did was quietly hide. I should have bought that door bolt. I should have shoved a chair beneath the handle.
And I should have chosen a better hiding spot, like going upstairs.
But my head was reeling, my thoughts distant and incomprehensible.
Please, god, have her go away.
The door handle jiggled, rattling roughly. I felt colour drain from my face, my body going cold, and tears running down my face.
Why? Why does she do this to me? I've done nothing but love her. Even after it all, I still haven't told the police–
There was a scraping, and I heard the door open.
No!! It was locked!! She picked the lock. Oh god, oh god, I should have bought the bolt. Why didn't I buy the bolt!?!
Why am I so STUPID?? Why am I so USELESS?? Why am I so WORTHLESS?? Why–
"Hello, Zed." Her voice was sickly sweet.
I jumped. She had come 'round the counter without me realizing it.
I'm stuck in a horror movie.
"Zen, please..." I whimpered, weakly crawling back away from her, feeling the world going white.
"Please what? Rip you in half? Use you like the pathetic little rag you are?" she sneered, smiling wickedly, grabbing me by my shirt collar.
"Aw, poor little whore!"
She slammed my body against the floor several times. "Stupid, disgusting little toy, little slut, little bitch–!!" The pain, her voice, it was all getting foggy. "Nothing, you're nothing! Don't talk to me like you're something!" I squeezed my eyes shut. Maybe it will be fast. Maybe it will be over soon.
Maybe... I... I will die this time, like she's promised before...
Reality suddenly snapped back together when I heard the loud thumping of boots coming down the stairs, and she stopped. My heart was racing, my body aching. But she hadn't done anything, yet.
She pulled me close and slapped a hand over my mouth. "God damn it, what the fuck?" she snarled under her breath.
His boots hit the floor. Candler! He's been here the whole time, I forgot– but, what use is it if he won't see me?
For once, my panicking mind functioned, and I kicked out and screamed from behind her hand, successfully hitting a prep table and knocking over several kitchenware.
"You little bastard–!" she hissed, jerking me by the hair.
"Who's there? Zed?"
Footsteps, and he came around the island. She let go of me and threw up her hands.
"Zed? What's going on? Who is this?" he demanded, suspicious.
"Oh! Oh my, he didn't tell you?" she feigned friendliness. "I'm his sister, Zenidal! See, see the resemblance?" she said, tugging me forward.
He glared at her. "Zed? Is that true?"
But my mind was broken again. I felt limp and useless. I couldn't protest properly. "She... is..." I said weakly. I mean, wasn't she? But she was... trying... "I-I..." I whimpered. I looked into his face, feeling shaky and unsteady. "I..." Please realize there's something wrong, I begged mentally. Help me...
"It's just a little accident we had, right Zeddie? My baby brother?"
"Zed?" he took a step forward, his eyes hard.
"N-now there's no need to–"
"Shut up," he spat, coming forward with a threatening aura. "I know that look. I know your tone of voice. Seen it a dozen times. Get away from Zed, or you'll be sorry." His eyes sparked with violent intent. I felt my heart jump from simultaneous fear and relief. I don't like that look on his face, but at least–
She looked around and leapt to her feet, snatching something off my table and then grabbing me up by the hair again. I felt something cold against my neck.
"Hhhaha-ha! You don't want him dead, do you?!" she barked, but her tone was trembling. But it was hard to notice when I realized what she had.
At my throat.
This is it. She was going to kill me for real this time.
"Now why don't you calm fucking down, and leave us here, huh? Go outside like a nice boy."
I was going to die.
I'm sorry Candler. I know you tried. It's my own fault.
There was a deafening roar in my ears, blocking out and muffling their voices. The world seemed to fade into a static before my eyes, the strength leaving my body and everything going... so cold, so far away, so foreign.
Am I... hearing someone...?
I felt something, a sort of impact, a jostling.
"ZED!! Hey, are you with me!?"
Reality came back slowly this time, my body feeling unfamiliar and sluggish. My eyes realized he was staring into mine.
"C...Candler...?" I asked, my voice strange.
He smiled in relief. "Oh thank god. I got ya buddy."
My vision panned over his shoulder, seeing Zen on the ground reeling. He was saying something to me, but all I could focus on was the fact she was getting up, looking at him with fury, large bruises forming on her face and eye. I started hyperventilating, unable again to speak and warn him.
But I didn't need to.
He only took a second to understand my face, and whirl around in time to meet her. He took her down easily, landing a blow to her stomach and side, landing her on the floor again.
"Seen this a dozen times too," he said dryly, "You act like you're fucking tough, some big bad ass, but you're really just a pussy. You pick on lil' guys like Zed, because you know in a real fight, you're fuckin' nothing. Poser piece of shit!" He kicked her over, and kicked her again. And again. And again. And... and...
"Stop!" I screamed.
He turned around. "Stop? Ha! Why?"
"Shhhe... I-I... Just... Just don't!" I babbled, my voice strained and pitched, tears flowing down my cheeks. "Don't do those things! Don't make that voice! Just stop! Stop it! Don't–!" I choked.
"I don't care!" I shrieked. "Just let her go!" I squealed. "I can't take it anymore, no more violence! No more violence!" I sobbed, my whole body shaking, feeling so weak I could collapse entirely. "I can't take it!"
Zen had scrambled to her feet. I heard him spit "Get out!" and she was gone.
I wrapped my arms around myself and leaned back against the counter, whimpering, sniffling, hiccuping, drawing my legs in. My body hurt. My head hurt. My heart hurt.
He crouched beside me, and for a moment I shunned him, turning my head away. I winced when he put a hand on my shoulder. "Zed..." he started. His voice was different now, unsure, and... scared?
I turned back to him, my hair sticking to my wet face.
He looked into my eyes again, searching, a little confused. I started giving shuddering heaves and looked down, hiding my face.
"Oh my god."
I looked up. His eyes were wide with sudden understanding.
"She... she's the one, isn't she? Your actual fucking sister, she's the one who... who rap–"
"Don't say it! Don't say it, please, god, I can't stand to hear it!" I wailed.
He tentatively put his arms around me, and I latched onto his chest instantly, completely breaking down.
"I'm sorry, Zed. I'm so sorry," he said to me over my bawling. "But she won't come back. She won't bother you ever again. Not so long as I can help it." I heard him say it in a deep, deep rumble in his chest, like the sound of rolling thunder.
But I merely cried.