“At 18 I had pennies, but money didn’t make me bold. At 19 I had dollars, but it didn’t dull the pain of being sold. At 20 I had hundreds, but then I met him and was found. At 21 I had thousands, but all I wanted was to be bound.”
“At 23 I had dollars, but life changed and made me rich. At 25 I had hundreds, but it wasn’t enough to stop my killing itch. At 27 I had thousands, but my reputation didn’t set me free. At 29 I had millions, but I met her and could finally see.”
Tasmin was killed on her 18th birthday. She had everything planned out. A psychology degree, a mother who pushed her to greatness, and a future anyone would die for. But then her murderer saved her life, only to sell her into a totally different existence.
Elder went from penniless to stinking rich with one twist of fate. His lifetime of crime and shadows of thievery are behind him but no matter the power he now wields, it’s not enough. He has an agenda to fulfil and he won’t stop until it’s complete.
But then they meet.
A beaten slave and a richly dressed thief. Money is what guided their separate fates. Money is what brought them together. And money is ultimately what destroys them.
She was poor.
He was rich.
Together…they were bankrupt.
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Such a simple word.
For those who had it, it carried very little importance. But for those who didn’t have it, it was the most precious, prized, and promised hope of all.
I supposed I was lucky to know what freedom felt like.
For eighteen years, I’d been free. Free to learn what I wanted, befriend who I liked, and flirt with boys who passed my rigorous criteria.
I was a simple girl with ideals and dreams, encouraged by society to believe nothing could hurt me, that I should strive for an excellent career, and no one could stop me. Rules would keep me safe, police would keep the monsters away, and I could remain innocent and naïve to the darkness of the world.
I had it.
But then I lost it.
Murdered, resuscitated, and sold.
I lost my freedom for so many years.
Until the day he entered my cage.
Him with the black eyes and blacker soul.
The man who challenged my owner.
And set my imprisonment on an entirely different path.
No, that didn’t sound right. Far too light-hearted for my tale.
Scratch that. Too grandiose.
To The Person Reading This.
To The Person I Wish Would Help Me.
That would get me in trouble. And I refused to sound weak. Not if these words were the only thing strangers would remember me by.
Tapping the broken pencil against my temple, I did my best to focus. For weeks, I’d been confined like a zoo animal being acclimatised to its new cage. I’d been fed, washed, and given medical attention from my rough arrival. I had a bed with sheets, a flushing toilet, and shampoo in the shower. I had the basics that all human and nonhuman life required.
But I wasn’t living.
I was dying.
They just couldn’t see it.
Inspiration struck as I came up with the perfect name to address this sad letter to. The title was the only right in this wrong, wrong new world.
To No One.
The moment the three words were pressed into my poor parchment, I couldn’t stop the memories unfolding. My left hand shook as I kept the toilet tissue flat while my right flew, slowly transcribing my past.
I WAS EIGHTEEN when I died.
I remember the day better than any other in my short life. And I know you’re rolling your eyes, saying it only happened three weeks ago, but believe me, I will never forget this. I know some people say certain events are forever imprinted on their psyche, and up until now, I haven’t had anything stick in such a way. You see, No One, I guess you could’ve called me a brat. Some might even say I deserve this. No, that’s a lie. No one would wish this on their worst enemy. But the fact remains, only you know I’m not dead. I’m alive and in this cell about to be sold to the highest bidder. I’ve been hurt, touched, violated in every sense but rape, and been stripped of everything I used to be.
But to my mother? I’m dead. I died. I vanished. Who knows if she’ll ever truly find out what happened to me.
The scribbling of my pencil stopped. I sucked in a ragged breath, trembling hard as I relived what I’d been through.
My will to stay breathing had vanished. It’d taken them a while to break me. But they had. And now that they’d achieved their goal, I was nothing more than cargo waiting for the transaction to line their pockets with my sale.
For days, all I’d had for entertainment were my chaotic thoughts, awful memories, and overwhelming panic of what lay ahead of me. But that was until I found the chewed up, snapped in half pencil beneath the bed.
The find had been better than food or freedom; better because both of those things were minutely controlled by my traffickers. I had no power to sway the regimented arrival of breakfast and dinner nor the ability to halt the fact I was being sold like meat to the highest bidder.
I had no control over being alone in a tiny room that had once been a hotel suite before its premises were bought for more unsavoury stays. The towels were threadbare with the sigil of some long ago establishment and the carpet swirled in golds and bronze hinting the decor hadn’t been updated since the seventies.
Was that how long the pencil had lurked beneath my bed? Were the bite marks on the wood given by a rowdy toddler waiting for its parents to stop fussing so they could explore a new city? Or had a maid lost it while tucking starched white sheets with military precision?
I’d never know.
But I liked to make up fantasises because I had nothing else to do. I spent my achingly long days going over every nook and cranny of my jail. They’d broken my spirit, washed away my fight, but they couldn’t stop the determined urge inside me. The instinct everyone had—or at least, I thought everyone had.
I’d been alone for so long now I didn’t know what the other girls I was processed with would do. Did they lie star-spread on the bed and wait for their future? Did they huddle in the corner and beg for their fathers to stop this nightmare? Or did they accept, because it was easier to accept than to fight?
Me? I ran my rubbed-raw fingertips over every wall, every crack, every painted up window frame. I crawled on my hands and knees, searching for something to help me. And by help me, I didn’t know if I meant as a weapon to fight my way out or something to end my struggle before it truly began.
It’d taken me days to go over every square inch. But all I’d found was this half-mangled pencil. A gift. A treasure. The nub was almost down to the wood and I wouldn’t have long before I had to find a way to sharpen my precious possession, but I’d worry about that another day. Just like I’d become a master at shoving aside my worries about everything else.
The one thing I didn’t find was any paper. Not in the drawers of the beat-up desk or in the cupboard beneath the non-functioning television. The only apparatus I could write on was toilet-paper and the pencil wasn’t too keen on that idea, tearing the soft tissue rather than imprinting its silvery lines.
Nevertheless, I was determined to leave some sort of note behind. Some piece of me that these bastards hadn’t taken and never would.
Taking another deep breath, I shoved aside my current conditions and clutched the pencil harder. Glancing at the door to make sure I was alone (I had three hours before dinner was served through the hole in the wall), I spread out my square of toilet paper to make it tight and writable and continued with my note.
I wish I could say a monster killed me. That a terrible accident caused this. And I can say that…to a degree.
However, the real reason I’m dead and a new toy about to be sold is mainly because of my upbringing.
That poise and confidence my mother drilled into me? It didn’t grant me in good stead for a profitable career or handsome husband. It pissed people off. I came across as stuck-up, know-it-all, and vain.
It made me a target.
I don’t know if anyone will ever see this but you, No One, but if they do, I hope they forget what I’m about to admit. I’m an only daughter to a single parent. I love my mother. I do.
But if I ever survive what’s about to happen to me and by some miracle I find freedom again, I’ll keep this next part to myself when I account my time in purgatory.
I love my mother, but I hate her.
I miss my mother, but I never want to see her again.
I obeyed my mother, but I want to curse her for eternity.
She’s the only one I can blame.
The one responsible for me becoming nothing more than a whore.