A scary thought wormed its way into my mind. Was I here to kill her? Sometimes, when they wanted to punish the other kids, they made me do it. It was much easier to kill the children than the adults. They called it extra practice. With the other kids, it was different, and each time, I was hurt because they made us fight. They wanted me to prove myself, and so I didn’t just have to kill them, but I had to fight them to the death.
“It’s just another way to toughen you up, slave,” Frank would say.
All the cruel things they did were always for the same purpose. Didn’t they know I didn’t want to be tough? I wanted to have the fun I would hear about in the other kid’s stories. Lily was always telling me about her life with her parents and her older brother. She’d told me they even had a dog that played with her. I hadn’t seen many dogs, but the dogs I had seen were mean and scary.
“All right. Let’s get this show on the road. The clients are getting impatient. They want to see what our fresh talent can do. Get the boy’s clothes off and get him on the bed.”
Hands were on my rags grabbing and tugging. I didn’t want them to take my clothes, but I knew better than to fight them. “Today, you become a man.” Snickers and hoots sounded around the room, but I didn’t understand the joke.
As my clothes were discarded, my eyes connected with a man who stood out from the rest. His clothes were neat, and he wasn’t heavily armored like the rest of the men. He watched on with an air of authority.
When I was finally naked, they shoved me toward the bed. Toward Lily. She visibly shook, and her eyes pleaded with me to help her. I didn’t know how. I had no weapon, and I was just as scared as she must have been. I was just much better at hiding it.
As I got closer, I noticed the fresh bruises covering her body. They must have beaten her. They were always beating her, and she would always take it but never do what they told her. I didn’t understand her. I didn’t know how she could be such a coward. All she had to do was give in and the beating would stop. She wouldn’t have to cry or feel hungry anymore.
I finally reached the bed, and when I did, she sat up to reach for me. “Keiran—”
My finger quickly brushed against her lips to shush her. We were never allowed to talk. Didn’t she know that? I pushed her down until she was lying on the bed once again and ran my fingers down her face, starting at her forehead.
“Keiran, help me,” she whispered with her eyes still closed.
Did she know what she was asking? There was only one way to stop this. Only one way to save the both of us. A quick glance around the room showed me each man was armed.
I leaned down until my lips rested near her ear. “I want you to count to five, and then start screaming as loud and as long as you can. Whatever you do, don’t stop. Do you understand?”
She nodded slowly and thankfully, didn’t open her eyes.
It was all I could give myself.
To think of another way out.
To say goodbye.
Five seconds was all it would take.
Because if I wait a second longer, I won’t be able to do it.
I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye.
“Are you ready?” I asked her shakily. She nodded again and started counting softly.
I looked at the men. Most were talking while others fiddled with the camera and lights. My eyes connected with the man again to find him watching me. If he knew what I was up to, he didn’t show it. He couldn’t know anyway.
I looked over her naked body. The sight of her bruises made my throat close.
If I did this…
She would never have to feel pain again.
Lily’s piercing scream ripped through the air. I didn’t think any more of what I had to do. I waited patiently for the guards to react.
“What the hell?” The man fiddling with the camera looked up with a fierce expression. “Someone shut her up!” he bellowed when everyone continued to stare.
When the first man came forward, I sucked in a breath and held it. My eyes never left his and Lily continued to scream. Some of the men cursed and yelled while others laughed with ugly leers plastered on their faces. I hated them all.
“Shut up, girl, or you’ll get more of today right now.” When he reached the bed, and Lily continued to scream, he spit out a harsh curse and leaned over the bed to grab her. It was the opportunity I needed.
It was now or never.
“I said shut up!”
He was dumb enough to carry his gun in the front of his jeans with his shirt tucked behind it. It provided easy access for me. With his eyes focused on Lily, I was able to snatch the gun and flick the safety just as they’d shown me many times before. I willed my arms to be strong enough to hold the gun steady in my hands and aimed at the man’s head before he could react.
He jerked back a second too late, and when he finally registered his gun in my hand, his eyes widened in surprise a split second before a sneer marred his features.
Lily continued to scream, but I could feel her eyes watching me as well as the eyes of the unknown man across the room. I didn’t dare take my eyes or aim off the worker. He could take this gun from me without much effort if I looked away for even a second.
“What are you going to do with that, boy?”
“What you taught me to do.” I re-aimed the gun, and without hesitation, I squeezed the trigger.