Intro and Summary: Intro and Summary into ‘Face All the Pain’ | Face All the Pain
“Funny how these things come about”
Benjamin is asleep in the backseat when I finally hit a cluster of buildings. We’ve been driving for around an hour and a half and there have been nothing but open fields and forests.
I’m amazed when I see the first building to pop up. It’s a McDonald’s and before I was kidnapped, I hated that place. All the greasy food and smells. But in this very moment, I want nothing more than to bite into a cheap hamburger.
I turn into the parking lot, figuring we might as well stop to eat and get directions to…somewhere where I could be free.
My hand wraps around the key and I slowly turn it, not thinking about how I’m about to go face society. The money is still sitting beside me, but the last thing I need is for someone to steal the stolen money I stole, so I shove all of it under the passenger seat.
I unbuckle my seatbelt and step outside. Suddenly, my nostrils take in the fresh dense air and I can feel my eyes watering. To be completely honest, I was afraid to ride with the windows rolled down, even though that was something I loved to do before I was kidnapped. I tried to reason with myself, saying it was going to be good for me, but then another part of me wanted to stay enclosed in our little stolen truck. It’s funny how the things that would have terrified me long ago are what I consider normal and the things I used to love doing scare me.
Opening the back door on Benji’s side, I try to be quiet and careful so that I won’t make him fall out. Sure, he’s buckled in tightly and he has a bag on either side of him, securing him in, but it’s a natural mother instinct. I used to dream of being a mom. Having someone who is purely yours and taking care of them. When I thought about it, sitting in my pink room with white curtains and Death Cab For Cutie blasting next to me, I didn’t think I’d be raising a son who was afraid to see a lollipop.
I run my hand down his head to smooth out his hair. One of the first things I need to do is give him a haircut. Rusty scissors and a few shaky snips doesn’t get the work done. He opened his eyes slightly, but then as the sun shines through the window and catches him in the eye, he freaks out and starts crying. His eyes look over me and then a quick sweep around before he says, “Mommy?” in a panic.
“No, no, no,” I say, unbuckling him and pulling him into my arms. “It’s alright. You’re okay.” I rest my cheek on his head and let him hold me. He probably thought I’m the one comforting him, but no, he’s the only one that’s keeping me sane.
And we stay like that for a minute. Ben was in absolute tears when I woke him up, but after a few pats on the back, he seems to be fine. “Are you hungry?” I ask him and he just nods.
I take ten bucks from the pile and slip it into my pocket as I lock the door and carry Ben towards the fast food restaurant. My heart beats quickly and I don’t know why. I guess five years of seclusion after being kidnapped will do things to you.
You notice the weirdest things when you’re not used to them. Like, all I can hear is cars chugging down the street and my own feet in nothing but sandals I found in the floorboard of the truck slapping against the concrete. The sound of bugs is everywhere and it’s practically deafening.
I see a lady up ahead of me, walking out of the building. She’s wearing things that could be considered as pajamas, but it can’t be worse than what I look like. I haven’t seen myself in a mirror lately, but I already know how I look. My skin is paler, I’m skinnier than I’ve ever been, and there are bruises all over my body, some old some new.
I run to catch up with the lady just as she’s walking out so she can hold the door open for me. I give her a tight-lipped smile, but she barely even looks my way. Were people always this rude?
The restaurant is extremely busy. And loud. People are chattering to each other from across tables, dishes are clattering in the kitchen, and I hear the strange sound of robotic beeping.
I think about how I hope I can find somewhere to sit as I get up to the register and stare at the menu. Not much is new from the last time I was there. Maybe a few new burgers and flavored coffees, but it was mostly the same.
A man in his late twenties is at the counter and he looks at me patiently as I stare up at the bright screen. “Do you know what you’ll have?” He asks.
“Oh, um… it’s been a long time since I’ve been here.” I apologize. I don’t notice until Benjamin starts to squirm a little that I’ve been holding onto him as tightly as I could. I rub his back to calm him down a little bit. The whole experience of ordering at McDonalds is scary for me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for Ben.
“I would recommend number three. It has a bit of everything on it.” The man doesn’t quite smile at me, but he seems friendly enough.
“Okay, I’ll take that.”
“And for him?” He nods towards Benjamin. When he sees the man looking at him, he buries his face into my shoulder. “He’s cute. Is he yours?”
“Yeah, he is,” I say and smile over at Benji’s shyness.
“You look so young to be a mom. How do you do it?”
I think back to the nine months of having a human inside me and how terrified I was. I sure as hell wasn’t taking care of myself so it’s a miracle Benjamin came out alive. “I have no idea,” I tell him. “He’ll have a Happy Meal.”
The man rings up our order and I give him the money. I carry Benjamin over to a table in the back corner where I’m sure no one will look at us.
I sit quietly with Benjamin in my lap until our order is ready and then I go get it. Benji digs in right away, going straight for the chicken nuggets and I smile at him as I eat my own food. Compared to sandwiches, hot dogs, and orange juice, this meal tastes like the best I’ve ever had. I don’t remember much about mom’s cooking since it was so long ago, but I do remember that it was always home cooked and Calum and I always got seconds.
Thinking of Calum makes me almost want to cry. Over the years, I’ve tried not to let my mind drift to Calum, or the red headed lady, or my mom cowering in the corner, and for a while, I succeeded. But you can only stop feeling things to a certain extent. Eventually, you have to revisit the fear you had seeing your dad dead like that, or your sister running to the neighbor’s yard with your younger brother, or your best friend watching as you’re put into a stranger’s truck and driven away hours from your home.
I’m only pulled out of my thoughts when Benjamin starts wailing. I look at him, startled at the loud sound and see that he staring right over my shoulder. I pull my shoulders towards Ben and turn my head slightly to see what he’s crying at.
A woman with dark brown hair, almost black, is standing beside me. She’s smiling despite Ben’s loud screams and is holding a toy that looks like a blue cat of some sort.
“I’m sorry to startle you, but your son threw this at my table and I thought I’d return it.” She holds it out for me and I lift my arm up slowly, a mistake I realize only after the sleeve of my oversized long-sleeve shirt rolls slightly down my arms and the woman gasps at the bruises on my pale skin. She lowers his voice a little, “Are you okay?” Her smile is faded and replaced by a worried look.
I yank my arm back down and cover it back up, “I’m fine,” I say to her and take the toy while still holding the sleeve up with my fingers.
“Are you sure?” She asks.
I nod and turn back to Benji. I stroke his face gently and put the toy in his lap, “It’s okay, mommy’s here. You’re okay.” I whispered those words to him every time he was scared and they seem to calm him down a lot because he stops crying and instead sips on his lemonade.
“You’re really good with him,” she says, her smile reappearing.
“Yeah, I’ve had about four years to get used to it,” and I find myself laughing for the first time in a long time. I’m so shocked by the sound, that I don’t notice the lady sitting down in the bench across the table from Benji and me until she starts drinking the last bit of her soda really loudly.
I look at her curiously and she stops to take a bite of her burger. “I hope you don’t mind me sitting here, I just thought you were interesting and I’d like to get to know you.”
“Oh,” was all I said. Benjamin stretches out his arms as far as he can to attempt to reach the apple slices, but they’re still a few inches short. I’m just about to scoot it closer to him when the woman’s hand beats me to it and she hands Benji the apples.
“Tank you,” Benjamin says, quietly, mispronouncing his words.
“Don’t mention it, kid.” We sit there for a few seconds in silence, all eating our food when the woman says, “I just realized you don’t know my name.” She laughs and I smile at the sound. “I’m Lila.”
Her name seems familiar and my mind goes around in circles, trying to find out where I know her from. “Lila…”
“Oh, Moren. Lila Moren,” she says and holds out her hand for me to shake.
“I’m…Vanessa,” I hesitate. I used to be one of those people who introduce themselves first, but I haven’t done it in a long time and now it just seems… like I’m trying too hard. How you try too hard to introduce yourself, I have no idea. “I feel like I know you from somewhere.”
“Oh, from college?” She smiles.
“No…” I say because I never went to college. “I’m Vanessa Padmore… Vani?”
And she freezes. Her smile completely vanishes and she’s looking me over, her eyes moving rapidly. “Van… Vani?… But…they said you were dead. They found your body… No, I’m imagining things. You aren’t real.” She seems to be whispering to herself now.
“I’m pretty sure I’m real,” I say. “Did I… did we go to high school together?”
She has her eyes closed and is mumbling things to herself. “Lila?”
“Hmmm?” She asks, her eyes flying open and when she sees me again, she lets out a shaky breath.
“I asked if we went to high school together.”
She nods slowly and then hurriedly, “Yeah,” she says, “We… we were in…geometry…together.” I can tell she’s having a hard time with knowing I’m alive, so I don’t ask her any more questions.
My stomach tightens at the thought of actually seeing someone I know again. Out of everyone who could have sat in front of me, how is it possible that it’s her. Sure, I didn’t know her that well, but we knew who each other were and there was an occasional hello while passing in the crowded hallways.
Minutes later, she reaches his arm out slowly and touches my cheek. When her finger makes, contact, she pulls it away quickly and continues staring at me.
“How are you here?” She asks, incredulous.
“That is a really long story,” I tell her.
Suddenly, Benjamin is tapping on my arm, “Open?” he asks as he holds out the package containing his blue cat toy. I take it from his hands and tear it open for him without really thinking. I’m staring out the window next to us, but not really looking at anything.
Lila seems to remember he’s there in that moment because her jaw drops and she stares at Benji’s small form as he pretends his cat is running across the table and jumping over a French fry. “He’s… your son?”
“Yep,” I say, wiping a piece of ketchup from his mouth with my finger and wiping it on my sweatpants.
“How old is he?” This time she says it much quieter.
“So, what happened to you? I was so convinced you were dead.”
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I don’t want to think back on what happened because I just got away from it so I just tell her, “So much has happened. I can’t even explain it all without taking you back in a time machine.”
She shakes her head too, “I can’t believe I’m talking to you again. Did you know, right after the, um, accident… we all went looking for you.” She stares for a minute at Benjamin and then back at me, “We couldn’t find anything. There was no signs anywhere to even lead us to you. Then, a year later, they found a body in a public restroom and said it was yours.”
“Wait, who’s ‘we’?”
“Me, Calum, Maya, and John,” She says. Her eyes droop a little as she thinks about what happened years ago.
I get a sense of nostalgia when I hear those names. Calum was my best friend so I would know that name anywhere. Knowing who Lila is, I link Maya as her cousin and John was Maya’s boyfriend. I feel the need to know everything that happened to everyone in those few years that I was gone.
Lila laughs at Benjamin who is letting his cat swim in his ketchup. “He looks a lot like you. It’s just so crazy. I thought I’d never see you again and here you are…alive and with a four year old son.”
“Yep,” I say. “And I thought I was never going to see the world again,” I chuckle humorlessly at the statement. We’re silent for a good five minutes. We just stare at each other, and then watch Benji play with his cat. And then stare at each other some more.
“Hey,” I say, eating one of Benji’s apples. “Where are we? I didn’t see any signs while driving here.”
“We’re in Greensburrow right now.”
Greensburrow, Greensburrow… For some reason, the name doesn’t ring a bell. “How far away are we from… Rowbrook?” It’s been such a long time since I’ve said that name and now it feels familiar. I just want to keep saying it.
“Oh,” she shakes her head, “We’re only about an hour from there. I can give you directions.”
“That would be great,” I say and she writes it on a napkin. “So, what have you been doing this whole time?” I ask her as she writes.
“Well, I finished high school, went to the community college down here for two years, dropped out and now I live with my husband here in Greensburrow.” She looks up at me and smiles.
“You’re married?” I ask, incredulously. I can’t imagine how much everyone around me has grown. They’re all adults with their own lives and careers. Funny how much things change when you’re kidnapped.
“I am,” she says. “I’m married to Anthony Johnson.” And she holds up her finger with the ring for me to see.
“Calum’s brother, Anthony?”
“Mm-hm,” she mumbles. “We dated for a little while I was a senior and then we broke up because I went to college. And then, he turned 18 and we got back together. Now, we’re married!”
“Oh wow,” I say. I really am shocked by the news. “So you live down here with Anthony?” She nods. “So how about Calum?”
“I’m pretty sure he still lives with him mom. She told him that as long as he’s in school, he can live there and you know Calum. He can’t pass up the opportunity for free housing.”
We both laugh because that does sound exactly like Calum. “So are you planning on seeing him?”
“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
“Well, I figured you were because he’s practically the only thing in Rowbrook that you’d want to see.”
“What about Rosaline? And Max? Are they okay?” The worst possible scenarios fill my head. What if the killers found them before they could get to safety? What if they died of grief? What if they just live in a mental hospital because of all the trauma they’ve been put through.
She cringes, “Why would I think you knew that already? I don’t know if they’re okay. The last I heard, they were in a foster care nearby.”
“… Foster care? Like adoption?” At least it wasn’t death or a mental hospital.
“Not necessarily. They could just be living there and no one came to adopt them.”
“No offense, Lila, but you’re not making this any better.”
“Not better,” Benjamin says and I just realize that he’s there still.
“I get it, little man. I’ve got to go anyway. I was just picking up lunch before my break ends. It was so great talking to you, Vani, and if you need anything, you most likely know where to find me. Greensburrow isn’t a very big town.” She smiles once before taking her trash and leaving the restaurant.
“My doggy very dirty,” Benjamin says when she leaves and I start cleaning up our trash as well.
“No, Ben, that’s a cat.” And he was right, it’s very dirty. It’s practically covered in ketchup and hair- most likely from falling on the floor- and now his hands are covered in the same mess.
“What’s a cat?” he asks.
“It’s an animal like a doggy but it says ‘meow’.”
“Meow,” he tries and likes the sound so he keeps saying it as I wipe off his hands with a clean napkin.
“Are you ready to go, my sweet Ben?” I ask him. He nods as he meows and I pick him up. He grabs his now clean cat and I grab the trash.
The buzzing sound of insects doesn’t sound foreign as we head back to the car. It could be my brain remembering the sound or it could be that I was thinking of everything at once. I buckle Benji in and repeat the same set-up as before, making sure he’s safe before going to my own seat and turning on the car.
I start driving, not really knowing where I’m going, but hoping to find out once I’m a little ways down the road. All I know is that I need to find Rose and Max. They were one of the only things that were important to me anymore and I wasn’t going to let them slip away.
*(A/N)* If you liked that, please hit the star/ like button so I know to post more chapters!
The line that I used as the chapter title is from the song Water’s Edge by Seven Mary Three. 🙂
Also, I’m so sorry that I’ve been absent for quite a long time! I’ve been in kind of a writing slump, especially with this story, but I’m getting back into the swing of things so hopefully you’ll see me next week!
I post a new chapter every Friday so make sure to stay tuned for the next one! Thanks for reading!
I post reviews on Mondays, tags on Tuesdays, my favorite #1lineWed tweets on Wednesdays, chapters of Face All the Pain on Thursdays, Friday Prompts on Fridays, and Random Ramblings on Sundays. I’ll see you all later but until then, keep writing, loves.
Find my previous post here: Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon Book Review | Écrits du Coeur
Previous Chapters of Face All the Pain:
Read and vote for this story on Wattpad!: https://www.wattpad.com/287988080-face-all-the-pain-chapter-2-%27fading-in-the