In present-day Athens, Atria had just begun writing her law school admissions essay, delving into a dark deed from her past. Let's see how that essay is coming along—and get a little glimpse into her past firsthand...

**Please be advised that the flashback features some dark and distressing material. This is meant to give readers a real sense of the characters' past and to hopefully make an emotional impact. I used my best judgment in crafting this scene; the tone and descriptions are gritty, but not very graphic. I hope this makes for a worthwhile read. Just wanted to let you all know!**


Scene 7: The Same

A.D. 2015 

And it was not in self-defense; it was for a far better reason...

She watched as ink leaked into the last dot of the ellipsis, pouring and pooling as her paralyzed pen lingered on the spot for far too long. Swelling thick and dark like the blossom of blood on white cloth in the wake of a wound. A gunshot to the heart.

Words such as these should never be written, she knew. The memories on which they drew were meant to stay forever buried. What had she been thinking? Why had she opened the floodgates of hell, sent her mind sinking into the damned, depthless hole of her soul?

The gates burst open by accident all the time, throughout her life. In tortured dreams and in the shadows of her sleepless nights. But yesterday, when she'd sat down to start this essay, with the weapon of a pen pressed into virgin paper, she had opened them on purpose.

Intentionally. Just as intentionally as she'd killed a man, so long ago.

Every time Atria tried to write the next sentence, she ran into the same pool of ink, the same impasse. Signifying that the only sentence she could ever write was death. Dragging her back into the darkness.

A.D. 1999

Heavy. Hard. Hot. Like a log of old wood in a slow-burning stove. Big, bad, potbellied stove. Buried beneath the weight, no matter what the smoky voice might say, she knew this was the opposite of love.

"You are so pretty. So damn pretty, baby. You know I love you, right?" the hateful whisper lied. "I love you so much. Do you love me?"

He always spoke of love. The scariest part was that he seemed to mean it, to believe it, from the bottom of the twisted void that should have been his heart. He was just sick like that. Sick enough to equate love with something disgusting. Whatever had made the master of the house so sick, she hoped she wouldn't catch it. Unless she already had.

"Do you, baby?" he demanded again, stifling her sobs, exerting pressure in a painful place till she surrendered with a nod. "Tell me."

The scary hand shifted a bit, just enough to allow words to slip past her lips. Atria knew what she had to say, if she wanted the pain to go away. Though there would always be more pain, starting again each time it came to the illusion of an end, she knew. "Y-yes, sir, I do."

Somewhere at the edge of her senses, the few that weren't numb, she thought she heard a presence just outside the master bedroom, banging loudly on the locked door, rattling the rusty knob.

A violent sound, yet utter music to her ears. Every bang and every rattle held the promise of salvation. Even if the assault against the door, the gate of hell, was all in vain. Still, the sound softened the pain.

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