I am alone.

Despite what I was just told, the first thing I do is dump the hideous dress on the bed, and run to the window, checking to see if it’s open. My jaw nearly hits the floor when I find that it is. Why the hell would they leave the windows open if they were planning on kidnapping people and holding them hostage?

Because you’re in the middle of nowhere, a small voice in the back of my head reminds me. And how would you get down, anyway? That’s a big drop. A really big drop. It could be my eyes playing tricks on me, but I think I can actually see a patch of rust-colored dirt directly under the window. Do people’s legs actually explode when they hit the ground after a fall? I have no idea, but my stomach is balking at the prospect of giving it a shot. There’s no handily placed downpipe to shimmy down like in the movies. Nothing to gain any purchase on at all. Fuck.

I give up the jumping from the window idea, and decide on searching for another means of escape. The room is markedly bare, though. There’s a double bed, freshly made by the looks of things. A dresser against the far wall, though when I open the drawers, they’re all empty. A sink complete with dripping tap stands in the corner—the kind the Victorians used to put in every bedroom back before the introduction of the en-suite bathroom. My heart leaps in my chest when I see the mirror mounted on the wall above it. I could smash it and use one of the shards as a weapon. But I’m not even halfway across the room when I realize the mirror isn’t actually a mirror at all. Instead, it’s a highly polished piece of metal, screwed tightly into the wall. I try to prize the screws out, but I only succeed in making my fingers bleed. The nails don’t budge an inch.

A weak desperation sets in after that. I stalk the perimeter of the room, eyes scanning for something I may have missed. Something, anything, I can use to get the hell out of here. There isn’t anything. Once that really hits home, I curl myself into a ball in the corner of the room and I cry. I cry so hard I make myself sick, my stomach muscles trembling from the second round of purging. I’m rinsing out my mouth, my legs trembling underneath me like two frail stalks of corn, when the door opens and Ramona walks in. She doesn’t seem impressed that I’m not decked out in the yellow dress yet.

“Fuck’s sake,” she hisses. I move away from her so that my back’s pressed up against the wall, but she doesn’t seem to care. This whole thing feels a little rote on her part. With quick, rough hands, she takes hold of my soiled T-shirt and forcefully removes it from my body. I’m too stunned to struggle. She unbuttons my jeans next, and drags them down. My legs get a good hard slap when I refuse to lift my feet at first. I relent after the third strike, miserably raising them one at a time so she can bully my dirty, wadded-up jeans free from my body.

She leaves me in my underwear while she fills the sink with water. I’m made to remove those too when she’s done, though—if you don’t do it, I will. I cover my breasts with my hands, awkwardly trying to make myself smaller as Ramona uses a clean, white face cloth to scrub at my body. The water’s warm, but it might as well be freezing cold. Every time she touches me, I nearly jump out of my skin. My humiliation is complete when she thrusts the cloth between my legs, forcing my hand out of the way.

“You want to make him unhappy?” she snaps. Him being Raphael, no doubt. I do not want to make him unhappy—the bastard is unhinged—but I don’t particularly like the way my lady parts are being prepped for some unknown event, either. Ramona tuts as she plucks with her fingers at my pubic hair. I’m not a particularly hairy person, but she seems revolted by what I’ve got going on downstairs.

“This needs to go,” she informs me. “You look like a fucking virgin with that fuzz going on.”

I’m hit with a sudden memory—the mystery biker’s words to me as he gripped hold of my wrist. Tell them you’re a virgin. Whatever happens, make sure Hector knows that. Even the firm look he gave me as he walked away was reaffirming what he’d said to me. I haven’t even considered what it might mean for my situation right now, but he seemed so insistent. And he hated Raphael; I could see that in his eyes, too. I open my mouth and tell Ramona what he told me to say, choking on the words. “I am a virgin.”

Ramona rockets to her feet, taking a step back. “What?” She looks like I’ve just slapped her.

I contort my arms around my body again, trying and failing to cover too many parts of myself. “I’m a virgin. I’ve never been with anyone before,” I say in a small voice. This is a flagrant lie. I lost my virginity when I was eighteen to the first guy I ever loved, Joshua. We’d been dating for two years through the final years of high school. We’d finally committed ourselves to each other the week before he left for college in Oklahoma. We’d known it was over but we still loved each other. It was a final, gentle moment, one last gift that was shared between us before we said goodbye. Since then I’ve only had one sexual partner, Matt, but we’ve hardly been shy about what we’ve wanted from each other.

Ramona casts a doubtful eye over me. She doesn’t believe me. “How old are you?”


“Ain’t no white college girls virgins at twenty-one,” she tells me, as though she’s an authority on the matter.

“My family’s religious. I’m religious. No sex before marriage.” My cheeks burn like charred ember when I go to Church these days—there’s never been a woman so wanton sitting in the pews of St. Augustus Catholic Church. When I’m feeling particular penitent, I’ll go to confession and take my Hail Marys on the chin, along with the partially visible scandal that marks Father Richmond’s face.