Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Twenty Nine

Please exercise caution with this chapter! There is sensitive content.

Chapter Twenty Nine

There were hands on her. Rough and unwieldy, pawing at her like some kind of animal. Iman struggled to get away, panic closing her throat and silencing her scream.

The bed shifted as the body above her used their knees to pin her to the mattress.

Panic gave her strength and she ripped one of her hands free, hope kindling in her chest, only for it to be extinguished when it was easily recaptured. Her arms were pushed above her, allowing her captor to take both her wrists in one large, filthy hand.

He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “That’s it. Keep fighting. It’s no fun when you don’t.”

Tears of fury streamed down her cheeks and she thrashed uselessly.

He laughed. “Just like that,” he murmured approvingly, a sick excitement gleaming in his eyes.

He’d turned the lights on when he’d come in and she could see the gleeful smile on his face.

Iman squeezed her eyes shut tight, unable to stomach looking at that disgusting face any longer.

There was a pause and then the hand holding her wrists tightened. “Open your eyes,” he demanded, panting over her.

She ignored him, vicious satisfaction flooding through her at this one last rebellion.

Open them!” he hissed furiously, pawing at her face with clumsy fingers.

After a few moments of fruitless struggling, he gave up. “Fine. I’ll still get what I want out of you. See if I don’t.” His tone was so petulant it reminded Iman of a toddler being refused sweets and a bizarre desire to laugh welled within her.

The laughter faded immediately when she felt that remaining hand slide down her body, gripping possessively at her before sliding under her waistband and yanking off her last, feeble protection.

There was a gruff laugh. “How pretty you are. Even more than your mother. I’m going to enjoy this.”

Iman sobbed and renewed her efforts to struggle free, bile rising in her throat. No. No! NO!

She screamed and then began to sob in earnest, her eyes still shut tightly as she braced herself, still pulling so hard on her hands that her shoulders burned in agony. He was going to hurt her but she wouldn’t make it easy for him. She would resist in whatever small way she could.

Iman. Iman!”

The pressure eased and she tore her eyes open with a gasp, ready to fight.

There was no one there. Iman looked around wildly, searching for her stepfather, determined that he wouldn’t catch her unaware again.

He wasn’t there.

It was just a dream,” someone said soothingly to her right.

She knew that voice. Iman looked around the room, blinking rapidly to try and clear her eyes. She wasn’t in her mother’s house, she realized, and her heartbeat began to slow. She was in the bedroom she shared with Adam and he… There he was, standing off to the side with his hands raised non-threateningly in front of him.

It had been a dream.

Her stomach churned and Iman clapped a hand over her mouth, retching. She tried to get up but fell back, her legs caught in a messy tangle of sheets.

In desperation, she leaned over the side of the bed and emptied her stomach, cringing even as she spat out everything she’d eaten the previous day.

When she was finally done, she straightened up and weakly began to untangle herself, focusing on the sheets as she apologized to Adam. “I’ll clean it up,” she assured him. “Just give me a second-”

Leave it,” he said softly.

Iman lifted her head, thinking she’d misheard. Adam was watching her with a curious look on his face.

Leave it,” he repeated. He’d retreated to the opposite side of the room but he came closer as he spoke. Still carefully out of her space, he quickly untangled the sheets.

Can you get to the bathroom by yourself?”

Iman didn’t know. Her legs felt like rubber. She said as much and Adam’s mouth tightened. “I can carry you,” he offered carefully.

Iman hesitated and Adam drew back. The churning of her stomach decided her finally and she nodded frantically. “Yes, please, now!” she choked out, slapping a hand over her mouth.

The next moment she was in the air and moving.

His hands were gentle, she noticed absently. So different to the rough ones that she could still feel sliding over her. She shuddered and Adam stopped, looking down at her in concern. “You okay?”

Fine,” she rasped. “I’m fine.”

He set her down in front of the toilet, carefully letting her regain her balance before he let go and backed out of the room. “If you need anything,” he said softly, pausing at the threshold, “just call.”

Without another word, he was gone.

Absurdly, she felt worse alone.

Iman woke the next morning to an empty room that smelt heavily of the lemon-scented cleaner Adam’s house help favoured.

She frowned in confusion. How had she gotten back to bed? The last thing she remembered was being too tired to lift herself up from the floor and resigning herself to spending the rest of the night lying against the cool tile.

Adam.

He’d carried her to the bathroom, he must have carried her back as well.

She needed to thank him and come up with some kind of explanation for what had caused her meltdown. And soon.

The contents of her dream flashed before Iman’s eyes and she shuddered. Her stepfather had never touched her. He’d leered and commented and even once come into her bedroom. But he’d never gotten the chance to touch her.

Had he?

Where had that dream come from?

Iman pushed it out of her mind. Dreams – nightmares – were terrifying and strange. But most of them weren’t true. This one wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t.

She was just unhappy about the upcoming dinner Aasia had insisted on.

She didn’t want to see either of them again – was angry that Aasia had forced her into accepting the summons that she’d sweetly disguised as an invitation – and that fear had manifested itself as something terrifying. That was all.

It had to be. The alternative… it just wasn’t worth considering.

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