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Everyone has sins from their past. We would like to forget them, and we hope they won’t come back to haunt us. What would you do if you were forced to face them? To face the consequences of every decision you ever made? Face every lie you told? Every secret you kept for someone else? Would you do it to save the people you love the most?

Chapter Prologue


Time and place unknown

Hell. Again. It’s like I’ve got an all access return anytime pass.
I paced the small windowless room, shoving my hand through my recently sheared hair. Reaching the far wall, I turned, pacing the six steps back across. This wasn’t the first time I’d found myself in this cell they attempted to pass off as a room. I had just really hoped my last time in this particular level of hell was…well, just that. My. Last. Time.
I closed my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I pushed those thoughts out of my head. If I went there, I would never survive this round. Opening my eyes, I let the breath out slowly, turning around in time to avoid my face meeting the wall.
I flinched slightly when I heard footsteps outside the door. Here we go again.
When the door opened, I didn’t break my stride, nor did I look over my shoulder to see who invaded my already small space. Showing no fear and letting them think I didn’t care were my main survival tactics at the moment. When the person at the door issued a short, clipped command in Arabic, I stopped, automatically placing my hands above my head, interlocking my fingers.
I fought the very strong urge to break the hold and fight back. I was getting tired of playing this game, but what choice did I honestly have? My life wasn’t the only one hanging in the balance. Playing nice kept me alive for now. It definitely kept the others alive. So, as much as it killed me, I took everything they gave. So instead of breaking the hold when the guard grabbed my wrists—he made sure to utilize those pesky pressure points—I gritted my teeth instead of punching him like I so dearly wanted to.
Once the zip ties were securely fastened and digging into the skin of my wrists, I turned to face the drone dressed in all black. Smiling, though I was killing him in my mind, I led the way out of the dungeon like room.
And right into a suffocating furnace.
Blinking against the sudden onslaught of sunlight, I found myself suddenly wishing for the cool dankness of the room. I silently thanked whoever was listening that they had me in a sleeveless dress. Okay, granted, it was made of uncomfortable material rivaling a burlap sack and it came about three inches above my knees, but it was lightweight and offered some airflow in the desert heat.
The humidity hit me like a fist in the stomach, my first breath of fresh air choking me. The air inside had been stale and muggy, and despite the intense heat, I was thankful for the fresh air.
Blowing a strand of hair off my face, I wondered how long ago it had actually been since they blessed me by cutting my hair just below my earlobes. In this hellish place time sort of blended together. I stumbled over a rock in the sand, quickly catching myself before I crashed into the guard that suddenly appeared in front of me. I was tired, hungry, beyond thirsty, and so not in the mood to get a beating.
The goon in front of me filled a green canteen from the well we’d stopped in front of. When he was done, we continued our trek across the open courtyard.
When we reached the stucco two room building they kept me in when I behaved and was in a cooperating mood, they shoved me roughly through the door. The zip tie was cut, the canteen tossed at me, and the door slammed shut, the key turning in the lock outside loud in the still room.
Well, then.
Dropping onto the single person cot that served as my bed, I relished in the cool air circulating from the wooden ceiling fan. Unscrewing the lid to the military style canteen, I tipped it up and took a long swallow. Replacing the lid, I set it on the floor beside the cot as I kicked off my flip flops. I stood up, grabbed a clean dress off the cot, and headed towards the bathroom.
Turning on the shower, I quickly stripped, stepped into the small square shower, and sighed contentedly as I let the hot water pound my skin, working its magic on sore and tense muscles.
The water felt so good after my trip to the “room”, I barely noticed the pain that came with the water hitting the round, dark bruise on my ribcage or the slowly healing gashes on my back.
Sometime later, I donned the identical dress and padded into the small room. Someone had brought food in while I was in the shower; it was sitting on the small wooden table calling my name loudly. I sensed the man lurking in the shadows beside the door before I saw him.
Only one person could cause my blood pressure to rise to catastrophic levels, my heart to try and beat its way out of my chest, and turn my vision red just by breathing the same air as me.
He was standing just inside the wooden door, lounging against the wall. Purposely not looking in his direction, I turned off the urge to strangle him, walked over to the table and dropped into the straight backed chair instead.
With a groan, I remembered the canteen. I pushed back from the table, grabbed the bottle, and returned to my seat.
“Have I told you how fun it is to watch you pretend you hate me?”
“Have I told you how many ways you can go fuck yourself yet today?” I shoveled a plastic spoonful of unidentifiable food into my mouth. Skipping the chewing aspect of eating, I swallowed and added, “Let me count the ways if I haven’t.”
He chuckled from the doorway. “Always a pleasure talking to you love.” The door opened, shut, and was locked again.
I heard him talking to the guards outside as I continued to mechanically shovel food into my mouth. Once done with the meal, I drained the rest of the water in the canteen. I then managed to climb into the cot before dropping off to sleep to dream of easier, if not always happier, times.

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Amanda Quiroz

Tempe, afghanistan

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