Stolen By A Sinner: Chapter 12

Lara

Since Murat placed the box on the table in my bedroom, I’ve been swallowing hard on my emotions.

My belongings.

It might not be much, but it’s mine.

How long have I been here? Almost eleven or twelve days? Not once have I been shouted at, slapped, or whipped. So far, these people have been kind to me.

Even though I’m still scared of Gabriel, the fear has lessened some. He’s going to pay me to work here. Two thousand dollars. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the large sum of money, and I have no idea what I’ll do with it.

Just save it.

And now he’s had my personal belongings brought over from Tymon’s mansion.

It’s surreal.

My hand trembles slightly as I lift the lid. Carefully, I remove the sets of clothes and my sneakers. My eyes threaten to tear up at the sight of the worn Cinderella book Mom used to read to me.

Taking hold of the storybook, I swallow hard. I turn to the first page, and seeing the only photo I have of my mom, my chin starts to quiver.

Don’t cry.

My eyes drink in her light brown hair and blue eyes.

I can’t remember what she smelled like, and over the years, her smile and the sound of her voice have faded. Without the photo, I’m scared I might forget what she looked like.

Pressing the photo to my heart, I close my eyes and breathe through the pang of emotion welling in my chest. It’s a mixture of longing and loss that has only increased over the years.

Since I started working for Gabriel, I’ve been finding it hard to bury my feelings. It’s all too overwhelming.

In Gabriel’s house, people are allowed to have relationships and friendships. Nisa is motherly to everyone. Murat is always smiling, his presence becoming comforting instead of threatening.

It’s too much to process.

What if I let all these emotions in, and I have to go back to Tymon? Then working for him will be so much harder.

Just focus on doing a good job, and you might not have to go back.

Taking my social security card from inside the pages of the book, I tuck it into my bra. If something happens where I’m unconscious again, at least the document will go wherever I go.

I place the photo back in the book before tucking it all beneath the clothes. Putting the lid back on the box, I glance around the room.

Where am I going to keep it?

There’s no space beneath the bed. Opening the closets, I decide to slide the box onto the top shelf. I have to stretch, and when there’s a sharp pain in my stomach, I almost drop it.

By the time I shut the closet door, sweat is beading on my forehead. I press my hand to the healing wound over my stomach and suck in shallow breaths.

You’re okay.

There’s a knock before the bedroom door opens, and Nisa comes in. She takes one look at me then her eyes widen. “What’s wrong?”

I shake my head and force a smile to my lips. “Nothing.”

Not taking my word for it, she comes closer, shoves my hand out of the way, and starts to unbutton the dress.

Like an idiot, I stand rooted to the spot, not even trying to stop her.

When Nisa has access to the bandage, she gently peels it away. “Tsk! I told you to be careful. You’ll have all the stitches tearing open. Sit on the bed.”

Even though she’s scolding me, the fact that she’s once again taking care of me becomes too much. With a trembling bottom lip and a lump in my throat, I sit down and lower my head.

I never knew how much I missed and needed a caring touch until Nisa. I got so used to just existing.

Nisa quickly retrieves the first aid kit she keeps in my bathroom, and while she gently cleans both my wounds, I keep swallowing on the tears threatening to spill from my eyes.

The last time anyone cared about my wounds was when Mom tended to my scraped knee.

Once Nisa’s happy and the bandages are back in place, she sits down beside me. Without a word, she grips my hand and holds it in both of hers.

I close my eyes, focusing on my breaths.

Need for acceptance, to belong to something bigger than just surviving, shoots through me with an incredible force.

Nisa wraps an arm around my shoulders, and when I flinch from the tenderness still left over after the whipping, I can feel her eyes burning on my face. “Is it okay if I hold you?”

Not wanting her to stop, I nod quickly. My voice is thick with unshed tears as I whisper, “It’s just the lashings. They’re still tender.”

“Lashings?” Her voice is sharp as she darts to her feet. For a second time, she unbuttons the dress, and when she pulls the fabric over my shoulders to expose my back, she inhales sharply.

Allah Allah!” she exclaims.

My eyes dart to her face and seeing the horror etched into her features, a wave of shame hits hard. Slowly, she shakes her head, then her face contorts as if she can actually feel my pain.

Opening the first aid kit again, she begins to clean the scabbed-over lashes. It doesn’t even sting but just having Nisa show me such kindness has me losing the fight for a fragile moment. A tear rolls down my cheek, and I duck my head lower.

“You poor thing,” she murmurs, her words filled with a world of compassion. She clears her throat, the gentle pats over the lashes on my back, both soothing and tormenting.

Soothing because no one has shown me such care since I lost my mother, and tormenting because it’s making it so much harder not to cry.

The single teardrop reaches my jaw, then falls and splats onto my hand. I quickly wipe it away, trying harder to not crumble beneath the weight of the kindness being given to me.

“I will not have you working today,” Nisa informs me.

Instantly all the foreign but good emotions evaporate, and ice pours through my veins. My head snaps up, my eyes widening on Nisa. “But I’ll get in trouble. I don’t think I’m strong enough to handle another beating. Please let me work.”

Nisa shakes her head before I’m yanked into a motherly hug. She brushes a hand over the braid I struggled to make. “Allah Allah. This is breaking my heart.” Pulling slightly away, she locks eyes with me. “You won’t be beaten or whipped here. This is a safe place, Lara Hanim.”

Not understanding, my eyebrows draw together. Needing to know so I can mentally prepare myself, I cautiously ask, “What kind of punishments do we get?”

Again she shakes her head. “There are no punishments here. Gabriel Bey isn’t a monster like that despicable man you worked for.”

That can’t be possible, can it? How does Gabriel control his employees, then?

“What if I break something, or I’m late?” I ask.

Nisa pats my arm. “We’re all human, Lara Hanim. We’re bound to break a plate or glass.”

Absolutely dumbfounded, I try to process everything. My world has totally done a one-eighty turn on me.

Nisa seems to understand my predicament because she says, “You’ll get used to our way of life, which is actually quite normal. It’s Mazur who’s the abnormal one.” She gives me a comforting smile. “Life is not meant to be lived in pain and misery, Lara Hanim. I’ll show you everything. Okay? Never worry about asking me anything. If you don’t understand, I’ll explain it until you do.”

Again my eyes begin to well with tears, and I swallow hard. “Thank you, Nisa Hanim.”

Gabriel might be responsible for my being shot, but because of it, I’ve been given this chance to work in a house where people care.

It might all be a farce to get me to let down my guard, but my gut instinct tells me that’s not the case.

My heart beats a little faster as excitement trickles into my chest.

Do I dare hope that a life without punishments exists? That there’s more to life than being on guard all the time and living in a bubble of loneliness?

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