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C4 Three

Sara woke up, extending her arms before she dared to check the bedside clock. A quick glance revealed it was only seven in the morning, and she felt a pang of disappointment. She knew she wouldn't be able to fall back asleep, but she had hoped to rest until at least nine, maybe even ten.

With frustration gnawing at her, she reluctantly left her bed and made her way to the bathroom. A long, hot shower refreshed her in a delightful manner, and she washed away the remnants of the wedding celebrations from her body.

She took her time, pulling her hair up and applying makeup. For some reason, she wanted to make her father wait. It was a small act of rebellion against his controlling ways. She despised his yelling and detested it even more when he resorted to physical violence, but she was trying to grasp a morsel of independence.

Despite being twenty-five years old, her father adamantly refused to let her move out of his home. He had no issue with her younger sister Sandy gallivanting around, changing partners like a chameleon, and eventually marrying her sister's ex-boyfriend. However, when it came to Sara moving out on her own, he erected insurmountable barriers.

She couldn't fathom why, especially since he seemed to loathe her. When he had finally explained that she was paying for what he perceived as her mother's transgressions, it had horrified her. She had argued with him, but in the end, the battle had proven futile. He was a powerful, domineering man, and she lacked the strength and energy to resist him. He had broken her spirit long ago.

Now, with Sandy gone, Sara glimpsed a realm of possibilities ahead of her. Perhaps, just maybe, he would relent and allow her to find her own place, to begin truly living her life.

Over the years, she had managed to squirrel away some money. It would be enough to survive on her own while she secured a job and started living independently. With a college degree and volunteer experience, she believed finding work shouldn't be too challenging. Her main hurdle was escaping her father's clutches, doing so with his permission to avoid being forcibly returned.

For two precious years, she had savored a taste of freedom, a glimpse of life away from him. It wasn't a full two years since she had to return home during breaks, but it was more than she had ever hoped for at that point in her life.

After high school, she had attended a local community college, still bound to stay home but at least able to leave during the day. Then, for two years, she had attended a prestigious university, living on campus as mandated by the institution.

In her first semester, she had been too timid and shy to socialize with anyone. But after that, she had met her roommate, Brianne, who refused to let her hide away. Sara fondly remembered her friend as a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm.

Brianne had insisted that Sara not stay cooped up in their dorm room and had dragged her out to dine, party, and stay out until the wee hours of the night. They had become fast friends. It didn't take long because Brianne was the kind of person who refused to take "no" for an answer.

After graduating, Brianne had proposed that they share an apartment, explaining that her own family was suffocating her and she needed her best friend as both a roommate and a buffer. Sara had understood Brianne's feelings, though she disagreed. She had found her own family charming, lively, and always kind.

Eagerly, Sara had accepted the idea of moving in together, wanting to live with Brianne and continue the life she had started on the college campus. However, when she had naively disclosed her plans to her father, he had cut off her financial support, undermined her job prospects by warning potential employers, and even threatened various forms of retaliation if she didn't return home. It was all about power and control, and Sara knew her father was capable of following through on his threats.

Brianne had tried to intervene, offering to cover the rent until Sara got on her feet. In the end, Sara had reluctantly complied with her father's wishes. He was just too formidable to defy, and she was terrified he would carry out his threats, as he had when she had run away once before. After her return home, he had been relatively benign for about a month, preoccupied with his business affairs and mostly ignoring her.

But the peace hadn't lasted.

Soon enough, he had reverted to his usual self, subjecting her to verbal and physical abuse, blaming her for her mother's behavior, her sister's wild antics, and just for not being good enough to be his child. She had endured it all, as she always had and always would. She didn't know how to stand up to him.

Sara snapped back to the present, realizing she was running out of time to leave the room. She was already late. Though her brief act of rebellion had felt liberating, the thought of her father's impending fury was beginning to eclipse it. She picked up her purse and headed towards the hotel room's door, reluctant to leave her temporary sanctuary.

As she reached the door, the phone began to ring.

A shiver of fear slithered down her spine like a snake. Should she answer? If it was her father and he discovered she was still there, he would be furious. On the other hand, if she ignored the call and then wasn't home within the twenty-minute drive, he would still be furious, knowing she had disregarded his call. It was a lose-lose situation; he always seemed to have a way of finding out, though she couldn't fathom how.

In a last-ditch effort to leave, she found her feet moving in the opposite direction and hesitantly picked up the phone before it could go to voicemail.

"Hello," she stammered.

"Sara? Is that you? What's wrong?"

Sara let out a sigh of relief.

"How did you find me?" she playfully teased, her body relaxing as she settled onto the bed. She knew she would be even later to meet her father, but the sound of the familiar voice—someone she had missed so much—was a welcome distraction, and she couldn't bring herself to postpone the conversation. Brianne was the one person she would risk her father's wrath for.

"I have my methods," Brianne replied with a laugh.

"Or you have a husband with connections."

"Well, that too. But hey, I can locate you without him."

"Did you?"

There was a prolonged, telling pause. "Well..."

"That's what I thought. Did you have him install tracking devices on me?"

"You did tell me where you were going to be for your sister's wedding, remember? It didn't take much to figure out you were staying at the hotel and in which room," Brianne said, amusement evident in her voice.

"I wish you could've been here," Sara admitted, knowing that the wedding would have been far more tolerable with her best friend by her side.

"We both know your little sister would've thrown a fit, causing a scene. She can't stand me."

"She's just jealous of you. I stopped taking her nonsense after we met. It didn't help matters when she showed up on campus, acting like her usual spoiled self, and you shoved a cake in her face."

"I may have upset her a little, I admit, but she should've appreciated it. That was really good cake, and I wasted it on her face," Brianne said with mock exasperation over the phone.

"You're such a troublemaker," Sara replied fondly.

"I miss you. We should plan a day out. Do you think your warden will allow it?" Brianne asked with hope.

"I don't know. He's summoned me, and I'm running quite late. I'm not sure what kind of mood he'll be in when I get home." Sara disliked admitting how controlling her father was, but at least Brianne never made her feel guilty about it.

"You know, Sara, my offer still stands. I'll not only help you escape from that prison, but I'll be there for you every step of the way. You're an adult, and you can have a good life."

Sara wished she had the courage to accept her friend's offer, but she didn't. Each day, she grew stronger, and maybe, someday soon...

Brianne was unaware of the physical abuse. She had guessed about the emotional abuse, but Sara hadn't confided in anyone about the constant bruises covering her body. She felt too ashamed to admit it to anyone, even her best friend.

"Maybe I just don't want to grow up," Sara attempted to joke, though it fell flat. They both knew she longed to escape her current situation.

"I'm going to rescue you, just so you know. I'll bring my brothers to stand guard, and we're taking you away. I miss my best friend."

"I'll make sure to see you this week, okay? Just give me a few days. I know my dad will be all emotional about his baby getting married and leaving," Sara said, unable to conceal the resentment in her voice.

"Alright, I'll give you a couple of days. But if I haven't heard from you, be prepared for helicopters landing on your roof. I'm sending my husband and brothers in, and we're breaking you out."

Knowing that Brianne would actually follow through on her threat was the most frightening part of the conversation. Sara would have to find a way to see Brianne soon, because she didn't know how her father would react if Brianne stormed the house for real.

They talked for a few more minutes before Brianne reluctantly allowed Sara to hang up the phone. With a heavy heart, Sara collected her purse and left the room. It was going to be a long day, and her shoulders and neck tensed involuntarily as she prepared for the upcoming confrontation with her father. All she could do was hope that he wouldn't be too angry.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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