Hanna is deeply asleep, her eyes moving in frantic action under her eyelids. Her face is relaxed and even though she has been whimpering softly in her sleep, she doesn’t seem to be having a nightmare. At least that’s what I’m hoping with all my heart and soul, repeating to myself over and over that she’s okay; that she’s back with me where she belongs. It’s like a mantra I’m silently chanting again and again. I don’t even know if I’m trying to convince myself this is real, but honestly, I don’t care about anything else with the exception of Hanna.
Everything is in silence around us; save for the soft beep that the monitor emits, registering the frequency of Hanna’s heartbeats; it’s the only sound floating faintly. It’s not an unnerving sound at all though, in fact is almost soothing, and my own heart skipped a beat to match hers as soon as I took a seat at her side. It feels like my heart never did beat in this relaxing rhythm.
I took her hand in my hands and I’ve been tracing slow patterns over the back of her bandaged wrist with my thumb. Her wrists were lightly cut and scorched, showing the abrasions caused by handcuffs. It seems as if Hanna tried to take them off, pulling, twisting and tugging wildly in a lame attempt to release herself from them. So ‘Mad Doc’ bandaged them that way so that the wounds wouldn’t graze against the sheets and get infected.
Gently, I turn her hand, looking at her palm. It shows the marks of her nails; Hanna closed her hands into fists so tightly that she ended up puncturing the sensitive skin with her nails.
As if in slow motion my tired eyes travel up her arm until my gaze rests on her face. Hanna still looks pale but her skin started to regain her natural colour an hour ago. The dark shadows that were heavily present earlier are now fading gradually. They are still there but somehow they seem blurred. Her cheekbones are slightly more visible and her lips look dry and cut. It seems she bit them hard.
I frown deeply as I slid the sheet down, revealing her naked body. Even though the temperature inside the room has been set to a comfortable warmness, Hanna’s skin turns to gooseflesh in seconds. I wince lightly looking at her soft hair, rising all at once, but I have no other choice.
I already know it’s going to kill me, but I need to see each and every single mark that is marring her body. It’s not a sick curiosity that is pushing me, but the need to record as much detail as I can. I need to be able to figure out what Hanna went through because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stand it, hearing it from her lips or even if she will be able to tell it to me.
I notice ‘Mad Doc’ cleaned Hanna. He did a great job wiping away any trace of blood, dirt and dust. However he couldn’t wipe away the collection of bruises, scratches, burns and marks that are spread all over her body, telling the painful reality, showing the horrors Snake subjected Hanna to just for the hell of it.
Ricardo’s words about the CIA manual of torture pop inside my brain without warning. Deprivation of sensory stimuli, isolation, threats and fears, narcosis and pain. ‘Mad Doc’s’ words are the next ones to spread inside my mind.
He came a few minutes ago to check Hanna’s vital signs, giving me instructions about how to clean the wound and other advice about how to take care of those burns in order to not leave deep visible scars. ‘Mad Doc’ said he had already given the same instructions to Ricardo, but he wanted to make sure we all were on the same page. After that, he just dropped the bomb. I guess there was no other way to say it.
‘Mad Doc’ chose carefully the words he used to tell me what I had already suspected. That fact however didn’t sugarcoat the invisible blow that went directly to my core, stabbing my soul, almost bringing me down to my knees. Hanna had been raped by more than just one guy, and even though those damn vaginal and anal tears are present, at least they didn’t tear her apart, or cause permanent internal damage.
I swear to God I never understood why any man would take pleasure in forcing himself into an unwilling woman, hurting her. There’s no challenge in that cowards act. Wouldn’t it be better to seduce a beautiful woman, giving her the best of yourself, showing her the places where you can take her? There’s nothing sexier than a woman crying your name in pleasure as she reaches her climax. Those screams should be the only ones that any woman should be made to emit.
Watching her wounded body is breaking my heart apart and before I realize it I’m once more forcing the air through my lungs, past the lump in my throat. I’m almost panting, taking short breaths. I feel sick and my stomach is clenching so painfully I’m trembling, trying to make sense of this craziness.
However, I’m not worry about the physical marks that are marring Hanna’s body. Those ones will heal with time, but the emotional ones… those might leave permanent reminders.
I don’t want her remembering what that fucker Snake did to her; I don’t want her reliving those endless painful acts inflicted on her. It would be too much and I don’t want Hanna suffering more than she already did. But I already know I don’t have control over her mind and I can’t do shit to prevent the after effects I’m sure she’s going to have to suffer.
I grit my teeth, swallowing the sudden anger back down. The fact that I know I can’t do anything for now is tearing me apart. This damned wait drags on, making my brain spin with endless possibilities. I know I’m getting ahead of myself again, but I can’t help it. I feel so fucking frustrated I would love to tear something into pieces, or better yet someone, but there’s not anything or anyone I can break here. I don’t even have enough strength to punch that damn wall. I’m so overwhelmed with all the events I’m about to puke my guts out.
My vision blurs slightly and I blink fast, forcing back those tears of anger and pain that have been fighting for release. I suspect I’m starting to break down, but even now I know I can’t do that. Not yet anyway. I have to be the grown man my dad raised because if not I’ll go crazy in a second flat. And this is not the time for that shit. I have to be able to put myself together or I’ll end up on my knees, crying like a little baby and that is not gonna happen, at least not now. I can’t afford such a luxury.
I never considered myself a weak guy or a pussy, and I always ran away from those who tried to turn me into that, but now… now I have no way to run, and I don’t want to run, not this time.
Hanna is going to need my strength to go through this new living hell. Damn! I’m not even sure I’m that strong anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hanna was the one helping me and not the other way around.
‘Mad Doc’ was right; she’s a tough girl. Actually Hanna is the toughest woman I ever met in all my damn life, but in spite of that undeniable fact I wonder if she will be able to heal at all.
I can’t fucking believe it, but here I am, silently wishing for the ‘Ice Queen’ to help her with that task. Now I know she created that cold bitch just to be able to survive this kind of shit. It was just an illusion, a role, nothing more. I’m wondering if my tough guy pose has been my personal version of the Ice Queen. Hanna played that heartless bitch to reach her goal, just like I did.
I’m chuckling at my own thoughts because I’m only now realizing we have been lying to each other almost since the beginning. I told myself countless times I didn’t know Hanna, but I bet she said that same thing to herself about me.
I’ve been playing a role all my damn life. Lying to everyone but what was worse, lying to myself, just like Hanna. Without almost being aware of it we each started to pretend to be another person, fooling everybody even ourselves. Only she went farther; to the point of changing her own name, starting a new life; a better life. I guess I would have done the same thing if I would have had the right connections to do it.
I didn’t ask for all those damn responsibilities even though I assumed them without a second thought. Fuck! I didn’t know what I was doing back then. I only knew about cars and engines. What the hell did I know about mortgages, invoices, taxes and all that shit?
Now I know I have been fooling myself much longer than a few years, trying my best to emulate my dad, but I never was man enough for that task. What the fuck was I thinking, spending my time drinking my ass off, fucking unknown chicks and racing my car?
Fuck! Hanna was right. I was living a pathetic excuse for a life, thinking I was the shit; that I was bloody amazing because I could drive a quarter of mile in ten seconds or less. I even convinced myself I was a winner when actually all I’ve been was a damn loser. That is until I found Hanna.
The day we got back from the desert, after she took the pictures of my car, I wanted to be a better person. Back then I knew for sure that Hanna didn’t give a damn shit about Dominic Toretto, the street racer, and that’s why I wished with all my heart and soul to be another man so that Hanna would fall in love with me.
Now, looking at her, I’m not sure if I’m another man, but what I do know for damn sure is that I’m not even a shadow of what I was back then. And even though I don’t know if I’m a better person either, at least now I know without a trace of doubt that Hanna always loved me.
She was right; she lied about the facts, but not about her feelings. Hanna risked her life and she almost died, protecting me. Protecting a man she was sure hated her but that didn’t stop her, quite the opposite. Hanna kept going, not caring if she was fucking with dangerous bastards who have no conscience or respect for another human being.
I’ve been lying to her and to myself, making a supreme effort to show her how much I hated her when I always loved her.
Damn! I’m tired of lies, half truths and secrets. I’m revolted, recalling the way all of us have been lying to the others, justifying our actions, saying it was for their own good. Bullshit! Their own good, my ass! Look where those lies ended dragging all of us.
Hanna whimpers in her sleep as a soft hiss of pain escapes her lips, making me snap back to the present moment, looking at her. She writhes a little, shivering and in one move I slid up the sheet, covering her body.
I squeeze her hand tenderly, sighing hard, recalling Ricardo’s words about Hanna’s reasons to wipe away her own profile. I’m doing my best to understand the way she acted.
I should have been able to figure out Hanna had reinvented herself. If I would have known my own woman half as well as I thought, I would have noticed that she was lying to herself and not only to me. If I had paid attention to the signs, I would have seen it because it has been always there. Her life was just the result of painful facts upon horrible experiences.
Hanna said to me in Lompoc that she hadn’t lied to me after that night we talked about her past. Now I know that she was honest with me, telling the truth about her life. I was the one who wasn’t paying attention to the real meaning of her words because I was so enthralled with the fact that she trusted me the way she did, that I didn’t read between the lines.
Back then Hanna talked about herself, saying she was an unstable woman full of conflicted feelings and internal turmoil; a tortured woman with a past stained with dirty actions and an uncertain emotional future. Hanna even said she suspected men like me weren’t the kind to waste their time with a woman like her.
Now I know that Hanna wasn’t talking only about the beatings, the abuse and the rapes. She was also talking about what she had done to be able to survive over the years. Hanna Evans had been consumed by the flames of her guilt, pain, shame and fear, returning to life as a new woman; Hanna Miles. Just like the phoenix bird, she was rising from her own ashes, symbolizing life after death.
Who the hell has the right to say something against that fact? Who the fuck I am to judge her? So what if at some point in her life Hanna was a prostitute? So what if she found herself dragged to sell her body to survive? It’s not like I’m a damn saint either. I’ve done much more reprehensible things. But in spite of that fact Hanna never judged me.
She just accepted what I had done and showed me that she still loved me with all her heart and soul. And I know that as soon as she knows what I’ve done after she was kidnapped, I’m sure she won’t judge me because she loves me as much as I love her.
I still remember the way Hanna stared at my eyes after I was done with my confession, spilling everything that I had done to get fast money. I won’t be able to forget her gaze full of understanding, concern and love. Back then I made up my mind, telling myself we could start a new life, without dragging my illegal past like a heavy dead weight. If I did it once, thinking about my own lies, why wouldn’t I be able to do it again? Just because this time we’re talking about her lies?
Since when are some lies worse than others? A lie is a lie. Who cares at this point who lied to who? All of us have been hiding facts and events from others.
I know that Hanna was working on her case and I was a target, but she didn’t set me up or the members of my team that were left. Hanna never revealed who the others were that were involved in those fucking thefts. I never heard about Letty or Leon being arrested. Actually Mia even told me once that Letty had sent her a letter, saying she and Leon were together and that they both were safe and sound.
I wonder if Hanna made sure they weren’t ever hunted again. I bet she did exactly that. I bet Hanna protected them just like she protected Mia and even me.
I blink a couple of times. I’ve been staring at a spot only I could see, and turning my head slightly I watch Hanna’s face intensely. And all of sudden I realize something I didn’t understand until now.
My dad tried to explain to me on countless occasions. He always said that to love a woman meant I had to be able to say ‘I’m sorry’, feeling those words from the bottom of my heart whenever it was necessary. He said that I had to be able to forgive, doing my best not to judge my woman by her acts but by the motivations behind those acts. He also said that it wouldn’t be an easy task, but that I had to be man enough to be able to put myself in her place, doing my best to understand her. That was the secret. That was the meaning of the word ‘love’.
Hanna stuck at my side, showing me how much she loved me and only when she had no other choice, she sent me to Lompoc. My woman said ‘I’m sorry’; she never judged me by my acts but by my motivations behind those acts; she put herself in my place, doing her best to understand me, and she forgave me when I hurt her without a second thought because she loved me.
Damn, my old man was fucking right.
Hanna whimpers again as her eyes slowly flutter open. She blinks franticly, adjusting her vision. I gasp softly, holding my breath as I keep in complete silence, watching her. I don’t even dare to move a single muscle, waiting like a frozen statue, motionless.
Hanna looks around herself as a strong shiver crosses her body from head to toe.
“Hanna…” I whisper.
All of sudden I find myself unable to form one single coherent thought, and the only word that pops inside my mind over and over is her name. So swallowing that familiar knot back down I force my voice out.
“Hanna, baby…” I breathe.
In response, Hanna’s eyes widen completely as she blinks fast, looking up at me. She shudders violently and I notice every single muscle in her wounded body tensing at once, causing a hiss of pain to escape her trembling lips. She frowns deeply as her throat muscles work lightly.
“Dominic?” her voice is thick and completely hoarse, filled with so much fear I feel my heart breaking apart hearing her. I can’t make my damn voice sound, so I nod ‘yes’ as my eyes flicker to hers.
“I’m here, baby…you’re safe, Hanna.” I finally say firmly, no trace of hesitation in my voice. I don’t even know how I managed to make it sound like that. “Nobody can hurt you now, baby. I won’t let anyone hurt you again, Hanna.” I add, making sure Hanna is looking at me and she can see that I’m not shitting here.
In response, Hanna’s eyes fill with tears in seconds, rolling down her temples as she takes a ragged breath, closing her eyes. My heart stops dead, at the sign of her tears.
“Look at me, Hanna.” I say before I even register my words. Hanna’s eyes snap open and I feel like dying inside, staring at them.
Those beautiful green eyes with grayish sparks around the pupils are sparkling with panic. Hanna is trembling so badly I’m not sure if she’s going to pass out with fear.
“Please…please don’t hurt me…” she begs me in a teary voice, scooting as far as she can from me, hissing in pain. Her heart is beating fast. I shut my eyes tightly, cursing myself and slowly I take her hand again, squeezing gently. “Please…” Hanna breathes, wincing.
I swallow hard, clearing my throat and in a slow motion I raise her hand to my lips.
“Hanna, look at me, baby. It’s me. Dominic.” I whisper, kissing her hand, lingering on my caress. “Just look at me. I’m here and I’m not gonna hurt you, baby. I swear to God. I’ll protect you.” I swallow hard, tilting my head to one side. “Please, baby, look at my eyes.” I say, never taking my gaze off Hanna’s.
Hanna breathes raggedly, shivering uncontrolled as her eyes widen completely, staring at my eyes. A flicker of panic crosses her eyes but she doesn’t close them. Time stops around us and seconds seems hours. But neither of us let our gazes fall, showing openly what we’re feeling.
“Dominic…” She whispers all of sudden, blinking fresh tears. “Help me, baby…”
I shut my eyes tightly for a second, letting out the air I was holding with a painful sigh, and fighting back my own tears, I open my eyes bending my head until our foreheads press together.
“Oh, God, Hanna, I thought I lost you.” I whisper, a breath away from her trembling lips. Hanna closes her eyes, whimpering as she starts brushing the back of my hand with her thumb. “You’re gonna be okay. I’m gonna take care of you, baby. I swear to you, Hanna. You’re back at home with me.”
I don’t even know if I’m making sense of my own words, but I keep whispering to her, soothing her, never touching her body just our foreheads press against each other, our fingers interlaced. Slowly her heart slows the rhythm of its beats as Hanna takes short breaths, trying to calm herself.
“I love you, Dominic.” Hanna whispers all of sudden as she opens her eyes, cutting me off. In response I tilt my head back a bit; locking eyes with her, and putting as much reassurance as I can I reply.
“I love you, Hanna.”