You've Got Me On My Knees (Open)

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You've Got Me On My Knees (Open)

Post  Layla Page on Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:54 am

Layla arrived at Highgrove with her purse and two small suitcases, nothing more. It was her understanding that staff housing was furnished, and she didn't have much to her name besides, no sentimental trinkets or framed photographs - she'd left them at home when she'd run, if she could even call the place that - just a few standard items of clothing, some shoes, and a scatter of toiletries. She didn't require much to live anymore; material possessions seemed trivial when you were running for your freedom, your safety, your life. She wanted to think that things could be different now, that she could build something new for herself, but that was only if she could stop looking her over shoulder long enough to do it. First, she needed a new sense of identity. The name she'd chosen fit well enough - Layla Page - but she didn't know what she was supposed to do with it, who she should be. The glorified prison cell she'd spent the last several years in had stripped her of her identity, inch by precious inch. Lianna Norton didn't exist anymore, if she ever had. And who had she been, besides a naive, vulnerable girl with a heart and body open to attack? She could barely remember that girl; it was for the best she didn't have any photos to remember herself by, because she didn't think she'd recognize the young woman in them. There was no getting back the bright spark of hope that had once lived in her -- the promise of the flame she could have been was too quickly snuffed out by a narcissistic man's twisted worldview of what a woman and wife should be.

Three months she'd been on her own, and in that time, still hadn't worked up the courage to call her parents across the pond and let them know what had happened to her, how she was doing now. She knew she should, that they were probably sick with worry over not hearing from her -- that was unless they'd talked to Robert, who was probably pretending that everything was okay and making up excuses for why she couldn't come to the phone, writing emails in her name. Thinking about it nauseated her. Every conversation, no matter the medium, had been dictated by him for the past two years. When he let her call, he gave her a list of topics she was allowed to discuss, things to say if she wasn't permitted to answer a certain question, menacingly hovering at the edge of her peripheral vision to make sure she didn't deviate from the plan. Her voice was often so shaky during these phone calls it was a wonder her parents hadn't suspected anything, but then they'd always loved Robert, and had been as oblivious to his true colors as Layla had in the beginning. After the wedding, they'd moved to America, so they never saw the change in him, the slow but frightening progression from man to monster. How was it that she had never seen it before? How had he hid it so well? And why her? Why did it have to be her? It was a question she'd asked herself over and over, even knowing that it was futile, that she'd never receive an answer, because sometimes there just wasn't one. Bad things happened to good people every day, seemingly for no reason at all, and everyone was just supposed to be okay with that. God worked in mysterious ways, they said, but Layla didn't think God had anything to do with it at all. As far as she was concerned, there wasn't one.

Anyway, there was no way she could call them now. At least, not yet. They'd be outraged and want to know everything, if they even believed her. It would be an hours-long conversation and Layla wasn't ready for that yet, not before she got settled into her new home and job. That was going to be trying enough without phoning all her family up and explaining what had really gone on these past couple of years, reliving the hours of pain and trauma she'd undergone, the mortification her soul, skin, and self-esteem had suffered. She'd do it later. Yes, later, when she was more equipped to handle it, when she knew what she wanted to say, because at this point she didn't know if she could make a phone call that wasn't scripted. Being social and being herself were two skills she was going to have to learn all over again, and she had no choice but to do it alone. Though she wanted to make friends at Highgrove, no one could know what she'd been through. The more people who knew about the real her, the better Robert's - no, he was David now, she had to remember that - chances of finding her, and she couldn't bare the thought of being enslaved to him again. Layla wasn't sure she knew how to be free either, but she'd get there with a little time and patience, one thing she knew she had to have lasted as long as she did.

Looking over the orientation materials she'd been handed at the administration desk, Layla couldn't help but notice the day's date as she wandered out into the corridor - February 14th, Valentine's Day. How awful. A muscle jumped in her jaw, lip twitching, teeth grinding hard enough to shatter, but she was only falling apart on the inside, where no one could see. On the outside, she only looked nervous and a little tense, as anyone might on their first day in an unfamiliar place. There had been a map of the building and outlying grounds provided with the sheaf of papers, but she couldn't seem to find where she was in any of it. The floor plan was a maze of corridors that seemed to go everywhere and nowhere, and she was too embarrassed to go back and ask for help from the secretary. Famished after the long drive into the countryside, Layla hoped to find the dining hall or at least the staff lounge, where she could soothe her rattled nerves with a cup of tea and some sort of sweet snack. She had a packet of crisps tucked away in her purse, but it was sugar, not salt, she was craving, an inevitable side effect of having a lifelong sweet tooth. Approaching the main staircase, Layla paused to admire the craftsmanship, tucking the manila folder under her arm and smoothing down the front of her grey pencil skirt. Anxiously plucking at a loose fiber near the hip, she ran her gaze along the bannister to the second floor corridor, wondering if she should continue down the path she was on or do some exploring on the higher level. Everything was eerily quiet and still down on the first floor; no doubt the children were in the middle of their classes, the staff preoccupied with seeing to their care. Perhaps she'd have better luck finding a living body upstairs, some kind soul who'd take pity on her lost little girl look and guide her to an oasis in the midst of the labyrinth.

Halfway up the lavish flight of stairs, Layla thought she heard something behind her and paused in mid-flight, one pump-clad foot higher than the other and a hand poised on the bannister, fingers gripping the wood a touch too hard for comfort. Her head turned, burnished copper hair spilling over her collar in artlessly tousled waves. No one there. Who was she expecting to see? Rob-- David? That was silly... wasn't it? But realistically, why wouldn't he find her here? He had connections. He was a well-known man, highly respected in Manchester and likely the rest of the country as well. No one would believe her tale over his, even if he did show up at Highgrove's front gates to rip the promise of a new life out from underneath her like a rug. Maybe he was just letting her think that she'd escaped, at least until it suited him to destroy the illusion she was working so hard to maintain. Fear pressed in on her, hot and smothering, weighted like a woolen coat on a swollen summer day, and before she knew what she was doing, she was sinking to the steps, putting her head in trembling hands, the purse and its contents spilling around her folded form, casualties in a war for her sanity. You have to get up, Layla. What if someone finds you like this? You have to get up and go on. He's not here. You're freaking yourself out for no reason at all. After several long minutes spent with her eyes closed, practicing deep breaths, she finally pulled herself together enough to begin retrieving the scattered items, trying to salvage whatever was left of her dignity right along with them. It was a small comfort knowing no one was around to see her shame.
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Layla Page

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Re: You've Got Me On My Knees (Open)

Post  Devon Churchward on Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:00 pm

(Timeline might be a little off for his actual arrival, but we'll fudge it for fracks sake)

Devon hadn't fallen into the routine of the school? Hospital? Whatever... as easily as he might of made it appear. He'd only met a few people, barely had his classes down, and had yet to meet his doctor. He kept pretty much to himself as he watched the ebb and flow of the place. This was totally against the norm for the slim brown haired boy. At his school he'd been popular, a force in the student body, athletic and in the top ten percent of his class. But, as the girl he'd met at his first meal here had pointed out: It didn't do him any favors to stand out here.

He was headed up the stairs, heard the clack of heels above him, but before he could turn the corner dropped his notes. The papers fluttered down the stairwell like silent witnesses to a crime, and he chased them back down a level before capturing them again. The noises above him had stopped, and he was grateful that whoever it was had found their stop. Heels usually meant teachers, it was one of those things students weren't allowed but tried to skate around anyway. And not all of them female...

However she wasn't gone. When he padded around the corner with the silence of a long time Lothario he came face to face with the woman in question, and knew her instantly.

Not her, her...Not this particular sleekly groomed redhead, but her archetype. Trapped and bewildered by a life they found themselves in they grasped at anything that they thought would give their life some shape and meaning. Some of them ran away, some of them dug in and became bitter, some of them had affairs with the underage sons of their friends. It was something around their eyes when you caught them unawares, startled doe in the headlights look in their eyes, even the hard an bitter ones had that look sometimes.

"Hey, didn't mean to startle you." He said softly, as harmless looking as a puppy with his brown eyes, slim underweight frame and large hands that spoke of growth spurts not yet obtained. He nodded his head towards her baggage. "Need help with that? I can't go on the floor, but I can haul it up the stairs."
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Re: You've Got Me On My Knees (Open)

Post  Layla Page on Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:04 pm

A woman could craft herself a new identity, and try to hide traces of the old within it, but there was a haunted look in Layla's eyes still, an ache and a fear that no amount of time or pretending could conceal. It's only the divorce, she'd say if anyone asked. She hadn't gotten over it completely, she'd go on to explain, and could anyone blame her? Most little girls were raised to believe that they'd get married and have children someday, play host to a perfect life. Nobody ever told them about the baggage that comes with growing up or all the things that can go wrong along the way, at least not until they start to realize it themselves, and by then it's too late to say "this isn't what I want."

If anyone knew what being an adult would entail, they'd never want to grow up, but she supposed that was the point of keeping the knowledge from a child. And even if you told them, they wouldn't listen. Children spent long, hot summer days with nowhere to go but their own backyards yearning for adulthood, a car that could take them anywhere, while adults hoped to close their eyes and awake free and naive again. The bitter truth of the world was that children were free in a way adults could never be, and that was why they had to be protected. The magic within them should be encouraged, because one day they'd lose it, some if not all, and the loss of even the smallest spark was a tragedy.

Most of the kids in Highgrove were probably at the point where they'd realized the world wasn't what it seemed, that most of what they'd been told were lies. As Layla met the eyes of the boy who'd startled her, she wondered just how far gone he was, if he still believed in magic or if the nightmares had already caught up to him. "No, it's fine," she protested, waving the apology away. "I was beginning to think I was the only one here. I'm glad to see that's not the case." She smiled as convincingly as she could, far too aware of how strained, uneasy, and foreign it felt on her face, which did not seem made for smiling anymore.

Looking around, she pointed to the leather satchel she'd nearly forgotten on the step behind her. "Most of my belongings have already been taken, but you can carry that if you're eager for something to do." Shifting the folder from under her arm to the opposite hand, she hitched the strap of her purse higher up on her shoulder. "I was actually hoping someone could point me to the staff lounge or cafeteria. The map makes absolutely no sense to me, and I'd love a bite to eat after the ride in."
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Re: You've Got Me On My Knees (Open)

Post  Devon Churchward on Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:33 pm

He watched her struggle for the right mask to slip on. He was used to that. Not just from the last few years, but from a childhood of masks. His own was finely crafted and hardly ever slipped. In this particular situation, he felt like the adult. He waited patiently, it was his finest virtue. He'd lived a lifetime under other peoples expectations and never, ever, wanted anyone to feel that horrid because of him.

"Sure," Devon said, tucking his binder under one arm and getting her case. Felt like books and papers, must be a teacher then or something. "I'm fairly new myself, and yeah, the map is a bit of a bugger, but I think I have the hang of it now. I'm Devon by the way." He gave a smile which transformed his naturally sad looking mouth into the brightest thing in the stairwell, two deep dimples slashing the sides of his face. "Devon Churchward. Shall we go up?"

He nodded towards the rest of the stairs and tried to remember which way to go from there. He still used the map half the time himself, but he was pretty sure she was on the right track. Currently he'd been headed to the music room to try to work on a melody for the song he was working on, but needed more sheets of music paper, so had tried to backtrack using what he'd hoped was a shortcut. No such luck.

"I like being helpful, makes me feel like I've still got choices." He told her as they resumed their climb, her heels clacking and his training shoes barely making a whisper. "I mean, we are pretty regimented here. Where we go, what we do, what time we do it, what we eat... so, being able to make a choice about simple stuff is pretty important. 'Will I talk to that stranger' or 'Will I not raise my hand in class even though I know the answer' are just about what we have left." He grinned again, his voice lighthearted and not bitter. He saved his bitterness for important things, and this place wasn't one of them.

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