The Paper Swan
Author:Leylah Attar

I do drugs.

But it’s not always enough, you know? And sometimes, it spills over because you can’t control it, because you need to make others feel your pain, your hurt, your rage, because it’s tough to walk around all scarred up, in a world full of slick billboards and bright, smiley toothpaste ads and shiny, happy people. Life’s not always fair. So suck it, lick it, stroke it, fuck it.

I didn’t care what category of dysfunction Damian fell in to. Sometimes it’s because I’m just pure evil, you know? I kept my mind on the prize as I unbuttoned my top. It might have looked like I was staring at the floor, but I was eating rice and fish with my eyes. It’s amazing—the things you can do in survival mode. I stepped out of my pants and stood before him in my bra and panties. Agent Provocateur. Midnight Captive Collection.

“Take them all off,” he said, emphasizing the word as if I was incapable of comprehending a simple command.

I unclasped my 34C black fishnet lace bra, shimmied out of the matching panties and stood before Damian. Naked.

He shifted in his chair. “Turn on the light.”

Fish. Think fish, I told myself as I felt around for the switch.

“Higher, to the right,” he said.

My fingers shook as I flipped it on.

“Good girl. Now walk towards me.”

Like he was directing a fucking porn movie.

I kept my eyes down until I got to his chair, until I was looking at his ugly boat shoes. God, I hated those shoes. I hated the laces and the leather and the sole and every single stitch that held them together. I hated them because he had taken away my beautiful golden pumps and now I was barefoot and weak and naked and hungry and hurting and it was fish vs fuck. So fuck him and his shoes and his dirty, psycho games and— “Turn around,” he said.

I looked at him then, expecting lechery and lust, but he was inspecting my body with a detachment that infuriated me. I was used to men staring at me, wanting me. My body wasn’t runway perfect, but I owned every inch of it. It was my power, my weapon, my ticket to exclusive clubs, front lines at fashion shows, red carpet treatment. Guys did things for me, girls did things for me, and it mattered because it was for me, not my name, or fame or fortune, or the string of hotels that my father owned. I had a good body and I wasn’t ashamed to flaunt it. I didn’t sleep around, but I wasn’t averse to using it.

And now Damian was taking that away from me too. He was stripping me down to body parts. Inspecting me—my arms, my legs, my back, my feet—not me the woman, but me his prisoner, a collection of separate, movable parts. There was nothing sexual about Damian’s perusal and I hated that because it left me even more powerless. I stood with my back turned to him, feeling his eyes on my skin, wondering if any trace of food remained if I were to lick my fingers now.

I felt the air shift around me. He was standing behind me now, his breath fanning against my shoulder.

“You stink,” he said. “Get in the shower.”

A shower. Soap and water. And a reprieve from Damian.

I’d done well.

Wait for me, Fish. I looked longingly at the plate before heading for the bathroom.

The stall was tiny, with barely enough room to move, but the warm water felt like heaven, even though it stung where my skin was raw and bruised. I started to wash my hair and held back a sob because for a while, I’d forgotten that my long, luxurious locks were gone. I had barely finished rinsing it when the door swung open and Damian turned the faucet off.

“This isn’t a fucking spa. It’s a boat with a water tank. You’ll do well to remember that.”

He held out a towel. It was threadbare, but clean. I caught sight of my reflection as he escorted me back to the room. The girl with the weird hair startled me yet again.

Modesty had fled out the window. I dried myself in front of Damian and looked around for my clothes. He opened one of the cabinets and started throwing shopping bags on the bed. They were all mine. Kate Spade. Macy’s. All Saints. Sephora. Zara. It wasn’t as if I had to work for a living, but I’d graduated with a degree in fine arts and was embarking on a career as a fashion consultant. I told myself it was research. I went on shopping sprees and left everything lying around in my car for days, sometimes weeks.

Shit.

He could only have gotten these if he’d gone back to the car. And if he’d gone back, there was a good possibility he’d either disposed of it, or moved it. Either way I was screwed. The trail of breadcrumbs I was hoping my father would follow was starting to disappear. My only hope now was that the parking lot I’d been abducted from had caught something on the surveillance camera. His height, his weight, his face—anything that would help with the investigation. No matter what, I knew my father would not give up. And right now, that’s exactly what I needed to do.

Not. Give. Up.

I started emptying the bags. Stupid sequin mini skirt. Stupid gauzy, halter dress. Stupid giant bling ring. God. How could I fill so many bags with so much crap? I would have to wash and wear the same underwear. Agent Rinse and ReProvocateur.

I was still sorting through the bags when Damian started stuffing everything back into the cabinet. There was a pair of black yoga pants (yes!) and a flimsy white thong (no!) on the bed. He pulled out an ugly, generic t-shirt and threw it at me. Judging by the size, it was his.

“Drop the towel,” Damian instructed.

Like I said, it always came back to the dick. Now that I didn’t stink.

I closed my eyes, expecting the rustle of his pants as they hit the floor.