The Days After

By: Allyssa Herlein

It was a dark room. Dark enough that it was hard to tell whether my eyes were open or closed, unless I was looking at the chains that bound my wrists—a dull silver color. My naked body pressed against the cold stones that made up the walls.  I moved my hands, listening to the chains clink and clatter on themselves to mute the deafening silence.


No answer. I sat, staring at the blackness surrounding me, counting each second as it went by…

one thousand and eight, one thousand and nine, one thousand and ten

The words echoed on the walls. I lost track of time, hours fading together, what I imagined were days, possibly even weeks, passed. In and out of consciousness and all I could do was sit slumped, praying he didn’t come back.

I was asleep when the first thud came. One and then another. And another. Louder. Closer. My body trembled, fearing what he might desire this time.

please help

My voice was weak, barley escaping my lips before the sound dissipated.

And then a glaring light above me,

“She’s here”


I laid in a bed, my body hidden in a blue paper gown, my legs covered by stiff white sheets. My eyes wandered the plain room, until a man in a white coat came in.

“I am just going to take a look at you”

His voice was rough, like listening gravel under an old trucks tires. He moved delicately, gently untucking me from the bed and removing old bandages, exposing the purple welts and red gashes on my thin thighs.

The man left and I let my eyes wander over myself. A tear fell onto my cheek as I saw the mangled body that sat before me.


“Do you know your name?”

She smiled softly at me,


Her smile faded and she looked down, writing in her little notepad.

“Do you know where you are?”


She wrote again.

“Did you know who he was?”

My breath caught in my throat



I opened my eyes and it was bright, the sunlight bouncing off the white walls.


I called out, my voice a mere whisper

“I am here”

The voice came from outside of the door and a figure emerged,

“Do you remember me?”


They dimmed the lights and I began to see their features. A man, his skin wrinkled and his cheeks tear stained, eyes red from crying.

“That’s okay, it’s been a while”


Neither of us spoke. He stood in the doorway watching me, and I him.

who am I?



After some time, I went home with the man. He led me into a small room, the walls were painted pink and barely showing, covered by posters. Clothes were strewn about the room.

“Do you recognize it?”

He sounded hopeful—that this room would somehow make me remember.


“This is your home Cassandra. This is where you come from.”

His voice pleaded me, begged for me to remember my past, to remember him, and everything else.


He moved and picked up a shirt from the floor. It was red, with the letters ‘ON’ in blue on the front.

“This was your cheer top, you are a cheerleader.”

I looked down at my small body, my thighs exposed, showing the faded bruises and fresh pink scars.


He tossed the crumpled top to the side and moved across the room, picked up a stuffed dog, and handed him to me.

“He was a gift from your grandmother. You would carry him everywhere.”

I took him in my hands tenderly and looked him over. He was black and brown, missing an ear, and his fake fur was matted with something sticky.

he’s kind of ugly

A small chuckle escaped his lips and a tear rolled down his cheek,

“yeah, he is.”

He pointed at a picture hanging on the wall, his hand shaky,

“That was your mother.”

His voice was small, choking back more tears.

I moved to the wall that the photograph hung on, observing the woman. Her long hair, grey eyes, small frame. I reached my hand out and touched the glass protecting the picture.



With a robe wrapped around my body, I stood staring into the mirror. A face stared back at me, blank and expressionless. Blue eyes stuck out from the black circles that surrounded them.

Swollen and bloody lips and a temple with 7 stitches peered back at me. I let the robe fall off and left it crumpled on the floor. I watched as porcelain skin, covered in wounds, became visible in the mirror.

I stepped into the shower, the warm water overtaking my body. Wetting my hair, the droplets running down my back delicately, the water pooling in the tub at my feet.

I ran my fingers delicately over my hips and stomach, and my eyes burned.

Tears began to fall from my eyes as I remembered the way he touched me. How rough his hands were around my throat as I was begging him to stop. How hard his boot was against my ribs. How his fist felt when it connected with my face. How he pulled my hair as I tried to run away.

I shut my eyes trying to forget, to block out what he did to me.


I sat across the table from the man, the plate in front of me still full of untouched food. He ate slowly, and I watched him—how he moves. His eyes looking down, his shoulders slumped, his breathing soft and sluggish.

do I have to?

He stopped chewing and looked up at me,


do I have to?

I spoke louder this time.

“Cassandra, what do you mean?”

I confused him, but couldn’t find the words to say what I meant. He sat studying me as I struggled to find words that fit what I was trying to ask.

do I have to be who I was?

We sat in silence.

do I have to be Cassandra?

More silence.


As the words rang in the air, a breath of relief came off of my shoulders, and I smiled softly.