Elena stayed in her room for three months. Three whole months. She didn't come out - after all, she had an ensuite bathroom, and her parents would never let her starve - and she didn't say a word to anyone. Not 'thank you' or 'goodnight' when her parents came in to give her her dinner. Never a single word.
By the end of the long period, she was beginning to wonder if she really could still speak, or whether her tongue would have shrivelled up and she would be mute forever. But when Geoff came to see her, she quickly found her voice once more.
"Elena, I'm sorry if it's something I said that made you like this. We miss you, you know. It's so empty without you there, the whole group. Even the little ones are feeling it. Why don't you come back?" He waited for an answer. She said nothing. "Anyway, I thought it was time I told you the rest of the story.
"See, the thing is, people have always been disappearing. We all know who takes them. It's the politicians, isn't it? The people in charge. Well, not them personally, but they've got people in charge of that. The police are in their pay - the police do whatever they tell them to do. And that's why when there's a copper around you've got to get out of the way, now.
"We followed them once, me and a couple of the others. You don't know them. They're older than us. I guess I should tell you straight - I'm a part of the resistance. You probably worked that out already, didn't you? But I can see from your eyes that you're surprised." It was funny how he spoke now that she had muted herself. As though she wasn't there, and he was just talking into a tape recorder.
"Anyway, I was with a couple of the guys from the resistance, and we got to the prison when they were storming it. We'd stayed well back, told them it was pointless and they'd just be caught. Sure enough, none of our lot were in there, except those that had tried to bust them out. So we ran off, and laid low until we had another chance.
"One time I saw someone being taken away, and I was wondering where they were taking him. I followed him. He wasn't a guy I knew, but I had seen him once or twice. So I followed the police until they got to this massive old building. They took him inside. I don't know what they did but I could hear screaming, and it wasn't even him. It was a woman. I stayed there for half an hour and at last I heard his voice, shouting out for help, shouting out ... and suddenly it all went quiet.
"Elena, I know you don't want to talk right now. You've done this before and it could be ages till you say anything. But I just wanted to say that that's what I know. They take them to this house and then they torture them or something - I don't know. But it hurts. And occasionally they come back, and they're never the same. they just look so blank and they never say a word. A bit like you now, only they're covered in more scars. None of them ever get better. It's their friends that they catch next. I reckon they turn them into spies."
For a long while, Geoff just looked at the young girl. "That's all I know, I promise."
She stared at him and then opened her mouth, trying to speak. "Why didn't you tell me you were part of the resistance?" she said, her voice a mere whisper. "I could have helped you."
"You have helped us," he replied. "What do you think you've been doing all this time?"