I stare blankly at the woman in front of me. My mind feels numb even though a million questions are trying to surface. I have no control over any part of my body. I simply stand there, frozen out of shock and of fear. With the air inside of me hanging heavily and with no ability to move, I find myself unable to speak. My lungs grow tired and heavy but I remain conscious. When I finally am able to utter a few words all I can ask is "Why?"
She cackles and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. "Do you really need to know?"
I just stare back at her. Terrified that if I say or do anything I will put Cara in even more danger.
"Fine then." She says, picking up on the fact I'm not planning on replying. "Now I don't have much time here so I'm going to make this quick. It's because of you Sam. You remember how we were best friends all the way from elementary school through high school? Well I wanted to be more than friends. And at first I think you did too. But then you met her and everything changed." She spat. "I wanted to be with you Sam and she ruined all of the plans."
A sudden idea pops into my head. I need to delay her. Waste time so a nurse or someone will come into the room.
"So how does James fit in?" I ask, gaining a little confidence in my speech.
"I finally got so low Sam that I convinced myself to take action. I hated her! I still hate her! Remember the day in the bakery? I had talked to James. I wanted him to do the dirty work but he was too weak." She sounded disgusted. "He was blinded by love for her. I managed to ignore his insolence at the time and I took matters into my own hands. Killing would be too much risk. It would draw in more attention. But a kidnapping would be just what we needed. So when your dear Grace went to go apologize to James, I stood in the road, forced her to swerve her car last second and when she was knocked unconscious, I took her from the vehicle."
I stand in my place, disgusted by her story. "I took her to James to get rid of her. He agreed to keep her quiet because that was the only way I would let her live, or so I told him. He wanted to keep her safe. So noble, isn't it?"
I look over at James who sits in the corner. His eyes downward. Defeated.
I'm caught off guard when he speaks. "Sam, I never wanted to hurt her. I never wanted her to end up like this. I was afraid. I loved her. But I was also confused. I made bad decisions that I thought would lead me down the right path. I was wrong."
"Yes, you were." Bianca says icily. She looks back towards me and grins. "And now Sam, your time is up. Good job trying to stall by the way."
"What are you going to do?"
"Lucky for you, I don't intend on killing anyone. No. I just want to make sure that you have the same pain I had to go through. Losing someone you love."
It takes me a second to realize what she means. She begins walking towards Cara but I move fast and shove her out of the way. "You're not taking her!" I growl.
Bianca catches me off guard by hitting my chest and I'm knocked backwards. "Yes." She hisses. "I am."
I grab her ankle and pull her to the ground so she can't reach Cara before I get up. "No. You're not."
She screams and I notice the gun she had is on the ground across the room. I rush to go get it. She uses her foot and kicks it across the room just as I am about to grab it. I dive for where it's been kicked but Bianca's knee goes into my stomach and I'm knocked to the ground.
"You're not taking away anything more from me!" She shrieks. She grabs the gun and grasps it between her fingers. "Do not make me use this Sam!" She keeps it aimed at my chest but I'm surprised to see tears streaming down her face from her eyes, now fueling hatred with their fire.
"You won't shoot." A voice to my right says simply. James. I had forgotten about him amidst everything. He holds a second gun in his hand. "Drop your weapon!" He shouts. "Drop it!"
Bianca lets her gun fall to the ground and we're all silent. Only Cara, woken up from all of the commotion is making a sound.
"You are not going to hurt anyone else." I never noticed how much pain is written on his face. "You've caused too much hurt Bianca. And I won't let you do any more."
"Oh really?" She muses. "You're going to stop me? Ha! Don't make me laugh! You won't shoot! You're too weak!" She walks over to me where I'm guarding Cara. "But I'm not weak James."
"How do you know I won't shoot?"
She ignores him. Her hand strokes my cheek. I'm too stunned to say anything. She sighs.
"I've always wondered what this would be like. Having you all to myself." She leans in to kiss me. I catch my breath. Frozen. Wanting to move but being unable.
She kicks me to the ground before her lips make contact.
"Never let your guard down Sam." She says simply. She takes Cara in her arms and James shoots. He misses and hits the wall.
Bianca laughs. "You're not going to shoot the baby are you James?" She asks innocently.
"That was a warning shot. You take one more step and I will shoot."
"Is that so? No, I don't think so." She runs out of the door but James doesn't shoot.
"No!" I shout and scramble to get up. The pain slows me down but I can't let Cara get away. I've already lost too much. "Why didn't you shoot?!"
James doesn't answer. Instead he pushes me to the ground. "Just stay here."
"What? No! She has my daughter!"
"No. She doesn't. Just stop."
"What do you mean she doesn't? I just saw her run away!"
"The police are on their way, should be here. I would say just about now she's meeting them."
"I'm not as weak as she thinks." He laughs. "But you. Beat up by a woman."
I glare at him but he runs out of the room in trail of Bianca.
I sit down, feeling restless but not wanting to move. I won't be content until Cara is back in my arms.
James returns to the room with a police officer who is holding my daughter. I want to sleep but I stay awake and explain the events of the past few years.
When I finish, he returns Cara to me and allows us both some rest.
The next morning Cara and I are still in the hospital. Bianca packed quite the punch when she hit me and left me with a few broken ribs. According to the nurse, James will still possibly face a prison sentence for being an accomplice of the kidnapping. One of the few pieces of good news however, is that Bianca is almost guaranteed life in prison with all of the evidence we have to convict her. No jury in their right mind would let her go. Despite everything, I feel almost sorry for her. She just needed someone to love her. Unfortunately that was something I couldn't give her.
The doctor said there was hope for Grace so we agreed to keep her on life support. It made me relieved there was still a chance for a happy ending.
After a long while in the hospital, I was finally released and able to return home. This time with my daughter. Her head rests on my head and I carry her into her nursery. Her head lays gently in the crib and she breathes contentedly. I smile and kiss her on the forehead. "Goodnight baby girl."
I leave the room, shutting off the light and closing the door behind me. Our new life had started. But I would never forget the old one.
Hope you all enjoyed! I originally did have an epilogue planned but I changed the ending of this chapter and ended up liking this one the best. :) If enough people want an epilogue then I might release it. Thanks for being an amazing audience!
FINALLY here is part one of the final chapter! My game has been crashing lately which is why its taken so long. Hopefully part two and the epilogue will be out much faster! Thanks for reading!!
The sound of footsteps echoes across the hallway.
"Did you get the car?" I don't answer her. My head is foggy and everything seems blurry. "James? Did you hear me? I asked if you got the car!"
I shake my head slowly.
"Are you - oh, never mind! You're worthless anyways. Now where did I put my coat?"
I faintly make out her scurrying around looking for her jacket.
"Why are we dooing this? I mean reeally?" My voice is slurred and my head bobs up and down.
"Because of what they did to us, idiot! Are you so out of it that you forget that? Hmm? Now can you get off your arse and help me?!"
"Fine. Fine. But isn't this wrong?" A tiny, acute pain has been nipping at my heartstrings since we put this whole plan together. "Thhhey arren't hurting anyyone. And theirr happy. Theeyy haven't even turned us innn. Can't wee jussst leave 'em?"
"No we can't. Get up. They ruined my, I mean our lives. And they will pay."
I sigh. No sense in arguing with the devil.
His icy eyes open up to take in his surroundings.
"It's. . . beautiful. Grace," He looks around him in awe. "Did you really do this all yourself?"
"Mhmm." I nod and feel my cheeks blush a slight shade of pink in response to his praise. "You really like it?"
"Yes. And she's going to love it too." He replies and and rests his hand gently on my ever-growing belly.
"I hope so."
"She will." He promises me. His hand reaches for mine and he guides me to the couch where we sit in silence for a few moments.
"Eight months, twenty-seven days." My voice sounds rehearsed but excitement has started to edge upon it as well.
"We're getting close."
"I know. Pretty soon everything's going to be different."
"Especially considering we will not only have a little girl, but you will also be my wife." I smile contentedly and examine the ring on my finger.
"Speaking of, did you get the florist for the wedding?"
"Yep. Roses, just like we planned."
"Mmm. Good. It will be perfect."
"For sure." His fingers entwine with mine and we stare at them together. The touch of his skin feels like electricity coursing throughout my veins. I turn to face him. His warmth radiates over my body and my stomach does that flip-flop thing that it only does when I look into those perfect eyes. His gaze is intently focused on me and his lips mere centimeters from my own. So close that I can feel his breath melt on my skin.
As he leans in to kiss me, my phone buzzes somewhere off to my left. Sam sighs as I get up to grab it and I give him a knowing smile.
My bare feet feel cold against the tile floor and I shiver a bit. It's an unknown caller so I let it go to voicemail.
"Who was it?'
"Not sure. It didn't say."
"Well that's ok." He gives a mischievous smile. "You know I was thinking of a name. Eliza would be kind of ironic, don't you think?"
I laugh a little. "Yeah--no. What about Cara? After my mom? And her middle name could be Noelle after yours."
"Why does your mom's name have to come first?"
"Because Noelle Cara doesn't sound right."
"Cara Noelle." He tests the name out on his tounge. "Fine. I'll cave. Just this once though. I get to choose the name for the dog."
I giggle. "Yes because naming our child is the equivalent of naming a dog."
"You know, I think you're right. Eliza it is."
"Sam! That's not what I meant."
"Well it's kind of what you said."
I huff. "I like Cara."
We spend the rest of the day out at lunch. Every now and then Sam makes his sarcastic comments about how we either name our girl Noelle first or we name her Eliza. I have to remind him I'm the one that's carrying the baby so I get more power over the decision. He doesn't give in.
After a tiring day I retire to the shower to wash up before heading on to bed. I dry myself off with my towel as I'm getting out. The steam from the hot water feels realxing to my aching muscles.
As I'm brushing through my hair I happen to notice a small puddle of water on the floor.
That's funny, I think. I thought I dried off better than that. That's when it hits me.
"Sam!" I call. "She's coming!"
"What?!" I hear his voice echo into the room and I scurry to get dressed.
"You heard me! Will you get the car ready? Is the car seat in there?" His face appears in the doorway.
"No. I'll go get it. Will you be ok for a few minutes?"
"I'm fine! Don't worry just hurry!"
I decide to put my hair, which is still wet from the shower, up in a bun to keep it out of my way. I smile one last time in the mirror before heading out.
The hospital air is cool and dry. The pain coming from my stomach is unbearable. My vision is slowly becoming blurry but I ignore it. I'm not going to pass out and miss the birth of my child. Sam is sitting next to me, holding my hand. I can tell he's worried.
"There's nothing to be afraid of."
He looks up at me. "I know. Those pills that Doctor Baer gave you are going to work. They have to."
I look at him sadly and nod in agreement as I bite my lip while another contraction comes along. My breathing is a little ragged but I remain conscious and at least that's something.
"You know I love you, right?" Sam's eyes are glossy and fearful.
"Oh Sam!" He reaches his arms around me and holds me. "I'm the one that should be asking you."
The door opens with a click and a nurse comes into the room.
"Yes." The sound of my voice takes effort to come out.
"I have a little bit of bad news for you. Nothing terrible, I promise. However, we are going to need to put you under and give you a C-Section. It's best for you and the baby if we do it this way given your condition."
"Okay." I give a shaky little nod. "Sam will still be there though, right?"
"Unfortunately no. We can't take any risks. But he can be the first one to hold her after, at least until you wake up."
I look over at Sam who just smiles. "I'm fine Grace. I'll only be a room away." I give him a grateful look. This has to be hard for him but he's pretending to be ok with everything for me.
"So we're good then?" The nurse asks.
"Yes. Just make sure Sam is the first."
She nods and leaves us for the last few minutes of it only being Sam and I.
Something about her visit. . . I can't explain it. I just have a feeling.
"If something should happen. . ." My voice is a whisper.
"No." He shakes his head. "Stop. I'm not losing you ever again."
"But if something were to-"
"It's not!" His voice raises and my eyes widen. "I'm sorry. I just can't."
My hand strokes his cheek. "I'm not saying anything will happen. But if it does you need to be strong. You need to take care of our girl, you understand?"
"Alright then. They're going to take me in soon. Why don't you head into the lobby?"
He reluctantly goes. When the door shuts I cradle my belly with one hand and imagine holding my daughter. "Don't ever forget me. I love you so much. Remember that. Please."
I pace back and forth. The lights from the ceiling are reflecting their light onto the dull tile floor. My mind races a million miles an hour. Impatience tugs at the back of my mind. I have to do something other than just sitting here! It's been an hour and fifteen minutes. Grace has to be okay. She has to! And the baby...
My phone goes off and whirl around thanking the fact I finally have something other than pacing to take my mind off of Grace.
An unknown caller.
Of course, I think. Not anyone but some damn telemarketer.
I sigh and plop myself into one of the hard-cushioned chairs. The clock's hands ticking away are the only sounds in the lobby. The small teddy bear I bought for our girl is sitting lop-sided on the coffee table. I pick it up and examine it a bit. Taking in the details of it. Not as if there was anything more productive I could do anyways.
When the door finally opens I stand up. "Is she ok?"
The nurse looks at me for a second. That second is all it takes. Just one glimpse into her eyes and I know.
"Where is she?" My voice is strained. Barely able to utter any words.
I walk down the hall feeling a pain in my chest I've never felt. My eyes are welled up with tears an my fists are packed tightly into a ball to prevent to prevent any of the tears to leak out. When I see Grace I want to collapse right there on the floor. Her hair is in an array all around her head, darker than the day we first met but the color I have grown to know the past year. Her face is pallid, and her hands lay by her side. Delicate, even now. I take note of her chest rising and falling at such a slow pace I wouldn't even think it humanly possible for her.
"Why isn't she awake?! She's. . . breathing right?"
"It's a coma." She stammers.
"When will she wake up?"
"We don't know. There isn't a good chance she ever will given everything she's been through."
I want to scream. Tell everyone they're wrong. She can't leave me! She's mine and I hers. I love her!
My hand reaches over to hers. Cool to the touch and my mind flashes back to to earlier when she held mine and radiated a warmth that made my heart melt. But now, that same hand is what's tearing my heart to shreds.
I lean my head down and bury it in my arms. She knew. I don't know how but she did.
A hand touches my shoulder. "She wanted you to hold her first."
I look up. Wrapped in a pale pink blanket is my sleeping daughter. Her skin tone matches mine more than Grace's and her black hair is thick on her head. I take note of how one of her hands can barely wrap around one of my fingers. The sight of her sends a feeling to my chest that I can't explain. She's our little girl.
My eyes revert their gaze to Grace and then back to our baby. I smile a little in spite of everything. I guess that settles it. "You're our baby Cara." I murmur. And for some reason, despite me being against the name it feels right. It's what Grace had wanted. And no matter how hard I wish it, for some reason I just know, with a grieving sense of pain, I will never see my Grace's eyes again. I hold Cara tighter against my chest. It's just Cara and I now.
In the corner of the room, Cara sleeps soundly. Completely unaware of her mother laying unconscious on the bed parallel to her. Keeping her here for an extended amount of time was necessary, according to the doctors anyways. Either way, I didn't mind. It might be the only time I will ever have them in the same room.
My thoughts wandered. I wasn't sure if how long I was going to keep Grace in this coma. While it is very unlikely she will ever wake up, my heart wants to believe that she can still be with me. The only reason my heart seems to continue beating is because I'm so numb from everything. As soon as I am forced to let Grace go, I'm terrified that I will go with her. My mind will need reminding of my daughter. She will be the only thing keeping me tethered to this world.
Midnight comes to pass and tiredness is creeping up on me. I fade in and out before the door swings open in a rush.
He smells like a bar and the appearance of him is much worse. Straggly, greasy blond hair tops his head and the circles under his eyes make him seem almost ghost-like. James.
I stand up, prepared for him to make a move towards either Grace or Cara.
"What do you want?" I ask him forcefully. His eyes widen.
"She's coming. I told her not to. I told her! But she won't listen!" He starts to sob. "She's coming! I'm so sorry. So sorry."
"James?! Whose coming? Who?!"
I shake him by his shoulders.
He looks confused. "She is. And she wants to. . . You need to get out of here! I tried! I tried! Please! I'm so sorry! Hurry! She's coming! Go before it's too late!"
"Sorry to rain on the parade, but it's already too late." An icy smile is on her lips. Her eyes pierce my soul like venom and a gun is pointed right at my heart. I should have known. The only person I could trust when Grace disappeared. The only person who I never thought could be behind this.
Paper bags piled high with groceries tower above my hands, keeping in close contact with the rest of my body. My feet stumble over the curb and I quickly balance out to keep from spilling the groceries and toppling over along with them.
Using my back to push against the glass door into our building, I continue forward towards the elevator with my shoes tapping against the polished floor in our lobby. The smell of cardboard emanates off of the bags. As weird as it sounds the smell is oddly comforting. It's reminiscent of home. I keep walking, though my mind has now lost focus of watching where I am going and is filled with thoughts of home. My old home. I smile softly to myself. I have a new home now.
I don't hear it, but a small sound echoes off of the elevator as its doors open. Unaware of the people coming out of the elevator I immediately run into someone, spilling the contents of the paper bags in my hands everywhere. I groan. Why am I so darn clumsy?
"Sorry." I utter to the man who I rammed into and bend down to pick everything up.
"Oh no. I'm sorry Miss. It was my fault. Here, let me help."
One by one, we finish putting everything back.
"Thanks for your help." I give a kind of awkward half-smile.
"Anytime." He must have just gotten his first real look at my face because he seemed a little taken aback when he looked at me. "Grace? Is that you?"
My thoughts fumble around my brain. I didn't recognize the man whatsoever. "Yes..." I reply cautiously.
He looks relieved. "Grace, it's me. Doctor Baer.'
His face registers in my brain. "Oh! Doctor Baer! I am so sorry. I didn't recognize you at first. How have you been?"
"Fine. Fine. Do you and James live here now?" He cringes slightly when he says James' name.
The question takes me aback a little. Of course. He thinks I'm with James. James hired him as my own personal doctor when he had kidnapped me. I don't think Doctor Baer knew the full story of course but also don't doubt James threatened him a few times to keep me secret.
"Actually, no. James and I aren't together anymore."
"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that."
"No, it's fine. I'm really happy here. I was ready for some change."
"Yeah. So do you live in the building?"
"Yes actually, I do."
"Well if you ever need anything just knock. I'm in 302."
"Thank you Grace. Same for you. I mean it too."
"All right. It was-" I pause and hold my hand to my head. It's cool touch helps the dizziness subside. "I'm sorry Doctor Baer. Just got a little dizzy there. Nothing to worry about."
A crease between his eyebrows forms. "Please, I beg your pardon for asking this, but have you been to a doctor since James and you split?"
"No, actually. I haven't.
"He never told you did he?"
"Told me what? Doctor Baer you're scaring me."
"Grace," he hesitates. "There was I reason I was hired. I'm very good at what I do. And you have a special case."
"Special case? I don't understand."
His eyes examine the room for a moment before he speaks again. "Do you have some time? This might be hard on you. I don't think we should talk about this in public. Can you stop by the hospital tonight?"
"Whatever it is you can tell me now. Please."
"No. Not here. James is. . . Well he was very serious when he said not to mention this to anyone. You have a right to know but I do not wish for anyone else to know. Patient confidentiality."
"Ok." Worry etches my face and gnaws at my heartstrings. Everything is ok Grace. "Tonight then. Can I bring someone with me?"
He hesitates. "Please just come alone. This might just be for nothing anyways. I don't want to be responsible for frightening anyone else."
"Alright. I'll meet you then."
FIVE HOURS LATER
"I'm looking for Doctor Baer."
The irate receptionist just keeps staring at the computer screen in front of her. "In the back."
"Thanks." My voice is shaky. I'm so confused about everything. What's wrong with me?
I feel the touch of the cool handle of the hospital door, close my eyes briefly, take a deep breath, and open it.
"Ah. Grace. I'm glad you came. Please take a seat." He gestures towards a chair and I sit. The chair cushion squeals a little as I do. The only sound breaking the silence around us.
"Ok Grace. I know you want some answers. So I'll give them to you." He coughs. "James never told me the full extent of what happened to you. Just that you had been hurt in an accident and he wanted me to fix you. He said he didn't want you to wake up in a hospital instead of home which is why he hired me. You were out for over a month. I gave you all of the medicines you required and you recovered quite nicely. Or so we thought. Your amnesia was triggered by the part of the brain your crash hit the worst but you have to know that your entire body was injured. Horribly. When you began to walk and talk we would notice that you became easily dehydrated, panic attacks came frequently and you were very prone to feinting. You couldn't stand for more than a little while at a time. Your amnesia still continued on and off for the first year until eventually it seemed to fade away. I ran some tests just to be sure and that's when I found what was wrong with you. Grace, you have a disease that specifically targets your bloodstream and brain. You feint easily because of lack of circulation of your blood, especially to your brain. Now, while you seemed to be ok, we had to make sure. James had to be careful with you. Extremely careful. For one reason in particular." He pauses. "You shouldn't carry children."
My heart feels like it's been yanked out. The life I imagined for Sam and I has come crumbling down in a matter of seconds.
"Does that mean I can't? At all?"
"It means that if you do it could potentially be fatal for you. Now I don't know if this problem still exists. After I left any number of things could have happened. If you like, I could perform some tests to make sure."
I nod. "Thank you."
I wait for Grace. She should have been home hours ago. I stand up from the couch and pace back and forth. My heels tapping on the wood floor is the only sound breaking the silence. A thousand thoughts rush throughout my brain. James could have gotten her! She's lost. She's not lost and she doesn't want to come home. That was the worst thought.
My phone rings and I rush to answer even before checking the caller ID. As Grace's voice sounds relief floods through my veins.
"Are you alright Grace?"
"Nothing. But will you meet me at the hospital?"
"Why the hospital? What happened?"
"Nothing. Just meet me here and ask for Doctor Baer. I'm meeting with him now. He's an old friend. Please, don't worry just yet. I'll see you soon. Bye."
She hangs up just like that. Before I even get the chance to reply.
I grab a sweatshirt and hurry out the door, anxiety reaching across my face.
The cool, dry air of the hospital welcomes me when I rush through the doors. I walk straight to the back to a sharp-featured receptionist. "I'm looking for Doctor Baer. I was told I was supposed to ask for him. Do know where he is?"
Her pointy nose angles upward, her lips form a line and her eyes narrow on my face. "Doctor Baer is already meeting with someone."
"Yes, that's my fiancee. She's the one who I'm supposed to meet."
"I cannot let you back there. Wait." Her stiff voice rises up a bit and she hobbles her aging body out of her chair and down the back hallways.
Within a few moments a friendly face walks down the corridor and shakes my hand.
"You're Sam, correct?"
"Hello. I'm Doctor Baer."
"Oh. Hello Sir."
"So Grace has called you here, correct?"
"Yes. Do you know where she is?"
"Mhmm. But first I need to give you the update on what's going on. She has something she wants to tell you herself but I think it's best saved for last."
I agree and follow him as he explains everything that's happened to Grace. My heart breaks for her. She shouldn't have children. What she's wanted for so long. . .
"Are you ready to see her now?"
"Alright then." He stands up and opens the door on the opposite end of the room. "Grace? You can come in now."
I hear the shuffling of clothing and the taps of footsteps on the tile floor. When she stands in front of me her face looks relieved. I'm shocked. After everything she's had to go through she's actually smiling and looking happy. Then I notice where her hand is. Its cradling her stomach gently. She looks down and then back up at me. "I'm pregnant."
And that's when I realize it. Shouldn't being able to have children isn't the same as not being able to have them at all. And in our case, this means I just might lose her forever.
A call comes in at eleven from a number I have long since forgotten.
"What do you want?"
"I-uh. Well I just thought you should know where your girlfriend is."
"Where?!" I grow steadily more excited.
"In the city. Please don't go after her. I just thought you had a right to know."
"The hell with that! She's coming back whether she likes it or not!"
"Yes. But James. . . there's something you should know."
"What?" I snap, frustrated.
"Grace is pregnant with his child."
My face drops. I go silent.
I don't reply.
My fist strengthens its grasp on the phone and before I know it, a vase is shattered and my phone lies amongst the shattered pieces.
The winding road curves around the hills just as it had for as long as I could remember. However, this time I was leaving. For how long I didn't know. The glistening morning sun shimmered off of the ocean waves starting to appear on the horizon. Farther and farther I was being taken away from the only home I had ever known. Sam reached over with his right hand and firmly grasped mine.
"Everything's going to be okay. I promise." I nod, so unsure of everything.
My whole life was turned upside down because of the decision I made to forgive James. What if all this time I was just fooling myself that people would change?
By nightfall, the city skyline could be seen on the horizon. Good thing too, the gas was running low in the car. Sam found the nearest gas station and pulled the car up to one of the pumps.
"Do you want anything?" I ask. "I have to use the bathroom. I can get you something to eat while I'm in the store."
"I don't know. Are you getting anything?"
"Maybe just a water and something to snack on." It's been a long day and we haven't eaten since eleven this morning.
"Okay. I guess I'll have a water too. Thanks."
I nod and fold my arms over my chest, blocking out the chilly sea air so unlike our small town's warmth this time of year. I push open the heavy door and the tiny sound of a bell sounds throughout the room. I walk straight to the back to use the bathroom. As I wash my hands I can't help but smile at myself in the mirror from how different I've become in the past 48 hours. A plain black hoodie instead of my usual, more patterned clothes. Simple converse, my hair tied back into a bun like the old days, and a red tinge has been added to my lips from all of the chapstick I had been lathering on during the drive.
I make my way over to one of the miniature aisles of food in the store. My eyes peeled for anything that might satisfy the growing beast in my stomach that had been bothering me for over an hour now. I hear the chime of the bell but don't bother to look up. My mind is having conflicting thoughts about whether to get chex-mix or a bag of pretzels. I shrug and decide to get them both. As I am grabbing them off of the rack, a conversation up at the front grabs my attention. I stay low, keeping my face from view and freeze, catching every word.
"Sure is cold out there isn't it Son? Been gettin' down into the fifties at night. You look like you been havin' a long day. Want somethin ta eat with that coffee?"
"No. I've got to keep moving. I'm meeting a few friends up north and I'm supposed to be following them. They're getting farther the longer I wait here. Plus I've got my girl in the car and you know how they can be when you take too long."
"Yeah. Well you best be movin' there lad or you ain't goin' to be catchin' up with 'em any time soon, I s'pose. Want me ta ring you up?"
"Yeah. Oh, wait. Damn. I left my wallet in the car. I'll be back."
The chime goes off again. I stand completely still. The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end. I wait a second before chancing a glance out the window. His car must be around the corner of the building. If I hurry I can make it to Sam before he comes back.
I drop everything and pretend to walk casually out of the store and across the parking lot with my hood now tucked over my head and hiding my face. Sam is just getting finishing filling the tank as I climb in the passenger seat with my heart racing.
I keep my face turned from the view of anyone in the shop but every few seconds I risk a glance to make sure he's not following me. The door to the drivers' seat opens and Sam climbs inside.
"Sam." I whisper. "He's in the store. He's at the check-out. We need to get out of here before he realizes who we are."
He draws a breath and takes a look. Nodding, he starts the engine and gets us out of the parking lot, keeping an eye locked in the rear-view mirror.
We stay silent for a few minutes. It's almost as if we're afraid James will hear us and figure out where we are. When he decides to break the silence, I know what's coming.
"How did you find him in there? Did he see you? Did he say anything? Tell me everything. I don't think he realized we were there. But I'm just making sure. We're going to take these back roads for a while. I haven't decided yet but we'll need to stop somewhere soon. I'm thinking we better stay here in the city. It will be harder for him to find us in all of the crowds. Plus we can easily keep to a hotel room until we find a place to stay."
I just stare at him for a moment and blink. "Ok, well I'm going to try to answer all of that." I force a smile. "He didn't see me as far as I can tell. He was talking to the clerk at the counter about following some friends up north. He said that he was behind and needed to catch up. Oh and he also mentioned some girl being in the car but I'm pretty sure that was just a cover-up story to get out of talking to that guy more."
"Alright. At least I know this will keep us safe for a little while."
"Sam are we going to go to the police?"
He looks over at me. "I wish we could. But what proof do we have? Your word? Mine? You've been missing. People have seen James around town and been to his house. You are the one thing they haven't seen. Plus, if we tell them now he's going to come after you even worse. This may just be him trying to get you away from me right now. But if we get the police involved there's no telling what he'll do. He might . . ." He pauses and I look a him intently. I know very well what he might do. Sam's right. Our best bet is just to lay low for a while and see if he lets this go. People think I'm dead. Missing. Whatever. It's not like he can send out an amber alert for me anyways. There's already one out there. It's been out there for five years. People would think he's crazy.
"Okay." I concede. "It's settled then. No police."
He focuses his concentration back on driving. My eyes follow the trees whirring past the window. They make my head spin so much I have to shut my eyes to keep myself from losing whatever bit of lunch I have left in me. Thank heaven it just looks like I'm tired. Sam would freak if he knew I'd been in this sort of condition the past few years.
The car bounces over part of the curb leading into the parking lot. We stop at a small motel.
When I wake up I have new messages on my phone from Bianca. I sigh.
They read: "I stopped by to check on you today and you weren't home. Some people in the building said you left yesterday morning. Are you ok? Sam? Sam? Please pick up!"
I take my phone in my hand, glancing over to the other side of the bed where Grace is still sleeping peacefully. So as not to wake her, I climb out of bed slowly and head outside to the porch, closing the door behind me.
I wait a few moments before Bianca's voice answers with her "Hi!"
"Hello? Bianca, this is Sam."
"Sam! I'm so glad you called! I've been worried sick! Are you ok?"
"Yeah, we're fine."
"I mean me. Sorry." I scratch the back of my neck awkwardly.
"Where have you been?" The patio door slides open and Grace steps out in her pajamas. She looks at me wonderingly.
"Uh, well I've decided to take a road trip. Clear my head. I'm up north at the lake." Grace's face floods with relief with the sound of my words. Apparently she wasn't so eager to let anyone know where we were either.
"At the lake." Bianca repeats my words. "Ok, well please stay safe Sam. Love you. Good-bye."
"Bye." I sigh. The button beeps and our conversation ends.
Folding her arms across her chest to keep out the cold, Grace asks, "Who was that?"
"Oh." Is all she says. "Well I'm going to get dressed and get some breakfast. Want to come?"
I nod, taking notice of how her pale skin seems even more pallid than usual.
We hop into the car and make our way back to the gas station we had stopped at last night.
"I'll grab the coffee." Grace says.
Nodding I pick a couple muffins and other small snacks from the shelves. As I do so, I happen to notice Grace over at the counter pouring the coffee. Her hand begins shaking uncontrollably and coffee splatters everywhere from the jug. She curses under her breath and examine the droplets on her shirt. The man at the counter stops reading his magazine and looks at her accusingly.
"I'm so sorry! I don't know what's wrong with me!" She looks like she's about to cry.
I drop the snacks off at the check-out counter and grab the cups of steaming liquid from her hands, setting them down and out of the way. I place my hands on her shoulders and comfort her.
"I'm sorry." She whispers again. "I can clean it up." She says with certainty as she releases herself from my grasp and starts to bend down. The clerk quickly gets up and assures her he can handle it. I look at him gratefully and take Grace away from the mess.
I look her straight in the eyes. Worry creasing my brow. "Are you ok?" I murmur.
"Fine." She huffs.
"Grace-" I start but am cut of by the clerk.
"Do you want me to ring you guys up?"
"Yeah." I reply without reverting my gaze from Grace until I am forced to move from her and pay.
The chime from the door rings behind us when we leave. "Please don't say anything Sam. It was nothing. I just haven't eaten yet."
"Grace, you can't expect me to believe that excuse every time. What's wrong? You need to tell me the truth."
"The truth?" She glares. But in her eyes I don't see anger. "The truth is... Sam... I don't know. I've been like this since a little after I found out the truth. Maybe it's the trauma of everything but I was really weak when James "took me in" and have been ever since."
"We need to take you to a doctor Grace! Someone who can-"
"Please Sam." She whispers. "No doctors. James hired enough of those to come to the house. All they are are liars. They don't know anything. Please."
Reluctantly, I nod. But I feel so guilty. I should have figured it was something more serious. And after we... "Oh Grace, did I... Did I hurt you?"
"No! Sam, I'm fine! Trust me! You can't treat me any different! Please. Stop worrying. I'm fine! Perfect actually."
I don't believe it but I concede for the time being. "Fine. I'm just worried about you. I can't lose you again." My voice fades.
She reaches up and strokes my cheek. "You won't have to."
Everything happened so fast. Remembering who I was had a numerous amount of consequences both for better and worse. Being engaged again left a fluttering in my stomach that made me the happiest in years. On the other hand however I had no idea what James would do when he found out where I had been and that I wasn't coming home.
It was almost midnight when I walked through the doors into Sam's place weary and exhausted from the day's events. I knew I had to stay up however. I highly doubted that James would leave this alone overnight but we agreed to wait until tomorrow to go to the police. And so, Sam brewed us two cups of coffee to sip on as we waited.
When nothing happened for over an hour I began to get antsy.
"What do you think he'll do?" I ask. I didn't feel any fear but I knew I should.
"I don't know." Sam had been silent since we came home and he spoke those words so inaudibly that I almost missed it.
"Everything's going to be fine." I attempt to reassure him.
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do. We have each other now whether he likes it or not and we can protect one another." My hand rests on his arm. "I think he's done. We'll go to the police in the morning. He does't want to take any more risks. Don't worry ok?"
"No. I was supposed to keep you safe all of those years ago and I couldn't. It's my job to protect you. I wasn't prepared then but I am now. I don't want you to worry about me. I'm not the one in danger." His eyes stare into mine with a firm gaze. "I won't let anyone touch you." He leans over me and I feel my heart beat against my chest. Pausing just a mere two inches from my face I take in the sight of his ocean-like eyes and black hair. Oh!
He touches his lips to mine. The strength he has makes me gasp but I kiss him back enjoying his arms around me, holding me in a firm embrace. The tiredness I felt before has been replaced with excitement and nervousness. His lips touch my neck and progressively move down.
I feel his breath on my chest and the touch of his skin upon my own. The touch of his muscles make me feel safe in his arms and I melt. Everything feels so right. He unclasps my bra and touches the small of my back sending shivers up my spine. I remove his shirt. He removes mine and slips off my skirt as well. He presses me into the couch, restraining my movements. I want no one but him and the pleasure and love I feel have no words to describe. Forever we lay there.
"You're mine Grace and I have and will love you every day forever and always." He says breathily.
A wave of tiredness rushes over me. "I love you too." I reply faintly. "I'm so glad we've found each other. Maybe everything will finally be over." I speak those final words before I am dragged into a deep sleep.
The morning comes much too soon. I wake up to the sound of birds outside the window chirping merrily. A soft blanket is draped over my naked body and as I hear the sound of running water I know Sam's already up and in the shower. A soft smile spreads across my face. This is the life I've always wanted and now I have an opportunity to have it.
I stand and drape the blanket over my shoulders. An odd feeling rushes over me in an instant. I feel... weak. I ignore it however. This had been happening to me lately. Most likely from dehydration or something.
I grab a glass of water taking slow sips as something something catches my eye. A message has been written in bright red paint on the window.
"It's not over unless I say it is."
I shut my eyes tight trying to block it out. But when I open them the only change is there's more to the message. The newspaper articles I found are hanging there with "Take that as a warning" written across them. I gasp when I see a hooded figure not ten feet away.
"Sam!" I scream. "Sam!"
The water stops and I feel another panic attack coming on. My breathing becomes short while my lungs feel as if they are being crushed. Fear is gripping and clawing at me. I fall to the floor seeing only dark as I pass out into the unknown just the same as the night I went missing.
My thoughts blind me as I rush to turn off the water and grab a towel. What's going on? Did he come for her? I scramble to open the door. "Grace!"
Her body is limp on the floor. Oh god! Is she dead?! My heart races as I fumble to check her heart beat to make sure it's still there.
A breathe a sigh of relief and take a moment to look around. There's nothing except a broken glass and water spilled everywhere. I take a moment to peek out the window and still see nothing. What could have happened? I easily lift up her body and set her down so she is laying flat on the couch. I grab a pillow and prop her feet up to help circulate the blood and then pick up the sharp pieces all strewn across the floor.
After a few minutes she begins to stir. I rush to her to hold one of her hands between both of mine. Her eyes flutter open and she bolts upright.
"Yeah. But you're safe now. What happened?"
"Sam the window! The writing! He was in the woods and...and..." Her voice trails off. "Where did it go?"
"Grace there wasn't any writing."
"He must have erased it. Sam I swear! I'm not making this up!" She's almost crying now.
"I know." I reply hurriedly. But I'm worried about her. If she's telling the truth how could someone erase a message so quickly? It took me not even a minute to reach her. And whatever triggered that fainting spell... "I know." I repeat. She clutches on to my arm and holds me close.
I break away from her. "I'll get you something to eat ok?" She nods uneasily. I hadn't realized how fragile she's become.
I walk over to the pantry and pull out some crackers for her to nibble on. A knock on the door startles me and I head over to answer it. A delivery-man stands in front of me with a small package. "You Sam Knox?" He asks.
"Sign here for me please."
I do as I'm told, take the package, and thank the man as he leaves.
"Who's it from?" Grace's quavering voice asks.
"Doesn't say." I frown slightly and open the cardboard box.
Inside is a single piece of paper. It reads: "Ever hear of the phrase 'silent as the grave'?" I look up slowly at Grace.
"You aren't lying."
Her face turns a shade paler than it was. "What is it?"
"Doesn't matter. We're leaving. Now."
And even as I say those words, I hope to God that I'm not making a mistake.
Hey everyone! Here is the next chapter! Hope you enjoy! ~~At the very end of this chapter I have added a small part of the story told from James' perspective. This is the last time you will have a perspective from Grace as well.
"Keep your eyes closed." I smile and do as I'm told as I hear the creaking sound of a gate opening.
Today is our four month anniversary together. This morning I had asked Sam if I could move in with him as my present. We agreed not to get each other anything too extravagant but by the sounds of things Sam did not follow that rule in the slightest.
"Okay." He says. "Open." My eyelids open wide to reveal a fairytale of a garden. I look at him in awe. "It's all yours." He says. And I can't believe it. How ever did he manage this? The garden's blossoms are poking out everywhere in an ornate collection of petals. The smell of lilacs and roses delight my senses but the thought that he put into this makes my heart swell. And that feeling is the best of all.
"What happened to nothing too extravagant?" I laugh. "Now my 'present' looks like trash!" But I can't even pretend I'm unhappy. "How did you do this? Is this really all for us?" My feet hop up onto a small ledge and he grabs my hand gliding me along elegantly. When it ends he stops me swiftly and holds me hands in his.
"First, that's my little secret. And second, you're present was and is perfect. Especially," He pauses and reaches into his coat for something. "Especially because I know that I have a better chance of you saying yes to this. Grace Smith, will you marry me?" I can only stare at the box he just opened. A glistening silver band of diamonds sits amongst the silk fabric lining the inside. The love I felt before is nothing compared to now. There are no words to describe how I feel. It hurts how much I love him.
"There's nothing I want more!" He slides the ring onto my finger gently with a beaming smile and he stands up to give me my first kiss to him as his fiancé.
"Good." He replies, breaking away from the kiss. "I know we're moving fast Grace but I love you with my whole heart and soul. There is no one else I want to spend my life with." He hugs me tight.
We spend the rest of the day in the garden except for the time used up for dinner. When night has long since fallen he escorts me home.
"I wish I didn't have to go." I say.
"Why do you?"
"Because," I reply. "You don't want me tired for the move this week." Part of me is hoping he'll find an excuse for me to stay. When he doesn't I start to head into my house for what will be one of my last nights. But he reaches and grabs my arm.
"Grace." His breath is warm and sweet as his face leans in to press his soft lips against my own. I allow my thoughts to melt away for the brief amount of seconds that our lips meet. When the cold night air touches them once more I stare into his icy blue eyes.
"Yes?" I reply slowly, hoping and praying for the moment to never come to an end.
He drew in a breath as if ready to say something longer but instead he simply replied with a faint "Goodnight" and reluctantly let go of my hand as I turned and travelled up the porch steps into the dimly lit house. The moment before I closed the door I could have sworn I heard the words "My love" sound in addition to his "Goodnight" with his silk-like voice.
When I hear the door click my body lets out a deep sigh and I smile. "Goodnight, Sam." I continue to stay by the door for moment upon moment until I hear him drive away. Upstairs, I let my hair go wild while I untangle all the snarls caught in the midst. Eventually, I curl up into the covers and drift off to sleep.
When the morning comes I drag myself out of bed much unwillingly. As I do so, I notice an alert on my phone. It's a text from Sam. There's an emergency at work and he'll be in Bridgeport for the day. I sigh. At least I'll be able to pack without distractions.
I get dressed and head to the U-Haul store for some boxes and packing tape. As I begin to box things up the realization that I'll never live in this house again hits me. I feel a sudden wave of sadness as I look around the old building. I was raised in this very house. When my parents died, I took ownership. Now, I remember the times I had here. James and I would come through those doors and trudge out back to the playground in our yard. We would spend hours there playing hide-and-go-seek and whatever else we could conjure up. I smile to myself. James was there for me then and in realizing that, I found that I wanted him to be here for me now too. He made a mistake but that doesn't mean I can't forgive him. He's my best friend. I need to be there for him.
Setting everything down, I grab my keys, hop into my car and leave a note for Sam just in case he gets home early and I'm not there. The hum of the engine helps to calm my nerves. I have no idea what to say to him. I attempt to distract myself the entire ride there. With only a mile left to go my heart is pounding. I look down, my fingers struggling to find the on switch for the radio. When I look up I see a figure standing in the middle of the road. I swerve and the next thing I see is dark.
I walk up the steps to Sam's apartment. My hands are shaking and I have to take deep breaths to calm myself down.
My thoughts are racing a million miles an hour. What if he thinks I'm crazy? What if he doesn't believe me? My hand meets the wooden door to knock. The time it takes waiting for him to answer feels like an eternity because of my nerves. When the door finally swings open, it leaves me face-to-face with Sam.
"Hey Sam. Can we talk?"
He nods and motions for me to come inside. I do and take a seat on the sofa. When he seats himself next to me he looks at me expectantly. I realize I need to speak first.
"Okay," I say and utter a breathy laugh to ease some of the tension building up. "When we met that day on the hill I couldn't help but feel like you recognized me a little. Like we had met before. And maybe I did too. I don't know. Lately, I've been seeing flashes of what I think could be my past." I'm talking fast to help with my nerves.
"You see, I can only remember things up to about five years ago. And after I met you, well, it's hard to explain and you're probably going to think I'm crazy but I've been seeing you. In my head that is. And before you judge, please, I-I found something last night in James' office. I found the newspaper from when Grace was kidnapped. The picture of her... Sam... I think it's me."
My muscles tense, readying myself for him to yell, tell me I'm wrong. Kick me out and tell James everything. I didn't mean to say everything so fast but I'm just so nervous. I'm sure he can hear my heart beating through my chest like a drum. He's going to think I'm mocking him.
But that's where he surprises me. "I know you are." He replies simply.
I'm stunned. "Then why haven't you said anything? You miss her, I mean me, don't you?" And that's when I realize everything. He hates James because he stole me. But how? It doesn't make any sense. I was missing. Gone. How would he have me and why wouldn't anyone have noticed? Especially Sam? Maybe we're both wrong. I sigh and start to get up. "I'm sorry." I whisper. "I'll just go." He grabs my arm and seats me back down.
"I haven't said anything because I couldn't. I only just realized everything that day on the beach and James has been guarding you relentlessly. I haven't had a chance to talk to you. I don't think we're wrong about this. And I have a way to prove it."
I look at him questioningly.
"There's one place that I think you would remember if you saw it. If you want, I'll take you."
I hesitate but then nod. I can trust him. "Lead the way."
We both begin to stand as he asks one more question. "Does he know you're here?"
"No." I reply. "One of his friends had trouble with something and he went to help. I don't really know but he won't be gone too much longer. How far is this place?"
"Not far." He says and grabs his coat before leading the both of us out of the house.
After roughly a half an hour we reach our destination. Eliza wobbles out of the car, sickness from the drive making her shaky. She grasps my arm weakly and laughs at herself.
"I'm sorry Sam. I just need some air." She looks around as if just realizing where we are. "Oh my God. It's beautiful."
All around us was an array of warm colored flowers with bright green leaves encasing the petals. The sun made her hair glow with a golden color and her eyes sparkled. Looking at her, I wanted to kiss her right there. Make her remember everything. That thought reminded me of why we were here in the first place. "Eliza? Are you remembering anything?"
I realize then how silent she is. "Eliza?"
She stares ahead of her and takes a slow step forward. Her hand grasps a white flower splashed with pink while her other arm unlinks from my own. Unblinking, she continues looking in front of her. I am about to shake her out of whatever trance she is in when she unhurriedly turns her body around so we are face-to-face. The corners of her mouth lift up into a slight smile and a tear slips down the curve of her cheekbones. "I-I know this place. I know you." She whispers. "I'm your Grace, and you're my Sam."
I rush to her grabbing her by the waist and swinging her around as she laughs and fights the tears of happiness now streaming down her face.
I stop spinning her and hold her close. "Iv'e missed you so much Grace."
She buries her head in my chest. "And I miss you so much right now it hurts. I can't be close enough to you." Her arms tighten around me.
We stay there for the longest time until I see her eyes peer up at me. "What are you thinking about?" She inquires innocently.
"You." I reply. "How unbearable these past few years have been. I thought I would never see you again."
Her eyes close and she breathes in slowly. We enjoy the moment not bothering to worry about anything except each other.
The lights in the house are on when I steer the car into the driveway. When I get inside Eliza is nowhere to be found.
"Eliza?" I call out. No answer. "Eliza?!" Still nothing.
My phone rings. I pick it up immediately. "Nothing?" The voice asks.
"Nothing." I agree. A hint of anger edging at my tone. "I knew this would happen. She saw the papers last night. How could I be this stupid?! What are we going to do now? She's probably with Sam." I pace back and forth as I wait for an answer.
"Well, I'll tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to let them get to the police. If they find out about the kidnapping they can trace it back to me and that is something I am not going to let happen."
""So what are you saying?"
"I don't know yet. But it might be kind of fun to toy with them a little bit don't you think? We deserve a little revenge after all they've done."
"What's the plan?"
"I'll tell you in the morning. Just get some rest and prepare for tomorrow."
I hang up the phone. Revenge sounds like a good option, but I can't help but feel guilt for what I've done. Maybe I should quit now... No! I scold myself. I have to do this and I will enjoy every bit of it.
Alright guys! Here it is! Hope you all enjoy!
Sunday morning dawned upon me quickly. I opened my eyes to the pale darkness of the early morning and I dragged myself from bed and downstairs to the kitchen, where I piled some food on a plate for my breakfast. I looked over at the clock and almost jumped in surprise at the time. I needed to hurry or I wouldn't be able to make my usual stop at the bakery.
I sped to the bathroom where I put on a change of clothes and brushed my teeth. When I reached the front door I stopped in surprise. There, on the mat, was a beautiful rose. A flutter of happiness rushes through me and I decide to take it with me as I head on my way.
I make my way into the familiar sight of the bakery. I hold in my hand the rose, smiling. James was behind the counter, silent, as I walked in.
"Good morning." I tried that out for size, but to no avail.
He walked away towards the far wall taking a loaf of bread out of the oven. He slams it on the back counter and begins cutting it with a knife. Eventually, out of frustration, he throws the bread against the wall and sticks the knife in the wood.
"James?" My voice is weak.
"What?!" He yells.
I stagger backwards even though there's a counter between us. "James," I say. "You're scaring me."
He moves towards me in three purposeful strides. I turn to leave but he grabs my arm. I gasp and turn to face him. His eyes are fired with hatred, more so than I had ever seen them.
"How could you do this?!" He demands.
"Does he hurt you? Has he made you do this?!"
"Sam! Has Sam hurt you?" He's grabbed me by both arms and he shakes with rage.
"No!" I cry. "No! Never!"
"No!" I cry. "No! Never!"
He tosses me to the side and pounds his fists against the wall.
I lay on the ground in a sobbing heap.
I hear his footsteps move and then stop. I feel his eyes staring at me but I don't make an effort to look into them. I just stay where I am and close my eyes.
"What have I done?" He murmurs and rushes out of the room.
As I open my eyes, the only thing I see is the rose. Broken and mangled. It's petals laying in pieces across the wooden floor.
Two weeks had come to pass since the incident on the beach and James still hadn't spoken a word to me about why it had happened in the first place. Not only that, but out of my "best interest" I could only leave the house if I was accompanied by James. I didn't argue, but the whole situation was making me increasingly smothered by the lack of freedoms I had.
In addition to all of the troubles with James, the visions of Sam were showing up more and more often. The fragments soon began piecing together like a jig-saw puzzle. I could fit them together and soon it felt like I was watching a movie. It was all through my eyes which was great except for the fact that I couldn't see my own face.
The T.V. turned on downstairs and so I began walking down to see if James wanted to watch a movie or something with me.
On my way down the hall I noticed that the door to his study had been left slightly ajar. It was usually kept locked but for some reason he must have forgotten to close it on his way downstairs.
I started to walk away, but then I had an idea.
I'm usually not one to snoop around, but I've always wondered what was in there. James had been so distant lately anyways, always staying in here. I push the door open and tip-toe inside, holding my breath. If I was caught I would never hear the end of it.
I continue on towards the desk and pause to see the papers on the table.
"Ah!" I gasp and then quickly cover my hands over my mouth.
There on the desk is a scrap of a newspaper with an article about the kidnapping of Grace Smith. I take a seat and look the paper over carefully. I read:
April 2, 2008--- Last night, Grace Smith, who just turned 19 in February, was last seen by a local witness as she was driving to visit an old classmate, James Thomas. Not a half an hour after her last sighting, her car was found abandoned in a ditch and no sign of her body has been found. No damage done to the car, the police asked anyone with information on the girl to contact their dispatch immediately using the number below.
I move down to a later article and continue:
June 16, 2009--- Families all across the town are mourning for the loss of the young woman who went missing April 2 of last year. Grace Smith, the victim of the tragedy had been living without her parents who had died in a car crash just a little less than a year before she went missing. However, police have found no reason to believe the events are connected.
Now, after over a year of searching, Samuel Knox, the boyfriend of the girl and closest to her, has asked that the search come to a close...
He has refused to make a statement to the press on the matter, almost any matter regarding the tragedy in fact. Bianca Delmar, who is close to Sam has confided in us that, "He is not doing well. The whole thing has really beat him up. I won't go into it further but please, just leave him be. It's hard enough on him already."
I stop and absorb everything that I just read but I don't get much time. My eyes meander down the pages to a picture of the girl. He hair is a few shades darker than my own and her face is younger. Her lips are red in contrast to my own pale ones but her eyes are the same. Abruptly, I stand up and run out of the room. My breaths have turned shallow and begin to have a panic attack. Oh God! Not now! Not now! I try to calm down but it's too late. James is already up the stairs looking at me with concern.
"Are you ok? What happened?"
"I- uh- I" I'm trying to catch my breath long enough to talk but its not working. "I-I saw some...one... I think."
"Where?" His voice is firm.
"Out...side the window."
A crease forms in his brow. "Will you be ok while I check it out?"
I nod and he leaves in a hurry.
I begin to calm down a bit but my mind is still going a million miles an hour, not believing what I just saw.
The girl in the picture was me.
The past two weeks had been hectic. I moved out of the house I had shared with Bianca and was now living in an apartment of my own. Eliza hadn't spoken a word to me, as she was always surrounded by James. James had made a few threats since the last fight we had but I just ignored them. They gave me all the more reason to believe he was hiding something from me and was worried I was uncovering it.
Proving who Eliza really was, was turning into quite the challenge. The theory I concocted in my head was as follows: Eliza had lost all memory of her being Grace. James had found her and has been pretending he doesn't know her past but has become her lover to ensure she doesn't find me. In order to jog her memory, I had to bring up a major past event that triggered a powerful emotion. She seemed shocked when she saw our initials on the tree and I could've sworn there might have been a little bit of recognition, no matter how small.
I knew the exact thing I was going to show her but I needed enough time for the drive to get there and having her for that long without James was almost impossible.
I set the bags of groceries I just bought from the store on my kitchen counter and answer the phone that's now buzzing in my pocket. Bianca is on the other end.
"Sam?" She says a little unsure.
I take a deep breath. "Bianca."
"Hi Sam." She sounded shaky. "I know we haven't talked since we broke up but I really want to apologize for everything. What happened to Grace was horrible and I know you still blame James for that. I hope that you forgive me and maybe you will consider coming back?"
I stand in shock. When I finally find the strength to speak I say, "I'm sorry Bianca. Really. But that just isn't a good idea right now. I forgive you and I'm sorry as well but things are complicated right now. I'm really sorry."
She sighs. "It's ok Sam. I know how you feel and I can't blame you. Can we maybe meet up sometime though for coffee or something?"
"Yeah. That would be great."
"Ok. I'll talk to you later."
I hang up the phone and sit in silence for a moment until I am interrupted by a knock on the door. I hesitate knowing full well it might be James on the other side. I pull the blinds slightly open on the right side of the door and almost jump back when I see who is standing right outside.
Hey everyone! Sorry for the delay of the release of this chapter! I have just been so busy as of late! Thank you all for your patience! I will (hopefully) have the next chapter out within the week.
My sundays with Sam were surprisingly easy. He was of course sarcastic and sometimes blunt. He was always cocky and proud of himself but it always made me laugh. I found an escape in those mornings that we had together and before I knew what was happening we were becoming the best of friends. Besides James, I had never had many close friends. Of course I knew many people and I was always polite, or tried to be anyways, but I never found that it was easy to make real friends. I preferred the time alone with myself and the woods. A paintbrush or a journal kept me company when I was alone and I grew to love the life I had. Sam brought a whole new dimension. He always brought me a new story to tell and one day I found myself drawing him in my sketches.
"I look good!" He laughed when I showed him.
"Well I do try."
Without a moment's notice he snatched the paper from my hand and ran farther up the hill grinning from ear to ear.
"Sam!" I leap up and race over to where he stands. He holds the paper high above his head and I silently curse the fact that he's so much taller. "Give it back!"
He pauses to think. "Naw. What would be the fun in that?"
"Sam! You're terrible! I worked hard on that!"
"I know." He says trying to be serious. "But I've worked hard on something too and you're not giving me much credit."
I frown. "What do you mean?"
"You know." He says. "All this time I've been flirting with you and you won't give me a kiss." He winks. "I'll only give you this back if you do me this one favor."
"Wha-" He doesn't let me finish. Before I can react I am pressed up against his chest and my lips are sealed shut.
"Please?" He whispers in my ear.
I stay silent and let him gently kiss my neck and then brush his lips across my cheek until they find mine. I go limp in his embrace and feel the rough touch of paper in my hand. I grasp onto my sketch but continue to stay where I am and to my surprise, I kiss him back.
When James came home that night all I could think about was Sam. All day I had been getting these strange... images, I guess is the right word for them, in my head. Sam's eyes were in almost every single one of them. But the rest... the rest were filled with James', and so, instead of facing him by telling him what had been happening, I pretended to be contently asleep on the couch.
He hung up his jacket and set the keys on the counter which sent a clanking sound into my ears. Mumbling something to himself, I could just barely hear his footsteps as they made their way across the carpet. Lifting my limp body, he took me into our bedroom and placed me under the covers.
James kisses my forehead and whispers, "I'm really trying to be better. I hope you forgive me now." And then walks away.
When I hear the water of the shower turn on I know its safe to move. What was that all about? More flashes of his face flood my brain, giving me a fierce headache. I hold my head and groan. This has to have something to do with the images. But they're just fictional right? They can't be flashbacks. Sam would have recognized me if I knew him before and James wouldn't be keeping a secret like this. Right?
The water turns off in the shower and I am forced to play the sleeping beauty again. He climbs into bed next to me, the scent of him right out of the shower dragging me farther and farther into a deep sleep.
My morning begins to Bianca in the kitchen. The smell of sausage overwhelms my nose and so I pull on a robe and take my seat at the table.
"Good morning!" She chirps. "Did you sleep alright hon?"
"Yeah." I sound distracted so I ask her back. "You?"
"Like a baby. Do you have to go to work today? I was thinking that if you didn't, I have the day off and we could take a trip to the lake." She looks at me expectantly.
"Yeah. Yeah, I think I can get today off. I'll call Rick in a little while."
"Perfect. Eat up and take a shower. I have to run to the store but I'll be back in about a half an hour ok?" She smiles and puts a plate of sausage and pancakes in front of me. I begin eating as she grabs her purse and walks through the front door.
"Bye!" She yells before closing it and driving away in her car.
I sigh. I tell myself everything is ok. And I take a shower.
When Bianca comes back home I've already packed us a picnic. "Ready to go?"
"Yes!" She squeals and places the bags of new clothes on the counter.
When we arrive at the lake, I have almost completely forgotten about my run-in with Eliza. Bianca and I swim for a while and then lay out to enjoy the summer sun. My mind is completely at ease until I see them.
James and Eliza walk side by side, holding hands as they go. Eliza is smiling her radiant smile. I feel distracted by the moment until Bianca shakes my shoulder. Everyone's eyes are on me.
Both Bianca and James look like they've been hit by a train. I have no idea why. Eliza just stares at me in shock. But she doesn't seem unhappy to see me. The corners of her mouth shift upward into a smile but mine stay in a straight line. The pieces all fall into place in my brain. It doesn't make sense how they fit there, but for some reason I know that they can't be rearranged.
I stand up, slowly and carefully. My eyes stay locked on James.
Without a second thought, my fist meets his face.
"What the hell was that for?!"
"You know darn right what that was for!" I growl.
He punches me hard in the jaw. I fight back, beating him hard. Bianca and Eliza rush forward to separate us.
"Calm down!" Eliza yells. She grabs James' shirt and drags him off of me.
Bianca is muttering to herself and fretting about my wounds. But my eyes see only Eliza who staring at me with so much fear that my heart breaks.
I look away. "Bianca, we're going."
I drag her along.
"We're going!" I say forcefully.
"No! I can't just leave them like this!" She breaks away from me.
"Fine! Then I'm going by myself!"
Eliza's sad eyes follow me.
I can't take this. If what I think about Eliza is really really true... I've lost her. I've lost her...
That same thought repeats through my mind as I leave Bianca and the others behind, not bothering to look back again. A tear stains my cheek and my world falls from under me.
Please note, the rest of Grace's perspective will be told from when her and Sam first met and it will move forward until it reaches the point at which she shared her last kiss with Sam. Hope you all enjoy!
Waking up, I climb out of bed and race down the street and into Mason's, our local bakery. "Good morning James!" I smile and grab a blueberry muffin off the shelf before placing it at the checkout counter. "How are you this morning?"
"Good, and you Grace?"
"I got my own place last week." My grin grows brighter.
"Well that explains why you didn't show up here. You should have called, I could have helped you pack."
"I thought about it but I had it all taken care of. Didn't want to bother you."
"You wouldn't have been bothering me Grace. Next time you need help just call." I look at him for a moment and then slip out of his gaze only to find the clock.
"Oh! I've got to be heading out! I'm going to miss the sunrise! Visit sometime will you? 314 Hazel. That's the address! See you!" I say popping the remainder of the muffin into my mouth and hopping out onto the sidewalk.
With my hair curled up into a bun, I prance down the pathways and dance around the bases of the trees that line the way. The fresh morning air fills my lungs giving me endless energy. As I run, the land becomes an uphill slope and soon, I'm amongst a field of bright, yellowing grass, faded from the rays of the summer sun. One lone tree stands in the center of the field, providing a gorgeous view of the roller coaster of valleys roaming in every direction. I sit down, with my back turned to the tree's trunk just in time to catch the first rays of sunshine waking up.
My body slowly begins to relax and I close my eyes and take everything in. A grunt from behind startles me. I swing around to see a young man standing behind me. A gasp leaps from my throat.
"Sorry." He says with a smirk and a mocking tone. "Did I frighten you?"
"Well, um," I stutter to get the words out. "Uh, yeah. Just... a bit."
"What are you doing all the way up here so early?"
"I could ask you the same."
"I asked you first."
I sigh. "Fine. I'm watching the sunrise. It's kind of a tradition. You?"
He smiles. "This is kinda my spot. I come here too." Like that wasn't obvious.
"But not on Sundays. I've been going to this same spot since I was a kid. I've never seen you before."
"I decided to change my day. Which means, that you are going to have to change." He explains by pointing his finger at me.
"Uh, no. This is my spot."
He crinkles his nose as if to think and then replies matter-of-factly, "No, mine."
"How about this, it's ours."
"That's fine. I'll just keep coming then. But just so you know, I'll have to make life miserable for you."
I throw my hands up in the air. "Whatever! It's ours!" Somehow I got the feeling he would make life with him much worse than it already was.
"That's more like it." Smiling, he plops himself down on my side of the tree.
"You know if you're trying to be charming, your not really doing a great job at it." He ignores me so I add, "You never told me your name."
"You never told me yours."
"I asked first."
"Sam." He responds proudly and then looks at me with waiting eyes.
I pause for a moment. "Grace." I finally say with an irritable edge. "My name is Grace."
After planting a kiss on my lips James stands up. "I've got to be heading to work." He looks at me. "Do you want me to drive you back to the house?"
"That's okay." I reply. "I'll walk. It's just around the corner and it would be a nice change. Thanks though."
He smiles. "Alright. I'll see you later." Letting go of my hand he walks down the hill before getting into his car and driving away. After waving goodbye I walk over to the oak tree that stands alone on the hill. My fingers run over two initials carved into the tree. Funny, I think, I've never noticed this before. They look so... familiar. I laugh a little. How could they look familiar? Still though... I trace my fingers around the outline of the letters. Strange...
Needing to clear my head, I walk out the door and get into my car. All I can think about is Grace. This isn't fair! To me or to Bianca. Grace is never going to come back and Bianca shouldn't have to love someone who still is in love with someone else. That thought drives me mad. I am not in love with Grace anymore! I'm... not... in... love... It progressively grows quieter in my head until it's down to a whisper. I'm not in love. But not in love with which one is the question.
I drive the car around the curvy roads along the bases of the hills. The scenery begins to clear my head a little so I continue on with not one thought to drive back. There's only one place to go; Our place.
When I arrive, a woman stands upon the hill at our spot. I walk over, not really caring. I just need to be there. I need to be the closest I can come to Grace. As soon as I am near the woman turns around. I almost jump back. Her golden down hair is pulled to the side in a gentle braid and her lips are almost pale enough to match her skin tone. None of this phases me. It's when I see her eyes that I make a connection. They're Grace's eyes.
She glances at me nervously. "Hello." She speaks slowly and carefully as if ready to make an escape at any moment. I don't blame her. I would run from me too if it was the other way around. "Hello." She speaks again. "Do I know you?"
I just stare. "I... don't know." She waits so I talk again, "I'm Sam by the way."
"Nice to meet you Sam." She doesn't sound like its nice.
"What's your name?"
She hesitates. "Eliza." She says finally, scrutinizing my face. Is there recognition there? No! I say firmly to myself.
"So, Eliza, what are you doing up here?"
"I come here sometimes in the mornings. What about you?"
"Just coming to check on my tree." I smile. It's easier than I thought it would be to talk to her.
She looks at me funny. "Is that your initial on the tree?"
Without even looking I reply, "Yeah. My girlfriend and I used to come up here all the time. We called it 'our spot'..." My eyes drift into a haze as I remember. I shake my head. "Sorry. I get kind of carried away when I think about her."
"That's alright. I think it's sweet." She smiles. A crooked smile. And all I can think about is Grace, even though I know it's not possible. So much for clearing my head...
GRACE(5 years ago):
"Grace." His breath is warm and sweet as his face leans in to press his soft lips against my own. I allow my thoughts to melt away for the brief amount of seconds that our lips meet. When the cold night air touches them once more I stare into his icy blue eyes.
"Yes?" I reply slowly, hoping and praying for the moment to never come to an end.
He drew in a breath as if ready to say something longer but instead he simply replied with a faint "Goodnight" and reluctantly let go of my hand as I turned and travelled up the porch steps into the dimly lit house. The moment before I closed the door I could have sworn I heard the words "My love" sound in addition to his "Goodnight" with his silk-like voice.
When I hear the door click my body let out a deep sigh and I smile. "Goodnight, Sam." I continue to stay by the door for moment upon moment until I hear him drive away. Upstairs, I let my hair go wild while I untangle all the snarls caught in the midst. Eventually, I curl up into the covers and drift off to sleep.
These final moments, little did I know, would be all I would have left.
"And you really can't remember anything, Eliza?"
I sigh. Of course not. I've been through this routine thousands of times and yet, somehow, everyone thinks that by some miracle I will remember. But it's not possible and I will not waste my life away relying on hope and a mere possibility.
"No, James. I can't. I told you that. Why can't any of you just get that my memories are never going to come back?!" I shut my eyes tight. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to snap. It's just," I pause. "It's just that I have waited years for someone to walk through the door and for no reason at all claim me. Tell me who I used to be." I sigh and place my head gently on his shoulder. We sit in silence, but somehow, we always know what each other would say if we did talk. Right now is one of those moments I am especially grateful.
After a few moments I take my head away and lay in the soft grass. I close my eyes. He wraps takes my hand and plants his lips onto mine. So familiar. So warm. And yet somehow I can't help but feel that it isn't right. But I push that thought out of my head. Almost.
"Bianca, will you marry me?" My heartbeat beats faster and faster and guilt pound through my veins. "No!" I snap into the mirror. "No! This is wrong!" I reach my hands up to touch the back of my neck and sit down on the bed. My elbows inch together and then bow down to find my knees.
"How can I do this?" My voice is a whisper. If I love Bianca as much as I claim I do then why all of this guilt?! Grace died years ago. I can't get her back. I think. That cold truth stabs a knife into my heart. Am I ready to do this? Can I really move on?
The answer comes, but I don't want to hear it.