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Author's note: I am handwriting EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER. So if I don't post any chapters for awhile, it's because I either have hit a writers block or am procrastinating typing the chapter up. Ryan is Drew Fuller and Taylor is Arden Cho.
The policemen arrived at the door of the house. They had gotten calls about a noise disturbance coming from a quiet suburban neighborhood. Some of the callers thought that they heard violence and urged the police to rush over. A car accident a couple of miles from the neighborhood prevented the police from getting to the house for half an hour. There was a car in the driveway, implying that someone was home.
Once at the house, they knocked on the door only to have no one answer it. The first man kicked open the door to the home to see what remained of a family. As the two policeman entered, they noticed that all frames were broken and saw pictures torn down the middle. A girl on one side and a guy on another. The house was in total disarray. Things were broken and thrown on the floor. There was physical damage done to the walls and furniture. It looked liked the place had been robbed except for the fact that there was nothing valuable missing. The scene was more like a domestic violence than anything else, but it didn't even look like that. The kitchen was littered with utensils, pot and pans. Some things had some blood on them, and there were a lot of knives scattered about. The two cops split up to see if there was anyone in the house, although that possibility was rapidly dwindling.
One man, Daniel went upstairs while his partner stayed and tried to make sense of what happened downstairs. Nothing added up. There were holes through walls and torn pictures. Shattered glass and knives scattered around. The scene downstairs didn’t clearly match any crime beside domestic violence. But this still felt like it was more than just that.
It was almost the same upstairs; disorder, shattered glass, torn pictures, etc. As Daniel did his job, he had a bad feeling in his gut. This was more than it appeared. Something terrible went down here but there was no clear evidence of it so far. As Daniel entered a bedroom, a wind chilled him to the bone. The wind made him shiver. Sure he was new at his job, but that was no reason to get nervous. Policeman had to be ready for anything. Although, Daniel still didn't want to find any bodies or blood.
His mind directed him back to his job, trying to find out what happened here. He looked for the source of the wind, which was an open window about ten feet from the door. He went over to window sill and saw blood on it in the shape a hand. He looked around the room and his eyed focused on the bed. Everything else in the room was neat and orderly, almost as if the chaos of what happened in the house hadn’t touched this area. But the bed, the bed didn’t fit in with the rest of the peaceful room. As Daniel approached it, he noticed a stain below the sheet.
He knew he wouldn’t like what he would find, but he had to be objective and do his job. He put some gloves on so as not to tamper too much with evidence and took the sheet off the bed carefully. It revealed a large amount of blood that was nearly dry. It seemed to be divided into two separate areas, one large stain on the right side of the bed and one on the left. The one on the right looked drier than the left, but it still didn’t mean much of anything. The two blood stains perplexed Daniel. There was enough blood for two people to bleed to death, but there was no body and the bloody handprint on the window. Daniel wasn’t sure what to make of this, he just knew that something gruesome happened here. Maybe there was a struggle downstairs, but this is where the ‘main event’ took place. Daniel felt his throat start to tighten and his vision became a little blurry. He knew he was on the verge of crying. He fought the tears. This was a crime scene and he was not supposed to be weeping over spilled blood.
Daniel called in his partner to try and help him make sense of this. The partner radioed for backup, a possible homicide. While his partnered looked around the room making the same discoveries Daniel did, Daniel stayed put. He felt frozen in place at the scene. He then looked around the room again, trying to make a connection between the blood in the bed and the rest of the room. The scan left Daniel with the same evidence, nothing. Then Daniel saw something he hadn’t noticed before; a stack of notebooks on the dresser across the room. Daniel crossed the room and feared what was in the notebooks. On top of them there was a handwritten letter. Daniel looked at the letter. It looked like the letter was written by a female because of the nature and how bouncy the words were. The letter had the faintest smell of roses, definitely a woman’s perfume. Daniel started reading the letter.
By the time you have found this, either I, my husband, or both of will be dead. If not, then Ryan's plan worked. If it didn't, then you'll probably find us in this house. With things the way they are right now, and our future being so uncertain, I think it best if I make sure someone knows what happened. I know one thing for certain; I don't think I can live without Ryan.
Well, if this turns out to me a m. . . mur. . .murder, then I know who did it. I just can't tell you, especially if you are the police. I don't want you to get involved. They will not hesitate to kill you if you get in their way. If you are of any value to them. . . you don't want to know what they'll do to you. Ryan and I made the mistake of trying to hide from them. Ryan has known about them almost all his life. I only just learned about their existence a couple years ago, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous. They are ruthless, vicious, vile killers. I just wish I could have realized what they were capable of sooner. If only I had listened to Ryan. And to think this all started because Ryan wanted me to be happy.
Well, I just hope that by the time this is read, Ryan and I are together, whether it be life or death. I know that they would prefer the latter. Proof of some radical theory their leader came up with. But they know nothing about us. Ryan and I can never be separated without feeling like a part of us is missing. I found that thinking about him eases the pain, but I am getting off topic.
The reason I wrote this is so Ryan and I won't just disappear like we did before, I can't live without someone knowing what happened. I can't talk about it with Ryan, it hurts to much. They pain they caused me goes deeper than just the scars. I won't tell him anything or let him know how it kills me a little bit everyday. He'll hurt if I am hurting and I couldn’t possibly cause him that much pain. I need someone to know our story and know how dangerous they are. I need someone to read our book.
A Lost Soul
Daniel's mind started racing and his hearted started aching. A couple had lived here, and they were probably murdered. From the way the wife described it, their murder or murders could have been related to a gang, a crime boss, or something else entirely. He wondered how they even knew them. His mind was first directed to the idea that they might have been in a rival group or betrayed them. But the conclusion didn't add up with anything he knew so far. The writer was sensitive and loving and did not show a single reason why she would be involved in violence. She had depicted her husband as loving and caring. Tears coated the letter, probably falling as she wrote the painful thing. These facts only disproved his first theory and led him back to where he started. How did they know their killers?
Daniel looked back at the bed, tears starting to slowly creep out of the edges of his eyes. He didn’t want to believe that there was a murder here, but how could he deny that now. He had proof from one of the victims. Although, a question still remained, where were their bodies? The girl had said that if the plan didn’t work, then their bodies would be here. Just then Daniel tuned into reality and heard sirens outside. Backup had arrived. As the forensic team came in and started photographing and placing markers, Daniel just stared down at the letter in his hands. It would become evidence, and possibly be lost within the system. He read the last line, I need someone to read our book. Daniel looked for a book and didn’t find anything. His eyes landed on the notebooks. There was a piece of paper glued to the cover of a notebook. That was handwritten just like the letter:
Writers: Caring boyfriend Ryan and loving girlfriend Taylor
There was a beautiful drawing of a rose on the cover. He lifted the cover and read the first page, which was always handwritten.
DO NOT PUBLISH: for your own safety
Dedicated to: our family we soon hope to have, the family we will always love and anyone that can find their true love in this world.
Note from the Author: I wanted this to be handwritten because just typing it doesn't show you the author's emotion, just what their story characters are doing. I believe by handwriting, you can see what the author is feeling and how much it hurts. The events that you are about to read are true. Ryan and I tried to make this as much of a book as possible. I had the idea that we could each write chapters, and alternate viewpoints on everything. Kind of like two books in one. I wrote a chapter, then Ryan did, and I just started my chapter where I left off in my ‘story’. I just could never have Ryan know how bad they hurt me. It is also why this book may be so weird for its reader. Anyway, I hope this book enlightens you and you can help us.
Daniel started weeping silently. This couple had wanted kids and they had a family that loved them. They had written a book about their troubles for someone to read. The troubling part wasn't that though, it was what the girl wrote. She didn't want their work, this large stack of notebooks, published. The reason itself for everything being handwritten itself was troubling. Daniel knew that the work would contain pain and tears. Undoubtedly, he would shed tears if he read this. But at least it wouldn't disappear like the couple had before according to the writing. Once Daniel was of no need at the crime scene, he and his partner drove back to the police station in the squad car. As Daniel approached his desk, he grabbed a form off his partner's desk; an evidence form. He classified the notebooks as evidence in the case under review. Someone would know their story, even if it cost Daniel his job, it mattered that victims were still treated as people. He opened to the second page and read the title 'New Beginnings.' He knew right then that this was going to be a tough task.
❀ New Beginnings
I first thought of the idea of writing about what we had been through in the first car ride together. I didn’t want us to be forgotten or forget or adventure together. Ryan had picked me up outside my house. My mom thought I was going out for a walk for fresh air. I couldn't always handle when my dad hit me. Luckily, I blocked it with my wrist this time. Anyway, I was anxious to get away from my house, which was probably the first clue that something was wrong. But Ryan really got worried when he noticed my wrist. I tried to brush it off casually, but I realized that he wouldn’t be content with the lie. He pulled over the car and I went on to explain that my dad wasn't drinking and that he didn't even do it often. I became very distraught and started crying hysterically. Ryan tried to comfort me, but I wasn’t ready to be touched by anyone, I never was after something like that. I always thought I had gotten over this years ago when it last happened but it apparently made no difference. The fear or being touched, hit, abused was still rooted inside me after all these years. Finally I stopped weeping and regathered myself, Ryan started driving again. It was comforting to know that someone was actually looking out for me. Even if I wasn’t ready to be touched again, the fact that there was a presence, a person that would look out for me comforted me enough to make me drift in a dreamworld of mine.
I don’t know when I fell asleep or for how long, just that when I woke up Ryan was still driving. The road before us was desolate except for the few cars that would speed past us every now and then. It was so different from what I was used to in Terran Calermo. There were always cars driving in and out and up and down streets. Quiet neighborhoods and main roads were warming. Always the glow from a family's home, a traffic lights changing colors and spotlights of street lamps. The roads that led out to the highways never ceased to have the bright lights from a car's tail and head light.
But this road didn't have any resemblance of those roads. This road barely had a light on it, excluding the rays form our own car. This road was entirely black and cold. It reminded me of the road Ryan drove down when he was taking me on our first 'date.' Well, I wouldn't call it a date so much as just playing hooky. I think Ryan was just trying to let me know who I was getting involved with. He had lost his parents and then was raised by his Uncle Diego who made him move around all his life.
Wait a minute, no. That wasn't true. He was an agent for SECRET. He wouldn't have moved around and wouldn't have been raised by an uncle. He would have been going on missions against - what was it is - ASS. He had lied to me and got close to me. Sure he made himself somewhat vulnerable and revealed that his parents had died, although I'm not sure if that is even true anymore. But I don't think that even compares to how vulnerable he made me. He comes into my life like a cute little puppy dog. I helped him, taught him what to do and started to fall for him. Then he gets hit by a car for me and stays unconscious for two weeks. Two agonizing weeks of not being able to have a real conversation between us. Not knowing if he would even survive. I spent hours by his bedside. I had nothing else to do because our high school had been closed due to what happened there.
The first event was the explosion that left me scared nearly half to death. That's when I started letting my feelings for Ryan show. But what actually closed the school was the murder of our science teacher coupled with the car accident. I went to the funeral for her, crying for a teacher I barely knew. At the time, Ryan was my sanctuary. I could do or say anything and he'd always make me feel safe and protected. He always knew what to do protect me. But I am getting off topic.
Back to being vulnerable. I used to talk to Ryan while he was in his coma. Being around him made me forget about the outside world. Sure I talked to him about meaningless stuff like how I was doing, but it was only a cover for what I really wanted to tell him. That I thought about him all the time. I would lay awake at night wondering if I would even see him the next day. How I didn't feel like I could survive without him. I wanted to tell him all of this and that I loved him. Truly genuinely loved him. Saying the phrase 'I love you' to him just because he was my boyfriend felt unreal to me. Just something you are supposed to say like how you say 'bless you' after someone sneezes. I wanted so badly to express my love for him, but I never could will myself to do it. I mean, how do you tell someone that you absolutely truly love them?
The day he woke up, I had finally worked up the courage to tell him I truly loved him. When I'd realized woken up, I decided not to tell him. Instead I went over and hugged him. I was elated to see him. Once Ryan started talking, I could tell by how raspy his voice was that he was parched and needed water. My excitement got the best of me and I started blurting out what had happened when Ryan was in his coma. Even the details of what happened after the car crash and why I had a cast on my arm. But I mainly was happy that he was still there. That waiting paid off to something and I knew that my love would survive.
At some point I decided to get the the doctors and Diego, who at the time I thought was Ryan's family. I rushed out of the room, shocked by his recovery and overwhelmed with a myriad number of emotion all relating to love and excitement. But then again, I had always hoped - no knew that he would pull through.
While I was waiting for the doctors and Diego to leave Ryan's room, my mind started concocting scenarios; scenarios of how Ryan would have reacted if I'd told him that I truly loved him. Him being awake complicated everything. Expressing your feelings to a person is hard enough when you're dealing with something as unpredictable and uncontrollable as love, but when they may not return the feelings with as much passion. . . I shook the thought out of my head. Of course Ryan would love me with as much passion. But that seed of doubt took root in my head.
Eventually, I realized that Diego might not have even known Ryan and I were dating. After all, I didn't talk to him when I saw him in the hospital and we started dating the day Ryan was hit. A second thought crossed my mind, what sane girl would spend half their day with a guy unless they had a strong connection. Diego must have figured that out by now.
That seed of doubt sprouted and I was worried that maybe he didn’t know. I started walking to Ryan’s room when I heard yelling coming from inside. I walked to the doorway to try and find out what they were arguing about. As soon as they noticed me, they stopped arguing and Diego left. I went over to Ryan realizing that I needed to tell him once and for all that I truly loved him. It was seeming like I was just delaying and delaying it, always letting myself push it back.
I opened my mouth to speak, but Ryan stopped me and told me that Robert was the one driving the car that was intended for me. Then Robert stepped out from the doorway where he was listening. He pulled out a knife and tried to attack Ryan. Ryan got the knife away from Rob, but then Rob got Ryan on the ground and started to choke him. My mind could barely comprehend what was happening, but I grabbed a bedpan and knocked Robert out. I saw Ryan on the floor, recovering from the near-death experience. I rushed over to him, not wanting to lose the person I loved.
Then something Rob said echoed in my mind; he had called Ryan Chris. At the time, I had known him as Chris. His undercover alias I assume, but at the time, it was very confusing. Getting back to the story, I asked him why Rob said that and then Veronica answered. She started talking about how Ryan was an agent, an enemy to her agency ASS. She talked about how the things that happened at the school were her and Rob’s doing. I tried to not believe her, thinking that she had a psychotic break, but then she picked up the knife that Rob had lost and threw it into my chest. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was that Ryan screamed and started moving toward her.
When I woke up, the first thing I saw was Ryan’s face. He was all that I could think or dream about when I was unconscious, but then memories started slowly seeping back into my mind about what happened earlier. I realized I must still be in the hospital. I then focused back into reality. The boy in front of me, my boyfriend, had lied to me. Lied to me about who he was, put me in danger, and made me regret ever loving him. He started talking to me like nothing happened which irritated me. Then he mentioned the word hate. Hate. A word I thought could never describe my feelings towards Ryan was now the tip of the iceberg of what I felt for him. He came into my world and made it beautiful. Then he broke it all apart in a single moment. I didn’t want to see the man. The man I once loved was now a loathed enemy in my presence. Then I just lost it and screamed at him that his love was a lie. That must have been his breaking point because he started going off and saying that he did love me and that he never meant to hurt me. I didn’t want to believe that he was being sincere. I wanted to think that this was all just an act, a game to him. But then a part of my heart believed him. The part that had realized that he loved me and that I returned the feeling with as much passion.
I saw him getting out of his chair, and I couldn’t let him leave. I still him loved through all the lies. I started talking about us as a couple, words spilling out of my mouth as though they were carefully thought out phrases. My mind was elsewhere, thinking about all the unanswered questions I had formed about what happened. Somehow, I heard Ryan say, "Anything you want to know, just ask me right now." I mused, trying to figure out which question was most relevant. I finally decided to ask him what Veronica meant when she mentioned secret agents and a job. As Ryan explained, I slowly took in everything. My life didn't make sense anymore.
After what felt like an eternity of thinking and silence, Ryan asked me, "Are you okay?" The words seemed to echo in my mind. As if that wasn't insulting. I had trouble breathing, a broken arm and to top it off a shattered life and a nearly shattered heart all because of him and his world. I then started spewing out my thoughts. Not caring - no wanting Ryan to be hurt by them. I couldn't take much more of this. When he left, I felt a wave of relief washing over me. But as the room became draped in silence, I realized something. I just let my first love, my possible true love, walk out the door. I practically kicked him out and slammed the door in his face. I started crying, punishing myself for acting so stupid and childish.
When I was released from the hospital, to my doctor's dismay, I was dragged back home, hoping to bring some normality back into my life. But as the two days I spent packing endlessly dragged on for what felt like an eternity, I started thinking about things. Things I didn't want to think about. What if it wasn't Ryan's fault? What if he was just doing his job? What if he really does love me? That last one caused me to develop a hole in my chest. A hole I knew would remain until I saw Ryan again. The more What if. . . questions I started asking myself the more I thought that maybe I did wrongly accuse Ryan. Maybe he was right. Maybe I was the one that did something wrong. The thoughts rang inside my head. I started thinking about what Ryan had done for me. He was my protector, my love, my possible soul mate. He had always been there for me, alway saved me. My mind wandered to the lies Ryan told me. But they seemed or pale in comparison to everything else.
I started having trouble breathing. Not from the wound on my lung, but from the thought of never being with him. Never feeling that fire in my veins when we kissed. Never again have a single touch from him that could make me feel warmer than possible. Whenever I saw him, I just felt lost in a river of love and his was my life preserver. My heart wanted me to be with him, but my mind didn't want me to suffer. There was a faint vein of hatred that told me Our love is pain. His life is too dangerous. You two can never be happy.
A full two excruciating days after I came home and my mind still buzzed with the What ifs, although they were quieter now and not screaming in my head like before. I constantly had an image of my life with Ryan. Then the a terrible voice rang in my head Stop doing this. You can't be with him. I had started to believe it and started crying. Then an angelic voice screamed in my head CALL HIM! This voice was sweet and soft even though it was yelling. I loved it, and I loved Ryan, but I wasn't sure; his life was just. . . It rang again You can be happy if you just called him! Tell him how you feel. What are you waiting for?! Obeying the voice this time, I picked up my phone and dialed Ryan's number. No, a voice hissed, but I blocked it out. Thinking about Ryan and the life we could have together made me start to cry again. Two rings in and no answer. This was stupid, why did I have to get my hopes up? Then Ryan picked up and my heart skipped a beat. I told him to come over, wanting to tell him everything I had figured out the past few days.
I waited for Ryan on the porch. I wrapped my arms around myself, trying to fight the pain of him not being here. His voice brought warmth to my heart for a moment, but nothing compared to him standing next to me. So lost in my thoughts I barely noticed when Ryan pulled up in his Mercedes. As soon as I saw him come onto the porch I wrapped him in a hug, trying to feel the warmth only he could bring to me.
Once I was satisfied, I started telling Ryan what I had thought about. Mainly how I figured out that I couldn't live without him. Ryan interjected that his life was dangerous, reminding me of the vile voice. I told him I was ready to accept his life. That I could handle the danger, but Ryan refused to let me. Every solution after that seemed absurd and was shot down. I started to lose hope again. The horrible voice in my head hissed Told you. You should just go inside now and save yourself the pain of a long goodbye. I didn't trust this voice or abide by it. But as the seconds dragged on into minutes I started considering the possibility of listening to the voice.
Somewhere along the line I had started crying, possibly mourning the love that would die at any moment. I was about ready to go inside when Ryan start talking, his eyes radiant with hope. He told me that there was a way for us to be together. We would have to go off the the radar and wipe our slate clean and start new lives.
My first instinct was to immediately say yes, but then that nasty voice, the one that tormented me, remind me of my family and what I was giving up. I pondered the idea of staying and thought about how I would feel without Ryan. If a life without Ryan was anything like these last two days, I would gladly take the alternative. Ryan doubted my decision, but I assured him that living with him would be better than not. I told him to come back in forty five minutes so that I could get my stuff together. And then he left. My mind was warm with the idea of having a life with Ryan. I ran inside and finished packing. That was when my dad hit me.
I stopped thinking of the past. Why did I torment myself? Anyway, back in reality we were driving down a road. A road to a new life. And now the more I think about it, my vulnerability and my faith in Ryan and fluctuation of emotions was what had landed me here. I sighed softly. All the rage and hatred toward Ryan was just a mere attempt to try and understand my changing life. I didn’t like fighting with him. I sighed again, this time more loudly. I had to accept that this was my new life. I would get into fights with Ryan. We would have good and bad times. But through it all I would love him and he would love me.
“Taylor,” I heard Ryan whisper. His voice was so warm that it warmed my face which I had only now realized was freezing from leaning on the window. “Are you awake?” I realized he probably heard me sighing.
“No,” I moaned, feeling tired just from remembering all the chaos that had happened over the past two days. “I am just talking in my sleep.” I heard him chuckle, knowing that I was joking. I sat up in my seat, trying to focus on Ryan and staying awake. “How long was I out?” I asked, trying to keep my mind from thinking about what I was going through.
“Well,” he pondered, quickly looking down at his watch, “It’s 3:17 right now so I’d say about eight hours. Give or take ten minutes.”
“Wait a second. You’ve been driving for over eight hours straight?! It’s 3AM! You should be sleeping. Pull over, I’m driving.”
“Taylor, I’m fine. I don’t need to rest. I just need to know that you're okay.”
“Then make me feel okay, or better yet make me happy and pull over. I want you to rest. If you won’t do that then can we at least stop driving? I’m getting tired just looking ahead and I haven’t been continuously driving.”
“But don’t you think that we should get away as soon as possible? Once they realize we’re gone, if they haven’t already, they could, no probably will send police or agents after us and I don’t know how far they’ll go.” I could hear the worry in Ryan’s voice. His face and his eyes lacked the glow they normally held and were replaced with fear.
“Ryan. I don’t think that anyone will catch us. You have been driving eight hours. Even if they did send someone out this far tomorrow, or should I say later today, we still have the eight hour head start on them. Resting for three or five hours will still leave us with a considerable lead.” I could see his eyes starting to soften; he was at the brink of agreeing. “You know I’m right.” He looked at me, a twinge of regret in his eyes. He sighed, accepting that I was right. Ryan started driving toward the right lane, ready to take the next off ramp. “Thank you,” I whispered. My mind started drifting again, waiting for Ryan to say something to me. I started to think about the fight we had when I woke up in the hospital. Hate doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. . . We can't be together. . . Get out of here if you really love me. Unless that was also a lie. My mind kept replaying the words over and over and over until I felt like I was going crazy. I needed to apologize to Ryan. I couldn't leave that huge fight alone. I had to explain myself before I went mad with guilt.
"Ryan," I started a bit hesitant. I felt like I was using this apology as a cover for something.
"Yeah Taylor." There was a hint of worry in his voice as if he thought I was going to tell him I had doubts about running away.
"I. . . I'm sorry," I said, lowering my head out of guilt. We started going down an off ramp.
"Sorry for what?"
"For the argument at the hospital."
"I don't need you to apologize Taylor. I know why you did and said what you did. I get it."
"But I need to apologize."
"Yes. I have to." I sighed, getting ready for an emotional roller coaster. "I was. . . angry at you. I finally thought that my life made sense and then it blew up in my face. I was looking for someone to blame for my crumbling world. You were unfortunately the person that seemed to be at the center of everything. I thought that if I had a reason for my problems, a person to blame, that getting rid of that person, that trigger, would magically improve my life. What was I thinking? Anyway, all that rage and anger wasn't toward you. I just. . . I didn't know how to cope with all the changes in my life. So. . . I'm sorry."
Ryan sighed; he had probably already figured this out before. Hearing the apology probably brought him back to the memory of the fight, just like it had for me. Now I felt worse. I had brought back painful memories for him. Why am I so stupid sometimes? Then Ryan started talking, "Taylor. Don't for a second ever believe that I won't forgive you. I love you. I cannot physically live without you or your love." I could tell by his tone that he was sincere. I could just imagine his face and its glow when he mentioned love.
Wait. That was what I was covering. My love for Ryan or rather the kind of love I feel for Ryan. I shouldn't let myself be delayed again. I have waited long enough. "Ryan, I need to tell you something else." I was nervous, which confused me. If I was sure of my feelings, which I was, still am, and always will be, it made no sense why I was nervous. It's just like riding a bike. When you first realize what's happening it's scary. But once you know exactly what is going on you should relax. It should not be scary the entire time.
"Can it wait a minute Taylor?" Ryan then pulled the car into a parking lot. Only now did I realize that Ryan had found a motel for us to stay at for the night. Well at least he listened to me, but then again, I was ready to tell him I loved him. On the other hand, I needed to deal with my nervousness. Don't let another obstacle stop you. It's not the right time. He needs to know. You can wait five minutes. Go. Wait. Happy future. Nervous wreck. Love. Awkwardness. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I gripped my head. The voices were screaming at me. MAKE A DECISION!!! I wanted them to just shut up.
"Taylor, you okay?" I heard Ryan ask above the chaos that was going on inside my head. As if by some miracle, the voices quieted down.
"Just a headache. A glass of water should cure it," I replied, trying to act like everything was normal.
"Well, let's see if we can get a room that so that you can rest."
"Alright." We got out of the car and headed to the check in building. In my mind I thought that this bought me some time to get my nervousness under control. Maybe the car wasn't the right place. I was surprised to find that the motel was actually open this late. I mean who in their right mind gives someone a motel room, or is even up at three in the morning. Once Ryan got the keys, we went to our room.
The keys were to room number eight, which was coincidentally in front of where Ryan parked. When we walked into the room, it looked okay, somewhat matching what I thought I would have seen. Blue walls that were pleasing to the eye and yet boring. Floral patterns on the wall that were beginning to fade. The carpet that covered the floor that was once red was now stained with dirt, making it appear to be maroon. There were two beds backed up against a wall. Each had an atrocious beige comforter on it. The only saving grace was the white sheets which seemed to be the only pure thing in the room. There was a kitchen but I paid little attention to it. If it was anything like the rest of the room then. . . Plus, we probably shouldn't even stay that long. Well, now that I think about it, we'll probably want to have breakfast before we hit the road.
Ryan walked over to one of the beds and sat down on it. "Well, what do you think? It's kinda crappy but. . ."
"Ryan, it's fine. I just wish they could get an interior decorator." I knew that would make Ryan laugh. I was still avoiding my confession. Then I randomly remembered we were staying here until morning. I didn't really think I'd feel like going out to the car into the morning to get some clothes. "Uh, Ryan. Just wanted to know if wanted to get your clothes now or later. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be going to the car in the morning to get my clothing." I then got the keys and unlocked the car. I was still dodging. Why was this so hard? I walked out to the car and got one of my bags out. I'm a bit surprised that my parents didn't notice me packing them and taking them with me. But it worked anyway so why should I complain. Ryan had apparently followed me out here and got one of his bags from the trunk. I started to stare at him, now noticing a faint blue glow around him. I quickly looked away, not wanting Ryan to know that I was staring. I also tried to explain the image one the blue glow in my mind. I was probably seeing things. Maybe from exhaustion, only I wasn't that tired. Maybe it came from me trying to see him in the darkness. My mind could have created a fake glow around him to see him better. Problem with that theory is that there were lamps illuminating the darkness. I shook the image out of my head and went inside. I was still dodging. First at the hospital, then in the car, and right now. It seems so easy in movies. The guy tells the girl or vice versa, the other feels the same way and then. . . Why can't reality be like that. Oh well, life can't be a movie.
I put my stuff on one of the beds. "I call this one," I blurted out, making Ryan laugh again. His laugh was so cute. I wish that I could hear it more often. Every time I did hear it I felt like I could just melt. But what good would I be as a puddle. I know it's not that funny but right now, I could use as much comic relief as I can get. Having to go underground, get a new life, start over isn't an easy matter. That reminds me, we'll probably need new license plates if we want to keep the Mercedes. Personally, I don't want to get rid of it. I can't even imagine how much a new car would cost. Plus that could also leave a trail. We should just get new license plates. I'm getting off track, again. I have to tell Ryan; it's now or never and I choose now. "Ryan, I need to tell you something."
"Sure, what is it?"
"I think you'd better sit down." He sat next to me on my bed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Here goes nothing. "Ryan, I love you."
"I love you too Taylor."
"No not that kind of love. Not the phrase 'I love you' that boyfriends and girlfriends say to each other. And not the kind for your family. Not that I would think of you as family. Oh I am messing this up." I closed my eyes and took another deep breath. "What I mean is I love you. Truly love you. I can barely stand it when you’re away from me. I instantly feel warmth spread through my veins when I’m with you. I don't want to live without you in my life." I started crying tears of joy. It felt so good to finally get this out in the open. Ryan wiped away my tears with his thumb. A fire blazed where his thumb grazed my skin. It felt so good.
I looked back at Ryan. His eyes had let a tear slip out. I know he isn't one to cry much, but I knew he was happy just like me. I then noticed the silence that draped the room around us. Why wasn't Ryan saying anything? "Ryan say something. I have just poured my heart to you and you haven't responded.
"Well Taylor, it's a lot to take in. I mean how often does someone tell you they truly love you."
He was deflecting, not saying what he wanted to. "Oh no." I realized why. "Oh I am so stupid. You tell someone you really love them and they don't return the feelings." I was crying for real now. Not for joy, but for sadness, stupidity, insanity. How did I think this would turn out? We've only been dating about two and a half weeks. Four days if you only count the days Ryan was conscious. Why did I have to wear my heart on my sleeve? Of course Ryan didn't return the feelings. I threw my head in my hands. "I am such an idiot," I whispered to myself.
Then I realized what my near future would hold. Ryan and I would just be awkwardly driving together. Hopping from motel to motel and town to town. That is, unless he drops me off somewhere. What else should you do with the insane girl that loves you? If you don't return the feelings, then it is just a mess if you two stay together. Better just let the girl down easy. Let her choose where you dump her. I couldn't go back home, I wasn't safe there and the memories. No. Shake them out of your head. I could go to college. No. Wait yes. I just need the money from my bank account. Shouldn't be too hard. Or, I could go with option number three. Get a job that just barely helps me survive. Living by myself with a crappy job wasn't ideal at all. But if going to college wasn't an option, then. . .
Why didn't I listen to that crappy voice in my head? Why couldn't I keep this to myself? Why was a grade A smartass girl like me so stupid when it came to love? I started weeping harder, feeling all alone in the world. I barely even heard Ryan calling my name through all my sobs. I picked my head up out of my hands and tried to stop crying. I probably looked horrible with my tear stained face and red puffy eyes. Just add insult to injury I guess.
Ryan put both his hands on my shoulders. His touch made my body grow warmer. I was definitely going to miss that. Then Ryan pulled me into a hug, which surprised me. Didn’t he not return the feelings? I mean being protective and having a crush on someone is very different from genuinely loving someone.
Wait a second. Maybe that’s what happened with me. Maybe I mistook a crush, or a spark of love. I could have misinterpreted it as true love. Oh no. What if that is what I’ve done. Great. I have ruined everything just because I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. I am so stupid. But then again, why was Ryan hugging me.
I pulled away from Ryan so I could look at his face. It was glowing, positively radiant. And he also had that blue glow around him again. I blinked a couple of times, trying to stop the tears that had inadvertently fallen and trying to make the blue glow go away. The blue glow didn’t go away, so I just tried to ignore it. Then Ryan’s voice rang out breaking the silence, sounding very similar to the angelic one I had in my head.
“I love you Taylor. I love you more than life. Your smiles make my day. Your laugh is like. . . like an angelic choir. It is more than just a physical attraction. It is true love and I am glad you feel the same way I do. I’ve just been too afraid to admit it.” I knew Ryan was genuine, but the thought that I misinterpreted out relationship stuck in my mind. I had made so many mistakes this morning, night, whatever you want to call it. It seemed perfectly reasonable that I could have gotten a mistaken impression.
But, I was so sure at the hospital. No. It was probably just a yearning to talk to him. At the house, the inability to breathe and the pain in my chest. Okay I was in love, or beginning to love, but that doesn’t mean true love. Does it? No. We are just perfect strangers. This could not have been true love at first sight. Right? Right. Oh, I was going to break Ryan.
“Ryan, I just realized something. I just made a huge mistake. It can’t be true love. We’ve only known each other about two weeks and we’ve only been dating for half of that. I do believe that true love exists, but I don’t believe in love at first sight. And unfortunately, I don’t believe that we could truly be in love right now. I do know that we are attracted to each other and I do believe that we will fall in love with each if we aren’t already, but I just don’t think we are truly in love. A spark of love for you could have drawn energy from my other unstable emotions and made my love seem more powerful than it really is. I am sorry Ryan.” I tried to not cry, but a tear slipped out at the end. I felt like I was the worst person in the world.
“Taylor, don’t say that. You are just doubting yourself.” Then he kissed me passionately on the lips. “Did that feel wrong?” He grabbed my hand and put it on his heart. “Does this feel wrong?” My blood started bubbling with passion. He was right.
“No. It actually feels really good.” I willed myself to stop crying. Love isn’t something to cry over.
“Then why are you fighting it?”
“I don’t want to fight it.”
“Then don’t.” The urge to kiss him was so overwhelming that I just lunged at him, my lips connecting with his. A fire swam through my veins and it felt better than the times before. It flickered and crackled with a new, more lively energy. This new sensation was amazing. Ryan broke away from my lips and started kissing down my neck leaving a trail of heat. I moaned out of pleasure. Why was I fighting this before? It was so wonderful and passionate. No, this was beyond description and I never wanted it to end. I knew where this was headed. I didn’t want this to end but I wasn’t ready. A memory of my dad abusing me flashed in my mind. I had to move away from Ryan. I just couldn’t go through with it.
“I’m sorry Ryan. I just need us to take it slow, or slower at least.” It seemed like all I’d been doing was apologizing since we got in that car.
“It’s alright Taylor. I don’t want to force you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.”
“You should probably get some rest. After all, that’s why we stopped here.”
“Alright.” Ryan moved onto his bed and got under the covers. He whispered “Good night,” before he turned to fall asleep. I got up to turn off the light in the room. As soon as it was off I whispered “Good night.” I wondered how Ryna could even think about sleeping with the lights on. I figured that he probably just wanted to not think about what had just happened. A couple of hours of blissful sleep was what we both needed.
I slipped under my covers, welcoming sleep as a quick and small escape from my life. I laid awake for at least half an hour. I heard Ryan’s breathing even out and soften about five minutes after I went to bed. 'At least he can escape' I thought to myself. Then I remembered my idea of writing about my experiences with Ryan, possibly turning it into a book. I decided that I shouldn’t spend the next few hours staring at the ceiling and wishing for sleep. So I pursued the idea. I quietly went back to the car and got the notebook from one of my bags. I had planned to use it as a doodle pad for when I got bored, but now it was going to be part of a book.
Right now, it’s about six AM. It is really surprising how fast time goes by when you’re writing. I guess remembering my emotions and thoughts accounted for a small part of that. And then formulating everything into paragraphs and making everything flow. That’s probably how most of my time was spent. And now that I think about it, this is kind of, in a way, like a diary. But I would never label it like that. Maybe more like an account of my life with Ryan. Although, I don’t want the title to be something boring like “The Lives of Taylor Green and Ryan Parker.” No, I want it to be creative. I’ll probably think of a title later on in the book. I think I should also try and make this like a real book and stop writing these little blurbs of the present and how I am writing. I should probably make it suspenseful as best I can. Yeah, I think I’ll do that. Anyway, I think I’ll stop here. I don’t want Ryan catching me awake. We are going to have a long road ahead of us.
❀ A New Life
It has been almost three years since Ryan took me away from my old life. A life that broke apart. I was so scared when we started living a new life. A completely new identity. And I haven’t regretted that decision. I’ll admit that the first few weeks were the toughest. Our first night away from our family was a beautiful nightmare, but we got through it.
I knew we would need money, so I emptied out my bank account. I knew that it would be tracked by the police, but Ryan and I had a plan. Change and do anything we needed in one town so we couldn’t be tracked as easily. Lead the police to a seemingly “dead end.” I made sure Ryan changed his license plates; new plates, new record, new identity. I knew we would need new identities, but Ryan said he would take care of it. Being a former agent , he probably knew all about how to do that. The only thing that bugged me was that I needed a new name. I didn’t even know how to choose. I had always been partial to the name Mikayla, but I couldn’t even begin to imagine a new last name. I would just tell Ryan to make my first name Mikayla. Leave everything else up to is imagination.
While Ryan went and got us new identities, I went out shopping. I mainly got non-perishables so that we didn’t have to stop somewhere to get food. I also got some hygiene products like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and anything else I didn’t have time to grab. I thought about going clothes shopping, but discarded the idea. I didn’t need new clothes and I didn’t have time to try on everything I liked. Plus I wanted to conserve my money, not knowing how long it would be until I could get a job or a credit card. So, I just checked out and got everything into the car.
I was surprised that I had convinced Ryan to give me his car, but I guess it was the best thing. Keep suspicion off of us, not that any townsfolk would be suspicious. All we really had to worry about was the police, but they probably wouldn’t be much trouble.
Once the groceries were in the car, I started driving toward the library. We had decided that I would meet him there when I was done shopping. I had somehow used one and a half hours for shipping, plenty of time for Ryan to do his work. After I parked the car, I went inside to find him. Within five minutes of walking around aimlessly, I found him on a computer. I caught a glance at what he was doing before he closed the window and turned around. “Hey Taylor,” he whispered casually.
“Hi,” I whispered back. “Any chance you’ll tell me what you were just doing?”
“Nothing important, but I do have something for you.” He then took something from beside the keyboard. I couldn’t catch a glance of it before Ryan moved it, but I had a pretty good idea of what it was.
“Thank you Ryan.”
“I haven’t even given it to you yet.” He then placed the card in my hand. “Now you can thank me.”
“Thank you Ryan,” I said a little less excited. Then I opened my hand and looked at my new license. The first thing my eyes land on was the name; Mikayla Keternick. Weird last name, but I could live with it. The next thing I noticed was my date of birth. March 2, 1988.
“Ryan, why did you change my birthday? I was born January 17, 1991. How does changing my age to twenty one make a difference?”
“Well, I thought that by making your alias older than you, the police would had a smaller chance of finding you.”
I sighed, “Yeah. I should’ve thought of that. Although, it is going to make it a bit harder to go to college.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure out a way. I promise.” He then kissed my hand. We could get through this.
“Alright. Can I see your license?”
“I don’t see why not.” He then took his license out of his pocket and handed it to me. I was surprised at how realistic Ryan had made these. But I guess faking identities was something that he was taught. I looked at his name: Gabriel Sanchez. I thought it was a nice name, but I liked Ryan a lot better.
I didn’t even bother looking at anything else, it all seemed less important. My eyes then caught a glance at his picture. It looked like it was taken at the DMV. How did Ryan do that? I then looked at mine and found that my picture also looked like it was taken at the DMV.
“Ryan? How did you get this picture of me? Actually, I don’t want to know. Just promise me that you’re not a creepy stalker.” Ryan and I both giggled, realizing how insane the idea was.
Ryan then stood up and grabbed my shoulders loving. “Taylor. I promise you, I am not a creepy stalker.”
“Alright, but I still want to know what you were doing.”
“I’ll tell you about it later. Right now, I just want you to be safe and happy.” He then planted a kiss on my forehead. “Can you do that for me?”
“Yeah. Besides, there is some chocolate in the car I am dying to eat.” From there, we went in the car and drove off. We were starting our new lives as twenty one year olds Mikayla Keternick and Gabriel Sanchez.
During our first year together, Ryan had gotten a job and we had moved into an apartment in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. I had found out that Ryan had created a history for us. School grades, community services, jobs, anything to make us seem like we were normal people. Ryan knew that I wanted to go to college, and he would help me get there. I love him for that. He helped me get accepted to Bradford County Community College. Before, I would have shunned the idea of going to community college, but in our current situation, I was ecstatic.
Also during our first year, our relationship changed. We took things slower and got to know each other. I learned about what his life was before he joined the agency. I also learned what his likes and dislikes were among other things. One thing that amazed me was the fact that he liked drawing.
Besides learning about him, I also opened up to him. I told him about my childhood, or at least the good parts. I let myself be vulnerable, knowing that it was the best way for Ryan and I to have a good, lasting, relationship. Our love progressed like any other couples would. Instead of diving straight into the deep end, we waded our way in. The only things that set me back was when memories of my dad infiltrated my mind. I managed to push my way past him, and learned that he can’t control me anymore. I can make my own choices. I can choose which direction my life goes in.
Almost three years of living under a fake identity has taught me how much influence you have on your own live. Simple things like grades and weight to bigger things like love. My love for Ryan has blossomed. Through our ups and downs, we have always been there for each other and had a concrete bond between us. A true bond never to be broken. In fact, we actually came up with a little saying to remind ourselves of it. Ryan’s half was There are thousands of flowers in the field... and I finished with ...but I’m you’re only rose.
Whenever we spoke those words, or a variation of them to each other, I felt my heart become engulfed in a passionate fire of love. That fire spread every time we touched and blazed through my veins every time we kissed. Before I met Ryan, I couldn’t even imagine a sensation like that, but once I got a taste of it, I couldn’t imagine living without Ryan. Especially now since I was two months pregnant. I hadn’t told Ryan, but I planned to do so at dinner.
Ryan had gotten us a reservation at Oceana. A special Valentine’s Day surprise I found out about in the morning. Ryan had left before I woke up to go to work. I missed not seeing him in the morning, but I knew that I would see him later in the evening.
I found out about the Valentine's dinner when I was getting breakfast. I had sat down at the table to enjoy a quick bowl of cereal when I saw a note on the table. Happy Valentine’s Day Taylor. Sorry I couldn’t be there when you woke up, but I want you to know that I got us a dinner reservation at Oceana at 7. I have a surprise for you. Love, Ryan.
I was so excited that I actually squealed out of joy. I had been waiting to go there ever since they opened, but they were always booked. I couldn’t believe that Ryan was able to get us reservations.
I also wondered what the surprise was. Ryan always did something special on Valentine’s Day. Something in my gut told me that this Valentine’s Day would be different than the others. Probably because of the baby. I could just imagine Ryan’s face light up when I told him. His eyes gaining that sparkle that made me think for a second that he was an angel. That perfect smile appearing on his face. The excitement that we would both share.
I decided to leave a note for Ryan. Ryan, I can’t wait until 7. I’ll be counting the minutes. Love Taylor. I then kissed the paper leaving a red stain. Then I started walking out to me car. We bought it used, but it didn’t bother me. I was just thankful that I actually had a car.
I drove to the college and parked in one of the lots. It was Tuesday, the day I had all of my classes. My first class was Linear Differential Calculus 3 at 9am. Mr. Rakenburg could sometimes be a total dictator, but he’s a good teacher for the subject. After that, I headed to the library to start writing a paper for Thermodynamics due on Monday. At 11 I was in Physics 3 with Lab, almost counting the minutes until the hour was up. Once we were released, I went to Cafe` Camaro. There, I hung out with two of my friends Imogene and Kristy. They were also studying how to be engineers. Imogene was going for mechanical, Kristy for electrical, and I was doing chemical.
I forget how we met, but we have been good friends ever since. During lunch today we had one of our epic conversations where we talked for an hour about donuts, pigs, and trees among other little things. I made sure to try and stay away from the subject of Valentine’s Day. They had obsessed over it last year and I didn’t want a repeat of that. After eating my lunch I had forty five spare minutes before having Fluid Dynamics 1&2. I decided to work on my paper, thinking that I wouldn’t have time to work on it when I got home. Ten minutes before two, I started heading to Fluid Dynamics 1&2. After that I was in Thermodynamics for an hour. My last class, Vector Electrodynamics dragged on for one and a half hours. They released us at 4:30, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that I had a date and a load of homework from my afternoon classes. But I should expect that being in college.
Sometimes, I’ve wondered why I even wanted to go to college in the first place. Then I remember that I want to be a normal person, get a normal job and have a normal life with Ryan. Adding a baby would just make us a normal family. I smiled at the thought. I couldn’t wait until tonight, but I first had to do my work, so I headed to the library for the third time.
It seemed like the clock couldn’t move fast enough and yet it was moving too fast. I wanted to be with Ryan, but my work was overwhelming. I cursed at myself for loving engineering. Why didn’t I want to be a hairdresser or chef? At the very least engineers can make a lot of money.
When I had had just about enough of Fluid Dynamics 1&2 work, I looked up at the clock. It was 6:30 already. I quickly packed up my stuff and started to head out of the library. I did not want to be late for my date. Just half an hour until Ryan finds out he’s a father.
Once outside I realized how dark it was. It sent chills up my spine. But that also could have been the cold February wind. We hadn’t had any snow this year, but it was chillier than the past two years. The wind made me pull my coat closer to my body.
I walked toward the lot where I parked my car, lamps barely lighting my way to the parking lot. The wind blew on my back so I wasn’t as cold, but I still kept my coat closed. I made a mental note to wear warmer clothes tomorrow.
At the parking lot, the lights were dimmer and more spread out. The lot only held my car, which wasn’t really that unusual, but it sometimes made me feel alone. Just like it made me feel alone right now. One thing that didn’t help was that the light above my car was broken. I wondered when they would fix it. Regardless, I walked over to my car. It was a white car, which made it easier to spot in the horrible light.
As I was walking across the parking lot, I found out it was slippery. Apparently the rain from earlier had frozen into ice. A couple of times I almost slipped. I barely stopped myself from falling on one of the ice patches. I decided to start avoiding the ice. Why I didn’t do that when I first realized there was ice I don’t know. I just made sure I wouldn’t fall.
When I was no more than twenty feet from my car I saw a huge patch of ice. It had formed right near the door to get in the driver’s seat. I groaned knowing I would probably slip on the ice.
Once at the obstacle, I very carefully tried to cross the three foot patch. It was by far the longest one I had encountered all night. I started slipping and sliding. I grabbed the side of my car to keep me stable while inadvertently dropping my keys. I groaned again. At this rate I would most definitely be late for my date.
I bent down to pick up my keys. Apparently the keys had slipped under the car. I could barely see where they were, so I just had to feel around for them. When I finally grabbed them, I carefully stood up. I didn’t want to chance slipping and falling.
I unlocked the car and opened the door when I felt something cover my mouth and nose. I had barely inhaled and I instantly felt lightheaded. My mind started racing. What about my date? What about Ryan? What about the baby? I should have told Ryan. He should have known before. And now. . . I’m sorry Ryan. I’m sorry Ryan. Ryan. Ryan. . . ryan. . . . . . . . .
Valentine Worries ❋
I had planned to leave work early to take Taylor to dinner. My plan was to surprise her at the college and drive her to Oceana. But Darren, my boss, made me stay until 6:30. It was typical of Darren to pile on the work and be a hard as.s, but I thought that he would have made an exception for Valentine’s Day. Apparently not. Actually, now that I think about it, picking her up and leaving her car at the college might not be so ideal. If Taylor’s car was left at the college, she would have to take the bus in the morning.The nearest bus stop was a couple of blocks away from the apartment building and it’s stop closest to the college was a mile away from the place. Maybe Darren accidently saved Taylor some trouble.
I tried to think of some positives of staying at work. My friend Jim would help me get my work done. Jim was a hard worker and a good friend. I knew that he would help me get my work done because he had found out two days ago that I was going to propose. He had accidently stumbled upon the ring box when looking for my stapler. Jim had lost his and I let him borrow mine, forgetting that the ring was in the same drawer.
He said, “Gabriel. Get over here.” Only then did I realize that he discovered it. I got up from my chair and walked over. Jim face appeared to be confused and angry. “Gabriel, what is this?”
“Jim. . .” I started hesitantly.
“Gabriel.” He glared at me. I gave in.
“Alright. I am going to propose to Mikayla.” It was hard to tell him, but it felt good to tell somebody.
Suddenly, Jim’s eyes lit up and he patted me on the back. “See, was that so hard to admit?”
“No. But I mean getting married, it’s a huge step. Remember when you proposed to Amy?”
“You know the story. Girl accuses me of being a thief and cheating so she punches me in the face. And then while my nose is bleeding I ask her to marry me. No speech or anything, just a guy on his knees and a girl that says yes. Then she took me to the kitchen to stop the bleeding. Craziest woman I’ll ever love.”
“Don’t you remember how nerve-racking it was to get the right ring, find the perfect words and the best time to do it?”
“I wouldn’t say nerve-racking, but it was definitely exhausting.”
“Well that’s how I feel right now. Can we talk, man to man?”
“Don’t see why we can’t?” Jim then pulled up a chair and I sat down in mine. I sighed, this was so weird for me. But, I had to eventually tell somebody. I told Jim what I had in mind for the proposal. Through all of it I felt odd. Telling a guy how you are proposing to your girlfriend shouldn’t be a topic for men to discuss.
Anyway, he had some pointers on how to make it better. He suggested that I do it on Valentine’s Day to make it more romantic. Jim also suggested that I make a card for her. Make something that won’t fade away like memories sometimes could.
I took his advice and now it’s Valentine’s evening. Jim had helped me finish the bulk of my work when we realized the we had to reset the computer. Instead of making me stay, Jim sent me off and said that he would wait for the computer. We both knew how important this date was. I shouldn’t have been held back by one computer and Jim wouldn’t let me. As I was leaving, card and ring in my hands, he wished me luck. I was going to need every ounce of it.
Getting caught in traffic didn't slow down my heart’s tempo one bit. When I arrived five minutes before seven I felt a wave of nervous relief wash over me. I walked over to the hostess. “Do you have a reservation?”
“Yes. Gabriel Sanchez, seven o’clock.”
“Let’s see,” she hummed to herself. “Here you are. Table for two. Follow me.” She then took a menu and seated me at a table near a window. “Your server will be with you shortly.” She flashed a smile at me before going back to the front of the house.
At around ten after seven, I started wondering where Taylor was. It wasn’t like her to be late. Plus I had chosen the restaurant I thought she would love. I decided to text her. She must be stuck in traffic. I thought to myself. Then the waiter stopped by again. “Are you ready yet sir?”
“No, I’m still waiting for my date. Can I just get another water?”
“Sure.” He then took my glass to be filled. I took out the ring box. I opened and looked at the ring. Was I sure I was ready to do this? Images and memories of Taylor started to flash in my mind. She was smiling, laughing, having a good time. I was sure I was ready to do this.
At around the half hour mark I was getting really worried. No texts and she could not take this long in traffic. She wasn’t coming. The waiter came back again.
“Thanks for your service Mitch, but apparently my date is a no show.” I then gave him fifteen dollars for putting up with me for half an hour.
“I’m sorry about your date. But thank you for at least thinking of Oceana.”
“No problem,” I told him casually. I walked back to my car and started driving home. This isn’t like Taylor I kept thinking to myself. Something has to be keeping her away. I got even more scared when I didn’t see her car in the parking garage. With my worries constantly growing, I tried to calm my fears. She’s in the room, I kept repeating to myself. She must have just been tired from class, that’s all. Heading up to the apartment I still wasn’t calmed.
Reaching for the doorknob my hand was trembling. “She’s fine,” I told myself. “She is waiting for you on the other side of the door.” My hand didn’t stop shaking. Carefully, I opened the door and waited to see her. All I found was an apartment void of life. Walking in, I dropped my keys on the counter and closed the door. “Mikayla?” I called thinking that a neighbor might be listening. “Are you here?” No response.
Maybe she didn’t see my note I thought, trying to make a reason. At the table I saw my note and another next to it. Ryan, I can’t wait until 7. I’ll be counting the minutes. Love Taylor. She definitely knew about the date.
A dark feeling in the pit of my stomach started to grow. Where was she? I took out my phone and dialed her number. “Hey! You’ve reached Mikayla. I can’t answer my phone right now but feel free to leave me a message.”
“Hey Taylor it’s Ryan. It’s Valentine’s night and I don’t know where you are and I am worried about you. So when you get this can you please call me back. I love you and I just need to know your safe. Okay.” Something was definitely wrong. I had to find her. My mind then decided to remind me that she had all of her classes today. If she was anywhere, she would have to be at the college library.
I grabbed my keys and headed back to the car. The entire time I was driving I couldn’t concentrate on anything but Taylor. Sure I felt uneasy when she went on those girls weekends away, but this was something different. All those times I knew where she was and that she was with her friends. Right now, I had no idea where she was. Although there was something else that was bothering me. An unknown presence conjuring a deep sense of pain inside of me.
When I finally arrived at the parking lot closest to the college’s library, I found it empty. The only things that were in the parking lot were small patches of ice, but nothing else. She wasn’t here. Where was she?
I checked my phone for a message, trying to find some kind of hope. Nothing. It was like she just disappeared from town. The thought scared me. The woman I loved, the one I wanted to marry, was nowhere.
Not knowing what to do, I headed home, again. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t stop them. I started driving down back roads to get to the apartment building, hoping to avoid causing an accident. Thirty minutes later, I was back at the apartment. I walked in, not expecting to find Taylor. I just went straight to our bed and started thinking.
I kept wondering what would be so important that she would miss our date. My mind landed at the conclusion that there was nothing. Then the thought that something had happened to her jumped into my head. At first, I tried no to believe it, but as time dragged on it became the only reasonable theory.
At some point I decided to look at the clock. The red numbers read 2:32am. My thoughts had kept me up this long and there was no way I was getting any sleep tonight. I worried too much.
By morning I had come up with two theories: either A.S.S. was back of she was just plain kidnapped. Unfortunately, I was praying for the latter. Neither choice made me feel comfortable and I thought about calling Diego, but I didn’t want to bring up my past. We ran to hide from both agencies, not to mention how I left Diego.
I opened one of my drawers and pulled out the picture of the bride I had made three years ago. I was determined to make Taylor that bride. She deserves happiness, not the past dragging her back. I would find her and protect her no matter what.
But right now, I reluctantly had to go to work. I had no clues as to where she was or who took her. Regretfully, I couldn’t start finding her without something like a ransom note, although I wasn’t too keen on getting one. One thing I did know was that I would try to find her and if I didn’t have any leads by the evening I would call Diego. If I couldn’t do anything than I would need help. Getting the police involved wasn’t an option in case A.S.S. was involved. But even if they weren’t involved, Diego could help me find her. That is unless he didn’t care about me anymore. I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t.
Stop thinking that. You don’t need to think about that right now. All you need to do is act normal. The only way to act normal was to go to work. If I was lucky, I would find some spare time and be able to try and hack into the college’s security system. But I wasn’t too optimistic. Darren would probably give me a task that would take all day.
When I finally got to work, I trudged to my office. I dreaded the day ahead of me. I slumped into my seat and started working on a program. It didn’t matter which one, just as long as I was working I wouldn’t get in trouble. I figured that I could probably hack into the college’s security system after Sarah passed by my office. Sarah was normally the first colleague I saw. Throughout the rest of the day, I could expect regular visits from some mates every hour. Today though, Jim was the first person to greet me.
“Hey Gabriel,” I heard him say.
“Hey Jim,” I responded, turning around.
“So how did it go last night?”
I sighed. “It didn’t.”
“What happened?” He asked sitting down. I knew he was genuinely concerned, but I didn’t want to lie to him.
“Mikayla got caught up in her studies. When I got to the apartment I found her asleep. I didn’t really want to wake her. She looked so cute plus she has some exams today. I figured she could use the extra sleep.”
“Dude. I hear you talk about Mikayla all the time. Anyone that had a brain could tell that you love her just by the way you talk about her. Now do me a favor and go home and propose to her.”
“But what about-”
“No. I can deal with the leeches from Washington on my own. Plus that presentation is like a walkthrough of our plans. A guy off the street could look at it and understand our plan. Now go.”
“Jim, don’t you think Darren will notice that I’m gone?”
“Simple, call in sick. Are you not thinking in that head of you? Of course not. Because you really are sick.” I wondered what Jim meant. “Lovesick.” I started chuckling. Jim could be such a total jokester sometimes. “Yeah, I bet it’s contagious too.” I started laughing harder. Jim covered his mouth, playing up the prank. “You’d better get out of here before you infect me.” By now, I was practically falling out of my chair. Eventually I regained my composure.
“Don’t thank me for being sick.” I couldn’t help but let a little laugh slip out again. He could cheer me up no matter how bad of a day I was having. But I did what he said and left the office, ready to go Taylor. Then I remembered, she wasn’t there. Da.mn, Jim was really good. He made me believe a lie for a second. A wonderful lie that gave me some hope for a moment, but back in reality, she was gone.
I started heading out of the office, the smile I had on had vanished. I feared that the longer I stayed the less chance I had of finding her. What was I thinking coming in in the first place?
Inside the elevator, I stared wondering what I could do at the apartment. I didn’t have nearly as many programs or levels of access that I had at the office. Plus, my computer may not even be able to hack into the security system. Then again, that could just be me panicking, but I can always try and see what happens. Keep the hope that I will find her alive.
Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by my cell phone. The caller ID was a miracle worker. “Taylor?” I asked in amazement.
“Taylor where were you last night. You had me worried sick.”
“That doesn’t matter right now. Just do me a favor. I went to the college library to get a book. I was going to head home, but my car won’t start. I need a ride,” she told me hurriedly. I wondered why she was rushing.
“Sure.” I was about to hang up when Taylor started talking again.
“Ryan. Can you do me another favor?”
“Anything,” I said as I got out of the elevator and started walking out of the building.
“Can you. . . can you just never forget that I will always be your rose?” She sounded like she was holding back tears.
“You know I wouldn’t want any other flower. Why would you think otherwise?” She was starting to scare me.
“I just feel like I don’t say it enough. I love you.” I could tell she was ready to cry.
“I love you too. Bye.”
“Bye,” she choked out over the phone. Now I was getting worried again. She was crying when she called me. It made no sense that she would be crying if she knew I was coming to get her. On the bright side though, I could rule out the possibility that she was kidnapped. Now I just wondered where she was last night.
While approaching the parking lot of the college, I noticed that it looked less dreary. I attributed it to the fact that it was sunny and I could see Taylor’s car. One thing that made me uneasy though was that I didn’t see Taylor in her car.
I parked right next to her vacant car. When I tried to open the car door, I found it unlocked. Now I was starting to panic. Taylor had called me and told me to come get her. Since she was nowhere in sight, she was either playing with me or her kidnappers were. I cringed at the thought.
Inside the car, I looked for any clues as to who had taken her or where she was. All I found was the car completely clean. I looked in the glove compartment to see if Taylor had put something in there. What I found was a single sheet of white paper. Hey Ryan, Taylor says hi and make sure you feed the fishes. -Charolette
I crumpled up the note and held it in my hands. My worst fears had been confirmed. I took out my phone and dialed Diego’s number. “Diego.”
“Ryan. Where have-”
“I can explain later just listen to me. They found us and they have Taylor.”
Finding Taylor ❋
I was sitting in my apartment, waiting. Waiting for Diego to get here. All I had told him on the phone was where we were living. After telling him I hung up quickly, trying to avoid the questions I knew he would want to ask. Avoiding was the only way I could try to keep my focus on finding Taylor.
A knock on the door disrupted the silence. Diego. I quickly got up and let him in, not wanting to waste any time. Every second counted now.
“Ryan. It’s so good to see you.” His eyes were filled with joy. I knew he was happy to see me.
“It’s good to see you too Diego. Now do you think you could start helping me?”
“Whoa Ryan. Slow down. Can’t we just catch up first?”
“You know as well as I do that they are not merciful. I have no idea what they are doing to her right now!”
“Ryan, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that in the time you two have been hiding, Taylor has grown and has learned how to protect herself. She can survive for another hour.”
“She has, but she hasn’t dealt with them directly before. If she makes one wrong move or says something they don’t like, she is dead!”
“No, they don’t do that. They capture one agent to try and draw others out. When that happens, they kill the rescuers and set the kidnapped agent free. Try and cripple him with the guilt of knowing that he had a part in the death of the others.” Diego wouldn’t look at me as he told me this, his voice continuously growing softer. I wondered how much the agency had changed since I left. How often did this occur now? When I left there, they barely kidnapped people.
“Diego, try to see it from my perspective. I. Love. Her. Wouldn’t you do anything for the person you love?!”
“Ryan, try to see it from my point of view. I haven’t seen you in almost three years. You don’t think that I missed having you around? You were the closest thing I had to a family. You should know better than anyone that agents don’t normally have families. Now can you take five minutes to slow down. Just stop and smell the roses.”
That struck me. Hard. It wasn’t what Diego was saying that hurt, it was just that one word rose that made me distraught. My mind flashed back to the phone call from Taylor.
Never forget I will always be your rose. . . I wouldn’t want any other flower. . . I don’t say it enough. I love you. . .
It all made sense now. She was on the verge of tears because she was saying goodbye. She knew what they were going to do to her. I sat down at a table and threw my head into my hands. Tears started to roll down my face. Taylor knew she would never see me again. She knew she was going to die.
Diego came over to me quickly, not realizing what he had done to me. “Ryan! What’s wrong?” I could tell he was worried by his voice. I imagine he thought I had broke down because I realized he was right. But he didn’t truly understand why I broke down. How could he?
“Ryan. I need you to talk. What is wrong?” His was more urgent and more hurried. He really did want to know. I just couldn’t think of a way of explaining what was wrong.
After a minute of trying to stop crying I managed to look up at Diego and choke out, “I can’t stop and smell the roses. Not anymore.” As the words came out I found myself starting to cry again. I turned away from Diego. He shouldn’t see me like this, I wouldn’t let him. Despite everything that happened three years ago I actually thought he was like an uncle to me. I did care about him as family, but it had been three years ago. We didn’t know each other as well now.
“What do you mean you can’t smell the roses anymore? You always have the choice to slow down. Things don’t have to be done quickly. What about that do you not understand?” I understood perfectly well. He was the one that didn’t understand. I snapped.
“Diego. I understand everything you said, but you don’t understand me. I can’t smell my rose anymore. She is gone, kidnapped by them! What about that do you not understand? I have had a new life for the past three years. Always afraid that our past will come back to get us and sure enough it has. It came back and took Taylor in the worst possible way! How can I try and relax when I love her and I know she is in danger!? What part of that don’t you understand?!”
"Ryan. . . I-" he started hesitantly.
"You're still not getting it!" I yelled at him. I then stormed out of the room.
"Where are you going?!" He yelled at me, but I paid little attention to him. I was determined to make him understand. When I reached the nightstand near the bed, I ferociously opened the drawer and pulled out my evidence. I flung it onto the bed, not caring about it right now.
Diego had followed me into the room and seen me throw the object. I assume that by now he thought I had just gone mad because we knew Taylor was with them, but I’ll never truly know. After I threw it onto the bed, I turned around, waiting for Diego’s reaction.
He cautiously picked it up. The room was only lit by the sun shining through the windows, but that was enough light to see what it was. I could see that Diego knew what it was, but he opened it as if to make sure that the object was what he thought it was. Once he saw the ring, he closed his eyes and sighed, finally understanding my side. “Now do you understand why I can’t lose her?”
“Yeah.”Diego wouldn’t look at me. Maybe because he didn’t want to accept how much I loved and cared for Taylor.
“Can we start searching for her now?”
“Sure. Will you just answer me one question?”
“Did you ever think about coming back? At any time at all?”
“No,” I responded flatly. “I never thought about going back.”
“Alright. Well, we should probably get started.” I felt bad about hurting Diego, but I knew he would want the truth. He had always asked for the truth before and I had always told him. Why should I stop now?
The first thing we did for the investigation was get Taylor’s car from the college. Diego thought that I might have missed something. I didn’t doubt him either. It had been three years since I dealt with them and I could have easily missed something.
When we arrived at the parking, it was already 11:30. I was somewhat relieved because we arrive in the middle of classes, so no one would really notice us. Or at least, I hoped no one would.
Diego’s first task was getting particulates from the tires. He mainly pulled out what looked like dirt and gravel. I found that odd because there weren’t many dirt roads around here. I cursed at myself for not thinking of it earlier.
The next thing Diego did was search for anything in the car. He found the note that I had crumpled into a ball. “Ryan, what is this?” I put my hand behind my head, trying to think of a reasonable explanation besides anger. Diego just sighed and opened it. Once he read it, he started looking around the car for any other clues.
“There’s nothing else,” I told him.
“I’m just being thorough.” Diego then went around and checked the trunk. I could tell that he was pissed with me, but I just didn’t want to waste time. Taylor was in danger every second she was with them. “All clear back here,” he said after a minute. “So, which car are you driving back?”
“I think I’ll take mine. Just follow me back.” I then got in my car and drove back to the apartment building. It seemed like all I had been doing today was driving, and worrying. How productive is that? I mentally cursed at myself.
When we arrived back at the apartment we immediately started trying to find a lead using our evidence. Diego dealt with the dirt while I hacked into the college’s security system. I was a bit rusty so it took longer than I would have liked, but once I was in, I knew exactly what to do. Within minutes I was able to find the security footage from last night. Once I found some footage that had a view of Taylor’s car, I sat and watched.
When it reached 6:30 PM on the footage, I stopped fast forwarding. Taylor was making her way to her car. She was slipping on a few patches of ice and I couldn’t help but giggle. As she got to her car I saw her examine the ice patch near her car. When she stepped on it, she started slipping and grabbed her car. The next thing she did was bend down, I assume because she dropped something. All of a sudden the footage glitched and cut to an empty parking lot.
I was infuriated. They knew what they were doing and they were trying to leave no trace. It would be a cold day in he.ll before I would let them just take her without a trace. My fingers started flying across the keyboard and opening different things, trying to find a recovery program. When they found it, I put the video in it. With any luck, the missing footage would be restored within two hours.
In the meantime, I needed to try and find another lead. Her phone. Taylor’s phone had GPS and I knew I could find it. When I tried to track it though, all I got was nothing. They had turned GPS off, but I could easily get it back on. I dialed our phone company.
“Hello,” the person answered cheerfully. “How can I be of assistance?”
“Hi, I would like to get the GPS on my daughter’s phone turned on.”
“Do you mind if I ask why.”
“She just lost it on a recent camping trip and we only just realized that she lost it.”
“Alright, can you give me the phone number.
“Okay, just give me a sec and. . . it should be on now.”
“It is. Thank you so much.”
“No problem sir.” Then our conversation ended. She had no idea how much she helped me. I looked on the computer screen for the location of the phone. She was just outside of Lone Pine. I got Diego and started driving to the GPS’s location of the phone. Diego told me to bring my laptop in case this was a dummy lead. I didn’t want to think that this was just a false lead, but I still took my laptop and a MiFi hotspot. If we were going to start back at square 1, we would probably need internet for something.
We got into my car and drove to the location. The two and a half hour drive was tedious at best. Diego spent most of his time going over his dirt and I tried to keep my mind focused on the road ahead. One trick was to turn on the radio and be distracted by that. Unfortunately, my mind started to drift anyway and I started thinking about Taylor. I wasn’t going to think about her right now. I would not be tortured.
Instead of being reminded where she was right now, I tried to think about a movie. Taylor had convinced me to watch this movie called The Blind Side. It was about a boy named Michael Oher who was taken in by this family, the Tuohys. He went out for football and was at first a gentle giant. Once Leigh Anne Touhy told him to think of the team as his family, Michael protected the family and became a star. He got scholarships from many colleges, but chose Ole Miss. Later, an NCAA official interrogated Michael. She tried to convince him that the Touhys took him in and got him to play football all as a plan for him to go to Ole Miss. Michael then ran out of the room and away from Leigh Anne. Michael partially believed the woman and didn’t want to be with any of the Touhys. The next day, Michael called Leigh Anne and she found Michael outside of a laundry mat. She told him that she didn’t care what college he went to, it was his life. The movie ended by having Michael go to college. Then they showed the real Michael Oher and how he got drafted onto the Ravens football in 2009. It was a nice story, but I just liked seeing Taylor’s reaction. But that is probably why guys watch heart-touching stories. They just want the satisfaction of seeing their girl happy.
Unfortunately, my mind had found a way to think about the subject I was trying to avoid. I started trying to think about other things. My mind went from dolphins to pandas to clouds and then ventured to ice cream and grass and fire. Fire set off a trigger in my brain. The bullet landed on a memory from school; the explosion.
A flood of memories flashed in my mind. I was a hero, we’re dating, the car, the hospital,Taylor,Rob,Veronica/Charolette,the knife,leaving being crushed rejuvenated hopetherealizationtheleaving. My head became filled with pain and I put my left hand on my forehead, trying to quell the pain. It didn’t work.
Treatments for my pain eluded me. Most of my thoughts led me back to Taylor. I tried to think of what wouldn’t lead my mind back to her. The only thing that came to mind was the agency. Taking my opportunity, I started to try and remember my lessons.
About an hour and a half later, I was finished going over the lessons I remembered. Ending the review gave my mind time to think of Taylor. Doing my best to prolong the inevitable, I started thinking of movies again. One of Taylor’s favorite movies was Aladdin. She told me that she used to watch it all the time as a kid. Genie always made her laugh and Abu was a cute monkey. Running through Aladdin kept my mind occupied for the rest of the drive.
When we arrived at our location, it was strange to say the least. One side was covered by a field of tall grass and the other was slowly being overtaken by the edge of a forest. I pulled my car to the side of the road and Diego and I both got out.
“Where is she?” I asked, speaking more to myself than to Diego.
“Ryan, it’s a dummy lead. The dirt didn’t help much either. Over half of it is sand and from what I’ve seen so far, there are not any bodies of water nearby. The only clue that we have left is that video.”
“No. She is here. Her phone is-”
“It’s probably a decoy.”
“Well shouldn’t I at least be thorough?” I took out my phone and dialed Taylor’s number. Seconds later, I heard the distant sound of a phone ringing. Before Diego had time to react, I darted toward the sound.
Rushing past foliage, I was hopeful that this would help me find Taylor. By the third ring of the phone, I had stumbled upon it’s resting place; an abandoned SUV. I tore threw the vehicle and found the phone.
Once in my hand, I examined the phone. It didn’t seem to be damaged or anything. But like an idiot, I went and checked her messages. Three texts from me, two from her friends and two voicemails; one from me and the other from someone else. “Diego,” I called, not realizing he was standing right next to me. “I think I got another lead.” We listened to the voicemail.
“Hey Ryan. Don’t you just love watching the sunset. I do, especially near a quiet body of water. You can just dip your feet in while sitting on the sand. I know Taylor would really like you to enjoy tonight’s sunset with her. I hear that it will be magical. Hope you can make your date.” Then it just. . . ended and I didn’t know what to do.
“Ryan, before you lose your head-”
“Diego. Do you realize what they are doing? They know we don’t know where she is and they just told me they are going to kill her when the sun sets. That only leaves us about half an hour to find her! How can I not start freaking out!?”
“I get it, but just listen to me and try to treat this like any other case.”
“But this isn’t-”
“You and I both know that the only way for you to be one hundred percent focused is to detach yourself from the case.” I was silent as I tried to do what Diego said. I started trying to imagine this was just another case.
“License plates,” I started saying. “We can probably track it. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it could lead to one of their hideouts. The call took place near a lake. You could hear the water hitting the ground and some frogs croaking in the background.”
“Okay, so let’s go on that.” We headed back to the car swiftly and silently. If I was going to do this right, I couldn’t deal with any emotions. I hated doing stuff like this, but that was how I had worked before. It was how the agency worked.
Back at the car, Diego worked on tracing the license plates while I worked on finding bodies of water nearby. There were surprisingly very few lakes near where I lived, but out here, they seemed to be popping up all over. “You got anything yet?” Diego asked.
“I got a lot of lakes within fifty miles of us. You?”
“Well, I got the owner. They bought it under a dead guy’s name.”
“Maybe they're also using his house. You got an-”
“An address? Yeah. I’m the one who taught you to look at it from all angles. The guy’s address was 512 Pinesol Avenue.” I was looking up the best route to get there when Diego started talking again. “Ryan, you do know that she may-”
“Got it!” I said, cutting Diego off intentionally. “We can get there in about twenty minutes.” I started driving, trying to remain emotionless and not get distracted. I turned off the radio that I just realized had been playing for the past two and a half hours or so.
“Ryan. You know-”
“Yes Diego, I know that this might also be a dead end. But we can’t think like that right now. A lead is a lead no matter what. Can you just do me a favor and see if the video is fixed? The part where Taylor was kidnapped should be restored by now. Just check and see what they tried to cover.”
“Sure,” was his only response. I didn’t like giving Diego orders, suggestions, or bossing him around, I was just trying to be objective. Being emotionless, I thought, brought out the worst in me. It made me feel like I was a soulless killer. No remorse, no sympathy, no emotions, just a guy seemingly in control that could kill on demand without asking questions. No person should ever want to be like that.
“It’s a match,” Diego said, pulling me out of my thoughts. “The car is the same. They also made sure never to show their faces to the cameras. Their evil bast.ards, but they are smart. Sometimes.”
“Yeah, they do slip sometimes. When they like playing games. But back to the car. It is the same, so that just gives us more reason to follow this lead.” A silence fell between us, so I just tried concocting a plan on what I would do once we got to our location.
As we finally arrived at the house, I could instantly tell that no one was actively living there. Windows were shattered, boards were rotting, and there was a fine coating of dust on the place. When I stepped out of the car, the wind bit at me. It was colder and the sun was getting ready to dip below the horizon at any minute.
I ventured into the house, expecting to find Taylor. Instead, I found a house that had been stripped of its furniture. Stepping into another room, I saw a chair. It was the only piece of furniture in the dimly lit room, but it wasn’t the only oddity. The room was twice as big as any of the other, had no windows, and appeared to be cut off from the rest of the house. It had been modified for something.
“Bravo.” I heard someone say through the darkness. The voice seemed familiar, but I couldn’t exactly remember. “I honestly had my doubts. . .” he stepped out of the shadows. “But you always found a way to pull through. . .” I could see his face. “Didn’t you?”
“Nice to see you after all this time.”
“I wish I could say the same.” I clenched my fists, ready to start throwing punches if he said one more vile thing.
“Oh come on. Is that any way to treat a friend?”
“Friend?” I questioned, throwing a punch at his face. “You tried to kill me!”
“Hold on a sec,” he said, dodging and starting fight back. “It was mainly Charolette’s idea. I was a victim.”
“Rob, always playing the victim card. Well who are you going to blame now? That bit.ch is dead.”
“You know you shouldn’t talk that way about family Ryan.”
“She isn’t family!” I yelled at him, giving him a chance to land a punch.
“Oh, speaking of that, don’t you have a little girl to find?” He hit a nerve and I tackled him.
“Don’t you Dare talk about her!”
“I can say whatever I want about that little bit.ch.” I stood him up and pinned him against a wall.
“WHERE THE HE.LL IS SHE!”
“All I can say is that she won’t be swimming anytime soon.” They weren’t bluffing, but they never did before. Why should they start now?
“You didn’t answer my question. So let me try and get it through your thick skull. Where. Is. She!”
“Playing in the backyard. I just wish we had more time to chat.” I dropped him to the floor and rushed to get outside the house. As I left, I heard him call out, “Oh, I forgot. She’ll be dead before you get to her. That’s not a problem, is it?!” I tried to ignore him, but it hit me. Taylor was someone I love more than life and I couldn’t let anything happen to her. How could I have ever tried to treat this like any other case?
Outside, Diego had already found the lake and a speedboat to use. I wondered how I had missed it before. Maybe I was too distracted by the house. Not really caring about the reason I jumped into the speedboat. Diego immediately started the engine and we raced against the setting sun to find Taylor.
I scouted for another boat on the water that would be holding Taylor. The fading light made it hard to see, but that had never hindered me before. Another white speedboat stuck out on the water’s blackened surface. “Diego, two o’clock.” He veered right and we rushed to get to the other white boat.
As we got closer, I noticed that the boat slowed down and stopped on the water. Then the person on the boat dropped something into the water that made a big splash. “Taylor!” The other boat then sped away, but I didn’t care about that now. Diego had been seconds behind the boat, but once we got to the drop off place, I jumped off the boat.
The water wrapped me in an icy cold blanket that instantly spread pain throughout my body. As I plunged deeper and deeper it got colder and my lungs started to feel like they were being crushed by anvils. I tried to ignore the pain and search for Taylor. The few shafts of light did little to help me, so I started feeling around for her. I couldn’t feel her and decided to swim deeper.
Touching the bottom of the lake only made me panic. I hadn’t found her yet and my lungs felt ready to burst. Trying my best to stay hopeful, I started feeling around the floor. Hitting only sand and rocks for what felt like a minute only dwindled my hope.
My vision started getting blurry and I knew that if I didn’t get air quickly that I wouldn’t see tomorrow. In a last ditch attempt, I felt around again, praying that I would find her. Then I felt fingers, a hand, Taylor. I pulled her close to me and swam as fast as I could to the surface.
Breaking through the water I gasped for air. I made sure Taylor’s head was above water as I made my way to the boat. If she was going to survive, she would need to get out of the water quickly. Once I reached the boat, Diego helped me get Taylor out of the water and lay her on the deck. I hauled myself out of the water and rushed over to her, “Is she breathing?” I panted, already fearing the answer.
Diego shook his head. I immediately started giving her rescue breaths. I had come this far, I was not going to lose her now.
After my first round of CPR, Taylor started coughing. I stopped CPR and looked at her. She sat up and coughed more and more. I had never been so happy to hear someone cough. When she finally stopped I enveloped her in a hugged. “Ryan,”she whispered into my ear. “I. . . I. . .” she stammered.
“It’s alright,” I told her, releasing her so I could look into her beautiful eyes. “I’m here now and I will never let anything happen to you.” I would do anything to keep that promise.
“Uh, Ryan. I need to tell you something.”
“Well. . . um. . . how do I say this. . . Ryan, I’m pregnant.” She started crying and I just stared at her in disbelief.
“You’re pregnant?” I asked, still not believing it. “You’re. . . We’re going to have a baby?”
“Yeah. But then they took me and. . . and. . .” She started to cry harder.
“Shhhhh,” I said, trying to comfort her. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“I was going to tell you at dinner but. . .”
“Taylor look at me. This was not your fault. Okay?” She nodded. “Good. Now let’s get you to dry land.” The boat had stopped moving, so I had assumed we were on shore. Sure enough we were. I helped Taylor stand up and get off the boat and Diego followed.
“I just remembered something. You promised me a surprise.”
“I did did I?” I joked with her. “Well I unfortunately left it at home, but I can give you a hint right now if you like.”
“I think I want to hear some good news right.”
“Alright.” I stopped walking and turned toward her. “Taylor Green. . .” I got down on one knee. “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife? The words echoed in my mind. Of course I would, but I couldn’t find my voice. I guess my mind was still in shock. I mean, how are you supposed to know when someone is going to propose. Although, dating him for three years should have been a sign that he would eventually propose. Maybe I just forgot about it. Life with Ryan has been extraordinary, until now. I guess I been so content, no, so in love with Ryan, that it kind of felt like we were already married.
“Taylor?” Ryan said bringing me back to reality. Only then did I remember I hadn’t said anything. I thought that I must have looked like a complete idiot.
“Yes, Ryan. Of course yes!” I blurted out excitedly. “I want to marry you!” Ryan started to smile and his face started to glow. Even in the dim light, I could see him positively shine. Time slowed as he stood up. My heart started beating louder and faster than it already was as he put his hands on me. There were only two of us in the world when he picked me up. I was frozen in the moment when he twirled me in the air. For a minute, I forgot what had happened to me. I forgot how cold I was and any pain I was experiencing. There was just me, him, and our love.
When he put me down though, it all came back. I remembered the pain and the cold water. I involuntarily started shivering and Ryan noticed. He went and got me a blanket from his car which he then wrapped around me. I tried to protest, saying that I was fine and that he must be freezing, but Ryan insisted.
“Can’t I just try to keep my fiancée and our baby warm?” He tried to reason. Ryan then hugged me, sending warmth through me with just a touch. I closed my eyes and let the heat of the moment consume me. Ryan could have this one. After all, I could understand him wanting to make me comfortable. He was always trying to make me comfortable no matter how bad he felt. Sometimes I thought that he did it to make up for something, which was crazy because he had always been good to me.
“Can we go back home now? I mean, I like the scenery, or what I can see of it anyway, but I’m kind of tired. It’s been a long day for me and I just want it to be tomorrow already.” I tried to sound as casual as possible.
“Yeah sure. It’s been a long day for both of us. I can’t even imagine how yours went.”
“Yeah,” I said through my teeth. He really couldn’t imagine. Unfortunately, I didn’t need to imagine what had happened. I lived with it and had deal with it.
Ryan called to Diego who had been in the house ever since he got off the boat. “You find anyone it here?” Ryan asked while letting me out of his hug. I grabbed his hand, not wanting to let him go.
“No, there’s not even a trace. It just looks like a house that hasn’t been touched in over fifty years.”
“Alright. . . Well, there’s nothing else we can do. Let’s just head back to the apartment.”
“You mean until morning. We can’t do anything else until morning.”
“No. Diego, I didn’t mean until morning, I meant at all.”
“Ryan,” Diego growled. The growl was accompanied by a menacing glare directed at Ryan. I instinctively knew this was going to end in a fight.
“I’ll be in the car,” I told them, trying to keep myself from being in the middle.
I sat in the back seat of the car to try and not hear what they were going to say. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury and heard some parts. “By the book. . . it’s different, she’s. . . care. . . love. . . shreds. . . doesn’t matter. . . family. . . protection. . . hurt. . . pain. . . past. . . been through enough. . . too much.”
Once they were done, both men went to different sides of the car. Dego got into the driver’s seat and Ryan slid into the back next to me. I wasn’t too happy with Diego driving. I was pretty sure that he never liked me and he had just had a major fight with Ryan. If he was as angry as I thought he was, I didn’t trust him enough to put my life in his hands.
“Ryan,” I whispered. “Are you sure Diego should be driving us?”
“Don’t worry,” he assured me as Diego started driving. “We have an understanding.” I still didn’t trust Diego and it must have shown. “I promise you Taylor,” Ryan whispered. “He won’t do anything to hurt you. He’s a good man.” I wanted to believe Ryan, but I couldn’t. Diego had to earn my trust.
“Alright,” I said, putting on a brave face.
“Okay. Now, I think that you should probably get some sleep. It’s gonna be a long drive back.”
“Let’s leave it at very long. Now please, for me,” he kissed my forehead, “and our baby,” he put his hand on my belly. “Get some sleep. You need it.” I didn’t feel like arguing because I actually was tired.
I looked around for something comfortable that I could lay my head on. The only thing I found was Ryan. After I laid my head on his shoulder, I was ready to fall asleep. The only problem was that my mind kept wandering to things. Things I didn’t want to think about.
I had to distract it. . . by talking? Yes talking. Talking to Ryan. “Ryan.”
“I just figured out something,” I whispered.
“What?” He whispered back.
“I’m gonna have to stop going to college.”
“We can talk about that when we get home.”
“No, we’re going to talk about it in the morning.”
“Yeah. Tonight we are just going to relax. . . spend some time together. . . and just. . . forget our lives. . .for. . . a couple. . . of hours.” I mumbled as I drifted off to sleep.
I waited for the nightmares to come, but they never appeared. Instead I was plunged into darkness. To try and escape the nightmarish black, I started running, but that got me nowhere.
After running for a long time, I started to think I would never leave the darkness. I fell to my knees, preparing for the nightmares to come as the darkness swallowed me. But instead of hearing screams, I heard a car, then someone laughing. It was nighttime, but not so dark that I couldn’t see. I looked around for the car I heard, but couldn’t find it. Closing my eyes, I tried to focus. It is here, I said to myself. Just look harder.
Laughter filled the cool night air. It was the same laugher I had heard before. Opening my eyes, I looked for who was laughing. Instead of seeing a girl like I expected, there was a car pulled to the side of the road. I recognized the car immediately as Ryan’s Mercedes.
Walking towards the car I wondered why I was dreaming about this. There weren’t any sirens going off in my head. No logical reasons why I would dream about this.
At the car, I looked in to try and see what was going on. It didn’t seem like they noticed me, I mean why would they. This was just a dream. I tried to listen to what they were saying, but I couldn’t hear well. So, I went into the back of the car. They wouldn’t notice, I could hear, and I could do what I wanted. After all, it was a dream.
Once inside the car, I could hear them a lot better. “Stop making me laugh Ryan!” Dream Taylor said through her giggles.
“So I can’t do this.” Ryan said while tickling her. I now remembered this. We were heading out to a campsite when Ryan’s car died. We started goofing around while waiting for the tow truck.
“Yes that!” Taylor laughed, bringing me back to the memory.
“Yes? Alright then.” He started tickling her again. I couldn’t help but laugh at his antics.
“Yes,” she told him, trying to stop his hands. “You can’t do that.”
“Really?” He brought out his puppy dog eyes to try and change her mind. It didn’t work.
“Do you really want me to laugh until I get the hiccups?”
“Kind of. I haven’t seen you get hiccups via laughing yet.” They started laughing again. I loved the moments when Ryan made me laugh. Why I forgot this memory is a mystery to me. Maybe it got replaced by a more recent memory of us having fun.
“Okay seriously. What should we do until the tow truck gets here?”
“Let’s see. . . hmmm. . . you got any ideas?”
“No. Wait, I actually got one.”
“We could make out.”
“Oh Ryan,” she said while playfully shoving him. “You are so predictable. Besides, there will be plenty of time for that later. Right now, let’s just. . . talk.”
“Fine,” he said while faking a pout. It made her laugh again, which I assume was his goal all along. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
“As a kid, whenever my friends and I got bored, we would create a fantasy world in which we all had superpowers. We would battle dragons and monsters that threatened the kingdom. Of course we always won the battle and were dubbed heros throughout the land.”
“So, you want us to create and imaginary kingdom while we wait?”
“No silly, I just want to know, if you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?”
“Okay. Kinda odd question, but I’ll answer it.” Ryan then started to think. I thought it was so cute when he thought. The first thing he always did was put his hand on his chin. Then his hands would migrate to the back of his head. This was followed by a long exhale after which he would continue thinking.
“Okay I got it,” he said after a couple of minutes. “I would probably want to be able to create things out of thin air.”
“And why. . .”
“Why?. . . Well I could create a dozen roses to give to you.” She giggled at his romantics. “We wouldn’t have to buy food. I could just make something for us to eat. And if my lady,” he said like a knight in shining armor, “shall ever find herself in a spot of trouble, I could conjure up my sword to slay the mighty beast!” He said proudly. Both us girls couldn’t help but laugh at him. Ryan had said it like he was actually a knight that was going to rescue his damsel in distress.
Once the other Taylor calmed down again, she spoke, “While I do love the fact that chivalry isn’t dead, I can’t help but wonder why you didn’t choose something like heat vision or super strength.”
“Well, what good would they do me? They won’t help me do what I need to do.”
“And what, dare I ask, won’t them help you do?”
“Help make the princess fall in love with her knight,” he said sincerely.
“Oh good knight,” Taylor played along, “That is not possible for you see, you have already won my heart.”
“Well if your highness will allow me, I would like to ask her a question.”
“You have my permission fair knight.”
“What power would you want and why?”
“Oh, that’s easy. I would like to fly. That way, I could go anywhere at any time. No trouble with traffic, although that doesn’t really bother me. Mainly, I would just fly to relax. Nothing but me, birds, the sky, and blissful silence.”
“You’d leave me behind?” He said, pretending he was hurt.
“No, I’d take you with me. Flying would make it a lot easier to get places. I could have flown us to the campsite.”
“Oh come on, you don’t mean that.”
“What. You actually like being stuck here, waiting for a tow truck to bring us back to the city?”
“Well, I like what we’re talking about right now. Don’t you?”
“Yeah,” she admitted. “This is fun.”
“Now, if you had flown us, then we wouldn’t have had this lovely chat.”
“Okay, I get your point. Can I just ask you one more question?”
“You just asked a question.”
“You know what I mean,” she said through some giggles.
“Sure, ask away.”
“What would you say if I said I was the only rose?”
“Well I would tell you that I wouldn’t want any other flower.” We never really said our saying in full. We normally said variations of it.
“And,” she leaned closer to him. “If you came across the most perfect peony in the world. . .”
He leaned closer to her, “I wouldn’t pay any attention to her.”
“Why not?” She asked, tilting her head down. “I’m flawed.”
“Because,” he said, tilting her head up to meet his eyes. “I am in love with the most stunning and beautiful woman in the world. By my standards, she is flawless.” He then leaned in to kiss her and she did the same.
I remembered this kiss. It was the first kiss that made me feel like Ryan and I were soaring through the sky. At the time, I thought I felt that because of our conversation. Talking about flying and then feeling like I was flying wasn’t a coincidence. Little did I know that it was actually a reaction from the kiss, just like the fire in my veins.
The next sound I heard wasn’t what I expected. Instead of hearing the windshield wipers go on, I heard Taylor say, “What are you doing?” Wait, did my dream just talk to me? “Yeah, and by the way, I can hear your thoughts too. But honestly, I’d rather you just talk to me like a person.”
“This shouldn’t be possible. I control this dream!”
“Obviously not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be talking to you.”
“Okay. So, why are you talking to me?”
“Why are you dreaming?”
“Don’t ask stupid questions.”
“Do you really have anything else better to do?”
“I could wake up.”
“Well, if you wanted to not talk to me, you could have woken up when I started talking. And yet, here you are, still dreaming, and me, still talking. Now, answer the question.”
“I got tired and fell asleep.”
“Yes, but why did you dream about this.”
“I don’t know.”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“Fine,” she said, obviously aggravated. “Let me see if this helps you. What is the difference between you and me?”
“You’re not real and I am. I dreamt you.”
“While I do admit that is true, that’s not the difference.”
“Well then there is no difference. You and I are the same person.”
“Ugh!” She grunted, turning away from me. “Think of it again. One. More. Time.” She emphasized the word time. Maybe time was the difference. “Finally, you’re getting somewhere!” I forgot that she could hear my thoughts.
“You’re in the past and I’m in the present.”
“Look, last time I checked, you were part of a memory.”
“So what if I am.”
“Memories are in the past. You are in my past.”
“No, you are in the past. I’m in my present.”
“Okay, I’ll give you the fact that you’re in your present, but I am in the actual present. Your future.”
“How can I be lying!? I’m pregnant, you’re not. I’m engaged, you’re not!”
“I’ll give you that.”
“Then how am I in the past!” She didn’t answer and I was really starting to hate her. “Tell me!”
“Look, you’re obviously not going to get it right now. I can try again later.”
“What the hell are you saying?!”
“I’m telling you to leave.”
“Hold on. I control-”
“I said Leave!” The next thing I knew, I was back in the car, sleeping on Ryan’s shoulder. Da.mn, I thought, That dream was a doozy. If I see that Taylor again, am going to beat some sense into her.
Then I realized that my head was hurting. Stupid dream. I started to move my hand to my head, somehow thinking that it would help. Suddenly, my head didn’t hurt anymore. Crazy dream. I put my hand back down.
“Hey Sleeping Beauty,” I heard Ryan say. It felt good to hear his voice again after that dream.
“Hey Ryan.” I opened my eyes to look at him and saw a blue glow around him. I blinked a couple of times and it faded away. Then I started talking again. “How long was I out?”
“For a while.”
“Could you be any more vague?” I teased, sitting up off his shoulder.
“Well, I could tell you that we’re ten minutes away or that’s it’s almost eight o’clock, but I think I like being mysterious.”
“Well I like it better when you are just Ryan.”
“So you like it when I do this?” He hugged me, “And this?” He kissed me.
“Yes. I like when you are you.”
“Even when I do this?” He started tickling me.
“Yes, although I wish you would stop,” I managed to get out.
“Aw I can’t let you know how much I love you?” Ryan pouted. I felt like melting into his arms.
“No, just don’t tickle me.”
“And why not?”
“Because I don’t like laughing until I start to hurt.”
“And who’s going to stop me.”
“Me of course.”
“Want to test that theory?”
“Well you’re gonna hafta,” he said before tickling me again.
“Stop it,” I laughed, although for once, I didn’t want him to stop.
“How you gonna make me?” He teased. There was only one way to make him officially surrender and I went for it. Feeling his lips on mine kindled another spark in me. The fire spread from my heart through my vein and into my brain. Parts of it started shutting down. It felt so good.
“Hey you two,” Diego called, pulling me out of my state of bliss. “Knock it off. I don’t want any distractions right now.”
I instantly felt embarrassed and pulled away from Ryan. ‘We just got busted!’ I mouthed to him. ‘I know! I feel so weird.’ He mouthed. ‘Me too.’ I responded. ‘What do we do now?’ He asked. I didn’t have a clue at first, but then it hit me. I kissed my hand and the put it to Ryan’s cheek. Then I leaned into Ryan. He responded by putting his arms around me, which was exactly what I wanted.
In that moment, I wanted time to just disappear. I didn’t want to arrive home and wake up to reality. I didn’t want to figure out what to do with them. I just wanted to be stuck in the backseat of this car. I wanted this moment’s laughter, fun, relaxation and love to continue forever. I didn’t want out good moments ripped away from me by the awful ones.
Back at the apartment, the dreadful familiarity of home greeted me. The place was the same as it had always been, but something was different. Everything felt. . . new. The couch that Ryan and I had bought, the stained tabletop, and the water bottle that I sometimes took with me to college. I knew everything was the same, but they just felt different. It was like someone had made replicas of everything in here. But, it was still home where I lived with Ryan and would live with our baby. I brushed the feeling off as paranoia and walked inside.
The first thing I did when I stepped inside was drop the blanket I was carrying into a laundry basket. I figured I could wash it tomorrow. “Uh, Taylor.”
“Can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Sure.” Ryan took me into our bedroom. I made sure I turned the light on as we walked in. I didn’t want to be in darkness again.
“I told Diego he could stay here for the night.”
I took a minute to think about it before responding. “Alright.”
“Alright?” Ryan repeated, apparently surprised by my agreement. “You aren’t going to argue about it?”
“I never said I wouldn’t argue, but you obviously have a reason, and it better be good.”
“Well, I just think that he could stay here until things get back to normal. He can just sleep on the couch.”tronize
“Okay. Just promise me he won’t become a problem.”
“Oh Diego, no way. Just think of him as, a bodyguard.”
“So now I need protection.”
“You don’t think you need protection?”
“Due to recent, shall we say events, I do need protection, but so do you.”
“I can handle myself.”
“Don’t patronize me Ryan. I can take care of myself.”
“Really, then would you care to explain what happened last night? If you can handle yourself then how come you were taken.”
“Don’t you dare make me the bad guy!”
“Yes, you are! You are blaming be for them capturing me. Me for not breaking free. Me for this whole cra.ppy day!”
“Taylor, I am not doing that!”
“Maybe not intentionally!” I spat at him.
“No. You aren’t the bad guy. You just need someone to watch over you.”
I went over and sat on my side of the bed. “You know Ryan, I think you should just stop talking.”
“Not until you believe me.”
I rubbed my temples, trying to suppress my growing headache. “Please, shut up.”
“Ryan! The more you try to explain it the smaller I feel!” Silent tears started to inch their way down my cheeks. “The more you talk the worse I feel. I just don’t want to be treated as this. . . this thing that needs protection. I am not the same girl I was three years ago. Just treat me as a regular person!” I buried my face in my hands, trying to block out anymore of the argument.
“Taylor. . .” he started but then stopped. I wished that he would just leave me alone. I didn’t want things to get worse than they already were, if that was even possible.
I felt Ryan sit down next to me. He obviously didn’t understand I wanted to be alone. “I. . . I’m sorry. I just. . . I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
I picked my head up and unfortunately started arguing again. “And what about you. I don’t want you hurt either. How is it fair that I am guarded and you’re not? That will only make me worry about you more.” I put my hand on my stomach. “I don’t want our baby to grow up without a father.”
He put his hand over mine. “And I don’t want our baby to not even have the chance to grow up. Today. . .” he sighed. “Today, I thought I was going to lose you. I don’t think I could survive it if I did lose you. So if being protective is a crime then so be it. I just want to know that you are safe.”
“Ryan. . . I don’t want to fight. But I just wouldn’t feel right if I was treated like this. . . I don’t know, sacred thing and you just like. . . a cheap knick knack. You know what I mean?”
“I just. . . I don’t want to be treated like a princess when my knight in shining armor is deeming himself a peasant. Either we are both royals or both peasants. No special treatment.”
He sighed, obviously thinking it over. I thought that I had made a pretty good case for my side. To be honest, a small part of my heart wished that I would get special treatment. After all, I was carrying a baby. But the rest of my heart didn’t want anything else to happen to Ryan.
I tried to figure out which option Ryan would choose. It wasn’t likely he would leave me without protection, so it was really just a matter of if Ryan would be protected. In my mind, I was pretty sure that Ryan would probably stick to his original plan; I have Diego as a sort of bodyguard.
Now I was starting to wonder what was taking Ryan so long to make a decision. Maybe he actually was considering my side.
After a few minutes, I finally got my answer. “What if you only had protection for one day. A kind of probation period. If Diego thinks that they will leave us alone, then you get to protect yourself.”
“And if he doesn’t, then I am stuck with a bodyguard?”
“Basically. So, will you agree to it?”
“I guess. I mean, it’s kind of like queen for a day. I won’t exactly like it, but I’ll give it a go.”
“So truce?” He said pulling a ring out from his pocket. I tried not to be impressed by it, I was still a little pissed at Ryan, but I couldn’t stop staring at it. It was a simple ring, just a silver band and a diamond but that was enough.
I tried to regain my composure, but I wasn’t completely successful. My voice was missing so I nodded. Ryan gently took my right hand and slipped the ring on my finger. In the moment, I found myself kissing him. It wasn’t because I got the ring, or at least I don’t think it was. I think I just wanted to let him know that I wasn’t mad at him, or at the very least not very pissed. When we broke apart , I smiled at Ryan. They couldn’t get between us, I wouldn’t let them. Sure they made us get into a pointless fight, but that is very different than splitting us up, if that is even their goal.
Back in reality, Ryan started getting off the bed. “I should probably go tell Diego,” Ryan said.
“Yeah, sure,” I responded awkwardly. “Besides, I think I should probably change out of these clothes.”
“I’ll leave you to it.” Ryan then walked out of the room, making sure he closed the door on the way out.
After he left, I just sat there for a minute, letting it all soak in. We got home safe and sound. We got into a fight. We settled it. Diego is going to stay here and protect me. We made up. We still love each other. That last part was the most important thing. If Ryan and I didn’t have that then. . . I shook the thought out of my head. That would never happen.
I then got up and went to my dresser. I pulled out an old shirt and a pair of pants along with some dry underwear. I didn’t want to dress in my pajamas if was going to be walking around Diego. It felt like it would be the same as walking outside in my underwear. It was just something you didn’t do.
The first thing I took off were my pants. Only after I took them off did I realize how constricting they were. My legs felt free once the damp snakes were off. However, they left some of their venom behind. I went into the bathroom and got a towel to dry off my legs. Once they were dry, I brought the towel back to the bedroom. Although it probably would have been smarter to have just brought my clothes into the bathroom.
Anyway, I changed my bottoms and started working on my top half. Sure enough, I found that my top was also damp. So I proceeded to pat it dry before getting into dry clothes.
When I finished putting on my top, I heard the door open and close behind me. “Ryan, what are you doing in here?” I asked while turning around to look at him. The figure had managed to find his way into a shadow so I couldn’t see his face. When the figure didn’t move I became fairly certain it wasn’t Ryan.
“Diego?” I questioned, not really wanting an answer. Either way I would feel uncomfortable. The figure shook it’s head.
“Guess again sweetie.” Then he came out of the shadows so I could see his face.
“You. . . you. . . you can’t be here. . .” I stuttered while starting to move away from him.
“Don’t be so sure about that sweetie,” he taunted, starting to move toward me. “Now, we can do this the easy way or the hard way,” he said before clenching his fists.
“Neither!” I shouted at him before running to the bathroom. As soon as I got in I closed and locked the door behind me. Why didn’t I try to go for the door to the living room? I cursed at myself, already knowing the answer. There was no way I could have gotten past him. I never could before.
“Taylor! Open the door!” He started banging on the door and I could see it start to move. Trying to keep him for as long as possible, I pressed myself against the door. My mind started panicking?
How did he get here? Didn’t Ryan hear any of this? If he did, where was he? He loves me! Doesn’t he? Yes of course! So, where was he? Was he letting this happen? Was he unconscious? Where was Diego? Wait, he didn’t care about me. Right? Yeah. What if he was helping my dad? Oh God! Ryan was unconscious, Diego didn’t care about me!
“Taylor!” He yelled through the door. “I am going to give you one last chance. Open this door and no one has to get hurt.” I wouldn’t fall for his tricks like I did before. “3. . .” I. “2. . .” Am. “1. . .” Screwed.
Before the door flew open, I moved away from it. I didn’t want my first injury to be from the door.
He strolled into the room like he was a king. I started moving away from him only to hit the bathtub. Then I realized that I hadn’t grabbed anything to defend myself when I had the advantage. Mentally I cursed at myself while reaching out to grab a bottle of conditioner.
This time he was faster than me and grabbed both my arms and pinned them to my sides. I tried to wrestle my way free as a last attempt to get away from him. “Oh no you don’t. Not this time.” Then he slapped my face, hard. “Are you gonna try anything else you little we.nch.”
I spat it his face. “I am not your little girl anymore. You can’t control me.” Then I managed to get one of my arms loose and dig my nails into him.
He yelped in pain and I smiled at my first small victory. “You little bit.ch!” He screamed at me.” Only then did I realize I had made things worse for myself. He punched me in the stomach, sending me to the floor.
In that moment, I was truly scared of him. Every other time I knew I would heal and the bruises would fade. But this time. . . this time I wasn’t sure if I would heal. “Please!. . . Stop!” I begged him, coughing up a bit of blood.
“Stop?” He said, bending down to my eye level. “You want this to stop?” I nodded, keeping my head down as I shed a tear. “Fine. I’ll make it stop.” He instantly wrapped his hands around my neck. Instinctively, I tried to pull his hands off, but he only tightened his grip.
“I thought you wanted it to stop? But then again you weren’t always the best at saying what you wanted. Like when you said you wanted to come home only to run off a couple days later! You made me start drinking and made your mom leave me! It is all your fault! So, right now, you’re paying for your mistake. If I were to stop, that wouldn’t solve much of anything, unless you were to come with me. But you can’t go runnin’ off again, ya hear. Cause if you do, I swear I will kill you. Ya understand?” By now, my brain had already started shutting down so it sounded like he was whispering, but I still heard every painful word. I managed to make myself nod just to keep him from continuing to choke me. After getting the answer he wanted, he removed his hands from my neck.
While I was gulping down air, he started talking again. “Now that we have that settled, I need you to stay here and be quiet, ya hear?”
“Yes sir. I’ll be quiet. I’m sorry.”
“Good, cause I got some things I need to take care of,” he mumbled to himself as he walked out. I finally broke down and started crying.
“I’m sorry,” I said softly, knowing Ryan wouldn’t be able to hear me. “I’m sorry.”
As time went by, I started to hear Ryan calling my name. I felt so bad that I wasn’t able to do anything to help him. All I could do was listen to Ryan, dying.
When he started getting louder, I thought he might have actually gotten away. I opened my eyes and was ready to stand up and go see him. But instead of him being out of sight, he was right in front of me.
“Ryan!” I hugged him. I didn’t believe that he was still alive. He was combing my hair and it felt so good. I never wanted to forget his touch.
Eventually, I released him and looked him over. He looked the same as he did when he walked out of the bedroom. Why didn’t it look like he had just fought? I mean, didn’t he encounter my dad? “Ryan, how did you get past him?”
“My. . . my. . . my, dad.”
“Taylor, you are scaring me. What are you talking about?”
“He was just here. Wasn’t he?”
“No. I heard you scream and thought. . . well when I got in the bedroom, you had already locked yourself in here. Diego started to pick the lock. When you yelled ‘Please stop!’ I thought someone was in here and I just kicked in the door.
“When we got in here, you were gasping for air. I didn’t know what to do and then you started breathing again. I started calling your name, but you weren’t responding. It was like your mind was somewhere else.” During the entire story, I could tell that Ryan was terrified. He thought I was going to die again and he was powerless. Just like I was when my dad left.
“No,” I said more to myself than to Ryan. “That can’t be true.”
“But I know what I saw. I know what I felt.”
“That isn’t what happened.”
“But. . . It felt, so real.”
“You were hallucinating Taylor. There isn’t any other explanation.” I felt a cough work it’s way through my throat and I covered my mouth with my hand.
“Ryan. You said I hallucinated right?” I asked, not taking my eyes off my hand.
“Yeah.” His voice gained a sense of worry.
“Then how do you explain this,” I asked, showing him the blood on my hand.”
“Internal bleeding. We have to get you to a hospital.” He then grabbed my arm, but I shook his hand off involuntarily.
“It’s fine, just come on.” He raced out of the room, followed by me and Diego. When we got to the living room he tossed me my coat and started putting his on.
Diego started talking, “Ryan, don’t you think I should come?”
“No Diego,” Ryan said, pulling his right arm through his sleeve. “Just stay here.”
“But don’t you think-”
“Diego. I don’t have time to argue right now. Just stay here. I’ll call and let you know what we’re going to do. Okay?”
“Fine,” Diego grumbled.
“Thank you,” Ryan breathed, pushing me out the front door. Once we got out the door he rushed me to the elevator and pushed the down button frantically.
“Ryan, why did you tell Diego to stay behind?” I asked while waiting for the elevator.
“He just doesn’t need to deal with hospital stuff,” Ryan told me, walking into the elevator that finally arrived. “Besides, three's a crowd.”
Inside the elevator, the air was so filled with anxiety that it was almost tangible. I could tell Ryan wanted to ask me a question, but remained silent. I didn’t know what to say, so the air stayed silent. When I coughed again, more blood came out. Ryan started repeatedly pressing the parking garage button as if that would make the elevator go faster.
Arriving at the garage, it seemed that Ryan couldn’t get me to his car fast enough. That was when I noticed my car was parked right next to his. How did I miss that earlier? “Ryan, when did my car get here?” I asked while getting into the passenger side, already coughing up more blood.
“We brought it back earlier,” he blurted out, starting the car in the same moment. Ryan then rapidly backed up and drove out of the garage, earning him a few well-deserved honks.
“Uh, Ryan? Do you think you think you could ease up on the gas? I mean the hospital is only ten minutes-” Another bloody cough interrupted me.
The car slowed down and I took a deep breath, but was greeted with more coughs and blood. “Thanks,” I managed to get out.
“Sure,” Ryan mumbled. Something was bothering him, and I was pretty sure I knew what it was. But I would let him tell me. I know I would want the same courtesy.
“What’s wrong Ryan?”
“I. . . It’s. . . I just don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh,” I said defeated. From then on, it was a quiet nine minutes to the hospital. I kept on wanting to talk, but I couldn’t find a neutral subject that was even worth discussing. The only sounds that occupied the silence were the sounds of car’s driving by and my occasional coughs.
When we finally arrived at the hospital’s entrance, Ryan told me to get out and he would come in after he parked the car. At first, I wondered why he would say that, but kept my question to myself as I got out.
Walking in, I saw that the hospital was quiet with few people waiting in chairs. Mostly, it was just medical personnel walking around. That was when my question got answered. In here there were a lot of witnesses and a lot of good people. Rob and his people wouldn’t dare try anything if they were smart. I felt safe in here, although I would have felt safer in Ryan’s arms.
I walked toward the lady behind the front desk. As I got closer, she glanced up from her computer screen.
“Excuse me,” I said once I got the desk.
“What can I help you with miss?”
“Well, I’ve been coughing-” I managed to get out my napkin before I was hit with another cough. I made sure that I caught the blood in the napkin. After I finished coughing, I showed the lady the napkin.”I’m coughing up blood.”
The lady looked a but shocked when I showed her the bloody napkin, but she quickly shook it off. “Jimmy,” she called to a passing doctor. “I need you to take this woman to exam room two.” The man, Jimmy, then came over and took me to exam room two.
He closed the door as I hopped onto the table. “So what seems to be the problem?”
I sighed and showed him the blood. “I’ve been coughing up blood.” Tonight was going to be a long night.
❀ Smiling but Close to Tears
I was in the hospital bed, waiting for Jimmy to come back with the test results. Ryan was sitting next to me. He was surprisingly calmer than I expected. Calmer than me. Then again, he didn’t have to deal with the abdominal pain I felt every time I moved. Although, the pain killers did help take me me from a seven to a five.
Then the Jimmy came in. “Well. . . I have good news and bad news.” I felt Ryan tighten his grip around my left hand.
“What’s the good news?” I asked, trying to find a positive in this messy situation
“The good news is that the abdominal bleeding isn’t major. But I would like to keep Mikayla here for observation.” Jimmy then stopped talking. I wondered why he didn’t just come out and tell us the bad news.
“Is there any other good news?”
“Well,” he started, looking toward the ceiling. “Yes and no.”
“What do you mean?” Ryan asked, his grip getting so tight that it hurt. I squeezed his hand to try and tell him it would be alright.
“On Mikayla’s x-ray, I spotted an abnormal mass in her lung. It was mostly likely a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung. Once that was spotted, we took you back to test the lung to see if it really was a clot.”
“So that was why I went back.”
“Yes, well we have the results of that, and there is no blood clot in your lungs.”
“That’s good news, isn’t it?” Ryan asked.
“All it means is that she is fine right now. But we don’t where the clot went. It may have been broken up, but I can’t be entirely sure.”
“So, what’s the plan Jimmy?” I hoped that it wouldn’t involved any sort of surgery.
“You said you had no family history of blood clots?”
“The clot may have been caused by a deep-vein thrombosis or because of the abdominal bleeding, but I can’t be sure. Right now, there are two ways to deal with it. You could go on a blood thinner to prevent any further clots. Or you could just stay here under observation for at least another day, maybe two.”
“Jimmy, let’s say I did go on a blood thinner, wouldn’t that prolong the internal bleeding? I mean, doesn’t it heal or at least stop bleeding when the blood clots?”
“Technically yes, but in your case, I would think that you body has already started to clot if it hasn’t already stopped the bleeding.”
“If it’s all the same to you Jimmy, I think I’ll be safe and just stay off blood thinners. Besides, you said I’d already be under observation because of the internal bleeding. What’s one more day going to do?”
“Alright,” he said, almost relieved I hadn’t chosen blood thinners. “Well, I need to check on one of my other patients. I’ll check on you tomorrow Mikayla.” I noticed that as he talked, he started sweating. He also seemed to talk slightly faster as he went along. I started to think that he was hiding something from me, but I then thought I could have just been imagining things.
“Hey doc, can I talk to you for a sec?” Ryan asked as Jimmy was leaving. Jimmy nodded and the two men fled to the hallway. I couldn’t hear them, so I looked at the clock to my left. The hands read two twenty seven. How did it get to be so late? I didn’t know what to do, so I continued to stare at the clock.
When two minutes had passed, I started wondering where Ryan was. Maybe he got into a long conversation with Jimmy. Maybe he got hungry and was getting a candy bar. Maybe he had to use the bathroom.
In any case, I didn’t want to spend any more time just staring at a clock. It was boring enough just waiting, but the near deafening silence coupled with the mundane image of the clock was slowly gnawing away at my sanity.
I decided to close my eyes and try to find something to occupy the empty silence in my mind.
When my mind couldn’t quickly come up with something, I became frustrated. I rolled onto my side, thinking that moving might help me come up with an idea. All I found was more abdominal pain. I put my hand on my stomach. Maybe I thought it would make the pain go away or maybe it was instinct, but the motion did me some good. My mind finally had a subject for me to think about; my baby.
My first thought was names. There were so many names I could choose from for a boy or girl. I stuck with the subject and started thinking of girl names. Megan. . . Crystal. . . Janelle. . . Arianne. . . Lucinda. . . Felicia. . . just so many names to choose from. To help me concentrate, I closed my eyes. Brianna. . . Naomi. . . Nicole. . . Samantha. . . Paula. . . Edera. . . Diana. . . Kathryn. . . Alexa. . . Gwen. . . I just needed to narrow the names down.
After a while, I had my three favorites; Heather, Kathryn, or Rachel. All three sounded pretty, too pretty to choose from. I started imagining what life would be like with a daughter.
The fantasy took place in a park. Our little girl was about five. She was playing on a slide while Ryan and I sat on a bench. “Taylor, we’re going to have to leave soon.”
“I know, but she looks so happy, I’d hate to end that.”
“Yeah, I know. Remember the first time we played tennis”
“You mean when I kicked your ass in tennis.”
“Well it’s like that. All good things have to come to an end.”
“You call getting beat in tennis a good time?”
“You were happy weren’t you?”
“Then we had a good time.” He then kissed my forehead. “Rachel!” Ryan called to a little girl, our daughter. Rachel came over to us.
“Daddy, can I please just stay three more minutes,” she pleaded. She pulled out her big brown puppy dog eyes that she must have used a thousand times before.
“Sweetie, you know Miss Gates doesn’t like it when her ballerinas are late.” Rachel started frowning and tugged on just the right strings in my heart.
“What’s a few minutes gonna do?” I asked. looking at my daughter. A smile began to show on her face. “You go over to the swings. Mommy’ll join you in a sec.” Rachel then ran excitedly toward the swings.
“You know what Lala will say when were late.”
“I’ll handle Lala. Right now, I want our daughter to spend some time living in the moment.” I started walking toward the swings as I delved deeper into the dream
* * * * *
When I woke up, I felt refreshed and. . . tranquil. the dream put me at ease. I loved the life that the three of us had in that dream. It was so sweet that I couldn’t wait to make it a reality.
Opening my eyes, the first thing I saw was Ryan’s head. He must have fallen asleep. He looked so cute when he slept. I looked up at the clock, wondering how long I had been asleep. The hands read nine eleven. How did I sleep seven hours when I wasn’t even tired?
I couldn’t think of answer, so I decided to stretch out. My arms would no doubt be stiff by now. Before I could stretch my arms, I noticed that something was gripping my left hand; no doubt Ryan’s hand. I lightly squeezed it, wanting to see him wake up. Looking back, I probably should have let him sleep.
After I squeezed his hand, he began to stir. I tousled his hair with my free hand, hoping to get him up faster. Once his head was up I smiled at him. “Morning sunshine,” I beamed in the cheeriest voice I could muster.
“Hey,” he said groggily. “What time is it?”
“After nine. How ya feelin’?”
“I’m actually feeling good. I had this amazing dream about Rachel.”
“Oh, I got bored so I started thinking about names for our baby.”
“Taylor, I need to tell you something about our baby.”
“So do I. Rachel will be this sweet little girl that is just the cutest little button, and she loves to dance, especially ballet and-”
“Taylor,” Ryan said quietly. He spoke like he was defeated and calling a truce. Like my telling him about our little girl were blows to his heart. I stopped talking, wanting to learn what was causing him pain. “Please. Don’t talk about Rachel.” His voice was pained.
“Why? I mean, don’t you want to know what your daughter might be like?”
He sighed. Ryan always did that when he was thinking about how to say something important. It made me worry about what he was going to say. “Taylor. . . “ He paused. Now I was really scared. “I don’t want to tell you this, but. . . you had. . . you had a miscarriage.”
I let go of Ryan’s hand as my vision was instantly clouded by tears forming. I replayed the words in my head, trying to make sense of them. All that I got were words that didn’t make sense in my head. “A. . . miscarriage?” The word still felt foreign and tasted like vinegar. Ryan just sat there and nodded. I could see him trying to hold back tears. “I. . . I couldn’t have had a miscarriage.” Words weren’t making too much sense anymore. “The doctor must have messed up.”
“No,” Ryan managed to tell me. “Jimmy ran the test twice himself. Your hormone levels were normal. You’re not pregnant anymore.” A single tear escaped his eye.
“No. No, no!” I wailed. My head easily slid into my hands as the tears flowed. Ryan wrapped his arms around me and I did the same to him. I could feel his hug tighten as time went by and my tear ducts dried out. He would do his best to protect me. He didn’t want anything else to happen to me, but we both knew he wasn’t Superman. He couldn’t stop danger at every turn. He could just do the best any normal loving fiancé could do.
After a while, I finally released Ryan. I could see the lines where the tears had fallen from his eyes. He flashed a smile that told me everything would be alright. In response, I wiped my eyes that were already dry and I took a deep breath. I needed to be strong if I was going to get through this. Maybe Ryan could lend me some of his strength.
“Ryan,” I started, trying to start being strong. “Do you think that you could get me something to eat. I’m starving.”
“Sure Taylor, anything you want.” Ryan left the room to get me some breakfast. I was left alone with my thoughts and misery. Those bastards had taken my child away from me. They put me in the hospital and they were going to get away with it. I stared at the ceiling, wishing that things were different. Wishing that the murderers were dead.
* * * * *
It was some time near ten when Jimmy checked in on me for the fourth time. Hopefully it would be the last time.
The first time he checked on me it was eleven thirty. He just came in to see how I was doing. Physically, I felt better but I felt like breaking down emotionally. But I would never tell him that. During our first session, he told me that I was doing good, but I thought I was already doing good. Brushing away the thought, he took me to do some more tests.
At around three he came back with the results. Jimmy said that my tests showed that I was recovering beautifully. His exact words were, “You seem to be recovering rapidly. In fact, you can barely tell that there was anything wrong. It’s as if your body is just magically healing itself.” I took it as a compliment.
Five hours later, he returned. He asked if I was feeling any abdominal pain or trouble breathing. My response was that I felt great. His next task was to lightly apply pressure to my abdomen. Jimmy asked if I felt any pain and I replied no.
“How much longer does she have to stay here doc?” She told you that she feels fine. You even said that she’s perfectly healthy and you couldn’t tell that there was anything wrong with her.”
“I may have said that Mr. Sanchez, but you have to realize that less than twenty four hours ago, Miss Keternick was coughing up blood and bleeding internally. It is a virtual miracle that she has recovered as quickly and as much as she has. I would like to keep her under observation another hour or two just to make sure that this isn’t temporary.”
I sensed that Ryan wanted to argue the point some more, so I made sure to speak before he could. “Gabriel, if Jimmy thinks that I should stay under observation that that’s exactly what I’ll do.” I turned to face Jimmy. “Sorry, I think that I can manage staying here another hour or two.” I then flashed him an apologetic smile so that he could leave. Sure enough he did.
After Jimmy left, Ryan started to argue his case to me. “How could you let him keep you captive Taylor?”
“Ryan, I am an adult and I can decide what happens to me. Besides, it’s only a few hours, what difference will it make?”
“Hours, minutes, seconds, just time in general. It all mattered before and it all matters now!”
“What do you mean b-” I realized what he must have been talking about. “But I’m fine now.”
“I know that you say that, but I just. . . I don’t ever want you not to be fine. I don’t want to waste any time anymore.” I could clearly hear the sincerity in his voice and see the pain written on his face.
“Ryan, while I don’t disagree with you. . . let me tell you things from my perspective. If you rush your life, recovery, work, anything, you are bound to make mistakes. Small or fatal, they will appear. I think it is better to slow down and smell roses.” I smiled at him, hoping and knowing he would understand.
Ryan then smelled my hair. “Mmm. You smell like roses.” We exchanged smiles and laughs with each other, knowing how silly Ryan was. After that, Ryan didn’t bring up the subject again.
Now it was ten o’clock and it seemed like everything was being done in slow motion. When I was finally allowed out of my bed, Jimmy tried to convince me that I should be wheeled out. His efforts were unsuccessful. I needed to walk out on my own.
As I was walking out, I could tell that Jimmy didn’t like this. His hands were in his pockets, he made sure that he always kept pace with me in case I had any trouble whatsoever, and I was pretty sure that he was starting to sweat. Plus, I just had this gut feeling. The air around him stunk of anxiety. It was like he didn’t trust my quick recovery. He thought that it must have been a fluke or temporary. There was no way she could have recovered that quickly. She shouldn’t be leaving. Pulmonary embolisms and abdominal bleeds don’t just heal overnight.
Woah, did I just read his thoughts? No, I must be imagining his thoughts. It is impossible to read someone’s exact thoughts.
Once we reached the edge of the hospital, we stopped walking. I grabbed Ryan’s hand and the two of us started walking toward his car. Jimmy stayed at the hospital. It felt like he was watching me walk away, waiting for something to happen. At one point, I heard him call, “Take care of yourself.” I turned around for a second to call back to him, but he was no longer at the doors. Maybe I was just hearing things.
The car ride home was very boring. I spent a majority of the time just staring out the window, waiting for Ryan to say something. Something was preoccupying his mind, I just couldn’t figure out what. Probably something to do with me, but it’s just a pure conjecture. There was no way to know for sure unless he told me. I didn’t feel like prying, so our ride was almost purely silent. It scared me.
Diego had been waiting at the apartment and when we walked in, he seemed genuinely happy to see both of us. “Hey you two,” he grinned, getting up from his position on the couch. “ I see that Taylor’s all better.”
“In one way,” I mumbled. I didn’t really want Diego to know what had happened. He didn’t need to know.
“Well you’re here, so at least it was nothing fatal.” I then saw Ryan bump Diego’s shoulder. Diego took it as a hint to shut up.
“Taylor is perfectly healthy,” Ryan started explaining. “There is nothing wrong with her.” He chose his words carefully.
“Except for the fact that I basically healed overnight,” I stated.
“That isn’t a curse,” Diego said. “It’s a miracle.”
“The doctor even thought so,” Ryan chimed in.
“Okay, so my body is healed. What does that matter?” I took a seat on the couch.
“It means you’re not dying,” Diego told me, sitting down next to me. I could feel the joy emanating from him, but I didn’t want to accept any.
I started focusing on Diego. “Really. You think that not having any injuries means that I’m not dying?”
“Don’t you think that?”
I looked up at Ryan. “You didn’t tell him?”
“I thought that he didn’t need to know. Or at the very least hear it from me.” Ryan was right, Diego didn’t need to know before, but now he did.
“Know what?” Diego asked, standing up because he didn’t like being left out of the secret.
“Just the fact that-”
“You don’t need to tell him.”
I stood up and looked Ryan in the eyes. “If he’s going to be staying with us, he should know.” I turned toward Diego. “I had a miscarriage. My unborn baby is dead.” I threw the words at him, hoping that they wouldn’t come back at me.
“I’m so sorry.” He seemed genuine and his joy was mostly gone, but I wasn’t finished.
“I don’t need your sympathy. She is gone and there is nothing anyone can do to bring her back.” I felt tears starting to build behind my eyes.
“Taylor. Stop saying this stuff. You’re tormenting yourself.”
“No, I’m just telling him what happened. That’s it.” Truth be told, I knew he was right and a single tear leaked out because of it and because of my dead baby.
“You are blaming him for it.”
“I am not!”
“Then you are blaming yourself.” Ryan pushed Diego out of the way and grabbed my shoulders to make me look him in the eyes. “This was no one’s fault.”
“You don’t believe that.” And I knew that for sure. I knew who we both blamed.
“Maybe not, but you can’t pin the blame on someone that had nothing to do with it.”
I sniffled and another tear escaped out of my other eye. I knew Ryan was right, partially. We both knew it was the fault of ASS. Those bastards couldn’t just hurt, they have to take away your world to be satisfied.
“You know something?” You two guys haven’t had much time to talk, have you? I think I’ll just go wash up and leave you two to chat.” I walked out of the room as normally as possible.”
Once I reached the bathroom inside our bedroom, I instantly locked the door. It surprised me that the lock actually worked. Maybe Ryan didn’t kick in the door like he said. I didn’t really care right now, so I just started the shower. Undressing was a chore because I always had to look at my stomach. I had to truly accept that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I stepped into the water, hoping it could possibly wash the tears, the pain, and the memories away and carry it far away. It couldn’t.
After my quick shower, I got ready for bed. The routine was monotonous and I found my mind easily wandered. Feeling to weary to stop it, it wandered to subjects that I’d rather forget.
In bed, my mind tortured me as the gentle realms of dreams never graced me. The only company that I knew I had was the silent tears that I cried.
* * * * *
“Ryan,” I whispered softly. “Are you awake?”
“Yeah,” he whispered just as softly.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Why can’t you sleep?” Ryan didn’t say anything, but I had a pretty good idea of what he was thinking about. “Yeah, I can’t sleep for the same reason.”
“I didn’t even say anything.”
I rolled onto my left side to face him. “You don’t always need someone to tell you what they are thinking. Sometimes you just know.”
“I know what you mean.” Then the air filled with unspoken words. It was maddening.
“Ryan. Remember when you promised me you wouldn’t let anything happen to me?”
“It’s a crystal clear memory for me.”
“Could you instead promise never to let me go?”
“That’s a pretty tall order. You sure you want it?”
“I’m positive.” I begged with my eyes even though I knew he couldn’t see them. We were in almost complete darkness. The moon was shining through the window. It was enough light to keep me from panicking.
Ryan sighed. “I promised not to let you go.” He then hugged me and I kissed him. Tonight was going to be a long night with a great chance that no one would sleep.
❀ More Than What Meets The Eye
I opened my eyes; the room was brightened by sunlight now. Still feeling tired, I laid still in bed for a while. Memories of last night’s highs and lows slowly seeped into my consciousness. Some of the better parts made me want to moan, but I kept quiet.
Eventually, I had to stop remembering last night and get out of bed. When I tried to move I found my body movements partially limited. I reached my hand to my shoulder and felt another hand. Ryan. He hadn’t let go of me all night. I loved him even more.
I gently lifted his hand and then turned to face him. Then I put his hand back on my shoulder. His touch felt so warm and so soft. I kissed him on the lips and sparks graced my lips. Ryan then started to stir. Igniting the sparks again, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment.
When I released his lips, I didn’t immediately open my eyes. The fire on my lips burned for a few seconds before slowly fading away. My eyes opened while the fire faded. A pair of gorgeous blue eyes that were as deep and as blue as the ocean lovingly looked at me. “Morning,” I whispered to him.
“And a good morning to you too,” he replied. “Why’d you wake me up anyway?”
“You kept your promise,” I told him, looking down at the pillow. “I wanted to thank you.”
“It was nothing,” he said, kissing my forehead. “ A rose can be very delicate. Plus, I love seeing you smile.” I smiled and he smiled warmly and lovingly. I loved it when Ryan smiled. He probably didn’t even know that it made me feel warm, loved and. . . complete. I started wondering if my smile did that to him.
After a blissful moment of smiling at each other, Ryan started talking. “How did I ever end up with such a beautiful angel?”
“I’m not an angel,” I told Ryan while turning away from him. The word angel didn’t make me feel good inside.
“From what I see, you are an angel. Why would you think otherwise?”
“Because angels are perfect,” I told him. “And I’m not,” I whispered to myself. A tear unexpectedly fell out of my eye.
“Taylor,” he sang. “Angels aren’t perfect either.”
“How would you know?”
“Because I’ve met one already.”
“Who?” I asked, not believing him.
“I’m looking at her right now.”
“Ryan. Don’t call me an angel.” I tried to be angry at him, but instead I sounded sad.
“Taylor.” He said lovingly. “There is no reason-”
“Yes there is.” Another tear spilled out.
“And what would that be?” He really did want to know.
“Angels don’t make mistakes. They don’t feel pain. They are celestial beings that can only spread good and damn the wicked. They have wings so that they can soar and powers to help them accomplish the missions. I have no such things and can do no such thing.” My voice started cracking as I talked and tears unfortunately started coming down more frequently. I buried my face into my pillow. Ryan didn’t need to see me like this. He shouldn’t see me like this.
“Taylor,” Ryan gently whispered. He stroked my arm, trying to comfort me. I wanted it to work, but it couldn’t. “You do spread good. You have wings that you use to help lift me when I am in a deep dark hole. You have this glow in you that when you show it is so bright that no darkness can come near you.” He kissed my head. “By my definition, you are an angel.”
“Then tell me Ryan,” I said, picking my face up and turning toward him. “What good have I done? By my account, I told you I was pregnant then a couple of hours later I have a miscarriage and that was after I almost died. And the entire time I was gone you were probably worried, panicked, frantic, maybe a combination. How is that any good?” I started, sitting up. “Angels don’t do that. They are symbols of hope and good. All I’ve done is make mistakes and make you suffer!” He put his arms around me, trying to comfort me.
“Sorry, you didn’t deserve that. I just. . . don’t want to be told that I’m something I’m not.”
“Okay,” he whispered, kissing my ear. “How ‘bout I call you an angel-in-training?”
“You have your highs and lows, but you do spread some good and you do shine light sometimes. There are no expectation for you to be perfect.”
“Alright,” I agreed. “Although, I know that’s not what you believe.” To be honest, I was starting to like the idea of an angel-in-training. Ryan was my teacher. He deserved the title of angel, not me.
“Yeah, I think you're underestimating your abilities, but it’s not what I think or believe that matters,” he kissed the top of my head.” It only matter what you think or believe.” Ryan always did know what to say. Although having a nice voice the made my heart melt in love’s fire didn’t hurt either.
I turned my head around to kiss him. Ryan deserved it for putting up with all my problems. But then again, I didn’t mind giving him the little gifts.
After a second I stopped. “Hey Ryan.”
“If I’m going to be an angel-in-training, I am going to need one very important thing.”
“What’s that?” He played along.
“What, no wings?”
“No, I have to earn my wings.”
“Well,” he said, hugging me tighter. “I’ll make sure to get you a halo sometime today.” I giggled at our silliness even though I knew Ryan was actually going to get me a halo.
After I stopped giggling, I just sat here. Being in his embrace felt so wonderful, but. . . I knew I couldn’t stay there forever. The moment wasn’t frozen in time, it was burning up minutes. How could something that felt so right be wrong?
Eventually, I felt Ryan start to move. We had to separate from each other “I should probably. . . um. . .” I said awkwardly.
“Yeah. And I should too.”
“Mm hm,” I nodded. From there, I had to get out of bed. I threw on some clothes. Which ones didn’t matter to me, I wasn’t planning on going to classes today. I couldn’t with what had just happened.
Once I was finished dressing, I turned around and was greeted by Ryan’s smiling face. He placed a quick kiss on my lips and I couldn’t help but kiss him back. “For what it’s worth, you look beautiful for an angel-in-training.”
“Too bad no one besides you and Diego are going to see me today.”
“You never know. You might get the sudden urge to just go out and have fun.”
“Oh really,” I played along. “And you just might have the urge to something so spur of the moment that you’ll end up coming home with a puppy.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I just might. But right now, my main priority is keeping you safe.”
“So no heat of the moment trips to New York or DC?” I joked.
“No, maybe another time. Right now. . .”
“Right now you should wake up Diego. After that, you need to get ready and go to work.”
“I know, I am your main priority.”
“Yeah and I don’t really care about work right now.”
“While I know that’s true, it’s still part of your normal routine. Yes cr.ap is going on all around us, but I still want to keep some normalcy in our lives. We have Diego here now. We don’t need to put our lives on hold.”
“Taylor. You withdrew from college. I know that you hated doing that. How can you tell me not to put my life on hold when you have?”
“Because, I know that you can take care of yourself. I’d rather stay here until things calm down instead of being moved to a safe house.”
“Moving to a safe house?”
“Yeah. Isn’t that Diego’s plan?”
“Not that I know.”
“Well anyway, I want us to keep living as normal a life as possible. Even if that means I have to send you off to work.” I quickly landed a kiss on him so he couldn’t protest. “I’ll meet you in a couple of minutes. I have to freshen up.” Then I walked to the bathroom and got ready to face the day.
* * * * *
It was already nine o’clock and Ryan still wasn’t home. He was normally home by eight thirty at the very latest. My nerves were getting the best of me and I was beginning to let paranoia take over. He’s just in traffic. No, he can’t be in traffic, he would have called. Maybe he was in an accident. Oh g.od I hope that didn’t happen. But, if he was, then wouldn’t the hospital have already called. Not if it just happened. Or if he was unconscious or if they didn’t know I was his fiancée. Wait, Wouldn’t they look up Gabriel Sanchez and see my contact info? Yeah. So he wasn’t in an accident. Good.
So if he’s not in an accident or stuck in traffic he must be at work. He’s been gone for two days, he must have a pile of work. But why hasn’t he called me? He normally tells me when he has to work late. He hasn’t called. Why hasn’t he called?!
While I was panicking, Diego’s attitude was aggravating me. I had already told him that Ryan should be home and he told me not to stress out about it. His nonchalance wasn’t helping me.
After another five minutes passed, I had decided something was very very wrong. I picked up my phone to call him when it started vibrating. The phone told me I had a text from Ryan. Acting quickly, I opened the text and read it.
Taylor. Got stuck at the office. I won’t be home for a while. I’m sorry and I love you. -Ryan
As I read it, I became content with the bittersweet curveball life had thrown at me. I had my answer, just not the one I wanted.
Disappointed, I went into the kitchen and got a Lean Cuisine meal from the fridge. I would rather have cooked an actual meal, but I rarely did that when I was alone. I loved the smells that rose when the food was nearly done and how the spices created such a heavenly aroma. Doing that just for myself never felt good.
After I microwaved my meal, I plopped down on the couch next to Diego. A few bites in and Diego started asking questions. “I thought you were waiting for Ryan to come back.”
I made sure to swallow before answering. “I was.”
“Then why are you eating?”
“Because Ryan got hung up at work.” I told him.
“Don’t be. I should have expected as much. He hasn’t been at work for two days. I wouldn’t be surprised if Darren didn’t send him home until after midnight.”
“Ryan’s boss. Ryan has told me that Darren is like a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts. He is normally a good man, or at least he portrays himself to be, but when things need to get done, like crunch time, he can turn into a monster.”
“Really.” Diego sounded like he was interested.
“Yeah. I’ve met him a couple of times. He does seem like a really nice person. I can’t really see him becoming a monster, but that’s where the Jekyll and Hyde comes in. He apparently has two different sides to him. I’ve only seen the Jekyll side.”
“You really do like to see the good in people. Don’t you?”
“You like to believe that people are good.”
“If you want to believe that, sure.”
“No, you need to see the good in people. From what I’ve seen, you can’t accept that everyone is all bad.”
“So what if I do that, and that’s a big if, why’s it matter to you?”
“It helps me know what kind of person you are.”
“Your point?” Diego was really starting to annoy me. I just wanted to eat my food.
“Point is, you are an optimist. You can only see people’s glasses as half full. You have shielded yourself from all the bad in the world so you can only see the good. It’s probably why Ryan loves you so much.” Diego’s voice dropped on the last sentence.
“So, you think I can only see the glass as full?”
“That’s what I just said. For agents, like me, or in this case Ryan, that’s something we can’t do. We’ve only see the worst in people and that’s why a lot of us, well, we’re like what we’re like. Optimism is a rare quality, for us anyway. People like you, you remind us why we do what we do. You keep our humanity alive.” His voice got quieter as he went, almost like he was sharing information that would get him killed if anyone else heard. And yet I knew he was genuine and proud that I was an optimist.
“Okay, optimism is good, let’s stick with that.”
“And you know I’m optimistic because. . .”
“You said Jekyll and Hyde.”
“You get that whole long spiel of conjecture about me because I said Jekyll and Hyde?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
“Wow. I think you’re analyzing, or studying or whatevering me too much.”
“No, I’m just trying to figure out. . . never mind.” His inability to explain his intrigue caught me a bit off guard. What did he want to figure out? “So, quick question. Meet any Hydes yet?”
“Hydes. No, a few if any.”
“You ever seen Ryan’s Hyde,” he mumbled. It seemed like he was ashamed to ask it.
“Not recently. When he gets really stressed or angry at the world, then it comes out, but I know he tries to keep it locked up.”
“Well, um. . . that’s good.”
“Yeah.” A silence fell between us. I kept waiting for Diego to ask the question I knew he wanted to ask, but he didn’t break his silence.
“You know Diego from what I’ve seen, you are not a monster. You do dark things, but you do it for a good reason. What makes a person a monster is when they hurt, torture, or murder. . . for no reason.” Diego had been looking at the floor the entire time. It seemed like he didn’t want to hear a word I said.
I put a comforting hand on his shoulder, which made him look at me. “Hey, you are a good guy.”
“I already knew that,” he said, removing my hand from his shoulder.
“Of course you did,” I replied sarcastically. “Just like I knew I was a celestial being.”
“Oh, nothing important. Ryan and I just. . . sometimes we call each other different things. You know?”
“Actually, no, but I’m not questioning what you two do.” Then the room became quiet again. I started eating again and Diego turned on the TV. I guess he didn’t want to talk anymore, but I wasn’t complaining.
When I was nearly finished with my meal, I had the strangest urge to look at the clock. It was five minutes before ten. I wondered how the time had flown by so quickly.
Instead of wondering, I quickly finished my meal and cleaned up. “Hey Diego,” I called from the kitchen. “It’s nearly ten you should probably start getting ready to sleep.” I felt awkward telling Diego what to do.
“Don’t worry about me. You just get some shut eye, alright?”
“Okay. . . well. . . good night.” I said before scurrying to my room.
“Night,” he called before I shut the bedroom door. As I leaned my back against the door, I breathed a quick sigh of relief. It wasn’t because I was free of Diego, actually, it kind of was. Whenever I was around him, I didn’t feel right. I would like to think that it’s because were just too different to relate, but that can’t be true. After all, we both care for Ryan. Which brings me back to the question of why I felt awkward around him. Maybe it was because one of us wasn’t making the effort to connect with the other. Although, I’m not entirely sure which one of us is doing that.
Continuing to think about it, I started getting ready for bed. By 10:30 I had no definitive conclusions, so I just laid in bed. Trying to clear my mind, I stopped trying to come up with an answer. As I laid in bed, I only wished for one thing. I wanted Ryan to come home, lay with me in bed, and fall into a blissfully beautiful sleep. None of the three happened.
When I woke up in the morning. I rolled over to my left side, waiting to be greeted by Ryan’s face. The only thing I was greeted by was an empty side of the bed. I blinked a couple of times to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. They weren’t.
I got off the bed and stared at it. I didn’t want to believe that he wasn’t here, but my mind wouldn’t comfort me. He hadn’t been here all night.
I quickly changed into a shirt and jeans before I burst into the living room. “Diego! He’s not here!”
“I know,” he told me calmly. He was sitting on the sofa, almost like he was expecting me to explode.
“You know? How? Were you up all night?!”
“Yes,” he said coldly, looking me directly in the eyes. But I knew better; he was lying.
“So what if I am, does that make a difference?”
“Yes! Because you are not telling me something! You’re covering for him!” I yelled at Diego.
“No, I’m not! I am just handling it differently than you!”
“Ugh,” I groaned turning away from. “And I thought we were making progress” Diego started to retaliate, but I paid little attention to him. All my attention was directed at an odd piece of folded red paper on the floor. My curiosity got the best of me and I started walking toward it. As I stopped right in front of the door, I picked the little thing up. I looked at it quizzically as I turned it over.
“How long has this been here?” I interrupted Diego while turning to face him.
“What are you talking about!?” He asked angrily. He steamed with fury.
“This piece of paper. How long has it been on the floor?”
Diego quickly glanced at the paper before answering, “I haven’t seen that before.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m positive! I did not see that before.” I didn’t want to believe him, but would I really want to accuse him of lying again?
“Fine. Let’s just see what it is.” Diego moved to my left side. I opened the scarlet letter carefully.
When I saw the words, I wished that I had left the letter alone.
“No!” I cried as I finished reading the letter. “No, this. . . this can’t be happening. . . it can’t. . . it just can’t!” I threw the letter to the ground. I didn’t want it to be real.
Diego picked up the letter and studied it for a couple seconds. “I’m sorry Taylor, but it looks legit.”
“No, no. Someone has to, has to be playing just a cruel joke. A stupid, awful, cruel joke. That’s all.” Teas were starting to make lines on my face.
“Be rational. Would anyone you know do something like this?” I shook my head and mouthed no. “Then this has to be real.”
“Okay,” I sniffled. “So what if this is real. Should I just do as they ask?”
“No. That is the exact response they want you to have. It’s a trap.”
“You think I don’t know that,” I told him, raising my voice, but not quite yelling at him. “I’ve seen enough shows and have my instincts and intuition to know that. But do I really want them to keep Ryan?”
“I’ve dealt with them before. They won’t kill him.”
“I guess they also told you they wouldn’t kill me either. Right?” I sighed. “I just can’t take that chance.” I snatched the paper from him and picked up my keys. Before I could get out the door, Diego blocked my path. “Please Diego.”
“Look, I don’t want to stop you. I’m going with you. I would feel a thousand times better knowing that you’re not walking into this blind.”
“Since when do you care?” I sneered at him.
“Since I made a promise to Ryan that I would protect you.” He moved out of the way and we both got into my car. A couple of miles from the meeting site, I dropped Diego off. Showing up with a person, let alone an agent, would have just caused trouble. The letter smelled of deceit and darkness, but, I loved Ryan. There really wasn’t much option for me.
When I pulled up to the edge of the field, I could see two black cars already parked. Each had a driver that wore black sunglasses and looked straight ahead. The could show no emotion and just kept their focus. A big, tall man was leaning against the car on my right. He wore a plain black suit, like a businessman would wear, and also wore sunglasses. The man seemed scary, but the most human of the three, but I knew he was also just as dangerous.
I parked and got out of the car slowly. I prayed that Diego would actually keep his word and protect me.
As I approached the tall man, he took his glasses off. When I stopped a couple feet away from him he quickly looked me over and then nodded. “In the car,” he told me.
No wanting him to know what Diego and I were up to, I slowly walked to the side. In the few seconds I spent walking I kept wondering where Diego was. If he was going to do something he had better do it quick.
Once at the door, the man thrust the door open and shoved me inside. He squeezed himself through the door and slammed it shut. I sat down, facing the front and the man took a seat opposite of me. Before I had a chance to realize there were no seat belts, the car jerked to life and we started speeding away.
“So sugar, how ya doin’?”He asked a bit too friendly.
I had been looking at the floor, but now I picked my head up. I looked him directly in the eyes. “Go to hell.”
I waited for a facial reaction, but there was none. Just, “Don’t worry doll face. We’ll be there soon enough. Just you wait.” He smirked and I looked away from him again. What had I gotten myself into?
During most of the trip, I wondered about what had happened to Diego and what would happen to Ryan. I cared much more about Ryan and focused more on him. He would probably be mad at me, but I didn’t care at this moment. I would definitely regret it later, but right now, I was trying to save his life.
When we finally stopped, the man took out his gun. “You try to escape and I will shoot you.” I believed the threat and then the man got me out of the car. The first thing I saw was blinding sunlight. As I regained my vision, the man pushed me in a direction. When I could see, I saw that I was heading toward what looked to be an abandoned building. I couldn’t be sure what kind of building.
The man opened a door into the building. I walked into the dimly lit place. There wasn’t much in there, except Ryan was in here. I looked at his face.
This was the worst thing I could have ever done.
I was just sitting there in what I thought was a prison. The only light that shined were the tiny shafts of light the made their way through cracks in the windows. It reminded me of the when I was searching for Taylor in the water. The only difference was that my wrists were feeling pressure, not my lungs.
So far, my captors hadn’t bothered me, only my thoughts. My mind kept replaying what had happened. I felt like I was a complete idiot. Trying to peacefully talk with them was my first mistake. I should have known better, I mean, I’ve dealt with them before. I know how malicious, vile, and deceitful they are. Hoping that they would be honorable or at the very least decent was a mistake.
My second fault was letting them get into my head. They knew exactly which buttons to push to get my angry. Assaulting the man was mistake number three. I suppose that was exactly he wanted me to do though. Maybe it gave them a reason to shoot me up with tranquilizer. It must have been a strong dose because I was out seconds after I felt something injected.
I guess I kind of deserve to be here for being so stupid. But if this is what it takes to keep Taylor safe, I’ll just stay here. She is the most important thing in my life. It would destroy me if she died.
When a door opened and let in light, I thought that maybe it was one of them coming to torture me. Instead of seeing a large guy, I saw the silhouette of a girl. Her figure blocked the light which made it easier for me to see her face. I instantly recognized her delicate but oh so beautiful features. “Taylor,” I breathed.
She started running towards me and tears started welling up in my eyes. They had my one weakness-and after they promised. That stupid mistake I made put both of us in danger. I was pretty sure I could have dealt with what they did to me, but not this. No, not this.
When she hugged me, I didn’t feel joy, relief or warmth like I normally would have. All I felt was fear, hatred, and sadness, which weren’t all directed at her. I whispered into her ear “Why?” She shouldn’t have been here.
A guy whistled, getting Taylor’s attention. “I don’t wanna hurt you sugar.” She stood up and I could see the pained look on her face. I growled at the guy that called her sugar. Taylor mouthed Sorry and I could just do nothing.
As he told her to sit in the other chair and tied her wrists, I could do nothing. While she winced at the pain caused by the ropes, I could do nothing. When the man gently took her hair and ran his fingers through it, as I saw her look of disgust and as he grinned at her displeasure, I felt totally powerless.
Right now, all I could do was growl at him. “If you lay another one of your filthy hands on her again I’ll kill you!”
“Oh really,” he taunted. He looked at me with amazement like no one had ever threatened him before. He took slow and calculating step towards me. “Now you, this. . . little boy that is bound and couldn’t even protect his girl is going to kill me.” He started laughing like it was a joke. “Forgive my laughter, but I find that pretty funny ‘cause you’ll never do it. What do you think sweetheart?” He looked for Taylor’s reaction. She bent her head down so he couldn’t see her face.
“Who said I was gonna kill ya now?” I kicked him as hard as could. “Maybe I’ll just work at it.” I grinned.
I could see the look in his eyes as he looked from his leg to me. He knew I would be different than the others. He punched me in the face. I’m not going to lie and say it didn’t hurt, but I didn’t really mind it. I had much bigger problems to deal with. “If you’re smart, you’ll keep that trap a your’s shut.” He started walking out. “Oh and before I go, let me just shed some light.” He clapped his hands and these blue lights started turning on in a couple of spots. One was right above me and Taylor. “They turn off at six and don’t come back on.” He then walked out, leaving Taylor and I alone.
“Did he hurt you?” Were the first words Taylor said after minutes of silence.
“Not too bad.”
“Ryan. I think you’re bleeding. I just can’t be sure because of this lightening. It’s not very bright and it keeps casting shadows on your face.”
“Well if I am bleeding, it doesn’t hurt too much.” In actuality, my face hurt like hell.
“Okay, now I’m sure you’re bleeding. I just saw a drop of blood land on your jeans. Wait, why are you wearing jeans? You weren’t wearing them when you left the house yesterday.”
“I’m not wearing jeans.” She didn’t seem to hear me.
“Why would you do that?!” She shouted angrily.
“Do what?” I was getting worried again.
After a minute she spoke again. “Ryan, I trust you to do the right thing, but that wasn’t it!”
“Oh crap,” I muttered to myself. “Taylor! You’re hallucinating again. Snap out of it!” She got this worried look on her face and I wondered if I had gotten through to her.
Her face showed more pain as time went on. Maybe I didn’t help her. “Don’t say that about me.”
“Taylor, it’s not me! He isn’t real! Don’t listen to him!” I saw a tear slip out of her eye. Why couldn’t she tell it wasn’t really me?
“No. You can’t just put me through the three most amazing years of my life and then quit on me!”
“Taylor! He’s not real! I will never quit on you!”
“Don’t say that! You can’t just say you don’t love me!” She cried out.
“Taylor, I love you! I love you more than life! I’m real, he’s not! You have to believe that our love is strong! Nothing can change my feelings for you Taylor! I love you!”
Suddenly Taylor looked at me like she was seeing me for the first time. “Ryan?” she asked scared.
“Is that really you?”
“Yeah and you can be sure because I love you.”
She closed her eyes and breathed a joyous sigh of relief, another tear of joy making its way down her cheek. “Oh my God. I thought that you were becoming something like one of them. I thought you had said evil things like-”
“Like ‘I didn’t love you.’”
“Yeah. How’d you know?”
“You talk when you’re hallucinating.”
“You heard that.”
“What you said.”
“Sorry about that. I’m so sorry. I just thought it was you and. . . and.”
“Hey, it’s not your fault. You didn’t know it wasn’t really me.”
“Yeah, but I should’ve known. You would never say those things.”
“Never in a million years would I tell you I didn’t love you.”
“Hey Ryan, can I tell something weird.”
“You know you can.”
“When fake you was saying I don’t love you. . . I heard you say I love you at the same time. And then his voice kind of faded away and yours grew stronger. Do you think that’s weird?”
“No. I was telling you how much I loved you. I thought it might help you snap out of your trance.”
“I’m pretty sure it did.”
“Hey, maybe that’s how you can stop hallucinating. Just think about our love and all of our good times together.”
“Sorry sweetie, but I don’t think that’s it. I was thinking about you and me and the good times for the past five minutes. I came out when you screamed I love you.”
“Maybe that’s it then. Knowing something isn’t real.”
“Thanks Ryan. I’ll try to keep that in mind next time.” She sounded skeptical. I got the feeling that she felt like her fault that she was hallucinating.
“Taylor, you do know that this isn’t your fault.”
“Why would you think I thought that?”
“Let’s just say that we sometimes just know things about each other without being told.”
“Okay,” she said slowly. “Assuming that we just know some things each other, and considering that you asked your question, I know that isn’t my fault. But I still want to know why you asked.”
“I got the feeling when you said you would try. The way you said it just rang a bell in my head.”
“Maybe it rang the wrong bell.” I heard her say softly.
“What do you mean?”
“I. . . no, I shouldn’t tell you.”
“Taylor, you can tell me anything.”
“I know, it’s just. . . promise not to get pissed.”
“Cross my heart.”
“Well. . . I don’t think that I can stop the hallucinations. They started after. . . after I was kidnapped. I am pretty sure they caused the hallucinations and they are the only ones who can stop them.”
“But does that mean you shouldn’t even try to stop them?”
“I never said I wouldn’t try, I just said I don’t think it will work. Logic tells me-”
“Screw logic! Look at me.” I waited for her eyes to meet mine before speaking again. “It will work.”
“How can you be so sure?” She asked softly.
“Because it’s just one of those things I know.”
“You’re going to to put your faith in something that probably won’t work?”
“I prefer to think of it as a way of keeping up the hope that you won’t have to suffer from them. I don’t like seeing you hurt.”
“It’s no picnic seeing you hurt either. Speaking of which, do you think you’re still bleeding?”
“I don’t feel anything flowing down my face, so I hope not. What about you? Did he. . .”
“No, he didn’t touch me. He just tried to sweet talk me.”
“Yeah, I don’t think I could stand it if that sleaze ball touched me.”
“Agreed. I would probably. . . never mind.” Taylor didn’t need to know what I had in mind for the bastard.
Minutes dragged on in silence. Taylor occasionally asked questions like ‘Do you think they’re watching us?’ or ‘Are you still okay?’ Just simple questions. I suppose she did it to keep her mind off things.
When the lights turned off Taylor screamed like she was being attacked. I did my best to calm her down. I told her I would always be here for her and to imagine me hugging her. She quieted herself, but I could still hear her occasionally whimper. She was terrified of the dark now. I didn’t have to wonder why, just what they did to her.
I can still imagine the petrified look she must have worn and the tears that were streaming down her face when the light turned off. I wished I could have wiped those tears, but my wrists were restrained. I tried to break them with no luck. I just had to listen to her quietly sob.
When I heard her breathing slow down and get softer, I could only hope that she was asleep. She still softly cried every now and then, but I had to think that it was because of her dreams, or nightmares. I decided to try and sleep myself. Day one was barely anything. I had no idea what was going to come next.
A Glimmer of Hope ❋
The first few days went by slowly. There were more shafts of light shining through more cracks. Some of the light beams hit me and Taylor. It made it easier to see her, but that was the only good part of the days.
Once or twice everyday, two people would come in and force feed us slop. Every couple of hours, they would come in and nearly drown our lungs in water. I would rather have starved myself then let them do this, but I didn't have a choice. If I didn't open my mouth, they'd open it for me. If I managed to bite them somehow, they'd probably punch me. If I spat the food into their face, they'd most likely knock me out.
For me, I could have easily taken the consequences and not been terribly hurt, but Taylor. Taylor shouldn't have had this done to her. She shouldn't have been here.
By the second day, one of the agents had been brought in to monitor us. He came in early in the day, but not so early that there was no light streaming through the broken windows. The man carefully placed the chair he had brought with him ten feet away from both of us. Even at that distance it seemed like he was too close.
When he sat down in his chair, I could just tell that he planned on staying awhile. In the first few minutes of his semi-permanent stay, his eyes stayed glued to Taylor. The only thing I could do was angrily glare at him and wish he would do something else.
After too long of more than friendly looks, the man finally got up and went out of the room. He returned less than a minute later with a stack of magazines. The man placed the magazines beside his chair and then sat down again. Then he grabbed the one on the top. I was glad that he finally found something else to look at.
Instead of wasting anymore of my time sending my ireful looks at him, I directed my attention to Taylor. I wanted to make sure she was still okay.
I looked at her face for any signs of discomfort caused by him. There was no visible signs. Pleading with my eyes, I begged her to show me that she was fine, knowing that looks could at first be deceiving.
I kept thinking to myself Show me a sign that you’re okay Taylor. She smiled at me. I had seen this smile before; everything would be okay.
After a while, the light shining in got dimmer. The sun must have started going down, but the guy still was in his chair. When he was finished with his magazine he threw it down next to him. He didn’t pick up another one. Rage boiled inside me and accidently spilled out.
“Hey perv! What’s your name?”
“What’s it matter to you shrimp?” He turned toward me.
“I just want to know the name of the bastard I’m gonna kill.”
“And why would I tell you?”
“It would be a shame to wake up in an unmarked grave.” I saw a flicker of fear in his eyes, but then he locked it behind the evil facade he bore.
“Reggie,” he said after a minute. “Name’s Reggie.”
“What are you going to do to us Reggie?” Taylor asked shakily. It was clear how scared she was of him.
“Nothin’ Taylor,” he told her sweetly. I didn’t like him saying her name, but it was better than him treating her like an object. So, I guess he was trying to be human, which was pretty weird, but at the same time nice. Reggie continued. “I have orders not to even touch you two.”
“That makes no sense,” Taylor said. “Why would they tell you to do that?”
“I don’t know. I got a lot of people above me and I only do what I’m told.”
“Who gives you orders?” I asked, not wasting the opportunity to learn more about their system.
“A lot of different people, mainly my sister.”
“You have a sister?!” Taylor asked excitedly. “I didn’t know you guys had families involved?”
“Ryan here didn’t tell ya?” Reggie said while bringing his chair less than three feet away from us. “Well, he has no reason to, but yeah. Some of us do have family in this. A lot of us don’t, on either side from what I understand. Some join because they were offered the job without knowing the entire price. Others do it out of revenge and some crazy people join just because they think it’s fun.” Reggie shivered at the thought.
“So how’d you get? You don’t seem like your spiteful of vengeful,” Taylor told him.
“I kind of got dragged in. Family business and what not. I’m pretty sure Ryan can relate.”
“Yeah. My parent’s death.”
“My condolences, but I thought your parents went into hiding and they brought you in to protect you from us.”
“No, who told you that?”
“It’s kind of been a rumor. I think Charolette was the person that started it.”
“Oh. Charolette,” I said in disgust.
“You know her?”
“I know her b*tch of a daughter, or I guess the correct term is knew.”
“Veronica wasn’t a total b*tch,” Taylor interjected. “She just was, disturbed I guess. Just because she was boy crazy doesn’t make her bad.”
“Veronica may not have been bad, but Charolette was. Charolette, or Veronica trying to kill you is what makes her bad.”
“Wait, you two aren’t talking about that case from three years ago are you?”
“Yeah, what’s it matter to you Reg?”
“That’s when thing here got kind of crazy. Charolette had gotten up to a high position. When her daughter died, she recruited at least one hundred more people. She also pulled about half of the people from intelligence to do field work. She had the idea to start kidnapping people and then started this top secret project. I was about to be put on it, but then Charolette walked up to me and said ‘You’re no longer going to be on the project. We need you to do field work.’ That was about six months ago.”
“It’s okay, as long as I stay as a trainee. A couple well planned over-powerings here, a few wrong words there and I’ll be fine.”
“So why won’t you help us now?”
“Like I said before, I can’t. They have you under surveillance. Actually, you two are top priority prisoners. They really don’t want you to escape.”
“I wonder why we’re so special?” Taylor asked innocently.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. I would think that someone high up in this screwed up system ordered it.”
“I know it was Charolette,” I muttered.
“How are you so sure?” asked Reg.
“We have a certain. . . relationship that would make her interested in me. I’m not sure what she wants with Taylor.”
“May I ask what would make Charolette especially interested in you.”
“You can ask, but I won’t give you an answer.’
“Right.” Reggie didn’t ask anymore questions. It was clear that my hate for Charolette had peaked his interest, but I would never tell him about it. I didn’t fully trust him, even if he did appear to be a nice guy.
“So, Reggie,” Taylor started softly. “You um, you mentioned that you have a sister.”
“Yeah,” Reggie responded, unsure what he should say next. “I got a b*tch of a sister.”
“Why don’t you like her? I would love to have a sister, or at least a brother.”
“You’re an only child? Well, sometimes that’s a blessing. Most siblings should try and support you. At least that what I would like to think. My sister is nothing like that. My sister. . . she is the combination of what you guys told me about Veronica and what Charolette was, only worse. Basically, a slu.tty, manipulative, evil b*tch.”
“Jeez, how does someone even grow up to be like that?”
“Genetics, environment, hatred, wrath, vengeance, take your pick.”
“How’d you turn out so. . . so. . . what you are? Nice?”
“When my parents,” he sighed. He bent his head down and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Sorry Reg,” I told him.
“Don’t be,” he responded, looking up. “They did it to themselves. So, anyway, my sister never got over it. It made her want revenge. But for me, it was an eye opener. I was recruited, but never believed the same ideas. No, I actually believe that everything they do is wrong.”
“Then why do you stay?” Taylor asked.
“There are only two ways out for me, and both end in death.”
“That can’t be true. Ryan and I both escaped and we survived.”
“No offense Taylor, but right now, you’re not looking at a bright future. I’ve seen what they do. It ain’t pretty. Besides, even if I did escape, my sister would track me down.”
“Hey Reggie, what is your sister’s name anyway?”
“Her name? Oh, sorry for not telling you earlier. She likes to be called Zera, but her real name is Serena.” He started chuckling. “She changed it when she came in, but that didn’t matter to me or my parents. Whenever she got in trouble, my parents would call her Serena. I still call her Serena. It embarasses her, but for me, it just shows me that my little sister is still in there. Past all that Zera crap, she is still family.”
As Reggie spoke he became increasingly sentimental and I could see Taylor’s heart go out to him. I felt sorry for the guy. He pretty much lost his family and was living a dismal life, but he still found something to laugh about; he still found happiness. “You know Reg, you're a good guy.”
“Don’t say that,” he told me, a bit too seriously.
“So am I. They catch you saying that, they’ll cut out your tongue.”
“Things really have gotten crazy.”
“I told you. If they caught me telling you guys this stuff- Sh*t! Why did I tell you guys this stuff?!” He stood up and started pacing. “Why did I talk to you?!”
“Because, it’s only natural to have the urge to confess. If we didn’t we might all go mad because of our hidden secrets.”
“Thanks for trying to help Taylor, but they already have it on tape. I’m screwed!”
“Well does it pick up audio?”
“No, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.”
“Then you can just say that you were playing mind games. Isn’t that what you guys do?”
“Yeah. Thanks, you are a lifesaver, literally.” He stopped pacing and sat back down and looked toward me. “You got a great girl here Ryan. Sorry about earlier. It’s just a trick they taught us to mess with you guys.”
“No problem, just don’t do it again. I love Taylor and I just don’t want anything to happen to her.”
“I get it.”
“Hey and sorry about what I said earlier. They train you how to turn the tables.”
“No hard feelings. Just don’t do it again.”
“I won’t.” Reggie then started to read another magazine. “What are you reading?”
“Sports mag. I get a lot of different magazines. They help me keep a ‘normal’ life. Hey, I probably shouldn’t be talking to you guys anymore. Video surveillance and all.”
“I get it.”
“Oh, two more things. They change guards every six hours and my sister will be here in two days.”
“Thanks Reg.” Reggie nodded and then the room fell silent. I could hear the distant sounds of birds chirping. Nothing else pierced the veil around us.
A couple of times, I thought about talking to Taylor, but decided against it. First, it would be weird to talk to her while Reggie was listening. Second, I didn’t want Reggie to know that much about us. I trusted him enough to believe that he wouldn’t tell anything, but something inside me wouldn’t allow me to talk anymore. I guess that knowing he was with the enemy automatically made him bad, no matter what the facts.
But Darkness Consumes❋
Eventually, Reggie had to leave because his shift was up. The next guy that came in didn’t bring anything with him. He just moved the chair back and sat down in it. He didn’t do much except stare at the two of us.
The man wore sunglasses so we couldn’t see where he was looking. The only indicator was the position of his head and even then it wasn't an accurate way of telling where he was looking. The only person that knew where he was looking was the sick individual behind the glasses. He hid his eyes to hid his soul; sweet like Reggie or sour like Charolette.
The only thing that the man did, besides stare, was occasionally shift in his seat. His partial discomfort gave me a bit of pleasure.
At one point, he moved his glasses so that his eyes were partially visible above the rims. I bared my teeth, but that wasn’t enough to intimidate him. The man calmly reached up with his left hand and removed his glasses, keeping his eyes on me.
“You’ll be the first to one gone,” he said maniacally, pointing at me with his glasses like they were a gun.
“And you sweetheart,” he spoke, now directing his attention at Taylor. “We got something special for you.”
“You lousy piece of s-”
“Ryan! He’s not worth it.” Her voice calmed down my temper, but not by much.
“She’s right. I am not your biggest problem. I suggest you keep quiet unless you want to lose something. Like, a hand.” He was calm, cold, collected and spoke without any hesitation whatsoever. Something in his voice had the intonation that he actually took pleasure in hacking off body parts. Disturbed bast.ards.
Even with the threat, I would be as stoic as possible. They couldn’t break me that easily. Taylor on the other hand, she was frightened, believing that he would do something right here right now.
The man grinned sickeningly at his small victory and proceeded to put his glasses on. He must have felt like he was so powerful. I loathed him and this vile, horrid place even more.
The day continued on in a moderate silence. Guards came and went, each as cold and/or as silent as the last. Taylor went to sleep sometime during the night, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I wouldn’t let myself. If anything happened to her during the night, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.
In the morning, the sunrise brought another day of just sitting in dingy little chairs. I guess we were lucky in the fact that the agents didn’t come in often. They had to make sure we drank, but they didn’t feed us today, which was actually better than them shoving food down our throats. I don’t know, maybe their plan was to slowly starve us on top of whatever else they already had in mind. Keep our strength down. I just can’t ever be sure with these screwed up people.
The only thing Taylor and I ever had to look forward to was the changing of guards and the one time a day we were taken to the bathroom. It was dull and a bit depressing, but so was the time in the chairs. At least some kind of change brought some kind of mild excitement.
Physically, I had imagined worse than what they were doing right now, but that would probably change later on.
Emotionally, I was a steaming wreck. I was infuriated with this bast.ards for tons of things, not all recent, including the hell that they must be putting Taylor through. I was angry with myself for being so thoughtless and careless and putting the two of us in this position. But I was mainly worried about what they would do to Taylor. I know that I can’t kill every single one of them, but hurting the ones that did anything to her would definitely be satisfying.
At some moments I was ready to fight. Other times I felt like I would break down. A couple of times I felt like giving up, but those moments never lasted long. All these mixed with a lot of other emotions, mainly those affiliated with an anger, kept a fire burning in me.
Though, I still tried to hide any and all emotions I experienced. Any sign of weakness was an opportunity to them. Breaking me was probably their number one goal and there is no telling how far they’ll go to achieve. Why try and help them along by showing them what I feel and how they get to me?
By nightfall, I was pretty weary. Sleep loomed over me like a thick blanket, but I wouldn’t let it envelop me. I had to stay alert and be there for Taylor, no matter how draining it was or would become. The guard that was with us didn’t seem as bad as the others, so he probably wouldn’t try anything. I just can’t trust any of them. Staying awake was my only guarantee that she wouldn’t be harmed.
Unfortunately, I woke up to Taylor asking me if I was asleep. I mentally cursed myself for not willing myself to stay awake. You’ve been through stakeouts longer than this, I told myself. Although, we did take shifts, so I guess I might have slept then. Gah, whatever. They don’t matter right now.
“Ryan, you awake?” She asked again, a hint of nervousness, not wanting me to actually be asleep.
“Yeah,” I answered groggily. “I’m awake.” I could see her dimly in the pale blue moonlight.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Aren’t you worried the guard ’ll hear us?”
“No. He fell asleep at least an hour ago.”
“Oh, he did?” I wondered why I hadn’t noticed.
“You probably fell asleep before then.”
“Guess I did,” I admitted. “So what do you want to talk about?”
“Me, oh. . . nothing,” she replied, her voice slowly gaining a scared but worried undertone.
“Oh come on, you and I both know that’s a lie.” I never liked it when she lied to me.
“Okay,” she admitted a bit too quickly. “So I’m lying. I have a right to lie.” Her words came at a faster pace and her breathing sped up.
“Taylor, what do you see?” I asked calmly and slowly. If my instincts were right, I didn’t want to chance frightening her even more.
“She’s not real she’s not real she’s not real,” Taylor kept saying under her breath.
“I know,” I told her, trying to hide my uneasiness. “Who do you see?” I wasn’t exactly sure I would like the answer.
Great, I thought. She doesn’t need this right now.
“What is she saying?” The words stumbled out before I could think about what I was saying.
“She’s saying that she is real. . . And she’s wondering why I can see her.”
“Don’t listen to her. She isn’t real. We both know that.” I didn’t want that b*tch to poison Taylor again, even if she was just a hallucination.
“I know, but she seems different than the other hallucinations. She’s not altering reality, she is just kind of existing.” I was about to talk when Taylor yelled, “Shut up!”
“What?” Here we go, I thought. Leave it to Veronica to start messing with Taylor.
“She’s laughing at me. She thinks its funny that I’ve hallucinated. Well it’s not!” The last sentence was directed at empty air, or I guess Veronica.
“Taylor, why are you even listening to her?”
“I don’t know. I know she isn’t real and I know she can’t hurt me, but. . . there is just something about her. I don’t know, but I don’t think I created her with my imagination.”
I ignored her last comment. “Maybe if you just ignore her, she’ll fade away.”
“No she won’t. Like I said, I know I didn’t imagine her or hallucinate her or whatever. She has an. . . I guess this energy about. It’s not exactly powerful, but it’s not fictitious.” She mumbled to herself, “It might not even be human.”
Taylor continued to converse with me. “She seems more permanent than the others. It’s almost like I could reach out and touch her if I wasn’t restrained. Plus, she keeps on laughing at us, although if she saw things from my perspective, she wouldn’t be laughing. She keeps repeating to me ‘I’m real,’ but I’m not buying it.”
“Tell her to prove it. If she wants us to believe she’s real, she needs to produce some kind of evidence.”
“She can hear you,” Taylor replied a little irritated. I hoped that the emotion was directed at Veronica and not me.
Taylor and I were silent for a couple minutes as I waited for Taylor to hear Veronica’s response. Then her face became twisted and painted with confusion, fear, and suspicion simultaneously. What had Veronica told her?
“She said that you two were talking after I collapsed. She said that Diego shot her and she told you her final words.” I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
If Veronica was a hallucination, then Taylor had to have already known that, right? How did she know? I mean, Taylor had to have heard this from some nurse in her room. That has to be how she knows.
“How can I be sure she’s real? Ask her what we were talking about.” That’s the only way I can be sure, I thought.
“Ryan, she can hear you,” Taylor reminded me, a bit enraged with my skepticism. I wondered what Taylor would say. Probably something like how we were arguing over her or how she uttered vengeance. What she actually said stunned me.
“She said that she told you something about your mother. Ryan, what did she tell you ?” There was curiosity in her voice, but I couldn’t really listen after she uttered the word ‘mother.’
My mind started trying to figure out how she found that out. Veronica and I were the only ones who knew that, except for maybe Diego, but I doubt that he paid attention. Taylor couldn’t possible have known that, I thought. No possible way.
I had no other option but to be resigned. Taylor hadn’t known. Veronica had told her. Veronica wasn’t a hallucination.
Even the thought chilled me, let alone experiencing it in reality. It terrified me that Veronica could be right here right now. The sudden shock wave sent me crashing back into reality.
“T-t-taylor,” I stuttered. “W-w-what did you say?” I was definitely starting to panic.
“I asked, ‘What did Veronica tell you about your mother?’”
“I-I can’t. I can’t tell you.” I felt ashamed of my dirty little secret.
“Because I haven’t been able to believe, get over it, or get it out of my mind for the past three years! Veronica, you can tell her.”
Taylor stared at Veronica, I guess listening to her tell the story.
I tried to brace myself for Taylor’s reaction. Come up with some kind of explanation; find a way to make her understand the secrecy. My mind drew a blank. There was no explanation. How could there be if I couldn’t explain it to myself?
Taylor’s face was all it took for me to know what she was thinking. Shortened breaths, the constant wanting to say it wasn’t true. The color draining from her cheek, making her look pale as a ghost. Her eyes wide open, clearly depicting her fear and alarm.
She kept looking from me to Veronica, then me, then Veronica, back and forth and back and forth. She finally cried out, “Why?!”
“I don’t know Taylor,” I said softly, practically saying that I was ashamed. “I don’t know.”
“Why would she say that?”
“Maybe she wanted to mess with my mind.”
“Why did you tell him that!? Is it even true?!”
“I don’t know Taylor. I didn’t do-”
“Tell me!” she screamed. She desperately wanted to know everything, but every piece seemed to be a blow at her heart.
“Taylor, stop talking to her.”
“Get away from him you b*tch!”
“Taylor, calm down. She’s not hurting me. In fact, I don’t even feel-”
My shoulders suddenly felt like they had hands on them that were light to the touch, almost feather like, but they were still hands. Then I felt a head rest itself on my head. I knew no one was there, but the slight pressure made me doubt my senses. Maybe Veronica really was here.
“Taylor, what’s Veronica doing right now?”
“She’s just resting on you. Why?”
“I think I can. . . feel her.”
“I didn’t know that you could feel hallucinations. Wait, you can’t, right? Maybe she’s not - Stop laughing at me!”
I felt the pressure lift from my head and left shoulder, but my right got more. “Taylor, just ignore here. She obviously doesn’t have anything better to do.” I tried to direct my attention to where Veronica was so that she knew I was talking to her. The pressure lifted.
Taylor redirected her eyes from me to her left. “You know Veronica, you always were full of hot air.”
Minutes of silence and Taylor’s eyes hadn’t left Veronica. “What’s she saying?”
Not moving her eyes, Taylor replied, “She’s ranting about how she knows more than me. Saying that she could be helping cause chaos somewhere else but no, she is staying here and trying to help. Although, I don’t really see how she’s helping me. She’s not untying us or doing anything but telling lies.” I could hear the hatred saturating her tone.
“Maybe she’s just lying again.”
“Definitely.” Taylor was looking at me, but abruptly turned her head to look at Veronica again. “Really, if you’re not lying, prove it.”
Taylor rolled her eyes at Veronica’s response. “It’s the same sh*t over and over again. You’re a lying b*tch that doesn’t give a f*ck about anyone else! You just like to play games where you change the rules every time you aren’t doing well! Well guess what- No! I won’t keep my voice down! You deserve to be dead right now!”
She listened to Veronica for a couple of seconds before groaning. She started whispering and I had to strain to hear her.
“I can play your games too. You think you’re the only one who can learn people’s hidden secrets, no. Whatever you got on me or Ryan, I got something better on you.” She was getting quieter and I couldn’t hear a word at all. Guess she was trying to have a private conversation with Veronica. Maybe she knew I was trying to listen to her.
“No, not on Veronica, you. Charolette.” Taylor then cupped her hand over her mouth so I really couldn’t hear anything.
She talked for a couple of minutes, never changing her position. Whatever she had on Veronica must have been good especially if she had this much to say about it. Finally, she moved her hand. “She’ll talk,” Taylor told me, her eyes glued to Veronica.
“Great,” I said enthusiastically. “Ask her if she was lying about me.”
“I know Ryan,” she snapped. I guess Veronicaa had really put her in a bad mood. Taylor was never like this in the past three years. Never.
Another period of time passed by and I was getting anxious. The question that had always been in the back of my head, one of the few things I couldn’t answer, the thing that had silently plagued me was finally going to be cured. I was finally getting my answer. My nerves were running wild.
“What’d she say?” I asked quietly. Taylor seemed fragile right now and I didn’t want to upset her or piss her off or plain old have her go off on me again.
“Just more lies,” Taylor told me flatly, her eyes never leaving Veronica. “She just wanted to screw with you. Said that it was part of her job, but I think she did it for fun.”
From what I saw of her face, she showed no emotion. I feared that Veronica was slowly poisoning her mind. “Taylor, you should probably get more sleep before tomorrow. You’re gonna need it.”
As soon as I said the phrase I regretted letting it slip out. For an instant, I felt like I had threatened Taylor. I told her that she was going to be hurt and damaged in the next few days.
Before I got a chance to apologize for unintentionally scaring her, Taylor spoke. She turned to look at me, no longer fixating on Veronica. “You also need some sleep. You’ve been up for almost two days and don’t try and tell me that you weren’t . You can’t operate when you’re exhausted.” I heard her mutter something to herself, but I couldn’t understand what.
“Um, Taylor? Is Veronica still here?” I didn’t want a ghost watching me or Taylor as we slept, especially if it was Veronica.
“No, she’s gone. Now please, go to sleep.” Taylor spoke sweetly, and almost apologetically. It was nice to know that she was letting go of her hatred for Veronica.
“Okay. Good night Taylor.”
“Night Ryan. Also, I’m sorry if I was hostile toward you. It’s just that Veronica-”
“It’s okay Taylor. I forgive you and I’ll always love you throughout everything.”
“I love you too,” she whispered. Those were the last words spoken between the two of us before I fell into a dreamless state of rest.
Meeting the Gang❋
The morning light that flooded my eyes was a brilliant contrast to the dim moonlight of last night. The sun wasn’t streaming through the windows on the side of the walls like I expected. No, this light’s intensity was far greater than could be supplied by shafts of light through cracks.
I looked up, but immediately put my head back down. There were windows in the roof now. One was almost directly above me, another illuminated Taylor, and there were a couple more that I knew weren’t placed randomly.
Another new thing was shone by the sun’s rays. A table had been placed about ten feet away from us. It didn’t have anything on it, yet. I could only assume that soon it would harbor torture instruments.
I looked over to Taylor to see if she had noticed anything. She was asleep. I made the decision not to wake her. Taylor didn’t need to know about the new developments right now.
A few minutes later, after my eyes had adjusted to light, I became bored. I tried to determine what time of day it was. Sometime past seven, but before nine, so probably early eight o’clock. I started to miss the clocks at the office and in the apartment. It felt like time was slipping away from me and I couldn’t grab it fast enough.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t really realize how quiet it was. No birds chirping, no rustling leaves, and no sounds from the guard either. I looked to my right and there wasn’t a guard there, not even a chair. It felt so great finally getting a break from the twenty-four hour monitoring. I decided to tell Taylor the good news.
“Taylor,” I softly called, not wanting to startle her awake. “Taylor, wake up. I have some good news.”
As I was calling, I heard another conversation start up in the background. I tried to listen in. “Vlad, I’m tellin ya, we have to wait for Zera.”
“Yeah, but she was supposed to be here an hour ago. It’s already nine!” My time guesstimate was wrong.
“But we have our orders.”
“F*ckin’ screw orders Dimitri! Have you ever known me to follow orders from some whiny b*tch.”
“First of all, don’t call her a b*tch. She will destroy you. Second, it’s because you don’t follow orders that you haven’t been promoted. Start listening to the b*tch if you want to be rid of her. And third, your sh*t-talking isn’t getting you anywhere.”
“Yeah, well at least I have some f*cking balls Dimitri! You just do whatever she says cause you sleep with her.” I heard something that sounded like a punch followed by a couple of footsteps.
“Why did they even put you in this unit?! You are about as useful as a brick wall and as hard as one too!”
“That’s my stubbornness.”
“Yeah, well your arrogance is gonna get you killed one day.”
“Why do you care? I thought you hated me.”
“I do you piece of sh*t, but we’re losing people everyday. I’d rather have a trained soldier than you, but I have to deal with what I got.
“So you think I’m a burden.”
“Then that means you don’t hate me.”
“No you - Ugh! They really trained you to play mind games, didn’t they?”
“So what if they did?”
“Now you gotta learn the physical part.”
“You mean like you and Zera?” I heard a thud and what sounded like someone gasping for air.
“For the last time, I’m not sleeping with her!”
“Yes. . . you are,” Vlad wheezed as he tried to speak. Dimitri must have had a really good grip on Vlad. “I. . . have. . . proof.”
“What proof?!” Dimitri demanded. I imagined that he was ready to kill the bastard.
“Let me. . . go. . . and. . . I’ll tell you.” It was weird hearing one of them begging for his life. Maybe I still didn’t think that these people could be human. But Reggie had proved me wrong before, so why couldn’t they all have a little humanity? I started thinking of them as evil people, not evil demons.
A gasp for air reminded me that I was listening in on agents.
There was a grunt as Dimitri helped Vald get up, I think. “You think. . . that there aren’t security cameras everywhere? . . . Watching our every move. . . everyday. . . all the time?” Vlad still had trouble breathing.
“Cameras?” Dimitri asked in disbelief.
“It pays to have friends in security.”
“Cameras?” Dimitri muttered again, although he said it more to himself this time.
“Yeah. You’d be surprised what people do. Actually, you probably wouldn’t, but I am. Never mind, back to you. You really get around; bedrooms, not just yours and hers, couches, kitchens, tables, outside at night, janitor’s closet, which I don’t even know why we have one of those. Those douches don’t do sh*t. All they do is gamble, get drunk, burden anyone they happen to stumble across, etc.
“I’m getting off track again. You and her do it alot. I can say a lot of things about you, but you are one faithful fu.cker. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve seen bang over ten girls.
“Shut up,” Dimitri told Vlad.
“What, heard enough yet?”
“No, I think I heard someone.” I looked across from me and saw Taylor waking up.
“Ryan,” she muttered. “What’s going on?”
“Two of them are waiting for Zera. Be quiet and listen.” As I listened in again, I found that I didn’t really have to strain to hear them. How close to us were they?
“You don’t hear that?” Dimitri was the first to talk.
“No. Maybe it’s just your mind imagining your lover.”
“That’s it you little c*nt! If you don’t stop talking about us I will break both of your legs. The more you scream the more bones I’ll break and by the time I’m done with you, you’ll wish you were dead.”
“Calm down Dimitri,” a female voice said. I could only assume that it belonged to Zera. “Why are you already threatening the newbie?”
“I’ll let the b*tch speak for himself.” There was a silent pause. Vlad must have been petrified.
“I’ll give you five seconds before I start drawing blood,” Zera told Vlad coldly. “Five. . . Four. . . Three. . . Two. . .”
“Alright,” Vlad caved in. “I found out that you two were together.”
“How much does he know?” Zera asked Dimitri.
“He has supposedly watched us.”
“You asshole!” Zera screamed at Vlad.
“Easy with the knife,” Vlad pleaded, fear evident in his voice.
“If you f*cking tell anyone and I mean anyone about us, I will kill you myself.”
“Got it ma’am.” Vlad was definitely scared for his life. “Ow!”
“That’s just a warning. Don’t make me get my knife any dirtier with you blood, now come one. You’re gonna start your first day of real training with the masters.” Zera stopped talking and started walking. The two men I assume followed in suit.
I turned back to Taylor. “They’re coming,” I told her softly. I didn’t want to alert the three agents that we heard them.
“I know. Act natural I guess.” As soon as Taylor finished her sentence, the three stepped out of a space about twenty five feet away from us. From the glimpse I got of the room they were in, it was a combination of a storage area and a lobby. Didn’t look like an office where work would get done. Maybe that was somewhere else in the building.
“So,” Zera started. “How are my little pets doing?” I made sure to keep my composure. The best emotion I could give her was no emotion. Taylor tried to stay cool, but I saw her fear. A part of me believed that she was trying to be like me, and I didn’t want her to be. I mean, I wanted her to be able to protect herself, but she didn’t need to know everything I knew.
Even with the thought lingering in my mind, a small part of me knew that she was faking the fear. It seemed pretty amazing that Taylor could have picked it up this fast. My mind decided that the thought was insane and declared the action impossible, but the fact found new residence in my heart.
“So Vlad, what toys did you bring for me?” The three had made their way to the table. Vlad I assume had placed a bag on the table. Zera started rooting through it. “That’s it? Which one of you got this stuff,” Zera fumed.
“I did,” Vlad answered sheepishly.
“They really didn’t teach you well, did they?” Vlad shook his head, but I don’t think Zera saw. “Next time, bring me something I can really use. I’ll see what I can do today.” Zera talked like she didn’t care if we heard her. She probably didn’t.
“So,” Zera said louder, talking to us now. “You two never answered my question. How are you doing?”
Zera started slowly walking towards Taylor. Each step was carefully calculated and graceful; kitty was definitely ready to play. My only concerns were how she would attack and what her claws were.
Her methodical steps made her heels click on the floor. The sound echoed throughout the building. It made the space seem three times larger than it was. In the new sunlight, I got to see how large the space actually was. The room was probably between thirty and forty feet wide. It couldn’t have been more than sixty feet in length. The windows on the wall came in pairs. The bottom windows were maybe ten feet high and the top part might have been three feet, but it was hard to tell because of the coverings on them. Any wall around us was either too dark to see or a dark brown to black color.
Zera seemed to blend into her home away from home. The black three inch stilettos she wore collided with the dirty concrete. Her navy blue or black jeans looked slimming on her, not that I cared. She probably wore them to turn Dimitri on. A three-quarter sleeve leather-like jacket accompanied with a black shirt adorned the top of her body. Around Zera’s neck was a necklace who’s pendant was hidden beneath her top.
While Zera moved toward Taylor, she inadvertently turned her back to me. There was a bulge at the top of her pants that spread to the bottom middle of her shirt. Looks like Zera was always prepared, which didn’t really calm me.
After what possibly was the longest ten seconds of my life, Zera reached Taylor. She bent down to Taylor’s eye level. Taylor looked to her right to see Zera starting to smile a closed lip smile.
“So,” Zera started slowly and carefully. “Small, little Taylor.” Zera looked away for a second, wanting to seem distracted. Then she turned back, a serious, yet somewhat playful expression on her face. “I’m going to ask you one last time, and I’ll do it nicely. Taylor, how are you doing?” Zera emphasized each word and added a heaviness to them. It seemed to scare Taylor as she didn’t respond.
After a couple seconds, Zera became impatient and reached around her back. Thinking that she was going for her gun, I spoke up.
“I’m sorry,” Zera turned toward me. “I didn’t realize your name was Taylor. Now let her answer,” she griped.
“We’re fine,” Taylor parroted promptly. “We’re fine.” The second time was slower and more of a reassurance.
“Really,” Zera taunted. “Well we have some plans in mind that will make you feel just. . . peachy.” Zera talked to Taylor as if she were talking to a little girl.
Zera got up from next to Taylor and moved into the space between me and Taylor. She didn’t block our view of each other, but made sure her presence was always known. “Now, seeing as how someone,” I could tell she meant Vlad, “didn’t give me a lot of details on you two, I’m gonna hafta figure things out for myself. First things first, who is an agent?”
She looked at the two of, deciding who was or wasn’t an agent. I know that she knew who it was by the first turn of her head, but her curious and questioning brown eyes kept the rouse up for another couple of minutes.
A while later, she broke her silence. “You,” she pointed at me, stepping closer so I could hear her loud and clear. “You’re wearing business attire. Not typical of a field agent. More suitable for intelligence. You try and keep a hard face, but I know you’re scared behind it.” She wasn’t lying entirely about that. “And your eyes. They’re. . . different. I can tell you’ve seen sh*t before. Probably scared young. But what bothers me is that your eyes are still a vibrant blue. With the amount of sh*t I assume you’ve seen, they would normally be a clouded grayish blue. Oh, and let’s not forget that you were first to arrive here. Normally the weaker come here first.” She came closer to me and whispered in my ear, “But the first person is always bait.”
I saw her grin as the words sank in and the dismay quickly appeared on my face. Taylor was the target this entire time. Why the hell were these maniacs obsessed with the woman I love?
“Now you,” Zera pointed at Taylor and moved toward her. You’re dressed more casual. Easier and more comfortable to move around. Definitely something that could be worn in the field. You look genuinely scared, but I know better. You think you know something about us or me that gives you the advantage. Security net if sh*t starts to happen. Well, let me tell you right now, nothing you can say or do ‘ll scare me. And now we go to the eyes. They’re hiding secrets behind that sweet innocent girl routine. I don’t think you’ve seen too much, but I can’t tell; your eyes are an enigma.
“There is something very different about the two of you. But I can guarantee you that I’ll find out what before I’m done with you. Oh well, that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is the agent.”
“And you know it’s me?” Taylor asked rhetorically.
“You certainly act the part. Now,” she motioned for Dimitri to come over, “The nice part about agents. . .” Dimitri arrived at Taylor, “Is that they are trained. . .” he moved behind her, careful not to reveal his face to me, “To tolerate pain.” He freed her wrists. “Enormous amounts of pain.”
Dimitri was tying her hand to the chair’s wooden arms, “And the fun part about that. . .” he finished with her hands and moved to her legs. I saw Taylor try to kick him, but he stopped her. She caught a glimpse of his face. “Is we get to see how far we can push them before they break.” Dimitri stood up and backed away, a bewildered Taylor watching his every move. “We can get very creative.”
Zera smiled maniacally, maybe reminiscing about past sessions. It was the only thing I needed to see to know Taylor would be scared for her life. I couldn’t let them continue thinking she was the agent.
“You’re wrong,” I muttered to get their attention.
“You're wrong,” I told her a little louder.
“About what exactly?” Zera must have thought I was trying to play a mind game with her. Regardless, she walked over to me, stopping a little less than a foot away.
“Taylor, she’s not an agent.”
“And why should I believe you. For all I know, you could be trying to save her from the pain.”
“Zera, that is your name right? Do you honestly think she is ruthlessly, mercilessly, or even acts like an agent? No offense sweetie.”
“No.” Taylor was nonplussed, her stunned gaze fixed on Dimitri.
“How do I know they don’t just train you better nowadays?”
“Because you know our agency. Plus, you said I’ve seen a bunch of sh*t, but she hasn’t. Which sounds like the agent?”
She leaned down and whispered in my ear again. “I knew it was you the entire time.”
“You’re such a b*tch,” I said through clenched teeth. I balled my hands into fists that I was sure had white knuckles.
“Vlad,” Zera called. “You’d better help Dimitri with Ryan. He’s got a feisty spirit. Dimitri ‘ll need an extra hand.” Zera moved out of the way and I finally got my first look at Dimitri. The only thing I saw, the part of him that I needed to see, was his face. The disgusting face of the bastard that brought Taylor here. I started ferociously wrestling with my restraints, hoping to break free of them and beat the man to a pulp.
The two agents restrained my arms before I even had a chance to break loose. Both guys made sure my arms were pinned before releasing my wrists. The moment I felt the pressure lift, I fought to knock a pair of hands off.
My left arm was the first to gain freedom. I swung my left fist at the person. It made contact with Vlad’s nose. There was no doubt in my mind that it would streaming blood within the minute.
Standing up, I wrestled with Dimitri for my right arm. Neither of us gave up our ground. Although, I had the advantage of a free hand and used it to punch Dimitri in the face. I thought to myself Nice; payback and another free arm.
I swung at Dimitri with my right, but was stopped before I made contact. Before the blow to the head could knock me out, I heard a scream. She didn’t scream because she was in pain, but because I was. But all I could think in the few seconds was: I screwed up our chance to get out. I screwed up real good.
Beautiful Reality and Devilish Fantasies❋
My eyelids were fluttering open and closed as I regained consciousness. My vision was blurred, but I knew it would become clear with time. I also found that as I looked around, everything was bathed in a veil of red. I blinked a couple of times, and the red faded, but there were still some spots.
Over the next few minutes, the rest of my body woke up. The more conscious I became, the more pain I felt. Foot pain was replaced by pain in my leg followed by my wrists. The pain in my wrists spread through my arms to my abdomen and then resided in my chest.
Each part was more painful than the last and all pain became centered in one spot. Eventually, the pain melded and coursed throughout my body. It felt good not having a certain spot that hurt, but pain was still excruciating pain. I felt like my body had been used as a punching bag. What little I knew about Dimitri told me that he probably did use me as a punching bag. It was just like them to beat up a defenseless, or at least unconscious person.
I tried to move my extremities to see how bad they tied me up. The moment I moved my hand, pain shot through my arm. I winced as the pain in my body tripled.
“Ryan?” I heard her call, relief present in her voice.
“Yeah Taylor,” I responded. Raising my head wasn’t a chore, so at least I knew I didn’t have a spinal injury.
“How are you? And don’t lie to me, please.”
“I’ve been a lot better.” I didn’t want her worrying about how much I actually hurt.
“How bad is it?” I didn’t want to tell her, but her pleading eyes made me.
“There is probably a couple of broken bones. Maybe some internal bleeding. And I’m pretty sure my face is bleeding.” I stopped talking, noticing how my description upset her. “Don’t worry, I’ve been through worse.” I wasn’t sure I was telling the truth.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t stop you from getting hurt.” She turned her head to the side, ashamed.
“Taylor, it’s okay.” She looked back at me. “If it was anyone’s fault it’s mine. I’m the one who punched Vald and tried to knock Dimitri out. It’s my fault that I’m in this shape, not yours.”
“Yeah, but I’m the one who came here. It’s my fault we’re both here.”
“But you couldn’t have known-”
“Yes, I did actually. . .” She turned away again.
It took me a minute to respond. “They why’d you come here?!” I was too harsh. “Sorry, but why did you willingly put yourself in harm’s way? Why’d you let yourself get trapped?”
Taylor looked at me, tears welling in her eyes. “Because they said they were going to kill you!” She cried out. “What was I supposed to do, sit there and think they killed you?! Or even worse, wait for the day someone would knock on the door and ask me to identify your body.” Tears started rolling down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry. . . I didn’t know.” I didn’t mean to make her feel bad.
“It’s alright,” she sniffled, trying to stop crying. “I mean, how could you have known. Besides, I was trying to be safe. Diego insisted he come along because he promised you he’d protect me. The plan was to let Diego out a couple blocks away-”
“Why’d you do that?” I asked, instantly regretting interrupting her and feeling like a bit of an ass. I should have just let her explain.
“I was told to come alone. Anyway, he was supposed to stop the agents during the negotiation. I did my part by stalling them in the least suspicious of ways. Diego was the one who didn’t do anything. He let me get captured.”
“Are you sure he let you get captured? After all the years I spent with him, I couldn’t believe that he would just abandon an innocent, you, like that.”
“He wasn’t running in to help. To be honest, I’m not surprised.”
“Diego hasn’t been hostile toward me, but he hasn’t exactly been that friendly. . . or helpful.” She mumbled the last bit.
“Taylor, he isn’t like that. He is caring and tough, mainly tough, but nothing too bad.”
“He’s caring?! While I was freaking out yesterday because you weren’t home, Diego was just sitting there, nonchalant, like he thought I wasn’t in my right mind. The only reason I calmed down was because I got a text from your phone saying you were stuck at work. But that wasn’t you, was it.”
“No, they must not have wanted you to start worrying about me just yet. As for Diego’s apathetic manner, I have no idea why he would do that.” That was a lie. I had told Diego I was going to try and settle things with them. Of course he had advised against it, but I still went and look where it landed me.
“Not only that, but Diego proclaimed that I was an optimist and nearly demanded that I admit it.”
“Well you are an optimist, usually.”
“Yeah, but, he like psychoanalyzed me. It made me feel strange. . . kinda like I was an object rather than a person. . . just like my dad did. . .” Taylor drifted off as she went on.
“Taylor, I’m sorry that man did that to you.” I chose my words carefully, not knowing which man she was talking about now. “I promise you, he’ll never do that again.”
“How can you promise that?!” I wasn’t sure if she was angry or sad. “You can’t control someone else’s actions, especially his! He does what he wants when he wants and no one can stop him!”
“No Ryan! You don’t know him!” Tears started running down her cheeks again. “You don’t know what he did, does, or is even capable of! . . . You know, I should stop talking about him before I become a wreck.”
From what I saw, Taylor was already a wreck, but I would never tell her that. Instead of voicing my opinion, I tried to think of a way to steer the conversation away from a total train wreck.
I tried to think of something that wasn’t selfish or something that wouldn’t upset Taylor. I decided to ask, “How long has it been since Zera was last here?” After saying the words I bit my lip, thinking I had said the wrong thing. I seemed to be doing that more often then usual.
“Zera and the others haven’t been back since she knocked you out with what I think was her gun.”
“Wonder why she hasn’t come back.”
“I don’t know. She told me she was coming back later today. I’m pretty sure she muttered ‘If he wakes up,’ but I didn’t know if she meant today, or at all.”
“Well I’m glad it was today.”
“Me too. . . You know, I think that I saw Dimitri inject you with something as he tied you up. Although I could have imagined it. I only took a quick glance to see if he was done beating you up. I tried not to look and block out the sound.” She was getting ready to cry again.
“It’s okay Taylor. I’ll check.” I looked down at my right arm. There was a dark red spot on the inside of my elbow. “Yeah, he gave me something. Probably something to keep me knocked out. That reminds me, how long have I been out?’
“Assuming that you were knocked out around 9:30, because I didn’t know the time, eight or nine hours.”
“Eight or nine hours?” I said stunned. “Must’ve been a strong drug.”
“I suppose so. On the bright side though, I get to enjoy the sunset with you, or at least what we can see of it.”
“It’s been awhile since I watched the sun set.”
“It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to watch it. I’ve just been so busy with college work and my part-time job at the café that I just haven’t thought about slowing down and taking a breath. Guess I just felt I never had time to focus on just me or us. Not one day. . .”
“Well I promise you, when we get out of here, I will give you a day to yourself.”
“No, I want a day dedicated to the two of us. When we get out, I don’t want to waste a second not enjoying our love.”
“I’m up for that, but I think we should watch the sunset right now. After all, it only comes around once a day.” I genuinely did want to watch the sunset, but I also didn’t want to stop talking with Taylor, but she didn’t object to my suggestion. So, we watched what we could of the sunset.
I watched the sunset stream across the floor while Taylor watched the sky. The floor was illuminated by the golden rays the sun cast about the sky. The gold blended with oranges and a few dabs of pink. Its mixture would soon became an orange and red that eventually would become a dark red that would fade into a dark blue.
Occasionally, I would steal a glance at Taylor and I could sometimes feel her gaze on me. When the sky was changing from its gold to orange-red appearance, I looked at Taylor. She was bathed in the color change. Her hair had a golden brown glow while her skin was a blend between orange and gold and her pants were more orange-red. Her white shirt soaked up all the colors. They seemed to be painted onto her top, but it was an ever-changing canvas.
Every time she would look down from the windows, I averted my eyes to the floor. When I felt like she wasn’t looking, I lifted my head to look at my beautiful, painted goddess.
While the sky turned darker, my goddess went from day to dusk to dark. I couldn’t help but stare as the colors turned her into a dark, beautiful, sexy temptress.
As the dark reds faded away, they were instantly replaced by a silver blue cast by the moon. Blue light bathed Taylor and made her sparkle. For a couple of seconds, I saw a pair of silver wings covered in a faint blue glow and sparkles behind her.
When I blinked, they had vanished into thin air. A small part of me thought that I had imagined them, but the rest of me believed that I had seen her angel wings. I smiled at the fact that she was actually an angel.
Then I heard Taylor laughing. The sound pulled me out of my trance and made me feel embarrassed that I had been caught staring. “Are you laughing at me?” I asked, trying not to make is sound like she did something wrong.
“No,” she giggled. “I’m just thinking about how handsome you look in this light.”
“Well,” I said in a charming manner, “You look beautiful. The silvery blue moonlight is making you sparkle more than usual.”
“But you look amazing. There is this beautiful blue glow around you that is highlighting every single part of your body,” she said seductively. I decided to return the favor.
“And you, are absolutely gorgeous. I have never seen a more beautiful person in my life.”
“Stop it,” she flirted.
“No, it’s true. No one can even compare to your sense of humor, your personality, your love, your body. . . your eyes.” I paused and looked into her soft glacial blue eyes. “You know, your eyes were the first things I fell in love with. . . The first things that told me. . .” I trailed off.
“Told you what?”
“Told me you were the one.” In that moment, I sincerely wanted not only to tell her, but show her how much I loved her. I moved my leg to get out of the chair, but it couldn’t move. I remembered that Taylor and I were tied up. “God I wish we weren’t tied up like this.”
“I mean, I’d rather just be locked in a small room with you than be tied to a chair. . . It’s weird, but I miss the feel of your hair.”
“It’s not weird, and I miss your touch.”
“I think that this is one of their forms of torture. Speaking of which, did Dimitri hurt you?”
“No, I’m fine. These restraints are a little tight, but I’m not complaining. How are you doing?”
“Feelin’ a bit better. I think you’re helping.”
“I think I know how to make you feel even better. Imagine me kissing away all of your pain.”
“Alright. And you can imagine me hugging and kissing you, making you forget where we are.”
“You promise to and I’ll promise to.”
“Cross my heart.”
“Okay.” I waited until Taylor closed her eyes to start my part of the deal.
My imagination started the scenario by putting the two of us in the same spot as reality, trapped in chairs. Taylor wasn’t saying anything and my vocal chords had been removed. We just sat there for a minute, not doing anything. Then Taylor stood up, her restraints turned to dust as she moved through the ropes.
I looked at my ropes and tried to break free of them. Instead of breaking free, I stayed confined and another wave of pain roared through my body. In agony, I looked at Taylor for help.
She had her finger to her lip. “Shh. Don’t worry,” she told me calmly. “Everything will be alright. She started walking toward me. There was a lightness and grace in her step. It was as if she wasn’t even touching the ground.
Taylor stopped right in front of me. She bent over me and kissed me on the lips. A wind whirled around us, encasing us in its feathery wrath. It seemed to lift me and Taylor into the clouds. The heat from Taylor’s kiss boiled my blood while the wind tried its hardest to cool me down. It created a new sensation within me that I could never have shared with anyone but Taylor. My love, friend, savior, angel, life. My only one.
When the wind had died down and our heat started to fade, I opened my eyes. Taylor was looking at me and smiling mischievously. She signaled with her eyes to look at my wrists. I looked down and found that I too was standing up, no restraints; it was like they were never there.
Still high from the kiss, I made a move to grab Taylor’s right hand. I had forgotten about my injures for an instant and now expected to feel pain. I didn’t feel the sting of moving a broken bone, but rather the relief of no pain at all. I looked Taylor in the eyes as if to ask if she had done this. She nodded slightly and I loved her even more.
Any space that existed between us vanished within a second and my right hand flew to her hair. My lips found her instinctively and passionate love flowed between us.
Our lips locked, we glided to the middle of the floor. I was combing through her hair and she stroked my back. The seconds became long and my heart started to pick up pace. Ecstasy moved through my veins the longer I spent in Taylor’s embrace. Heat, passion, and love were quickly built around us.
When the heat became too much to handle, I had to take my shirt off. After I shed the extra layer, I began kissing my way down her neck. She moaned out of pleasure and I wanted to do the same. She removed her shirt quickly and stared into my eyes.
“I’ve missed your touch so much.”
“Me too.” She had also healed my voice. “I will never leave you.”
“I know you won’t. But right now, just give me your all.”
“With pleasure.” I gave her another kiss, wrapped her in a hug, and fell to my side. We landed on something that was as soft as clouds but it was somehow more delicate. The feathers had us levitating in the air as we continued our pleasure seeking.
We took turns giving each other lustful gifts. Each boosted the passion and desire. There were no surroundings beside the impossibly soft material and there was no one but us. The moments were filled with such rapture that I could only think about my goddess.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she breathed as she kissed my ear.
“I missed you more,” I moaned, making a path of kisses from her shoulder to her neck. “But we’re together now.”
“Yes, and I want all of you.” She quickly kissed my lips.
“Are you sure? I mean, are you ready after what happened?” I didn't want her doing anything she couldn’t handle.
“I’m sure. I can handle it. Please, take a girl to cloud nine.” I kissed her lips and sealed the deal. One of my hands wrestled to get my bottoms off while the other stroked her body.
After Taylor got hers off, another soft layer covered us like a blanket. I got a quick glimpse of what it was and saw that our covers were wings. “Wings,” I muttered, not realizing it had slipped out. “We’re floating on wings.”
“Yes,” she kissed. “Do you know whose they are?”
She might had replied, “No, yours,” but I can’t be sure. My brain had already started shutting off, letting my heart take control of my body.
Devilish Reality and Beautiful Fantasies❋
When I awoke in the morning, I was a little sad. Reality had Taylor and I shackled to dingy little chairs. Couple that with the injuries I sustained while I was unconscious and it added up to a dreadful morning. The only plus was that the injuries from Dimitri’s underhanded attack gave me a reason to kill him; although, his encounter with Taylor had already brought me to the tipping point.
Last night had made me forget about all of that. I was released; free to enjoy Taylor’s touch; free to get a glimpse of why I had to endure anything they could throw at me; free to actually live.
So what if it was only a dream, it still felt heavenly. I wish Taylor dreamt something just as amazing. And if what they have in store for us is as bad as I think it will be, those dreams, or any dreams for that matter would be our only source of warmth, comfort, or happiness. I wished that sleep would come easy for the next few days. My wish wasn’t necessarily granted.
Zera showed up with Dimitri and Vlad sometime after the sun had come up. I didn’t feel a need to keep track of time then. I noticed that none of them carried anything. At first I was relieved, no more torture instruments. Then it dawned on me; it wasn’t physical, it was mental. My first thought was how did they plan to play with Taylor. They had already given her the hallucinations and whatever the hell else Veronica was. What would they do this time?
Zera’s first move was to direct Dimitri to monitor me and place Vlad on Taylor. “Don’t try anything,” she threatened, her gaze directly on me. I shifted a bit in my chair, feeling one of my broken ribs hit something. She didn’t have to worry about me trying anything. Even if I could do something, I wouldn’t want another beating.
After the guards had been deployed, the warden started her rounds. She grabbed a chair from mid-air and sat down on the cloud. Her placement of the object was three feet away from us reminding me of her brother Reggie and how close he was to us. I just wish she had the same reason for being in such close proximity.
Only now did I see the similarities between the two. Each had a sculpted face, giving them a certain charm of their own. They also had free-flowing hair, granting them an attractive appearance. Maybe good looks was becoming a mandatory factor to be an agent. After all, people with good looks normally gained influence. Another shared characteristic was how fit they both were. Reggie I noticed had enough muscle to give him an intimidating appearance. His physique might be one of the reasons he was told to do field work.
Zera, on the other hand, had little visible muscle. From what I saw, she had no excess fat, which was definitely a plus. Her slender figure would definitely make her more agile and her legs gave her feline qualities: grace, flexibility, and mischievousness. It made her a definite asset in her line of work.
When Zera started parting her lips, words spewing out of her mouth, I decided to listen to her. Maybe she would tell us what she was going to do.
“Well, how are you two doing today?” Neither of us answered, but it didn’t seem to faze her. “Still don’t feel like talking, do you?” I made no move to answer that question either.
“Well, maybe you will later. Now because I’m such a gracious person. . .” and she muttered to herself, “And because the kid can’t do sh*t.” I saw Vlad shrink in his position behind Taylor. Zera continued, “I’m not doing anything to you today. Just asking a few questions.
“The way this'll work is I’ll ask a question. Your job is to provide an answer to the question. After five minutes, I’ll move on. Simple, but here are the rules of our ‘little game.’
“You bite, we bite back harder, but you already knew that. Every lie will be dealt with as it occurs. The magnitude of the lie determines what will be done. These guys get to decide what is done, but I decide how big, so if I were you, I’d be honest. Also, the fewer answers you give, the more we get to do to you later. So, once again, it’s better to tell the truth.
“Before we begin, are there any questions.” It felt like a trick question. Taylor tried to speak, but Zera cut her off before she had could make a sound.
“And you little darlin’, you’re also playing this game, so be smart.” With that, Taylor sewed her mouth shut. Her face was painted with dejection, regret, and a splash of fear. I didn’t like seeing Taylor this way, but Zera seemed to relish it, bathing in the negative energy. She smiled at Taylor’s dismay; both both girls’ feelings angered me. I made sure to add Zera to the list of agents that needed to be killed.
“Let’s get started, shall we? First question: Who do you take orders from?” She asked politely, which surprised me. I had always imagined that she was contemplating our demise instead of paying a shred of attention to common courtesy.
Even if she wasn’t, I couldn’t care less. She had put me in a tight spot. I don’t answer, I get another beating from Dimitri. I answer truthfully, she probably calls it a bluff. Plus, I probably wouldn’t even know the answer to her questions. Zera seemed pretty convinced that I was, or both of us were currently agents.
In the five minutes Zera waited for an answer, Taylor and I kept ourselves quiet. Neither of us wanted the unfair consequences that came with the act of talking. After the unwelcome silence, Zera asked her second question: “What were you two doing in this area in the first place?”
From then on, I tried my best to tune out my surroundings. Who knows how long Zera would ask these outlandish questions that neither Taylor nor I could answer. Trying to occupy the blank imagination, I delved into the recesses of my memories. Passing the first memories of my strange new life and skipping the uniformity that revolved around my training, I fast forwarded to some memories of me and Taylor.
I skipped a couple of months after we met and landed on our first Fourth of July weekend. I had wanted to surprise Taylor with a trip, bust she found out a couple of days before we left. Maybe she found the brochures for Virginia Beach I tried to hide. Or maybe she saw the bag I had started packing. Possibly, she saw me checking out flight times and making hotel reservations. I had hoped it wasn’t the latter, but I can’t know for sure.
The only reason I knew she found out was that I accidentally discovered that she had bought a couple of new swimsuits. Before closing the shopping bag, I caught a glimpse of blue, white, and red. She had definitely bought them for the weekend.
After that, I could catch her stealing glances at me, always smiling. She became a bit more...warm, I guess. We hadn’t kissed since the night at the motel because we had slowed things down. While I didn’t necessarily like not being with her, being next to her was the next best thing.
When the day of the trip came, I didn’t go to work. Instead, I made myself breakfast and prepared a bowl of Special K for Taylor, careful not to add the milk so that it wouldn’t get soggy. Taylor had been hooked on the stuff for the past couple of days; possibly because she was trying to lose weight for the vacation. I couldn’t see why, she seemed perfect just the way she was, although I would never tell her that. Even back then, she hated being called perfect.
I think she was still coping with her nightmares of her dad back then. That son of a b*tch scarred her deep—deeper than she’d ever tell. Nothing short of a miracle would get her to tell me everything, or at least half the stuff her dad did to her. I wish she never had to live with him.
Stop it! I yelled internally. You can hate him all you want, but if he hadn’t raised her, do you think she would have gone to that high school? Made friends with her worst enemies? Would you have even met her?
I had to listen to myself; I thought back to July 4th.
I wasn’t halfway through my breakfast when Taylor popped out of the bedroom door. “Mornin’!” She said cheerily.
“You’re up early,” I told her, a bit surprised at her chipper mood. She must have been ready to burst on the inside in anticipation of our trip.
“Well, why not? I mean, it is July fourth after all. Why not celebrate our independence, our freedom.” For a moment she appeared to be daydreaming, but quickly snapped out of it. “Why not get an early start? Oh, and thanks for getting me some Special K.”
“No problem,” I responded, shoving a spoonful of Cheerios into my mouth. It may be kids cereal, but it sure tastes good.
“So,” she started pouring milk into her bowl, “What are your plans for today?”
“Spend time with you.” I didn’t have to wait long for a reaction that masked mild shock.
“Nothing else?” I heard the anxiousness in her voice.
“Well...” I dragged it out as long as possible. “I did have some kind of minor plans for us to spend the weekend in Virginia Beach.” I made sure to sound as casual as possible, but inside I was grinning wildly.
Taylor’s face lit up as I spoke. It probably wasn’t as bright as when she first found out, but it was pretty da.mn close. “Virginia Beach?” She beamed. I nodded, encouraging her to get excited and go wild.
“Oh my go.d Virginia Beach?” She got out of her chair. “I can’t believe it.” I couldn’t necessarily tell if she was or wasn’t acting, but it didn’t exactly matter at the moment.
“You’d better believe it Taylor ‘cause the plane leaves at 10:30.”
“10:30, that not a lot of time. The airport’s an hour away and then we have to get through customs and all that airport security.”
“Well we have three hours, so we’d better start packing.”
“Right, pack.” Taylor made a move to leave, but didn’t take a step. Instead, she turned toward me and quickly hugged me. “Thank you so much Ryan,” she whispered in my ear. Then she went to go and pack I guess.
I didn’t have to wait more than twenty minutes for her to be ready; of course, I didn’t expect a long wait. Even her makeup (which I didn't think she needed) didn’t take long to put on. To be honest, she did look great with makeup. She would definitely look beautiful if she let herself naturally shine, but that was just another thing to keep to myself.
During the car ride to the airport, I didn’t talk much. Instead, I listened as Taylor bubbled and giggled and talked and smiled and laughed and beamed about going to Virginia Beach. I had never seen her, or anyone for that matter, so upbeat and cheery and peppy in the morning. It was like she had had five cups of extra caffeinated coffee, only that she wouldn’t crash from the rush later. No, this was just pure ecstasy and anticipation.
She was just so bubbly and perky that her sweet honey voice turned into an ongoing song. I knew that she wasn’t actually singing, but she was still my beautiful siren. A couple of times I was so seduced from her enchantment that I lost focus of the road. Luckily, there were no accidents. I had to try and tune Taylor out, but efforts were futile. Her voice slipped into my subconscious. Involuntarily, I smiled at her. At some point in time, I looked in one of my mirrors and saw that I was still smiling. Inside, I laughed at myself. A small chuckle escaped in my attempts to stay contained and Taylor noticed.
“What’s so funny?” She giggled.
“Nothing,” I smiled at her. “I just think it’s cute how excited you are.”
“Well you’re the one that made me this excited.”
“And... I’m grateful,” she smiled shyly, almost ashamed to have admitted it.
After a minute, I responded, “You’re welcome.” I tried to be as quiet and sincere as possible. I still wanted her to know that I loved and appreciated her, even if she wasn’t ready to come out of the friend zone, she should know.
Airport security was. . . well airport security; horrible, dull, and seemed like a total waste of time. The plane ride itself wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t feel good. Taylor suggested that I try and rest so I didn’t get sick. She woke me up as we were landing.
After we got off the plane and gathered all of our luggage, I went to get the rental car from the parking garage, a little surprise that Taylor was elated about. “No taxis?” Were the first words out of her mouth.
“No taxis,” I told her firmly. From there, I drove to our hotel, which I made sure located near the beach. Pulling into the parking lot, I realized that it was a good thing I had booked early. Nearly every hotel had a full parking lot. I mean, I had expected it to be busy, but not overcrowded. Once we parked, I went inside to get out room keys. I asked Taylor to unpack the car, which she had no problem doing. Getting our card keys wasn’t a problem at all, unlike it was for this businessman being ‘helped’ by the other woman at the front desk. It felt good that I didn’t have to deal with that hassle.
I went outside to get Taylor and go to our room. I would think that all that excitement would have somehow drained her and that she would need to rest, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as we got our stuff into our room, Taylor opened her larger bag and got out the red, white, and blue swim suit I had gotten a glimpse of earlier. “I’m going to go swim. Join me if you want to.”
She went into the bathroom, changed, got a towel and left in a whirlwind. Had she just gone off swimming? It took my mind a couple of moments to play catch up. Once it did function, I followed in her footsteps and changed into a swimsuit.
Along with the towels, I brought a room key, a shirt, and some sunscreen. While the last item was more precautionary instead of a necessity, I still felt like we would use it. I also grabbed a pair of clothes for here before heading out.
The next seven or so hours went by in a whirlwind. It was a mixture of water, sun, sand, boardwalk, candy, a few rides, and some games. The images flashed from my memory, giving me a small, but noticeable headache. I skipped to after dinner to find some relief.
“Wow,” Taylor said after entering our room. She fell back onto her bed and laid her head onto her pillow. “I don’t think I’ve ever had Mexican food that was that good before. I don’t think I’ll ever have anything like that ever again.”
“Oh come on,” I told her, sitting down on my bed. “You’ll never have anything that good ever again?” I mocked her.
She rolled onto her side to face me. “I’m sorry, but were you at the same restaurant I was? That food was magnificent, no beyond even that.”
She sat up. “You didn’t think so?”
“No. I thought it was fine, good, I’ll go as far as great, but not magnificent.” I laid down.
“Well,” she sighed, copying my movement, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
“Agreed.” I heard her giggle and smiled as I had achieved my goal.
“So...” I started awkwardly, “You want to do anything else, I mean it is July Fourth.”
“Nah, I’m tired. Can’t I just go to sleep?”
“Taylor, it’s only eight thirty.”
“Eight thirty two actually.”
“Whatever. Don’t you wanna watch the fireworks?”
“Can’t we just watch them on TV?” Another fifteen or so minutes later and I had convinced her to watch the fireworks on the beach.
We set off toward the beach and I put a towel down for us to sit on. It was great timing too because as we sat down, the colorful display of fireworks started. As we watched, Taylor leaned her head onto my shoulder. I don’t know if she did it accidentally or on purpose, but she was definitely leaning on me. Her head stayed there throughout the spectacle.
When the fireworks started ending, I could see her gazing in awe at them like a little kid would. She was so cute, I had to smile at her. It seemed like all I had been doing that day was smiling at her. As the last firework went up, it exploded then left a silence that was quickly occupied but clapping and some cheering. Taylor picked up her head and we looked at each other.
“Well. . . that was amazing.” I didn’t know what to say.
“Yeah. . . I guess it was.” She put her hand on the back of her neck. “Ryan, could you come a little closer?” She hesitantly asked. I obeyed her and before I knew it, she was kissing me.
It was the first kiss in months. At the time, it was quick and unexpected, but in the back of mind I had been expecting this and wanted to savor every moment. But as time quickened, I realized that I wasn’t in the memory anymore.
I felt like I was drowning and opened my eyes. Back in reality, some brute was pouring water down my throat. Go.d, I thought. Could they have picked a worse time? When the guy removed the endless waterfall from my mouth, I started coughing violently. The water didn’t agree with my lungs and took about a minute to find it’s way to my stomach or out my mouth.
“Rotten prisoners,” I heard him say as he walked away with his buddy. I scowled at him before my body went through another coughing fit.
After the two left, Taylor piped up. “Are you okay Ryan?”
“Yeah,” I coughed. “I’ll be fine. I just hate that they have to do that. We could do it ourselves if they’d untie us.”
“I know,” she said. Then she was silent for a minute. “Ryan, I’m scared.”
“Taylor they don’t really want you. They just want me.”
“That’s not all I’m scared of. One of the guards said that they had something special for me. Plus their monitoring us 24/7. I’m just so scared Ryan.” Her voice cracked in the last sentence and I could see a tear fall.
“It’s okay Taylor. I’m still here. I’ll always be here for you. Always & forever.”
* * * * * *
The next day’s interrogation began just like the first—position the agents then have Zera ask pointless questions. This time round I decided to pay attention; today they promised to be more violent. I wondered why they had to drag everything out.
Zera’s questions, as I expected, had no relevance to me or Taylor. She wanted current information that neither of us had. I’d like to think that if they took the time to track us down, they’d know we weren’t involved in SECRET of any of this stuff.
About five questions in, Taylor broke her silence. “Zera! Stop it! We’re not involved with any of this! Ryan has been out of the game for three years and I was never in it!”
“Cute attempt darling, but it’s not working. Vlad.” She nodded to Vlad and he nodded back, taking out a knife. He cut the right side of her neck. She screamed in agony, which only caused blood to squirt out. She then tried to keep quiet so blood only poured down her neck.
“Zera you b*tch!” I yelled. “She had nothing to f*cking do with this! It’s me you want, not her!”
“Oh but this is so fun,” she said in a sickeningly sweet tone. “Besides,” she got up, “How do I know you’re not lying?”
“I haven’t been in SECRET. I’ve been working a 9 to 5 job and coming back to an apartment for the past three years! I work for a f*cking computer company!”
“No! If I was in intelligence, do you think I’d be out and about or stupid enough to let myself to get captured!”
“How do I know you haven’t been undercover for the past three years, protecting her?” She walked over toward Taylor who looked faint.
“Why the f*ck are you guys so interested with her!” I was ferociously furious at them but sincerely scared for Taylor. I just hoped that I was helping her, not hurting.
“You know, that doesn’t matter right now.” Zera moved Taylor’s hair from front to back. “All that matter is her safety, right?” She took out her knife and cut a long line across Taylor’s chest.
Our screams were united and filled the room. Zera cackled and I just filled with rage. “I’ll kill you! I’ll f*cking kill you!!” She just laughed harder and I started fiddling with my restraints. They easily become loose. I smiled vengefully as I broke them.
I headed straight for Zera as she fumbled with her knife. This is going to be so easy, I thought. B*tch can’t even-
Suddenly I was on back on the ground and Dimitri was towering over me. Zera came over quickly to see Dimitri's handy work. I made a move to get up, but Zera dug a stiletto into my chest, sending waves of pain through my broken body.
“You know what,” she spat at me. “I’m done being nice. Get ready for some real torture kid.” The last thing I saw before I blacked out was Dimitri’s fist hurtling toward my face.
Unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable putting any more of this up on Teenink because I think it might get flagged as inappropriate, for many reasons, and be rated R. However, I can publish this on another site called Wattpad.