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The Hard Truth
Gripping the door handle, a tear rolled down my cheek and splashed onto the tile floor beneath me. I didn’t dare turn my head, the pain was too great and I couldn’t risk changing my mind. Once I took a deep breath, I jerked open the door, grabbed my bag, and fled. There was no destination, I simply needed to get as far away as I could. Running, I could hear the roar of the bus before it pulled in front of me, and suddenly, I tripped sideways and fell out of the vehicle’s path, landing on my arm, which was already covered with bruises from….NO, I thought. I’m not going there, I am not letting my mind go back there. Shaking off the pain, I picked up my now dirt-covered purse and for the second time that day, fled. As soon as I reached the house, I banged on the door, screaming, “Open up!” until the door flew open in my face and I stumbled back, already sobbing. “Remmy! Oh my gosh, come here!” the woman said as she pulled me into a hug. I breathed in her familiar lemon scented shampoo and cried until there were no more tears left for me to cry.
“Remmy! Get up!” Emily yelled up the stairs, pulling me out of my haunting nightmare. I gasped, breathing in the fresh air filtering out of my window and dried my tears on my pillow. Although the pain remained, the memory of the nightmare faded with each passing minute. I slowly climbed out of bed, haphazardly threw on some clothes pulled off of my floor, and trudged downstairs. Carson wagged his tail and licked me as I bent down to pet him, some of the residual pain easing with each lick. Taking a deep breath, I walked into the kitchen and prepared for one of Emily’s daily lectures on personal hygiene, but it didn’t come. I looked around and saw Emily and David sitting at the table, quietly chewing their waffles. Squinting, I walked further into the kitchen. “Hello, honey,” Emily said as she stood up and kissed the top of my head, a trait that I didn’t particularly like but tolerated because it was love, which I needed. David held up his hand for a high five and I recuperated.
“What’s going on? Why are you all so quiet? Emily, where is the lecture?” I regularly joked about it, so she wasn’t in the least mad or offended. Laughing, she cleared her dish into the sink. “I felt like I was a little too hard on you. Thought you could use a break.” Looking into her eyes, I expected pity, but only saw genuine sincerity. I smiled. I never liked pity, which I received a lot of after I fled. Mentally, I scolded myself for thinking back to that night, and sighed. “I’m not that hungry, I’ll call Lauren and see if she needs any help.” Lauren was the owner of Paws and Tails, the local pet shop that I volunteered at regularly for a small salary. I dialed the number, waiting 3 rings before Lauren’s cheery voice rang through the speaker. “Hey Rem! What’s up?” “Just wondering if you needed any help today?” I asked. “Sure, we’re quite busy, if you can man the register and I’ll help the customers.” “Sure, I’ll be right over.” Clicking the end button, I tucked the phone into my purse and grabbed my car keys. “I’m heading to work,” I informed Emily as I opened the door. “Ok, I love you.” I returned the endearment and climbed into my car. Three hours later, I stared at the register, trying to digest the numbers displayed on the screen. “36.45, 36.45, 36.45…” I mumbled to myself. “Are you performing an Indian ritual or memorizing prices?” an amused voice said, startling me. I glanced up and my heart stopped.
His face looked so familiar, but I couldn’t put a finger on where I knew him from. When our eyes connected, he smiled, and suddenly, it clicked. I would know that smile anywhere. “K-Kayden..?” I stammered, my face pale. Shock crossed his face, and then confusion overtook it. I understood why he didn’t recognize me, over the years, I traded my old mousy brown hair for strawberry blonde, grew it out, and styled it in beachy waves every morning. He glanced at my nametag, and his face grew as pale as mine. “Remmy…” “I...I have to go,” I whispered, pretending to check my phone for the time. “Lauren will assist you.” I rushed the words out, pointed across the store in Lauren’s general direction, and scurried out of the store, color never coming back to my face until I reached the safety of my car. As I started the engine, I noticed Kayden rushing out of the store, frantically looking around. When he spotted my car, I tried to press the gas pedal, but for some unknown reason and perhaps a cruel twist of fate, my car wouldn’t move. Kayden jumped in front of the car, and opened the door next to me. Pulling me out of the car, he dragged me behind the building and pressed me up against a wall. “I-I have-” I was cut off as he pressed a finger to my lips. “Now, Remmy, listen to me. Don’t say a word, don’t try to run away. I’ve been waiting for forever to tell you this and I can’t wait any longer.” Kayden took a deep breath. “I understand it’s been years since we last saw each other. When I started dating Karly, I lost myself. I was too blinded by fake love to even remember that you existed. I don’t know why I didn’t stop you from dating-” He cleared his throat, and continued. “-him. How was I supposed to know he would be the worst thing that happened to you. Because of me, your life and any trust you had in men were thrown out the window. I can see why you’re trying to run away from me. We were best friends since 4th grade,” he grabbed my hands, “and I fell in love with you-” A gasp escaped from my mouth before I could stop it. “-I loved you for 3 years. And then Karly came to our school...and I ditched you.” He gulped. “We may have never dated, and you had no idea I loved you, but I didn’t realize how bad she was for me until it was too late. And I didn’t realize that he would ruin your life. You had no idea how hard it was for me when you stopped talking to me altogether, and cut me from your life. Nothing was ever the same for me after that.” A flood of emotions overwhelmed me, but the one that was prominent was guilt. “I’m so sorry,” I managed through my tears. I wrapped Kayden in a hug, and he kissed my forehead. For once, I felt complete, not fragile like a piece of glass. I held onto him tightly, knowing that he could heal my pain.
“No!!” I screamed as Josh stalked toward me. “You know you love me,” he said, a mean undertone in his voice. Smiling devilishly, he grabbed
my arm and shoved me against the wall. Pressing against me, he slapped me across the face and slammed me against the wall again. Seeing my escape route, I slipped under his arm and pushed him away, locking the door from the outside, trapping him. I ignored his yelling and banging as I grabbed my bag, but suddenly, the door burst open and he tackled me to the ground. “Get off me!” I kept screaming, but he wouldn't move. His hand around my throat, I felt my consciousness slowly fading to black.
I shot up off the bed, the memory burning through me. Gasping and panting, tears streamed down my face, I could barely breathe. What was wrong with me? I've blocked that memory from my brain…or at least I thought I did. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. I jumped up, smoothing down my hair, but I couldn't do anything about my tear stained cheeks. When I opened the door, my heart stopped. “Kayden?! What are you doing here!?” I exclaimed, shock written across my face. “Well, it was-is my house,” he stated matter-of-factly. I nodded, looking into his face, and he gasped. “Remmy! Why are you crying?” I felt my face and when I pulled my hand back, it was wet. “Oh, um...it's nothing.” I tried to brush the matter off, but Kayden was never one to let things go. He grabbed my arm as I turned away and pulled me against him, smoothing down my hair as I had done minutes before. When he pulled back, he grabbed me around the waist, leaning down, and pressed his lips against mine. I quietly gasped, but didn't pull back. It felt amazing, both the kiss and Kayden's love. Suddenly, Kayden jerked back and pushed me against the bedroom wall, before moving in front of me. “Kayden-” “STAY QUIET!” he whispered yelled, and I clamped my mouth shut. I peeked around and my heart stopped as I saw Josh burst through the door and smirk. I could almost feel the hate radiating off of Kayden’s voice as he said, “Josh.” “Well, well, if it isn’t Kayden.” Josh said Kayden’s name as if it was poison. “Leave. Her. Alone,” Kayden growled. “I just wanted to catch up…” Josh trailed off and started to step closer. An impressive growl made its way out of Kayden as he pressed harder against me, but not enough to hurt me. And then it happened. All I can remember is a blur of fists flying, shouting, and everything went black.
Waking up was like trying to swim to the surface of a black lagoon. I slowly opened my eyes to see Kayden sitting next to my bed with his head in his hands. “Kayden…” I croaked out and he shot up out of his chair. “Remmy! You’re ok!” “What happened…” I could barely talk. Why did my throat hurt so bad? “Josh happened,” he replied, a dark look spreading across his face. I didn’t want to see that, so I quickly changed the subject. “My head hurts.” “I know, and it will, he gave you a concussion.” “What? How?” I was shocked. I knew Josh had hurt me before and even tried to kill me, but I couldn’t see how, years later, he still felt the same way. “He punched you. Right in the face. Trust me, I beat the crap out of him after that.” “Where is he now?” I coughed. “He’s in trial. Here, drink some water,” Kayden responded, handing me a glass of water that seemed to appear out of nowhere. After a few sips, my throat felt significantly better. “Wait...trial?” “My dad’s a cop. He walked in and arrested Josh on the spot. I glanced down and gasped. My foot was in a cast. Kayden followed my eyes and nodded. “Yeah, and that one’s on me.” “What?” He sighed. “When Josh hit you, you fell and I tripped over you, landing on your foot. I broke it.” “Kayden, it’s not your fault.” “Yes, it is. I caused you pain!” “I was out cold, I don’t think I felt that.” Kayden nodded. “I understand...but it still pains me.” “Here, make it up to me.” “How?” he asked, incredulous. “If you help me walk in these stupid crutches,” I motioned to the the pair propped up against the wall, “you’ll make it up.” A small smile crossed his face, and he sighed once again. “That’s good. Now you need to get some rest.” He sat back down and closed his eyes. I fell asleep the the beeping of the machines and the steady rhythm of his breathing.
I awoke groggy and disoriented. I noticed that my scenery had changed. After glancing around some more, I realized I was in my room. Sitting up, I ignored the pain pounding in my head and climbed out of bed. I startled when I noticed movement out the corner of my eye, before I heard a soft sob. I spun around and my jaw dropped. “Hey…” Summer said, looking uncomfortable. She opened her mouth to say something else, but was interrupted when the door creaked open. I gasped as Claire stood in the doorway. “Is she ok-” she started before noticing me and her face lit up. “Remmy!” Claire gushed as she rushed towards me and threw her arms around me. I sobbed out, “Summer! Claire! What-” but my cry was cut short when Summer rushed over and hugged me as well. “Guys...what are you doing here?!” I asked, still holding the hug together while wiping tears away. “Kayden found us at the store and told us what happened. Rems, I think he really loves you. He was literally crying in the middle of the store because you were in a coma.” I glared playfully at Claire. “Remmy! You know I didn’t mean that, of course you being in a coma is the worst thing ever!” She rolled her eyes, but I know she meant what she had said. Claire and Summer were my best friends for 12 years, we’d known each other since we were babies. When I ran away from my home 5 years ago, we lost touch. Because of the horrible relationship I was in at the time, I was drifting away from them, and as soon as I ran, I didn’t look back. Now that they were here, my life felt like it was complete.
I was too caught up to hear the door open once again. Summer gasped and broke the hug, throwing her arms around Kayden who had just walked in. “Hey sis,” he said, grinning. She laughed and ran back to Claire and I. Summer is Kayden’s sister, but they hadn’t seen each other in years because she went to college 3 states away. I stepped back and climbed into Kayden’s arms as he placed a kiss on my forehead. I didn’t think much of it until I once again heard a small gasp from Summer and a shocked look on Claire’s face when I turned around. Back when Kayden and I were best friends, we weren’t affectionate with each other. There were no hugs between us or anything similar, ever, so it made sense why my two other bffs were confused. I blushed. “Oh...uh, we, um-” “We’re dating.” Kayden stated, cutting me off. My face displayed shock as I looked up at him. “We-we are?” He glared at me, as if to tell me to play along. “I-I mean, yeah! We are!” Summer and Claire were still too shocked to notice my hesitation. Claire took a step forward. “You’re...”’ She trailed off, but I understand what she meant. ‘Yep,” Kayden responded once again, pulling me into a hug and resting his chin on my head while his arms wrapped around my waist. I sighed. Suddenly, a loud squeal snapped me out of the moment and I jumped. “OMG! I’ve been waiting for this since 3rd grade!” Claire rushed forward and threw her arms around both of us. Kayden chuckled while I turned red. “You-you wanted this to happen?” She stared at me before bursting into a fit of laughter. “Duh! You guys are literal goals!” she squealed as she jumped up and down on the tips of her toes. My best friend had always been a chirpy as a bird and talked like she texted. I sighed and gave Claire and Summer a side hug before grabbing my coat. “I have work to go to,” I said as I started out the door, limping. “Wait, Remmy,” Claire called, “can you go to school instead?” I flushed. “It’s been like 3 weeks since I last went..” Summer looked at me the same way my mom used to do when I was a pain, and I sighed. “Fine, I’ll go.” Then Kayden grabbed my arm. “You'll need your crutches.” he commented while giving me a pointed look. I grabbed them, grumbling, finally limping out the door and to my car.
When I arrived at school, a wave a nostalgia hit me even though I had only been gone a few weeks. Right away I recognized a few kids I was friendly with. Suddenly, my car door opened next to me and Kayden helped me out of the car. “Well, here’s a way to make an entrance,” I commented as he handed me my crutches and placed his hand on the small of my back. “I know,” he replied, grinning. I took a deep breath and limped forward, ignoring the stares from the students in the parking lot as I walked through the front doors of the school. “Remmy!” someone yelled. A shadow blocked my path and I looked up. “Oh my gosh, you’re back! What happened? Are you ok? Did you break your leg? How? Who did that?” I glared at Hunter and he stopped talking a mile a minute. “I’m fine Hunter, just sore. I broke my leg, I fell. Nothing else happened.” I laughed. Hunter looked up and suddenly turned a little pale. I turned around and Kayden was giving a hard stare and I punched him in the arm. “Lighten up! Hunter’s a friend.” Kayden visibly relaxed and sighed. “It’s nice to meet you, I’m Kayden.” “H-Hunter,” Hunter stuttered out his name while still appearing as white as a sheet. “I-I’ve got to get to class..” he waved slightly and scampered off. I turned to Kayden. “Um, do you go here?” “Yep, I’m in the same class as you. I transferred here a couple weeks ago and I’ve been taking your spot.” I nodded, too focused on the fixed glances of my classmates to fully listen to what he was saying. Blushing, I pulled open the door and limped inside, Kayden following close behind me. Brynn, one of my close friends, jumped up and grabbed my arm, pulling me away from Kayden and to my seat. “Remmy!” She whisper-yelled. “You’re back!” I smiled, knowing all too well that I would become tired of that phrase by the end of the day. Brynn then glanced down at my cast and a look of pity crossed her face. I glared, and the look went away. She knew I hated pity. “What happened?” “I fell,” I lied, but apparently I wasn’t that good at lying. She gave me a look that told me this wasn’t over, and turned around to face the board.
By the end of the day, I was worn out of answering the same question. “What happened?” was all I heard for hours on end. I never really lied during my life so it was hard to lie to so many people at once. I sat out on the curb, my head stuck in the clouds, so I didn’t see Kayden coming when he walked up. “How was your day?” he asked, sliding his arm around me. “Good,” I replied. “If one more person asks what happened, I’ll explode,” He chuckled. “What happened?” I shot Kayden a look as he grinned. I smiled and hugged him, feeling as if nothing bad could happen ever again.
Weeks turned into months as the year drug on. I sat at my desk glaring at the advanced calculus staring back at me. Even though I was in all advanced classes, calculus was the one subject that threw me for a loop. As soon as I started to solve the problem, my phone dinged, startling me out of my thought process. I figured it was Kayden, so I didn’t think much of it until I saw the number. It was unknown, I didn’t recognize it. Clicking on the box, I scanned the message and my stomach dropped. Dropping my phone on the floor, I ran down the stairs, frantically grabbed my coat, and sped out the door. Quickly realizing I forgot my phone, I threw open the door and ran up the stairs, grabbed my phone, and once again flew out the door. I didn’t even bother getting in my car, I ran the mile all the way to Kayden’s house. By the time I reached his front door, I was panting so hard I couldn’t breathe. The door finally opened after 30 seconds of my banging and screaming. “REMMY!” Kayden rushed out of the threshold and grabbed me, pulling me to him. As soon as we made contact, I burst into tears, sobbing as hard as I ever had in my life, even harder than when my parents were killed in a car accident when I was 12. Even harder than when my grandma died, leaving me alone in a house with only Josh for company. At the thought of his name, I cried even harder. “Rem, what the heck is going on?! TALK TO ME!” I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t breathe. I shoved my phone in his face and he paled before he threw it into his yard and held me harder. I thought back to the message. “Hello Remmy. I’m coming for you. I already took your annoying chirpy friend Claire, and her stupid friend Summer. Oh, and I won’t hesitate to resort to more drastic measures if you don’t show up before tomorrow night. Come and find me.” By the time I stopped crying, I was so angry I couldn’t think straight. Considering my past, I had a pretty good idea who sent the text. “How can I find you?” I replied after retrieving my phone out of the grass and 15 minutes of convincing Kayden texting back was the only way to fix this. The person answered almost immediately with “You know where to find me. Just think, Remmy. Where did I use to go to cool down?” “That’s it! That’s where they are!” Kayden exclaimed. I grabbed his arm before he could go any further. “I’m pretty sure he’s in the underground sewers he used to use to travel across town. There will be a building but nothing else.” Kayden nodded. “Are you sure you know who this is?” I gave him a look and sighed, still looking skeptical. “Fine, we’ll go,” he concluded with a resigned sigh. “What about your parents?” I asked, confused. “They’ll be worried sick.” “They’ll be fine. We have to go.” he replied, climbing into the car. I took a deep breath before bursting into tears once again. Kayden grabbed my hand and held it the whole way there.
Jolting awake, I realized we had pulled into the all-familiar alleyway. The door opened next to me and Kayden’s worried face appeared. “You’re awake? Are you ok?” He asked as he helped me out of the car and wrapped his arm around me. “Mhm,” I mumbled as I nervously clung to him. When Kayden opened the door, pitch black greeted me and I started shaking, holding onto Kayden’s arm for dear life. The memories flooded back. The dark nights cowering under my bed, the foul stench lingering in the house for days. Even though it didn’t seem possible, another tear rolled down my cheek and Kayden pulled me closer. Suddenly, a loud noise reverberated further back in the dark building and I jumped. “K-Kayden…” I whispered, still shaking like a leaf on a windy day. “Hey. Hey. Look at me.” He said. I turned my head around slightly and he looked me in the eyes. “Don’t worry. I’m here for you. Let’s go.” He took my arm and led me further into the building, never taking his eyes off me. As we stepped forward I noticed a small desk sitting in the corner with one lone dim desk lamp balanced precariously on it. Kayden gasped next to me, shaking me out of my reverie as I spun around and joined Kayden’s gasp. Summer and Claire were tied to two chairs with rope, and gagged in the mouth with red dish cloths that looked suspiciously like the ones Josh and I had in our old house. When Claire looked up following Kayden’s gasp, she made a noise that sounded more like a pig than a squeal, but it was the best she could do. Summer appeared to be asleep but after Claire’s sound, she glanced up as well and her eyes lit up. “Summer! Claire!” I whisper-yelled as I raced toward them. I knew it would be a trap, but that didn’t stop me as I quickly untied them and pulled them into a tight hug. The last thing I saw was Kayden screaming “NOOO!” and Summer and Claire gasping.
For the second time in my life, I crawled out of the void of unconsciousness and into the light. When Kayden’s face appeared in my vision, relief flooded through me until I realized we were still trapped in the dark building. I tried to sit up but a sharp pain resided in my side and I winced. “Careful,” Kayden whispered. “You were shot. With a tranquilizer dart, but still. It will hurt.” As I glanced over, Summer and Claire were nowhere to be seen. “Um...where are they?” Kayden sighed and turned away, not looking me in the eyes. “He took them. While you were out. I tried to go after them but he was too fast.” I shot up and ignored the searing pain in my side. “Who? WHO?” I yelled. He shushed me while glaring. Then he looked away once again, muttering, “Josh.” “I knew it!” I tried to take a step forward but fell and landed on Kayden. “Woah, slow down. Sit down. You need rest.” He said, worry in his eyes. I ignored it as I glared at him. “My friend’s lives are in danger! We don’t have time for that!” This time, I was able to stand up without falling and basically hobble towards the desk with the lamp. “What are you doing?” Kayden called after me. “We need weapons, like a pencil or something if tries to hurt us.” “You’re so dramatic,” I heard behind me as I made my way to the desk. “No, I’m not. You don’t care enough to actually try anything.” I was becoming irritated. Kayden didn’t seem to think we were in danger. He obviously didn’t know Josh as well as I did. “What does that mean, Rem?” “Don’t “Rem” me. I just wish you would help me instead of sitting there and do nothing like you always do.” “Remmy! What are you talking about?” There was an edge to his voice, I could tell he was feeling the same way I was. “We’re in danger, Kayden. Josh will hurt me for leaving him.” “Remmy…” he trailed off as he made his way to me. A tear rolled down my cheek as I sighed. “I thought this was over! I thought I was done with him!” Kayden wrapped his arms around me as I started sobbing. “I don’t know what to do. Josh will do anything to get me back, including hurting those who I care about. We have to find Summer and Claire. Right now.” Determined, I wiped the tears off my face and glanced toward the dim light radiating from underneath a door about 15 feet away. I noticed a wrench sitting on the desk. “Kayden, grab that wrench.” He nodded and grabbed it without question. As he started toward the door, I knew that he understood what I was going to do. He handed me the wrench once I reached the door, and with all of my might, I threw it into the middle of the splintered door. The wrench burst through the thin wood and I was able to grab the rusty handle through the hole and unlock it. Kayden once again pulled me closer to protect me as we walked through the rusty door frame. Clueless as to where to go, I started blindly walking through the corridors. I was so upset and lost in thought that I almost didn’t notice the bright green piece of torn fabric lying in the corner. Although it was smeared in dirt, I could still recognize it as a piece of the shirt that Claire was wearing when we found her in this building. Gasping, I picked it up and practically shoved it in Kayden’s face. “Look! It’s Claire’s shirt!” I was almost screaming and Kayden covered my mouth with his hand. “Shhh...don’t be so loud.” I laughed, but not out of humor, out of hysterics. “It’s hers..” I replied, quieter this time. “Rem, are you ok?” One of Kayden’s many traits was being able to tell right away when I was upset. Obviously I was upset, but I was more than that. I was on the edge of losing my mind. In less than a day, both of my friends were kidnapped by my crazy ex, I was shot, and now I’m trapped in a less than 3-foot-wide room with only Kayden for company. I slowly sank down to my knees as he rushed to my side and held me as I helplessly knelt on the dirty floor. “Let it out, Remmy. It’s ok.” “Josh ruined my life, Kayden.” “Tell me more,” he prodded. “When I first met Josh, he was amazing. So sweet, so kind, and we fell in love almost instantly. Everything was perfect for the next year and a half. I thought I found my soulmate. But I was wrong. I was so wrong. We had been dating for almost two years, and one day, his friends invited him to go to Las Vegas for a vacation. I was skeptical, since there was a considerable amount of eligible girls there. But I trusted him. I did. The day he left, he hugged me goodbye and told me he loved me. Then he left.” I started crying, and Kayden held me and let me cry until I was able to continue. “We texted almost every day, even video chatted the whole flight there. A week into his trip, I texted him and he didn’t reply, at all, the whole day. This was unusual, but I figured he was just busy. Josh replied the next day, saying he was at the casino and couldn’t talk. This continued on the rest of the two weeks, I would text him, he would say he was busy. By the end of the trip, the day he was flying home, I was fuming. I was his girlfriend, for gosh sakes! When he opened the door, I didn’t come down. He found me on the couch, pretending to be engrossed in a book. I ignored everything he said, and pulled away when he tried to touch me. I know it was petty, and childish. I was mad. Eventually, I forgave him, and everything went back to normal, or so I thought. Then I started noticing the signs. Josh would sit on his phone almost every day, smiling at the screen. When I asked what he was smiling about, he didn’t reply, or he would mumble “Nothing” before shutting off his phone. He paid less attention to me, and seemed to always be out of the house, stumbling in at 4 in the morning, crashing on the couch. The day he hit me when I came downstairs after one of his many episodes was the day it started. The hitting, the verbal abuse. I was done for. I spent most of the next 2 years at people’s houses that I knew from school. When asked why I spent the night there so much, I made up elaborate lies that I knew seemed too far-fetched. Nobody could know about the pain I endured every single day. I know that I could have left, but if I did, he would have found me. I would have had to move states, countries even. But even then, even with a restraining order, he would have gotten to me. I was so scared, I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t fight back, I couldn’t do anything. Josh would drag me out my friend’s houses in the middle of the night to take me home just so he could have someone to take all his anger out on. And what anger? Everything changed when he went on the vacation. He no longer smiled, if he did, it was sinister and cruel. I didn’t understand! But among the abuse, I soon realized the cause of this behavior was something from the past. Cowering under my bed, I started to think of the reason why he changed so much. I tried to think back to all of the stories he used to tell me about his childhood. He never seemed to mention his parents, though. One time I asked him about them, and he quickly changed the subject, and made up a flawed excuse for having to leave, so-” A loud crash resounded in the building, jerking me from my story and back into our sad reality. Kayden grabbed my arm, pulling me up off the floor. “Rem, we have to go. Come on!” As we ran from the room, the sound of footsteps got closer and closer, and my breath caught.
“Remmy.” At the sound of the voice, I spun around. “Look, I’m sorry.” Kayden glared at the ceiling, at the speaker that the disembodied voice was projecting from. I couldn’t identify the voice, the speaker was old and the sound was garbled. “But you have to stay. I’m not allowing you to leave.” “What?!” Kayden screamed at the speaker. “I will-” I placed a hand on his arm and gave him a look. Leaning close so the voice couldn’t hear, I whispered to Kayden, “Play along. It will trick them into thinking we’re going to stay. At the right moment, we’ll run.” He nodded and cleared his throat. “What do you need us to do?” He inquired, directing the question at the speaker. “Well,” the voice chuckled, “that was quite easy. I knew you’d catch on, Remmy.” The moment my name left the speaker, I realized who the voice was. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t figured it out before. “Oh, Josh, you knew I couldn’t leave you!” I said in the sweetest voice I could muster. Kayden tensed next to me, but I nudged him, and he relaxed almost instantly. Suddenly, a door which I hadn’t noticed before opened next to me, as Kayden pulled me behind him protectively. I shrugged out of his grip and communicated the fact that I couldn’t look afraid to him with my eyes, and he seemed to understand, pushing me gently toward the door. The fact that I wasn’t out of Kayden’s reach if something bad were to happen gave me peace of mind. This feeling propelled me forward, until I came face-to-face with Josh. My chest tightened, but I took a deep breath and kept my chin up. Josh’s hair was unkempt, messy, and it looked like he hadn’t had a shower in weeks. The dark bags under his eyes suggested that sleep hadn’t come. I could feel Kayden place his hand on my back, but this time, I didn’t move out of his grasp. Josh cruelly smiled. “Oh, Rem...” I stiffened at the nickname. “Why did you run? From California all the way to here, Washington, that’s a long way. Where did you go that one night after our big fight, when you ran to that house?” I gasped. “You-you followed me?” “Of course, I’ll always be there.” At that moment, Kayden stepped forward. I could feel the anger radiating off of him, and I tried to stop him. Josh stepped out of the way in time to dodge Kayden’s punch, and I screamed, grabbing his hand before he could throw another one. “Kayden! NO! Not now,” I pleaded, and he nodded before stepping back, his hand still resting on my arm.
The door flew open, knocking Josh to the ground. I threw my arms around Claire and Summer who had just ran into the room, their faces red. Although they looked tired, Josh hadn’t touched them, from what I could tell. Even though Josh called after us, we fled from the cramped room and down the seemingly endless maze of hallways. “Follow me,” Claire called over her shoulder. “We spent hours memorizing the layout of the building!” I laughed, still feeling the hysteria spread throughout me. Too much had happened over the course of a day. I almost collapsed from the weight of it all, but thinking of Emily and David, and even Lauren, I kept running. Eventually we made it to a rusted door that was propped open by a splintered log. I could feel the relief flood through me as I saw the sunlight pour out of the opening. The feeling washed away as quickly as it had come as I heard running footsteps getting closer.“GET BACK HERE!!” Josh screamed, launching towards us with arms outstretched. Kayden jumped in front of the three of us and blocked Josh just in time. For the second time, Josh fell to the ground, and Summer threw open the door, pushing us out of the building and into the broad daylight. I went blind for a few seconds from the sheer brightness of the sun. The building had been so dark we could barely see a thing. I spun around just in time to see the door slam in Josh’s face, and Kayden grab my hand. We took off at top speed, not stopping until we were miles away, in a far away town I only slightly knew my way around. “What do we do now?” I inquired, staring at Claire. “We get a hotel room. We can’t leave yet, we’re too far away from home.” Kayden nodded, and at that same moment, Summer’s face lit up. “I know a place, it’s only a few blocks from here.” “What about money?” Claire asked. “Let’s pool our money, there might be enough. But save some for food.” We sat on the side of the road and added our money. In total we had over 100 bucks, which was hopefully enough to pay for food and an overnight hotel stay. I stood up and looked out towards the setting sun and distant fields. “Let’s go.”
Kayden pulled open the door of the motel, and the lady at the counter glanced up. Shock crossed her face, and I instantly understood why. I’m sure we were a sight. 4 teenagers, barely 18, covered in dirt and bruises, stumbling in at 7 pm with only a wad of cash and not-so covert glances around. “Can I help you?” She asked precariously, eyeing the cash clutched in my fist. I was tired and didn’t mind being judged at the moment. Striding up to the desk, I slapped the money right in front of her. I could tell I startled her, and spun around glaring when Kayden and Claire chuckled. They stopped quickly and I returned to the predicament I was facing at the moment. “How much would it cost to get a room overnight and still be able to afford food?” She glanced at the cash, typed something on her keyboard, and then finally picked up the money. “How much do you have?” She responded in a tone I couldn’t quite read. “About 110,” Kayden answered, cutting me off. “If you want to feed all of you, you’ll only be able to get one room.” I sighed. “What does it have?” “Twin bed, fold out couch, and reclining chair. Should fit everyone.” “We’ll take it,” Kayden answered. The clerk handed us the keys with a seemingly forced “Enjoy your stay!” before taking the money and splitting it in half, handing us one of the stacks. I was confused, but too tired to say much. I nodded at her and joined my group as we walked over to the elevator. Cramming into the elevator, I took a deep breath, trying to keep the tears of relief and anxiety from coming. When we reached the room, I plopped on the bed and buried my head in the pillows. Claire slumped down next to me. “Sleep here tonight?” I asked. “Sure.” She responded, before crawling under the blanket and falling asleep almost instantly. I glanced over and saw Kayden looking at me. He gave me a sweet smile before sleep overtook me.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I glanced at the window and gasped. “It’s morning!” I whisper-yelled, making sure not to wake up anyone who still happened to be asleep. “Yes, that’s true.” Summer remarked, and I turned around to see Summer, Claire, and Kayden blankly watching the TV while half smirking about my ignorance. Suddenly, a thought crossed my mind. “Oh, gosh...my parents..Where’s my phone!?!” I jumped off the bed and quickly stuck my hands in my pockets, breathing a sigh of relief when my hands closed around it. Pressing the power button, I gasped at the array of missed calls and texts from Emily and David. Even Lauren had called me 5 times! “What’s the damage?” Claire asked as she sat down next to me on the bed. “16 missed calls and 10 texts from David, 24 missed calls and 84 texts from Emily, 5 calls and 4 texts from Lauren.” “My gosh,” Summer laughed as she stood up. “Might want to call them back.” I was about to press the call button when my phone died. “UGH!” I groaned. Kayden grabbed the phone out of my hand and helped me up. “We can go to the gas station, it’s right down the road. I went there last night to get snacks-” he gestured at a pile of half eaten vending machine food, “-and I saw some there. I didn’t think we would need them, though.” As I hungrily grabbed a package of goldfish, bag of pretzels and a bottle of water, I nodded and grabbed my phone from Kayden. Summer pulled open the door, and when we made it down the stairs, the same lady who was at the desk the night before looked up when I dropped the room keys onto the counter. “Thank you,” I clipped, before joining back with my group.
Before I could take step towards the door, Kayden grabbed my arm and pulled me to the side. “How are we going to get home? All of our phones are dead.” “That’s why we’re going to the store..?” I asked, perplexed. “No, I mean, if we buy a phone charger, we won’t have enough for a bus fare for all 4 of us.” I confusedly eyed the cash in his hand. “Don’t we have about 50?” “No. The woman scammed us. She took way more than she should have. Her computer said that the total for one room was $55.45, and she took $75.” “What?” I exclaimed, fuming, prepared to spin around and march up to the desk. “Stop. She won’t admit it, no matter how hard you try.” Kayden said over his shoulder as he walked towards the exit. I followed him reluctantly as he pulled open the door and all 4 of us filed out without a look back.
After much arguing with the little energy I had left, Kayden decided it wasn’t worth buying us a phone charger. I would simply talk to my parents face-to-face, as it would be much easier than “going through the hassle of trying to buy a charger.” I didn’t agree with Kayden, but I understood it was already late afternoon and if we wanted to get home before midnight, we would have to keep moving. Sore, tired, starving and barely able to stay upright, I heavily leaned on Kayden as we walked. Although it seemed like days ago, the pain still lingered from the tranq dart Josh had shot me with, while Summer gingerly touched the spot on her neck where the gag had been placed.
The road was deserted, and I was grateful. I didn’t want to see the confused, scared and concerned looks of the passerby. I didn’t want anyone to ask us what happened. To be honest, I didn’t even want to remember what had happened. It was all too much. I slowly started to feel dizzy. Even though I tried with all my might to push to memories of Josh down, they still found their way back. Before I knew it, I was on the ground, and the last thing I saw was Kayden yelling my name.
“Remmy, you need to stop doing this to me,” I heard when I opened my eyes. I looked into Kayden’s eyes and sighed. Wincing, I sat up and looked around. It was dark, but light enough for me to be able to see my surroundings clearly. “Where are we?” I asked, puzzled. “About 5 miles from home,” Claire responded, looking into the distance. “What, are you a human GPS?” I responded. “No, I just know the area…” I didn’t hear the rest since Summer walked over and helped me up. I then noticed Kayden was far ahead, clearly not noticing that we were still stationed on the side of the road. “Kayden!” I called, but he seemed not to hear me. “Kayden!” I yelled again, as I jogged up to him. His face was buried in his hands and when he lifted his head, I saw tears running down his face. “What’s wrong?” I questioned, timidly. As he clipped, “Nothing,” he turned his back on me. Since he never snapped at me, this was something new. Gripping his arm, I gently turned him around to face me. “What’s going on? Talk to me,” I whispered. “Rem….I almost lost you these past days. Do you know how hard that is? I just found you!” At this point, he was close to yelling, and I had to place a hand on his arm to settle him, even though I was at the point of breaking as well. I felt the tears trail down my cheek, and Kayden reached up and wiped them away with his thumb. “Don’t cry, Remmy, be strong.” He whispered, pulling me closer and placing his forehead against mine. “Be strong,” I heard in my ear, as the sun set around us one last time.
I sat at the kitchen counter, waiting. I could feel the fear rising, but it wasn’t a bad fear. I was just nervous, I thought, glancing at the door every time a noise resounded in the hallway of the apartment complex. Suddenly, the doorknob turned, and I practically fell out of my seat. By the time the door opened, my chair had clattered to the floor as I jumped out of it and flung myself into Kayden’s arms. He dropped his bag and lifted me off the ground, hugging me tight. “You’re back!” I cried, not even caring that tears were streaming down my face. “You’re really here!” “And I’ll always be here,” He answered, and the door cracked open once again as I felt Summer and Claire throw their arms around me. “Guys!” I squealed, breaking away from the hug. Summer had took a trip to Africa for 6 months to help endangered lions, and Claire, like her brother, joined the military to work with bombs. She also met her soon-to-be American husband, Diego, while in Japan. I turned around, looked at Kayden, and smiled. He had joined the military as well, but unlike Claire, he was divulged straight into the core of the action, and everyday I will filled with a strong anxiety thinking about the possibility of his death. But being in his arms again erased the pain. Kayden was my other half. Now that he’s back, I’m finally complete.