The Only Witness
Author's note: Usually I write about love stories or off of a nightmare I have had, but I decided I wanted to... Show full author's note »
FiveTwo days after my uncle took me out of Kennewick I finally returned via city bus while in my nerdy disguise I had used in school for so long. It was the last bus of the day with only two others on the ride excluding myself and the driver. I reached the bus station nearest my home which was a block closer than my high school and it only took me 7 minutes to get back to my house. All the cameras were gone, no reporters stood in my yard, and not a single news van was left in sight. I slipped into my house as quietly as possible and went up to my room. I took a quick shower before passing out on my bed and praying I could forget.
I woke up to the alarm on my phone and quickly got up. I slipped on my uniform, used gel to flatten my hair, put makeup on and made sure to cover up the black and blue bruise that was slightly showing at the top right of my forehead, which was the only part not hidden by my hair, and put a band-aid on my neck where a cut was still oozing unlike the others that had healed by now. I rushed downstairs, grabbed my backpack, and got out the door as quickly as possible. I hustled to school while only teachers were there other than me since school did not start for almost 30 minutes. Every time I went to a new teacher’s room I had to deal with their stares of shock by my boyish haircut. Luckily, none of them asked what I had done to my beautiful hair and I did not have to relive horrors, but I knew soon enough I would have to either see Rider or Ash and would be interrogated with questions. When I knocked on Coach Daniel’s office door and he came out, I was nearly brought to tears by his smile. That was the first time someone had smiled to me since the day I left, but I forced myself to stay focused. I told him that I had a family emergency and then apologized for missing his class. The bell rang as he replied with saying it was okay and things happen but after that I had to go to my first class. When I walked in everyone seemed to stop and stare as I hustled over to my seat. When I saw Rider sitting in the seat he had claimed next to mine, I wanted to run but couldn’t. His eyes doubled in size with shock as he saw me and I sat down next to him.
“Morning!” I said with a voice as cheery as I could muster out.
“What the hell happened to you, Noel?” He hissed in a whisper as the late bell rang and the teacher starting talking. “Peter and I have been searching for you for two whole days! I haven’t slept since you left!”
Neither had I, “I’m sorry.”
“That’s all you have to say? After everything, that’s it? You force me out of your house after inviting me to stay, you disappear with no note or anything, and then you come back with your hair cut off!”
“It’s not entirely cut off.”
“What the hell happened to you, Noel? You don’t seem like yourself. And I’m not referring to the hair cut.”
“It’s nothing worth telling. My uncle just wanted to spend some time with me.”
“The only reason we did not put out an amber alert was because I had heard you say you had been talking to your uncle so I assumed that is who you were with. Peter almost called the cops yesterday.”
“I’ll apologize to him too.”
“That’s not the point,” He started to reply but when the teacher hit his desk with her pen he was quiet. He did not speak to me in any of our morning classes after that but when lunch came he grabbed my arm and pulled me up to the rooftop of the school. We sat in the small shaded area of the roof and I looked to him for an explanation, “I don’t care if I have to fight it out of you or if we have to miss class, Noel. We are not leaving this spot until you tell me exactly what happened.”
I looked away from him and to my legs, “I already told you nothing happened, Rider.”
He frowned, “Then who cut your hair? I know you better than anyone else and know you have refused to get your hair cut for years because you wanted to grow it out as long as your mother’s hair used to be so you did not do that, who did?”
“That’s bull and you know it! Do I need to call Peter?”
“A barber did it, okay!”
“Because I asked him to.”
“I don’t want to keep living the past and mourning! That’s why!”
“Then how did you get that cut on your neck and that bruise on your head? Most wouldn’t be able to tell it was there since you hid it with makeup, but I did since it made your forehead look bigger. Did your uncle do that? Did he hurt you?”
“Of course not! I tripped while going up the stairs of his apartment and I hit my head. Then when he decided he wanted to buy me a pet I picked up a kitten at the pet store and one of its claws scratched my neck when it tried to crawl up my shirt.”
“So you are okay?”
I shook my head and wanted to cry, “No, because you are still here pestering me! I don’t want to be your girlfriend! I thought I made that clear but you keep hanging around me!”
He stood, “Well, sorry! I thought I was being a friend and staying here to support you! My bad!” He stormed off of the roof and when the door slammed behind him I burst into tears. I did not want him to leave. I wanted him here with me, but if he was here more problems would occur and my uncle could possibly go through with his promise. Even if I wanted him to stay, I did not want him to be injured so I had to break his heart.
Physics passed by slowly since Rider was nowhere to be found and when I got to gym class I ran into a problem. The large bruise on my side would be seen when I changed, so I changed in one of the bathroom stalls of the locker room. When we were told to come outside we were brought to the kickball field where I just watched and pretended to participate while playing far into the field where the ball usually did not come. The second part of class was basketball where I tried to move as much as I possibly could, but my body hurt so much that even jogging was as though daggers were piercing my injured side. My head was light so I went over to Coach Daniel and asked to go get some water. When he approved of the action I hustled into the gym and went to the water cooler. I filled paper Dixie cup with water before sitting down in the gym with my back against a navy painted wall. I set the cup down on the floor before pulling my knees close to my chest and laying my head against them as I wrapped my arms around myself. I took a deep breath and when I let it out I felt much better, but that quickly disappeared when a warm hand suddenly touched my shoulder. My head shot up from my legs and I gave Ash an angry glare, “Yea?”
He sighed as he sat down in front of me, “Coach Daniel said I should come check on you because you looked pale.”
He gave me a frown, “You and I both know that’s a load of crap. Your eyes are swollen from crying earlier, Rider suddenly left you, and you cut off all of your hair.”
“I have not been crying and Rider did not leave me.”
“Oh? Then why did he come to me at the end of lunch today and ask me to keep an eye on you while he wasn’t around? I mean the guy seems to fully hate me, but he asks me to contact him every day in order to report about how you are doing even though he will be filming. I know him enough to understand that he would not leave you unless he had to so I know something bad happened. Did you two fight or something?”
I looked away from him, “Just go away, Ash. I don’t want to talk.”
“That’s a problem.”
“As a large fan, co-worker, and classmate I cannot leave you alone. Sorry, but that’s how it is.”
“Since when have you been a fan of me?”
He turned around and scooted across the ground so that he sat next to me with his back against the navy wall, “I think it was my fifth year in elementary school. I was looking through a children’s clothes catalog and flipped to the section for girls, but as I was about to flip back to the boys’ clothes I saw a picture of you posing near the Eiffel tower in Paris. That was the moment I decided I wanted to become a model. I wanted to be able to overshadow the Eiffel tower that is known for its beauty with my own just as you had, and go beyond that,” He crisscrossed his legs, “I started my career the next year but then found out you were possibly quitting modeling after losing your parents and I freaked out. I decided then and there that I was going to reach to your level in the modeling world and tell you that I and all of your other fans will stick by your side regardless of what happens and that you are the best model I’ve ever seen. Yet, I believe you may have thought I was trying to be a cocky ass and make myself look so great, but I really just wanted you to notice me and look at me as a friend.”
“I never planned to quit modeling when I lost my parents. That was just what the media made up. Actually, the loss of my parents inspired me to be better and to become the best. Ever since I was born I was only befriended by others or given jobs in order for those people to get near my parents, but when they were gone I wanted to prove to those people wrong and that I was not just special or a good model because of my parents. I wanted to make it known that I was independent and could become the best even without them,” I looked to my legs, “But I’ve reached the peak of my modeling career and am slowly dropping from the spot of the best model. I don’t know what to do now. The only way I got through life without my parents was because I kept myself entirely focused on becoming the best, but now…now that I’ve reached that goal I have slowly become consumed by the life I have created. All I do is model and study. I don’t know how to do anything else anymore, but if I lose my spot as the top I will be lost,” I looked over to Ash, “I’ve never told anyone about this, not even Rider.”
He smiled slightly, “Your secret’s safe with me, Noel.” He replied but I hopped up when I head Coach Daniel yell that it was time to go inside. I hustle to change and made sure no one saw my bruise before leaving the locker room. When the bell rang I walked outside to see Peter’s car in the front. I was relieved he did not jump out of the car and come attack me with anger over disappearing and cutting off all of my hair, but when I sat in the passenger’s seat I was ambushed by anger radiating from him. He drove more aggressively than usual and when we got to the place we were having the photo shoot for today he hurried out of the car and slammed his door before storming into the building. As I quietly followed behind him he seemed to get angrier, but when we got to the changing room he stood off to the side when he would usually leave and wait outside for me to change. I was shocked and terrified because now Peter would see my side, but I could not stop and tell him to leave so I just sat in a salon chair as a stylist started her work. She used hair extensions that took almost an entire hour to put in so that my long, strawberry blonde hair was back, but then it was curled in a very old fashioned way. I looked up when a makeup artist came over and took off all of my makeup but suddenly stopped.
“Miss Lovette, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you had an injury! If I had I wouldn’t have bothered the bruise!” The young woman apologized but she seemed shocked when I smiled.
“It is alright, it does not hurt too terribly,” I replied, “But could you please make it unnoticeable? I don’t want to scare the people who see my pictures.”
“Of course!” She said with a large smile before going to her work and making my eyes look dark before putting on the bright pink blush, eye shadow, and lipstick that were supposed to represent one of the main colors of the brand. I was then asked to stand and went over to the stylist who was a young man.
“Miss Lovette! It is such a pleasure to be your wardrobe stylist!”
I smiled towards the boy, “The pleasure is all mine,” I said with a laugh, “So what do you have in mind for me today?”
He pulled two hangers off of a rack of clothes, “This is the outfit,” The shirt was a military-like uniform jacket, but with girly flare added in. There were rhinestones and metal pieces put all over and when the designer waited for me to take off the top of my school uniform I was hesitant to show my nearly naked body since Peter was going to see my largest injury but I forced myself to take the hot pink bra the designer was handing me. I slipped off my shirt and jacket and then switched bras, but I stopped when the designer gasped, “Goodness! What did you do to give you such a wound? Is it painful?”
I shook my head as I took the jacket from him, “Not anymore. It was just an accident.”
“I hope it heals soon.” He said as he helped me zip up the jacket only halfway over my stomach so that the pink bra could be seen. He helped me into a pair of jean booty shorts that were made to be distressed and then into a pair of long, black, high heal boots that I had to zip up to just below my knees. The designer took a look at the outfit and then decided to roll up the jacket’s sleeves to my elbows before approving of the outfit. I was brought out of the dressing room and to the set that had been made to look like a disastrous battlefield and I went over to it, but stopped when the designer suddenly ran out to me. He placed a camouflage military hat on my head so that my hair would not be messed up and then he seemed fully satisfied. The photographer came over to me with a smile.
“Lovette, you look wonderful!” He said with a smile, “Now, I understand that you know our other model that will be with you?”
“Other model?” I asked and he turned before pointing to a man that was dressed in an outfit that reminded me of the large and scary German military man from the first Indiana Jones movie that fought Indie while a plane went near them and he ended up being killed by one of the propellers of the World War Two fighter plane. The other model was put in a sleeveless white tank top, baggy camouflage pants, and army boots but I was shocked when the man turned around to us.
“Ash! Come on over!” The photographer called and Ash quickly came to my side.
“You look great, Lovette.” He commented and I faked a smile.
“So do you, Ash.” I added but looked down when the photographer put something in front of us.
“This is what I want you two to recreate,” The photographer said as I realized what the photograph was of. My mom stood in the same type of clothes I have except her shirt was fully zipped and she had on a miniskirt with one hand in a saluting pose and the other on top of my dad’s hand that was on her hip. My dad stood behind my mom in the exact uniform they had put on Ash except my father had a camouflage tank top and he stood holding a machine gun over his shoulder. I looked up to the photographer for an explanation, “Since Lovette is the spitting image of Charae and Ash looks almost identical to Guillaume I decided we would recreate the photograph in order to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Charae and Guillaume’s deaths that will be this coming week. This will be airing at my fashion show that is dedicated to all of their work and is on their anniversary. Get into position, you two.”
I looked to the picture and up to Ash. Regardless of what the photographer said, Ash did not look like my father to me, “Ready?” I asked and he nodded. I went into the middle of the set and got into the girly salute pose my mother had created and waited for Ash to get the fake gun and put his hand on my hip before I put my hand over his. I smiled and the photographer started snapping photos for at least 30 minutes while hollering at the lighting people to fix things. Finally he stood after a moment and smiled.
“We’re done!” He called and I moved away from Ash and went to have the extensions taken out of my hair. It took 30 minutes for the extensions to be taken out and when I came out I saw Peter talking with Ash so I walked over.
“Good job today, Ash.” I said with a smile but slightly jumped and looked to Peter in shock when he squeezed my arm.
“Rider called me.”
I looked away, “I assumed he would.”
Peter frowned, “He told me you lied to everyone, including him, about where you got the bruise on your head and cut on your neck. Obviously he did not know about the bruise that takes up almost half of your side.”
“Of course not.”
“He also told me you disappeared for two days because of your uncle. Who were you referring to as your uncle?”
“My uncle Sam.”
“So it’s your mom’s brother? Your dad only had a sister.”
“Yes, it is my mom’s older brother by two years.”
“Did he beat you?”
“Of course not.”
Peter’s grip tightened on my arm, “Don’t lie to me, Noel. Your dad was my best friend so I know all about your other relatives and he told me he had to keep you from your uncle.”
I looked away from him, “Dad was just overreacting.”
Peter’s grip became nearly unbearable, “Your father told me that he was thinking of getting a restraining order for your mom’s brother because he broke your leg when you went over to his home.”
“That was an accident.”
“Oh? Just like your wounds right now are accidents? That is too much of a coincidence that every time he appears you are accidentally injured.” He hissed back and I shoved his hand away from me.
“I can handle my uncle, Peter. Just drop this.” I hissed before walking away. I walked all the way home and did not get there till almost two hours later. When I finally got home I went to my room and watched the video that hurt me so much but made me feel stronger at the same time.
In the morning I sat on my living room couch that was across the hall from the kitchen and ate cereal while watching some type of reality show I never really wanted to pay interest in. I did not get up till almost noon but as I passed the front door there was a knock. I opened the door to see a UPS man going back to his brown truck and when I looked to my porch I saw five medium sized brown boxes waiting for me. I carried them into my kitchen and used a knife to open them. Four of the boxes were from designers I had worked with over the years, but the last one was from my dad’s sister who had not contacted me since the accident. She did not even attend the funeral. When I opened the box all I could see was packing peanuts but once I got past them I was able to revile three Kay jewelry boxes. In the widest box was a Love’s Embrace white gold, diamond necklace, in the smallest box was an Open Heart’s Inspiration diamond ring, and in the tallest box was a Movado timepiece watch (for her). There was no card in the box, only those three things so I ignored the rudeness that was overtaking the nice gifts she had gotten me. I looked outside to see a FedEx truck stop at my home and sighed, “Happy memorial day to me.” For the rest of the day I only watched TV and answered the door for more boxes until around ten p.m. when there was a knock at the door but it was not a delivery man this time. I looked to see Ash standing at my door with a bag in both hands and a large grin covered his face.
“Hey birthday girl.”
“What are you doing here, Ash? It is already past ten.”
He nodded, “Rider called me a while ago and asked me to come over with a few things for you.”
I sighed and then moved out of the way, “Come in,” I whispered and once he was inside I shut the door. When I went into the kitchen Ash followed and I gestured towards the kitchen table where he put down his bags, “So why did Rider tell you to come here?”
“He knew you would not see him, but he did not want you to spend your birthday alone,” He replied and then rustled through one of the bags before pulling out a box of some kind, “And he told me what your favorite food was so I went and got it.” He pulled out a container of fresh yoki and another of fettuccini alfredo and set them on the table. He handed me a plastic fork before claiming a seat at my table, “You can start.” I sat down and opened the container of yoki and started eating, “If you don’t mind thinking about this, could you tell me your side of the story of the day your parents passed away?”
I looked up to Ash, “Why do you want to know?”
He sighed, “When we were asked to recreate your parent’s photograph yesterday I noticed you were distressed by it and when I was trying to look like your father I felt as though I wanted to know.”
I set down my plastic fork, “My parents left that morning two days after my tenth birthday very early so they did not wake me up. Whenever there was a photo shoot early in the morning, they never woke me up because they wanted me to sleep. I went to school like I always did but that afternoon, when I got home, the house maid was crying. I hurried over and asked her what was wrong and all she did was point across the room. I looked to our TV to see my dad’s black sports car’s bumper sticking up from the ocean. I watched as a truck pulled the car out of the water and all I could make out was water, expanded airbags, and blood. All the windows of the car were broken by then and blood-filled water poured out of the four openings. The camera of the news station turned away before my parent’s bodies could be seen so I did not know how badly they were hurt. As I stood there in shock the door of my house flew open and Peter came rushing to me. He started screaming that I had to get to the hospital nearby because my father was there. Peter failed to mention that my father was in a coma and I did not find out until I got to the hospital. My dad was paralyzed from the hips down and his face was cut up by airbags and glass. Peter and I waited for my father to wake up all night, but I was told my mom died instantly in the crash. My dad died at 11:30 p.m. and their funerals were held a few days later. I had cried so much before the funeral that I couldn’t shed a single tear as they were laid to rest, but for weeks after I cried regularly as I was deported from France and brought to my grandparents’ house by Peter. I started my career as a full time model when I moved back to the states with Peter as my manager since he had been my dad’s best friend and manager, but everything changed when my grandfather died a few years later and my grandmother followed him within 6 months. That was when Peter adopted me and brought me here, to Kennewick. The rest after that you already know,” I replied and then picked up my fork to start eating once more, “I heard you were asked to be one of the models’ in my parent’s memorial fashion show in three days.”
“Yea, the photographer though I captured your father’s essence well so he asked that I be one of the models. You are obviously part of it and I hope we get to be partners again.”
I looked to him, “I prefer to work with a partner that I have worked with before so I would feel better if I am placed with you.”
“I’m glad.” He said with a smile and we chatted while eating till midnight when I had to insist he went home. The weekend passed by in a blur since Peter would only speak to me when it was necessary and I had to hear about my parents more than usual. The whole time made me feel sick, but I enjoyed all of Monday off. Peter did not force me to ever go on June 2nd of every year and the school never seemed to complain. I merely sat and watched TV all morning and afternoon and did not get up until 5 in order to drive myself to the fashion show. I hated to drive because it reminded me too much of my parent’s death and had made it so Peter always drove me wherever I needed to be, but today I did not want to see Peter. He deserved the day off so I called his house Sunday night and told him he should not come to the show today. He had lost his best friend today so I did not want him to do anything if it was not necessary. When I arrived at the place the fashion show was to be held it was still being set up, but when the photographer from before saw me he immediately came my way. I did not really care that he seemed repulsed by my Delia’s Victorian PJ pants that had blue birds on them that matched my tank top and my lack of makeup.
“Go to the back to get makeup.” He mumbled before turning.
“Excuse me,” I started and he turned back to me, “What photo shoot will I be part of?”
“You’ll see.” He grumbled back before hustling away to the runway being set up. I walked to the back of the stage and through an opened curtain to see many French men who looked much like my father through the ages and American women who looked like my mother through her years. I looked to a tall French teenager who was trying to talk to a young makeup artist girl who did not seem to understand. I quickly walked over and smiled towards the boy.
“Bonjour, monsieur,” I said kindly and he looked to me with relief, “Il y a quelque chose vous avez besoin de? Cette femme ne parle pas français si je peux traduire pour vous.”
“Oui, pourriez-vous lui demander de ne pas mettre huileux sur mon visage?”
I nodded, “He asks that you not put anything oily on his face.” I said and the girl quickly nodded to the man who thanked me before I went over to an open makeup chair and an older woman came over. She put on light amounts of pink blush, mascara, and eyeliner before adding glitter on my face. A hair stylist came over to me and put in hair extensions like last time, but kept them straight this time. My hair was put into a braid that went into a bun off to the side of my head and then I was brought over to a designer. He put me into a white wedding dress my mother had modeled when she was almost 20 and I was a young child. The white silk had a strap at the top that went from one shoulder to the other on the back, was scrunched at the top, went to a silk sash at the waist, and flowed away from my body after that point till it touched the ground. I was put into a pair of silver high heels, a diamond necklace, and a small group of white flowers were put in my hair before I was given a bouquet of white roses to carry. The show started a little while later, around 9 p.m., and I was paired with a French man who looked much like my father when he was 22 as he had been in the photograph where he was in a tuxedo. We were the 5th group brought out and when I reached the runway my eyes were distorted by the bright lights. I focused straight ahead and started down the runway with the man I was partnered with at my side as his arm went around mine and held my hand. When I was brought into the back I was thrown into the same makeup from the photo shoot a few days back that was an army theme. Ash was brought to my side once I was fully dressed and we were brought down the runway, but stopped in the middle of the path as instructed before we had left the curtains in the back. A photograph of my parents in almost the same look was pulled up on the large screen that had been showing photographs of my parents according to the lineup of models in the same clothes and Ash stood behind me. He took his pose with his gun on his shoulder and his hand under my own on my hip as I took a girly salute pose to the crowd who stood and cheered at the ending of the fashion show. After I had counted to 1 minute the lights went off on the runway and we hurried back to the curtained area. The photographer from before now gave a speech as we waited. I was told to go outside with Ash in our uniforms in order to answer any questions the media may have once the speech was over so I did just so. When we walked casually down the runway all that was left in the room were a small group of cameramen and news anchors who were talking with the man who had just given the speech at the end of the runway. I led Ash over to the group and met them with a kind smile I had to force onto my face. The photographer from before came up next to me and pointed to a news anchor woman.
“Miss Lovette, do you believe Mr. Luther has captured your parents’ essence in this fashion show today?”
I nodded, “Yes, Mr. Luther did a marvelous job showing the true colors of my parents’ work.” The photographer pointed to another.
“Have the recent problems you have been having caused by the memorial of your parents’ deaths?”
I shook my head, “They were all accidents that had nothing to do with today or what it marks.” I replied as the man chose one more.
“You disappeared for two days, where were you?”
“My uncle wanted to spend some quality time with me before my birthday and surprised me by taking me to France to visit my parent’s graves.”
“Were you upset to see your parents’ graves and then come back to do this fashion show?”
“Certainly not. I know my parents’ would never want me to dwell on their deaths. They would want me to use the tragedy to fuel my career and push to the top of the modeling world.” There was another girl news anchor chosen.
“A doctor in the District of Columbia reported recently that he performed a medication induced abortion to you while you went missing. There is a rumor that it was Rider Stevens’ baby, is that true?”
I felt sick, “Certainly not. The proposal was a misunderstanding because Rider and I are just childhood friends. I have no feelings like that towards him so I would not have aborted his child.”
“There are rumors that you are dating Ash and that is the reason Rider Stevens’ suddenly left you, is that true?”
“U…” I started to say, but was interrupted.
“Lovette!” A woman called and I turned to her as she handed me my bag, “Your phone keeps ringing.”
I took out my phone, “Hello?”
“I’m outside the doors of the fashion show right now.”
I wanted to cry as I heard my uncle’s angry words, “I’ll be right there,” I whispered before handing up, “You will have to excuse me. I have urgent business.” I replied kindly and then jumped off of the stage. I ran to the double doors of the room and closed them behind me. My uncle grabbed my hair extensions and pulled me out the back door of the building as I felt my heart race. He was surely going to kill me if he saw what I had just done.