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 »
SevenExactly a week later I had packed all of my things the night before since that was the first time I was able to get up on my own and waited the next morning for my uncle. He had called the day before to tell me we would be leaving the next morning so I sat by the door of my home with a suitcase of my most important things and had the rest packed just in case I was going to be allowed to bring them. I wrote Peter a letter explaining that if he looked for me I would be killed, how I was quitting modeling, and how I loved him like no one else. On top of the letter I left on my bed was a copy of my 10th birthday video, my father’s necklace I had put back together the best I could, my mother’s rejoined bracelet, and the bent up chunk of metal that used to be my ring. When my uncle knocked on the front door I quickly answered, “Uncle, I was not sure how much I was allowed to bring so I packed everything but put the things I needed most in one suitcase.”
He grabbed my cast covered arm, “You can only bring the clothes on your back, Noel. And they will be disposed of once we get to my place. Now come on, it’s almost 5 and the longer we wait, the higher chance we have of running into someone to stop us.” He mumbled before pulling me outside. I shut the door as I was dragged out to the yellow hummer my uncle had and pushed into the passengers’ seat. It took us almost a day’s drive to get to the Pennsylvania and to my uncle’s apartment. For the first week I lived there I was given all new clothes that were following the punk/gothic trend my piercings followed and had a few tattoos put on. The first one was three stars under my right eye, the second was a pair of large sized wings that almost covered all of my back, third was a cross put at the front of my left hip, and the last was a dove with a ribbon in its mouth on my right ankle. I went to school in the town my uncle lived in for my senior year, passed as the top person of my class in academics and was accepted into Harvard University. For the first time I was allowed to live away from my uncle once more but was not allowed living with anyone. He bought me a townhouse near campus and all my life consisted of for two years was studying. I passed in the top ten people in college and could go for any job I wanted, but when I told my uncle I wanted to be a modeling manager he called me crazy. He did not want me anywhere near that profession so I accepted a high paying job in a electronic business since I had a masters in science and a minor degree in electro engineering. I became the vice president within a year of starting the company. By the age of 24 I had helped the president of the company make our business the best in the country.
The Monday after my birthday, which was on a Thursday of that year, I came into work to be formally greeted by the head secretary. He stood quickly as I came into the double doors of the office. My dirty blonde hair that was shoulder length was pulled into a tight bun, I had on a nice pinstripe skirt suit, wore black pumps, my black rimmed fake glasses, had a strand of pinks pearls around my neck that matched my light pink silk shirt that was under my suit, a small diamond stud earring in my nose, nothing in my snake bites, pink pearl earrings in my first set of holes, and a small diamond stud earring that was a pair with the one in my nose that was in my cartilage piercing on my left ear, “Good morning Miss Smith!” The man older than me by more than a few years called as I walked in.
“Good morning, Mr. Tucker,” I said as I walked over, “What is the status of the crisis from Friday? Has it been fixed?”
He nodded, “Your suggestion made the whole problem disappear, Miss Smith! Without you I don’t know what I would’ve done!”
I smiled, “I’m glad I could help,” I replied, “So, what is the schedule for the president today?”
“He said all he needs your help with is the meeting this afternoon after lunch with the man that will be making our company’s new commercial to discuss ideas and come up with a new idea,” He answered, “Other than that, he would like you to have the new intern you were introduced to on Friday be your shadow for the day to see what you do on a regular day.”
I let out a small laugh, “There is no such thing as a normal day around here, Mr. Turner, I can assure you of that.”
He laughed too, “You always say such funny comments, Miss Smith. Who knew such a smart and beautiful girl could also be funny.”
“Oh yes, I’m a true comedian,” I joked, “When the intern gets here send him to my office.”
“Of course, Miss Smith.” He replied and I quickly made my way to my office. I did mainly desk work until the intern showed up and I had to give him some assignments to do for me. When the clock struck noon I stood and looked to the intern at the temporary desk outside of my office. I went out and knocked on the top of his cubical.
“Hey, why don’t I treat you to lunch, newbie? I know a great place really close that I’m sure you will like.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Smith, but I cannot go most places because I am vegan.”
I smiled towards him, “That’s why you will like this place,” I replied, “Your profile told me you were vegan and since I am vegetarian I thought you might want to join me. This café that’s really small serves all vegetarian and vegan cuisine so what do you say?”
“Alright.” He said as he stood. When I left the building and started down the road in front of our office building I made sure the intern stayed by my side. Once we were at the café I opened the door for him and we went in.
“Oh! Anna!” A young girl yelled as I took off my black trench coat and scarf that I had been using since it got cold around here. She ran over to us and grabbed my arm, “I saved your favorite table just in case you showed up today!”
“Thank you, Grace.” I said with a sweet smile as she wrapped her body around my arm and looked to the intern.
“That’s odd! You’ve never brought someone to the café with you! Especially a boy around our age!”
“This is Justin Handle; he is a first day intern at my place of work with a vegan appetite so I thought I would show him here,” I turned to Justin, “Newbie, this is Grace Samuel. We were in the same graduating class for high school.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” Justin said before Grace sat us at my typical table. I ordered a salad while Justin ordered a sandwich wrap.
“So you prefer men over women, Justin?”
He seemed to freeze, “Did my profile tell you that?”
I let out a small laugh, “Of course not. I just figured it out. Probably most people don’t realize that about you quickly, but I noticed the moment we met on Friday.”
“I’ve been found out,” He said with a sigh, “What made you realize it?”
I shrugged my shoulders and moved my glance to the next empty table, “I’m not sure. I guess you could call it a sixth sense I have,” I looked to him, “Also even if I have a million tattoos and piercings, men always seem to feel attracted to me, but you were not.”
“I don’t think a nose piercing is that big of a thing.”
“It’s my snake bites that usually turn people away. Especially kids. They are deathly afraid of me.”
“But are your kids afraid of them?”
I snorted, “I don’t have children. I’m two years younger than you, Newbie.”
“Really? You’re only 25?” He asked and I nodded, “Well surely you have a boyfriend,” I shook my head, “A girlfriend?”
I smiled, “No, I am not seeing anyone. I’ve actually never had a boyfriend.”
“That’s hard to believe.”
“I’ve been told that before.” I replied and we were quiet for the rest of the meal. When we were finished I brought Justin back to the office and gave him another task to do. I did not stop working either until the president knocked on my door. I quickly rushed over and greeted him.
“Are you and the intern ready for the meeting?”
I looked over to the cubical near us, “You ready for your first meeting, Newbie?” I asked and Justin quickly came over.
“I always am.” He replied before the president took my hand in his and led me to the meeting. When we walked in the door I heard a few people stand from their chairs but as we turned to the people my heart dropped. Peter, Ash, and Rider all stood with their hands out to us. I had heard on the TV that the two hottest male models were going to soon become co-models under the guidance of Peter, but I did not expect them to be our models. I shook their hands before following the President to a seat. When he grabbed my hand I looked to him with concern.
“Be careful, Annabelle. You are still healing.” He warned and I slowly sat down in my chair.
“Oh? Are you alright, Miss?” Peter asked and I smiled.
“My vice president had a miscarriage just a few weeks ago and is still recovering from the strain it took on her body.” The president explained as he sat to my right.
I gestured to my left where Justice sat, “You will have to excuse us. I understand you were expecting just the president and me to be at this meeting, but I have an intern shadowing me and I thought this meeting might be a good experience for him.”
“Of course we understand.” Peter said with a smile back to me.
I cleared my throat, “Now, I understand that you, Mr. Stevens,” I started to say but stopped when Rider put up his hand.
“Please, call me Rider.”
I looked to the table to concentrate before looking him in the eyes again, “Alright, then Mr. Rider, I understand that you are the most experienced model out of the pair.”
He nodded, “I have been modeling since I was a baby.”
“And Mr. Williams…”
“Call me Ash.”
“Mr. Ash, when I was going over your profile I could not find anything to suggest that you have ever worked with another model at all times, so would it be safe to assume that you have no experience working in a pair?”
He nodded, “Yes, I have never worked in a pair.”
I opened a folder, pretended to read something, closed it, and looked to Rider, “Mr. Rider, on your profile it says you have worked in a pair before, but stopped. You worked with a Miss Morel for a few years as a pair, correct?”
He seemed upset, but nodded, “Yes, I worked in a pair with Noel for most of my childhood.”
I gave him a sharp look, “Now, it also says that you two started working together again, then stopped over some type of dispute, and then your previous partner suddenly got up and quit.”
“What is your point, Miss Smith?” Rider asked as he returned my gaze of power.
I leaned back in my chair slightly, “Well it seems as though your last partner and you had a very unstable relationship and I want to make sure that is not going to become a trend,” I cleared my throat again, “I mean what if we were to take you as our top models and then suddenly you two have an argument. I do not want to get into financial ties with unstable models that may cause some type of news scandal and tarnish our companies’ name,” I pulled some of my hair behind my ear, “We are a fairly new company and as the vice president I see myself as a parent to the company. I do not want to let my family become injured because of a mistake I made in letting someone become close to us,” I sat back up, “Now I am not saying you are the only models I would protect our company from, I would do this with just about anyone. I find every single detail about a person involved with our company to ensure safety and protection.”
“She speaks the truth, Mr. Rider. Annabelle has turned away ten other top model pairs because they had questionable pasts,” The president said as he looked to Rider, “I trust Annabelle’s judgment on which model we should work with since she used to be a photographer herself. She knows what she is talking about.”
“Well I can assure you, Miss Smith, that the falling apart of a pair will not happen between these two. They have something that will link them to each other for the rest of their lives.”
“And may I ask what it is that keeps them linked?”
Peter looked to Ash who now stared at me with pure confidence, “We will both search the ends of the earth for our best friend that went missing a few years ago. Because we both look for her, we have become closer than brothers.”
“If you do not mind my prying, who is it you speak of? Is it possibly Mr. Rider’s past partner that suddenly disappeared and quit modeling?” The president asked and I looked from Ash to Rider constantly while waiting for their reply. I wanted them to deny it.
Rider cleared his throat, “Yes, we speak of Noel Lovette Morel, the famous model that suddenly quit and disappeared.”
“But that girl has been missing for about 7 years now, what makes you think she is still even alive?”
Rider seemed to become angry, “Because I knew Noel better than anyone else and I know she would not die easily.”
I felt myself about to cry, “President,” I whispered as I looked to the table, “We have found our model pair.”
“Really!” Ash asked in excitement and I nodded without looking to him.
“Now, we need to sort out through the details…” The president started but he looked to me as I got up.
“I am not feeling well, so I shall step out for a moment.”
“Should I call a doctor, Annabelle?” The president asked and I shook my head while giving him a smile.
“It is nothing too serious. I shall be right back.” I whispered before walking out of the meeting room and rushing to the back door. I yanked out a cigarette and lighter from my jacket pocket and quickly lit the cigarette. I took the cigarette from my mouth with a shaking hand and became overwhelmed. I cried outside in the cold without a jacket as my cigarette slowly burned away. I only ended up smoking less than half of the cigarette, but felt better and went in without taking another cigarette out. I went into the meeting room as the final details were sorted out.
I had to take sick leave for a week, but not because of the usual problems, this time it was caused by something different. My uncle had found out about the combining of our company and Peter’s two best models and became angry. The 18 stitches on my forehead could not be fully covered by my hair that I kept down for the first time in years and I had to go to work because I was out of sick days. When I came into the building and went up to the floor my office was on it was already 9 am, which was two hours later than I usually got to work. Everyone who passed me froze until I had walked away, but when I got to Mr. Tucker he sprang from his chair, “Good morning.” I mumbled.
“Dear god, Miss Smith! I was confused by why you took so much time off but I had no idea you were injured!”
I smiled, “It is not as bad as it looks,” I assured him, “Is the president in? I need to apologize for my sudden disappearance.”
“He’s on his way to the photo shoot, but since you were not here at your usual time this morning he assumed you were going to take another day off and went on his own. You can probably still make it if you leave now.” He replied and I sighed.
“Where is it?”
“A mile away at a photographer’s personal studio.”
“Could I have the address?” I asked and he nodded. He wrote down the address on a sheet of paper and when he handed it to me I quickly rushed out of the building. I walked as fast as I could to the address Mr. Tucker had given me and when I came in and explained who I was the woman at the front desk quickly brought me to the back area. I ran over to the president as he stood talking with Peter, Rider, Ash, and Justin who stood beside him quietly.
“President!” I yelled and he turned to me in shock. He seemed frozen as I came over nearly gasping for breath, “I am terribly sorry I have been absent for a few days and then was late today!”
“What in the world happened to your forehead!” He hollered as everyone else watched me.
I sighed, “Uh, I was in a car accident on my way home from work on Monday after our meeting and was in the hospital till yesterday afternoon. I would’ve been here sooner, but my car is almost totaled so it is still in the shop and I had to run here to make it in time.”
“You should not be here if you were released from the hospital yesterday!” The president argued, “You are still injured!”
I smiled towards him, “I wouldn’t be the young girl you hired if I gave up just because I was injured, President.”
“You’re too reckless, Annabelle.” He mumbled.
“You two definitely fit the role of handsome businessmen well,” I said as I looked to Rider and Ash, “Who’s the photographer today?”
“That would be me,” A man said as I turned to him, “Oh! Anna! What a dream it is to see you in my studio once again! Tell me, what gave you such an injury?” He asked in his thick French accent that I understood quite well.
“I was my fault, monsieur,” I replied, “So you shall be the photographer for our company today?”
He smiled, “It is marvelous to know I shall be working with you once again, Anna!”
“You two know each other?” The president asked.
“Oui! Anna was my star pupil in photography while I still worked as a teacher at Harvard. She could have easily become a photographer and probably one of the best, but she chose business,” He replied and then laughed, “But you look almost like a different person with blond hair, Anna! You look mature unlike the rascal you were in college! You used to hang out with a very different crowd too!”
“Oh? Do you by chance have any pictures of Annabelle as a student? I would love to see them.” The president said with a smile.
“Actually, I had Anna play as my model for a year! I have her best photograph in my bag!” He suddenly sprinted away and came back with me in all of my piercings, a black tank top and a red checkered skirt. I was wearing heavy black makeup to go with my black hair with red tips and posed sideways so that the wings poking out from my tank top could be seen along with the stars on my cheek, the tattoo on my hip that was shown since my shirt was rolled up slightly, and the tattoo on my ankle. My teacher handed the picture to President and he gasped.
“This is Annabelle?” He asked in astonishment and I laughed.
“Yes, I was quite the rebel in college and high school.”
“Do you still have those magnificent wings, Anna?”
I nodded, “Of course.” We were told by one of the workers that we needed to start shooting so I talked with my teacher as he took the photographs as Rider and Ash posed. I did not look away from the two men I missed so much until someone tapped my shoulder. I looked back to Peter and smiled, “Yes?”
“You know a lot about this kind of work, don’t you?”
I nodded, “I worked with teacher after all.”
Teacher sighed, “Anna also was the best model I have ever seen and she kept modeling till one of her friends was killed by a drunk driver in the middle of her second year.”
“That’s too bad.” Peter agreed and I stayed silent for the rest of the shoot that lasted till almost 5 pm. When we were finally done I sighed and walked over to my teacher’s side to look at the photos. When he looked up to me I smiled, but he did not return it.
“Is something wrong, Mr. Elrick?” I asked him and he sighed with regret. He put his hand on my arm.
“Is there something you need to tell me, Anna?”
“What do you mean?”
He looked at my eyes with intensity, “You weren’t in a car accident, were you?”
“What are you talking about, teacher? Of course I was.”
He sighed again, “I thought maybe it was an abusive boyfriend or something the whole time you were in my class and that’s what made you suddenly disappear for days and come back injured with a new excuse,” He pointed to my shoulder, “You did not fully cover up the fist shaped bruise on the back of your shoulder. I know you were not in a car accident because you had a bruise just like that in the same place when you first started my class as a freshman,” His hand squeezed my arm, “Are you living with anyone right now, Anna? Is someone abusing you?”
I stared at him in shock, “Of course not.”
“Anna, I need you to tell me the truth. I’m really worried about your safety because there’s no other way to explain all these occurrences over the years except someone is beating you. Now, you can come out and tell me who it is or I will have to forcefully find out.”
I pulled out of his grasp, “You really want to know where I got that bruise from?”
He nodded, “Please.”
“I got into a fight with my neighbor, okay? The guy got mad because I was being loud and when I talked back and walked away he slugged my shoulder. When he hit me I fell forward and broke the glass sliding door I had come out of to talk with him by hitting my forehead on it. I got a concussion and this huge cut from hitting the glass.”
He smiled, “Why didn’t you just tell me that to start with?”
I looked away, “It’s embarrassing to talk about how some guy knocked me out with one hit.” He laughed at that and once we had looked at the pictures I left. I went home and immediately turned on the TV. I had to do something to make it so I could not concentrate on my own thoughts. Peter, Rider, Ash, Mr. Elrick, and my friend who was killed by my uncle circled around my mind as I felt sick. I pulled my legs up to my chest while sitting on the couch and ended up falling asleep with my head on my legs.