59,468
07.03.2019

Rock lowers his eyes. He says quietly, “Safe house Zed was breached just now.”

My heart stops altogether.

Before I can ask about Terah, he adds, “Jon knew something wasn’t right. Went with his gut and took Terah away from there. I don’t know where they are, but wherever it is, they’re safe.”

I turn my face to watch Nox. He swallows hard. He looks angry. Very angry.

Sniffing, he asks, “Fallen?”

Rock stills a moment before answering softly, “Takeshi and Sean.”

Nox steps back, sucking in a deep breath.

I still don’t know what’s going on.

Hands on his hips, Nox enquires, “Gunfire?”

Rock says even softer, “Explosion. Zed was blown apart.”

Oh God. Oh God. Oh my fucking God!

People are dead. Takeshi and Sean are dead.

My eyes fill with tears. They died protecting my sister. And I never even met them. I’ll never meet my sister’s heroes. I ask a hollow, “People are dying?”

Nox, Rock, and Boo all look at me. I ask again, quieter, “People are dying because of me?”

Immediately, Nox is by my side. And he’s furious. “No. Don’t do that. This is not your fault. This is because of some sick fuck with a crush.” Looking up at him through blurry eyes, he cups my cheeks and leans his forehead on mine. “Not your fault, baby. I swear.”

I know it’s not appropriate, but I love that he used my version of a promise by saying ‘I swear’.

Reaching up, I hold his hands over my cheeks. “What do we do now?”

Pulling back, he states, “We get outta here. Take Jonathon’s line of thinking and disappear. Just me and you, babe.”

Taking a deep breath, I nod as I exhale.

Nox whispers, “Good. Get your shit.”

As I walk over to back of the room, a deafening boom sounds from the back of the house, and I see a flash of blinding white light before an unseen force throws me backwards to the ground.

The house shakes. The fixtures rattle. The furniture moves. My heart slams into my chest. I’m winded from the fall. Shaking, I hold my hands over my ears and watch as the windows, a foot away from me, explode. Ducking my head, I scream in shock and use my forearm to cover my face.

Glass shards spray me, and closing my eyes tightly, I feel wet warmth on my forehead and arm.

Looking around, I see Nox yelling so hard the veins in his neck bulge. He motions for me to come to him but I can’t move.

I’m petrified.

Army crawling towards me, he yells some more, but I can’t hear a thing. A ringing sound echoes through my head.

Blinking, I shout, “What?”

His lips move, but I still can’t hear over the ringing. Adrenalin causes blood to roar in my ears, and finally I begin to hear.

Boo and Rock yell out while Nox directs them.

Confusion seeps through me. I can’t comprehend what’s happening. All I know is that it’s bad.

Another explosion. Closer this time. The house shakes feverishly.

A frightened shriek escapes me. Nox shouts, “Go with Boo!”

Opening my mouth to respond, arms come around me from behind and pull me backwards. Everything’s happening so quickly. I’m in a panic.

Watching Nox watch me, a torrent of tears escape me. Shrugging off the arms, I fall forward on my knees and scramble across broken glass back to Nox. Crying hysterically, I yell out, “I don’t want to leave you! Please don’t make me leave you! Don’t make me go!”

His eyes shine bright. Taking my face in his hands, he takes my mouth in a short possessive kiss. Releasing me, he shouts out, “Go with Boo!”

Reaching forward, I clutch his shirt, shaking, “Don’t make me go! I want to stay with you!”

His face turns pained. Pulling my clawing hands off him, he stands and says, “If you ever loved me, you’ll go with Boo.” Lowering my face, I burst into another bout of tears. He adds, “You have to trust me, Lily!”

Crying only a moment longer, I pull myself together. Straightening, I demand through gritted teeth, “You better come for me. You promised.” Not waiting for a response, I crawl back to Boo through the destruction.

She pushes me forward in front of her and yells, “Down the hall and out!”

Rock waits at the end of the hall, holding his arms out. Crawling fast on bleeding knees, I make it to him and he pulls me up. As soon as Boo gets within a foot of us, we’re out the front door. A black van waits there, side door open. Rock all but throws me inside, Boo follows, slamming the door shut. Rock climbs into the driver’s seat, starts the van, and drives.

And all I can think about is Nox.

Will he follow us to wherever I’m being taken? Where are we going? How long will I have to spend without him?

The van crosses the property line, and I look back out the rear window, silently saying goodbye to my second home and hoping I’ll see it again soon. We drive a minute longer when I see it.

Flashes of white, orange, and yellow swirling through the air hold my attention.

My mouth gapes as I watch in horror.

BOOM-BOOM-BOOM

The safe house endures one, then two, then three more roaring explosions, before being engulfed in flames.

My heart stops. Boo’s arm grips mine as we both watch the terrifying scene.

I don’t blink. I don’t breathe. I can’t think.

Suddenly, I ask distractedly, “He got out, right?” Boo’s hand tightens on my arm. I turn to her, looking down at her hand, and back up to her face. Breathing heavily, I ask again, “He got out, right?”

Her shocked face remains stoic.

Answer me!

Moving across the van, I bang on the divider and shout out, “Rock, turn around!”

Boo yells back, “Keep driving.”

Oh, thank God, she’s back. Kneeling on throbbing and bloodied knees, I crawl over to her and nod, “He got out, right?”

That’s when I see it.

The fear and devastation. It’s written all over her face.

And my chest squeezes. Slumping, I whisper, “He got out. He had to have gotten out.”

Boo’s eyes tear as she holds my unblinking stare. A tear trails down her cheek. Her mouth opens and shuts. Not able to speak, she shrugs weakly while shaking her head.

Anger builds in me and I say louder, “He got out, Boo. He did.”

Biting her lip, she closes her eyes, and begins to cry. Her shoulders jerk silently.

I stand in the back of the moving van. My anger overflowing, I shout at her, “He fucking got out, Boo!”

Her chin dips. Her body shakes in silent sobs. I watch her tears fall to the floor.

Falling to my knees in front of her, I state a little quieter, “He got out.” Reaching forward, she wraps her arms around my rigid body. I repeat, “He got out.” It sounds weaker this time. Her arms hugging me tightly, her body shakes against mine, and my voice shakes as I say feebly into her neck, “He did. He got out.”

My courage fades.

My nose tingles.

My voice trembles as I utter confusedly, “He can’t be gone. We have plans.”

Finding her voice, she mutters into my hair, “I’m so sorry, Deedee. So sorry.”

My arms hold her tightly, my hands gripping at her clothing. Sorrow slices through me like a knife. The sobs come hard and fast. “No. We have plans.” She clutches me to her. Crying hard, my body shakes as I wail, “He’s coming for me! He promised!”

Feeling weak, I whisper through shuddering breaths, “He promised, Boo. He swore.”

Let it go. It’s over.

A low, long, keening cry bursts out of my mouth. Not able to breathe, my body convulses in my weak state.

I’m numb.

Boo cries with me and holds me tight.

All the way to the hospital.

This hospital is different from others.

I’ve been to a hospital like this one before. It’s a private hospital. A small hospital.

It’s almost identical to the one I woke up in when I was taken as a child.

Upon arriving, Rock carried me in a bridal hold. He had to do this because I couldn’t stop the tears. And with tears comes weakness of the heart, and weakness of the body to match.

I remember being pricked in the arm, and suddenly everything was light and fluffy. And although I wanted to cry some more, my body refused. But I felt sleepy. They set me down in a wheelchair and rolled me to a room with a queen-sized bed. Rock helped me up onto it. Boo came forward and hugged me tightly before excusing herself, but Rock stayed with me until I fell asleep.

I came-to a few minutes ago to a nurse taking my blood pressure. As soon as she sees me open my eyes, she smiles and says softly, “Hello, dear. Sorry to wake you.”

Her sweet, mature face is almost too much to bear. My eyes sweep the room. Panic sets in. Sitting up quickly, I ask in a hoarse voice, “The man who was here, where is he?”

Her face falls. “What man, dear?”

No. No!

My hands begin to shake. “The man who brought me here.”

Her face doesn’t show any sign of recognition. Pointing to the chair Rock sat in while I fell asleep, I almost shriek, “He was in that chair! I need to know where he is! It’s important!”

She steps away from me, clearly uncomfortable with my actions and raised voice. She says quietly but firmly, “Now, dear, you need to calm down. I’m sure we can find out where he went.”

My heart rate spikes on the machine. The beeping noise drills into my skull.

Hyperventilating, I rip at the IVs taped on top of my hand and in my inner elbow. Pulling the plastic clean out of my skin, I move to stand when the nurse yells out, “I’ve got a code red! I need hands!”

I stand on the mattress when two large men come into my room. Holding my hands out, I utter, “I just need to find my friend. That’s all.”

One of the men comes closer, nodding. His gentle eyes pull me in. “Okay, honey. Get down from the bed and we’ll go for a little walk around, alright?”

My shoulders slump in relief. Thank God, he understands.

Taking his hand, he helps me off the bed. And just when I smile up at him, something jabs me in the thigh. Snapping my head around, the other man pulls the syringe from my thigh and nods to the other man.

Son of a bitch!

The effects of the drug work fast. My vision blurs. Feeling lightheaded, my hold on his hand weakens, and I slur, “You tricked me.”

The man holds me tightly, and the last thing I remember is him whispering into my ear, “I’m sorry.”

I wake with a start, the vision of the safe house going up in flames fresh in my mind.

My father stands from the chair he was sitting in, and Mom—frazzled and tired looking —rushes over to the bed, clearly distressed. Putting her knee on the bed, she crawls over the covers to me and hugs me ferociously.

This is so unlike my mom that it startles me.

I hear all the time that daughters are usually close with their moms, but I never was. My dad kept me so close to him that Mom got tucked away in a corner. Feeling her body shake against mine, I wrap my arms around her, and breathe in her familiar scent. “It’s okay, Mom. I’m okay.”

Her voice cracks, “I was so worried. My baby all alone and scared.” She squeezes me tighter. I hadn’t realized how much I missed her hugs. She repeats on a whisper, “All alone and scared.”

I hold her and stroke her hair while I keep my eyes on dad. My brain, needing someone to blame, picks him. The easiest target.

Releasing Mom, I pull back from the hug as Dad approaches. Holding a hand out, I say, “Don’t.”

He stops mid-step, and I watch his face fall. My normally handsome Dad now looks exhausted. Fisting the sheets of the bed, I tell him through gritted teeth, “You should’ve told me. I would’ve never found out if Nox hadn’t given in and told me.”

Dad’s eyes fill with tears. “I’m sorry, Lily girl.”

My eyes match his tear-for-tear. I sniffle through quivering lips, “It won’t bring him back to me.” Suddenly furious, I lean forward and hiss, “I deserve to be happy. And I was happy with him!”

Understanding dawns on my father’s face. Mom grips my hand tightly.

Dad responds quietly, “Oh, Lily. I didn’t realize you’d—oh, darling. I’m so sorry.”

The anger melts away. Dipping my chin, I whisper, “He was it for me. We were meant to find each other.”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Dad opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. Mom squeezes my hand again. “Tell me what you need, honey. Anything. I want to help.”

The anger returns with a vengeance. “You think a cup of cocoa will fix this?” My parents wear matching expressions of sadness. It just peeves me off even further. I screech, “You think a sandwich or a fucking cookie will fix this?”

Mom starts, “Baby, I-”

Looking away, I order, “Out.” Mom stops talking. I repeat, “Get out.”

We sit in silence for a minute before my parents, obviously hurt, stand to leave. When I hear them move towards the door, I call out, “I want Terah. Bring me Terah.”

I need my sister.

Seven hours later…

Tired, sore, and seriously pissed off, I roll my eyes when I hear a faint knock at the door.

I’m tired because of the sedatives they’ve been feeding me. I’m sore because my forearm, knees, and forehead are torn to shreds. And I’m pissed off because I want to go home where I can mourn the death of my boyfriend in peace. I bark, “What?” before turning to the door.

At the sight of my equally tired sister, I gasp. She offers a small smile, then asks, “Can I come in?”

Not trusting myself to speak, I nod and she walks over to me. Climbing onto the bed, she sits close to me, sitting up. Her arms open to me. I look at her through glossy eyes before I sink into her, resting my cheek onto her chest.

Terah rocks me gently, placing soft kisses on top of my head.

❮❯