I'm told to write home but really there's no one I know to write to so, here I am writing anyway. Right now my platoon is on a recon mission, staying low to the ground and out of the way of enemy fire. I'm a 91 bravo, that's an Army Medic and really I don't know why I'm here. They tell me because I'm needed but that's a lie. Anyway, what else can I say. It's strange to write this down because I don't know if anyone will read this or if it will end up getting lost in the mail. God, I feel stupid sitting here talking to myself.
Okay I was told after several times of trying to get out of it, to tell you something about myself. But really I wonder who you are and if you really want to know anything about me. But Captain Dumas yelled at me yet again to do this and I have to follow orders even though I think it's dumb.
Anyway my name is Edward Carter, I'm twenty-three years old and never in a million years did I believe that one day I'd be where I am now.
Honestly though as much as I say I hate what I'm doing, it's a lie. Everyone around me is family, the only family I have.
It would be so much easier to write if I knew someone would write back. It would feel more life like than just writing knowing this letter will end up in the trash.
Anyhow, I've been sitting here for hours trying to find something to say and now we're moving again. I feel like a child waiting for Santa even though I know he doesn't exist but I hope I hear from you soon.
SPC Carter, Edward, 91B
The bold black letters and brush strokes were clear, sitting on top of the projection screen waiting for the students to enter the class. Mr Thomas thought it would be the perfect assignment for his Creative Writing class. To give those soldiers back what they longed for, a response from someone who actually cared what they were doing and praised the Lord for their efforts.
Sitting back in his chair, he grinned at himself for such a marvelous idea. Just the thought of fighting for your country and never hearing that you're doing a great job, stung him, hard. He'd once been in the military and wouldn't have been able to make it through if it wasn't for friends and family encouraging him. Writing him letters and knowing there's more to live for than what he saw.
So, his plan was to give back and what better way to do that than make it an assignment were not only one student but all would be writing this one individual and praising them at the same time. A smile creep on his lips when he glanced at the letter once more. But he couldn't look long because the letter reminded him so much of those that didn't come back. Those fellow soldiers that wrote letters but never made it through the week to send them off.
Quiet whispers between students and the side door opening brought Mr. Thomas out of his thoughts and back to the project at hand. Maybe this, he glanced over to the letter again, wasn't a good idea after all. His eyes were already tearing up with just a glance at the letter but would his students be able to handle this? He thought for another minute but never moved an inch as the letter sat where it was, piercing into his heart. Old wounds resurfaced and before the class even started he excused himself.
Brianna and her best friend Lindsey were the first one's in the class, whispering among themselves about their weekend and what exciting things happened. Taking their seats, Brianna looked up and caught sight of Mr. Thomas' eyes. Seeing them tearing up, caused her more pain than she'd admit too.
But before she could ask what was wrong, he left the room, leaving her dazed and a little confused. Mr. Thomas was a friend of her father's, therefore a friend of hers and seeing him this way, hurt.
Lindsey on the other hand wasn't paying attention to anything around her, wrapped up in her story-telling of events. “....so, we were at the beach this weekend and you'd never guess who talked to me. Brianna are you listening to me?”
Brianna's eyes were glazed over as she watched the very door that he walked out of. Her mind only focused on what could have been so bad to make him cry?
Snapping her fingers brought Brianna out of her daze and right back to the conversation, never missing a beat. “Who talked to you? Oh wait, let me guess. Was it Chase?” Everyone knew Chase liked Lindsey, that is everyone but her.
Her cheeks flushed and Brianna knew she was right but before Lindsey could confirm, the door opened and in walked Mr. Thomas. Instantly Brianna's eyes shot back to his and she could see the pain in them. Even though he tried hard to hide it, she knew that look.
“Class since this is the beginning of a new year, I thought we'd start off with an assignment.” The word assignment brought on moans from everyone in the room, including Brianna. But her moans were for something entirely different. Mr. Thomas cleared his throat and the room was silent again.
“I paid a visit to the post office and there are hundreds of letters that come in every week from soldiers posted overseas. Soldiers who have no one to write to or who answer their letters and I figured since this is a Creative Writing Class that we'd, once a week read a letter and respond. This project I'm calling 'Giving Back'.” Mr. Thomas turned the lights off and flipped the projection screen on before anyone could see his tears returning.
The letter shone on the white screen for everyone to read. Sighs were heard from most of the students as they read the words that were wrote. Some of the students had tears in their eyes when the lights finally came back on while others sniffed back their cries.
Clutching her chest and breathing in shallow breaths, Brianna suddenly and unexpectedly stood up and ran out of the room. Her heartbreak from the words she'd just read were to much to handle. Running out the door, she made it as far as the wall before the tears escaped her eyes. “Oh God.” She murmured to herself.
She'd not known who this soldier was but his pain she could definitely feel. The words he wrote of family, were the one's that hit the hardest. The lack of family in her life was so real it hurt. Her mother with whom she'd bend over backwards for, died years ago. And her father, well he's not around much, leaving her to fend for herself, weeks on end. She'd had a glorious life up until the day it happened. Cries rocked through her whenever she'd remember and being in school and balling like a baby wasn't something she did. Ever.
This project Mr. Thomas had assigned was wrong on so many levels, she thought. How could he do this? He knew what had happened but still he's throwing it back in her face. This was the only thing she could think of, the only thing that made sense. But why?
Now the tears were streaming down her face and just the thought of stopping them, wasn't there.
Lindsey poked her head out the door and spotting Brianna hunched over against the wall, made her only pain double. Knowing instantly there was something wrong, she walked out to the hallway and right to her side. “Brianna...” She rubbed her back, soothing her the only way she knew how. Feeling her pain deep inside too, as her own eyes teared up.
The door opened again but this time it was Mr. Thomas who walked out. “Lindsey would you mind going back to class?” He asked and walked over to take her place and soothe Brianna. “I thought this might help you, you'd be giving them something to look forward to by just replying.” There was another reason behind his madness but that reason would have to wait.
Shaking her head no, she hunched over further, placing her head between her knees just to catch her breath. Memories, flashes came at her from all angles behind her eyelids. Seeing these made her whole body shake and soon, all too soon she knew she'd loss it. Holding her breath, she bit down hard on her lip to stop the pain that rocked inside her. Pain that never went away no matter what she did and no matter how happy she was, it never went away.
“Brianna whenever your ready please come back and join the class. This assignment will do you good, I promise.” Mr. Thomas stated and walked back into the classroom. He paused inside the door and glanced around the room to see the students all teary eyed and staring at the letter.
Some were writing in their notebooks while others were talking among themselves, quietly. Lindsey was the only one who wasn't doing either, instead she looked at the now empty seat next to her and cried. Knowing what had happened to Brianna's family and reading the letter only once since the lights went out, brought out her heartbreaking tears for her friend. The conversation she'd had with her a few seconds ago didn't seem to matter much anymore. Just being able to make it through this class without running out the door, was a struggle in itself.
Brianna took deep breaths, controlling herself and finally returned to class. But not before she'd run to the restrooms and washed the evidence away. She knew the moment she'd return everyone would see that she'd been crying but that didn't matter. What did then? She asked herself. Did she really care if someone saw her this way?
Stepping back in the classroom, she took a deep breath and returned to her seat. Peering over at Lindsey and seeing her friend silently crying brought back the tears she'd tried hard to hide. Looking up, she caught sight of the letter again and said to herself 'I can do this', as convincing as she could. Repeating these words over and over until she was sure she could.
Mr. Thomas smiled a grim smile at her when her eyes met his. He nodded once to her before continuing on with his on work. He'd planned on writing this soldier as well and sending all the letters at the end of the week.
Getting out her notebook, Brianna started writing the soldier's name at the beginning of the letter she was to write back but wasn't able to do more because the bell rang, ending the class.
Lindsey tapped Brianna on the shoulder, “Brianna are you okay?” Leaning in she whispered this.
“I think so. I just didn't expect anything like this to happen, that's all.” Brianna whispered back then stood up, gathering her things before leaving the room.
Walking together down the hallway was something they've done since high school and now wouldn't be any different. Expect Brianna wasn't paying attention, her mind kept going back over the letter she'd read and the pain in her chest grew stronger.
Their next class was Physics, one they both loved and couldn't wait to have. Sitting down next to each other again, they both pulled out their notebook and the first page Brianna saw brought on her tears. Reading his name she'd written nearly broke her. How does one write to someone they've never met but has a lot in common with? How does one start a letter without falling to pieces? And thinking this way had her running out the door, skipping the rest of the day and heading home.
Tomorrow, she thought, she'd face this problem tomorrow. Right now she just wanted to go home and cry.
The house that was once a home, filled with happy memories, stood silent now. Her mom, she could still see busying herself around the yard but she knew as well as everyone else that she wasn't really there. No matter how hard she'd hold on, the image, in the end would always fade away, leaving her longing for more. Desperate for answers. make it home to you. I promise. Hearing about your days and school, are the only things keeping me alive. I miss you and your father dearly and I understand that being a teenage girl cannot be the easiest thing but I'm always here, if you need to talk. Your father will help if you'd only open up to him, trust him and remember even though he is a man, he'll always be there to help you.
Brianna was young when her mother was shipped off overseas but no matter how young she was, her memory never fades. The tears that now escaped her eyes when she remembered that fateful day, hearing a vehicle approaching on the dirt road just outside her house. With her eyes peeled out the window, she watched the car pull up to the front, two dressed uniformed military personal stepped out on foot, with the American flag flying on either side.
The military only paid visits when something was wrong and Brianna knew this. With sobs now escaping her lips, she jolted upright and racing to the front door. Christopher, her father was already standing in front of the opened door and look on his face, broke her spirit.
“Mr. Sampson I'm sorry to inform you that SGT. Sampson, Ella was killed in action. Her body along with her personal property.....”
Taking a step back, Brianna fell to her knees, not wanting to hear anymore and cried. Her mother the only one who she felt comfortable talking to about anything, was gone. “Why?” She screamed, her body shaking so hard, it would break.
Two weeks following the news of her death, Brianna walked outside for the first time, feeling a pull of unimaginable force towards the mailbox. Inside sat a single letter. With tears flooding her eyes, she peeled the envelope open and lost her equilibrium.
I know times right now are rough for you but always remember I love you. And that no matter what happens we'll always be together.
The war isn't going as smoothly as planned but I will
I showed everyone here your picture and they all tell me I'm blessed. If you could only see the smile on my face each and every time I look into your eyes. Your my angel, my blessing, my breath. Keep safe and I'll return soon.
I love you,
SGT. Sampson, Ella
make it home to you. I promise. Hearing about your days and school, are the only things keeping me alive. I miss you and your father dearly and I understand that being a teenage girl cannot be the easiest thing but I'm always here, if you need to talk. Your father will help if you'd only open up to him, trust him and remember even though he is a man, he'll always be there to help you.
How can this be? The letter trembled in her hands, clutching it close to her heart and creating more tears than ever before. Brianna sat in the drive well into dusk, not moving an inch and staring at the letter in disbelief.
Christopher had gone to work, busying himself with whatever he could to keep his mind off everything else. But the pain etched in his heart, shot splinters throughout his body, aching every muscle and dropping him to the ground. His cries he'd kept to himself thinking he had to be strong for his daughter now released themselves. Screaming out her name and looking upwards, he cursed God for not saving his wife and bringing her home safely.
Everything he'd ever believed in, suddenly didn't matter anymore. Sodden and broken, he let all his dreams escape, turning to drinking to make the images dissipate. He no longer cared for the things that used to make him smile and his daughters cries, made him grab hold of the bottle longer. Clutching in his hand, he swallowed hard and numbed his nerves.
For the first week, he'd tried to soothe Brianna's fears, telling her of all the happy things in their life. But now hearing her cry, he couldn't think of anything that would make them better. Their family was broken, never to be healed and never to be whole.
Without Ella by his side, life was empty. Filling himself everyday and night with the warm liquid so he could sleep without dreaming, helped for awhile.
Now Brianna shook her head and climbed the steps, entering her house, entering the misery and memories that flooded her thoughts. The letter she'd read in class only reminded her of her own letter she'd received weeks after her mother died. All the emotions she'd been able to hide inside herself, to make life for her and her father better, suddenly and completely unexpectedly came forth.
Running for her room, she threw herself on her bed and screamed into the pillows. The blame game was never a game she'd played but now, screaming, she blamed everything around for what happened. Cursing and screaming to every name she knew for what had happened. Asking why? Not only for her mother but for every other soldiers that was fighting and didn't have anyone who cared enough to tell them, they mattered, that they were loved too.
Hours had passed and her eyes had dried up, the tears that fell soaked her pillow. Sitting up she stared down at her backpack, laying on the floor and told herself once again, more convincing this time that she could do this and give back.
Grabbing her notebook, opening it up to the beginning of her return letter, she stared down at his name and began writing.
Dear SPC. Carter, Edward,
This letter although it may seem easy, isn't. It's been years since I've written to anyone, in the military or otherwise. I am thankful for what you are doing, giving us the freedom to live our lives without fear.
I'm a junior in college, studying for my bachelor's in journalism. One day I hope to make a difference, the same way you have. Although I believe what you are doing will mean more than anything I can ever accomplish.
Your strength and willingness to fight for what's right means more to me than you can ever imagine. I do hope that your able to keep you head up and keep strong until the day of your return. Please for my own sanity, keep writing back, it will mean more to me if I know your still alive and breathing, if you write back.
Several times her eyes betrayed her, tears fell on the paper and soaked into her words, smearing the letters and blurring her sight. Looking down at the completed version of what was more wholehearted truth, she broke again. Would he understand what she meant? Would it matter to him, the words she wrote were from her heart? Would he even care?
Christopher walked in the house around the time he normally did, drunk as usual and stumbling all over. “Brianna, honey are you home?” His slurred words made sense to him but to her, she couldn't make them out.
Climbing off her bed, she made herself smile, wiping the fresh tears away and entered the living room where he sat, in front of the TV like every other night. The smell of booze waffled the air causing her to step back, grab the wall and brace her head.
“Yes, dad. I'm home.” She said in a calm collective manner. Her head spinning with the mixture of alcohol, smoke and something else she couldn't determine but all emanated around her father. If he thought coming home everyday drunk would help, he was mistaken, she thought. Once not that long ago, he'd been loving and caring and soothing but now he didn't seem to exist. Not only was her mother dead but she felt, her father died that day too. And this man that sat in front of her, wasn't and never would be again, her father.
“Yes, dad. I'm home.” She said in a calm collective manner. Her head spinning with the mixture of alcohol, smoke and something else she couldn't determine but all emanated around her father. If he thought coming home everyday drunk would help, he was mistaken, she thought. Once not that long ago, he'd been loving and caring and soothing but now he didn't seem to exist. Not only was her mother dead but she felt, her father died that day too. And this man that sat in front of her, wasn't and never would be again, her father.
“No, I didn't hear you, sorry. What were you saying?” Brianna whispered, afraid that he'd hear her pain if she said it louder. But seeing the bottom of the whiskey bottle up in the air, she knew whatever she'd say from now on wouldn't register with him. He was too far gone to see what he was doing to her, to himself.
“I don't know.” He said and slipped back against the chair, hiding himself from her view and letting the tears present themselves. Knowing she wouldn't come around to stand in front or question him further. And he knew that he'd be in the same position, sitting in this chair, in front of the TV and she would be gone again in the morning. Every morning was the same.
Tears welled up in her eyes, seeing her father waste his life away and knowing nothing she'd do would change him. Taking in a deep breath of insufferable air, she spun herself around and headed back to her room.
Night had fallen by the time she finally closed her eyes and slept. Dreaming of her mother's gentle face and her words she'd wrote, mixed in with the words wrote by the soldier she'd poured her heart and soul too. Standing in an open field she watched her mother and this soldier exchange words, smile and hug one another. Collapsing on the grass, she held herself together and spoke, “mom, I'm sorry.” Whispering words of forgiveness to the fading image, broke her heart and shattered her soul. Would she ever forgive Brianna for what she did? Would you ever forgive yourself?
A month before her mother died, they'd had a fight. Brianna received a letter from her that didn't say what she wanted it to say and therefore didn't respond. But now she'd wished she'd had. Maybe if she'd written back, she thought, her mother would still be alive, still be breathing and on her way home. Putting the blame where it was meant and not throwing it around, for anyone to take. Brianna felt responsible for what happened and no one could change her mind about it.
Mr. Thomas had tried to convince her that it wasn't her fault and maybe just maybe, his assignment had something to do with it. Would writing another soldier help her? She highly doubted it. Would it truly help her get over what happened? Or would it be a mistake and crush her already crushed soul?
Crouching in a fox hole, watching the mussel flashes light up the darkened night wasn't something anyone could or wanted to get used too, but it was reality. Hand signals came from CPT Dumas, flanking left and right, guarding each others back and staying out of range took a lot out of his platoon. SPC Carter, stood close in between the flanks, a man on each side protecting their only means of getting out, alive. With only one medic in the platoon, if he was shot they knew their chances of survival were slim.
Low crawling their way to the bunkers that lay out in front of them, their bellies in the mud, arms stretched out in front and fingers on the trigger, Tango Company prepared to invade. The first two soldiers in the line proceeded forward, out the corner of his eye, SPC Carter, watched in horror as his fellow friends, his family, took steps forward. Within feet of the allocated destination, all hell broke lose.
Bouncing Betty's exploded, reducing men to nothing more than pieces, once again a reality. This was the war they'd been fighting for over a year now, seeing more and hearing things they'd never seen or heard before. Setting their sites on the mission in front of them, SPC Carter moved forward, into the hot zone to preform his duties.
However the first soldier he ran to was torn apart, leaving nothing for him to fix or attempt to. On his hands and knees, SPC Carter, knelt down, grabbing hold of PVT Page's dog tags and pulled. Reaching into his left side pocket, Carter pulled out the letter he'd written, tucking it along with one of the dog tags into his own pocket and put the other dog tag in the soldier's mouth. With one swift kick, he lodged the tag deep in the soldiers throat, keeping the information that it contained safe.
Disgust with losing another, Carter stood up, shook his head and closed his eyes. His heart that once beat so strongly, for what they were doing, only showed a sliver of hope. Would he make it back home? Would he make it through the night?
PFC Barnes took shrapnel in his upper crest cavity, bleeding out faster than Carter could plug it up. Pulling out the needle of morphine, Carter injected into his arm, dulling his pain, hoping that what little he could do to help his friend would suffice.
After four injections of morphine, PFC Barnes, died, anyway. Pain, conflict and determination spread through Carter's face and limbs. Losing two more soldiers, took it's toll, snapping him out of the hard shell he'd had for survival. Standing up, he grabbed the fallen soldier's weapon and fired it into the tree line ahead, shooting aimlessly at anything that moved. Losing control of an already uncontrollable situation.
Christopher woke hearing Ella's sweet voice and called out to her. Wanting to pull her close and never again let go. He held his whiskey bottle out in front of him, offering to give it up for one more chance to be with her. But when his eyes adjusted, seeing only darkness surrounding him, he lost it. Thinking she'd left him again and his heart, sank.
He was alone again in his living room, nothing but darkness around, surrounding his heart, breaking it again. “Ella!” he called out, he thought, she'd been hiding from him. “Please baby, I can't live without you.” He sobbed on the floor. Seeing her form in the hallway brought him hope, love and joy entered his darkened heart and for once he let his emotion sit on his sleeve for her to see.
Bolting upright, Brianna's eyes searched through the darkness for the screams she'd heard so clearly. They were so loud and close, she'd brought her hand up, covering her mouth, covering up the screams that often escaped during the night. But it wasn't her screams she was hearing now, they came from somewhere else in the house.
Throwing the covers aside, she jumped out of bed and raced to where they'd originated from. Seeing her dad sprawled out on the floor, whiskey bottle in one hand, the other reached out into the darkness and calling mom's name, Brianna cried.
Panic flashed before her, everything she's seen, all the pain he's hidden inside now was laying out in front of her, screamed suicide. Would he do it? Leave her alone? Forever the forgotten one? The one left behind?
“Dad,” she called out, stepping out from the darkness.
Seeing his daughter's eyes glistening with tears, he thought maybe she'd seen her too. “Ella!” he screamed again.
“Dad,” she stepped closer, shaking slightly, trying to calm her dad with tears streaming down her cheeks, uncontrollably.
“Brianna, do you see her? Your mother, where did she go?” Christopher asked, searching again for any sign of his wife.
“Dad, she's not here anymore,” she whispered in an unsteady voice. Closing her eyes she prayed for the strength to calm herself and therefore be able to calm her dad.
“But she was....” he trailed off, jumping to his feet and throwing his arms about. So sure of himself that Ella was in the room, ranting and raving that she was indeed back. And without a second thought, he lifted his hand, the one that held the bottle and swung. Darkness covered his sight but he knew she was there, deep down inside he knew Ella would never leave him alone.
When the bottle came in contact with something hard, he gasped. Smiling to himself, he thought he'd caught her, to prove that she indeed was here, to prove to his daughter she hadn't left. But deep down inside his clouded mind, words of rationality hit, he'd acted a fool in front of his daughter. The one thing he never wanted her to witness was him losing control but control seemed so far out of reach right now.
Eminent pain, the taste of blood and the shock that her own flesh and blood had hit her, broke her sanity. Heart shattering, soul crushing, pin pointed her pain. She cried silently, trying to mask what he did and watched him, closely.
He stood a foot away, both arms dangling at his sides, shoulder's slump, he fell to his knees and cried. It all happened in slow motion but all in all, he was broken. Brianna moved in closer still aware that he might snap again and reached out to him, soothing his pain. Nothing else mattered than helping her dad. His pain was literally her's, his shattered heart was a mirror image of her's. The only difference between them that she knew of was she was responsible for what happened, not him.
Staring down at his hands that laid in front of him, he alone prayed for the first time, for strength to live, to lite his way. Closing his eyes, silently whispering to the one that he'd cursed out before and asked for forgiveness.
Sanctuary lay ahead with cots, tents and food. Tango Company, third platoon reached base camp at dusk, carrying in the wounded, the soldiers that made up the platoon were few. Many lost their lives within the weeks they've been out. Twenty-four soldiers were reduced to a half a dozen.
SPC Carter sat on the cot, assigned to him, head in hands and for the first time since being in, he cried. The dread of being in this war, took a toll on his heart. His family dieing around him, with no way of helping them or making the promise they'd made long ago, of everyone surviving, killed the most.
SGT Woods walked into the tent, hand carrying a bag full of mail and called out the soldiers name to whom they belonged to. Carter knew he'd not had any so laying down and ignoring his calls, he closed his eyes and tried thinking of something to fill in what he'd seen. But images of fallen soldiers filled his thoughts, flashes of body parts filled in behind his eyelids and all too soon he found himself sitting back up, eyes open and staring out.
“Carter, mail!” SGT Woods called, handing him a stack of letters.
Joy, happiness exploded inside him. Someone had written back, he couldn't believe it. Staring down at the stack, his fingers brushed over the lettering of each and every one, his heart beat faster while he thumbed the first of many letters.
After reading all the letters, of many students, of places and things they have done and seen, he felt for the first time since joining that his purpose for being here, meant something. Grabbing his pen and paper, he too wrote back, thinking he could find a friend among the many to continue writing to and have a purpose in life, a purpose for returning home.
Mr. Thomas sat back against his desk, looking through the letters that sat in front of him. Trying to find the one that would encourage his students but most of all, not make life harder on them. Brianna especially. He thought about her a lot over these last few days. She'd been at school on Monday but hadn't returned until that Friday, when the letters were due. And seeing her on that day, with the bruise on her face, her eyes teary and sad, he thought he'd made the mistake of many with the assignment at hand.
While thumbing through the letters, one in particular, caught his eye. This one was from a soldier with the same last name as his, the same handwriting as his son's but it couldn't be, he thought. Last he'd heard Jason was missing, presumed dead. But right here, sitting in front of him laid the very letter he'd waited for, for months. Tears brimming his eyes, he ripped open the envelope and laid the letter down flat.
Halfway through, he couldn't fight the tears off, his son, the only one he had, wrote such heartbreaking things. About death and destruction, losing friends, praying for forgiveness for things he'd done, shattered his hope. Mr. Thomas sat staring at the words, hoping and praying silently that he was still alive and being taken care of.
Brianna entered the classroom early, needing to talk to Mr. Thomas about the assignment. But the minute she saw his face, saw the letter that captivated his attention, she forgot the reason why she'd come here to begin with. Tears streamed down her face as she remembered what words her mother had written. Standing stock-still, grasping the wall for support, she cried for Jason's safe return, for all the soldiers safe returns.
Stirring in his seat, hearing Brianna's silent but loud in his ears, cries, broke him. Mr. Thomas picked the letter up, as if it were dynamite and tucked it into his briefcase. Taking in a deep breath, he looked to where she stood, holding in his own pain and approached her.
Clearing her eyes of the pain she felt, she reached out and held on to him. “Mom always said he was the strongest of his platoon and more determined than anyone else, he'll be fine. You'll see, he'll be walking in that door with a big goofy smile on his face and ready to embrace you.” she whispered words of hope. Praying inside that, that would truly happened and believing nothing else.
“Thank you Brianna. But I'm not sure, that's what will happen. He's missing.” Mr. Thomas cried.
“Missing isn't dead, missing isn't captured. Someone will guide him home, I'm sure of this.” Brianna looked up towards heaven and prayed silently for God to place his hand upon Jason, guiding him home.
Clearing his thoughts of his mixed pain and conflict, he let loose of her and smiled. Through tear soaked eyes, he saw one thing in hers that brought back hope that he desperately needed. Hope that he'd installed in her, for her mother's safe return. How'd she'd turned it around and made him feel it, he didn't know but he was grateful to her for it.
The bell rang, door opening and entering the students who looked more worn down than they should. Mr. Thomas returned to his desk, scrambled through the letter again, picking out the one he'd best thought suited and placed it on the projection screen.
Everyone took their seats, looking blankly in front, some with tears already brimming their eyes while others sat silently and waited. Flipping the lights, Mr. Thomas watched their faces with concern as they all looked up at the letter. Brianna was the only one that didn't look up right away and he knew why. It was the same reason he couldn't look up at it, too much pain had entered their lives and this was just a reminder of it.
I'm sorry I wish I could be more cheerful about writing but doing it and knowing that no one will ever write back, is mute. I know I've been told many times that writing will help dissolve the pent up anger but it doesn't, if anything it enrages it more. Just thinking about everything that's happened over the last few months, I can't stop seeing it.
I don't want to be here anymore. Thought it was to help our nation and bring peace but with all the destruction and death, who's it helping, really?
And then I try to think of blue skies but here the sky is never blue, always covered in thick black smoke, the air smells of death. I can't remember what anything back home looks like, all I see is what's in front of me.
Okay after several minutes of looking up to keep the tears from soaking the only paper I have, I'll write about something else. But what? What would you possibly want to know? If I knew one thing about you then writing would be so much easier.
One thing about me, you ask, okay my name is Winston Page, I'm twenty years old and am in dire need of a soda and cigarette. Ha, ha. Anyway, this letter will be short, I've to take my position again. Take care and God bless.
PVT Page, Winston
Lights flickered back on and there wasn't a dry eye in the room, cries could be heard from all around but mainly it was what Mr. Thomas didn't see that bothered him. Brianna and Lindsey's seats were empty, vacated sometime within the twenty minutes the lights were out. Since he stood by the only door in and out of the room, he knew they didn't leave. So where are they? He wondered.
Brianna could barely read the words standing out in front of her, tears fell from her eyes the moment the lights went out and soon she was out of her chair, running from the pain. Finding a dark corner at the back of the class, she held herself together and cried. Lindsey soon found her and held on, comforting and crying along.
The girls huddled together in the back of the room, Lindsey holding Brianna hands together, tears stained their faces, crying out silently to each other. Neither knew how much longer they could deal with the pain each other felt. For Brianna each letter hit directly home, to her heartbreak. And Lindsey just seeing her friend break every time was enough to cause her, her own heartbreak.
Wednesday rolled around it was Memorial Day, you could hear cries coming from everyone, everywhere. Everyone in town gathered together, holding each other for support and paying respect for those who lost sisters, bothers, mothers, fathers, loved one's in the war.
Woodland, Texas, a small town, surrounded by ample forest, population a measly two hundred was hit hard by the war. Many sons, fathers, mothers, sisters, joined the service to fight for freedom, many have never returned and those who have come home, came home in caskets. There's only one who's came home alive but the look in his eyes, the empty stare, the pain, sadness envelopes you, immediately.
Their Memorial Day was and always has been a different kind of a celebration, flags flying at half mass, everyone gathering together, holding on to one another and telling stories of pride, joy and admiration of those who died. Reminiscing about the good times.
Memorial Day and 9/11 are the only days that the teachers allowed their students to skip school. The group of student that did gather together, all had one thing in common, loss. Brianna held her head up high, tears streaming down her cheeks and stared around, never making eye contact with anyone, but searching for that one she wanted to see, her dad. He'd never come outside today, she knew this but still she hoped.
Lindsey stood beside her, her own heartbreak spreading, her own pain etching deep in her heart. Oliver, her brother, died while on a rescue mission. She along with her mother, received a formal letter in the mail about him, about his plane crashing and other things Lindsey couldn't force herself to read. But here she stood, next to her friend, next to others who've lost too.
Adam stood off to the side, every year was the same for him. He couldn't bring himself to except the fact that his twin brother, the one who fought beside him, was dead. He was eminently proud of Aaron for what he did but now he couldn't help wondering why. Why did he come home alive? Why did Aaron have to die?
Mr. Thomas kept his head down, staring at a patch of grass, keeping his tears and pain to himself so he could be there for his students. But something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention, Christopher, had for the first time since Ella died, come out to join us, to join his daughter.
Sighing deeply, Brianna stared at her dad as he stumbled towards her, drunk. Of all the days he drank, why today? Why did he feel it necessary to do it today? And as much as she wanted to run away from him, not to be seen with him, she couldn't. He'd shown up, she thought, it was a good thing, a step in the right direction.
Contemplating for hours, Christopher finally figured he'd join his daughter today, of course the courage to do so didn't come until after his bottle was empty. But he was here, outside in the sun, for all to see and he couldn't turn around now, no matter what happened, he couldn't leave Brianna to face this alone, for another year.
Stumbling, tripping, he made his way to her and wrapped his arm around her waist for support. He blinked several times, keeping the tears a bay and tried his hardest to hold onto his reasons for doing this, for coming outside.
“It's okay, dad.” Brianna cried, seeing him fight back his tears.
He just shook his head, no. Unable to form the words to tell her, it wasn't. Afraid she'd be disappointed in him for his lack of control.
“Dad,” she whispered looking up to him, catching his eye and seeing something that terrified her. “Please don't.” He dropped his arm that held her close and started down a road she knew would never end.
“Nothing is okay about today! My wife, my Ella had to die. For what?” He screamed, his face bright red with rage.
“Dad,” she said in an unsteady voice, crying and praying that he'd stop.
“No Brianna! I've stayed quiet too long, I'm not doing it anymore. This is bull, everyone here has someone who's died over there and what is anyone doing about it, nothing! I can barely get up in the morning, face another day without her and what did I get! A stink-in flag! I don't want a flag, I want my wife back!” He yelled at the top of his lungs, getting the attention of everyone around. They stared at him with tears and pain of their own but was agreeing with what he'd said, shaking their heads.
“Dad I....” Brianna cried, dropping to the ground and shook with force.
Christopher was so consumed with what he was saying and doing that he paid no mind to his own daughter, paid no mind to her own part of his loss. He was so caught up that he took no notice in anyone around him, ranting and raving about how unfair everything was, how living alone wasn't what he'd signed up for.
Soon their peaceful gathering was a mob of angry residence wanting justice, wanting justification for what happened. All the adults gathered together with Christopher in the center and left their children to cry, beg and fall apart on their own.
Chase stood off to the side just as Adam was, eyes narrowing on the crowd in front. He couldn't believe the way today was turning out, the parents causing more pain for their children, yelling and screaming about things they couldn't change while their kids suffered. Who was really alone? He thought, the sons, daughters, watching them with eyes wide and tears.
Shaking his head, he turned towards the students that were gathered together and spotted Lindsey. She was sitting on the grass, arms wrapped around Brianna and crying so hard she shook. Seeing her this way, he couldn't fight back his own tears and cursed under his breath. Taking deep breaths, he strolled over to her, knelled down and wrapped his arms around the both of them.
“I'm so sorry everyone. I didn't know my dad would do this.” Brianna whispered, looking up through tear soaked eyes. Everything her dad had said, spoke volumes. All this time she'd thought she was helping him but she wasn't and it hurt, bad. All along he'd kept this all pent up inside, waiting for the perfect time to explode but why now? Why here?
“Brianna your dad been so good at masking how he's doing that I don't think anyone knew this would happen.” Mr. Thomas said soothing not only her but himself too. He'd once been friends with Christopher but once he started drinking, that's all he cared about. And now he's seeing how much and who Christopher really cares about, himself.
Everyone was screaming about how unfair everything was, how they'd all lost someone and hadn't received enough recognition for it. Everything was getting out of hand and Christopher, stepped aside, staring at what he'd done, feeling ashamed. He'd let his emotions get the best of him, let the alcohol talk for him, while his daughter sat far away and cried.
Turning around, he faced her but couldn't go to her, couldn't explain why he'd acted so foolish, why after all this time had he fallen. Taking in a fresh breath, his shoulder's slumped, arms hanging at his sides, he turned towards home and walked off. Nothing he did helped anyone, or anything. He'd just started a huge argument over something no one could control and did he want his wife back, hell yeah but he wouldn't give up what he had now, what he had with his daughter for anything. And as much as it killed him to think this way, it was the right way. Brianna was his world and he'd treated her, wrong. His drinking, he thought, would stop, tonight, even if it killed him, he'd stop for her.
“I should have seen it, there were signs.” Brianna said, staring up at the faces that looked down at her. All were pained and tear streaked. Slowly she let her head fall back down and noticed for the first time today, Adam standing off to the side, by himself. She felt his pain, even though it was different than her's, she still knew how he felt.
His eyes connected with hers but not for long. The heartache he felt wouldn't ease, he deserved it for not protecting his brother, not bringing him back home, alive. Day, night, it didn't matter, every time he'd close his eyes, he'd see his brother's face, his blood soaked uniform, his lifeless stare and his heart would break. And now was no different, staring at her face and seeing the same lifeless stare, tore a whole in his heart. Adam turned around, not wanting to be there anymore and walked home. Back to a house that was empty of joy, happiness and love, back to his own personal hell.
She stared at his retreating back but it wasn't him she was seeing, but a mere image of his twin. Both had gone to school with her and both had joined the service together but only one came home and she couldn't begin to feel his pain, his heartache but it killed what was left of her own heart to see him this way. This broken inside with no one to talk to and no one to say it's okay to cry.
Both Aaron and Adam had been the life of the party, both football stars at the local high school and both drop dead gorgeous. At six foot one, black hair, muscles throughout their bodies and to-die-for blue eyes, they were so sweet it was sickening. Both were friends with Brianna , when they joined, they were both fortunate to stay together and both ended up in her mom's platoon. The day the uniformed military personal came to her door, Adam came home, his own heartbreak he wore and it killed her not to be able to help him out. To be there for him when he needed her so.
Orange, red, and yellow colored everyone's cheeks that glistened with tears. Brianna caught off guard, looking around and seeing the one's who've passed on, standing in the square, looking about with tears in their eyes, searching for their loved one's. She caught sight of Aaron, standing off to the side the same way Adam had earlier and broke down in tears. His face was so lifelike it took awhile to figure out he wasn't really there, no one was there with them, they were all gone, forever.
Adam walked inside his house, tears streaming down his cheeks and didn't stop until he was safely behind his bedroom door. But being here didn't bring him peace like it once did, pictures of Aaron sat on the dresser, his bed sat in the corner and all the memories of them growing up, still lingered. Heaving in deep uncontrollable breaths, Adam threw his arms around his chest and dropped to the floor. Tears never ending, his visions soon disappeared and all he saw was him, laying in front and calling for help.
Jumping up, Adam threw his door opened and ran. Doubling over with pain, heartache and loss, he didn't know how much more he could take of this, how much more he wanted too.
Bright lights stung his eyes, leaving earlier in a haze he'd forgotten about turning them off beforehand. His daughter, he knew very well would be standing outside, waiting on him and he couldn't, wouldn't, this time, let her down. Christopher would have never gone outside on his own without his liquid courage though, he'd never make it through the memorial, without showing the world how truly broken he was. And that's something no one will ever find out, he promised himself, staring up at the ceiling and shaking his head.
“You can't make it ten minutes, you....!” he cursed under his breath, holding the now empty bottle in hand. Knowing just making it through the night, fully alert would most definitely kill him. He reached for his keys, stumbling down the stairs and out to his car.
Stumbling all through the night, Adam found himself in the one place he'd never been able to go to, Aaron's grave. Dropping to his knees, reaching out, he cried. Tears of regret, of sorrow, of pain and conflict. “Aaron, I can't do this, I don't want to be here anymore. Without you here, I'm empty, half a person. You've always been the strong one. Why? Aaron why you and not me?” He screamed, looking up to the darkening sky, wanting answers, wanting someone to tell him that what happened, happened for a reason. Wanted someone to tell him it was okay to cry, to feel pain, that they were thankful that he came home alive. But no one would tell him that and he knew it, even if they did, he wouldn't listen because it was lies, all lies.
Screeching tires, the smell of burnt rubber and the vehicle swerving all over the road, Christopher tried to control it the best he could. But being intoxicated with another full bottle of whiskey sitting beside him, his vision blurry, his reflexes slowed, he lost. Slamming into tree after tree his car was no more recognizable than a sliver of metal. Trapped he was, in between the steering wheel and seat, he sat there, staring out in front of him thinking of only one thing, Ella. Would she forgive him for this? Would Brianna forgive him?
Fading in and out of consciousness, blood spilling out from the cuts on his head, Christopher saw the faint and fading image of Ella, sitting beside him, caressing his arm and smiling. She was whispering words of love before he smiled and closed his eyes.
Seeing the lights all on, the front door wide open and her father's car missing sent Brianna in a tail's spin. Pain shot like splinters through her chest, something had happened here, seeing the broken, empty bottle of whiskey on the ground caused her vision to blur. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she fell to the ground, crying for him. Needing him with her, needing her father back.
Mr. Thomas had walked Lindsey home last, seeing her crying, broke his control. He knew she cried for her friend but there was something else there too and he couldn't quiet figure it out. Leaving her at the front door of her house, he walked away, head down and released his pain. Amazed that he'd been able to hold off this long.
Walking down the road, he'd caught sight of the Sampson's residence, all the lights were on but something about it didn't seem right, something was tugging at his heart. Running down the dirt drive he found Brianna on the ground, crying. Dropping to his own knees, he reached out, wrapping his arms around her and comforted her.
“John, it's dad. There's something wrong, I don't know how or why but there's something wrong with him, I know.” Brianna cried, looking up at him, trying to figure out how to explain what she's feeling.
“I'm sure he's just gone to get some more alcohol and he'll be home soon.” Mr. Thomas said as convincing as possible.
“Why would he do this? Why would he leave me?” She cried, loosing her vision again to more tears.
“Your dad's just having a hard time but he'll get through it. We'll help him get through this.” He soothed her back, hoping what he'd said was true that Christopher would eventually get past this and help his daughter move past it too.
After hours of tears, heartbreak and pain, Adam stood up, turned around and walked away, leaving his brother to rest. Walking through the trees he caught sight of something shinning off the moonlight, picking up the distinct shape of a vehicle caused him to pick up his pace. Being trained for years in the military for these types of thing, he reached the car and his first reaction was to check out the driver. But what he saw behind the wheel brought back images of his brother, blood covering the man's shirt was the same, eyes staring off, lifeless, caught his breath in his throat. Chocking back his tears, Adam reached in to check his pulse.
Adam rocked back on his heals, jerked his head backwards and screamed. Pain shot throughout his body and he felt like he was right back on the battle field, staring at his brother , staring at the one who'd left him behind.
The moment it happened Brianna lost it, her already broken heart, shattered into a million jagged pieces. She lost movement in her limbs, her heart barely beat, her breaths were shallow but she managed to scream, “NO!” Breaking down the barriers she'd carefully built.
John rocked beside her, shaking just as badly as she was, praying silently that everything would be fine but knowing it was, not even remotely close.
The funeral was the same but different from Ella's. Aside the casket laid flowers of different arrangements, colors mixed in with ribbons and flags. The chairs sat off in front, sitting under an umbrella for comfort and not a single person there had dry eyes. Brianna sat in the very front, alone, staring directly in front and held her breath. Shaking uncontrollably, she never thought she'd have to go through this again, this soon.
Hearing cries from all around, stiffened her already stiff body. She couldn't think why he would do this? Why did he leave her? Alone?
John Thomas stood behind everyone, looking over their heads at the casket that lay in front, shaking his head, he let the tears fall freely this time. No need in keeping them in, he'd lost a good friend to a senseless accident, one that should have never happened but did. He knew Christopher wasn't dealing with the loss of his wife but he never thought it would end this way.
His eye caught sight of Brianna, she was standing now and moving slowly over to where the casket laid. Not sure of her plans, he rushed to her side, wrapping his arm around her waist and holding her up. The look in her eyes, terrified him.
Brianna couldn't sit any longer, her legs had a mind of their own and when they lifted her up and started walking towards where her father laid, she'd let them. It wasn't until she felt John's arms around her that she realized she'd tried to join her father, climb inside so she didn't have to be alone anymore.
Chase, Lindsey and Adam all stood off to the side and watched in horror, watched their friend try to throw herself in the grave with Christopher. Eyes all widened with shock, tears streaming down their cheeks, Lindsey and Chase moved swiftly to where she was and pulled her away, fighting and screaming.
“NO! Why did he leave me? I can't go on alone, I don't want to. Leave me alone! I want to be with my parents!” Brianna cried, shaking free of their grip.
These words she'd said were all the words Adam had said the day Christopher had died, to his brother at his grave. But hearing the pain in her voice, hearing her say these things and seeing the life drain out of her eyes, he ran to her and embraced her.
Surprisingly she fell into him, holding on, grabbing his shirt and crying on his shoulder. “This can't be real. Please Adam tell me this isn't real. Please say it's a dream and I'll wake up soon, at home with my dad sleeping soundly. Please!” She sobbed into his shoulder, begging him to her, to say it wasn't real, to say anything.
Adam shook his head and held on tighter, he'd love to tell her it wasn't real, but it was and that's what hurt the most. Now his loss didn't feel that big, his loss didn't compare to hers.
When the funeral was over Adam coaxed Brianna away and promised to stick by her until she told him otherwise. Looking over his shoulder one more time at the fresh grave that lay out, he sighed, closing his eyes and allowed the tears to fall. Releasing his own pain and grief, not only for the loss of her dad but for his own loss as well.
Her house sat at the end of a very long dirt road, lights brightly shinning through the window, the front door still ajar and friends crowding inside and out. But Brianna couldn't see herself going anywhere near it, the memories flooding her mind, the heartbreak of knowing that there was no one inside she'd feel comforted by, she sat alone on the grass and stared off. Finding the northern star, she made a wish.
And the last thing she ever thought would come to the front of her mind would be the letter written by the soldier, she'd written back too. The one who'd wrote about not having family to write home to, not having anyone to talk too, she knew now what he'd meant because she didn't have it either.
Suddenly and unexpectedly she started crying again but this time it wasn't for what she'd lost but for what he'd. She hoped they'd find something in common besides losing their family members, something that would allow them to talk and not have to dredge up the past, the pain and the heartbreak.
Adam thought he'd left Brianna in her room to sleep but when he came in to check, she was gone. His heart started beating faster, she wouldn't try anything, would she? He thought. Unable to control his fear, he ran around until seeing her sitting far away and staring up at the sky. Running down the steps, he crossed over her mom's flower garden and dropped beside her, breathing heavy and staring into her eyes, seeing the same lifeless stare he'd seen before. His heart sunk in his chest, she was lost inside herself, lost to him, he failed again.
Shoulder's slumped, head down, hands in front, Adam gave up. Nothing he'd seemed to do helped anyone, he'd thought. He couldn't help his brother, he couldn't help Christopher and now, he couldn't even begin to help Brianna.
Raymond Clay and his wife Marissa sat idly by on the front porch swing, hand in hand, rocking slowly with eyes glued to the scene playing out in front of them. In their sixty years of life they've never before seen their sleepy little town have this much activity. Somehow news got around that Woodland has lost most of it's residence due to the war and then the recent suicides, it's brought the news crews from most of the major news stations forth. Vans were parked as far as the eye could see, blocking neighborhoods left and right of their house. But no one ever approached them for their story, for their loss.
Just seeing them standing outside, waving their camera's around has brought back memories of their daughter, Amber. She was a vibrant young woman, always looking for the next best thing and being a news reporter caught her interest. Being involved in the center of the action is what she always wanted but in no way did going to war ever interest her, and for that her parents were thankful. Little did they know that no matter where their daughter was, she end up dieing.
It all happened three years ago, Amber was thirty-three years old and at the top of her game. Never one to pick and choose which stories she did, always thought the smallest of stories is what matter most, always thought that adding her own love and compassion to them would make them stand out for all the rest. But her stories never ended up as front page news and that was one thing she wanted, badly.
She'd been following a lead that had a lot of promise, front page news, she thought, her big break. All she had to do was sit and wait by the phone until Mr. Andrews called, simple, easy, she thought, just sitting by. An hour later she was down right staring at it, wishing it to ring and around midnight she'd given up for much needed sleep.
The phone rang the minute her eyes closed, the call she'd been waiting for, the one that would change her life forever. Excitement shot through her, running for the phone that held her career in check. After hanging up she'd called her cameraman Eric and in turn he called Josh, Amber's boyfriend, saying their big break was waiting for them and they needed this, she needed this.
Everyone met outside her apartment and drove together, they were laughing and making sneer comments to each other, but no matter what they were all happy. They drove for two hours, into the wee hours of the morning until reaching the isolated destination. A park is what Amber thought they'd be going to, any place but where they were but she was desperate for this story so she blew caution to the wind and proceeded on.
Parking in the deserted lot, they all climbed out, looking about and agreeing one last time that this was truly what she wanted. Amber stood confident, squaring her shoulder's, relaxing her breathing and stepped out to face Mr. Andrews, reaching her hand out to shake his.
Mr. Andrews looked the three of them over, carefully and felt threatened by the big muscular man standing behind the woman with the microphone. His eyes grazed over them, over the area that he'd picked because it was isolated and then back to them. Something in Josh's eyes spooked him, sending him into a frenzy. “I told you if you, miss, wanted my story to come alone!” He sneered, jabbing his finger out, pointing it directly at her. His face twisting when he saw the look on their faces, they were laughing at him.
“Mr. Andrews can you tell me about yourself?” Amber jumped into the interview, ignoring his remark and getting down to business. Being out here, in the middle of nowhere, the morning fog surrounding the ground and trees cutting off anyone else knowing that they were here. It's not until now that she figured out where exactly they were, how easy it would be for Mr. Andrews, whom she didn't know to do something and no one would know different.
His stood by, eying their surroundings, convinced there was someone out there and they would take him away. He'd purposely stopped taking his medication, he's thought's were that the government was trying to brainwash him and the pharmaceutical companies were pushing out drugs that do more damage than good. That was he story, his big news he had to tell everyone about and it would start with this woman, standing in front of him now.
But the men, the way they were twitching, they way their eyes stared down on him, accusing him, he couldn't take it. No more. With guarded words he spoke, “the drugs the government is pushing on people is killing them. Don't you see this? Open your eyes, it's happening all around you.” He eyes jerked between them, catching sight once again of Josh and seeing something there.
“What drugs Mr. Andrews? We need names if you want this story to have any real value. The more names you give us, the better.” Amber smiled, looking him dead in the eyes, probably something she shouldn't have done but did.
“What's wrong with you boy
? Why are you looking at me that way?” He asked Josh, squaring off with him. But before he'd allow him to answer, he reached in the back of his pants, pulled out his gun and fired a shot.
Amber gasped and Eric dropped his camera to his side, disbelieving what had happened. Josh was dead behind them but neither of them turned to see, never taking their eyes off Mr. Andrews, if that's indeed what his name was, Amber thought.
Fear trembled down her spine as she watched him turn the gun on Eric and fire another shot, killing him where he laid. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” She whispered, unable to think of anything else to say to prolong him from killing her too.
He smiled at her looking her up and down, never wavering his sight away from her. The gun had only two more bullets in it and one was saved for him. There was no way he'd ever been taken seriously, he knew this and that's why he'd planned it out carefully, brought them to this isolated area, where no one would ever know or see them. They were never going to leave, he thought, smiling to himself.
The next day the front page news was all about Amber Clay, Eric Robin and Josh McCoy, how their bodies were found, how no one knew why they were where they were and evidence leading them to the man who did this. The hardest part was hearing about their daughter and how she'd been found, what had actually happened to her, thought Raymond. He'd never before thought these happened anywhere but in the battle field and never would he have thought his one and only daughter would be a victim of such a horrific crime.
Tears weld up in his eyes just by the memory of his daughter, seeing the news crew surrounding their neighbors and the pain. Marissa was sitting still, watching everything but keeping a close eye on her husband, seeing the memories flashing behind her own eyes but keeping the tears at bay. She was a strong woman and wouldn't let her husband see her fall, wouldn't let this world tear her down, wouldn't give up.
“Tango Company move out!” Captain Dumas yelled, straightening himself, waving his hand and watching his soldiers fall in line. All their faces showed signs of wear, signs of defeat but he wouldn't let them give up, not one of his soldiers would give up, he'd make sure of this.
SPC Carter eyed the camp they were leaving, searching through the mess of soldiers for one familiar face, the one he could always count on. And just as his eye roamed over them, he remembered, his friend, his battle buddy died two days prior. Dropping his eyes back in front of him, he marched on, following close behind and back into the jungle they'd come out of days earlier, leaving behind the ones that couldn't continue.
This camp, this sanctuary as everyone called it was exactly that, the one place where Mason felt he'd truly belonged, where he'd hear word from home. And now with his back turned towards it, with leaving it behind as well, he shrugged his shoulder's and sighed. Knowing he'd not be returning here again, wretched deep in his chest. His heart faltered, his breaths sallow but he continued on without muttering a word to anyone.
Thick green vines hung low to the ground, movements slowed, eyes peeled opened and searching their surroundings. Listening in on the smallest of sounds so they wouldn't be ambushed, half a dozen men tread lightly through the densely covered jungle in search of their next mission. One that would take them further away from civilization, clear skies, fresh water and air and into enemy territory.
Even though everyone was supposed to be paying attention to their surroundings, Smith couldn't get his mind off one letter in particular, one that caught his eye and tore at his heart. Padding his shirt pocket that held that letter, safely and close to his heart, his eyes lost focus , a mistake he knew could cost him, one he'd never do again.
All the sudden shots rang out, close shots, splintering tree limbs, spraying bark around, making everyone hit the dirt, face first. Eyes wide open, searching in front, behind and all around, looking for those who were shooting, everyone that is except Carter. He was sprawled beside one of the wounded, trying his hardest to save his life. But the endless stare he saw tore into him, painful burst of heart wrenching screams escaped his lips, throwing every cuss word he could at them and not caring if they understood or not.
Gripping his pocket, he laid with his back against a tree, splinters of bark spraying in his face, he was cornered by all sides. His anger erupting, he reached out, grabbing the weapon that laid in front of him and shot wildly around, hitting spaces in between the tree and praying he'd hit of the them.
John sat alone Monday morning in the small sized classroom and stared off, he knew that any moment students would be coming inside but his mind, he couldn't focus on anything but what had happened. Weeks have gone by and still Brianna hasn't been here, hasn't come to class and he's worried. John's tried to talk to her but she's not really there, physically she is but everything that made her who she is, is not.
He sat at his desk with Jason's letter in hand, mulling over if he should share his sons letter or keep it to himself. His fingers grazed over the lettering once more, feeling his eyes water up, he dropped the letter back in his briefcase, closing his eyes and took a deep, refreshing breath.
The door opened but he couldn't look up, not yet, not until his eyes cleared up and he could see without fear of crying.
“Sir, ah, Mr. John Thomas?”
“Yes.” He said looking up to see the uniformed military personal. Just seeing them he knew he wouldn't be able to stop the tears.
“We went to your home first but you weren't there, we have news of your son, sir. SGT Thomas, Jason, I'm sorry Sir to tell you this, here but he's been captured by the enemy. I promise you that we will do everything in our power to get him back alive.”
After John heard captured, he'd blocked the rest out, tearing a hole the size of the grand canyon out of his heart, he collapsed on the floor, breaths shallow and grabbing his chest.
Walking in the classroom was the last thing Brianna wanted to do but something was telling her she needed to. So here she was, in the hallways, walking silently by herself not daring to look at anyone directly in the eyes and afraid if she did, she'd break. But those tears didn't stay at bay for long, she opened the door and saw John laying on the floor, two uniformed military personal hovered over him, broke down her guards.
“Why did you come here? Can't you see this isn't the place for this? Don't you have a heart, can't you see what you people do hurts everyone?” She screamed at them, running over to drop on her knees and reassure John that she was there, that she would help him. No matter what happens she'll be there for him as long as he needs her, that's the least she can do, she thought. After everything he's done for her, this is the most she can do.
Her heart beat frantically in her chest, tears ran down her cheeks while she cradled John's limp body in her arms. His chest rose and fell in slow rhythm, with her hand placed upon his she made small movement to make sure he'd know she was there. Whispering words of encouragement in his ear, she bit her lip, hard and swallowed her fear as it took hold.
The military personal had told her about Jason, about being captured, but nothing more, no promises of him coming home alive, nothing. Not once did she look up from John's face while they told her this, afraid that if she did, she would definitely come unglued. There's been too many deaths here, she thought and Jason will come home alive, she screamed in her mind. Promising things she knew she'd never be able to do but none the less, she said it anyway.
An ambulance was called, Brianna didn't leave his side no matter what anyone said. She didn't care about school, friends or what anyone was saying, her main focus was on the only person who'd been there for her, her only family friend left, John.
Word spread like wild fire, by noon everyone knew about Jason's predicament and John's situation. Neighbors and friends a like brought food to fill his fridge, paid money to help with the medical expenses and visited him, each and everyday he was in the hospital.
John didn't speak to anyone, closing off the outside world so he could breath, to keep his hope alive that indeed his son would come home, safe and sound. Everyone that would come into his room, the looks he was given only resulted in him burying himself deeper inside, closing off the pain. They all knew what he was going through but he couldn't bring himself to think that way. Keeping positive was the key and the only thing that kept him from shutting down completely and giving up. Jason is the only family he has left and just thinking about something happening to him, tore through his heart.
Cries ripped through his still body, tears ran down his cheeks, and his heart monitor was going crazy. He'd been brought here in a daze, not knowing who had come with him or if he'd come alone. The doctor's said he'd had a mild heartache but John knew there wasn't anything mild about it.
Adam stood outside the door that led to John's room, contemplating his options. Should he go in, explain to good and bad, and what to expect? Did he have a right to even enter his room? He couldn't do anything to insure Jason's safe return with him being here and not there to help. And hearing these words just bounce around inside his head caused him to reach out, grabbing hold of the wall. Flexing his hands, breathing in shallow breaths, trying to shrink into the wall and wishing Aaron was here instead because he'd know what to do, what to say, how to make everything better.
After leaving the hospital on no intention, Brianna offered help to those who brought gifts to John, to help him in anyway they could. Sitting at the kitchen table, stretched out, arms crossed over each other and head down, Brianna cried softly to herself, alone. Everyone had come and gone as she sat there wishing only the best, praying for something good to come from all their loss.
Their gifts were intended to bring peace to the household but with it being empty of life, what peace could it possibly bring? She sat staring out of the window, watching the day and thinking of years that have passed. All the good times she's shared with the ones she loved, laughing wholeheartedly at the jokes they told, she now missed them dearly, missing their simple touch that brought more life to her than a breath of air. No one knew how truly alone it was, she thought, to have no one to fall back on or shoulder to cry on when you needed it, badly.
Walking out the front door, Brianna was forced to face the day that lay out in front of her. Soft drops of mist landed on her face, shielding her tears and causing her more pain. It seemed God shed tears often in this town, the rain came down harder the closer she was to the mail box. Inside held a lot of letters from soldiers. Clutching them in her hand, without looking to closely at them, Brianna turned around and ran back into the house. Keeping her eyes straight in front of her the whole time.
But one letter had slipped out of her hand as she placed them on the table. And without thinking she reached down to retrieve it, holding it firmly in hand her eyes connected to the lettering on the front and broke. Everything she'd wanted to hide from everyone, came out in waves. Sitting in the palm of her hand was a letter from her mother. Disbelief shot through her mind, her face lost all color and her entire body went limp.
Collapsing on the floor, letting the letter slip from her hand, losing her vision, she screamed. “Oh God!”
With trembling hands, she reached down and retrieved the letter. Using her other hand to wipe the tears away from her eyes so she could read what it said. The first words she'd managed to read brought back the tears tenfold, 'to my dearest daughter'.
This can't be, she thought, it has to be a joke. Someone's sick, twisted idea of a joke. But the handwriting, the loops and twirls of the lettering were the same as what her mother had done on all the letters before. The hearts delicately drawn on the edges of the page, the vines connecting them together to make a boarder, was it true? Could it be?
Her hands shook the more she'd read, 'life has been difficult for you, I understand'.
Oh God, no, she thought. “I'm so sorry. I never wanted you to know how difficult it's been.” Wiping away the tears again she began reading more, 'but I'm here for you, honestly. I'd never leave your side even if God himself demanded me too'.
“Mom,” she whispered, feeling her energy inside this house.
The next letters on the page seemed to jump out at her, 'all you have to do is close your eyes, and there I'd be, standing, waiting'.
Brianna sobbed louder than she'd ever before but slowly closed her eyes to see for herself if what was written was true. Rehearsing the words she'd just read over and over until she was sure, she was losing it.
When she opened her eyes the words came at her like a rainbow of explosion. 'Your my angel, my whole reason for being. Never to be able to see your beautiful smile again would definitely kill me, so smile baby, for me'.
Brianna tried to please her mother and smile but the sobs broke through and she found it near impossible.
“I can't mom, I'm not strong enough.” She sobbed into her hands. Disappointed that she couldn't do this one simple thing, smile.
'You are strong, even though life has dealt you a rough hand, I know you of all people can keep going. Your a caring, loving human being and never one that would ever give up. Please for me baby, don't give up. Hold your head up high, wipe the tears away and smile.'
“There's nothing to smile about, mom. Your gone, dad's gone, everyone I love is dieing and I can't do anything about it. It's my fault your both gone. I should have done what you said and talked to him.”
'I am to blame for what happened to me, not you. So rid your mind of that thought, it was all my doing. I choose to join and leave you behind to fight, I choose my own fate. And your father, he stands by my side, he's truly sorry for what happened too. He fought a war within himself that could never be won, you had nothing to do with what happened, rid yourself of that thought too.'
The words she'd longed for three years were now shinning out to her, her mother's thoughts written down on paper for her to read. But regardless of what was written Brianna was still adamant that she was the one who caused all her own heartache, all the pain.
Crying more softly to herself, she read the last of the letter before falling completely apart. 'Good things will come, I promise, baby. Only good things. We both love you dearly, Brianna. All hearts and souls combined, together, forever'.
All hearts and souls combined, together, forever was something they'd all say to each other every night before going to sleep. That is before her mom left to fight in Iraq and her dad became an alcoholic and now she's left alone to say it into the wind.
Staying put on the ground seemed a waste of time, there was so much she could do to help make her life good, a better place to be. Rising up, she grabbed hold of the rest of the mail, sorted through it and placed two neatly placed stacks on John's desk.
Cleaning what she'd messed up, Brianna left the house and walked away. Away from the misery, away from the loss to start a new. Something that would make her mother and father smile down upon her, make the world a better place to live in and make her feel like she was doing something special.
Saturday morning was a new start, the start that would forever change Brianna's life. It was a beautiful start, rainbows colored the ground where the drops of rain sat. Brianna sat at her kitchen table, writing a list of items that would be useful for the troops, writing down supplies she'd need to complete what she wanted. Her project of giving back took on a whole new level.
Calling all her friends together to help, they sat around and listened to what she wanted to do, all wide eyed and surprised but willing none the less. “I know this might seem a bit strange coming from me but, I want to make this project we have in school that much more. Not only am I going to write back to these soldiers and tell them they're doing an amazing job but also give them something to hold and know there's life beyond what they're seeing. I know most of you will help me with this but just to make sure, I'll ask again. Who wants to make sure our soldiers know they're loved, supported and wanted back home safe?”
Everyone either nodded or cheered, bringing more happiness to this house than it's had in a long time. They all knew this would be a hard project but one they were all willing to do, regardless.
Adam was standing over to the side, eying the chaos and trying to remember why he'd picked up his phone and come over. He didn't go to school, didn't have a project to do but still he felt it right to be here, to support Brianna in whatever she did. And seeing her smile, lit up his day. Slowly his lips twitched, smiling along with her and letting his guard down. Brianna is the only one who's ever been able to affect him this way.
Sighing, he shook his head and stepped away from where he was. Lending a hand to whatever he could to help but as soon as his hand touched the letter, all his pretending went out the window. He couldn't hold on to the smile he had, the happiness he felt, his eyes teared up and he turned to leave. All the pain and heartache he'd held onto came harder and faster this time.
Lindsey and Brianna were talking silently together, not paying attention to anything else going on. But out of the corner of her eye, Brianna saw Adam's face. His pain and heartache she felt through his tears. Leaving her friends side, Brianna slowly made her way to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and cried along with him on his shoulder. She knew what she'd asked from him wasn't right but she also thought it might help. And deep down inside she'd hoped it would help her as well, help them all.
“I thought I could do this but I can't. It's too soon, Brianna. I'm sorry.” Adam whispered in her ear. The feel of her tighten her grip, he knew she was pretending as much as he was. But he wasn't as strong as her, he thought, just standing here was breaking down his defenses and he's never let anyone see them before and now would be no different.
“Adam, please I can't do this without your support.” She begged, sucking in a rough ragged breath of air. He'd always been there before, was her rock, someone to lean on but now was different and she'd hoped he'd know this.
His lips brushed against her ear, his warm breath down her neck causing shivers throughout her body but she didn't move. Drawing in deep breaths herself, she closed her eyes and prayed he wouldn't leave her too.
Lindsey was the one standing off to the side this time, watching the two of them comfort each other in a way that she never could do. The intensity of their pain, the tightness of their hold, broke the barriers that held the flood waters in. Tears streamed down her cheeks causing her to turn away and look somewhere else. But it seemed no matter where she looked, the pain, the misery, the heartbreak was all around.
Another week has passed and their platoon's decreased in considerable numbers. Land mines, bullets, traps, you name it, they've seen it but amazingly enough their spirits are still high. Captain Dumas although a high ranking officer has taken comfort in being part of the rough necks. He wouldn't have it any other way, he thought, although he's lost a considerable amount of soldiers, the ones that have survived through it all make him proud to be where he is.
The four remaining troops all found themselves waist deep in water, covered in leaches and shivering tremendously. Even with the sun shinning in the sky, where they were, the trees covered their location completely.
With weapons raised above their head, all four remaining soldiers look beyond the trees, to the heavens above and prayed. SPC Carter although he'd never really belonged anywhere, thought he finally had a place he considered home, one with the students who'd written to him once and hoped they'd do it again. It would feel nice to make a connection with someone with whom he could trust, love and befriend.
A smile crept on his face as he reached the banks on the side of the river, freedom didn't look that far away now.
POP! POP! POP!
Bullets were flying in all directions, enemy troop were making their locations known. Captain Dumas and his troop were trapped, mud covered their bodies, weapons kicked out of their hands and M16's placed at their temples. They were caught, he thought, damn it!
Moving his head side to side, splashing in the mud and gunk, he looked around to see where his troop where. Only then did he realize that his medic was shot, bleeding out right in front of his eyes and there was nothing he or anyone else could do to help.
Weeks had gone by and no one was the wiser. John was still absent from the classroom, Brianna still adamant about doing something more and everyone else seemed level-headed. At least that's what it looked like to her. But the classroom took on another perspective, a substitute teacher sat idly by, looking around the room at all the empty chairs.
Miss. Beach moved here two month prior, without knowledge of anything going on and did her job respectively. But the rumors she's heard about the assignment this class was on, had her questioning it. Was it wise to bring such heartache to a town that has enough? To a town that's lost so many, she thought, shaking her head.
The students filed in without a word being said and sat down, looking forward at the empty, blank screen. All wondering what they were going to read next and hoped for something new, something to bring them hope. Something to allow them to smile, laugh and not feel bad about it.
“Today we're going to do things differently. Instead of everyone reading one letter, I'm going to give each of you one and you're going to focus on that one individual to write too. Send things to and show them they matter.” Miss. Beach smiled a weak and uneven smile. Thumbing the letter in front of her, she sat back and sighed.
First off she didn't really want to do this assignment but she also didn't want to have them think she was against it either. War was never the solution, she thought, but there was little she could do about that now.
Standing up with ease, she picked the letters up and handed them out. Each student stared at what sat in front of them but no one dared touch it. The letters all held pain, sorrow, and heartbreak. Shying away the students all turned to friends, looking for support to carry them on to do what they needed to do.
Both Brianna and Lindsey sat by, staring down at their letters, staring in awe of what sat in front of them. The writing so neat, the curves and loops of the lettering so precise, broke the strongest hold on them and they both cried. Holding onto what they had left and tried to proceed forward.
With hands that shook without cause, Brianna picked up the letter, opening it to full length then placed it securely back down. Staring in disbelief at who had written....
“Brianna I can't do this. I can't...” Lindsey broke off crying.
Hearing her words out loud, broke through the wall Brianna was hiding behind and brought forth her own words, “I'll help you. We can do this, you and me, together.” God please, she thought, let this be true.
To the students of Woodland University,
I still can't believe you all wrote back to me. How many heartfelt letters I received today from you all. Never did I believe so many out there would care about what I did, or would be willing to write me without knowing who I was to begin with but I'm grateful to everyone.
Now since I know a little bit about each one of you, it makes writing back that much easier. Sorry I get a little teary eyed seeing all these letters from everyone and not really knowing any of you. My letters might be smeared but forgive me, it's tears of joy and tears of sadness.
We've lost so many in our platoon, it makes each day seem longer and lonelier. But enough sadness, I'll start crying again and this time won't be able to stop, if I start again.
I read so many letters talking about the loss you've all had in your town and I feel your sadness, really I do. And then there are letters that I read that brought a smile to my face, a smile I haven't had in a long time. And I thank you for that.
I don't know how to fit this all in one letter but I'll try my hardest to make sure everyone of you knows how much hearing from you, means. There are some of you, from what I've read, I'm sure needs a hug and if I was there, that's exactly what I'd do, hug you.
I'd love to talk more to you all but we're moving again, can't spend to much time in one area. I'll promise to write again, even if I don't hear back for you.
Take care and God Bless,
SPC Carter, Edward
Lindsey's letter was a shock to Brianna's slowly beating heart, a shock that it needed badly. And just staring at it brought more tears but she knew the minute she looked at her letter again, those tears would double.
They both were staring at the letter that Brianna had, both teary eyed and about to break. Without having to read it out loud, Brianna placed it between them, taking a deep breath and began reading.
Hello my fellow friends and family,
I know goofy but it's me, all me. And I really shouldn't be happy at a time like this but writing home brings me joy. Just knowing your there, waiting to hear from me makes my heart beat faster. And dad if your reading this, I'm fine. Everything you've heard about me is rumors, we've taken a path few have traveled and were temperately lost. But not anymore, we've found base camp and have settled in for the night. Safe and sound just like always.
And Brianna if your reading this and I'm sure dad will let you read this, I miss you. You've always been the best and to be able to hear your voice, your laughter right now would be amazing, something to help me focus on what I'm doing here. You've always told me the truth, I see why now, I could really use your wisdom, girl. I love you and take care of yourself.
Now dad I know you worry but don't. I'm grown and can take care of myself, I just need to make sure you take care of yourself and Brianna. Guys I love you to death, no pun intended but I have to go. I'll write again soon, love you.
SGT Thomas, Jason
Her hands trembled so bad, Brianna had to put them in her lap to keep them from dropping the letter. Reading a letter from him and knowing where he was and what could possibly be happening to him, broke her. He's always been such a carefree, giving man and now with what he's going through, she dares to think.
“Brianna, he's going to be okay. He would never tell you he loved you if he knew he wouldn't come back. He will. You'll see, come on lets get out of here before we both break down and can't move.” Lindsey whispered, in tears herself.
“He could be saying it because he knows he'll never come back and I'll never see him again. I thought hearing he loved me would be the happiest day of my life but all I can do is cry. What if something happens to him? What do I do then?”
Pain shot through her heart while she stared at what he'd wrote. How can something so lovely be so painful? She's waited forever to hear him say these words and now reading them, her heart beat a little faster. But it wasn't the words that made it beat, it was knowing that she may never see him again, to be able to say them back.
Now even though her fingers trembled with unknown fear, she held on to the letter, holding it to her heart and closed her eyes. Thinking of only his face, the last time she'd seen his smile and prayed for his safe return.
“Let's go, Brianna.” Lindsey tapped her shoulder, causing her eyes to open. And no matter where Brianna looked all she saw was his face. The smile he held and his joking manner, she tried to laugh but couldn't. There was nothing funny, nothing laughable here anymore.
Gathering up her things, they left the classroom together and walked out. The day was dreary, shedding tears of rain with the sun hiding behind the clouds, ashamed of showing itself.
Ropes tied around the waists, hands tied together in front, the rest of Tango company was hauled off to an unknown destination. SPC Carter was limping, holding his side and trying to stay with everyone else. Single file line, moving slowly and cautiously through the jungle, breaking camp before sunset.
The first site of this camp brought on their worst fears, numerous soldiers were tied up, caged in and on display for the enemy to see. With their heads down, Tango company moved around them and into their own isolated cage, still bound. Once the cage was opened, from the top of the earth, the hole was dug, they pushed them in and closed it up. Saying something to them that no one could understand.
“Carter! Carter!” Captain Dumas yelled. Moving over to crouch down beside his fallen soldier. The blood that soaked his shirt was leaking onto the soiled ground, mixing in with everything else that was there.
“It's okay, just a fresh wound.” Carter replied, clenching his teeth together to keep the scream in. He knew it wasn't a fresh wound but he didn't want to alarm the rest.
“That's bull. Roll over and let me help you out. Stop being so stubborn, boy!” Captain spoke through clenched teeth.
The moment he rolled, his eyesight blacked out and he was lost to his own darkness. But no matter how much darkness invaded him, the pain, he still felt it. The searing hot pain that stretched out from his side all the way to his heart.
SPC Lake kept watch while the others mended Carter. And keeping watch wasn't the easiest thing to do, with so many things happening and hearing everyone else cry out for help, Lake covered his ears and allowed the tears to escape his eyes. This was the last place he ever thought he'd be, with two months left of tour, he'd thought he would be in a cot or trekking through the jungle but not here. Not where he knew for sure he'd never see home again.
Captain Dumas pulled off the last remaining stripe of clothing he could and wrapped it around the wound. Injecting Carter with enough morphine to sedate him for awhile. God, he hated being put in the position, having always told his troops that if it happened they'd survive but no that it has, he wasn't sure if they would. And hearing all the other cries only made it worse. Would he be able to get his troops out? Would they be able to get everyone else out?
When he was brought in here, he paid attention to the guards all around. Counting them as he passed to see how many there were. And no matter what he told everyone or what they saw in him, he was scared. Holding in his fear, he held in his breath and tried with everything he had left to calm himself. Thinking of home, thinking of his kids, his wife and what they would go through if he never made it back. Giving him the strength to pull himself together and then pull his troops together. But would it be enough?
Screams, cries and ghastly noises surrounded them as the day fell into night. Whispers could be heard between men, conversations of escape, torture and death. Members of different platoons going through horrific treatment, for nothing other than pleasure. Guards laughed, snickered and talked among themselves in languages foreign to them. But the worst part about this particular camp they were at, was the unknown.
Groggy and irritated, SPC Carter opened his eyes only to be met by absolute darkness. At least while his eyes were closed he could see images, colors, faces of what he thought the students looked like.
He lifted his hand in front of his face and winced, sucking in air through his teeth. Sharp pain shot through his side sending cascades of bright lights in his direct line of sight. As soon as his hand dropped down to his side the darkness took over his sight.
“How long have I been out?” Carter drug out each word, still feeling the side effects of the morphine in his system. How many was he given?
“Please for the love of God, man, be quiet!” an unknown voice said from one of the darkened corners. He'd thought by hearing the others cries, that they would at least know better than to bring unwanted attention their way, maybe not. Being here, all alone in the dark, never being tempted to edge himself closer to where the sun shinned through the branches, he'd been able to escape death numerous times. But now he didn't feel blessed only cursed in this hole, only able to close his eyes, seeing the one face he'd dreamed of, her face, Brianna. He sighed, leaning his head back against the soiled dirt, eyes glistening, he held his hand over his heart and trembled.
“Soldier, how long have you been here?” Captain Dumas asked, voice quivering but faint. Trying to think back to when they were pushed in this hole, he didn't remember seeing anyone else or hearing them but there was someone here now.
“Counting how many times the sun has risen then fell....um....sixty-two times. Give or take a few.” SGT Thomas whispered, amazing himself that he could remember after everything else that's happened. And then thinking this way, caused a shutter to run through his spine.
Everything that went wrong that first day they we're brought here, the family, friends that were tortured for information they didn't know then killed out of sure pleasure, haunted him. He was as far as he knew the only member left of Bravo Company, 1st platoon.
They all sat and listened with heartfelt pain to the story SGT Thomas was telling them about how they were captured, what they did wrong and who paid the ultimate price for it. With heavy hearts, tears running down their cheeks and unspoken prayers, they secretly planned for their escape. Knowing full well that all of them may not get out alive but all willing to do it for a chance to free another.
Adam inwardly cursed himself for being a coward, for not helping Brianna with a simple task to give back. Strolling down the road, kicking the loose pebbles, head down and hands in his front pockets, he received the answer he was waiting for. His cell phone, the one he'd carried with him every where was going off. Signaling him to return to base ASAP. After all this time, he thought, why would they call on him now?
Pulling his hands out of his pockets he sprinted for his house, out of breath and pushing himself to move faster. Once inside he immediately grabbed the phone and dialed. Hearing a familiar voice pick up the line, he knew right away that this was no prank, it was the real deal. His anticipation sky rocketed, beating his heart to a rhythm he was very familiar with, one that he'd only had when faced with a crisis.
Striping his clothes off in a hast, he jumped in and out of the shower in five minutes. Grabbing his pressed army greens, polishing his bars, he walked causally to his car and headed for base.
Within a half an hour he was standing at parade rest, hands clasped behind his back, head held high, standing across from Major Sanders, a friend and honored man. His eyes shinned with respect, knowing deep down inside that if he accepted this mission he wouldn't be coming home.
“This is highly classified information I'm handing over to you, you must keep this tight lipped.” Major Sanders said, jumping right into things. “We have satellite images showing an enemy camp. We believe this is the same camp where our own are being kept. We've been watching them move about, changing locations every few months but they've been settled here for longer than anticipated. We're moving out soon to take back what is ours.”
“Sir, yes, sir.” Lieutenant Banks replied, eager to jump in with both feet. Doing this, he thought, would be just what his brother would want. Helping out our fellow soldiers, helping them find their way home. Pride hit him hard, hearing his brothers voice in his head, seeing him smile from across the room brought tears to his eyes.
He would do this for not only his country but for his friends, for her. He'd put himself in the hot zone to bring back his soldiers, to make right what he couldn't before, to set things straight.
“You'll be given seventy-two hours to prep but then I need you back here, wearing your jungle camouflage and be ready for deployment.” Major Sanders smiled, blotting back his own tears and reached out to shake the hand of a friend.
Snapping to attention, Lieutenant Banks saluted him before realizing what he was doing. His smile faltered as he stared down at the Major's hand and the tears that he'd held back, fell.
“Adam, I should be saluting you.” Major Sanders withdrew his right hand, raising it up and saluted him. Both officers were crying, reaching around the desk they embraced each other knowing what danger lay ahead. Adam's cries however were hitched in his throat, breathing in deep shallow breaths and trying to keep composed.
Sitting on the porch, Brianna watched the dew glisten in the sunlight, heard the birds call to one another but really watched nothing in particular. Her eyes red and puffy from crying herself to sleep the night before. Wishing for everything to be a dream would be heartbreaking, she didn't want to go through again.
This time she had now was the only time she allowed herself to cry, to let go of the mask she'd been wearing and release her pain. But never loud enough to alert anyone around, even if the nearest neighbor was miles away.
She'd already gotten together with half a dozen friends and they all put together their boxes of love to send off to the soldiers to whom they received their own personal letters from. Only Brianna couldn't send one off to her soldier, he'd never get one and thinking about it now brought the tears back to her eyes. Jason would never know how she truly felt, he'd never be able to unwrap her heart and hold it close.
Chills ran down her back, causing shivers to cascade throughout her body. Brianna was starting to wonder how much more she could handle without falling off the deep end.
She let the shivers run their course, shaking her head she stood and walked back inside the house. Draped in a blanket, she curled up on the couch, turned the TV on and gasped. The news channel announced the on goings of the war, the death count and showed pictures of tanks with soldiers standing by. Explosions rocking the camera man back on his heals and tilting the view to show things they shouldn't show, ever.
Cries rocked through her body but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the screen. Shaking with force, she wrapped the blanket tighter and cocooned herself. Shutting out the outside world and seeing only what she wanted to see, what she desperately needed to see, his face.
Hospital beds are only a slight step up from sleeping on the stone hard ground, John thought. He'd been here, in this bed for weeks, building up his strength to face the world. He recognized some of the faces that visited him often but the one he wanted to see, she hadn't come by.
Stretching his legs, John swung them over the side of the bed and for the first time in weeks stood on his own. He'd been practicing late at night, after the last nurse would leave the room. Uncomfortable about being here, he was desperate to leave soon.
Tomorrow he kept telling himself, tomorrow the doctor said he could leave and damn it he was gone. So working extra hard as he was, adamant about walking out on his own, he practiced.
But now as he lay in his bed the only person he thought about was Brianna. How was she handling everything? Did what happened to him cause her more pain? He cringed just thinking about it.
That night he didn't sleep, dozed off a couple of times but didn't sleep. His thoughts focused, muscles strong, he faced the daylight bright eyed.
“Mr. Thomas I see your eager to leave. Already dressed and ready, that's good but one last thing. You need to take it easy, I know your excited about jumping back into your routine but I'd advise you take a couple weeks off and relax. You can't afford to have a relapse.” The doctor stated as he walked in the room, seeing John standing with everything in hand and tapping his foot, impatiently.
“Will you sign my release papers, there's someone I need to see.” John spoke with urgency, trying hard to keep his eyes from watering and giving away that he wasn't completely fine.
With walking papers in hand, John walked swiftly out of the hospital doors and into the sunlight. Squinting his eyes away from the light, he searched through narrow slits for transportation to get him where he needed to be.
The house was in view, he could see that nothing had changed from the outside but still his heart beat faster the closer he was. It was too quite and he didn't like it.
In the room Adam shared once with his brother, Aaron, he sat down on the edge of the bed and smiled through his tears. Boy would he be proud of him now. Going back into the fight to help out this time, he thought, shaking his head. Could he really do this? Leave everyone behind and disappear, maybe this time not come back. Would it be fair? Would she understand, he needed this?
Thinking of Brianna was clouding his mind, making him think twice about what he was doing, causing his heart to break off another piece. He felt trapped.
“Brianna, Brianna! Oh God NO!” John screamed as he burst through the door, seeing the room completely ransacked. Letters, clothes, pictures, everything one person could hold dear to them thrown about in a way that stated, distress, anger and heartbreak. There was not a bare spot on the floor to step, to move without stepping on something personal.
John scouted the room, searching with his eyes first for any sign of life, anything that would tell him he wasn't too late. His heart started beating in a horrible way, panicking breaths escaped his lungs, his hands were in tight fists clutching his already torn heart. He was too late, he thought, she'd done something, ended her pain, ended her life.
He fell in a heap on the floor, tears escaping his eyes and cried, “no.”
For some reason, Adam couldn't keep himself from telling Brianna what was happening. Driving slowly to her house, taking in deep calm breaths to ease his nervous heart, he thought, by telling her it would ease his pain. He could promise to bring Jason home to her, if that was possible, anything to make her see what he was doing was right.
Thoughts twisted in his mind, would she understand his dying need to do this? To free his conscious, his guilt, his pain. Only one way to find out. He made the long driveway seem short, speeding up the hill only to stop dead it his tracks, seeing the front door open and John propped up against it.
As quick as he could, Adam ran to him, skidding to a stop and dropping to his knees. “John...what's...” His eyes took in the room and panic spread through him. “Where's Brianna, John?”
He shook his head unable to speak, his mouth not able to form words that he needed to say. Blinking, John tried to push himself up but couldn't. He didn't have to strength, his heart felt heavy with despair. With Jason gone and now Brianna, John didn't want to fight anymore, didn't see a point in living without them.
“John don't you dare give up.” Adam shook him until he opened his eyes, staring into the distance he spoke again, “there's something I need to tell you, it's about Jason. We've found where he is and I'm leaving in the next few days to get him out and bring him home. So, you can't leave, you can't give up because your son needs you, John.”
“You know where he is?” John asked in a near whisper. Disbelieving what he heard. It's been years since he last saw Jason, since he'd been shipped out to fight.
Adam didn't want to lie, didn't want to be the bearer of false news but he couldn't stand by and watch another friend die. “Yes, sir.”
“You have to find Brianna, you have to tell her.” John's eyes lit up a little, still unsure if he was hearing Adam correctly but so desperately needed this. Now.
“We'll find her together.” Adam said, pulling John to his feet and embracing him in a hug.
Flares shot off in the middle of the night, lighting the sky, making it look like daylight. Guarding were screaming, rushing around with weapons pointed out towards to trees. Shuffling of boots kicked up dirt sending it into the holes that held the prisoners.
“Something's wrong.” SGT Thomas whispered, looking up through the branches and seeing the dismay. His heart quickened at the possibilities of their escape but died just as fast when the shots were fired.
Only one other time had this happened since he's been here. An escape was a death sentence served cold at this camp. If you had to chance to escape at all, Thomas thought. He shook the thought from his mind, shaking the memories that went along with it and crouched back in the corner, in the dark.
The others scrambled to the dark corners too, hiding away from the fight that was taking place just above their heads. CPT Dumas sunk down in the dirt, wringing his hands, trying to clean himself of the dirt and grim that encased them. Trying to find a way to help not only his troops but everyone else that was there. It wasn't his responsibility but his duty to make sure all soldiers made it home. That's why his heart skipped a beat when he heard the last shot and knew that that soldier would never make it home, would never be able to escape this place. The burden he carried was heavy, very heavy.
Maggots and urine soaked dirt covered SPC Carter's wound. Infecting it beyond the normal but he would never say anything to anyone about how much he was in pain. Never tell them that sometimes he saw lights shining in his eyes where no light should be.
They'd not been able to leave this hole to do anything, making one spot in it as a bathroom and another to sleep. The flies the surrounded them, ate at their skin, encased their wounds and made for the worse case scenario possible.
Weeks had flown by and every time they thought would be a perfect time to escape, someone else thought the same thing. Almost a nightly ritual shots would be heard from guards catching soldiers who had escaped. Those soldiers would be placed on display for all to see, beaten severely almost to the brink of death then given a couple of days to recover before the screams of beatings would begin again.
Hearing them drove the remaining soldiers crazy, no one could sleep without seeing it, dream without picturing it and breath without smelling it. Every kind of torture the guards used, even things that no normal person would think of they used with pleasure, delight and smiles on their faces.
On this very night it was quiet, maybe a little too quiet. But even when no one was screaming for their lives, everyone could still hear them, the only that dead that is. Thomas could still hear his fellow men screaming, crying and begging for justice. Justice that never came. He'd seen things that have haunted his mind since the beginning of the war and all these things have come from being forced to watch.
Lindsey spent a good potion of her day alone, dwelling on the past, things she couldn't change and things that broke her heart. But now she sat down, facing the letter that brought her to tears earlier in class with Brianna and decided to write back. To tell SPC Carter everything that was good. Things to bring him to smile and something's she needed to tell someone.
Staring down at the blank paper, she thought of all the things that's happened over the last few weeks. She needed hope just as much as the next person and that's what she'll give him, if nothing else, hope. But when her pen touched the paper, the words flowed out without much thought and she couldn't stop what she wrote. Didn't dare reread it until it was complete.
To our hero,
This may come as a shock but your letter ended up on my desk at school and I'm going to try and include all the things that have happened to everyone there. First off my name is Lindsey Howard and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for doing what you're doing. It means a lot to me.
My brother Oliver was in the military so I know what you're going through, not personally though. There are so many good points and many more mute. But I'll try and keep this happy for you, to bring a smile to your face and a shine to your eye.
Well, a little bit about me, I'm twenty-one, going for my major in journalism. My best friend Brianna talked me into that, she's majoring in the same thing. Back to me though because there's so much about her, but nothing lately has been good. Her mother died over there, three years ago. Her father crashed his car, a couple of months ago and was killed and now her boyfriend has been captured so she's not doing to well. Honestly I love her to death but I don't know what to do. How to help her through these times. She's in so much pain and just by looking at her, you can see she's dieing.
The students in my class were given a letter from soldiers, to write back and send them love and encouragement. And I'm trying, God knows I'm trying.
Here in Woodland, Texas there's been so much sadness, so much heartbreak, I don't know where the goodness is. I'm going to end it here before my pen falls out of my hand, and my writing gets worse. Please for the sake of everyone here, come home. I can't bare to hear about another soldier who's died there, it breaks my already broken heart.
We all love you and have sent our prayers for your safe return,
The letter hadn't exactly turned out the way she wanted it to but she couldn't write another words without breaking. Lindsey had to wipe the tears away, keeping them from smearing her words and after she couldn't see the words to reread it.
Leaving the letter sitting where it was she stood up and walked away. Down the hallway of her house and straight for the outside door, needing fresh air to dry her eyes. But what she saw did the complete opposite.
Adam and John were sitting on her front porch, wiping away tears to run down their faces. Shock hit them hard when they first came, thinking Brianna would be here. But when they drove up and didn't see her car, both their heads dropped down and both couldn't fight off the tears that fell. Scared to death of where Brianna was, where her car was, where she was running too or away from.
Listening to the news, hearing the explosions, seeing death and destruction, drove Brianna to her breaking point. Throwing off the blanket, she stood up and reached out for the first thing her fingers touched. Grabbing hold of it, she threw it against the wall, hearing the glass break, the pieces fall to the ground made her crazy.
She couldn't think straight, nothing in her life was going the way it should. Her family was dead, her boyfriend was dieing and she couldn't stop any of it from happening. The war has taken so much, she thought, it might as well take her too.
Rage built up inside her causing her to destroy anything and everything that's ever meant anything to her. Because nothing mattered when there was no one to share it with. Nothing was important enough to keep when kept to one's self.
After destroying everything insight, Brianna left. Grabbing her keys, she ran outside not bothering to lock anything up because there was nothing in her house left to keep safe. Lonely and in dire need she turned her car around and sped away from town, away from anyone who would stop her from doing what she needed to do, to leave and not come back.
A flash of bright lights invaded the inside of Brianna's car, stunned her sight and caused her to swerve across the road. Her vision was already blurred from the tears and no matter how much she tried to stop them, they fell. Upset and angry with life it's self, she gained control again, slamming her foot on the gas petal and propelling forward at neck breaking speeds.
Screaming out the names of loved ones who'd left her alone, to live a life without them, terrified her. No matter what the end result, it ends tonight, she thought. Not caring about who would be left behind to cry over her when she was gone. Crazy, they'd say, would jump off a cliff if asked. She'd be glad to if it would end the pain, the heart ache. But then who would win?
The further away from home she was the more she'd cry, the faster the tears would stream and the harder it was to hold on to the steering wheel. She thought she was strong, wanted to be that person for everyone else but lets face it, she's not. Her friends would be shocked to hear that through everything she's only managed to hold on by a sliver. Her heart that once beat a steady rhythm now had a hard time beating at all. Trying as she may, she couldn't find a reason why it would continue to beat. Why death seemed so far away from her.
Pulling over to the side of the road, she stepped out, leaving the door opened, keys in the ignition and walked away. On the outskirts of town is where she found herself, sitting cross legged on the ground. She watched numerous people wondering around, going to places and smiling as they went. And even though the tears she'd cried tonight were brought on by pain, this time her tears were for her friends. For their loses, their heartbreak, their pain. Most of all the pain she's caused them.
Two days had passed and Brianna didn't leave where she was, didn't have the energy to move herself. She'd broken down many times, some ended up in her screaming out loud but never loud enough to alert anyone where she was and other times her screams were just whispers, begging for escape. She'd prayed for the lives she had no control over, the friends she loved with all her heart and for forgiveness for what she'd done.
On the third day she stood up with one thing on her mind, one thing she had to do above everything else in life. Ask for forgiveness from her parents who she was so sure she'd disappointed.
Although John had recently been released from the hospital he readmitted himself after Brianna disappeared. His heartbeat was so weak that doctors had a hard time getting the machines to register it.
Adam and Lindsey were in no better shape, both sitting by his side, watching his facial expressions and grieving themselves. They were confused and scared to think what happened to Brianna. Scared to death that she had killed herself and even more terrified that they would never know the reason behind it. The unspoken question of why?
Adam spent the last remaining time he had by John's side. Rethinking his mission and trying to see reason behind why he needed to be there when he was needed here. Why did he agree to go? Why was he so adamant on proving things? And why couldn't he just walk away without feeling guilty?
Lost in a sea of why's, he stood up and stretched his legs. Alerting John of his restlessness. Their eyes met and without saying anything, Adam knew what was being asked of him. Knew John's silent question and nodded. Leaving the room before Lindsey woke up to ask him what he was doing, where he was going and begged him not to.
Seventy-two hours were up and he knew what he needed to do now. With sadness still aching his heart, Adam waked away from the hospital room, away from the faces that broke his heart and headed to base.
On the ride there, Adam was cursing himself for not seeing her pain, noticing that look in her eyes and brushing it off as something else entirely. Because he'd seen all of this before when he himself looked in the mirror. Should have known, he thought, should have seen this coming.
“Brianna, I'm sorry,” he whispered, parking his car and getting out. He took one last look around before grabbing his duffel bag and heading towards the plane. Sighing, holding his head up high, he masked his pain and climbed inside.
Strapped in to his parachute he sat back and waited for his turn to jump. Even though he'd trained to do this type of thing, never had he jumped into a hot zone before. Eying the soldiers that were now his troops, he jumped back into leadership role, using hand signals to alert them that the drop zone was coming up and to be ready.
Taking a deep breath, he watched the rear cargo chute open, crossed himself once and jumped. Soaring threw the sky at speeds that could easily kill, Adam deployed his parachute signaling the others to do the same and coasted into the trees.
The ride down was exhilarating but no one made a sound to state that. Lieutenant Banks moved about, collecting his things, dispersing his parachute and moving with stealth through the jungle. Soldiers flanked both sides, crawling bellies down, holding weapons in sight and ready to take back what was taken from them.
Shots were fired, they'd been found out, Lieutenant Banks thought, but then after listening in closer he realized those shots weren't anywhere near them. Scared to the point of breaking out of rank, Banks crawled faster to see what was happening. But what he saw was horrific, bodies were sprawled all over, some were still moving while others had been dismembered.
It looked like a horrible horror movie and the closer he was the more he saw. Some of the ones laying dead were enemy guards. Were they to late in their rescue mission? Was there anyone left alive to save?
“Sir!” A soldier said in quiet determination. Catching his attention and leaving his eyes to wonder where the soldier was looking. Adam didn't know the names of the soldiers he had under him, never had the time to learn them but now he wished he'd had.
Cemetery stones stood prominently in front of her. The sun was just high enough to cause her to squint her eyes to focus on the lettering. Running her hand over the top, she whispered, “mom, dad. I'm sorry for not being strong, for not being able to handle the things that have happened and for being a weakling. Everything that's happened, has happened so fast, I wasn't ready for it.” Brianna's knees went weak, falling on top of the graves, she placed her hands in front of her and trembled.
“Move out!” Banks called out, to hell with the airstrike, they were going in. He was not going to fail again, he thought, not again. “This is for you Aaron!”
Their surroundings exploded within a few feet from where Adam stood. Throwing him back a good foot before he slammed into the ground. His breath released on impact and his eyes lost focus for awhile.
When he regained them what he saw laying around was his soldiers, blown to bits by their own bombs. They died by friendly fire, not enemy.
Adam tried to push himself up then realized why he couldn't. His arms that he took for granted his whole life were now missing, his lover half had shrapnel sticking out in odd ways and seeing this he couldn't stop himself from laughing.
“Adam, oh God no. Adam can you hear me? We are going to take you home, just hang in there.” SGT Thomas said, running up to his side. He would have never in a million years expected to see his friend's face again and now seeing it this way, was killing him.
“Uh Brianna will be happy to see you. She's had it rough lately and your dad he's been....” Adam faded into darkness before he could say anymore. The pain he was sure was there, he couldn't feel. There was no shock just a sense of peace, a release.
Word spread that the military finally came to their senses and went in to bring back their lost soldiers, to bring them home to their families. Flags were displayed in store fronts all through town, children held them high in the air, waving them and cheering. Tears and soft cries rocked through the residence that gathered in the center of town, waiting on their loved ones to walk back into their embraces.
“Thank the heavens above, that someone finally did something!” The crowd shouted, all cheering and standing tall.
“Heaven had nothing to do with it, it was Adam. He gave his own life to bring back the ones we love, he died and I did nothing to stop him.” Brianna wanted to shout but it only came out in a whisper. Just loud enough for her to hear the words spoken out loud, for her heart to break more.
She'd found a bench that was far enough away from the celebration, a place where she could cry, heartbreaking tears and no one would hear her. Hunched over on the bench, hands on both sides, gripping with all her might and let the anguish wash over her.
If she would have known the night she took off that what happened happened, she would have never left. Would have focused Adam to see that what he was doing was wrong, would have cried, begged and pleaded him not to go. But she was never given that chance, never given the chance to see his face one last time. “Why him?” Brianna cried out. Shaking not only herself but the bench as well, slumping forward only to cry harder.
The rage she felt earlier when she'd found out about Adam was gone, leaving behind emptiness. Brianna couldn't even force herself to smile, to join the rest in this time of celebration because in her eyes there was nothing to celebrate.
Lindsey was encircled in Chase's arms, standing along side the rest of their friends in the center island in town. Surrounded by trees, grass and wildflowers, hearing the cheers for everyone around them and trying to smile as well but without their friend with them, Lindsey found it near impossible to do that.
She'd been there the day they heard the news, the day they were told Adam didn't make it and she watched Brianna fall apart. It happened so quickly, Lindsey didn't know what to do at the moment. But now not seeing Brianna around terrified her. Tearing herself away from Chase, Lindsey stepped off the curb only to stop in her tracks as she took in a figure sitting by themselves, far enough away but still close to hear their cries.
Chase was watching the same figure and knew who it was, Brianna. He'd seen her walk over to the bench, sit down, grab a hold and scream at herself for what happened. And just like Lindsey he couldn't walk over to her and say it would be alright because right now nothing was alright. The only thing he could do was hold on to Lindsey and cry himself. They'd all lost loved ones here, he thought, but no one had lost as much as Brianna and no one could begin to know how that feels. That's the reason he stayed away, guilt for not knowing.
A parade of cars drove right into the center of town, flags were flown on both sides and everyone knew who it was. Cheering escaped their mouths before the first car stopped. Anticipation erupted and the crowd gathered closer together, holding onto one another for support.
SPC Lake climbed out of the first car before it came to a complete stop. Smiling through his tears of finally being home, he first spotted his mother and father and run into their embrace. Receiving pats on the back from the ones he walked past and cheers from everyone else.
“Jordan is it really you!” Mrs. Lake proclaimed, teary eyed.
“Yes, mom. I've missed you.” Jordan said in a whisper, grabbing hold of them and not wanting to let go. He'd been hoping for this day for so long and now that it's finally here, it's heaven, he thought, God really gave him a blessing.
Through everything he's been through and everything he's seen, this right here, right now, he felt he'd died and went to heaven. And even though he knew they were there, holding him, Jordan had to stop himself from closing his eyes just so he'd remember this moment. Many times over the last few months he's dreamed of this day and now that it's here, he doesn't want to miss out on a single thing.
CPT Dumas stepped out of the second car, holding his head up high and blinking back his tears. His eyes scanned the crowd for those special people in his life, the ones he'd prayed to God every night to return home too. When their eyes met, he couldn't breathe. His heart skipped a beat looking into his wife's eyes and this time he let his emotions loose. Walking swiftly he embraced her in a tight hug and never wanted to let her go again.
“Oh, baby. I'm so...” His wife started saying before he cut her off with a kiss.
He cried for the soldiers who's families would never be able to do this, for the ones who had no one to do this with and for everyone left behind. Always the strong one, he thought, but not anymore, not now. It wasn't the time for it now.
The last car to stop held two soldiers in it, SGT Thomas and SPC Carter. They both climbed out together, both looked around and then walked together into the crowd. Jason was searching for his dad first, after hearing Adam say something about him, he needed to see that he was alright.
“Jason.” John choked out. Not believing what his eyes were seeing and blinking several times just to be sure.
Jason spotted his dad, saw his pale features and ran to his side. “Dad! Oh my God, I've missed you.” He said wrapping his arms around him. They both cried, together, holding on for all their worth.
Brianna heard the commotion, knew what was happening but didn't move. And as much as she needed to see Jason's face, to see that he was indeed alive, at the same time she didn't think she deserved it. Conflict ran through her, on one hand she should be running to him, celebrating his life and everyone else and on the other hand the only reason he was here was because of Adam. Why can't she have both? Both Adam and Jason, alive and healthy? Why does one have to die for the other?
Every time she did look up and saw his face, all she could think of was Adam, of him dead and Jason standing here in town, smiling. Brianna's stomach twisted, churning in ways that made her face pale. She was comparing two men, two friends and it wasn't fair to either of them.
Edward looked around for awhile before settling down on a bench and resting. Taking in the blue skies and deep breaths of fresh air that he'd never thought he'd do again. Almost everyone there had patted his back and called him a hero, causing him to believe this was truly his hometown and not just someplace he'd been brought.
Nighttime fell and the celebration was still in full swing. Music was being played by a band that was hired, there were people dancing or swaying to it and everyone was in a good mood. Drinks were being passed around along with food that neighbors had brought and all looked to be enjoying life. The town had their spirits back, their happiness and laughter.
After making small talk with half the residence there, Edward wondered off in search of someplace to sit, alone. He'd been through so much in the last couple of years he needed to sit and cry. Just let loose of everything and release it.
And when he thought he'd found the perfect spot, he sat. Stretching his legs in front of him, leaning back he gazed up at the stars and sighed. It was quieter were he sat, no loud music, cheers or any of that just silence and he was enjoying it. But just as he closed his eyes he heard soft cries. At first he thought it was in his head, some many times he'd heard others cry and now was no different, he thought.
Moving away from everything was a good idea, Brianna didn't want to bring down the celebration with someone hearing her cry. So she took to the woods and found a spot far enough away where no one would hear her, sitting down, she curled up and cried more. Harder this time since there was no one around to hear. “Adam,” she sobbed, crying out his name. “Why?”
His eyes opened when he heard it again. It was a girl, that much he knew but where she was, he didn't. And with everything happening, he thought, why would she be crying? But instead of asking himself he decided to find her, see if there was something he could do to help. Anything to make her stop crying because he didn't know how much longer he would be able to hold out, how much longer his own tears would stay away.
The minute he stood to find her someone else had and by hearing his words, Edward knew better than to intrude.
“Brianna, please don't cry. Adam wouldn't want you to be sad.” John whispered. He knew from not seeing her mixed in with everyone else that she was having a hard time dealing with Adam's death. Adam hadn't only been a friend to her but also acted like a brother to her. They'd been so close that John was sure losing him would hurt her bad. Cause her so much pain that she would probably never recover.
“It's not fair, John. It's my fault he's gone. If I would have never left that day, he'd still be alive. I would've stopped him from leaving. He would have listened to me.” She cried harder, shaking her entire body and hating herself that much more.
“It's not your....” He tried to soothe her but she swatted his hand away.
“It is!” She yelled. He was not going to tell her it wasn't her fault when she knew better. God why won't he let her feel this pain, own up to it, claim it as her own?
“Brianna.” Jason's voice came out soft from across the way. He stared at her, knowing how she felt because he blamed himself for Adam's death too. If he would have waited they would have found him. They had already escaped and were making their way back to camp. If only he waited.
Looking up to meet his intense stare, she couldn't hold it and dropped her head back down. Seeing the hurt in his eyes, Brianna couldn't stop the sobs that escaped, releasing them for everyone to see.
Warm arms wrapped themselves around her and she knew she should hold back but her arms wouldn't move. They felt weighed down by the loss so instead she placed her head on his shoulder letting her tears soak his shirt.
Flags were still flying high a week after the homecoming celebration. Smiles and handshakes were exchanged but tonight's gathering were for the fallen. The names of each soldier that gave the ultimate price were named one by one. Three minutes of silence given between names, for prayers and silent tears of praise.
Brianna sat in between John and Jason, each had one of her hands clasped to theirs. And each held on for strength from the other.
“It's okay babe, I'm here.” Jason whispered. Seeing her struggle was worse than anything he'd been through before.
Every night he'd lay beside her thinking, hoping she'd be the cure he needed to rid himself of the nightmares. But each day waking up alone, in cold sweats, shaking and screaming for help has proved otherwise. And now seeing the memorial with the list of names, the list of friends, Jason couldn't sit still for long.
Standing up he dropped Brianna's hand and walked off. Shaking off his dad's hand that tried to stop him, slumping his shoulder's, he desperately needed the nightmares to end. Needed to feel safe, needed them back.
He walked until he couldn't and slumped down, crying. He'd been dreading showing anyone this side of him before, they all knew he was a fun, loving person but the war had changed that. Now he couldn't look past the pain, the horror of the last few years.
Brianna stood and followed his frame with her eyes, not daring to move an inch from where she was. Afraid that everyone would see how this day, today was affecting her. Only her eyes gave away the heartbreak and pain. Yes, Jason had come home but he wasn't the same, his screams for mercy, terrified her. She'd find herself crawling off the bed, into the corner and covering her ears to escape. Never wanting to know what happened, what he'd been through but wanting so badly to help.
Sitting in the last row of seats, Edward kept his head down, hands clasped together in front of him and prayed along with everyone else. He'd heard the commotion and saw Jason get up and leave, even saw Brianna stand up too but didn't move from where he was. It's none of your business, he'd tell himself.
But no matter what he couldn't get the look of her face out of his mind. What she'd been through, what she was going through now was painful to watch. He couldn't even begin to imagine what it was like to go through.
“SGT Ella Sampson.” The speaker said, dropping off the end of the name in a moment of silence.
Hearing her mother's name caused her eyes to water, afraid of letting her friends see her this broken, Brianna left. Scrambling through the seats, passing residence that were sitting quietly and whispering please to herself, to not cry here.
John was conflicted, he could go to his son and try to comfort him, help him find his way out or follow Brianna to comfort her with her loss. When he stood, the sun was shinning directly overhead, beaming down on top of him causing his hands to sweat, his heart to beat faster and his legs to move. The moment he did move, he lost his equilibrium and fell.
Seeing Jason's dad fall caused Edward to jump, the sound of it sounded a lot like an explosion. Reflexes went into action and Edward jumped over the remaining seat and straight for the fallen man. Reaching out, he cradled him in his arms and brought him back into the shade.
“Son, I'm fine. There's no need for this, honestly.” John laughed out. Although what happened was not funny he still couldn't believe how fast this soldier moved to get to him, how he would have loved having him when he was in the military. Maybe those who'd died back then would be alive now if they had someone like him.
Shaking his head, John dislodged that thought. He'd had the best soldiers by his side and wouldn't trade them for the world.
“Sir...” Edward started to argue.
“John are you okay? What happened?” Brianna run up to him, throwing her arms around him and kicking herself for leaving, for walking away.
“It's okay Brianna and son you can put me down.” John said while dangling his legs. He'd still been in the soldiers arms when Brianna ran up and hugged him. Embarrassed that he'd had a weak moment and everyone had seen it.
“I'm sorry I left, I shouldn't have done it. It's just...” She struggled with saying why she'd left in front of a stranger. And looking into his eyes she saw recognition there but dropped them fast to look away.
“Don't you dare apologize. If you would have sat there one minute longer, looking the way you were, then I'd think something was terribly wrong. But I knew when your mother's name was called that you'd leave, I would have thought nothing of it. It's okay Brianna, you don't need to explain.” John stated once he was on his feet again, holding her shoulder's so she would know what she did didn't cause what happened. She would not take blame for what happened to him, he wouldn't let her. It was all him.
“I can't...” She started saying but broke off when the tears fell. Hiding her face and wiping them away.
“Let it go. You can't keep holding this in, it's hurting you more. Brianna honey, you can let it go.” John whispered holding on tighter and trying hard to make her see reason.
“I can't, I don't want to be alone. The memories....her face....her words....I don't want to forget them. And Adam, oh God, I can still see him. Everywhere I look he's there, looking back at me. Why did he leave me? I loved him, didn't he know that. Why?” She cried the words out, letting them fall where they may but she wasn't ready to let go completely. Wasn't strong enough to go on without them.
Edward stood by and listened, never saying anything even though he'd been through it himself. He lost both his parents years before he'd decided to go into the military but now wasn't the time to say anything. He could have left, actually thought about it a couple of times but didn't make a move to. Maybe he'd be needed, he thought.
“You truly are a hero. Thank you for helping John and standing there not making judgments towards me. I'm usually not this way, normally the strong one but lately, it's just been hard.” Brianna spoke through tears in her eyes, looking towards the soldier that stood close by. “Your eyes are kind....I thank you again for all your help and I'm sorry I wasn't there last week to welcome you home.”
Walking over to him, she reached out and held on tightly, pushing past her own pain and thanking God that he was safe. Even though she didn't know who he was, she still thanked God for him.
Before he could say anything to her, Brianna released her hold and walked away. He saw the tears that fell and knew why she left, felt her grief, her sadness, her loss. Following where she'd gone with his eyes, he watched her shutter before disappearing completely. Dropping his eyes, he looked in the direction of the rest of the residence but couldn't see himself going back to seat down.
With his heart heavy, his breathing coming out ragged, Edward made sure John was alright then walked off himself. 'You truly are a hero,' her words swam around inside his head, but she was wrong. If he was then all his friends would be home and safe not laying on foreign ground dead. Tears swelled up in his eyes at these thoughts and as quick as he feet would take him, he made his escape.
This town, this place, the people were all amazing. The way they'd treated him when he walked in with Jason was unexpected but what he needed and now all he needed was time to himself. Finding a log, he sat down, leaned forward grasping his head in his hands and shuttered. Tears escaped his eyes, images retracted in his mind and his thoughts kept repeating one word, hero.
Laughing out loud, he stood up, balled his hands in fists and swung at imaginary people who'd taken away loved ones from him. Beating them down so they couldn't get back up, beating his nightmares and keeping them at bay.
“I'm sorry. I didn't know anyone was here. Are you okay? Your bleeding!” Brianna rushed over to him, putting her hands up to show him she meant no harm. She'd only come this way because it was her own personal escape from the pain.
Edward opened his eyes, looked down at his hands and shrugged his shoulder's. Hitting a couple of trees to release the pain he felt was worth the little amount of blood he had.
“Do you want me to get someone, maybe they can help?” She asked inching closer to him. The way he stood was similar to how her dad had stood the day he'd hit her and she wasn't about to let it happen again. Meaning to or not.
“It's not that bad, I'm fine.” He said sitting back down to steady himself. Feeling foolish for someone seeing him act this way and most of all for her seeing him this way. Hoping and praying that she hadn't seen him lash out, screaming and crying. Please say you didn't see that, he begged in his mind.
Defeat spread through her seeing him fall, she'd failed in making him feel welcomed, making him feel that she truly believed it was a good thing that he was back. What should she say? What could she say? Nothing came to mind but her legs moved her forward and she held him like before. Holding in the memories of her mother, of Adam and let him cry on her shoulder.
“It's okay. I understand.” She said and meant it.
His cries were soft at first but soon they rocked both of them and she never let go. Never allowed him to feel as if he was alone in his time of need, she'd never do that to anyone, even if she was the one that needed it most.
Finding himself wondering around, hands balled in fists, Jason couldn't see past his own fears. Images invaded his mind every time he'd close his eyes, pictures of fellow soldiers, their faces, the blood, the screams. He was losing his mind. He knew in his mind that he was at home, safe, but every back fire had him dropping on his belly, crawling through the dirt and scanning the grounds for the enemy.
Every person that passed by him, he'd look twice at to make sure they weren't enemy soldiers coming to finish the job. There were only two people who he saw that he knew they were who they were, his father, John and Brianna. But everyone else was questionable, even the soldiers that returned home with him.
He'd find himself calling them to arms then trying to figure out why they weren't listening. Why they would ignore his commands. Screaming their names in the dark only brought the images that much clearer, the smell that much stronger.
John couldn't stand seeing his son this distort, he called the hospital and arranged for Jason to spend quality time with therapist who knew a lot about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD for short. Because every night Jason would wake up, screaming was one more night John feared for his son's safety. Jason was unstable and it was only getting worse. He thought most of the times, no matter who was with him that they were still fighting. Brianna had been hurt by Jason pushing her down, to get her out of the way, as he put it of enemy fire.
He couldn't think for himself, couldn't figure out why everyone was making such a big deal out of him trying to protect the ones he'd loved. Why was that so hard to hear? Why would they think just because he wasn't in war that he'd stop protecting them? Jason didn't understand any of it but went along to please his dad.
Brianna came by some times but Jason insisted she leave. He didn't want her seeing him weak, didn't want her thinking he couldn't protect her, didn't want her to love him less because of what he was now.
Therapy sessions, listening to Doctor Tracey Davis say things like having loved ones around will help him. What a bunch of bull, he thought. Having Brianna or his dad anywhere around him only brought on more paranoia. Fear that he'd loss them the same way he'd lost so many others.
Jason stood up in the middle of his session and walked out. Slamming his fist s against the wall because this woman, this supposed doctor knew nothing of what he was going through, she'd never been anywhere where her life was in danger and who in their right mind gave her the idea that she could treat others. Ignorant woman, he thought. Ignorant and stupid.
After leaving the doctors office Jason ran into the last person he wanted or needed to see at this moment. Instantly hating himself for what he was about it do but despite his feelings he needed her to leave, to not see him this way. His anger was at the boiling point, ragging to escape and the last person who deserved it was Brianna.
And this way the battle inside him began. What was the right way and what was the wrong way to do this? What could he do to make her see reason, to make her understand?
“Brianna you need to leave, it's safer if you just walk away.” He said as calmly as he could, his rage building up and his entire body was shaking. But when he met her gaze, he blew, “God what the hell do I have to say to make you leave, Brianna! Would saying I don't love you, I don't care about you and I don't want to see you again. Make you leave!”
His hands balled up in fists, ready to swing at her if she didn't get the picture and God he didn't want to. Struggling within, Jason fought back the urge and watched what his words did to her. Watched her try to hide the pain his words caused, watched her fall apart right before his eyes and at this moment, hated himself for it. Everything he'd fought for came falling down.
She stood a foot away, pale as a ghost and thought, this can't be happening. The person she loved most in this world, who was still alive, who she could touch, could hear his heartbeat, see his smile and know he was real, couldn't have said this. But the deafening sound of her heart told her otherwise. She watched his breathing become heavier, his hands shake terribly and was horrified. Flashes of pain and anguish shot across her piercing heart, causing her to stumble back and brace herself.
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed you. It's all my fault this is happening and I'll leave you alone.” She whispered, stumbling to run away before he could see how much she hurt, how much his words tore at her healing wound.
He watched wide eyed, the girl he loved, the girl he'd give his life for run away, broken. But the thing that beat him down the most was why would she think it was her fault? Why did he feel like screaming? Jason wanted to run after her, tell her he lied, tell her he loved her and would never hurt her again but it would be a lie.
Hours had gone by, the sun was setting and no one knew where Jason or Brianna was. John sat panic stricken in his living room waiting on news from friends who had gone out to look for them. Scared to death, he sat forward grabbing his head and thinking he'd finally been able to get her to release her pain but here she was gone again. Did he push her over the edge? Causing her more pain and grief when all he wanted was to help her, get her past everything, to live again.
Lindsey and Chase ran inside John's house relaying news that they'd found Jason, he was at the park but wouldn't budge. “John we found him but he wouldn't come back with us. He says he did something terrible and doesn't want to leave where he's at. Says he deserved whatever he has coming.” Lindsey couldn't begin to understand what that meant but the look on Jason's face, terrified her.
“Did he say anything about Brianna?” John asked in hopes that he did. It would give him more of a chance to find her, to help her. He just didn't want to face the fact that he'd never see her again.
“We asked but all he did was cry. John do you think he did something to her?” Chase said while holding Lindsey, her lower lip quivering at the thought.
John wasn't sure how to answer that question. With everything that's happened to Jason, how does he answer that? How could he think his son would hurt her? Questions kept popping up in his mind, answers nowhere to be found, desperation setting in.
Stumbling on everything in sight, Brianna made her way back to the one place she'd always found answers, the one place she felt the safest, the cemetery. Kneeling down in front of both graves, she whispered, “there's no one I can talk to about this. I thought seeing Jason would be the best day of my life and it was but things have changed. He doesn't want me around him....he doesn't love me....he pushed me away. Mom I'm scared to be alone, I'm scared of what I might do. I don't want to die but I can't go on living this way either. God knows I'd give anything to see your face right now, I need you so bad. I need you to hold me and say everything will be okay. That dreams really do come true.” She wiped the tears out of her eyes and closed them.
“Am I doing the right thing by staying away from him? Please I need to know, will he be okay, will he be safe? Dad you always knew the right things to say to me and now I'd loved to hear them again. Anything would do, just a whisper, a sound, anything.”
Laying in bed with his eyes wide open trying hard to keep the images of what he did earlier out of his head. Edward couldn't believe he'd broken down and cried on Brianna's shoulder, him of all people. Normally he'd keep it to himself, hide away or shield himself but the way she talked to him, told him it was okay broke through his barrier.
Giving up on sleeping, he sat up and stared out the window, looking at nothing in particular and seeing so much. There were a few people still out at this time of night and none of them looked happy. He heard them screaming for Brianna, calling her name over and over and not getting any response. Fear griped him, something was wrong. He'd seen the look in her eye when he was last with her but at the time thought nothing of it and now his mind was racing.
There were four others searching everywhere for her, John, Lindsey, Chase and Jason had joined together to find her. They all looked worn down but not ready to stop until she was safe. Edward joined in as well, feeling a duty to help, a responsibility.
Exhaustion took over, his eyes were slowly closing but John fought against them and told himself he wouldn't sleep until Brianna was safe, preferably in his house with him. He needed to keep a close eye on her, she wasn't stable and knew this. Even if she made you think she was, she wasn't.
“Dad, you don't need to be out here. You need to be at home, you need your rest, we'll keep looking and I'll bring her home. It's my fault she's gone.” Jason rubbed his dad's back trying to soothe him, without success. The look in his father's eyes caused his heart to shutter, he'd not only hurt Brianna but his dad as well. So much for keeping everything to himself, Jason thought.
“It's not your fault, we're all guilty of leaning on her when we need someone. She's the one who's been hurt the most but she's the one who will never let you know that. Brianna's good at hiding her feelings, has been for awhile so we all owe it to her to bring her back to us, safely.” John said sternly, looking at everyone's face and waiting to see if they said anything to repute him.
They all agreed, shaking their heads and went back to searching. Jason took what his dad had said to heart although he'd not been around, he still understood it all. Brianna had lost everyone she loved and what he'd said to her earlier was low. Kicking himself, he deserved worse for what he did but instead of dwelling on it, he walked away from the group and looked where he thought she'd be. The one place where she could go and feel loved.
He walked around the cemetery not knowing exactly where her parents were buried. Looking at different grave stones, trying to read what was written. Stopping in his pursuit when he heard her cries, her soft spoken words. Breaking his heart when he heard her plead for him to be safe and out of harms way.
Breaking off in a sprint, he found her curled up between two graves, crying. “Brianna, I'm sorry. I didn't mean any of what I said, please believe me, I love you.” Jason fell down in front of her, begging for forgiveness, his heart pleading with her to give him another chance.
Without looking up or opening her eyes, Brianna reached out for him. Hearing his heart beat out of control, hearing his breathing become hitched in his throat, she cried harder. He wasn't okay and safe, she thought, he was far worse. Her own heart beat faster but she didn't let go. He was her lifeline, her source of strength, her everything.
“Babe I'm going to carry you home. There's so much more I need to do but for now this is all I can.” Jason whispered picking her up in his arms and kissing her. Letting her tears soak his face caused his own to fall. He'd been so wrong in his thinking, he couldn't live without her, she was his life and he'd give the world to prove it.
Back at home, the home that forever held memories of days long past, some good and some bad. Jason carried Brianna into her room, laying her down softly on the bed but never letting go. If the world came to an end, he'd not let go, he thought, never again.
The look in his eyes, the love and admiration caused her to believe nothing else. He truly did love her and what he'd said before was only at of anger, it was the war talking. But she knew or should have, she felt blind not seeing that he needed her more than she needed him.
Their first kiss shared was out of desperation and need but this one was slow and gentle. Passionate and understanding and she loved it. Holding him close, feeling his breath on her skin, his touch, the smile she fell in love with. Tonight was a perfect night for this. He was perfect.
While kissing her neck, he kept his eyes opened. He didn't want to see the things he knew he would, wanting to only see her, he told himself, only Brianna. The internal battle had started again, forcing the shield back to hold off the nightmares, he wanted tonight to be perfect. Wanted and needed this time with her, to love her, protect her and would give anything to turn back time so she didn't have to see him this way. Broken, unable to be fixed.
“I'd like to welcome everyone here today. We all share something in common with the other and this is where we can all talk and sort though our feelings.” Miss Summers announced, she'd brought this group forward because of her own tragedy, her own loss and found it easier to cope around people with similar issues.
“I'll start, my name is Nicole Summers. About three years ago I lost my daughter in a car accident. She was only sixteen when she died and you might think it's easy for me to talk about it, but it's not.” She wiped a tear off her cheek, “it's still as painful today as the day it happened.”
The conversation came out of nowhere and surprising as it was, it was unexpected. Talking about family members, what they've done to help make life easier, what's happened to cause pain and heartbreak, everything. The group was brought together for one purpose, to help those that needed the help. Lindsey and Brianna held on to one another and listened to the heart wrenching stories of families that have lost members to tragedy.
Hearing all the stories about everyone's loss caused Brianna to cringe. She didn't know there was this much loss in her home town, this much pain. If she could she'd reach out to each one and help, she thought staring at all their faces and feeling their pain. Their town was worse off than anyone had known.
The support group was located in the same building as Jason's therapy. And every time he had a session Lindsey and Brianna would go to this group, to let go of her guilt or at least try to. But just like every other time just listening to everyone's stories was too much of a burden on their hearts to reveal their own pain. Brianna hid her pain away to endure the pain of others, to comfort them in their time of need. This group was wonderful, she thought, but it wouldn't help her. Letting go was asking to much of her right now, Brianna could hardly breathe.
Today Jason's session ended on a happy note, causing a smile to appear on Brianna's face , a smile to mask the tears and embrace him. Little by little he looked to be getting better, he even smiled today and his eyes showed the man she loved.
“Babe lets celebrate.” Jason exclaimed, nuzzling her neck and placing a soft kiss on her lips. He laughed at the look she was giving him and shook his head. “I believe I know the perfect place.”
“So everything went okay?” She questioned, smiling at him with fear in her heart. He'd had his good days and then his bad days but she hoped this was a good day. Prayed for it to be. Needed it to be because for her it wasn't that great of a day.
He shook his head, why did she always worry about it? Couldn't he have a good day without her questioning it? Why did he always feel on edge, about to fall over? Pushing the thought back, he smiled and nodded his head.
“Brianna if you'd rather celebrate here, that's fine.” Jason knelled down on one knee, drawing out a ring he had nestled in his pocket and held her hand. “Brianna Sampson, I know things have been difficult between us but I love you with all my heart....will you do me the honor....in being my wife?”
The question, the devote love that radiated off him had her clutching her chest. Tears that were already streaming down her cheeks fell more and her breath it caught in her throat. She started to shake asking herself if this is what she truly wanted, oh hell yeah. Couldn't see herself with anyone else, not that she was looking.
“Brianna, baby breathe!” Jason was standing again, holding her shoulder's between his hands with concern on his face. He believed she loved him but maybe not as much as he loved her. Hell, he couldn't see himself without her, ever. And watching her, seeing her face pale with lack of oxygen was tearing at his heart. Had he made a mistake? Was today not the day to ask?
“Brianna! Jason what's wrong with her?” Lindsey screamed running up to them and grabbing Brianna in her arms. “What did you do to her?”
Hearing Lindsey's words, her exaggerating tone caused Brianna to snap out of her state. Looking at her friend then at Jason's expression made her realize what had happened. Jason's proposal was something she's always wanted but right now it was too much or was it? Your overreacting, she told herself, answer the man, geez.
“Yes.” Brianna whispered unable to make it louder. Her eyes glistened with more tears as she turned to face him. “Yes!” It came out stronger this time.
Caught up in denial, it took Brianna's hand, her gentle touch to bring him back, to hear her answer. Holding her in his embrace, they kissed each other not caring that people were looking at them. The only thing that matter was this, was her exception to his proposal.
Family, friends, neighbors, everyone was gathered tonight for yet another celebration. This time is was a happy, joyous time spent with music, dancing and laughter. Everyone was smiling, patting Jason on the back and saying things like 'bout time boy.
All their friends sat off to the side, conversing about their lives and how everything seemed to fall into place. Looking around the town gathering, Edward caught a glimpse of Brianna's face, seeing the love radiating off of her, brought a smile to his. Even though this event was a happy one he couldn't see himself being here much longer, he just didn't fit in. Being an outsider, a loner, one without family or friends, this wasn't where he was meant to be.
Standing up to stretch his legs, Edward glanced once more at the gathering then walked away. Tears gathering in his eyes, he needed his escape to go without alerting anyone else. Couldn't stand to have someone see him this way, this hurt over something this beautiful.
On the brink of tears herself, Brianna found an escape and took it. Everyone was so happy around her, so joyous of the events taking place but the two people she wanted to see this day happening would never. Her parents, would they be happy for her? She needed them now, to tell her they were proud.
Running through the woods to the cemetery that lay beyond them, she stumbled there to find her answers, her comfort, her peace of mind. Leaving Jason behind was a lot easier than she thought. He probably wouldn't notice her missing for awhile but it didn't matter, she needed this and was taking it.
Wondering around the woods for awhile wasn't helping his situation. Edward needed to be around people that he knew, around ones that knew him, around family. Finding a path standing out in front of him, he took it. Following the windy mess of fallen leaves and shrubs, he ended up in a cemetery. Not exactly the place he intended to be and as he turned around to walk back he heard her cries. You could walk away, he thought then shook his head. It wouldn't be right, she'd never leave you to deal with things in this nature. She didn't abandon you when you needed someone and he wasn't about to abandon her.
Quickly he made his way around grave stones to see her on her knees in front of two. Her cries were louder as he stepped closer but still soft enough not to be heard by anyone else. “Brianna..” he whispered drawing her name out.
Jumping and falling over, she didn't think to look if anyone else was out here. Embarrassed at getting caught unaware, her cheeks blushed but she look up to meet his glare. The tears in his eyes glistened by the light of the moon, making his face look oddly out of place in this town full of grief. There was a faint glow about him but she turned away before he'd see her stare.
“I just thought when this day happened that my parents would be able to see it, my dad would walk me down the isle and give me away. My mom would help me pick a dress out and in turn get dolled up along side me. I never imagined doing this alone.” Placing one hand on her mother's grave and the other on her father's, talking to both of them and Edward all the same.
“You're not alone, Brianna.” He wanted to say that having her as a friend was more than anyone had ever given him but he held his tongue, now was not the time for that. Besides she was taken regardless of how he felt, he'd never cross that line. “I'm sorry I should go so you can be alone with them.”
“No, please don't leave. I admit I didn't expect anyone out here but please don't leave me right now.” Brianna begged, releasing her hold on the graves and reached out to him. She couldn't bare being alone with her memories, with the pain any longer.
He didn't hesitate, dropping down and embracing her in her time of need. The comfort of her hold on him caused his heart to soar, his pulse to race but he kept his breathing under control.
They held each other for a good portion of the night. Neither said anything as Brianna broke down, the barriers that had held up the wall of pain were crumbling and she sobbed on his chest.
Beers, wine and other beverages were being passed around. Everyone had a glass in hand when Jason decided to say a few words. He turned around, raising his glass and spoke with confidence, “I solemnly vow to make each day better than the last. You are my world, my heart and my breath, girl you're the reason I wake up in the morning. I'm in love with the most beautiful women in the world.” He clinked glasses with everyone within reach and took a long swallow before his eyes searched out for who he was talking about.
They stepped out of the trees at the same time, Edward's hand was around Brianna's waist comforting her but mostly holding her up. She'd cried so hard that she barely had the strength to leave the cemetery. Her head was resting on his shoulder, her eyes red and swollen, lips bruised with passion.
Jason's wall that he built to hide away every demon broke when he saw them. Crumbling all around him, he didn't bother asking what happened because he already knew. He saw how Edward looked at her, saw him fighting against himself to be near her. All that Jason saw now was red, anger and defeat engulfed his every being and he stormed off before letting it get control of him. Leaving behind the happy celebration, leaving behind her.
Casually if not leisurely, Jason strolled in the door and shut it behind him. He's been going on the motion of if only's. If only I'd been stronger, if only she'd come to me, he thought. There were too many variables there to determine. Too many that even Jason didn't want to acknowledge could be true.
Slightly shaking his head, putting his hands either in his front pockets or lacing them behind his back seemed a good way to keep them to himself. He didn't want to chance having them out in the open might he want to strike her if she said something that upset him.
Taking a deep uninspiring breath Jason walked back to the bedroom they'd both shared many times and saw Brianna curled up on the bed.
Not caring about what others thought of her, Brianna climbed on the bed, knees pulled up to her chest, head on them and cried. Rocking back and forward she couldn't get past the look Jason had given her the week prior. A look of pure disgust, of pain and hatred. God would punish her as he saw fit for what she'd put Jason through. All the pain and distrust, all the heartbreak and tears. She'd beg and plead if she had too but would it do any good? Is what they shared over? Her heart quicken at the thought.
Jason took in her look and was fighting back to let go of his anger. He didn't need to ask her if she'd done it, he could tell by the way she was acting, she'd crossed the line. “I need to know, Brianna.”
“I didn't do it, not what your thinking. Jason don't go. Please let me explain.” She cried, jumping off the bed to try and catch his arm.
“I saw the way the two of you looked, I saw everything I need to know and then seeing you crying by yourself only confirms it. There's nothing more to say. It's over.” Jason stated making his way back to the front door.
Many times he thought he would reach out and brush a strand of hair behind her ear or stroke her cheek but at the same time he thought to hit her, to cause her as much pain as what he felt. But he did neither. Refusing her and himself of that pleasure.
“I went to my parents graves because I'd always thought they would be alive when I got married. I was crying and Edward happened to find me. All I did was let go, I cried, punched the ground, kicked and screamed and bit my lips so hard to keep from yelling out loud. What I looked like when you saw me was my own doing nothing else.” She begged him, reaching out and grabbing hold of his arm.
He shook her off fiercely, despite what she'd said he still couldn't believe she'd go to a complete stranger and not him. That's what tore him up inside, she didn't trust him enough to come to him and release her pain.
Dropping on her knees Brianna looked up through tear soaked eyes and begged one last time. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest that she thought it would jump out and leave her as well. “Everything that's happened is my fault. My mother would still be alive if I'd written back to her, my father would still be alive if I wouldn't have pushed him away. Adam would still be alive if I hadn't wanted you back here so badly. Now you're leaving me and it's my fault.” Brianna dropped her eyes from his, feeling defeated and empty. Confessing her darkest demon's to him drained her of life.
“It's over Brianna. I can't be with someone who doesn't trust me, who doesn't care enough to come to me when she's hurting.” His voice dipped down into rage and before he'd ever lay a hand on her, he left. Walking out the door and slamming it shut behind him.
His words kept flipping through her mind haunting her, screaming the same words over and over until her body went numb. Walking out the door ten or so minutes after him with only the clothes on her back and her purse in hand. She climbed in her car and left.
Leaving Woodland was not something that Brianna ever thought about doing but as she sat in the car, staring at the picturesque views of her home town, truth be told that's what she was doing now. Everything she loved and hated about that town flashed by her in her rear view mirror.
There really was nothing left there, no family to go to if needed, no friends she could talk to. And Jason, he didn't want anything to do with her, his words kept repeating themselves “it's over, Brianna”. His face distorted with hate.
Although her heart felt like breaking into a million pieces she didn't let up on the gas petal. Covering her mouth with one hand to muzzle her cries and the other was fastened tightly on the steering wheel. Knuckles as white as snow.
Once Woodland was at a distance Brianna pulled over so she could cry her eyes out. Sobbing and punching the steering wheel for everything she did that was wrong. For everything she could have prevented and everything she just gave up on.
Getting out she screamed out loud, releasing all her anger, all her pain and leaving her heart on the side of the road for someone else to find. Someone else to take care of it because she didn't want to anymore. All it caused her was pain and she'd had enough.
After all her screams released from within and all her energy was gone Brianna dropped to the dirt and stared. No faces flashed her vision, no memories just empty space.
The open road was vast and barren but Edward continued on anyway. Getting further and further away from Woodland as he could. He'd already caused enough problems there and felt responsible for most of it.
He should have left the first day he arrived, should have walked away just like he was doing now. But the reasons for leaving now had a lot to do with Brianna herself. He couldn't take looking at her and feeling heartbroken. And realizing this now caused him to pick up his pace and get further away.
A little way up he saw a car on the side of the road and the closer he was the more he saw. Brianna, she was laying on the ground, in the dirt and not moving. Did I cause this, he thought to himself.
“Brianna! Brianna! Oh my God, BRIANNA!” He screamed, dropping his bags and running to her side. Skidding to a stop beside her, he saw that her eyes were open but she wasn't responding to anything he did. Snapping his fingers in front of the sight, lifting her arm up only to see it drop back down. But her chest was moving, that's a good sign.
So instead of screaming at her, Edward sat by her side and waited. Hoping and praying that she'd come too then he could leave. But not before making sure first.
The sky darkened by the time Brianna came too. Moving slowly she sat up, looked directly at him and then stood. “You want a lift?” She asked in monotone.
“Are you okay?” He asked unsure of her current state of mind. Never had he seen her look the way she did. Like everything in the world imploded and she was the only one left alive.
“Are you coming?” She asked opening her door and climbing in.
Taking a moment to think about the pro's and con's of the situation, he shrugged his shoulder's and said, “sure why not?”
It was never meant to be a question but the way it had come out it sounded like one.
Grabbing his bags, he threw them in the back seat and climbed into the front. The minute his door shut she hit the gas and they were off.
Keeping his eyes on her most of the ride seemed ridiculous. Honestly what could she do that he wouldn't know about and a few seconds after he turned his head, he found out.
“The snow was such a beautiful shade of white. Pure in a way that could never be touched by any man and I used to sit down and watch it fall. It was a simple pleasure to be far away from the bustle of everyday traffic and enjoy God's true nature. Enjoy the sounds of the animals in their natural habitat.” She sighed and closed her eyes seeing her little piece of heaven.
The car swerved causing her eyes to open but still she saw the image in the sight. Laid out in front of her, calling for her to return.
“Dark blue almost black skies with the stars twinkling brightly, you felt like you could reach out and touch them. Hold them in your hands and make a wish. Believing that what you wished for would come true. Knowing it in your heart that it was true and not something your parents said to soothe your tears.” She smiled, the memory taking shape in her mind.
Edward sat very still not saying a word and just listening to her musings. Nothing she was saying made any sense to him.
“One night I reached out and held one of those stars in my hands. It felt like another life form that pulsed and shined so bright, I had to cover my eyes. I made a wish that night not in the forms of words but from my heart. I was such a foolish girl.” Tears fell from her eyes.
“My relationship with Jason was slipping away and I asked my mother in a letter what I should do. Knowing full well that her reply wouldn't get to me for weeks but she was the only one I wanted advice from. She was the only mother I had. When the letter came I was so excited, I ripped it open before even leaving the mailbox. What she wrote was so heart warming but she never answered the one thing I wanted to know and I was so mad. So angry that I didn't write her back.” Brianna spoke through her tears.
“She died because I'd made that wish. It was such a horrible thing for me to wish for. I wished for my family to be together. My dad although you'd never know was heartbroken when she left. And all I wanted was her back.” Her hands shook so bad she had a hard time keeping the car on the road.
“When we buried her I knew my dad would soon follow. It was only a matter of time before something happened where he could be with her again.” Brianna said.
His face paled, he thought for sure she was just rumbling about nothing. But the look on her face spoke volumes. The beats of his heart increased while he gripped the door handle in fear. Seeing your life flash before your eyes when your time is near the end was one thing but when someone else was in control it's quiet another.
Fear rippled through him as he tried to think of something to say. Opening his mouth and then closing it again, he couldn't think of one thing that would break through her walls of insanity and make her see reason. Would it matter what he said to her? Would she listen?
“I'm going to take you there.” She said in a flat tone.
“I'm not sure if I'm ready to go there.” He said smoothly. The last thing he wanted to do was spook her. Cause her to do something that would end both their lives.
“No one's ever ready.” She said and pushed harder down on the gas petal. Flying down the road at speeds that made the trees on both sides zip by.
“Brianna, please slow down. Brianna, NO!” He whispered, holding on not only to the handle but also the dashboard as his body flew around inside the car.
She didn't respond to his pleads. Pulling the wheel hard to the left when the familiar dirt road came into view. She'd been this way many times before and knew without the right amount of speed her car would never make it up and over the hill.
Once the car stopped he jumped out. “Are you crazy? You could have killed us! Is that what you wanted, to die? To be with your family?” The words rushed out of his mouth before he could stop them. That was one of his many faults, not thinking before he said something and seeing the look on her face now, broke him.
Climbing out and facing him was hard to do. His questions had never entered her mind but now she was asking them herself. The tears she'd cried a few minutes ago had almost dried up and now were returning.
“I.....I.....” She couldn't form the words to speak. Her mind was blank and no plausible explanation was acceptable to say why she'd done what she'd done. For a moment she thought maybe sharing this place with someone would be magical but now, seeing the look on his face. The anger rising up inside him she thought against it. He'd never appreciate the beauty of it and that alone broke her heart. She thought he was different, but she was wrong.
Leaving the keys in the ignition, she turned her back on him and walked away. Her car was just a car, nothing she could see using again. There would be no use for it where she was going.
Edward stood there, kicking the dirt around and watching as she walked away from him. The questions kept coming but this time he didn't voice them. Thinking he'd won the argument but then it never really started. Smug son of a …...
Shaking his head, shaking the thoughts out of it he turned around as well and headed back to the road. Kicking the dirt around him, he replayed what she'd said in her car. Sorting through all her rumblings caused his head to hurt but there was something there. He knew it. Something she'd said that made his heart skip a beat.
At the top of the hill is where he stopped walking. Looking out at the trees, out at the scenery that lay below he stood in awe. Staring out he saw the very tips of the tallest building in Woodland, saw the tips of the flag poles that hung the American flag everyday. On the other side he saw the lines of trees that seem to go on forever. And in the sky as he looked up he saw an eagle fly over top of him, squinting to watch it's graceful movements made him smile. His anger dissipate.
The rustic cabin lay ahead and Brianna could see the shimmering glow all around it. It was beautiful all by itself. And this time of year instead of snow there were wildflowers that grew all around. Every color you could ever think of was here. All different shapes and sizes.
“I thought bringing him here would help.” Brianna mumbled. “I feel like such an idiot.”
Trekking through the woods to make it this far drained Brianna of all her energy. She fell down in the middle of the flowers and closed her eyes. Raising her hands to cover her face, cover her fears and cover her broken heart.
Thoughts of her fight with Jason returned to her mind. Everything she'd done to destroy that relationship and everything she's ever done skipped through her mind. “How could I have let everything go?” She whispered her fears to no one. Breaking down her walls again and letting go of her fears. Just letting go left her empty inside. And alone.
Trees all around him, nothing but damn trees. He didn't know where Brianna was, if she was okay or if he'd made the biggest mistake of his life by yelling at her. She never did anything to him to be treated that way.
Going around in circles is what he felt like he was doing. Every tree looked the same and no matter how long or far he thought he'd walked, it was the same. Cursing under his breath, he was sure he'd passed the same boulder three times already. The same trees creep beside it with the same prickly bush that bloomed white flowers.
Being in this place feeling the magic that surrounded it cleared Brianna's mind of her fears and all the pain she'd ever had. Scraping her mind clean of everything negative and allowing her to open up to things she's never done before. Seeing things she's never seen before.
One at a time her fears left her and the picture she was being shown became clearer. The trees came into view first, the colors a brighter shade of green than the human eye can see. Then she saw him. He was sitting on the ground surrounded by trees, shaking his head and she could see clearly as if she stood in front of him, the tears. They glistened his eyes causing the color to stand out as well.
Brianna had never looked that closely into his eyes, afraid of what she might feel. But there was no fear now and as she looked harder she could feel his pain. Feel it running off him with such strength that made her's seem weak in comparison.
“Edward,” she whispered in a shaky breath.
Her body shook when she stood up. His pain was so much more than she'd ever thought one person could have and for that reason and many, many more she took off running after him.
Running with the sense of purpose caused her legs to move faster, her heart to beat harder. When he came into sight she stopped, unsure of how to approach him or even if he wanted her too.
With shaky hands she reached out and touched his shoulder. Feeling the warmth that radiated off him was a blessing and she thanked God that he was okay. But as soon as she touched him, he pulled away.
“I don't need your help.” He said through his teeth. Biting his tongue to keep from saying something else he'll regret but the moment he tasted blood he stood up and faced her. Questions immediately flooded his mind. How could one person make you feel all these different emotions that you never knew existed? Why her? He asked himself already knowing the answer.
“I'm sorry, I shouldn't have left you.” Brianna whispered. Standing so close to him she could feel the energy emanating off him without so much as a touch. And to be honest with herself it felt different than anyone she'd ever not touched before. There was something different about him she didn't understand but wanted to.
“Brianna,” his voice came out low and husky. He knew if she didn't move back that he'd take her in his arms, cup her chin and kiss her for all he's worth. Fighting his own demons, he struggled within to not do that. He didn't want to over step his own boundaries with her.
“Hmm...” she mumbled looking up at him. Begging for him to take her, praying that he would. Her heart she no longer needed but him she did. And hoped beyond hope that he'd see this.
Breathing harder than when he walked into this god forsaken forest, he felt his demon's break loose and he started to reach out for her. Touching her skin made his knees weak. The softness overpowered his brain and he felt himself leaning closer to her.
A thin sheet of air was the only thing that separated them. Their lips getting closer inch by inch and all the anger that was present, left. As if someone opened a door, pushed it in and locked it up.
Sensing his desire and wanting the same, Brianna moved that last inch feeling his breath on her mouth and slowly closed her eyes. The minute her eyes fully closed she sensed danger. Something was wrong, she could feel it inside herself. Something she's never been in control of was about to happen and she won't allow it. Not now. Not with Edward here.
The crackling of the leafs, the howling of the wolves caused her eyes to open and her head to snap back. Someone was coming. Fear rippled through her. They were coming for her, that much she knew.
Terrified and unsure of what exactly would happen if she was caught with Edward, Brianna released herself from him and stepped back. “You need to leave. It's not safe here for you.” She said with urgency.
“I'm not leaving you here.” Edward stated. He didn't understand why all the sudden she looked scared. Why she'd pushed away from him? His eyes darted around them and didn't see anything but trees.
“I shouldn't have brought you here. It was selfish and I'm sorry but you have to leave.” Brianna turned her head and looked out towards to cabin. The one place she'd always felt safe, her piece of heaven. And now it felt like hell.
It had only been a few minutes since Edward had turned his back on her and walked off. Anger and resentment sinking in around him. One minute he'd thought she wanted him to kiss her then the next she was pushing him away. To hell with her, he had enough problems without having to figure her out too. But the feeling in his heart said otherwise.
“Girl, I told you not to run from me!” The man's voice pierced through the night. He couldn't believe she'd had the strength to leave but here she was, standing in the middle of the forest staring down on him like he was an animal. I'll show you who's the animal, he thought.
“No please, just leave me alone!” Brianna cried. Her hands trembled by her sides and she eyes stared off in the direction Edward had left. Pleading and screaming inside herself that he couldn't hear what was happening. That he had made it to the road, to safety.
His hands were on her face, brushing strands of hair behind her ears. Relishing the feel of her soft skin and savoring her scent in every breath he took. Leaning in closer, he brushed his lips across her forehead. Tears fell from her eyes and she blinked feverishly to make them stop.
The gentleness he took with her made her feel dirty. And defeat hit the hardest when his lips touched her skin. Biting hard on her lower lip she was able to keep herself from screaming. Knowing that the minute she protested against him, he was punish her, brutally.
He let his hand entangle in the silkiness of her hair and the minute the cry escaped her lips he grabbed a handful and shoved her to the ground. Hitting her over and over in the face, chest and stomach until she quit moving, quit sobbing completely. Looking down at the bloody mess he'd made, he laughed. Picking her up he carried her back to the cabin and securely shut the door behind him. Locking her up tight so there'd be no chance of escape this time.
Edward had walked around in circles for hours trying to find the reason behind Brianna's fear. But he couldn't find anything, no sounds came from the woods, no unusual noises that would alert him that someone else was there with him, nothing.
After a complete patrol he'd returned to the place he was sure Brianna would be and found her gone. Like she'd disappeared or was never there to begin with. Not understanding any of it, he sat down and scanned the surrounding woods. Every angle looked like the last, all shaded in darkness.
But the one thing that surprised him most was the animals, he couldn't hear them and should have. Even the crickets were silent now. And from being in combat that only meant one thing, the enemy was near. Who this threat was didn't much matter. All that did matter was where Brianna had gone and why had she insisted on him leaving.
“You can't keep me in here forever. They'll come looking for me and hunt you down like the dog you are.” Brianna whispered. Her mouth was soar from the beating she took earlier and her breath came in and out in slivers.
“You'll be long dead by then and they'll never find me. Heck no one would ever come looking in my direction. Why would they?” He sneered, laughing at the sight of her face. The sheer determination she wore like a shield to protect herself from him. Little did she know that protection was useless around him. He break it along with everything else he could before all was said and done. And then he'd walk away, maybe even help out in the search for her. But he'd never be caught.
Brianna turned her head away from him and instantly felt dizzy. The cuts on her head were still bleeding fiercely and she was more scared she'd die because of them than when he wanted her too. Making him that more aggravated with her for dieing before schedule.
The last breath she took ended in a coughing fit. Fighting the very air she breathed and the blood the coated the inside of her mouth and traveled down her throat. She wasn't fairing well under the circumstances. The last sight her eyes captured was her attackers face, his broad smile that stretched out over his crooked teeth. Yellow and strained.
Pacing the tree lines, looking for signs of Brianna seemed useless. Edward just about gave up when he stumbled on a cabin placed in the middle of nowhere. It held a strange eeriness to it and from where he stood, Edward couldn't make out if anyone was inside or not. Do you chance walking out in the open to see? Because the cabin stood in the open and the only way to it was to reveal yourself.
Combat training was something he could always fall back on and seeing this building and noting that there was nothing to prevent whomever was inside to shoot him dead, he hesitated. “If she's in there and you do nothing, your as much to blame.” He said to himself.
Punching the tree next to him, Edward crouched down and thought. The best way to do this would be with numbers but he was by himself. And couldn't risk it by going back into town and getting others. What if in that time Brianna died?
He punched the tree again, feeling the blood run freely from the cuts. But the pain he felt now wasn't from his hand but his heart. It was beating fiercely inside him, his mind screaming everything at once and not making a lick of sense. He needed time to think, time to plan.
The real question was, did he have the time to do that?
Water was splashed in her face, waking her from her dreamless sleep. Brianna's eyes were swollen almost completely shut but she managed to open them enough to see his face.
“What do you think this is, a sleepover? If you close your eyes again I'll make your life so horrible you'll pray for death.” His voice was laced with venom and every word he'd said was truth. She was wasting his time by sleeping and he'd have no more of it.
Brianna tried to reach up and feel her face, wipe the water off were it was burning her but her hands were tied behind her back. Her legs tied in front and she was no longer on the floor but on a bed. Images of horror racked through her, thoughts of what he'd planned to do to her caused her heart to beat erratically in her chest.
“Now that you're awake and have had a chance to look around, the fun shall begin.” He sat down next to her and began rubbing her thigh. Easing his hand up her leg while his eyes stayed focused on her face. He wanted her to scream out, to beg him to stop. Seeing her lower lip tremble only increased his own inner desire.
With his hand now on her inner thigh his gently grazed over the top and went directly to the button of her jeans. Testing her limits, seeing how far she'd let him go before she screamed. He could feel the tension building up inside her and pushed until she screamed out loud.
Edward heard her cries and put caution to the wind, running through the clearing and straight to the front door. His boot kicked hard once, twice before the door opened with a thud. Swinging back and hitting the inside of the wall then swinging back to close. Putting his hand in the middle of the door, Edward pushed it opened and jumped inside. Ready to go to battle with whoever was hurting Brianna.
What he saw inside, caused his stomach to flip and he ran back out and threw up.
“Jesus Christ!” Edward mumbled, trying to keep his footing while taking in deep, steady breaths. Every time he blinked he saw the inside of the cabin and his stomach would twist up again but this time there was nothing left to expel.
His heart sank deep within with dread and dissipation. How could this be? He was only gone for thirty minutes at the most but it looked like years had passed. And the smell, he'd never smelled something that strong before. That's one thing that would never leave him no matter how long he lived.
Gathering what little strength he had, Edward left. Running for the trees he needed to separate himself from that place. And although he'd run far enough into the trees that he couldn't see the cabin anymore his feet wouldn't stop. Down the steep incline to the town that lay not that far below. He had to find help, to find someone who could help him find where Brianna was, someone who cared enough to want to help him. He had to believe that she was still out there, still alive and waiting for help; if he stopped believing he knew his heart would break.
Tripping over loose roots and falling on the harden ground, Edward cursed each and every time. Finally the road came into view and he was thankful but wasn't finished yet. There was still miles to go before he'd even make it to town.
Blood was freely dripping from his numerous wounds but that didn't stop him, the only time he did stop was to catch his breath. And those times were shaky at best.
Sweat was pouring off his forehead causing his shirt to stick to him but regardless he kept on running. For a moment a thought protruded to the front of his mind, he was running for his life. But that was wrong, he was running for hers. To save her life.
The lights all over town were shining brightly and everyone Edward knew were standing in the middle of town. A celebration of some sort was happening which in a way was better. He wouldn't have to look for help when they all were steadily available to him. Thanking the heavens above, Edward stepped out of the shadows and into the bright shining lights. He had to stop for a moment so his eyes could adjust to the brightness.
Lindsey, one of Brianna's dearest and truest friends was the first to see Edward. From a distance he looked just out of breath, maybe because he was walking or running into town. This is what she thought anyway but the closer she was to him the more she saw. And the more unsure she was to be around him.
“Is there something wrong? Edward? What is it?” Lindsey asked. She took a step away not knowing what he'd say and wanting to prepare herself for what it was.
“....police...” he choked on the air as his eyes blinked and he saw his worst nightmare.
“They're escorting Adam. He's alive. Can you believe it, we all thought he died but....” She was getting caught up in the hype again. Rambling on about something as unbelievable and unimaginable yet the look he was giving her stopped her flat.
“....I....need....them...” his hands shook with fear. He didn't care where they were, he needed them now.
“Why? Has something happened?” Lindsey asked trying to steady her own voice.
Lindsey took a step back and then another, clasping her hands over her mouth to keep her fear trapped inside. Her eyes betrayed her, tears gathered around the edges and threatened to spill over.
Hearing her name come out of his mouth and the fear that spilled in around it, terrified her. Lindsey's arms began shaking and then her legs and her cries could no longer be contained inside. “NO!” she screamed.
Brianna had always been safe wherever she was, that's what Lindsey thought but hearing her name after all these years, sickened her. She didn't want to believe and wouldn't. Locking herself inside herself back to the time where life was simple, pleasant and Brianna was still around.
Without even thinking about it Edward stood up straight. Did she know something you didn't? Is that why she looks so terrified? He didn't try to justify answers to those questions because there was something more important than trying to figure out Lindsey. He had to help Brianna.
The entire Woodland Police Department followed Edward into the dense woods as he lead them to where the cabin was. Once insight Edward stood back and pointed. He couldn't stomach going near it again.
“Son stay here and we'll see what it is.” Sgt. Edding stated and sat Ethan down with a steady hand.
Nodding with complete acknowledgment, afraid if he spoke he would start crying. So he sat back on a stump and watched. All seven officers walked into the cabin and four walked back out. Pale faced and clutching their stomachs the same way he had.
The scene that sat out in front of him had Sgt. Edding thinking back to when everything happened. He was in charge of the investigation two years ago. It was the worst thing that had ever happened in Woodland. Brianna Sampson, a twenty-two year old college student was last seen driving Northwest on Interstate thirty-five going to enjoy a weekend of camping with friends. When she didn't show, they thought at first it was nothing but as the weekend passed and still no one had seen her they called the police. A full investigation was under way but nothing was every found. Not even her car was found and that should have been an easy find.
Leads were called in and officers had followed up on them but they turned out to be false leads. And six months later when the first snow fell the towns folk of Woodland, Texas had a candlelight visual. Her parents Christopher and Ella Sampson gathered around friends and family and prayed for the return of their daughter. Although everyone cried that night they all prayed for the same thing.
Now here they were not five miles from town, looking at a scene that could possibly be something from a horror movie. And the one and only bedroom there was in this homemade cabin held a bound and gagged body of one of their own. The horror forever frozen on her face was the last heart breaker. Most everyone of the officers that made it that far into the cabin, couldn't look at her for more than a minute. She was everyone's daughter, such a care giving person that this senseless crime was unspeakable.
How could anyone do this? Sgt. Edding asked himself. Covering his eyes and turning his head. No matter where he looked the scene was graphic.
Tear faced and broken, Sgt. Edding approached Edward. “Son how did you find this place?” He asked as he tried hard to even his voice.
“Brianna showed me, sir.” Edward said looking up at the Sgt. and wondering why he'd asked that? What had he seen?
“That's not possible. Brianna's....” he couldn't bring himself to say that she was dead. Every year on the day that she went missing the town's people had a candlelight visual and prayed that she would find her way back. That she would be safe wherever she was.
“Sir, I wouldn't lie about that. I heard her scream before I kicked in the door. She has to be in there somewhere, she has...” Edward sentence trailed off when he saw the officers tears. His worst fears coming to light, he wasn't fast enough in getting to her.
“She was in there.” Sgt. Edding dropped down beside him, his body seemed to lose everything that held it together. “She was taken two years ago and no one's seen her since today. Do you understand what I'm saying?”
“Sure, you're saying she's in there and you're out here. You need to help her, she's hurting!” Edward yelled. He couldn't believe he'd sit down and give up when Brianna needed help. And when the officer didn't move, Edward stood and walked deftly towards the cabin.
“You don't want to do that, son!” Sgt. Edding yelled. Gathering up what was left of his will he ran over to the boy and stopped him before he'd made it to the doorway.
“If you're not going to help her, then I will.” Edward demanded, trying to shake off the officers grip.
“You can't help her anymore than I can.” Sgt. Edding stressed. “She's dead! Brianna's dead.”
The words didn't sink in first. “This is not funny!” He screamed, wrestling with the officer.
“I'm not trying to be.”
Tears flooded Edward's eyes. This wasn't happening, he thought. If he'd just stayed instead of running away then she'd be fine, safe.
Sensing his inner struggle, Sgt. Edding said, “she's been gone a long time. The most we can do for her is give her a proper burial.”
They wrapped their arms around each other and held on for dear life. Stunned to tears Edward still didn't want to believe what the officer was saying was true.
When at last Brianna's body was recovered and taken out of the cabin, all eyes were teary and looking right at her. Even though they couldn't see her through the black bag that covered her they all knew in their minds and pictured her as she was.
“You can't cover her up!” Edward screamed, still wrapped up in Sgt. Edding's arms and trying hard to break free. They can't treat her like that, he thought.
The sun rose the next day and all the excitement from the celebration was gone. Bringing the body of Brianna Sampson home was the saddest day they'd had. No one come out of their houses, there was no one calling anyone and the town itself looked like a ghost town. All activities ceased when the news spread. There were no flags flown on this day.
Edward with no place to go found himself wondering around Brianna's home. The house itself looked lived in but wasn't and no one around ever thought of selling it, even now with knowing she'd never be back. They'd all hoped she would have come back and lived in it and right now Edward wished the same.
Laying down on her bed made him feel close to her. He could still smell her scent on the sheets and when he closed his eyes, he saw her standing in front of him. The dream was peaceful and he wished himself to never wake up again.
“Edward,” Brianna whispered, she reached across her bed and gently brushed her hand across his cheek.
“Hmm Brianna,” he said, smiling with his eyes closed. Her touch felt so real he couldn't stop the tears from falling. Being in her house did bring his dreams to life.
“Wake up Edward. I need your help.” Brianna whispered closer to his ear. She'd hope he'd help her but wasn't certain of it. Would he be afraid of you? Would he ran away and leave? She didn't want to believe but after what he saw, he just might.
“Brianna I tried to help but wasn't fast enough.” Edward murmured. This dream was surreal.
“No. Please wake, Edward. I need you.” She said moving across the bed to watch him open his eyes. She needed to see them, longed too.
Finally his eyes opened and what he saw in front of him scared him to near death. “Brianna! Oh, no, no, no!” He jumped off the bed and ran out of the house. His heart raced in his chest, this couldn't be happening, he thought. You saw her body being carried away, she couldn't have been standing in front of you, that's not possible.
He'd run clear out of the house and made it as far as the middle of the drive before turning around and chancing a look back. Standing in front of one of the windows he could see her standing there. She looked alive and well with no sign of any harm done to her but was she? You could still be dreaming, Edward.
How does anyone react when in a situation like this?
Standing beside her own casket, her hand running along the wood paneling, Brianna fought hard to keep on her feet. Her body shook with fear, she'd always thought when her body was discovered her nightmare would end. And as the casket was being lower into the opened grave Brianna felt her hand slip and fell to the ground beside it.
For the last few months she's tried, giving subtle jesters, trying to tell anyone who'd listen who murdered her. And as much as she would love to curse his name to the depth of hell, she couldn't. His name burned in her throat, scorching flames as the memory revealed her nightmare.
Edward stood in the back looking through slitted eyes, not listening to a single word spoken. Disembodying himself for what was happening and trying to sort through his many thoughts.
The last person he was certain had seen Brianna was Jason. And all the answers to his questions lay inside him. That much he was certain of.
“Are you okay, man?” Adam asked, grasping his shoulder and snapping him back to the here and now.
Edward's shoulders stiffened at his touch and his eyes opened wider. Although he had been looking forward the entire time it wasn't until now that he noticed her.
Brianna was sitting at the edge of her open grave. Her eyes were red rimmed and teary but she looked lost. Her eyes darted back and forth from the grave to the surrounding people who attended her funeral.
Feeling his own eyes tear up he looked away, searching for Jason. Needing answers.
Jason stood off to the edge. His arm draped lightly around an attractive but young brunette. She held a child in her arms but was looking down at the ground in front of her. Shifting her feet side to side, Edward knew she was uncomfortable. But why?
“Jason, can I have a word with you?” Edward asked in low whispers. The less everyone heard the better.
“Maya, go on home. This won't take but a few and I'll meet you there.” Jason said, kissing the young girl then walking away.
Maya looked up meeting his eyes, her own filled with sadness and fear. Nodding her head as her lower lip trembled, she backed away slowly, clutching the child closer to her. When she noticed he no longer looked her way, she turned on shaky limbs and walked swiftly away.
Edward watched her closely until she was out of view and slowly turned back to Jason. She was afraid of him but why? When they'd walked a short distance away from the funeral, Edward stopped leaving an arm's length between them. Unsure of what to ask first, he was even more unsure of how Jason would react to his questions. Taking a deep breath for courage Ethan asked, “what happened between you and Brianna?”
At the sound of her name, Brianna looked up. Was Edward taking her seriously? Was he helping her? Does this mean he believes her? Oh please, she begged within herself, let this be true.
“It doesn't matter anymore. She's gone.” Jason paused in mid thought and looked towards the open grave. His heart plummeted, she'd left him without an explanation to why. “Why are you asking?”
“Just curious. You were the last one to see her, right?” Edward watched him clinch his fists at his side.
“What are you trying to imply, that I killed her? Why would I? I loved her, we fought the last time I saw her but she was still alive when I left. I even went out searching for her everyday!” Jason shouted, his eyes blazing with fire. “Don't you dare accuse me of not trying to find her!”
“I see you moved go quickly.” The words spilled out of Edward's mouth with disgust.
“Screw you!” Jason spit out.
Edward knew what was coming, expected as much from Jason's come-back but when his fist connected with the side of his face, all hell broke loose. They both were throwing punches, both hitting and missing. Not caring if anyone saw them or where they were.
John caught sight of the fight before anyone else and made a mad dash to break them apart. Of course with help from Adam and Chase, the two were separated and both were bleeding.
“This is not the place for this. You two should be ashamed!” John whispered his warning through gritted teeth.
Jason opened and closed his mouth only allowing a low murmuring growl to escape. Of course, he thought, his dad would accuse him as well as all the others that were now watching. And with that confirmation Jason turned about face and marched off.
Once Jason was far enough away, Edward's mind cleared of the hatred and began thinking why the fight started in the first place. What made you point your finger at Jason? Say things to provoke him?
He wasn't a detective like his father once was. And that's what ultimately ended his parents life, snuffed it out of existence. Your not like him so stop trying to be, Ethan.
Shaking his head Edward walked off in the opposite direction, finding a spot far enough away to sit and think about everything. He shouldn't be here, this has really nothing to do with him. Your just passing through, remember.
Edward had his head in his hands, rubbing his temples and trying to clear his mind of every thought. Trying to find an easy path out of the hell he was trapped in.
“You really shouldn't provoke him. He's dangerous and not stable.” Maya said as she made her way from the shelter of trees she was hiding behind. She would have gone home as told but she was terrified that the words exchanged between Jason and Edward would send him into a rage and she'd be punished for it. So she stayed behind.
Picking up his head was painful but Edward managed and with a slight turn, he tried to focus on Maya's face. Tried to see the pain and hurt she encased inside herself but something else caught his eye, something that terrified him to the bone.
Brianna's image shifted, she no longer looked like a sad, forgotten woman but a ghost, fading in and out. And she knew it would happen. The day of her death loomed near, frightened and scared she didn't want to go through it again.
Last year was her first time and her experience although horrific wasn't nearly as heartbreaking as it was this time around. As the days closed in around her the people she loved the most started disappearing. First her friend Amber, then her own mother and soon followed by her father. Who would she lose next? The question haunted her soul. Was she a curse laid down upon this earth to erase those that meant something special to her?
Soon there would be no one left and she'd be tortured, starved, raped and killed again. And she'd be more alone than when it first happened. Not knowing if the next time it happened she'd see her loved ones or they'd be forever gone.
Next year it would start all over again unless she could end it now. She had to end it, she couldn't suffer through this again. And unlike the last time, Brianna had found someone who could see her, talk to her, who cared. Hoping he would help her escape.
“I've only a week left. Edward please, I need your help.” Brianna cried her last tears before fading into an abyss.
Her strength was nearly gone. How long could she hold on? The days slowly disappearing behind her, the only place she'd be her strongest is the only place she feared. The place she took her last breath. The place where all her hopes and dreams died. The cabin.
Drifting through time felt peaceful but too soon she was back on the bed, in the cabin with him. “I knew you'd come back to me. There really is no escape, as I told you. No one will suspect me of harming you.” He laughed while she turned her head away. Following exactly what happened last time, feeling the fear envelop her and she cried.
Standing wide eyed with his mouth gaping open, Edward couldn't believe what he just saw. Brianna no longer sat by her grave, she wasn't anywhere around. Fear gripped him the hardest, holding his heart in a tight fist and nearly collapsing to his knees. His eyes lost their focus and through his ears all he could hear were her cries. Brianna's fear gripped him the hardest and with his last breath he collapsed.
The snow was once again falling all around the trees and cabin. Soft swirls of flakes made their path down from the skies to land on the earth below. It was a mark in time that worried Brianna the most. When the last snow flake fell she'd be killed again just as the year before and the year before that. Looking out the window Brianna fears came to life. Though she'd thought at first she was dreaming of the whiteness but now she was seeing it.
“Look at me!” He demanded, slapping her across the face to make her see he wasn't joking.
She refused even though she knew it would bring more pain to her. The ripping of her clothes, the grunts and heavy breathing from him still didn't force her to look away from the window. Longing to see his face outside it or an image of it before her time was over.
“You are beautiful and I knew from the first time that you hadn't been with another, when I had you.” He murmured in her ear.
“Get off me!” She screamed, her voice echoing into nothingness.
The back of his hand came across her face with such force she saw stars. Tears streamed down her cheeks while she screamed again. This time he didn't hold back, as he did before and hit with with all his strength, knocking her out so he could do with her as he pleased.
Edward's face flashed in her mind before everything went black and she pleaded that he find her and help.
Even though he could hear everything being said around him Edward didn't dare alert anyone of this. He wasn't ready for them to know he'd awoken.
The back of his eyelids was all he saw but the pain that gripped him didn't come from any physical being. This much he knew for sure. But how was this happening?
Years before Edward had figured that putting up a mental shield protected himself from hearing the whispers and cries of those no longer among the living. And in order to join the military he had to build it with enough mental strength to endure the devastating aftermath of war.
But this time was different. Brianna had managed to slip through and connect in ways that no one had ever done before. Living or dead. Feeling her physical pain that he shouldn't feel at all, hearing her begging for his help and not knowing if this time he'd gone overboard and crazy or if this was actually happening. Who would he ask? If anyone would believe him first off.
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I won't do it again.” Brianna's scared pleading voice was a whisper of a sound in his mind.
His eyes flew opened at the image he saw and instantly clutched his stomach. The sight was horrifying, much like what he saw at the cabin. But he didn't venture that far into it and what he saw when he blinked caused him to curse out loud.
“Edward what's wrong?” John asked hovering over the top of him. The acid built up in his throat while he watched the expression on Ethan's face change from sadness into pure horror.
Throwing the mask up to cover any feeling Edward was having, he turned to John and whispered, “nothing. Just bad dreams.” If only that was true.
The detective side of him sparked up and no matter how he felt about getting involved, he was. He needed to know all there was about Brianna Sampson then maybe he could figure out why she came to him and what he could do to help her. Even if it meant his heart would break he needed to know.
“You knew Brianna, right?” Edward asked peeking upwards to where John stood. “What can you tell me about her?”
John's legs started shaking, he knew one day someone would come asking. With the sudden loss of feeling he sat down and started reliving his worst nightmare. “Her parents, Christopher and Ella and my wife, Carol and I are good friends. We'd to go over to their house to visit and let the kids play. Jason has always been fond of Brianna, watched out for her and all. Then they started dating when Brianna was a sophomore in high school, Jason had already graduated the year before. He'd signed up for the military, promising he'd be okay and return to Brianna. He wanted to marry her and start a life together.” John wiped a tear away, his memories flooding back faster than he wanted them too.
“Woodland has always been a safe place to live, nothings ever happened here to cause any of us to think otherwise. But when Brianna started college, she was in one of my classes so I saw her often. Then there was a four day weekend and a lot of my students gathered together wanting to go camping. Brianna was thrilled. Lindsey, Chase, Adam, Jordan and a bunch of others all decided to go.
“All I know was Brianna was working on a project inside my classroom and when she completed it she left. Waving to me as she walked out the door. She was meant to drive herself to wherever the rest were and start their adventure.” He paused, “Lindsey called me two hours later and asked if Brianna had left yet. I told her she had and asked why? She'd sighed and said it was just like Brianna to be late and forget she called.
“It wasn't until the next day that I found out that Brianna never made it. That she was missing. The police called me and asked a whole lot of questions. Where I last saw her? Did she leave alone? What time was that?
“There was a large number of people out looking for her but we never found anything. Not even her car showed up and that thing would be near impossible to miss. Christopher and Ella held a candlelight visual every night and still do, only it's more private now.
“Sometimes I find myself still not believing she's gone and look for her. Walking clear into the woods and looking under everything I can think of of where she could be. I don't want to believe someone as kind and gentle and loving as Brianna is really gone. And now they say she was murdered, that someone is walking around Woodland a free man while she's not.” He dropped his head in his hands and cried softly to himself.
Hearing the love that John felt for Brianna out of the words that he spoke brought tears to Edward's eyes. She was as perfect then as when he saw her a day ago. A gentle soul who never meant harm to anyone but was destroyed and left like trash. How could someone be so cruel?
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to relive it.” Edward whispered in broken words.
“I live with it everyday even without having to think about it, it's there. What I can't stop thinking about is was there something I could have done to stop it from happening? If I would have kept her longer or walked her to her car. Maybe driven behind her to make sure she arrived safely or found out where they were meeting so I'd know.” John shook his head, his hands balled in fists.
“You didn't know anything would happen so there was nothing you could do to stop it.” Edward said while soothing the man next to him. He knew exactly how John felt, if he could have done something to prevent his parents death he would have. But he didn't know.
A change of subject was what was needed and John did exactly that. “I heard you mention something about seeing a girl that looked like Brianna. Could you describe her to me?”
“Sure the girl,” he put it the same as John but knew it was Brianna, “had long curly brown hair with the brightest green eyes I've ever seen. I'd say she was about five-six or five-seven and she was wearing blue jeans and a buttoned up blue t-shirt with tennis shoes. When she smiled I felt peace and when she spoke...” Edward stopped talking when he saw John shutter. He'd been tactful, shouldn't have mentioned her in so much detail. Even his own breath hitched remembering how clear she looked. She could have very well been alive, standing in front of him, leaning in further to touch her lips to his. He could still feel her breath on his skin, it was creepy.
“That sounds exactly like Brianna. I don't understand you said you saw her but how?” John asked picking up his head and tilting it towards Edward. “And after what the police described of what little they could there would be no way for you to know that much.”
“It's going to make me sound crazy but ever since I can remember I've been able to see things others can't. Ghosts, spirits whatever you want to call them I can hear them, see them. I've learned to block out most of them but Brianna somehow made it past all the walls and I can't not see her.
“When I sat up I saw what was happening to her, when it happened and felt her pain. I've never been this close to anyone as I am her. I can ever hear her crying out and I don't know what to do.” Edward sighed and looked down at the floor again.
“You mean to tell me you can see ghosts? Hear them when they talk?” There was nothing in John's eyes that said he didn't believe what Edward said.
“No what I'm saying is I can only see Brianna and hear what she's saying. Hear her pleading with someone saying she's sorry, she won't do it again. I can feel her fear of him but I can't see who it is.” Edward whispered.
“So she's still here with us?” John's eyes were full of questions he wasn't ready to ask.
“Yeah she's still here. In fact she was at her own funeral, sitting beside the coffin and watching how everyone reacted.” Maybe, Edward thought, he'd said to much. The look John was giving him broke what was left of his heart.
“Next time when you see her will you tell me. I'd like to talk to her too. There are things I never told her that she needs to know.” John said then stood up.
“You'll be the first I tell but you know you don't need me to be there to talk to her. You can do it now and she'll hear you.” Edward stood up too and wrapped his arms around John.
“I know and I do. But you could tell me what she says, tell me what she looks like, I would...” John's words ended abruptly. What would you be? Sad? Happy? It wouldn't change anything, things would be the same.
“I will, I will.” Edward said and watched John walk away. His shoulder's slouched and head down.
Would doing this for John make his life easier? Would it make it worse? Edward didn't know, he'd never done anything like this before. And he couldn't tell him no, couldn't sit and watch the man's eyes cover with more tears, take away his last hope. He'd never be able to live with himself if he did.
John's walk home took him by the Sampson's residence and as much as it hurt him to look, he couldn't stop himself. All the lights were all and he could just barely make out the shape of someone standing on the porch.
Sighing softly John walked across the driveway heading straight for the house. Ella sat on the porch swing with a blanket wrapped around her tightly while Christopher stood a ways away looking out towards the sky.
He could hear Ella's cries the closer he came to the house and see her tears. Knowing that the pain from the day Brianna disappeared had returned but this time was worse. Before they could sit down and believe she would be safe and hopefully someday come home. But now they knew she never would.
Ella's eyes snapped up when she heard movement and then she saw the look on John's face. “How's Edward? When I saw him blackout I should have stayed with him. He didn't know Brianna but found her for us. I should have hugged him and said thank you.” She cried harder.
Sounding just like what Brianna would have said, they were so much a like John had to take a step back. For a minute he could have sworn it was Brianna talking. His heart beat erratically in his chest and his breaths came out shallow and harsh.
In his minds eye he could see Brianna sitting there, wrapped up asking these questions. But before his mind could think further and make him more than crazy her image faded. Ella sat forward, staring at him and waited for an answer.
Going back over her last question, he remembered and answered, “he's fine. A little shaken from finding her but fine otherwise.” He couldn't bare to tell them what Edward had told him.
“This isn't fair! Brianna's never hurt anyone, she should still be with us! Why did this happened?” Christopher burst out and slammed his fist against the railing. “I'm supposed to die before her not the other way around. She supposed to bury me first. I can't stand this!” He screamed.
“Christopher calm down. You blowing up like this won't help anything.” Ella whispered. Her eyes were wide with shock but it wasn't because he was shouting but his words.
“Well sitting by and not doing anything hasn't helped either. She's dead! My daughter's dead because I didn't do anything!” Christopher growled, slamming both fists down.
John watched his friend break down again and felt the same way. He didn't do anything to help either, no one did. And the first outside visitor this town gets, goes out looking one day and finds her when no one else could.
There wasn't an ounce of anger in his body that would make him believe Edward knew more about Brianna than anyone else. Because if he did then why would he have asked about her? Wouldn't he already know? John shook his head, Edward didn't do anything to Brianna except find her and bring her home.
Thinking about it John dropped to his knees and watched not only his life but the lives of his friends die. Brianna, he thought, why her?
The night held unimaginable images of horror. In his dream, at least at the time Edward thought that's what it was, he saw her. Brianna. Laying on a bed of white crisp sheets with both her arms tied from the wrists up to each side of the bedposts. Her legs were laid out flat in front of her and a sheet pulled up to her chin, tucked in around her body.
Brianna's exposed skin had cuts and abrasions, bruises and swelling. Her eyes were closed but her breath he could feel was soft against his skin. And the movements of the sheet itself said loud and clear that she was still alive.
In this so called dream Edward found himself standing over her still form and saw her as she once was. A beautiful young college student who cared about everyone and everything around her. The same girl who wrote heartfelt letters to nameless soldiers which somehow his name appeared at the top of one. This is one thing he had proof of, it still occupied his front left breast pocket.
But the mystery on how he'd received it or how it was even possible given that Brianna had been deceased when he'd received it was just that, a mystery. Could she have searched him out and known what he was capable of beforehand? Could she have sensed him and brought him here to help her?
Edward found himself reaching down, he had to touch her soft smooth skin. Wanting her eyes to open, wanting to feel her heartbeat against his palm. Needing it for his own survival. But needing her to breathe.
“Edward,” she whispered, opening her eyes to only slits. “You must leave it's not safe.” Brianna looked back and forth between Ethan and the doorway to the room. Seeing his shadowy figure standing there she screamed, “I will not let him take you as well!”
Turning around Edward saw a dark shadow take form. And the smell surrounding this figure was death. Holding his nose, Edward turned back towards Brianna to grab hold of her, to save her, and saw that her hands were no longer bound to the bedposts by ropes but held by this thing that suddenly appeared.
Within a heartbeat he made a decision to take a step towards them, to try to grab hold of her and when he did Brianna vanished. Leaving only Edward with death staring down on him. It growled a deep menacing sound that echoed deep within the cabin and made Edward's heart beat faster. Never before had he been more terrified than he was now. And his feet moved without any thought of them doing so, running faster than he'd ever done before to get distance between himself and it.
So many times Edward thought he'd wake up from this nightmare but feeling the cool night's air against his skin and the dew covered grass, he knew it was no such thing.
Edward was gasping for air when he'd reached town. He searched for John being the only person that would believe what just happened to him and the only one who would help. And the fact that he'd seen Brianna and she'd protected him from beyond the grave caused his feet to pick up the pace.
First Edward went to John's house but it was dark and there was no one home. Of course he'd knocked a couple of times before coming to that conclusion then bounded down the porch steps in search for some other place John might be at.
The last place he'd searched was where he'd found him. Sitting on the porch steps of the Sampson's residence with Christopher and Ella out there as well.
“John, I've looked all over for you.” Edward voiced breathlessly.
“Come sit down. You look as if you've seen a ghost.” Ella said and ushered Edward to the porch swing. “I'll get you something to drink.”
When she was inside the house and the front door was securely closed behind her Edward spoke again. “Since you didn't flinch the last time I told you what I can see and hear. I figured that you'd be the only person who would believe me now.”
“What are you talking about?” Christopher asked. He still stood quiet a distance away from them but was curious still the same.
“I thought I was dreaming.” Edward whispered, his eyes tearing up at the thought. “I thought I'd wake up. But it was her, she'd taken me there for something. I tried to help...something else was there...something evil...death itself.” His body shook still hearing the menacing growl that sent his heart racing in his chest.
“Where did you go? Where did she take you?” John asked in a rushed tone. His own heart was beating fast just hearing Edward talk. Did Edward see who killed Brianna? Did he come face to face with him?
“John this is insane. Who is he talking about? Who is she?” Christopher snapped out, stepping closer. In his heart he knew they couldn't be talking about his daughter. She was dead, she'd never talk to anyone ever again or see anyone again.
“We can talk about this now and not do anything or we can all take a walk and both of us will explain this with you. But I don't think Ella would appreciate this kind of conversation this close to the funeral.” John explained. Standing up with Edward braced against his shoulder, they walked down the porch steps and waited to see if Christopher would follow.
Christopher slipped into the house for a moment. “Darling I'm going to take a walk to clear my head, I'll be home later.” He kissed her check and shut the door behind him. Unsure if he really wanted to be apart of whatever John and Edward were up to but at the same time he didn't want to be left out.
They all started walking and halfway down the drive Edward started talking. “Mr. Sampson, Christopher, ever since I've been here I've been able to see and hear, your daughter, Brianna. That's how I found her body, she took me right there. And at the funeral I thought and I think she did too that once her body was in hollowed ground that she'd rest but that's not the case. She's still here with us and still needs our help in finding the person responsible for her murder. Tonight I found myself back at the cabin or at least I thought it was the cabin. Anyway she was trying to tell me something when a shadowy figure took her away.” Edward stopped talking and looked at Christopher. His face was pale and tears ran down his checks but he was nodding, yes. He understood.
“You really see my daughter?” He asked in a whisper.
“Yes I do.” Edward replied.
“You know her memorial service, where we always hold a candlelight visual for her is coming up in a couple days. The day she disappeared and I prayed she'd be returned.” Christopher's knees weakened, slightly shaking but he stood tall.
This kind of news was unbelievable but somehow, somewhere deep in Christopher's heart he always knew Brianna was special that if ever something happened where she wouldn't be able to say goodbye or that she loved them that she would find a way to do that. So he believed every word Edward spoke and knew deep in his heart even though he was unable to save his daughter that he could at least help her this way. By believing in this man and his word. By believing in someone she believes in.
“You mentioned the cabin. Are you sure Brianna took you to the cabin? Could it have been some place else?” John questioned. “The police searched and found nothing there, nothing that would tell them who did this.”
“I'm sure it was the cabin we were in but she'd whispered something about a cave right before she'd disappeared and that thing growled at me.” Edward said.
They'd started walking in the direction of where the cabin was. One beside the other all the way there until the cabin lay out in front of them. That's where Edward stopped and his heart started beating faster. “I can't go back inside,” he whispered.
“We're not going inside, but around it in search for the cave. It has to be close to this place, it just has to be.” Christopher said. Even though he'd not said what they'd all dreaded, that the cave had to be within walking distance of the cabin in order to transport Brianna, they'd all thought it. And it was better left unsaid.
Together with only an arm length apart the men walked around the cabin leaving quiet a distance between them and started searching the woods. Soon they came upon a rock wall that none of them knew was there. It was only one hundred yards away from where the cabin sat and along side it was a dark cave.
Out of the pocket John produced a lighter, striking it once he was able to light the darkness and see what was in front of him. The others followed behind in close proximity. And at the far back corner there was a sleeping bag, one that had seen better days.
Christopher grabbed a stick from somewhere inside the cave and poked at the bag. It happened to be one of the biggest mistakes he's ever made. Inside the sleeping bag were a dozen rats all feeding off the blood that had soaked within.
“Oh. My. God.” Christopher muttered and dropped the stick. Quickly his hand covered his mouth as the bile rose causing him to turn around and run out of the cave blinded.
After he'd left both John and Edward stood silently, both with their hands covering their mouths. For a minute John allowed his finger to loosen on the lighter and the light to burn out. Standing in the now darkness of the cave and hearing the rats claws scrap against the rocks and scurry outside.
A few seconds later when all sounds had dissipated and all they heard were their own breaths both John and Edward joined Christopher outside the cave but they weren't empty handed. Inside the sleeping bag lay Brianna's car keys. This was one of the biggest finds that anyone had ever made. And even though Christopher had not found it himself, he still held on to them with all his might.
Sickened and despaired all three men held on to one another for support, for strength and for heartfelt sorrows. They'd found the place where Brianna had first been brought and tortured before she'd been taken to the cabin and killed.
Christopher held the keys to his heart, the last remaining item that his daughter held and could almost feel her holding them too. A sense of peacefulness came over him and he found himself walking away from the cave with a smile on his face. The first one he's had since Brianna went missing two years ago.
Edward was crouched over holding his stomach and trying to calm himself down enough to move again. The scene still flashed behind his eyelids, the horror she must have felt when her killer took her there.
“Edward, there's nothing more we can do here. We need to leave. Look Christopher is already leaving us behind and we can't afford to have him walk away alone. Not after him seeing what he did.” John said as calmly as he could. And flinching whenever he'd blink his eyes.
There was at least twenty yards between them when Edward and John finally were calm enough to move. They kept their eyes trained on the back of Christopher's back to make sure he was never out of view.
“Christopher!” John yelled, he'd blinked and his friend was gone.
“Mr. Sampson!” Edward screamed and took off running in the direction he last saw him.
Stumbling over rocks and loose roots, dried dead branches and anything and everything one could possibly trip on both Edward and John did. Until they both came to a complete stop and saw Christopher standing perfectly still, staring straight in front of him.
Cautiously Edward stepped forward, he didn't want to scare Christopher and cause him to run away screaming but at the same time he wanted to know what had made him stop walking. And when he finally was close enough to him, Edward stopped as well and stared. Not believing what he was looking at.
Under two years of dried dead branches, years of fallen leaves lay the car everyone couldn't find. A 1968 Chevy Impala, two door, convertible with Brianna's name written across the hood in red airbrush paint and the exterior a midnight blue color. The car itself looked new except for the debris laying on top of it and it was unmistakable just as the officer had told Edward. Someone had gone to great lengths to cover this up and keep it hidden from the public.
Not one of them had the stomach to approach the car itself, in fear of what they might find. But they also couldn't walk away and leave it there either. Not since they finally found it.
And standing so close to Brianna father was heartbreaking. Edward found himself in tears just watching Christopher go through this a second time. John was standing on one side while Edward stood on the other with Christopher in the middle and all were crying, but neither could tear their eyes away.
There on the drivers side door, on the inside was a hand print in blood. And seeing that only confirmed what they all knew to be inside. A heartbreaking plead for justice.
Hearing the front door close and watching her husband walk to his friends and being able to talk to one another about what's happened, caused a smile to appear on her face. But Ella couldn't help the tears that flooded her eyes, being alone in the house with her memories. She swore that if you listened closely enough you could hear Brianna's voice, feel your tears being wiped away by her soft gentle touch. And no matter what, there's no relief for a mother who can't protect her own.
Ella found herself once again in Brianna's room, looking at the pictures and touching lightly everything within reach. Falling as her tears fell, on the floor and clutching her daughter's pillow in her grasp just to be closer to her. It's a nightly ritual for her. Feeling closer to her daughter this way, being able to smell her faint scent but she'd never tell Christopher she did this. The pain it would cause would be too much.
And then there's the box that sits in the corner of her room, unopened. The one that Ella didn't know where to put at the time Mr. Thomas gave her Brianna's things from school. On the day he brought it she couldn't bare to face what secrets it held inside it. And it took until six months ago when she finally was able to open it and look inside. Sorting through the letters that Brianna wrote soldiers overseas, the letters she wrote to Ella. There were so many of them that Ella found herself sitting down, by candlelight and reading through all of them. The letters Brianna wrote to soldiers, Ella mailed but the one's she'd written to her, Ella held them close to her heart. But again no one knows this but her.
Standing up and walking to the door, Ella had to lean against the frame just to whisper words they'd always said to each other before walking out the door, “all our hearts and souls combined, together, forever. I love you, Brianna. My sweet precious angel.” And the tears return before the last words left her mouth.
Now she's sitting up in her own bed, wondering if Christopher will ever come home. It's been hours since he walked out the door and here she sits and waits. Pondering over what happened to cause him to stay away so long. Did you make him leave? All your crying and muttering around cause he to leave?
Hating herself she wiped the tears away and picked up the phone. Slowly and precisely she dialed the local police department and waited while closing her eyes and hoped with everything left inside her that nothing bad happened. Whispering prays that she hoped would be answered in some way.
“Woodland Police Department. How many I direct your call?”
“Sgt. Edding?” Her voice shook and broke while her body trembled with fear. “Please, I really need to speak with him.”
“I'm sorry, Sgt. Edding is responding to a call. Is there someone else I can direct you too?”
“My husband, Christopher, left the house on foot hours ago and I haven't seen him since. I know something's happened, I can feel it. Please you have to help me.” The phone shook in her hand that it took holding it in both so she could hear what the other person was saying.
“Ma'am normally we have to wait-”
“Listen to me carefully,” Ella spoke through gritted teeth, “my daughter, Brianna, we just buried her body after it was missing for two years so don't tell me what you normally do!”
“Ma'am, please cal-”
“Don't you dare tell me to be calm. I am calm dammit!” Ella yelled.
The phone sounded like she'd dropped it and then there was someone else on the other line. “Ella? What's wrong?” Officer Scott asked. He remembered going with his Sgt. over to their house to tell them about their daughter. That he would do whatever it took to get her back. It was and still is the biggest case this town ever had and that's something he'll never forget.
“It's Christopher, he left a long time ago and hasn't come home. I'm worried.” She sighed, finally getting someone who knew her on the phone.
“Ella, Christopher's fine. He called a few minutes ago and Sgt. Edding went out to see what it was. I'll radio him now and tell him to have Christopher call you.” He said a little irritated. He couldn't believe Christopher didn't call his wife and tell her, anything.
“Thank you.” Ella hung up, relieved. He was okay, thank God.
At the exact minute she hung the phone up there was a knock at the front door. Rushing to get it she grabbed her light jacket just encase and opened the door. There on the other side stood Adam wide eyed and out of breath.
“I came as fast as I could. Christopher told me to come and stay with you.” Adam took a deep breath, regretting what he was supposed to say next.
“What do you mean stay with me? What's going on?” She eyed him carefully. “Adam what's happened?”
“You stay right there and I'll be back.” Ella pointed to the couch, watching Adam walk inside and sit before she headed for the phone to answer it.
“Hello,” she answered in a rather calm tone.
“Babe, I'm sorry. I should have called you first but-” Christopher's hand covered the phone to argue with someone else, “Ella I need you to stay there. Don't let anyone inside the house, Sgt. Edding is on his way to get you.”
Ella laughed nervously, he couldn't be serious. “What's going on?”
“We'll explain when we get there. Just make sure to lock the doors and windows and don't let anyone in.” Christopher waited for her to say something. “Are you listening to me?”
“Adam's here. He just walked in a few minutes ago, said you sent him here. Christopher did you? Send him here?”
Christopher cursed loudly on the phone and yelled to Sgt. Edding, “He's there! We have to go NOW!”
Ella's hands trembled, the phone falling out of her hands and to the floor where she stood staring at it. What to do now? Run? Hide? Scream? But for who and would they hear her.
“Mrs. Sampson! What's wrong?” Adam voice shook, “who was on the phone?”
“Ch...Chris...Christopher,” she stumbled over his name. Trying to think through the fog that now surrounded her mind.
“Oh God I'm so sorry. He told you and I thought he'd wait until he was here. Would you like to talk about it?” Adam wiped a tear away. He still couldn't believe after all this time they'd found her car and finally have evidence to who took her. The bloody hand print on the window, but was it her's? Man, he didn't want to think about it. His heart tightened, felt like someone had a hold of it and was squeezing it tight.
“Ella I think you should sit down, you don't look well.” He ushered her to the couch and sat down beside her. Rubbing her back and watched as she fell to pieces.
Her legs felt like jello, barely able to hold her up as she walked side by side with Adam to the couch. Staring down at her hands, she didn't think she could look him in the eye and know he was the one that took her daughter. Killed her.
Sgt. Edding and Christopher raced back to the house with sirens blaring. Scared to death with what his wife was going through. Would Adam leave her alone? Take her away like he did Brianna?
With the note firmly in his hand, Christopher slammed his hand on the dashboard, swearing. “That damn little son of a-” he slammed his hand down again. “I'll kill him if he has laid one hand on her.”
Guilt hit him the hardest and his eyes skimmed over the note one more time while tears flooded his eyes.
Confessions of the Heart (was written off center)
I was sitting outside in the parking lot of the college, parked two spaces away from where Brianna's car sat and I waited. Knowing that she'd be coming out soon and when she did I made sure to be inside my own car, trying to get it started. When the engine turned over for the third time Brianna came over and asked, “Adam you want a ride?”
I laughed, I couldn't help it but said, “sure that would be great” and grabbed my stuff out of the back and put it all in her car, and climbed in the passenger side. We talked about all sorts of things and then she asked, “do you know where we are supposed to meet everyone?”. I said I did and would show her the way.
When the dirt road come into view I told her to turn left and she laughed saying,, “she would have never found the place without me”. And I said, “I wouldn't have either if I hadn't called everyone and found out beforehand”.
Then at the top of the hill there's a little dirt road that veers off and she needed to take it because the parking area was at the end. When we arrived and she had parked she asked, “where everyone else was?”. I said “when I'd called they said they were all running late and would be there as soon as possible”.
I was excited that I'd finally been able to get Brianna alone and thought of all the many things I wanted to do with her. When she leaned back to relax, I reached into my back pocket and took out the switch blade I kept close. Pulling it out and turning towards her, I smiled and flicked the blade. The look in her eyes made me more excited. She couldn't believe what she was seeing and said in a shaky voice, “Adam why?”
And I laughed because she didn't know, didn't know I loved her and this was the only way I could be with her. “No more questions. Lean over slowly, put your hand on the door handle and open it. Don't do anything stupid.” She did as I asked, “now get out.”
But she didn't believe me so I showed her, cutting my palm with my own blade and placing my hand print on the window. “Move NOW, Brianna!” She was pissing me off but I think she's finally seeing the real picture here. If she plays nice so will I.
The door opened slowly and she kept her eyes on me the whole time, such pretty eyes. But once her feet were both on the ground she tried to run. I had no other choice, reaching over the seats I swung the blade and stabbed her in her right side. Her eyes went immediately wide and she gasped. I moved quickly to get out then shut the door. Grabbing hold of Bella, I carried her to the cave.
Inside in the darkest corner there was a sleeping bag I'd placed in there along with food and a single candle for light. Laying her down on the sleeping back, I wrapped her up and laid down beside her. Holding her like I'd always wanted to. She was calm letting me touch her, soothe her.
First I thought the wound wasn't deep and kept her inside the cave for a few days. And then she started to pale so I unwrapped her seeing all the blood and carried her to the cabin I'd spent time in when I was younger. Once inside I laid her on the bed, tying her hands by the wrists to the bedposts. Can't afford for her to get away when I'm so close to completion. I stood back to admire her entirely. So beautiful.
“Please don't do this.” Brianna mumbled coughing up blood. “I won't tell anyone. Please.”
She didn't understand. Why didn't she understand?
I couldn't take listening to her, her pleads disgusted me. So I ripped a piece of my shirt off and made a gag, securing it in place. That shut her up.
Now I could take what I wanted and not have to listen to her begging even though that would please me dearly. Stripping off my clothes and hers, I climbed on top and had my way. (I don't have to go into detail with this, I don't think I'd ever forget it!)
After completion I sat up and asked, “How was that, babe?”
There was no response.
“Brianna you really don't want to piss me off!” I yelled. God I wanted to stab her again just to make her moan or say something.
I looked up her body and focused on her face, the gag was still in place but her eyes were wide open. Something was wrong, I just knew it. I screwed up. Placing the gag on her mouth, I didn't notice until know that it covered her nose as well.
Her bucking and body jumping wasn't because she was enjoying it like I thought. She was trying to get my attention, she couldn't breathe. Oh well, I got what I wanted. But man, it sucks. We could have had many more times together. Damn!
I was dressed a few minutes after and left the cabin, left her the way she was. The little slut.
Now for the car, I couldn't find her keys anywhere or I would have taken it somewhere else. But I covered it good though, no one would find it, ever.
There was no signature on it but who needs one. Brianna had pointed out who took her clearly and the bastard wrote it down, word for word.
The cruiser skidded to a stop in front of the house and both jumped out, running for the door. When Christopher opened it, what he saw brought him to his knees.
Edward stood off to the side and watched the police search the surrounding area. Tears collected in his eyes as his heart beat quickened. Seeing the evidence in front of him was hard enough but knowing that Brianna had fought only to lose was gut wrenching.
The entire area was roped off with yellow crime scene tape, allowing only police officers and himself within.
His hands shook at his side harder when one of the officers called out that he'd found something else and placed a flag there to signal his findings. With unsteady footsteps, Edward walked over to the area and looked down. There laying perfectly as if someone had tossed it was a shoe. Just one.
Further into the woods someone else called out, “Oh. My. God!”
Everyone burst into the woods and recoiled back, holding their breath when the saw what was found. Another flag was placed with a shaky hand of the officer that found it. A blood covered piece of clothing that was torn to bits. Scattered all around, one piece here, another there. No one knew what exactly it was but all thought it belonged with the crime scene.
Edward's knees buckled under him and he went crashing into the roots and dirt. Eyes wide with horror at what he was seeing.
After hours of searching and not finding anything else but what they had, the police collected everything and took it with them. Leaving nothing behind but the hopes and dreams they once had.
“You just can't let it go. Can you? You have to know.”
His rough voice was all Ella could hear. That and her own heartbeat sounded in her ears. One minute she was sitting inside her home, shaking and scared to death that Adam would hurt her. And the next the glass door imploded sending shards of glass everywhere and a man is standing in front of her.
Ella jumped up, shaken out of the state she was in and screamed. Looking around the room only to see that Adam was laying on the floor, bleeding. His still form scared her enough to look up and see another form standing close by. This man looked familiar but through her tear soaked eyes she couldn't tell who it was. And his words were spoken in whispers, so low that she couldn't hear them past her own fears.
Opening her mouth she screamed out the first thing that came to mind, “Why Brianna? Why my daughter?”
He laughed, throwing his head back laughing louder. “You just can't let it go. Can you? You have to know.”
“Why?” Ella cried.
“Come with me and I'll tell you why.” He stared down at her, serious now.
Ella backed up until her legs hit the couch and stared at him, shaking her head. She couldn't go with him. Could she? Would he tell her why if she did?
“If I come with you, will you promise to tell me?” She asked not blinking.
“I'll show you.” He reached out his hand waiting for her to grab hold.
Side stepping his stretched out hand, Ella walked through the glass shattered doorway and out into the night. Close behind her he stayed. “You'll put this on.” Shoving a black bag at her to put over her head.
He couldn't risk her knowing where she was going and truly if she wanted to know she'd follow his rules.
Ella held the bag for quiet sometime before finally pulling it over her head and allowing him to lead her.
Taking her by the elbow, he dragged her to his awaiting car, placing her in the trunk then climbing in the drivers side. Reliving this moment is indeed a wonderful experience but not quiet the same. With Brianna it was different, exciting. New.
He drove out of Woodland, past where the police had found Brianna car, found the note he'd planted in there. So easily to find and point the finger in someone else's direction. Now he felt free to do what he wanted, whenever he wanted and no one would be the wiser.
Sighing deeply to himself, he gunned the engine causing the car to leap forward in anticipation of what awaited him. In the beginning he'd told Brianna that he'd never be found out, that he'd help search for her and he's kept his word. Every last one of it.
The dirt road that he was now traveling on took a slight right hand turn and then dead ended. Parking and climbing out, he opened the trunk and pulled Ella out. The minute her feet touched the ground she reached up to take the bag off.
“Leave it on until I say.”
Her knees were shaking so badly she thought she'd fall even though he had hold of her arm, it wasn't enough. Buckling under her, she fell only to be picked up and told to move again. Thoughts sailed through her mind, did this same thing happen to Brianna? Was she as terrified or more? Would she survive only to wish she didn't? And truthfully what good does this do? How does showing Ella what Brianna went through change anything?
Ella's mind was so caught up in her own thoughts that she didn't realize that she know stood on solid wood. The arm that wasn't man handled by this man reached out in front of her, feeling out where she was.
A door creaked open and suddenly Ella was terrified. Not being able to see anything, her anything beside her own heartbeat and feeling his hand on her back, pushing her inside. Her foot got caught on something and she fell. This time hitting the ground hard.
“Take the bag off, Ella.”
She did without hesitation and saw nothing at all. The room she was in was darker than the night outside. There were no windows inside to let the moonlit shine in. Complete darkness invaded her from all angles, reaching out and touching her causing her to slide across the floor until her back hit the wall.
“Where to begin....hmm....”
“Please...” Ella begged. Her voice shaking in broken whispers. “Brianna.” She cried.
Ella's head snapped to the side, hitting the wall and causing her legs that already shook to buckle under her. Falling to the floor she heard sounds but wasn't sure if it was herself she was hearing or someone else.
“You shut up!” He screamed, turning around and stomping off in another direction.
Hearing him leave was an answer to one of Ella's prays but when she heard the pleads from the other girl in the room Ella's heart broke. Crying softly to herself, she crawled on hands and knees closer to where they were. The closer she was the more she heard and the harder it felt to breath. Oh...My...God!
Adam sat on the couch trying to remember what happened. “I was sitting next to her, trying to sooth her and the next thing I know I'm laying on the ground bleeding.” His hand brushed through his hair, feeling blood both dried and wet there.
“Where is she?” Christopher screamed.
“Man, I don't know.”
“What about this?” Christopher shoved the confession into his chest. Tears pooled around the edges of his eyes but he wouldn't let them fall. Determined not to break down again tonight.
“I don't know what this is.” Adam read it over and over, not believing a word written on it. Why would someone write his name on it? Who would do that?
“Brianna was my friend,” he whispered. “I'd never hurt her.”
“This states otherwise,” Christopher yelled, pointing at the very letter Adam held.
“It's not even my handwriting. Mr. Sampson you've got to believe me. I'd never do anything like this, ever.” Adam dropped his head into his hands and let the letter fall. His hands felt dirty holding it and reading it made him see things behind his eyelids. Horrible things he'd never do to anyone let alone a friend.
“Christopher,” Sgt. Edding warned. He'd been watching him and knew sooner than later that he'd loss his temper.
He was standing just outside the glass door, staring down at the drops of blood that didn't look like they belonged. Following with his eyes alone, he could see that they lead away from the house. Grabbing for his radio, Sgt. Edding called in and told his officers to come to the address he'd given and to bring everyone. There were on another man hunt and this time they'd not come home empty handed. Knowing Christopher would never survive if he lost someone else.
Reliving the last moments before he'd blacked out, Adam suddenly opened his eyes and blurted out, “someone was standing outside before the glass broke. I thought I'd imagined it but I saw him.”
“What?” Both Christopher and Sgt. Edding asked, turning and stared at him.
Sgt. Edding was the first to recover from the initial shock. “Do you know who?”
“He was just standing there...it was kind of creepy...then...” Adam trailed off, stuck in his thoughts again.
Sgt. Edding didn't want to take the chance on losing out on the only evidence that was sure fire to point in one direction to go to waste.
Miss. Reed the only available sketch artist for miles arrived at the Sampson's residence to assist Adam in his recollection of the assailant. Laying out her supplies on the coffee table sitting in front of Adam, she pulled out her pad and started asking questions.
“Let's start out with the basic structure of his face.” Miss. Reed made the necessary points of reference for where the eyes, nose and mouth should be and set out next to Adam so he could see for himself what the results would look like. Whether he would want to change the shape of the eyes, the nose, the mouth or add depth to wherever.
“I don't know how much I remember.” Adam's shoulder's sagged. His head was throbbing, shooting pain up and down his side but he was determined to do this. If anything he wanted to prove he wasn't as useless as he once thought he was. Or still is.
“Just take your time, close your eyes and tell me what you do remember.” Miss. Reed set the pencil aside and waited. This procedure takes a lot of time and patience, good thing she has plenty of both.
Adam did as he was told and laid back on the couch, closing his eyes and turning back time. In slow painful whispers he started telling her what the man looked like. Reliving the terror in his mind and letting the image come out.
Christopher was pacing the living room, looking out the door at the officers that were collecting evidence then turned around to stare at the opposite wall. His wife's safety consuming his thoughts. Is she safe? Hurt? Where did she go? Will I find her? This thought choked him, lodging his heart in his throat, gasping for air.
“That's it!” Adam yelled, grabbing hold of his head and throwing himself forward. Launching off the couch while his stomach rolled. He wanted distance from the image, the further away the less his head hurt.
“This can't be right,” Christopher gasped. “He has always been with us, on searches, even tonight looking for anything that would help in finding what happened to Brianna.”
“Son are you positive, this is the man you saw?” Sgt. Edding asked.
“Y-y-yes.” Acid built up in Adam throat, threatening. He nodded slowly then turned away from everyone, grabbing hold of the wall for support. “I think I need to go to the hospital.”
His face was ashen and blood was still streaming down his forehead. Swaying slightly, Adam closed his eyes and lost consciousness.
“We need to get the picture out to the media. Everyone needs to know if they come across him to be cautious and call the police immediately.” Sgt. Edding advised his officers.
She'd been trapped here for so long, all alone with memories of her past that when he finally brought someone else here she thought it would erase everything bad. That she would be able to have at least one friend and they could keep each other safe. But he was angry at her for reasons she didn't know and he took her away that very night. Never to be seen again.
Now hearing this other person in the room with her, scared her to death. She didn't want to make friends only to have them taken away. Scared to breathe, scared to move she sat curled up in the corner, wide eyed and watched this other person closely.
Her voice was soft reminding her of her own mother's but thinking this way only brought tears and he hated when she cried. So she weep silently to herself, from the inside.
“How long have you been here?” Ella whispered. She moved closer to where she thought the other girl was.
“Shh..” she shook her head.
The darkness in the room made it hard for Ella to see anything but she tried. Her motherly instincts told her she needed to protect this girl. Moving closer even so she could touch her to feel for herself that she was indeed real.
Just before Ella's hand touched the girls the door swung open. Bright light shone into the room, blinding Ella to the point of having to put her hand in front of her eyes for a shield.
“Are you unhappy about the way your being treated, Ella?” He sneered.
His voice she knew it from somewhere. If only she could see his face she'd know who it was but the light was to bright for her eyes to focus. And when she brought her hand down her eyes watered where she couldn't see anything at all.
He turned to the girl and smiled, “I told you I'd bring her, sweetheart. You should be happy to see her not hiding in the corner, away from her.” He took a step towards her and then another to see what she'd do and her reaction excited him.
“Brianna, if you're not going to play nice then I'll take her away just like I took the other one.” He smiled sweetly and bent down to her.
“Please don't. I'll behave.” She whispered.
“Brianna.” Ella gasped. “Is it really you?”
“Of course it's her. What did you think I'd kill her?” He sneered. “Everyday she came to my class I wanted to be with her but she never saw me as anyone other than her teacher. Oh but she sees me now.”
“John....” Ella sucked in a breath before he backhanded her across the face.
“You don't deserve to call me that. You haven't earned my respect yet.” He lifted his hand again to slap her.
“Please, please I'll do whatever you want just don't hurt her.” Brianna pleaded, standing beside him without touching. She knew better than to touch him without permission.
“Are you jealous?” John questioned.
“Y-yes. Don't touch her again, please.” Brianna's lower lip shook with the words she spoke. She could feel his eyes roaming her body, knew what he was wanting but didn't want her mother to have to go through it.
If she could occupy him for a few hours then maybe her mother could get away and be safe. And when John grabbed her arm and lead her away Brianna tried to tell her mother just that with only her eyes. Hoping that she would get the message before it was too late.
Ella rocked back on her heals in disbelief. Brianna was alive, she was alive. All a mother could ever dream of and here she was sitting back and not doing a damn thing about keeping it that way. She just let her daughter be taken away again by the same man that took her in the first place. Let her slip through her finger again.
Tears fell from Ella's eyes while she sat there and watched John grab Brianna's arm and pull her away. You should fight back. How many chances do you want? Her mind was screaming at her. Do something.
Brianna sat on the edge on the bed, knowing what would come next and tried to make herself not feel anything. Suck all her feelings, all what makes her her back inside herself so he only effects her body not her mind. But this time was different. She'd seen her own mother and it brought back all her feelings to the front making it impossible to hide away.
“Was it Mia that they buried in my place?” Brianna pulled her knees to her chest to shield herself in case the question was a wrong one to ask.
“You shouldn't worry about it.” John said soothing her with his hand, rubbing her back in comfort.
“It was, that's why she never came back.” She paused, “you promised.”
“Shut up!” He screamed grabbing her from behind and slamming her on the bed. Climbing on top to keep her in place, he grabbed her hands in one of his and held them above her head. “You will not say another word!”
He gritted his teeth and slapped her. Tears collected in her eyes from the impact and she shut her mouth. Fearing what would happen to her mother if she didn't.
“I should have known bringing your mother here would be a mistake.” Slap. “And I promise you wouldn't see again after tonight.” Slap.
“STOP!” Ella screamed, charging in the room and knocking him off Brianna.
The last thing she remembers is seeing Brianna laying on the bed, bleeding and unresponsive. John had bounced off the floor and rushed her, knocking her against the wall, releasing the air in her lungs and breaking a rib. Her body went limp in his arms a second afterward and all the lights went out.
Woodland Police Department was flooded with news crews from all over. Everyone was gathered together in the conference room for a brief statement from the officer in charge of this investigation.
The mic was tapped twice to get everyone's attention. Captain Ross stood before ready to get the information to the public before anything else could happen. “Ladies and Gentlemen we have called everyone tonight to make a break in the kidnapping of Brianna Sampson. We have a sketch of the man responsible. Mr. John Thomas a college professor at our local college. He is our main suspect in now another kidnapping of Mrs. Ella Sampson. It happened earlier tonight at her home. Any information you can give us about him would be helpful. The tip hotline will be given to all the news stations.”
All the reports started throwing questions out, “How long has Mrs. Sampson been missing?”
“How do you know it's the same man?”
“Wasn't Brianna Sampson taken over two years ago?”
“Was that even Brianna's body we buried last week?”
The last question asked had everyone else quieted. A reporter in the back asked it, a young man that didn't look old enough to be there let alone ask.
Christopher sat alone on the sidelines, shaking all over but when he heard the question, he was steamed. “I was there, I saw for myself. You were even at her funeral, how could you ask a question like that?” His eyes stared down the reporter that asked it, daring him to say something else. Just a push over the edge of sanity.
Edward stood there as well, stock-still not believing what he was seeing. Could the man that was with them all afternoon until the police showed up be the one that started this all? Did he make everything, pass through life believing he'd never be found out? Just asking himself these questions made himself angry.
And now with the question still lingering in the air, was it really Brianna that he saw this whole time or someone that looked like her? And was she even dead?
All the officers involved in the case left the room together. Their hand held radios all replying the same message. “Someone has discovered a body and they need assistance now.”
Sitting in the back seat of the patrol car, Edward listened in to the conversation that was taking place up front. The voices he heard started to slur together, making him strain to hear but it wasn't exactly what they were saying that mattered. It was what he couldn't hear that did. For a town this size there should be more happening, even if they were in the middle of a man hunt, life didn't just cease to exist.
There were no residence on the streets or in the stores that lined them, no cars as far as the eye can see anywhere and more than that there were no sounds other than the patrol car and the whispers inside.
Goosebumps rose on his arms and down his spine, something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Turning his head to lay more comfortable on the headrest, Edward closed his eyes and tried to open his mind. A trick he'd learned long ago that he hoped he'd never have to experience again. But what was happening now or more like not happening now, confused and concerned him to do exactly this.
Hearing this loudly in his mind caused him to jump. He hadn't quiet opened his mind completely when her voice screamed this but he listened.
“You need to go faster, Sgt.” Edward demanded, his voice urgent and out of breath. His heart pounded in his chest as he stared at the driver and passenger. Trying to get his message out there without panicking.
They're coming back, hurry.
Now he was panicking. All his training in the military had gone out the window and there was no way to rein it back in. Would they make it there on time? Could he handle seeing another dead body? No, no, no, no!
“Edward we're going as fast as we can. We'll make it there, don't worry.” Sgt. Edding stated as he looked in his rear view mirror at the fear in Edward's eyes. His own fear and panic ebbed there way up his spine but seeing the look in his eyes, him screaming no from behind him made his foot push the gas petal harder.
“What happened? Why are you screaming no?” Christopher asked, shaking. He was on the verge of losing it completely and hearing Edward's pleads wasn't helping.
Edward couldn't talk, couldn't answer why he was panicking the way he was. The voice inside his head was now screaming so loud he couldn't hear anything beside it. Pounding inside him with fists of steel causing pain to sear throughout him.
Hurry! Hurry! Oh God NO!
Sgt. Edding jerked the steering wheel to the left and stopped suddenly. Opening his door as quickly as he could and then opening Edward's. He grabbed hold of him and tried with everything he had left to calm Edward. “What's wrong with you? What's going on?”
“Why did you stop? We have to hurry.” Edward asked. Confusion set forth, he couldn't figure out why he was now standing on solid ground when a moment ago he was sitting in the car and they were driving.
“What do you mean, why have we stopped? This is where the dispatcher said “the body” was. We have to search the area.” Sgt. Edding looked at him like he'd lost his mind. Dropping his hands to his sides, he took a step back and turned around.
Christopher was still seated inside the vehicle, trying to muster up the strength to get out and help. But for some reason he felt that this place wasn't right, something was off. Puzzled at the thought he opened his mouth to say something when he heard Edward speak.
“She's not here. Hurry we have to go help her!” Edward took a deep breath then added, “I know this sounds strange but please listen to me. I can hear her pleads, in here.” He tapped his forehead.
“How do you think I found the cabin the first time? Since I've never been here before there's no way that you can tell me that I somehow managed to stumble across it.”
“Who do you hear?” Christopher asked as he stepped out his side. One arm was resting on the door while the other hung loose beside him.
“Does it matter, she's trying to help?” Edward looked exasperated.
“Are you saying Brianna's trying to help? You can hear her still?” Christohper's eyes spoke volumes of sadness.
“Christopher listen-” Edward started when he was cut off by more screams. No! You can't have her, I won't let you!
Mia's faded image stood on the corner of the bedroom, looking at her sister longingly. Wishing there was something she could do to help her, to save her life, to make things right. She'd somehow connected with a man that could her hear pleads and hoped he'd make it there in time to save Brianna. That somehow she could live to tell the secrets of a life that no one knew. A secret that needed to be revealed.
When she first found out she had a sister, she was overjoyed. Pleading with John, wanting him to understand that all she wanted was to see her. Maybe talk to her and find out if they really did have anything in common.
She'd followed John to work a couple of times just to get a glimpse of Brianna, to see if there were the similarities there that John spoke highly of. And when she did see, she was shocked. Seeing Brianna standing a few feet away was like looking in the mirror. Everything from the way she stood to the way she talked was the same.
John had caught her that day and demanded to know what she was doing. But she had no answer, no explanation what-so-ever. He'd always been straight forward with her, telling her that he'd saved her life by taking her the way he had. Whatever way that was, he never said but she was always grateful.
He'd told her her mother died when she was born, that she had had a sister but she didn't live past her first birthday. He'd told her he loved her, took care of her.
But everything was a lie. The entire time she lived with him, he lied to her.
The last and final day she'd seen him, she kissed his cheek and walked out the door. Where she was headed was the school, she had to talk to Brianna, warn her about him. But she never got the chance. Never making it out of the forest that day and here she was back in the house she'd thought she escaped from. Back to the lies, the pain and heartbreak.
And seeing Brianna laying on the bed, unconscious caused tears to invade her eyes. She'd been crying every since she first saw John take Brianna away. Coming in at night when all was quite and talking to Brianna while she slept. Giving her information that would hopefully help her get out, safely.
Brianna, you have to get up. It's time to leave.
“Mm....” Brianna mumbled. She saw white lights when she opened her eyes and quickly closed them again. Raising her hands to rub her eyes she felt pain sear through her.
They're coming back, you have to leave now.
Hearing the voice louder this time, Brianna jumped up to quickly and ended up on the floor. Knowing if she made to much noise she'd never be able to leave so she scrambled to get her footing and edged her way to the wall.
There in the corner she saw Mia, smiling faintly Brianna moved closer and followed her out. A side door she didn't know was there was hidden behind stacks of books, school books to be exact. After moving them to the side Brianna opened the door and had to squint. She wasn't used to being out in the open and almost immediately turned back around and went inside. Scared to death of what was lurking in the woods that surrounded the house Brianna took a slow step and then another before clinging to the first tree she could. Her head spun restlessly and her eyes lost focus but the urgency in her sister's voice kept her going.
Only a few more steps. Someone's coming to help you, I sent for them but you have to get away from here.
Every step she took caused her muscles to spasm, unused to moving so much. And the last step she took her legs buckled under her and she fell on the grassy surface. Breathing in deep breaths of fresh air should have been soothing but panic had risen inside her and it terrified her to think what would happen when John came back and found her not there. Would he look for you?
At this thought Brianna's eyes opened and she looked back behind her just in time to see the house that she's been kept in go up in flames. The explosion rocked the ground underneath her but she couldn't move fast enough to escape the bits of woods flying towards her.
Waking up with the damp grass beneath her face, her clothes in shreds and the night's sky staring down at her, Brianna thought that this could be heaven. This could be the only reason she was no longer in pain. Her heart felt whole again as she breathed in the fresh, crisp air. A smile creep on her face as she looked at her sister, felt her arms around her and cried.
Never did she want to wake from this, being here with Mia was better than anywhere she'd ever been. Finally she had her sister back with her, a sister she never knew about but always longed to have.
Soon the image disappeared when she heard voices, one's she knew and thought she'd never hear again brought joy to her fast beating heart. The sound so sweet it brought with it tears of overdue happiness. Her father's voice was among the many she was hearing.
But all too soon those sounds turned into muffled screams. Some of them yelling and some crying loud enough to break her heart. What did they find? Was she dead?
Opening her eyes caused pain to shot through her temples and a scream to escape her throat. Why was this simple action so difficult? she thought, searching in the depth of her mind for answers. Something happened but she couldn't remember. Someone was brought to her, someone she knew but couldn't for the life of her put a face on that person.
“No!” She cried.
'Giving Back' was a simple project. The only requirement was to write back to those who didn't have anyone else. A letter of friendship, hope and love sent from one person to another. Simple, really? But it wasn't.
To those who took the project as just another assignment never saw what was really happening. Never saw that because of it, fate would intervene trapping a young life turmoil. Drifting between life and death. And dreaming for the latter.
That day was much the same as any other, although for Brianna it was more important than just another day. It was the last day she had to turn in her assignment that she'd worked so hard to make everything just perfect in. Adding touches here and there, to show she really did care about them and it wasn't just something she was told to do. Giving her heart to the faceless names and sending all her prayers with it.
As the sun slipped from the sky adding color to the mix she quickly gathered her things and hurried down the stairs. Desperate to make it back to school before Mr. Thomas left so her hard earned work would be sent with the rest of them.
“Mom, I need to go. I need to turn these in.” Brianna said as calmly as she could while holding the letters firmly in her grasp. “I promise I'll come straight back afterward but I really need to leave now.”
Ella was sitting causally on the couch watching what little news was on TV when Brianna came in the room. Looking up at her daughter's face and seeing the tears that had yet to fall caused her throat to close up. She couldn't say no to her but Ella also knew leaving Brianna to drive alone wouldn't be wise either. Not in her state of mind.
“Okay well then, let's go.” Ella smiled and pushed off of the couch.
“Mom you don't have to. I'm perfectly fine driving myself there and back, plus you need your rest.” Brianna pleaded, trying hard not to blink. She knew the tears were there and if they fell she'd lose her argument.
“Don't be silly. I'd love to drive you and you can tell me on the way there all about this project and why it's gotten you teary eyed all the time.” Ella walked by her, placing her hand on Brianna arm, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek.
“Thanks...” Brianna mumbled. She'd tried days to figure out why she teared up every time she put pen to paper and attempted to write these letter. Something about reading the ones sent tore through her heart making it ache but she didn't know the reason why.
With a quick wipe of her eyes to rid herself of the tears Brianna turned towards the front door and walked out. Ella was standing by the drivers side waiting for her and looking more tired than she did inside, causing Brianna's heart to ache that much more. Her mother worked so hard as it was that she didn't need to work that much harder with her concerns for her daughter. But the thought of having someone to talk to about this and having her next to Brianna was enough to push everything back. Especially the pain.
“Mom, mom wait. Can you drop me off at the mall?” Mia asked running outside in desperation to catch Ella before she drove off. Relief hit her the second she saw the car still in the driveway.
“Sure why not. But first your sister needs to drop something off at school and then I take you to the mall.”
Mia was ecstatic, running for the front passengers seat. Claiming shotgun before Brianna could. With a huge smile on her face, she climbed in and buckled her seat belt.
As two twins can ever be, Brianna and Mia was complete opposites. Where Brianna thought of only school and making it through, Mia thought of only shopping and her friends. But they were both loving and caring about everything else. But adamant to leave their mark in this world just in different ways.
Shrugging her shoulder's Brianna walked to the back door and was about to open it when she heard his voice. “Hey baby. Where you headed off to?”
“School.” She smiled feeling her heart race forward.
He'd always felt an instant pull to her and whenever he could, he'd be with her, protecting her. Walking up to her now caused his heart to leap forward, putting a hitch in his throat as he leaned down to kiss her lips. “Can I come?” He asked after releasing his hold.
“Sure, Edward. Now get in, daylight's burning.” Mia yelled through her opened window. She saw him coming before Brianna had and knew he'd ask first and then demand to come. And never did she understand why he always had to be around her until she met someone else too. But if they didn't get a move on she would miss seeing him again.
Opening the back door Brianna climbed in and slid over to make room for him. As he closed the door, instantly he put his arm around her and pulled her close. Kissing her forehand, he lowered his voice and asked, “is something wrong?”
Closing her eyes, Brianna took a deep breath and answered, “no of course not. Now that you're here everything is perfect.” She leaned her head against the crook in his shoulder and sighed deeply.
“I'm here to please.” He smiled his devilish grin.
“If that's true would you two please stop, you're making me ill.” Mia groaned and bent forward to prove the fact. But instead of being sick she was smiling, trying to hide her own devilish grin.
“She's just jealous.” Edward whispered in Brianna's ear. Making her giggle and hide her face further. Closing what little gap there was between them. He pulled her closer and tilted her chin up planting a kiss on her lips that silenced the entire car.
When all there was was silence in the car Ella looked back in the rear view mirror to see what had caused it. And seeing Brianna in the arms of a man that loved her as deeply as he did made her heart swell. They were the perfect couple, she thought. He never let Brianna do anything remotely stupid (not that she would) but he loved her so much to look after her and help her through everything.
Tears escaped her eyes and Ella wiped furiously at them while trying to make it look like she had something in her eyes. At that moment things turned tragic. It happened so fast that no one inside the car could do anything to stop it.
One minute Brianna was happily in the arms of the man she'd pledged her undying love to then the next she was ripped away from him and thrown from the vehicle. Squinting her eyes from the pain she felt, she looked to where the car was. Sitting crumpled on it's hood with gasoline leaking from the tank. Knowing full well that if she didn't get help or help out her family they'd die. But her legs wouldn't move and when she looked down at them she cried out.
The dew covered grass glistening red in the dying sunlight but the sight of that wasn't a concern. Her mother, sister and love of her life were still inside the car, trapped. And there was nothing she could do to save them.
“Mom! Mia! Nooo....” She screamed saving her heart wrenching cried for the last name she called out. “Edward!”
The car ignited in flames pulling the oxygen from her lungs as she screamed out their names over and over. When the gas tank exploded Bella was knocked out. But as the blackness took over she heard faint screams from somewhere close by and those screams took her the rest of the way over.
Jolting straight up in the bed she now laid in Brianna screamed as realization hit. Everything that happened was indeed her fault. If she hadn't insisted she needed to go to school that moment her mother, sister and boyfriend would still be alive today.
“Brianna, honey. It's okay.” Christopher spoke in broken whispers. Day in and day out he's been sitting by her bedside waiting for her return since the night of the accident. With all the loss already he knew deep in his heart if Brianna hadn't of woken up, he would have died himself.
“No Dad, it will never be okay again...” She cried, holding on to him with all the strength she had. Shaking so much that when he tightened his grip, Brianna couldn't tell which of them was shaking more.
The ground was covered in fresh snow setting the perfect and most peaceful scenery to take a drive. But just sitting in the passengers seat had to be the most difficult thing Brianna has done since being released from the hospital. And now Charlie was driving home after taking and sitting patiently by while she had her daily visit with a therapist.
Every night when it came to closing her eyes Brianna would see Ella, Mia and Edward's faces looking over to her, pleading for help and she'd wake up screaming. Even blinking brought small flashes behind her eyelids. Surviving the accident has left her in a body of glass, one small move the wrong way and she shatters.
Part of her therapy was to write letters to the three people she cried over at every mention. To release her pain from pen to paper and now that she was sitting on the edge of her bed, she decided to do just that. But the only one she has not been able to write to is Edward but now she would try.
Hi baby. I'm here, sitting on my bed trying my hardest to find something to talk about that doesn't make me want to cry. I miss you....
Dad thought it would make me feel better to come home to a house that is not covered in reminders. So, he took all the pictures down of Mom and Mia and stored them somewhere else. But his plan didn't work because when I ran to my room and found he'd done the same thing to the pictures I had of you, I fell on the ground and cried.
I looked all over for them, in closets, cupboards and even the basement but when I couldn't find them and this part I'm ashamed about but I yelled at Dad. Telling him he had no right to do that, that those things were just as much a part of me and him taking them away was like taking my heart out of my chest, hiding it away.
I think that was the first sign that Dad saw everything was not okay with me. Even if the doctors said I had a clean bill of health, they couldn't see what was going on inside me.
Today when I visited the therapist I told them about the dream I had while in the hospital. And his suggestion was I needed to stand in front of Mr. Thomas and see for myself that everything that happened was not his doing. The project he planned was not the cause of the accident. So, that leaves the fault back in my hands and I know you'd tell me to stop, that it wasn't my fault. But you'd be wrong.
Anyway I desperately want to close my eyes and return to that day when you had your arms around me tightly, telling me how much you love me. If I could go back and do a do-over I wouldn't have pushed so hard to leave and would have stayed perfectly still in your arms.
I'm sorry this letter is so messy, the tears just don't stop. But I know you'll never get to read this so I guess it's okay this way.
I'll never forget you... Counting down until I see your face again, feel your strength wrap around me and then finally the pain will stop. I'm going to go before Dad comes upstairs to find out whats wrong, find out why I'm sobbing so loudly. But one last thing before I go.... Edward I love you with every last breath I have.
Forever Your Brianna
Dropping the pen and paper out of her shaky hands, Brianna fell back grabbing her pillow to muffle her cries and closed her eyes. Edward stood in front of her with his devilish grin and arms stretched wide, inviting her in. Whispering, “My sweet Brianna I love you. I'll always be with you....”
Tag der Veröffentlichung: 28.10.2010
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This dedication goes to all my friends and loved one who lost their lives fighting for our freedom. May God put his hand upon your shoulder and guild you home.