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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chapter Three...


           As always, a little bit of nature to brighten the day. :)








 
 
 
 
 
~ Chapter Three ~
‘The monster’ watched from the shadows of the darkening parking lot, hoping to get a glimpse of her parents. He’d thought about going inside, to her room, but decided against it, at least for the time being. He needed to be careful. What if she’d given a description of him?
He worried briefly about the boy. Was he okay? He knew he couldn’t stay much longer. It was way past feeding time.
Why had she done it? He’d been good to her, and this was the thanks he got? Anger rose up and threatened to swallow him in its evil grip, but he suppressed it. Now isn’t the time.
“Arianna, why did you do it?” He whispered into the night. He imagined the stories she would tell them, and it wasn’t fair. It didn’t matter they were true. She should be loyal to him after being with him for ten years.
The fog set in while he tried to formulate a plan, but he couldn’t keep the thoughts straight in his head now. They would have to wait, but he couldn’t let it go. He backed away from the row of cars shielding him and disappeared behind some thick bushes. The boy waited.
###
Arianna finished her meal and lay back on the flat hospital pillow, exhausted. Her neck ached, and she missed Chance. She sprung up from the pillow, a decision made. “Justin, will you help me get Chance?”
 “Of course you have a chance, you’re free now.”
He must not have heard her. She had to make him understand. “No, I said ‘will you help me get Chance?’ He’s my baby.”
Justin stopped scrolling through his phone and looked up at her, surprise covering his features. “You have a baby?”
Tears came to her eyes. “Yes. His name is Chance.”
Justin said, “Why didn’t you tell us? Where is he? We could’ve been rescuing him already Arianna.”
The hurt and anger in his tone caused her to flinch. “I didn’t think it was the right time.” Her fingers played with the hospital sheet, twisting it. “You know how doctors are. They probably wouldn’t let me have him after I slit my own throat.”
Justin’s screeched, “What? Why would you do that Arianna?”
She looked away from him, ashamed and scared.
He pulled her chin toward him with gentle fingers. “It’s okay, I’ll never hurt you. I just want to know why.”
She hesitated, but something in his eyes compelled her to answer. “I was confused and angry. He told me he was going to bring in another girl. That I’d gotten too old. I figured he would kill me.” She looked away once more, her body trembling in fear.
“What about your baby?”
“He wouldn’t hurt Chance and he would kill me if I tried to take him away.”
“How old is he?”
When she replied, “He’s two weeks today.
 Justin gasped. “Is he okay? Is he healthy?”
“He’s very tiny, but he gained some weight. But he has a cough and I’m worried.” Arianna began to wail in a loud, eerie tone.
###
Justin tried to calm her with whispered words of comfort, but she was inconsolable. He reached over and pushed the call button. The nurse came rushing in a few minutes later.
“What happened?”
His asked angrily, “Did you people know she had a baby?” How could they keep something like that from him? He had a right to know. He was… And that’s where he lost his steam. He didn’t have any rights. He barely knew this woman.
Nurse Cooper held a hand up, shaking her head.  “We did, but we’re not authorized to discuss such personal information with someone who isn’t related to her.” She went over to Arianna, pulled a needle from her pocket and pushed it into the IV. Soon after, Arianna went silent.
Justin looked down at her, suspicious. “What did you give her?”  He didn’t like the fact he had no say so about what was going on here. He couldn’t explain it, but somehow he’d already formed a permanent bond with this victimized young woman.
“Don’t worry, sir. It was something to make her rest. She needs it.”
“Please, call me Justin.” He smiled at the gray-haired nurse. He needed to try something else. His present actions weren’t working.  “Is everything okay with her?” At the nurse’s look of confusion he elaborated, “I mean, is she physically okay, you know, down there? Is she permanently damaged?” He was embarrassed to ask the question, but wanted to know, and the only way to get an answer was to ask.
“I really can’t discuss it with you Justin. That’s such a personal thing…” She trailed off.
“I just ache for the torment she must’ve gone through. I need to know if she’s going to be okay, or if there’s permanent damage.”
The nurse grabbed his arm and pulled him a safe distance away from Arianna, as if she might hear. “I could get in trouble for telling you this, so keep it to yourself.” At his nod, she continued, “She has scars all over her body, but they’ve healed. She’s had some broken bones that weren’t set and it’s probably too late to correct them, but knowing their egos, they’ll try. Other than that, we don’t know much.”
Justin gave her such a look of gratitude the nurse smiled back and patted him on the arm.
He figured since she’d shared some info with him, he could return the favor. “She said her baby was born two weeks ago today, and his name is Chance. He was very small when he was born and he’s put on weight, but he has a cough she’s worried about.”
“Thank you Justin. That information will help. Does she know where she was being held?” Nurse Cooper asked hopefully.
“She didn’t say. She went bonkers before I had a chance to ask. Do you think she’ll be okay mentally?”
“Would you?” She asked.
“To be honest, I don’t know.” He thought about it seriously for a moment. Would he be okay? He doubted he would ever be the same. “I just don’t know. I guess that’s one of those situations where you don’t know until it happens to you, and it’s an experience I don’t wish for.”
“You got that right. She should be asleep for a couple of hours if you need to go take care of anything.”
“Thanks, I need to run home and take a shower and change my clothes. I was jogging when I tripped over her and I’m sure I’m not pleasant to be around.” He wrinkled his long, masculine nose in distaste and Nurse Cooper laughed.
“I hadn’t noticed.” She winked and rushed out of the room.
Justin walked over and looked down at Arianna. A strange feeling came over him. It was protectiveness, but more than that, love. No way. He couldn’t possibly be in love with someone after just a few hours, no matter the circumstances. ‘That’s what you think,’ Was his mind’s reply. What was happening to him? He touched the side of her cheek before bending to brush a kiss across her brow. “I’ll be back before you’re awake.”
As he was leaving, her parents returned. “Why is she asleep?” Her father asked.
“They gave her something to make her rest. She was distraught over her baby and…” He was cut off by the bellow of Arianna’s father.
“She has a baby?!”
Arianna moved around on the bed, but didn’t wake.
“Yes, I’m sure the doctor will be in to discuss all the ‘private’ stuff while I’m gone.” Justin heard the resentment in his tone and repented. It wasn’t her parents’ fault they wouldn’t tell him anything.
“So you’re leaving?” Her father asked.
He sounded hopeful and Justin frowned. “Yes, but I’ll be back.”
“You don’t have to come back, son. She’ll get over it soon enough…”
“Lenwood, I can’t believe you’d want to cause your daughter further torment.  She likes the boy,” Arianna’s mother lamented.
“She’s a tough cookie. She barely knows the guy. She’ll be over it before the day’s out.”
Justin didn’t understand why her dad had a problem with him, but it was grating on his nerves. He clenched his jaw and said with quiet certainty, “I’ll be back in about an hour.” He turned on his heel and exited the room.
Justin felt an overwhelming urge to share all that had happened with someone, but didn’t know who to call. Should he call his best friend Dave? Would it be wrong to confide in him? For some reason, he rejected that idea. He would call his pastor. They weren’t big buddies, but they spoke. The pastor answered on the second ring, “Hello?”
“Pastor Matheson, this is Justin Hollander.”
“Justin, how are you?” He returned jovially.
 He was a middle-aged man, in his late thirties with salt-and-pepper hair. He was physically fit and about six feet tall. Justin pictured him in his mind as he spoke. “I’m good, but wondered if I could bend your ear for a few minutes, or isn’t it a good time?”
He laughed and returned, “Perfect time. Perfect time. I’m putting off some yard work the wife wants me to do.”
Justin laughed with him for a moment before giving an outline of this morning’s events. “My question is; Do you think  it’s  possible God wants me to marry her?”
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Justin. That’s kind of between you and God.”
“Well, how will I know if it’s what God wants?”
“He has a way of impressing it upon you. You’ll just know. I’m sorry if that isn’t the answer you were looking for.”
“It’s okay. But I was kind of looking for something a little bit more definitive.”
“I understand, but that’s all I’ve got. Pray about it and ask Him what He wants you to do.”
Disappointment pushed his shoulders to a slump. “I guess that’s all I can do.”
“How is your mom?”
His disappointment turned to sadness. “She’s doing okay. She’s kind of pushing me to get married and start a family before she starts losing her mind. She wants to get to know her grandkids before that happens.”
“I’m sorry about your mom, Justin. I’m praying for her, and so is the whole congregation.”
“So am I.” Justin said. “Thanks for your time.”
“You can call me anytime. Hopefully next time I’ll have the answer you’re seeking. Do you want me to come down and talk to her? I mean, do you think it’s wise to do that right now, or should we wait? It’s your call.”
“I think  it’s a good idea, but not today. Let’s give her some time to adjust to what’s happening in her life.”
“You sound like you already care for her, Justin. Maybe that’s all the sign you need.”
They said their goodbyes and ended the call with a promise from the pastor to come visit Arianna the next afternoon. Justin rushed back to his house, took a shower and changed his clothes. He was back at the hospital in less than two hours. The room was empty except for Arianna’s sleeping form, so he stood over her, watching her sleep. She was beautiful, even in her emaciated state. He couldn’t imagine how beautiful she would be with a healthy glow and more rounded cheeks. She looked innocent. A rush of anger swept through him that someone had taken her true innocence and used her like a filthy rag.
She must’ve become aware he was there because her eyes popped open at that moment. She physically shrank away from him.
“What’s wrong Arianna?” He loved saying her name and doubted he would ever get tired of hearing the sound of it roll off his tongue. It flowed like honey and…ugh! Where did he get such silly thoughts, anyway?
“Why are you mad at me?” She asked timidly. There was confusion in her deep green eyes.
He leaned down, closer to her face. “I’m not mad at you, honey, why would you think that?”
“The look in your eyes…it scares me.”
Even though she was still timid, there was a candor to her voice he admired. There was some spirit left in there.
“It wasn’t directed at you. It was directed at him.” He didn’t try to lie to her and tell her he wasn’t angry, because he was. The man had taken so much from her…
“Do you think you can get my baby from him?” She asked hopefully, naively.
“I probably can’t, but the police will. Do you know where you were being held?”
“There were several different places. I think I was somewhere close to my parents’ house here lately, though.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I could smell the brine…from the lake.”
“Good, that’s good. What else did you notice?”
“We were in a neighborhood, not in the city proper. There wasn’t a lot of traffic.”
“That’s great, Arianna. You’re very observant. He pulled the small notebook out of his jacket he’d grabbed at home and wrote down her descriptions. “What else?”
“We were there longer than at any of the other places, and the kids went to school all year long. There was a park nearby too, with a bicycle jump. I could hear the kids jumping their bikes.”
“But there was no way you could escape?”
“The window was very small and he didn’t even know I could open it. It was an octagon split in four pieces with wood strips. I worked at it until I could easily pull out one of the panes of glass so I could get some fresh air. But it wasn’t as big as my face, so I could barely see, let alone try to escape.”
“I am so sorry.” The helplessness Justin felt was tremendous. He couldn’t imagine how she’d felt, being trapped by a madman for all these years.
“It’s nice to look at you after seeing him for so long.”
Her words surprised him, sending warmth coursing through his veins. “Thank you.” He gave a thousand-watt smile.
“You’re very good-looking. Are you a model?”
He laughed self-consciously. “Uh, no, I’m a computer tech. I own my own business. I repair computers and build new ones.”
She wrinkled her cute snub nose. “You’re a geek?”
“No, I’m not a geek. I don’t game, and I don’t watch comic book cartoons. I don’t like Star Wars, and can barely tolerate Star Trek.”
For the first time, she laughed. It wasn’t a giggle or a small snort; it was a full belly-busting laugh. His heart did pitter-patters, and for a minute he was afraid he was having an attack. He’d never experienced these feelings to such an extent before, and he was thirty years old. Could this be love? Was this what it felt like?
She continued to laugh, so he asked, “What’s so funny?”
“You are. You’re defending yourself for being a geek.” She burst out in laughter again, and he couldn’t help but join in.
“It’s okay to be a geek, you know. I was before all this…”
“But I really don’t like all that stuff.”
“Sure you don’t,” She teased.
A commotion at the door stopped their laughter. The police had arrived.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chapter two of 'Broken Dreams'


                                        Here's some awesome pictures to enjoy.

 
 

                                       



 
 
~Chapter Two ~

The room grew quiet as the nurse walked over to the computer mounted on the wall and pulled up a web page. She typed in Arianna’s name and thousands of search results popped-up. Even if the media was no longer following her story it was forever commemorated on the internet, keeping her memory and hope of her recovery alive.

The nurse ran her finger down the screen, stopping about midway down. She pulled out her cell phone. “I hope they haven’t changed their number…” She punched it into her phone.

“I wouldn’t change my number if my child were missing…” Justin began. He was cut off with the long, slender finger of Nurse Cooper as she held it up to shush him.

“Hello, Mrs. Rathburne? I’m a nurse at Saint Claire West Hospital in Harper’s Mill.”

“Yes?”

“We have a young woman named Arianna here. She says you’re her mother. ”

There was a pause, and Justin could hear someone yelling on the other end.

“I can assure you I’m not lying, ma’am. She was brought in a couple hours ago. Could you please come down?”

Another pause, but Justin didn’t hear the yelling anymore.

“I’m very serious. How long will it take you to get here?”

She turned to Arianna and smiled, holding her thumb upward, mouthed, ‘They’re on their way.’

 “Yes, ma’am, she’s gonna know who you are. She had a serious wound, but she’s stable now and asking to see you.”

There was another pause and Justin figured the parent was asking their daughter’s condition, and possibly where she’d been. He couldn’t imagine how he would feel if his daughter had gone missing and shown up years later…

Nurse Cooper spoke into the phone, her voice professional and compassionate. “We’ll discuss her case when you get here, ma’am. Drive safely.”

 She ended the call and looked up at the doctor, Justin, and finally Arianna.

“Are you ready to see your parents?”

A smile broke out on Arianna’s face and Justin’s breath caught in his throat. She was beautiful…No. He couldn’t let his mind go there. This woman had been traumatized, and she’d probably never get over it.

The smile faded from her face and she asked in whisper, “Do you think they’ll be mad at me?” She gripped Justin’s hand with an iron-like grip.

“Why would they be mad at you? You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But ‘the monster’ said they hated me and didn’t want me back because I was used goods.”

“He’s a liar.” Justin couldn’t believe the sound of vehemence issuing forth from his mouth. He barely knew this girl, but the fact the maniac had done such an emotional number on her made his blood boil in his chest. If he was in front of him right now, he’d…He stopped the thought dead in its tracks. That was the old Justin trying to push through again. The new Justin lived for God. He needed to feel love and forgiveness. But how did one feel forgiveness for such monsters, let alone love?

The doctor, who’d remained quiet until then broke in, “He only told you that to keep you docile. He probably hoped you wouldn’t try to run away.” He pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped his face before stuffing it back into his pocket. “Did you try to run away?”

Arianna didn’t answer but looked at Justin. When he nodded, she said, “I tried every day. He hurt me so badly.” She stopped talking and seemed lost in thought.

Justin watched as Nurse Cooper gave the doctor a look of concern and asked, “Do you think we should sedate her?”

The doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment. “No, I don’t think so, at least not yet. She’s already exhibited such strength of mind and character. I think she just needs some time. We’ll wait and see how she does with the reunion.”

Justin felt a wave of protectiveness come over him. There was no way he would let anyone hurt her again. He silently prayed, ‘Dear Father, lead me and guide me.’ He felt a calming peace overcome him. He was beginning to believe God had put him in this position on purpose. Was it possible?

He was pulled from his own private thoughts by her sweet, pleading voice. “Don’t leave me Justin.” Huge green eyes full of fear and anguish looked up at him.

Even if he’d been of a mind to leave before, there was no way he could now.

“I won’t leave, I promise.” He gave her hand a light squeeze. “I do have to use the restroom though. Is that okay?”

 At his words, terror filled her eyes and silent tears slid down her pale, hollow cheeks.

A strange ache filled his heart at the sight. “I’ll be right back, Arianna.”

He loved the way her name rolled off his tongue. He shrugged his shoulders, feeling self-conscious. He looked first at the doctor, then the nurse. Could they see the emotions overcoming him? He hoped not. She wasn’t even his type, for crying out loud.

Arianna reached out and grabbed his hand in a weak grip. “You’re sure you’ll come right back?” Her tears stopped their flow and glistened at the corners of her beautiful green orbs, the moisture causing long, red lashes to spike together.

He gave a gentle, reassuring smile. “I promise honey, I just have to use the bathroom.”

She laughed. “Okay, I guess I can trust you to do that.”

Surprise filled him at her laughter.

Her smile was infectious and he returned it before almost running from the room. His body had been telling him for almost an hour that the situation was getting dire. He searched for the nearest bathroom and rushed in the swinging door.

As soon as he was done he headed back to her room, as promised.

As he reached her doorway he heard Dr. Anderson say, “Arianna, would you like something to eat?”

And her answer.

“No, I--”

Justin pushed through the door. “Yes, she’ll have a tray, and so will I.” He gave her a stern glare, hoping it would convince her.

She looked up at him, then quickly away. “Okay, if Justin’s eating, I guess I will, too.” She hesitated, said in a small, quiet voice, “I don’t like peas…”

They all laughed.

It was nice that there was still a little bit of normalcy to her life. Justin pulled his mind from that line of thinking. He needed to stay focused on her, not how he felt about what had happened to her. “What else don’t you like?”

“I don’t like spinach, and I don’t like greens.” She wrinkled her cute nose and he noticed a very light smattering of freckles across the bridge of the little nub. She wore a look of pretended horror now and he couldn’t stop the thought that popped into his mind; It must be nice for her to think about mundane things, rather than whether she’d live out the next day or not.

He wanted to share a small part of himself with her so she’d feel more comfortable divulging more of who she’d become over the long, hard years of her horrific captivity.

“I can’t say I blame you. I don’t like spinach or greens, either. I hate pickles, too.”

“I’m not a real picky eater. I love cake. He would--” She stopped before finishing what she’d been about to say.

“He would what?” Justin asked gently. He gave her a look that said she could trust him, but still she hesitated.

“I don’t want to think about him right now. What’s on the menu?”

Dr. Anderson looked up from the chart he’d been studying. “I think they’re having roast beef and mashed potatoes.”

She grasped Justin’s hand, looked into his eyes. “That sounds so good.”

Justin’s heart turned when her eyes met his. There was just something about her--

There was a commotion at the door and an older couple came rushing through.

“Arianna,” The woman yelled. She rushed over to the bed and hugged the skeletal figure who’d gone rigid at the physical contact, not realizing the discomfort she was causing. “I was so afraid,” shesobbed on Arianna’s bony shoulders.

“Oh honey, we’re so happy your back.” The older man enthused as he wrapped the similar-looking women in his embrace.

Arianna pulled away from her mother, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I thought you would hate me.”

“Why would you think that?” Her mother cried.

“Because he said you wouldn’t want me back because I was used goods now.” Her voice sounded like it must’ve when she’d been an immature teenager; unsure and hoping for acceptance.

Her father said, “He was just telling you that honey. We would never be mad at you over something like this. It isn’t your fault in any way.”

Justin heard the same vehemence in her father’s tone he’d recognized in his own, and that scared him. What did that mean? He would have to file it and examine it later.

###

After the initial reunion was over, Arianna’s parents noticed the other people in the room. Their gazes flitted from the doctor to the nurse, and then stopped on Justin.

His voice full of suspicion, Arianna’s dad asked, “Who are you?

Justin rushed forward with a hand thrust out, “I’m Justin Hollander. I’m the one who discovered your daughter on the jogging trail this morning.”

Her father took his hand and gave it a firm shake. “We can’t thank you enough.”

“We’re so grateful for what you’ve done--” Her mother added.

“I’m sure you have other things to attend to, you can take it from here,” her father said.

“I--” He was cut-off by Arianna.

“No. I want him to stay. He can’t leave.”

Both parents looked at the doctor. He shook his head. “She’s made it clear she won’t communicate with us unless he’s present, so we let him stay.” He shrugged as if to say, ‘what can I do?’

Her father pulled his shoulders back and gave Justin a dirty look. “Okay--Is there something we aren’t being told?”

The nurse jumped in. “What do you mean?”

Her father’s tone had lost all semblance of politeness. “How does she really know this guy?”

The nurse was quick to defend Justin. “He tripped over your daughter out on the jogging trail at Gobbler Park. That’s the extent of their acquaintance.”

###

Noise from the hallway stopped the conversation and Justin gasped in outrage when he saw four cameramen with huge cameras trying to push through the doorway. He was already on his way to stop them when a reporter finally burst through the mass of human bodies.

“My name Is Janice Westmeyer and I’m with Channel Two News. Is it true that Arianna Rathburne has returned?”

She shoved a mic in Justin’s face, and anger leapt to the surface. “How dare you. This is a private room. Who gave you permission to be in here?”

“We have freedom of the press, sir.” She looked him up and down with obvious insolence before resting her gaze on his face. “What’s your name?”

“You don’t have freedom of the press in a private room,” He enunciated each word as if talking to a child as he grabbed her shoulder and began to propel her back through the door with a gentle hand.

Just as the female reporter reached the opening, one of the cameramen stuck in the fray shoved through, pushing her back into Justin. He went flying across the room and hit his head on the metal frame of the hospital bed. He grunted in pain, but got right to his feet. “Nurse Cooper, maybe you should get Harry.”

“I’m already on it.” She moved her hefty body through the mass of humanity in the doorway like an athlete at the games, easily thrusting them aside. She returned just a few seconds later with the security guard in tow.

“You all gotta leave.” He motioned for the reporters to move away from the door and closed it with a firm click when they were on the other side.

“Wow, they’re persistent folk, aren’t they?” He mopped his brow with a green handkerchief. “Is everything okay in here?”

“I think it’s going to be fine,” Dr. Anderson said. He walked over and checked Justin’s head. “Nurse, get this man an ice pack.”

“Yes, doctor.”

“Who called the press?” Arianna’s father demanded.

“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.” Dr. Anderson answered. He left the room, closing the door behind him with a quiet click.

 “Are you okay, Justin?” Arianna asked in concern.

Her father scowled over at him. “He just bumped his head, pumpkin. He’ll be okay.”

Arianna shrank under the covers and whispered, “Are you mad Daddy?”

He rushed to her side with quick steps. “No angel, I just think your time would be better spent concentrating on yourself for now.” He stroked her hair. “What happened to your throat?”

And the battle lines were drawn. Her father had taken a dis-liking to him for no apparent reason. He prayed silently, ‘What now, Lord? If this is the girl I’m supposed to be with, what am I supposed to do?’

Arianna’s voice pulled him from his silent pray.

“I’ve missed you so much, daddy. I’ve prayed over and over the last ten years this day would come, but never in all that time did I imagine you would be rude to the person responsible for my rescue, or that I would feel fear of you.” Tears slid down her cheeks.

Her father moved to console her, but she held up a hand to stop him. She looked over at Justin, silent appeal in her emerald eyes. She held out a hand toward him.

Justin couldn’t help it. His body moved toward the bed with volition of its own. He took her hand and sat in the chair at her side, knowing she’d just made the battle that much harder.

He didn’t know how he’d feel if something like this ever happened to a daughter of his. What he did know was what Arianna had just done must seem like betrayal to the father who loved her… “Sir, I can leave and let you guys get re-acquainted.”

“No, don’t bother. Apparently she’s picked you, a virtual stranger, over her own parents,” He accused. But there was hurt in his voice.

Justin rushed to Arianna’s defense, but also wanting to console the older man. “I don’t think that’s what’s happening, sir. I think she’s just overwrought, and since I’m the one who found her…”

He was interrupted again, this time by her mother. “She’s just tired, dear. Calm yourself. This is not a godly manner. We don’t want to add to her stress.”

Her father rubbed a big, beefy hand over his brow. “I’m sorry, Ari. I don’t know what I was thinking.” He gave Justin a contrite look. “I’m sorry for my rudeness son. This is just such a big event--”

Justin nodded. “I totally understand Mr. Rathburne.”

At that moment an aide brought in two trays of food.

The doctor finally spoke after being silent through the whole personal exchange, “Why don’t you folks go down to the cafeteria and get some coffee while your daughter eats?”

Arianna’s mom smiled at her daughter before turning to her husband. “Yes, let’s go Lenny. Coffee sounds delightful right now.”

After they left Arianna and Justin ate their meal in silence. Justin was overjoyed at Arianna’s appetite. It was a good sign.

When she finished, Arianna wiped her mouth with a napkin and tossed it on her empty plate. “Whoever said hospital food wasn’t any good obviously hasn’t eaten here. That was delicious.”

“It was good, I’ll have to say. Arianna, I don’t want to--”

She surprised him by reaching up and laying one long, slender finger across his lips. “Hush now. I want you here. For ten long, excruciating years I’ve not had my way, but it’s my turn now.”

How could he argue with that? The silent appeal in her eyes spoke louder than her words. There was only one response; “Okay.”

She smiled, but it disappeared as suddenly as it appeared.

He gazed deeply into her eyes. He wished he knew what she was thinking, but he didn’t know her well enough: yet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The New Story is called 'Broken Dreams.'

       

Here are some really cool storm clouds from last year. I'm hoping to get some even better ones this year...













        I feel I should add a note to those who would rather read stories full of fantasy and fluff: This story probably isn't for you. Even though all may turn-out well, the reality of the heroine's trials and travails aren't for the more squeamish reader. I do hope you enjoy this first chapter, though. Leave a comment to let me know what you think. :)
Prologue
                   May 2012

 
        She glimpsed out the window, her face an open book. The pain and humiliation she’d suffered at the hands of ‘the monster’ was plain on her face. She silently willed the passersby to glance up to where she stood, but it was no use. She’d done this same thing thousands of times in the last ten years, with the same result. No one would ever find her here. Despair filled her heart.

The butter knife Arianna had taken at supper the night before lay heavily in her hand. She lightly tossed it back and forth, not sure she could go through with her plan. She took a deep breath and brought the knife up to her throat. She squeezed her eyes shut, prayed, “Heavenly Father, please forgive me.” She yanked the knife roughly across her neck in one quick jerk. She felt the blood spurting from the ragged wound in her neck and tried not to concentrate on the pain. ‘Take me quickly, Father!’ She begged silently as tears of remorse flowed down her sallow cheeks.

Suddenly, the attic door burst open and ‘the monster’ rushed through it. “Arianna, where is my knife?” He bellowed. He stopped in his tracks when he took in the sight before him. “No!” He screamed in tormented agony. He rushed over and tried to stop the flow of blood spurting from the deep gash in her neck. “My precious Arianna, what have you done?”

She lost consciousness, oblivious to the frantic ministrations of her captor. When he realized he couldn’t stop the blood, he made a decision: He would take her some place where somebody would find her.
                              ###

~ Chapter One ~

Justin raged in his mind as he pounded the trail beneath him. Who did she think she was? He was a grown man and he wouldn’t have her meddling in his affairs as if he were a child. He owned his own business, for Pete’s sake. He reached down to turn the sermon he was listening to up a notch higher. His actions weren’t very godly right now, and he needed to concentrate on what he was listening to. He began to pray out loud, “Dear Father, please forgive me for my attitude. Please strengthen me in this area, a…” He tripped over something on the well-worn path. He was tempted to kick whatever it was, maybe that would alleviate some of the frustration he was feeling.

When he looked down, he gasped in horror, “Oh my goodness.” There was a woman lying there, bleeding profusely through a white towel wrapped around her neck. Everything he’d learned in all those first aid classes crowded through his mind, but none of them had prepared him for this. He jerked out his phone and dialed 911. “Yes, there’s a woman lying on the path in Gobbler Park. She’s bleeding, a lot. There’s a white towel wrapped around her throat, please hurry.”

“Sir, what side of the park is the path on? I need to know more precisely. Is the wound spurting blood?” The operator asked, rapid-fire.

“I’m on the south-side, on the jogging trail. Can’t you use my GPS to track me?”

“Yes we can.” A minute later she came back, “The ambulance is on the way. Can you tell me who the victim is?”

“I have no clue. I was jogging and tripped over her.” The young woman began to moan and Justin worried she would move her head and cause more bleeding.

“Sir, is she still bleeding?”

“I don’t know. She’s starting to wake-up.” He could hear the ambulance in the distance, and he silently thanked God for the quick response. He wasn’t a doctor, but even he could see she’d lost a lot of blood.

Arianna could hear someone yelling above her. There was a searing pain in her throat and her head was throbbing to the beat of its own bass drum. “I’m thirsty.” She whispered quietly.

Justin immediately grabbed for the small canteen he kept around his waist when jogging. “She’s asking for something to drink. Should I give it to her?”

“No. Don’t give her anything to eat or drink. Does it look like she’s bleeding heavier now?”

“I can’t tell. I think it’s drying-up but I’m not sure.” The ambulance screeched to a halt beside them. Justin looked up in gratitude. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

The path became a flurry of activity as the paramedics went about putting the woman on a stretcher. They picked it up to load it on the back of the ambulance and she screamed, “No! Where is he? Where is the guy who was here a minute ago?” They had immobilized her, and she couldn’t move her head to see he was just to her right.

“He’s just a jogger, ma’am. He doesn’t know you.” The heavy-set paramedic explained as they tried to lift her again.

“No, I want him to go with me!” She screamed, half-delirious.

The skinny paramedic warned, “Ma’am, you need to quit screaming, you’re causing your wound to bleed again.”

“Don’t leave me.”

The pitiful cry of terror pulled at the heartstrings of Justin Hollander. How did he get mixed up in these things, anyway? He was forever getting pulled into the weirdest situations…

“I’m sorry. I have to get to work. I’ll call and check on you later.” He walked over and stood above her stretcher.

“No.” The skeletonized young woman began to sob. They were huge, wracking sobs that were causing her wound to ooze blood. Justin didn’t know if he could hack seeing her the way she was. Her face was nothing but skin and bone. Her lips were cracked and bleeding and her hair hung in lanky clumps of red. Her eyes were…well, her eyes were what caused him to pause. They were full of despair and horror, but more than that; a glimmer of hope. It was that last emotion he couldn’t deal with. For some unknown reason she’d placed her hope in him. She reached out one long, skeletal arm and clasped onto his hand with her bird-like talon.

He looked down at that pitiful hand, and caved. “Okay, I’ll go with you.” The paramedics picked her up and slid her into the back with no protest this time. He said a silent prayer to God and hopped into the ambulance beside her.

The bigger paramedic began to secure her, asking her questions as he went about his duties. She didn’t answer, just looked at him questioningly.

“What’s your name?” Justin asked. He was trying to avoid looking at her as the paramedic pulled the towel away from the wound. He wasn’t afraid of the sight of blood, he just didn’t like it.

“I’m Arianna, who are you?”

“My name’s Justin Hollander.”

“Like the actor?” She returned. Justin knew she was in shock and probably wouldn’t remember any of this later on. That saddened him for some unknown reason.

“Yes, like the actor. He was used to the teasing question every time he told someone his name. “Arianna’s a beautiful name. What’s your last name?” He looked over at the paramedic, who gave him a slight nod.

She clammed up. Justin could almost see the wall slamming in place. She waited a minute, and then asked, “Was ‘the monster’ there?”

“What monster?” He looked at the paramedic, afraid Arianna had become full-blown delirious.

The paramedic asked, “Do you see monsters?”

She pointedly ignored the man and returned her gaze to Justin. “Did you see a huge man with a hair-lip and a limp? He’s the one who took me. He must’ve brought me here.” Her head fell to the side.

She’d passed-out again, probably from a combination of the trauma and the drama.

“What do you make of that?” Justin asked the paramedic.

He’d finally finished checking the wound on her neck and looked up at Justin with a serious expression on his face. “I’m not sure what to make of it. She could be correct, or she could be delusional.”

Justin was confused. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know how long she’s suffered whatever trauma she’s been going through. From what I can detect, even from a cursory examination, it’s been quite some time. She may be off in her own little world.”

Swift anger burned inside him. “I’m no expert, but she didn’t seem crazy to me. She seemed very much intact.”  His stiffened shoulders dropped. He didn’t even know this woman. Why was he defending her so hotly?

“Calm down, mister, I don’t mean anything bad or disrespectful. It happens a lot when a victim has been traumatized to her extent.”

“How do you know to what extent she’s been traumatized?”

“She’s got several bones that have been broken and healed improperly, most likely from lack of real hospital care. She’s severely malnourished and filthy, not to mention hostile to those trying to help her.”

“She hasn’t been hostile to me.”

“That’s very strange, too. I think she’s bonded with you for some reason.” The paramedic got up to open the door. They’d pulled into the hospital in front of the emergency room doors. “In any case the doctors will probably need you to stick around long enough to calm her if she wakes before they sedate her.” He hopped down and he and the skinny paramedic rushed Arianna into the hospital, leaving him to trail behind them.

Justin thought very seriously about skipping-out. By the time she woke-up it would be too late to make him feel guilty, he’d already be gone. The thought brought immediate guilt to mind. How could he ditch someone who so obviously needed him?

The inner doors were just beginning to shut when he pushed them open with a burst of strength. He rushed through them, but was stopped by a beefy-looking security guard. “Where do you think you’re going?”

He jerked his head toward the quickly disappearing gurney. “I’m going with her. She asked me not to leave her.” His own desperation surprised him. He had a pile of computers at the store he needed to check out and some parts he needed to order, not to mention the inventory he needed to catch-up on. But ever since he’d tripped over that poor victimized woman, she’d become his first order of business. He’d even forgotten the early-morning call he’d gotten from his mother.

The guard’s voice softened, but remained firm. “It’s hospital policy that only family members can accompany someone into the emergency room. I’m sorry.”

“But…” Justin began.

The guard cut him off. “I’ll give you updates if you want to take a seat in the waiting room while they check her in.”

Justin thought about arguing, but knew there was no point. The guard couldn’t let him in even if he wanted to, he’d get fired. “Okay, I’ll be right over there in the chair by the water fountain.” He pointed to one of the striped, cloth-covered chairs and made his way over to it.

After fifteen minutes he was bored almost to tears. Maybe he would call his mom and apologize for the way he’d talked to her earlier. It was true, he was a thirty year old man, but he still needed to respect his mother. He pulled his phone out and punched in her number.

“Mom, I just wanted to apologize for the way I talked to you this morning.”

“Your apology is accepted, Justin. I wasn’t trying to pry. I’m worried about you.” He could hear the tears in her voice and fresh remorse flowed through him that he’d caused her undue stress.

“Mom, I know you mean well, but I’m not interested in Megan Williams. If I thought for one second we’d be a good match I’d get to know her better.”

“Why don’t you think you’d make a good match?” There was timidity in her voice and he hated it, because he’d caused it. She was afraid to make him angry for fear he might yell at her.

He wrestled with the truth, but decided honesty was the best policy in this situation. “I don’t know how well you know her, but she goes to raves and smokes pot.” He held his breath and waited for his mother’s response.

“She does not.”

“Yes she does, and she isn’t the least bit ashamed of the fact. She told everyone at church but the pastor.”

“That’s not good. I’m sorry Justin. I’m just worried you’ll never find the right woman. You’re not getting any younger, you know. I want some grandchildren before I die.”

Justin laughed. He knew there had to be a reason she was pushing every single woman in the church congregation on him. “You’re going to outlive me mom.”

“No I’m not, son. You know I have Alzheimer’s. Even if you give me grandchildren I may not remember who they are. You need to provide me with some babies before my mind goes.” There was fear in her voice, and he felt another wave of guilt assail him.

“I’ll start looking, if you really want me to.”

“I do. Thank you Justin.”

“I love you, Mom.” He ended the call just as someone rushed through the swinging door out of the E.R.

A harried-looking, middle-aged nurse stopped in front of him. “Did you come in with the kidnap victim?”

“I did.”

“She won’t cooperate with us. The only thing she’s said is she won’t say anything if it isn’t you she’s talking to.”

“I tried to come back with her but the guard wouldn’t let me.”

“Harry was just doing his job. Will you come and see if you can get anything out of her? We’re going to have to sedate her if she doesn’t calm down.”

Justin got up to follow the nurse. The guard looked over at him and smiled. “Good luck.”

Justin returned his smile. “Thanks.”

When he got to Arianna’s room, he barely recognized her. They’d cleaned her face, and even tried to brush out her hair. It was still filthy, but no longer tangled. There was a huge white bandage on her throat. He looked up at the nurse. “What did they do to the cut on her throat?”

“She got some stitches. It turns out it wasn’t deep enough to do any lasting damage, at least since she got to the hospital so fast.”

“Do you know how it happened?”

“She won’t talk to us. We were hoping maybe you could get her to open up. It seems she’s taken a liking to you.”

At the sound of Justin’s voice Arianna’s head swung in his direction. “Justin.” There was so much meaning in the way she said his name his heart thumped to his toes and back up into his chest. She trusted him. She must feel so alone…

“I’m here now.” He rushed over and picked-up one of her talon-like hands in his own. It was so bony, and cold. “Why is your hand so cold?”

“It’s probably just the IV they’re giving me. Don’t leave again, promise me.”

He looked up at the doctor, and he nodded his head. “I won’t. I hear you won’t answer any of their questions. They need some answers so they can treat you.” He gently rubbed her tiny hand in his.

“I’m afraid of them. You ask me.”

“They probably need to know your full name, and if your allergic to anything.” This seemed logical to him, anyway. The doctor smiled, and this gave him more confidence. “They probably also need your birthdate and where you lived before all this…” He stopped, worried how she would feel if he said it out in the open.

“You can say it, Justin. I was kidnapped. I was raped. I was beaten and mistreated…” She broke-off into quiet sobs. He moved toward her, putting an arm around her slender shoulders. He was alarmed at the sharpness of her shoulder bones, but didn’t let her see it.

“It’s okay, honey. Tell us what you can,” He encouraged.

“He took me from the Stop and Shop when I was sixteen. My name is Arianna Michaela Rathburne.” The nurse and doctor both gasped in recognition.

“I remember you!” Nurse Cooper exclaimed. “It was all over the news!”

The doctor’s response was somewhat calmer. “I remember you too. Your parents must be so worried. Can we call them for you?”

Horror filled the woman’s eyes. She looked up at Justin imploringly. “Please don’t let them call my parents. They’re going to hate me.” Tears slid down her hollow cheeks and Justin’s own eyes watered at the sight of her suffering.

“They’re not going to hate you, Arianna.” He gently pulled her chin toward him. “Look at me.” When she complied, he continued, “They’re going to be ecstatic you’re alive, honey. Let us call them.”

She seemed to be considering it, tears still streaming down her once-beautiful face. Finally, she shrugged. “Okay, but you have to stay with me.” She grasped his arm with surprising strength and looked up into his face with such uncertainty his heart broke. Who would do this to another human being?

As Justin pulled out his phone and waited for her to give him the number, he couldn’t help thinking how quickly one’s life can change. This morning all he could think about was his business. But at the moment, all he could think about was this slender, broken little bird lying helplessly in a hospital bed, afraid to face her parents. He still had questions to ask, and answers to receive, but they could wait.