~ Chapter Six ~
Justin went home and dove into bed. The day had been a long one and he needed to recoup both physical and mental faculties. He would start out tomorrow with a plan to look for Arianna’s son.
It seemed so logical in thought. Execution wasn’t so easy. He tossed. And turned. And tossed some more. Her beautiful eyes haunted him. Her smiling lips enticed one in return. The hurt displayed in her very being at her father’s unkind words kept playing over and over in his mind.
He heaved a huge sigh. A glass of water might help the situation. He got up and padded to the kitchen on bare feet. The cold water was refreshing, comforting his dry throat, but that was the extent of it. He went into the living room and turned on the TV. The news channel it was sitting on displayed a red banner across the bottom with Arianna’s name splashed across it. He’d forgotten for a moment she’d become famous all those years ago.
He used the remote to switch it off and stomped back to his room. What was he going to do? His mind wouldn’t shut-up.
Pray. He nodded, as if the suggestion was an audible one. “That’s what I’ll do.”
He dropped to his knees. “Dear Lord, please lead me. Guide me to Your will in this situation and give me wisdom and ability to achieve.” He dropped off praying, staying in the position for a long time. Silent. Waiting on God. Although he didn’t receive an answer at that moment, when he stood up, he felt at peace. He returned to bed and dropped off to sleep almost instantly.
Arianna lay in the hospital bed, grieving. She missed her baby. All the emotions she’d gone through during her pregnancy ordeal seemed so silly now. She’d wondered if she’d hate the child conceived in such monstrous sin. How could she love a child garnered through rape?
Her face burned at the remembrance that popped to mind. She’d thought about smothering it. How could she have thought to do such a thing? To a child of her own womb? But never mind all that useless garbage. The minute she’d heard his first cry, she was in love.
That was two weeks ago. Those weeks seemed like an eternity. She couldn’t imagine what life was like without him. He’d given her the courage to end it all. How could she live knowing he’d spend his life in the same captivity she’d experienced for so long? Maybe his father would teach him to do the same.
An unstoppable “No!” burst forth.
That’s when she’d made plans to exit the picture. Maybe without her ‘The Monster’ might drop him off at a hospital or police station. After all, his plans to bring in another girl would leave him little time for a child.
As horrible as her next thought had been, she let the memory flow. Her precious child might be better off dead. In the arms of God than the monster who’d spawned him.
Silent tears slid down her cheeks. He was hungry. Her body told her that. The empty ache filling her was something she’d never experienced, even with everything she’d been through. If she lost her child, there truly would be no reason to continue on. Sobs shook her body and she was unable to stem the outpouring of grief.
“Are you okay, ma’am?”
Her head jerked toward the voice, but the room was too dark to see. She’d thought she was alone. “Who’s there?”
“It’s just me, ma’am.” A tall, skinny police officer stepped into the dim lighting.
She studied him for a moment. “Only if you can get Justin for me.”
“Ma’am, I can’t do that without permission.”
“I’m giving it to you.”
“From your parents.”
Anger filled her, even as tears continued to course down her cheeks. “I am an adult. I can make my own decisions.”
He moved forward, holding a pen and a piece of paper. “That’s not what I was told, ma’am. I’m sorry.”
Her fury grew. Through clenched teeth she said, “I just need to hear his voice. Is that too much to ask after everything I’ve been through? I don’t know why my parents feel threatened by him but I assure you he isn’t going to hurt me. He saved me. Out there on that trail, I would’ve died. Do you know how many people passed me up? Some even tripped over me, yet kept going.”
He shook his head. “I know. Our world is an atrocious place to live.” He looked down at the piece of paper and moved the pen across it, folded it up and handed it to her. He put a finger to his lips.
She understood. He was giving her Justin’s number, but she couldn’t tell anyone. How she’d explain having it wasn’t a worry right now. Talking to him was.
The police officer sat the hospital phone in front of her and left the room as silently as he’d entered.
She called Justin. It rang and rang, but he didn’t answer. The receiver was almost back to the base when she heard his groggy, “Hello?”
She pulled the receiver back to her ear. “Justin?”
“Arianna? Is everything all right?”
He sounded panicked.
“I…I just needed to hear your voice. Did I wake you?”
“Yes but it’s okay. I don’t mind.”
“My parents aren’t in here right now. I don’t know why they’re insisting I don’t talk to you, but I’m an adult.”
She went silent.
“Arianna? Are you there?”
“Yes. I feel better just knowing you’re on the other end of the phone. You make me feel safe.” The admission surprised her considering her vows never to trust another man. Never to be in a situation where someone could hurt her. Mentally or physically.
“I’m honored,” he said quietly.
“Justin, before you found me on that trail I wanted to die. I saw no way out. I’ve been praying for years for some miracle to save me, but nothing happened. Until you.”
“I’m glad I found you.”
“I am too. I think God sent you to rescue me.”
“I don’t know about that. Someone else could’ve found you first.”
She shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “I was just telling the police officer how several people passed me by. Some even tripped over me, yet kept going. No, you’re the one.”
“I’m going to look for your son tomorrow.”
Arianna caught her breath. See, he is the one. “Oh Justin. Thank you so much. I don’t know how you’ll ever find him with so little to go on, but I know you’ll do everything in your power.”
“How do you know,” He asked.
She shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know. I just do.”
Voice sounding hesitant, Justin asked, “Arianna, do you think he might hurt him?”
“I don’t think so. He really seems to love him.” She began to cry again. “I hope not.” She wasn’t sure about anything. All she knew at the moment was she was tired of the seesawing emotions and the tears. She believed in God, she just didn’t understand him. Why had he let her suffer so much?
She stifled a sob, but not before Justin detected it.
“Are you crying?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
His words were tender. Caring. “Don’t be sorry, Arianna.”
“I can’t help it. Every time I think I might start acting normal, my emotions go crazy again. I’ll be lucky if my parents don’t commit me over this.”
“I won’t let that happen.”
He sounded so sure. She wanted to believe him. “I’m tired now. Thank you for talking to me. I have your number. I’ll call when I can.”
The dial tone was Justin’s cue she’d hung up. He sat up on the bed and ran long, slender fingers through disheveled hair. “Dear Lord, I don’t know why she has such confidence in me. I have none for myself. Please help me help her.”
He lay back on the bed and tried to fall asleep, but it didn’t come. He was left to feel all kinds of emotions over the tormented woman he’d saved from death earlier in the day. How had she survived with any sanity intact? He knew he wouldn’t.
He tossed and turned. Covered and uncovered. All night long. The last thing he was aware of was the pink streaks of dawn splashing across the sky.
He watched the girl through a secret slot in the wall. She looked scared, but spunky. Excitement ran through him. He slid a piece of cardboard back over the slot and promised himself, “soon.”
The baby was crying. His first reaction was anger, but reaching the crib he took one look and smiled. A mini version of himself. Every man’s desire. “Yes Chance, you’re a keeper, but I know your mommy. She’ll never give up trying to get you back. In a few days, it’ll be moving day. Daddy’s got to find a place first, though.”
He moved to the mini fridge and pulled out a pre-made bottle. He unscrewed the nipple and stuck it in the microwave thinking it was a good thing Arianna had prepared several ahead of time.
It was a shame. She would’ve been a great mother. The microwave beeped and he got the bottle and screwed the lid back on. He tested it on his arm like he’d seen women do on TV and picked up his son, settling in the wooden rocking chair.
As soon as the nipple entered the baby’s mouth, he quieted. The only noise the slurping of eager little lips.
He dozed, only waking when the sound of air being pulled from the bottle alerted him the baby was finished. He patted his back to release all the gas bubbles, changed him and returned him to the crib.
He looked back at the baby once more, turned and exited the room, pulling the door shut behind him.