The fear and regret in his voice is causing my heart to race against my chest. I somehow find strength to speak, despite the fear consuming me. “What never would have happened?”

He kisses me on the forehead again and his thumbs brush delicately over my cheekbones. He looks at me like he’s scared he’s about to break my heart.

“They took you. Whoever was in that car, they took you from your dad, from me, from Les. You’ve been missing for thirteen years, Hope.”

Saturday, October 27th, 2012 11:57 p.m.

One of the things I love about books is being able to define and condense certain portions of a characters life into chapters. It’s intriguing, because you can’t do this with real life. You can’t just end a chapter, then skip the things you don’t want to live through, only to open it up to a chapter that better suits your mood. Life can’t be divided into chapters...only minutes. The events of your life are all crammed together one minute right after the other without any time lapses or blank pages or chapter breaks because no matter what happens life just keeps going and moving forward and words keep flowing and truths keep spewing whether you like it or not and life never lets you pause and just catch your fucking breath.

I need one of those chapter breaks. I just want to catch my breath, but I have no idea how.

“Say something,” he says. I’m still sitting in his lap, wrapped around him. My head is pressed against his shoulder and my eyes are shut. He places his hand on the back of my head and lowers his mouth to my ear, holding me tighter. “Please. Say something.”

I don’t know what he wants me to say. Does he want me to act surprised? Shocked? Does he want me to cry? Does he want me to scream? I can’t do any of those things because I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what he’s saying.

“You’ve been missing for thirteen years, Hope.”

His words repeat over and over in my mind like a broken record.

“Missing.”

I’m hoping he means missing in a figurative sense, like maybe he’s just missed me all these years. I doubt that’s the case, though. I could see the look in his eyes when he said those words, and he didn’t want to say them at all. He knew what it would do to me.

Maybe he really does mean missing in the literal sense, but he’s just confused. We were both so young; he probably doesn’t remember the sequence of events correctly. But the last two months flash before my eyes, and everything about him…all of his personalities and mood swings and cryptic words come into clear focus. Like the night he was standing in my doorway and said he’d been looking for me his whole damn life. He was being literal about that.

Or our first night sitting right here on this runway when he asked if I’d had a good life. He’s worried for thirteen years about what happened to me. He was being very literal then, wanting to know if I was happy with where I ended up.

Or the day he refused to apologize for the way he acted in the cafeteria, explaining that he knew why it upset him but he just couldn’t tell me yet. I didn’t question it then, because he seemed sincere that he wanted to explain himself one day. Never in a million years could I have guessed why it upset him so much to see that bracelet on me. He didn’t want me to be Hope because he knew the truth would break my heart.

He was right.

“You’ve been missing for thirteen years, Hope.”

The last word of his sentence sends a shiver down my spine. I slowly lift my face away from his shoulder and look at him. “You called me Hope. Don’t call me that. It’s not my name.”

He nods. “I’m sorry, Sky.”

The last word of that sentence sends a shiver down my spine as well. I slide off of him and stand up. “Don’t call me that, either,” I say resolutely. I don’t want to be called Hope or Sky or Princess or anything else that separates me from any other part of myself. I’m suddenly feeling like I’m completely different people, wrapped up into one. Someone who doesn’t know who she is or where she belongs and it’s disturbing. I’ve never felt so isolated in my life; like there isn’t a single person in this entire world I can trust. Not even myself. I can’t even trust my own memories.

Holder stands up and takes my hands, looking down at me. He’s watching me, waiting for me to react. He’ll be disappointed because I’m not going to react. Not right here. Not right now. Part of me wants to cry while he wraps his arms around me and whispers, “Don’t worry,” into my ear. Part of me wants to scream and yell and hit him for deceiving me. Part of me wants to allow him to continue to blame himself for not stopping what he says happened thirteen years ago. Most of me just wants it all to go away, though. I want to go back to feeling nothing again. I miss the numbness.

I pull my hands from his and begin to walk toward the car. “I need a chapter break,” I say, more to myself than to him.

He follows a step behind me. “I don’t even know what that means.” His voice sounds defeated and overwhelmed. He grabs my arm to stop me, more than likely to ask how I’m feeling, but I jerk it away and spin around to face him again. I don’t want him to ask me how I’m feeling, because I have no idea. I’m running through an entire gamut of feelings right now, some I’ve never even experienced before. Rage and fear and sadness and disbelief are building up inside of me and I want it to stop. I just want to stop feeling everything that I’m feeling, so I reach up and grab his face and press my lips to his. I kiss him hard and fast, wanting him to react, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t kiss me back. He refuses to help make the pain go away like this, so my anger takes over and I separate my lips from his, then slap him.

He barely flinches and it infuriates me. I want him to hurt like I’m hurting. I want him to feel what his words just did to me. I slap him again and he allows it. When he still doesn’t react, I push against his chest. I push him and shove him over and over—trying to give him back every ounce of pain he’s just immersed into my soul. I ball my fists up and hit him in the chest and when that doesn’t work, I start screaming and hitting him and trying to get out of his arms because they’re wrapped around me now. He spins me around so that my back is against his chest and our arms are locked together, folded tightly across my stomach.

“Breathe,” he whispers into my ear. “Calm down, Sky. I know you’re confused and scared, but I’m here. I’m right here. Just breathe.”

His voice is calm and comforting and I close my eyes and soak it in. He simulates a deep breath, moving his chest in rhythm with mine, forcing me to take a breath and follow his lead. I take several slow, deep breaths in time with his. When I’ve stopped struggling in his arms, he slowly turns me around and pulls me into his chest.

“I didn’t want you to hurt like this,” he whispers, cradling my head in his hands. “That’s why I haven’t told you.”

I realize in this moment that I’m not even crying. I haven’t cried at all since the truth passed his lips and I make it a point to refuse the tears that are demanding to be set free. Tears won’t help me right now. They’ll just make me weaker.

I place my palms on his chest and lightly push against him. I feel like I’m vulnerable to more tears when he holds me because he feels so comforting. I don’t need anyone’s comfort. I need to learn how to rely on myself to stay strong because I’m the only one I can trust—and I’m even skeptical about my own trustworthiness. Everything I thought I knew has been a lie. I don’t know who’s in on it or who knows the truth and I find myself without an ounce of trust left in my heart. Not for Holder, not for Karen…not even for myself, really.

I back a step away from him and look him in the eyes. “Were you ever going to tell me who I was?” I ask, glaring at him. “What if I never remembered? Would you have ever told me? Were you scared I would leave you and you’d never get your chance to screw me? Is that why you’ve been lying to me this whole time?”

His eyes awash with offense the moment the words flow from my lips. “No, babe. That’s not how it was. That’s not how it is. I haven’t told you because I’m scared of what will happen to you. If I report it, they’ll take you from Karen. They’ll more than likely arrest her and send you back to live with your father until you turn eighteen. Do you want that to happen? You love Karen and you’re happy here. I didn’t want to mess that up for you.”

I release a quick laugh and shake my head. His reasoning makes no sense. None of this makes any sense. “First of all,” I say. “They wouldn’t put Karen in jail because I can guarantee you she knows nothing about this. Second, I’ve been eighteen since September. If my age was the reason you weren’t being honest, you would have told me by now.”

He squeezes the back of his neck and looks down at the ground. I don’t like the nervousness seeping from him right now. I can tell by the way he’s reacting that he isn’t finished with the confessions.

“Sky, there’s so much I still need to explain to you.” He brings his eyes back up to meet mine. “Your birthday wasn’t in September. Your birthday is May 7th. You don’t even turn eighteen for six more months. And Karen?” He takes a step toward me, grabbing both of my hands. “She has to know, Sky. She has to. Think about it. Who else could have done this?”

I immediately pull my hands from his and back away. I know this has more than likely been torture for him, keeping this secret to himself. I can see in his eyes that it’s agonizing for him having to tell me all of this. But I’ve been giving him the benefit of the doubt since the moment I met him, and any sorrow I felt for him has just been negated by the fact that he’s now attempting to tell me that my own mother was somehow involved.

“Take me home,” I demand. “I don’t want to hear anything else. I don’t want to know anything else tonight.”

He tries to take my hands again, but I slap them away. “TAKE ME HOME!” I scream. I begin walking back to the car. I’ve heard enough. I need my mom. I just need to see her and hug her and know that I’m not completely alone in this, because that’s exactly how I feel right now.

I reach the fence before Holder does and I try to pull myself up, but I can’t. My hands and arms are trembling and weak. I’m still attempting it on my own when he quietly comes up behind me and hoists me up. I jump down over the other side and walk to the car.

He sits in the driver’s seat and pulls his door shut, but doesn’t start the car. He’s staring at the steering wheel with his hand paused on the ignition. I watch his hands with mixed emotions, because I want them around me so bad. I want them holding me and rubbing my back and my hair while he tells me it’ll all be okay. But I also look at his hands in disgust, thinking about all the intimate ways he’s touched me and held me, knowing all along that he was deceiving me. How he could be with me, knowing what he knows, yet still allow me to believe the lies? I don’t know how I can forgive him for that.


Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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