“Morning breath,” I mumble, crawling out of bed. Holder laughs, then returns his attention back to his phone. I somehow made it back into my t-shirt overnight, but I’m not even sure when that happened. I take it off and slip into the bathroom to shower. When I’m finished, I walk back into the room and he’s packing up our things.
“What are you doing?” I ask, watching him fold my shirt and place it back into the bag. He looks up at me briefly, then back down to the clothes spread out on the bed.
“We can’t stay here forever, babe. We need to figure out what you want to do.”
I take a few steps toward him, my heart speeding up in my chest. “But…but I don’t know yet. I don’t even have anywhere to go.”
He hears the panic in my voice and walks around the bed, slipping his arms around me. “You have me, Sky. Calm down. We can go back to my house and figure this out. Besides, we’re both still in school. We can’t just stop going and we definitely can’t live in a hotel forever.”
The thought of going back to that town, just two miles from Karen, makes me uneasy. I’m afraid being so close to her will incite me to confront her, and I’m not ready to do that yet. I just want one more day. I want to see my old house again for one last time in hopes that it will spark more memories. I don’t want to rely on Karen to have to tell me the truth. I want to figure out as much as I can on my own.
“One more day,” I say. “Please, let’s just stay one more day, then we’ll go. I need to try and figure this out and in order to do that, I need to go there one more time.”
Holder puts space between us and he eyes me, shaking his head. “No way,” he says firmly. “I’m not putting you through that again. You’re not going back.”
I place my hands on his cheeks reassuringly. “I need to, Holder. I swear I won’t get out of the car this time. I swear. But I need to see the house again before we go. I remembered so much while I was there. I just want a few more memories before you take me back and I have to decide what to do.”
He sighs and paces the floor, not wanting to agree to my desperate plea.
“Please,” I say, knowing he won’t be able to say no if I continue to beg. He slowly turns to the bed and picks the bags of clothes up, tossing them toward the closet.
“Fine. I told you I would do whatever it was you felt you needed to do. But I’m not hanging all of those clothes back up,” he says, pointing to the bags by the closet.
I laugh and rush to him, throwing my arms around his neck. “You’re the best, most understanding boyfriend in the whole wide world.”
He sighs and returns my hug. “No, I’m not,” he says, pressing his lips to the side of my head. “I’m the most whipped boyfriend in the whole wide world.”
Monday, October 29th, 2012 4:15 p.m.
Out of all the minutes in the day, we would pick the same ten minutes to sit across the street from my house that my father picks to pull up into the driveway. As soon as his car comes to a stop in front of the garage, Holder lifts his hand to his ignition to crank the car.
I reach over and place my trembling hand on his. “Don’t leave,” I say. “I need to see what he looks like.”
Holder sighs and forces his head into the back of his seat, knowing full well that we should leave, but also knowing there’s no way I’ll let him.
I quit looking at Holder and look back at the police cruiser parked in the driveway across the street from us. The door opens and a man steps out, decked out in a uniform. His back is to us and he’s holding a cell phone up to his ear. He’s in the middle of a conversation, so he pauses in the yard and continues talking into the phone without heading inside. Looking at him, I don’t have any reaction at all. I don’t feel a single thing until the moment he turns around and I see his face.
“Oh my, God,” I whisper aloud. Holder looks at me questioningly and I just shake my head. “It’s nothing,” I say. “He just looks…familiar. I haven’t had an image of him in my head at all but if I was to see him walking down the street, I would know him.”
We both continue to watch him. Holder’s hands are gripping the steering wheel and his knuckles are white. I look down at my own hands and realize I’m gripping the seat belt in the same fashion.
My father finally pulls the phone from his ear and places it into his pocket. He begins walking in our direction and Holder’s hands immediately fall back to the ignition. I gasp quietly, hoping he doesn’t somehow know we’re watching him. We both realize at the same time that my father is just headed to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, and we immediately relax.
“Have you had enough?” Holder says through gritted teeth. “Because I can’t stay here another second without jumping out of this car and beating his ass.”
“Almost,” I say, not wanting him to do anything stupid, but also not wanting to leave just yet. I watch as my father sorts through the mail, walking back toward the house, and for the first time it hits me.
What if he remarried?
What if he has other children?
What if he’s doing this to someone else?
My palms begin to sweat against the slick material of the seatbelt, so I release it and wipe them across my jeans. My hands begin to tremble even more than before. I suddenly can’t think of anything else other than the fact that I can’t let him get away with this. I can’t let him walk away, knowing he might be doing this to someone else. I need to know. I owe it to myself and to every single child my father comes in contact with to ensure he’s not the evil monster that’s painted in my memories. In order to know for sure, I know I need to see him. I need to speak to him. I need to know why he did what he did to me.
When my father unlocks the front door and disappears inside, Holder lets out a huge breath.
“Now?” He says, turning toward me.
I know beyond a doubt he would tackle me right now if he expected me to do what I’m about to do. Just so I don’t give off any clues, I force a smile and nod. “Yeah, we can go now.”
He places his hand back on the ignition. At the same time he turns his wrist to crank it, I release my seat belt, swing open the door and run. I run across the street and across my father’s front yard, all the way to the porch. I never even hear Holder coming up behind me. He doesn’t make a noise as he wraps his arms around me and physically lifts me off my feet, carrying me back down the steps. He’s still carrying me and I’m kicking him, trying to pry his arms from around my stomach.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” He doesn’t put me down, he just continues to dominate my strength while he carries me across the yard.
“Let go of me right now Holder or I’ll scream! I swear to God, I’ll scream!”
With that threat, he spins me around to face him and he shakes my shoulders, glaring at me with utter disappointment. “Don’t do this, baby. You don’t need to face him again, not after what he’s done. I want you to give yourself more time.”
I look up at him with an ache in my heart that I’m sure is clearly seen in my eyes. “I have to know if he’s doing this to anyone else. I need to know if he has more kids. I can’t just let it go, knowing what he’s capable of. I have to see him. I have to talk to him. I need to know that he’s not that man anymore before I can allow myself to get back in that car and just drive away.”
He shakes his head. “Don’t do this. Not yet. We can make a few phone calls. We’ll find out whatever we can online about him first. Please, Sky.” He slides his hands from my shoulders to my arms and urges me toward his car. I hesitate, still adamant that I need to see him face to face. Nothing I find out about him online will tell me what I can gain from just hearing his voice or looking him in the eyes.
“Is there a problem here?”
Holder and I both snap our heads in the direction of the voice. My father is standing at the base of the porch steps. He’s eyeing Holder, who still has a firm grip on my arms. “Young lady, is this man hurting you?”
The sound of his voice alone makes my knees buckle. Holder can feel me weakening, so he pulls me against his chest. “Let’s go,” he whispers, wrapping his arm around me and ushering me forward, back toward his car.
I freeze, but Holder continues to try and push me forward with more urgency.
“Turn around!” My father’s voice is more demanding this time. Holder pauses right along with me now, both of us knowing the ramifications of ignoring the directions of a cop.
“Play it off,” Holder says into my ear. “He might not recognize you.”
I nod and inhale a deep breath, then we both turn around slowly. My father is several feet away from the house now, closing in on us. He’s eyeing me hard, walking toward me with his hand on his holster. I dart my eyes to the ground, because his face is full of recognition and it terrifies me. He stops several feet from us and pauses. Holder tightens his grip around me and I continue to stare at the ground, too scared to even breathe.
Monday, October 29th, 2012 4:35 p.m.
“Don’t you fucking touch her!”
Holder is yelling and there’s pressure under my arms. His voice is close, so I know he’s holding me. I drop my hands to my sides and feel grass between my fingers.
“Baby, open your eyes. Please.” Holder’s hand is caressing the side of my face. I slowly open my eyes and look up. He’s looking down over me, my father hovering right behind him. “It’s okay, you just passed out. I need you to stand up. We need to leave.”
He pulls me to my feet and keeps his arm around my waist, practically doing the standing for me.
My father is right in front of me now, staring. “It is you,” he says. He glances at Holder, then back to me. “Hope? Do you remember me?” His eyes are full of tears.
“Let’s go,” Holder says again. I resist his pull and step out of his grasp. I look back at my father…at a man who is somehow portraying emotions like he once must have loved me. He’s full of shit.
“Do you?” he says again, taking another step closer. Holder inches me back with each step closer my father gets. “Hope, do you remember me?”
“How could I forget you?”
The irony is, I did forget him. Completely. I forgot all about him and the things he did to me and the life I had here. But I don’t want him to know that. I want him to know that I remember him, and every single thing he ever did to me.
“It’s you,” he says, fidgeting his hand down at his side. “You’re alive. You’re okay.” He pulls out his radio, I’m assuming in an attempt to call in the report. Before his finger can even press the button, Holder reaches out and knocks the radio out of his hand. It falls to the ground and my father bends down and grabs it, then takes a defensive step back, his hand resting on his holster again.
“I wouldn’t let anyone know she’s here if I were you,” Holder says. “I doubt you would want the fact that you’re a fucking pervert to be front page news.”