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“Do not get out of the car, Alex,” Thomas growled as he leapt out of the car, running toward the garage and the house. Within a few brief moments, he ran back to the large SUV Alexander sat in.

“Did you find them Dad?” Alexander didn’t know why he asked his father that. He could tell by his expression that he hadn’t found them or their car.

“No. And it looks like they left in a hurry, so something obviously spooked them.” Thomas put the car in reverse and accelerated toward the freeway, not wanting to tell his son about the blood he saw in the kitchen. A wave of relief washed over him when he saw the DeLuca’s sedan further up on the freeway. He stepped on the gas, needing to warn them before it was too late.

“Shit, no!” Thomas shouted when he saw a dark SUV pull out of a turnabout, speeding toward the DeLuca’s car, plowing into it and forcing it through a guardrail and into a tree. The SUV continued on the freeway. Slamming on the brakes, Thomas pulled off along the side of the road.

“Olibia! No!” Alexander swung the door open when the car came to a stop.

“Alexander, get back here. It’s too dangerous for you!” Thomas shouted, trying to catch up with his son.

“I don’t care about that, Dad. I need to help her.” Alexander ran down the short hill and stopped at the car. He looked in the back seat and his heart sank. Olivia’s eyes were closed and there was blood everywhere. Then she stirred a little bit.

“Hey, Olibia. We need to get out of here, okay?” Alexander said, unbuckling her seat belt, thinking that it most likely saved her life. He smelled something and knew there was probably a gas leak. He rushed, desperately needing to get her out of the car as his father attempted to help her parents.

“My mama and papa…”

“I know. But this is an emergency and you have to be brave.”

Alexander was able to get Olivia out of the car and quickly ran her to the SUV. He gingerly placed her in the back seat. “I don’t feel so well,” Olivia said.

“I know, sweetheart. We’re going to get you help. We’re going to protect you always, Olibia. Nothing bad will ever happen again. You can trust me.” Then Alexander felt someone approach behind him. He slipped into unconsciousness.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

HIDDEN

ALEXANDER awoke with a start the following morning. He hated reliving that day in his dreams. He wondered if, had they been just a little quicker, maybe the accident never would have happened.

Getting out of bed, Olivia consumed his thoughts. His Olivia. He thought about the girl he knew all those years ago. And the girl he had met the previous week. It felt like two different Olivias. But they weren’t. They were the same Olivia, separated by twenty-one years of secrecy.

August twenty-fourth. He hated that day more than anything. He thought it would feel different, knowing that Olivia was, in fact, alive and well. And in his life. But it didn’t. It felt the same.

While he no longer mourned the loss of his best friend all those years ago, he still mourned not knowing Olivia during that time. He mourned not growing up with her. He mourned not being at her side.

He got ready for his day, not wanting to stray from tradition. He contemplated texting Olivia just to say hello, but decided not to. He needed to focus on his day. He made a cup of coffee and went out to the front porch to enjoy a calm minute before the day got away from him. Sitting at a small table on the porch, Alexander looked out over the same river that just the previous night was dark. With the rising of the sun, there was much more activity in the maritime community. He looked at the cemetery across the other side of the riverbank where, if he looked close enough, he could make out his best friend’s grave.

“Alexander! Oh, it is you!” an elderly woman shouted as she walked her dog down the street. He wondered how Runner was getting along with the pet sitter.

“Mrs. Cunningham,” Alexander shouted back, getting up to greet her on the sidewalk. “It’s wonderful to see you.”

“I had a feeling you’d be here this weekend.” She gave Alexander a hug and kissed his cheek.

“Yeah. I’m a creature of habit, what can I say?” Alexander replied sheepishly, the normally confident man nowhere in sight.

“I think it’s sweet you still come and pay your respects all these years later. I know it must be difficult for you. I mean, you and that little Olivia. God, the two of you were inseparable.” She smiled at the memory. “I remember being over your mother’s for tea years ago when she would look after little Olivia for her mama. She couldn’t even walk yet and you would jump into her crib and just lie down next to her and watch her sleep, waiting for her to get up.” A tear started to trickle down Mrs. Cunningham’s cheek. “It was such a tragedy. I didn’t know her parents well, but Olivia… She was too young.” Mrs. Cunningham looked at Alexander, remorse etched across his face. “Well, dear me. I always bring her up. I’m sorry, dear. I’ll be on my way. Stop by later for a cup of tea if you’d like.”

She walked down the street and Alexander remained speechless. It was always so difficult to return to Mystic and see his old family friends who knew both him and Olivia. They would always talk about how lively and spirited of a girl she was and what a tragedy it was to lose her so young. He still had difficulty processing that she wasn’t lost all those years ago. She was hidden.

An hour later, Alexander made his way to the cemetery. He grabbed his cell and noticed he had a missed text from Olivia. He ignored it, not wanting to deal with anything other than what he needed to that day. It was a nice day and he could use the time to think, so he walked the mile across the bridge and toward the old cemetery.

He stopped at a market and picked up two bouquets of roses and one of sunflowers. He walked the rest of the way down Main Street and through the large iron gates of the cemetery before heading down the old dirt path to the DeLuca’s graves set high up on a hill overlooking the river, the sun glimmering on the water creating a serene atmosphere. Placing a bouquet of roses on Olivia’s parents’ graves first, he made his way to Olivia’s grave. He sat down and placed the sunflower bouquet at the gravestone, smiling at how his old friend loved sunflowers.

“Well, another year’s gone by. And I just don’t know what to do. I’m still talking to you like I do every year. But this year, well, I found you. Last week, actually. You’re still alive, Olivia DeLuca. Except your name is now Sarah Olivia Adler. I don’t know what the whole story is and why you were taken from me, but you were. And I’m scared to know the truth, Olibia.

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