I move closer to her. “My name is really Willow,” I whisper.
“And I’m Shay.” She extends her hand, and this time, I take it. “Sarah,” she says to me again, and I nod in approval. “You ready?”
Together we walk into the main room. I see a few people practicing already.
“I’ll start with the basics one on one, but we will build up. And fast.”
“Let’s do this.”
* * *
A train has hit me . . .
Or at least that’s how I feel today.
My body and my mind are exhausted, but there is nothing I can do to fix it.
Once again, I couldn’t sleep.
Once again, I woke up in a cold sweat.
This time in my dream, I was living my life, back in my town, in my house . . .
This time I never got away.
The uncertainty of my life is getting to me. All the questions I have and not knowing what to do.
I have to talk to someone. I need help, but how?
There is no one who can help me.
No one who can help me prove my claims.
I can’t trust the local police. They are bought and paid for. I remember his words . . .
“Don’t bother going to them, they’re on my payroll.” Friends with the mayor, largest donor to the sheriff’s department, has my options limited.
Maybe the FBI?
But I have no evidence.
There is nothing to prove my beliefs.
A voice inside of me screams you have to try.
That there is no way I can sit in this room for another week without trying.
It’s already been too long.
Does anyone even know I’m gone?
Are they searching for me? What if he finds me first?
My dad’s face pops into my head, and I shake my head back and forth.
The icy tendrils of fear spreading in my veins.
I can’t think about him.
Throwing my feet over the side of the pull-out couch, I pad over to the bathroom. The floor is cold beneath my feet, and I shiver.
Everything inside me is cold, and I know I’m fooling myself when I say it’s from the floor.
It’s not. It’s him.
It’s what will happen if I go to the police and am caught. They won’t help me. Maybe, though, I can make an anonymous tip. Maybe then they will look into it.
One can hope.
It makes what I’m doing worth it because the way my body shakes and the empty feeling inside as I walk, bundled up with a hat and glasses, outside is hard enough.
I gather my strength from the knowledge that it could help me go home sooner. As I hop in a cab and head into Jersey, tipping the driver to wait, I tell myself I have to do this. No matter how much I try, terror creeps its way into my head, but I can’t stop what I’m doing.
Walking over to the payphone, I drop the money in before dialing the number I gathered on my last trip to the library.
Then call the Major Case Contact Center of the FBI.
I have to keep the call short.
When it’s time to talk, I do. My voice is clear and concise, but it’s also not my own. No, instead I give myself a Southern accent and pray this doesn’t backfire.
“I’d like to report a murder.” Thump. “You need to exhume the body of.” Thump. “Henry Craft.”
Days pass, and then a week. There has been nothing new since I’ve called the FBI, but I guess I’m actually not sure since I have no way of knowing.
I keep my days and mind occupied with the self-defense classes. At first, it was every other day. But I realize how much stronger I’m getting and how much I like it, so now I go every day.
In the beginning, it was only Shay and I. She taught me how to box. Nothing I wouldn’t learn at a gym if I was taking a kickboxing class.
But today is different.
I can feel the shift in the air. Today, there is a man in the room with Shay and me.
“Sarah, this is Beau, and he’s going to help us train.” My eyes go wide, and she lifts her hand. “It will be okay. Beau is here for the height factor.” She laughs. “I’m just as tough as him, so if you can fight me, you can take him down. But I need to show you.”
I nod my head and walk over to where they are. I stand in front of Beau.
I’m still wearing my baggie sweats, and I know that I shouldn’t. That this is a liability he can use in his favor.
“Remember . . .” Shay says. “No one can hurt you here. It’s just us.”
I know I’m shaking. I know I’m scared. This. Fighting with a man feels too real. It reminds me of the nightmares I have.
The one with blood on my hands.