She smiled over at me and I smiled back. Since I'd been outside of Acadia, I'd noticed how few people held that same, genuine gentleness of spirit that Eden exuded. And how was it that this girl, my girl, of all people, had managed to retain that quality? After everything she'd been through, the soul-stealing trauma, how had she hung on to that part of herself? Sometimes I felt like falling down on my knees in front of her in worship. She was so unbelievably beautiful in every possible way. Still. After all this time, and after everything, still. Only now, she not only held a gentle beauty, but that quiet strength I'd always seen in her was even more apparent.
We sat down to eat dinner and Eden's loving eyes watched me as I ate the food she'd cooked, and it seemed to bring her joy and make her shine brighter, so I ate three helpings even though I was full after two.
Later that night, I snuck out of the guest room and into Eden's room and climbed into her small, pink, twin-sized bed.
I pulled Eden into my chest and her hand wandered to my briefs and I sucked in a breath, instantly hard. But when I moved over her, the bed squeaked so loudly that I froze. If I took her as hard and vigorously as my body was screaming at me to do, the whole neighborhood would be woken up. I had to wonder if Carolyn had switched out the mattress while we were brushing our teeth.
Eden's wide eyes met mine in the semi-darkness of the room and her face contorted in laughter as she brought her hand to her mouth so as not to make any noise. I grinned down at her, holding back my laughter, too.
After we'd collected ourselves, we moved down to the floor. "We're always having to sneak around," I whispered against her lips.
"This is different," she whispered back.
"I know." I still didn't like it though.
I made love to her on the floor of her bedroom like two sneaky teenagers, a blanket beneath us. Although we had to be quiet, and it wasn't a bed of our own like I would have preferred, we were together and that was enough. She put her hand to my cheek and gazed into my eyes lovingly as our bodies joined, and I found the deep peace I always did when I was connected to Eden.
We both fell over the edge of bliss together, breathing against each other's mouths in order to be as quiet as possible. I put my face into her neck as I slowly came down, and her hands ran over my back, kneading the muscles there. I sighed happily and pulled out of her.
We lay like that for a little while, me nuzzling into her, and her stroking my skin.
"I wanted our baby so badly," she said after a little while.
I could only imagine that each time I came inside her, a part of her would acknowledge I wouldn't get her pregnant, that it wasn't possible anymore. My heart twisted and I leaned up on the arm that wasn't under her. Her face was filled with sadness. I leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I know. I did, too," I said quietly.
"I had come to some kind of peace about not being able to have any more." She paused and I waited for her to go on. "I had thought to myself that there was almost something . . . right about the fact that your baby was the only one I'd ever carry, even if I didn't get to keep it." She was quiet again. "But now, I have you back and it's like I'm grieving it all over again."
I pushed her hair aside. "I understand. I'd do anything to change it, Morning Glory." I leaned down and kissed her. "And, like I said, we will have kids if you want them. Somehow. We'll adopt. Whatever you want. Anything. I'll do anything to give you everything you want from this life."
She let out a small sniffle. "I know you will."
We lay holding each other for a little while, me staring at the back of her closet door, wondering at all the stuff she had pinned up on the other side.
"Tell me more about what you were researching about Hector," I said quietly.
Eden snuggled against my body. I smiled into her hair and pulled her in close.
We were quiet for a minute before Eden finally said, "I started looking into Hector because I just figured, who knows more about the religion we now know he created, than me? Us? The news always seemed so perplexed about it all, and I had all these answers to their questions, and I almost felt like it was my duty to look into a few things if I could, you know?" There was almost an excitement in her voice, and her body stilled as she seemed to go deep in thought.
I was silent, running my fingers up and down the smooth skin of her arm. "Did you mention any of it to the police today?"
She shook her head. "No, because it's just stuff I was looking into. I don't have any answers yet, but I thought if I kept going, I might."
"Like who he really was. Where he came from."
"What were you looking at?"
She leaned up slightly so she could look at me. Her eyes were wide like they always were when she latched onto a topic that interested her. I love you so much, Morning Glory. "Well, the more I looked into the things the Holy Book taught, some of our rituals, the way Acadia was organized, the names for things, I researched on the Internet and found that a lot of it was based on Greek society, Greek religion, Greek myths. It all fit, almost every bit of it." Her voice sounded more animated. "Not everything, but a lot of it."
"Well, his name—which we know now wasn't really his name. Hector. Isn't that sort of a strange name for a blond, blue-eyed man?"
"I don't know. I guess." There were a few Hispanic men named Hector who worked on the construction site with Xander and I. I always cringed when I heard someone call out their name.
"And his sons - Jason, Phineus, Simon and Myles." Her voice cracked slightly on the last name and she laid her head back down on my chest. I pulled her tighter. She still carried grief in her heart for those innocent boys she had known much better than I had. The ones she'd loved.
"What about the names?" I whispered, leaning down to kiss her head.
"They're all names from Greek history or Greek mythology. One is a god, one a hero, one a sea spirit . . . I can't remember the other one. I have it on the back of my door," she said very quietly.
I thought about that for a minute. "Okay, but what does that all mean?" I asked. "So Hector was obsessed with Greek history for some reason? So much so that he created a religion out of it? Or used it as some sort of inspiration. What does that mean?"
"I don't know. I think it might have started in Indiana though."
I frowned. "Why Indiana?"
"Because I think that's where he brought me when he took me from my parents. He kept me somewhere for almost two years before I came to Acadia. I have this brief flash of memory, of waking up in a car for just a split second and seeing a sign that said something about the Crossroads of America. I always remembered that, but I had no idea what it meant. I looked it up–I Googled it," she said, nodding her head as if she was agreeing with the proper use of a new term. I smiled. "That's what the welcome sign to Indiana says. We arrived at the house I was in with him for the next couple of years very shortly after that. That's where my memory starts fading again."
My blood felt like it dropped a couple of degrees. "What did he do to you there?" I asked.
She shook her head. "Nothing like what you might be thinking. He . . . made me read the Holy Book a lot. He talked to me about my role . . . constantly. It's foggy. I was grieving for my parents. I thought they'd died. I was alone . . . a lot. I wasn't allowed to go outside very often. It's all very . . . blurry."
"He brainwashed you."
She seemed to think about that for a minute. "Maybe."
"Only it didn't work very well, my strong Morning Glory."
"No, it didn't. But on some topics, it did. I couldn't remember so much . . ."
"Why do you think it started in Indiana? Acadia was already functioning. Why would he bring you back to his home?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe that's where he felt safest, where he had a place to bring me other than Acadia. Maybe he had things to wrap up in his life. Who knows?"
"You were considering going there, weren't you?" I asked.
She shrugged again. "If I found some more information, yes, I was considering it." She paused. "It seemed daunting, though. How would I get there?" She sighed. "It wouldn't have been anytime soon. I just thought, you know, I had a whole lifetime to fill, and I needed something to fill it with." She let out a sharp exhale of breath that I felt against my skin.
My heart squeezed painfully with the recognition of that thought. It had gone through my own head often, as well. This life feels so damn long. "Morning Glory," I murmured, kissing her head, "you found a way to live, to survive. I'm so proud of you. But now we can let all that go. There's no need to delve into that now. Hector's dead. The police know our story, they know your story, it's all in their hands now."
"Hmm," she hummed, not sounding totally convinced.
I turned her toward me in the dark. "Eden, there's no point to that line of research anymore."
"What about you?" she asked. "What about finding out who you are?"
"That might not have anything to do with any of that. As we lie here, millions of people across the world are hearing our story and hearing my information. Surely, someone reported me missing once upon a time. Surely someone knows me?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"Yes," I agreed. "And so we wait to find out. We wait to find out who I am."
She turned and looked up at me in the moonlit room. "We already know who you are." She gazed up at me. "We wait to find out where you came from. There's a big difference." She was right. I may not know where I came from, but I know who I am now. If my identity remained a mystery, I still knew who I was. Eden's.
"I love you," I said, pulling her in to my chest.
"I love you, too."
We snuck to the bathroom and cleaned up, and then got back in her squeaky bed and held each other until the first light of dawn was streaming into her room, when I snuck back into my own.
A beautiful blonde filled the screen, microphone in hand. "This is Sara Celi of Fox Nineteen, Cincinnati, live from the home of Calder Raynes and Eden Everson. A new development has occurred in the reopened investigation of the Acadia sect where a hundred ninety-eight people tragically died in one of the largest mass murder/suicides in history. Tricia, back to you for the rest of the story."
After briefly going back to the anchor in the studio who introduced the Fox affiliate in Arizona, the screen focused on a young, brunette woman holding a microphone, her hair blowing slightly in the wind. "Michelle Mathis here, just outside Goodwin Police Headquarters where Officer Clive Richter, former Acadia council member, has been arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering. His ex-partner, Officer Michael Owens, has been given immunity and as Chief Bard told me he has been very cooperative. The Chief was also able to tell me that in lieu of information Calder Raynes and Eden Everson have given, Clive Richter is now also a suspect in the attempted murder of Calder Raynes. We'll continue to bring you coverage as we receive new information."
Calder and I sat side by side on the couch, holding hands and watching the footage. "Turn it off," he finally said when we'd seen the same shot played over what seemed like a hundred times.
The TV clicked off and Calder sat staring straight ahead, a look on his face that I couldn't read. "You okay?" he asked numbly.
I nodded, trying to figure out what I felt exactly. For three years I had felt such paralyzing fear whenever I thought of Clive Richter, or even the police in general. But now, seeing him being led away in handcuffs, looking small and weak, the only emotions coursing through my body were relief and a certain sense of triumph.
"Are you okay?" I asked Calder, glancing at Detective Lowe who was sitting on the chair across from the couch. He had shown up at my mom's house to let us know in advance there would be breaking news about Clive Richter. Apparently, finding out Calder and I were alive prompted Clive's ex-partner to seek immunity and bring to light crimes he knew Clive was and had been involved in.
Calder kept staring ahead for a minute and then he nodded a barely perceptible nod and rubbed his hands on his thighs before standing up. "I'm going to get a glass of water. You want one?"
"Yeah, sure." I tried to read his expression, but couldn't.
He nodded, one quick jerk of his head. "Detective?"
"Yeah, sure. Thanks, Calder."
I watched Calder's back as he walked out of the room. Initially, hearing there was news about Clive had rattled me, too. But for Calder, I could only imagine that seeing Clive's face had brought up the rage and helplessness of that day, despite the fact that there was a good chance now that he'd pay for his crimes, at least a few of them. I wasn't surprised he'd been involved in other illegal activities. Those who enjoy destroying lives generally are more than happy to spread their particular brand of misery around. I just hoped there would be enough evidence to convict him for the crimes he'd committed against Calder and me, too. I guessed we'd have to wait and see.
I turned my attention to Detective Lowe and took a deep breath.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
I nodded. "Fine, I think . . . it's just . . . so strange seeing him again."
"I can imagine." He stood up and came to sit on the couch next to me. He turned toward me. "Hey, Eden, you're doing really great under the circumstances," he shook his head, "I can't even imagine how difficult this is, and you're holding up so well. I hope that doesn't sound patronizing." He laughed a small laugh. "But I see a lot of people in difficult situations and I just wanted you to know that I'm really impressed by your courage."