Sneak Peak Equinox

Chapter 11

Dr. O’Neil left me to unpack my suitcase. As soon as the door shut, Victoria decided to approach me. I started putting my clothes in the drawers not at all neatly when she opened her mouth.

“Don’t worry; you’ll get your phone back,” Victoria said with a dash of smug. “What are you in for?” She got up from her bed and walked towards me. She was much shorter than I, and her red hair reminded me of Emmy after a bad dye job. For a second, I was homesick for Pittsburgh.

“I didn’t do anything—not that’s it’s any of your business,” I said. “Excuse me––” I pushed her away from my face.

“Sure you didn’t. That’s what everyone says, but we––know better, don’t we?”

“I didn’t do anything. I don’t know what’s gotten into my father.” I finished putting my clothes in the drawer.

Victoria went back on her bed and sat cross-legged. “Want to know what I’m in for?”

“Not particularly,” I said flatly.

“Oh––okay, if you must know. I got busted… for coke.”

“Drugs?” I was not going to indulge her with my indiscretion to prescription pills, that’s for sure. I’m stuck with Ms. Ginger ale coke head, just what I needed.

“So what are you here for… alcohol, heroin?” I didn’t answer. She edged in close.

“Do you mind?” I said, not looking at her while I shoved my clothes in the drawer.

“Okay, ‘I don’t-do-drug’ priss, you must have tried to kill yourself. Huh?” said Victoria.

No… I didn’t.” God, she was annoying.

Victoria stared at me like I was the freak and not her. Victoria continued to enlighten me on her sentence at Oakridge. I really didn’t care, but what choice did I have? She just kept talking.

“Anyways––my boyfriend took his father’s gun, okay, and blew his head off. It was right after we had a fight. Can you believe that? I told him I wanted to break up. I never thought in a million years he would do something so stupid over me.” Victoria’s eyes welled to the brim with tears. “E-Ethan, that was his name, ran out of the house carrying his dad’s gun. His parents went after him… but it was too late. They heard the gun go off…found him lying… on the ground… with his brains splattered all over the woods behind their house.”

“That’s horrible.” I suddenly felt sorry for her.

“Yeah, now my parents think I’ll either OD or slit my wrists.”

“Are they right?” I said curiously.

“Hmmm, I don’t know––maybe.” Victoria shrugged her shoulders, put her earbuds in and walked out of the room. I stood there for a couple seconds amazed, then turned and followed her.

It was almost 5 p.m. There weren’t very many kids here unless they’re hidden somewhere. The kids whom I did see all looked normal enough, like any kids you’d see at in-school suspension or detention. Some looked like the kids in my biology class or AP history, your average messed-up high school student. Nevertheless, they all had a little secret. It was scary to think that these kids, like me, were so messed up.

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Chapter Ten

“It’s not that bad here, Samantha.” The doctor strolled up to me, putting her hand on my shoulder. I pulled back from her touch.

“I’ll show you to your room.” Dr. O’Neil nudged my hand. My room for the next ninety days was down two hallways. We walked the length of the hardwood flooring not saying a word. I glanced briefly at a sunroom at the far end of the hall. On the left was my room—number 13—great, of all the numbers.

Dr. O’Neil tapped on the door before opening it. A petite girl with fiery red hair, the color of lava styled in a neat shoulder-length bob, sat cross-legged on the bed.

“What the eff!” she scoffed, pulling out her earbuds.

“Your new roommate, Victoria,” Dr. O’Neil said.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” the fiery red-haired girl said, springing from the bed.

She held her earphones and iPod. Her eyes were pale blue and her ivory skin was freckled. She wore a tight pink sweater, showing off her full bosom and tiny waist. Wow, I wonder if they’re real. I almost looked down at my own briefly but caught myself. Her clothes looked to be something bought at a preppy expensive store in the wealthy section of town somewhere. Satisfied with what she saw, she put her earbuds back in her ears.

“Victoria, this is your new roommate, Samantha. We use first names only for privacy’s sake. Now if you want to exchange last names, that’s your prerogative.”

Victoria,” Dr. O’Neil said with a knife-like shrill voice cutting into the air. Victoria kept listening to whatever was on her iPod.

Victoria,” Dr. O’Neil repeated. Reluctantly Victoria took her earbuds out.

“What?” she said, irritated, giving me a cold disturbed look as if I were the cause of her pain.

“This is Samantha; she’ll be sharing a room with you. Why don’t you help her put her things where they belong, and please try and be pleasant by making her feel at home.” Victoria nodded and put her earbuds back in her ears.

“At home? This is not my home,” I said.

“Well, it is now—at least for the time being,” Dr. O’Neil said and smiled.

“Bitch,” I mumbled under my breath.

“Excuse me—what did you say? I didn’t think so… Samantha–– I have the power to make your stay here pleasant or not so pleasant.” She held her tongue. “Okay, Samantha?” Dr. O’Neil held out her hand. “Let me have your cell phone.” Puzzled, I backed up a step.

“Hand it over,” she said, staring.

“What!” I stared back.

“Your cell phone,” she asked a second time.

“No—I’m not giving you my phone,” I said, letting my voice get louder. The way she looked at me, I got the impression Dr. O’Neil wasn’t accustomed to anyone defying her.

“It’s best you get rid of the attitude, Miss Hunter. The quicker you know the rules, the better it will be for both of us. Don’t get your panties all in a knot; it’s only for the first week,” Dr. O’Neil said with a smile.

“Ew––I wonder if my father will think that’s any way for a doctor to talk.”

“Samantha––let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. Your father isn’t here. I am, and the quicker you understand that, the better it will be for you. The nurses, the aides and counselors are here to help you. I run the show here. Oakridge Estate is small and isolated so there’s no way for you to try and run home. And––if you do try, you’ll freeze to death before you even make it to the highway. I want to help you—do you understand? So if you have any thoughts like that, put them out of your head now. This is not a punishment. It is a treatment center.”

“Okay, but—I’m still not giving you my phone,” I snapped.

Doctor O’Neil folded her arms across her chest, “And I’m not leaving here until you do.”

“No…I’m not giving you my cell,” I repeated. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I shouldn’t even be here! My dad’s the one who’s crazy, not me.”

“That’s not how he sees it.”

“Of course, that’s not how he sees it,” I said with a frown.

“Samantha, please let me have your phone.” Dr. O’Neil held her hand out in front of my face. By the look on her face, she wasn’t going to drop it.

Defeated, I pulled out my cell from my back pocket. I hadn’t used it all that much since Lucien left. My best friend Emmy from back home was the only one I talked to. I kept it close just in case Cassiel would try to call me.

I handed over my phone to Dr. O’Neil, not happy doing so. For what seemed like hours, O’Neil explained my routine for the next three month. I can’t believe I had to live here for three months with no phone for a week. I’ll never forgive my father for this or Lucien.

My days were penciled in like a prison schedule. At 6 a.m. wake up, shower; breakfast at 7 in the dining hall. Group therapy was at 7:30, followed by art therapy at 10. Each day at 11 sharp, I had to have one hour of exercise––how lovely. I had a choice of yoga or kickboxing. I decided to beat up a punching bag instead of O’Neil’s face. Lunch was at noon and individual counseling at 1 p.m.; unfortunately I still had to have class. It was required so when I got back to my normal life, I wouldn’t be behind. Nothing in my life was normal. My days would end with dinner at 6 and free time until bed––oh, goodie.

file:///C:/Users/mom/Desktop/From%20the%20sky%20for%20fanfiction%20double%20space.pdf

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Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine

The ride to Oakridge Estates was nauseating. I should’ve pretended everything was all right. Of course, I didn’t; now it was too late. I sat as if I were a muzzled dog. Not saying a word…the whole way to the loony bin.

Dad pulled into the driveway leading to the rustic structure of stone and wood. Black smoke billowed out of the chimney. There was something ominous about it as if it were warning me to stay away.

Dad parked the Navigator close to the steps leading into the home. I took a heavy breath as I stared out my window, gripping the door handle, my eyes still on the swirling black smoke.

I heard Dad open his door; I kept looking out the window until his presence settled in front of my door. He reached for my door handle, looking at me with the full intent on leaving me there. I blinked and looked towards the sky overflowing with dark gray clouds. The air was bitter and squelchy. Still vapors of steam fled from Dad’s nose as he breathed.  “Please. Dad, I promise.” He only shook his head.

“Let’s go,” Dad said, holding the door wide open. By the look on his face, there was no reasoning with him. I had better listen to him this time. My eyes stung with tears.

My whole world collapsed in front of me as I stepped out onto the snow-covered ground. I hung my head low, not making eye contact with another betrayer of my heart. Without wanting him to, Dad took my hand as if I were a child once again.

I trudged up the steps leading to Oakridge Estates hand-in-hand with my father. My feet were slow to move, listless. Entering the doorway, I halted. I expected to see images of the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest. My eyes ping-ponged around the area, trying to accept Dad’s decision to bring me here; I was beginning to realize the whole scope of my predicament. I stood in the lobby of an institute for troubled teens. A year ago I would’ve expected it but not now. I’m not the same person I was before Lucien.

The inside reminded me of the cabin at Hidden Valley. The walls were made of cedar and pine, but this was no vacation place. This was my punishment for falling in love with a monster, not a human being. He let me fall in love with him, and then he abandoned me.

Seated behind the front desk in the entrance was a large woman. I assumed she was the receptionist. If this were under different circumstances, I might have actually smiled. I found it amusing how her belly overlapped the desk and plopped, spilling over into the reception area. I’m in a loony bin; I don’t belong here.

To my right was a large red rug covering dark hardwood floors, mismatched—not at all like the rest of the place. The oversized living room had two large-size beige couches with two matching loveseats and pillows. Against the wall were a moderate-size flat-screen television and a DVD player. Seated on the couch were two teenage boys watching a sports event. Their eyes never left the TV.

To the left of where I was standing was an open-spaced room stocked with a pool table, a small ping-pong table and two individual round tables that each seated two. At the larger-size table were four kids’ playing cards. They never once took their eyes off their game to ogle. Either they were heavy medicated or they didn’t give a rat’s ass, which suited me just fine.

While looking around at my new surroundings, my eyes caught the attention of a sandy blonde-haired, green-eyed boy. He stood in front of the pool table and stared back at me with unreadable eyes. His hair, messy and unkempt, fell around his boyish face. He wore a much too large blue hoodie and a pair of bleached, stained jeans. His sad, almond-shaped eyes locked with mine in an uncomfortable moment. Dark circles ringed his green eyes like he hadn’t slept in days. I could understand why, being trapped here––who would be able to sleep? He gripped the pool cue tightly, making his fist red. His eyes didn’t break our stare until he put the cue down on the green felt of the pool table. Little by little, he walked a few inches at a time to the wall dividing the rooms. He poked his face around the beam of the wall with as much curiosity as a cat on the prowl. Curious–I watched him move as if he were a whisper rounding the corner. I thought it weird how he stared at me as if he either knew me or feared me; whichever one it was—one thing for sure, he was strange. He reminded me of a ghost from a long-forgotten time.

My eyes scanned the facility. There was a big picture window. I could see a gazebo, reminding of the gazebo where Lucien had told me who he really was. I imagined a flower garden in the warmer months; it probably looked nice out there then—hopefully I’d never find out. My mind once again wandered to when I took a bath at the ranch. I remembered the flowers all around it. The memory entangled my thoughts; my heart fluttered. Brushing off the memory, I squeezed my eyes tightly, trying to forget the past.

Down the center hallway two doors were on each side of the walls. Dad touched my arms, gesturing for me to follow him to the reception area. I waited while he told the large-size woman who he was. She smiled, took a clipboard and handed it to Dad to fill out. She picked up a red phone and dialed three numbers on the dial pad.

“Dr. O’Neil will be here shortly,” the woman said, giving me a quick smile.

“Oh, joy,” I mumbled under my breath.

Samantha.” Was all Dad said, warning off my remark.

In a matter of seconds, a tall, thin woman wearing khakis and a white t-shirt with the word “Oakridge” embroidered on it with purple thread appeared from the hall, walking towards us.

Her black ponytail bounced with every stride she made. She smiled as she walked in our direction, showing white teeth with a small space in the front. You’d think she was an attendant at a resort instead of a doctor by her cheerful disposition.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Debra O’Neil.” Her cool, deep-set black eyes gleamed. She held out her hand; I ignored her request to shake. “You must be Samantha.” I stared back, saying nothing. She took her hand back and turned to my father.

“Hello, Doctor O’Neil, I’m Joseph Hunter,” Dad said, shaking the doctor’s hand. “I spoke with you on the phone earlier.”

“Yes—did you have a pleasant ride? By the way, the snow keeps coming down; you may run into some nasty roads driving back. It should end soon. I’m surprised we got this much snow. Not our typical New Mexico winter, is it?” Her gaze went towards the front glass door.

“This is our first winter here. It’s nothing compared to Pittsburgh.”

“Of course, you’re welcome to take a room with us until morning if you prefer.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine; thanks anyways, all-wheel-drive and I’m used to the snow,” Dad said, sure of himself as always.

“Come along, Samantha. I’ll show you to your room. You can get acquainted with everything and make yourself at home,” the dark-haired woman said. She gestured for my dad to say his goodbyes. He settled next to me, taking my shoulders in his hands.

“Samantha––this is for your own good. When Dr. O’Neil says you’re not a threat to yourself and ready to come home, I’ll come get you.”

“I’m not going to do anything stupid. I’m not like Mom,” I said in a low monotone voice, regretting it after seeing the stunned expression on his face.

“It doesn’t matter; now you’re here.” He squeezed my shoulders a moment. “Make the best of it.”

I held my tongue even though I wanted to scream as he bent down to kiss my forehead. My father turned and walked out the front door. I can’t believe he’s really going to leave me here. Shocked, I rushed after him. I stood looking out the front lobby window, watching him get into the Navigator and drive away, leaving me behind.

Don’t leave me here, I said to myself. My stomach sank.

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Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

I didn’t hear a peep from Dad until I heard him struggling with my tweed suitcase and duffel bag against the downstairs banister. He set them down in the foyer. Puzzled, my eyes followed him into the kitchen. He picked up a chair and carried it into the living room and set it in front of me, then sat with his back straight and arms folded over his chest.

Dad glared at me with an all-too-familiar expression. It was his I-mean-business look.

After several long-drawn-out moments of our staring at each other, Dad broke the stillness of the room, “Sammy, honey… this can’t… go on any longer.” His lips moved slowly on his solemn face. Unshed tears clouded his blue eyes while he spoke. I hated this.

“You’re killing yourself—I don’t know what to do with you. You won’t talk to me; you ignore your friends.”

I looked hard and long at my father while I stiffened my body, noticing the specks of gray at his temples. When did he get so old? He stared with a flexed brow, not flinching. He knew me well. I could sit there as long as it took for him to leave me alone.

“SAMANTHA! Are you listening to me?” Startled, I gasped. “You have to tell me. Did Lucien hurt you?” My eyes wandered to the white walls. I can’t tell my dad what happened on the mountainside. I could try; if I did, Dad would lock me up forever. I have a hard time believing what I saw in the sky. How would he believe me? My hand reached for Lucien’s crystal around my neck. I squeezed it between my fingers. As I glided my fingers over the smooth stone, I felt my fingertips get warm. Lucien’s crystal generates heat; I’m not sure why yet. It’s all I have left of Lucien.

“SAMANTHA!” Dad shouted again. Startled, the hair on my neck stood on end and catapulted me back to the present. I jerked.

“Look at me, damnit…!” Dad said. I counted four deep-edged lines in his frown; god, his eyes…were so red. “Since you won’t talk to me, you leave me no choice. You’re going someplace where you will have to.” Dad stood, taking the chair with him into the kitchen, placing it back at the kitchen table. His words stung like alcohol poured into an open wound. Dazed, not fully able to comprehend what he had just said, I sat dumbfounded. Dad returned to stand in front of me.

“Get up.” I remained still a moment. His patience dwindled. He pulled me to my feet and opened the closet, pulling out my black winter parka. Stunned, I stood frozen. He held out his arm holding the coat, “Here, put it on, please.” He lifted my arm. “Come on, Samantha, put your arm in the sleeve.” Dad’s movement was harsh and unsettled. It scared me. At that moment, I didn’t know him. He lifted my coat up over my shoulders, helping me put my arms in the sleeves. That’s when it dawned on me; he wasn’t bluffing.

“If we go now, we will get there before dark.” His voice was raspy and slurred like he was exhausted or hung over. I was jolted back to reality. What did he say? I can’t go anywhere. What if Lucien comes back? He won’t be able to find me. Where’s he taking me?

“Huh? Go where?” I said as if awakened from a deep slumber.

“I’m taking you to Oakridge.”

Oakridge? Why?”

“Have you heard a word I’ve been saying?”

“Huh? Dad, what are talking about? Nooo. Just let me be.”

“You left me no choice, Sam.”

“W-what’s Oakridge?” I moaned.

“A place where you will get help.” He is sending me to Oakridge Estates? That’s where they send the kids at school who get busted for drugs.

“Oakridge is a rehabilitation center for troubled teens, Dad!”

“Exactly.”

He can’t be serious, “Samantha, you won’t eat, sleep or go to school. This can’t go on longer like this. Dad paused taking in a breath, “I’ve HAD IT. I’ve asked you a dozen times if Lucien hurt you or touched you inappropriately. You won’t talk to me. How’d you think I should react? I should’ve insisted you keep seeing a therapist after we moved. I swear, Samantha—I won’t lose you too!”

“No! Dad, don’t send me there. Lucien didn’t rape me! That’s not what this is about.  I promise. I won’t take anymore pills. Give me a rubber band. I’ll put it on. Like before! I promise. I’ll be better. I swear. Don’t send me away…please,” I sobbed.

“Sammy, there are other ways to rape someone without actually physically hurting them. And you’re not telling me. Just because the lab test didn’t find any DNA doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt you.”

“Dad––Dad––I’ll tell you. Wait… Stop and listen––I loved Lucien––he would never have forced himself on me. He’s…not like that.” I stopped. I can’t. Before I knew what was happening, Dad dragged me against my will into the Navigator, but not without fighting him. I fought every step of the way, hoping he would change his mind; but he didn’t.

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Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

I slipped and ordered some Klonopin on the internet not my best choice, but without a prescription I didn’t have much of a choice. It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. If I really wanted, I could buy a two headed cat from the market place. It’s a good thing I don’t like cats.

This was a bad night. I didn’t even hear dad come in, “Sam, I have office hours. You want to tag along?”

“What?” I was staring at a recorded episode of Days of Our Life.

“You want to come with me to the office? We can grab dinner afterward.”

“Do believe in life after death?” I asked not looking at him. My eyes still glued to the TV.

“Where’s that coming from?”

“Nevermind.”

“Well? Do you want to come with me?”

“No.” He stood there a moment and left. A moment later he poked his head in the doorway to the living room. “Yes…I believe in life after death. There has to be.” He turned again and was gone.

As soon as he was gone. I ransacked his room. He shouldn’t have left his Ativan in plain sight on his night stand knowing I would check there first. It was careless of him.I popped one in my mouth. With just one fleeting moment of Lucien and went upstairs to wallow in self- pity. So Finn.

I took one too many zombie pills last night. I never made it downstairs today. After that morning Finn made his appearance, I lost track of time. I think it was mid-February. A definite chill filled the air. The long monochrome of winter caused a bleak shadow over my bedroom, reminding me of that cold December day. By the sound of the tapping on the glass, rain was beginning to turn to ice. I looked at the undraped window frame from where I lay in the security of my covers. Tiny crystal-shaped ice stars formed on the windowpane. For the first time in years, New Mexico had record-breaking snow. For the last couple days, blizzard conditions had kept dad home from work, and school had been closed.

My room felt like an icebox. No matter how many blankets I piled on my bed, the chill crept through to my bones. I was content staying curled up in a ball on my bed all day. What I really wanted was to disappear. Something happened to me when the light overshadowed Lucien and me. Whoever took me and brought me back did something to me. I wasn’t the same. I was different. Cassiel knew, but he wasn’t talking.

I opened my eyes for a moment when I thought I heard Dad’s quiet footsteps in my room. “Sammy, its way past noon,” Dad said is a low voice. I paid no attention to him. Sleep beckoned me more. I wanted to dream. I wanted to piece together the flashes of memories the shadows didn’t take. I had to know what they did to me.

I began to dream when all of a sudden I felt Dad’s hand on my arm pulling me from the comfort of my bed. I felt something hit my head. I rolled over. And lifted the package. It was opened. Damm. It was my escape.

“You want to explain?” He shouted pulling my arm.

“Dad, stop, l-let go of me!” I shrieked and kicked all the way down the stairs. He dragged me into the living room and sat me in his La-z-Boy chair.

“Now–– are you going to tell me what’s going on with you? Are you sick––in pain? Why do you need those pills? How long have you been using them? What else are you doing? Should I check for needle marks!” Dad shook me. “What happened to you? You’ve got to tell me! Did Lucien hurt you?” What did Lucien do to me? He broke my heart; that is what he did. If I hadn’t lost it that night, I lost it now. I had a full-fledged meltdown right in front of my father. He just stood there watching. He had no idea what to do with me. I didn’t blame Dad for what he was about to do. I guess me not getting out of bed was the final straw for him. I was just so exhausted. I just didn’t feel like getting out of bed.

“Sammy, please, this is crazy. I realize the doctor said you weren’t—raped. If that’s the case, you’ve got to tell me what happened,” Dad pleaded. After I sobbed like a baby, I just stared at him, thinking of something to say. How could I tell him?

“I miss mom and Finn… and Lucien. I’m sorry I bought the pills. I swear I haven’t taken anything.” My dad left the room and second later he was back holding his empty bottle of Ativan.

“You haven’t been going to your appointments with Dr. Friday?” He was my therapist. I hated going to him. All he did was pick his nose.

“I know. He just wants to pump me up with Zoloft.”

“You’d rather take these? Or buy shit on the internet that’s not even regulated.”

“What’s eating you up Sammy? You won’t tell me where you really were when you disappeared.” Daddy I don’t remember, I thought.

There was no way to say, Oh, by the way, a ship came to take Lucien to his planet, and I went with him. But his alien relatives didn’t want me, so they did what they wanted to me; then they took my memory and brought me back? Dad stood in front of me with red-rimmed eyes. His gaze was relentless; it was obvious he wasn’t backing down. I turned away, averting his burning stare, focusing my eyes on the living room walls, wishing for a crack I could slip away in. I could just imagine what he must have been thinking.

“Samantha––I can stay here––all day.” Dad frowned, looking at me a few moments, then turned and walked away.

He retreated but for how long? Why couldn’t he delve into cleaning or grading papers? Dad paced the floor in front of me until finally he gave up and walked into the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of him as he picked up the phone on the wall. I heard his voice speaking bits of gibberish, but my mind was miles away. I couldn’t make out what he was actually saying.

Dad hung up the phone. A few seconds later I heard the sound of ceramic plates clanging. He must be emptying the dishwasher. Bang. “Damn it anyhow!” Dad barked. I sat there, staring out into space. I could hear him huff and puff. Twice he came in to ask me if I wanted anything to eat, but twice I refused. With an empty expression on my face, I continued to sit in Dad’s recliner motionless and speechless. He came back and stared. I looked at him, not saying a word. He got the message, turned and walked away.

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Chapter Six

Chapter Six

I leaned against the door. I wept silently to myself. I wiped my eyes and went into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water. Somehow I wished the water would wash my pain away, but no such thing happened. I sighed, letting out a deep breath. I stood by the window above the sink gazing out into the darkness. The light from the Jeep caught my eye. I watched the snow begin to cover the windshield. After a few moments, the Jeep’s headlights beamed. I took another deep breath, rinsed out the glass. I noticed a note on the refrigerator.

“Samantha Hunter!!

For Christ sake!! I go to the store and you

take off???

I don’t like you pulling a stunt like this.

Call me as soon you get in!

Dad”

The TV was blaring in the living room. Dad must have left it on. I hit the switch on the set. I dragged myself up the stairs. I crawled into my bed, not bothering to undress, too exhausted to care to call Dad. Before my head hit the pillow, my phone rang. It was Dad. I somehow managed to explain where I had gone and still have him believe me, even though I didn’t tell him the truth. I turned off the lamp on my nightstand, but my thoughts would not turn off. Sleep abandoned me too.

After I tossed and turned, I began to think of Lucien’s dark black hair, the thick silky feel of it beneath my fingers. I thought of his beautiful luminous eyes and the fullness of his lips, the boyish dimple in his chin and the incredible mischievous grin. Nothing in my future would ever be the same. I thought about how he had saved me from myself. What will my life be like without him?

“Lucien, where are you?” I buried my face in my hands, sobbing; my head throbbed once again with exhaustion. I had never before experienced such a gut-wrenching pain that burrowed so deeply through my veins. I almost threw up. Was it normal to feel this way, or did some cosmic force somehow curse me? Was I missing the one guy or one alien I will ever love? I felt worse now than when Finn died. Finn unwillingly left me, but Lucien left me by his own free will, like Mom.

“Are you going to play the victim forever?” I sat up not believing my ears.”

“Finn!” He was there clear as my reflection standing at the foot of my bed.

“Seriously sis you’re making me sick to my stomach with your self-pity.”

“How is this possible? You don’t look like the vision on the mountainside.”

“Because I’m not a vision.” Finn pushed my covers away and sat.

“What are you doing here. You’re dead.”

“Tell me something I don’t already know.” He laughed. I wasn’t.

“I don’t get it. Why is this happening.”

“Because you had to find a boyfriend from outer space.” He gave me a sideways smirk.

“Is any of this real?” I jumped out my bed and scrambled to my bathroom and tore open the medicine cabinet.  Finn followed.

“There isn’t any. You threw them out.” I pushed by him. I looked under my bed on my hands and knees. “Not there,” he said laughing.

I pulled open my dresser drawers and searched. “Sam!’ Stop. You’re not crazy. You don’t need any Xanax. I’m real.”

“Okay, so now I see dead people.” I said staring at his green eyes.

“You have the blood of an alien in your cells now.” He laughed again. “What did you expect.”

“My cells? Like my eyes and my hair?”

“Have you looked in the mirror lately?”

“Why!” I rushed to my vanity mirror. “Oh my God. They’re like Luciens,” I whispered staring at my reflection.

“You’re going to keep changing until you are no longer human,” Finn said.  with a slight grimace. “And with that comes special gifts. And one of yours is to see dead people.” He said.

“I’m not so sure that’s a gift,” I said.

“I just came to tell you to get your shit together Sam. I gotta go now.”

“Your leaving? You just got here,” I said taking hold of his hand.

As quick as he was here he was gone. Just like he was gone.

This was not a night for counting my blessings. It was a night when every loss I had ever experienced rushed back. I wanted Lucien lying next to me like the night before the Christmas solstice. I wanted to laugh off my fears of never seeing him again­ with the sound of his roguish laughter. I wanted Finn back with me not as dead ghost.

Why did they send me back? I cried myself to sleep, but my shallow whimpers never ended. My nightmares were full of images of shadows that danced around me probing, poking at me. The images never came to me clearly. Some moments were filled with intense pain; others were blissful.

Each night more and more was revealed, but I never saw the shadow’s face. Each day I struggled, trying to forget Lucien. I would pass people on the streets thinking it was Lucien. I would check my phone each day hoping to see his name pop up in a text message. I went to school hoping I would see him in AP History. The days turned into weeks, weeks into months, but still not a word from him or his family. I stopped calling the ranch; it was pointless. The rumor at school was that he decided to be homeschooled like the rest of his family. He was not coming back anytime soon. I would cry out for Finn to come again, but he didn’t.

Dad gave up asking me what had happened between us. I was tired of making excuses why he did not come around anymore; he stopped asking me about that night when the ranger found me naked. The police stopped coming around. I told Dad we broke up and left it at that, but I had no idea how I ended up at the ranger station. I felt like my arm was cut off, missing from my body. My best friend was gone forever.

I went to school, came home, did my homework and managed to keep my grades passable. Every night I would go outside to look at the heavens, searching for a sign from Lucien that he was coming back. I saw only blackness and stars, but none twinkled back at me. Would I have to wait for each equinox until I would see Lucien again, or would I ever see him again?

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Chapter Five

 

Chapter Five

Time stood still as I drove home. I was numb. I’ll never forget the beam of light carrying Lucien and me into the sky. But now… all I feel is a betrayal. After all that we’ve been through, Lucien was gone… or had he ever existed? Was it all a dream, or once again is my sanity in question? I drove the Mustang into the driveway. Squeezing my eyes shut, I held in the tears that welled there and rested my head against the steering wheel. I thought about the last time, I had felt this bad…last April. I recovered then, but this time I wasn’t so sure. Lucien—the person who sustained me through the grief—was now the one causing my sorrow.

Cassiel didn’t say a word when he opened the passenger’s side door. He climbed in and shut the door. I shut the engine off. We sat there a moment, neither of us saying a word. Cassiel reached over and took my hand. “How are your hands?” he said softly. I turned my face away, looking outside at the glimmering white night. It felt surreal… like I was dreaming. He let go of my hand.

“Samantha, I’m sorry this happened to you, you of all people…” his voice faltered. “You have to understand,” he said, clearing his throat, “why it had to be this way. Lucien didn’t know it was going to happen that night.” Cassiel looked out at the road. “It all happened so fast; it wasn’t until the last minute that any of us knew. The wormhole isn’t an exact science,” Cassiel said, trying to explain as his voice cracked.

“The wormhole?” I mocked.

“Yes, Sam, the wormhole. A window where time and space have no boundaries. It was a now or wait for the next opportune moment, whenever that would be.” I didn’t believe him. He seemed genuine, but I didn’t trust him.

“Samantha, you didn’t think your little romance was going to last a lifetime, did you?” He looked at me sideways with an icy edge to his voice, a tone I had forgotten he possessed.

I turned and looked him straight in the eye. “How dare you! You wanted this! How do you sit there pretending you’re my friend?” I shouted. My head throbbed from the sudden rush of blood pressure. My warm breath steamed up the windshield; it seemed strange that anything could be warm right now. It seemed unreal that anything could seem human.

“Samantha, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. I thought we were past this hostility. I would never hurt you,” he said in a calm voice. “Lucien had to go. He was the most rational choice. If he had stayed…who knows what may have developed with Banth and Dejaha? They’re not ones to mess with.”

I sat there for a few moments thinking. I peered out the window at the snow falling.

“You betrayed me, Cassiel. You are no better than Lucien. You should’ve warned me.” Catching my breath, I continued, “All of you—Jordan, Michael, everyone, except me—knew that Lucien was leaving. He made me believe we had a future. I did believe that, Cassiel.” My voice trailed off to a whisper.

“Samantha… you must have had some clue,” Cassiel said. I could hear his sneer, even if he kept his mouth still.

“A clue? …I hate you and I hate Lucien!”

“Don’t….Sam… really, what kind of future would you two have had anyways?…What would you do when you started to get old and Lucien still looked like the day he met you, just a little older?”

“I-I never thought about that.”

“Don’t you think Lucien thought of it?”

“So you’re telling me he left because I was going to get old?”

“That’s just a small part of why he left. He saw how complicated it made your life. The Alliance had to make things right. A government official was killed.” I remembered that night on Halloween when we were being tailgated. We were nearly killed. Lucien took the blame.

“But Lucien didn’t kill him. I was there.”

“It doesn’t matter…he was involved.”

I opened the car door and was about to climb out of the Mustang when Cassiel took hold of my arm. “Samantha, wait.”

With all the strength I could muster, I pulled away from his grip. I rushed toward the house, sliding on the ice-covered driveway. Damn snow! I thought it didn’t snow in New Mexico. I’ve been wrong about many things, haven’t I? I heard the slam of the Mustang’s door, and then the Jeep’s door opened. “Sam….” Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see Cassiel standing outside of the Jeep holding the door. I ignored him. I trotted to the front door, leaving Cassiel behind.

“Sam, don’t do this!”

I took my keys out of my purse and fidgeted with the lock. I tried to place the key into the tiny hole, but my hands were too shaky to steady them.

“Sam, wait,” Cassiel said, walking up behind me. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” I struggled to unlock the door once more. I started to panic. “We can figure something out. Maybe there’s a way to get him to come back…. We can work something out with Banth and Dejaha!” I halted a moment listening to him.

“You don’t get it!” I said without turning, “He chose to leave! He doesn’t want to come back, Cassiel.”

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