Red (Part 6)
He moved his hand slowly away, never taking his eyes off the road. "I'm sorry, but ever since I first saw you, I've felt something inside of me. Something I've never felt before."
"What are you talking about? We barely know each other. The turn is up here. You can drop me off." I was through with being polite. He was starting to creep me out. I knew something was terribly wrong.
"I think...I think I love you. And I never want to be apart from you. This is the first time I have ever felt this way about anyone." He stole a glance at me.
"What are you saying? How could you love me? I don't even know you. You don't know me." My voice was beginning to rise. The car suddenly felt smaller and I felt trapped. The man's soothing voice couldn't help me now. "The turn was right there. You missed it. Where are you going?"
"I love you. I have ever since I first saw you. I want you to be with me forever." He stayed calm while I was being pushed farther and farther off the cliff of sanity I was clinging onto.
"Turn around. I don’t know you. Just let me go home." I tried the door, but it was locked and wouldn't unlock for me. "Just let me go home." I was crying now, furiously trying to open the door even though I knew it would remain locked. "Please, please, please!"
I found a button and pressed it. The door unlocked and I took my chance. I unbuckled my seat belt and forced the door open in one movement. For the first time, he looked over at the passenger side and saw that I, his prisoner, had escaped. I rolled on the pavement, but got up quickly. He slammed on the brakes, but I was already running for all I had. I tripped on something beneath me and scraped my forearms on something else, but I ignored the pain and continued to run.
I ran and ran, but I continued to stumble. I couldn't scream or talk because I was too scared. All I could do was cry and pray that he wouldn't catch up to me. All I wanted was to go back home, sleep in my own bed, and eat warm food. I had no sense of where I was.
I looked over my shoulder to see how far ahead I was or wasn't. I tripped and fell onto something sharp with my left arm. Something had cut my face in the process of falling. The pain was agonizing. I could barely lift myself back up. I knew that he was close. I could hear him somewhere behind me. I turned onto my back, surrendering. He bent over, out of breath, no more than a foot away. My voice was small and pleading, broken by my sobs. "Please…please don't hurt me. I won’t–I won't tell anyone, I pr–promise. Just…please…let me g–go home."
"I love you. I want to be with you forever. And I know, deep down, that you never want to leave me. You just need some convincing. I will show you how much I love you." He got down to the ground and placed his body on top of mine so I couldn't get away. I tried pushing him away with my right arm, but he was too heavy. My legs were pinned beneath him.
"Stop, pl–please stop. I pr…" But that was all I could say. His hand covered my mouth with a piece of wet cloth. I squeezed my eyes tight and wished that I was somewhere else, anywhere else. I started to get so tired and weak; I couldn’t fight the urge to let the darkness take over my whole body.
"Brooke, Brooke. Can you hear me?" Sawyer was holding my head up. I opened my eyes and saw a circle of people surrounding us. I was on the sidewalk, now sitting up with Sawyer's support.
"Wha–what happened? Why am I here? What's happening?" I was out of breath from sobbing.
"I was driving you home and then you started to freak out. I had no why you were saying the stuff you were saying. You were acting like I was hurting you. Then you jumped out of the car and started running to the sidewalk. I was trying to catch up to you so you wouldn't get hurt, but you were really far ahead. You kept tripping on the sidewalk, so that made it easier for me to catch up to you. Then you fell and tore open your stitches on your arm. You've been crying and saying 'Please stop', 'Don't hurt me', and 'I want to go home.' I think someone called 911." The crowd continued to look at me as Sawyer explained my sudden appearance on a sidewalk in San Francisco.
"But I was…car…taking me away…I ran to get away…I wasn't here…trees…he was hurting me…so real…" I couldn't continue to talk. I broke down past all chances of communication.
Sawyer took me into his arms and started to rock me and stroke my back. "Shh, shh, everything is okay. You're safe now. None of it really happened. You can go home soon." I heard the sirens of an ambulance approaching us. The siren stopped but I could see the flashing blue and red lights through my eyelids. The circle opened to let in a couple of paramedics in to treat me. Sawyer let go of me and let the paramedics take over.
The young woman with her hair pulled back into a bun examined my left arm as she asked me, "What is your name?"
Her partner, an older man, checked my eyes by flashing a little light directly in them. I tried to take deep breaths to calm myself down enough to talk. "Br–Brooke C–Conall." He wrote down my answer on a piece of paper attached to a clipboard.
"Do you know where you are, Brooke?" the woman asked in a calm voice. She was cleaning my arm with an alcohol wipe. I bit my lip to prevent myself from crying from the burning on my arm.
She injected something that numbed my arm and said, "Good. I'm giving you something to numb your arm so we can work on it in the ambulance. Are you able to stand up?"
I nodded but then winced. I still had a headache and moving my head made it worse. The man put an arm behind my back and grabbed my right hand with the other. The woman came to my other side and both walked me to the open end of the ambulance. I sat down on the edge. The man wrapped something around my right arm and made it tight. After a few seconds, it released the pressure. He wrote down the results on the clipboard. I hadn't noticed that it was still raining until I sat under the protection of the ambulance. I was shivering from the cold despite the warmth of my coat.
"Do you know what year it is, Brooke?" she asked as she worked on my stitches.
"Two–two th–thousand an–and eight," I said through chattering teeth. Sawyer was watching us, the closest person in the crowd surrounding us.
“How about the month and the day?”
"Good. Do she hit her head on the sidewalk?" She was talking to Sawyer now.
"No. She fell forward and her arms softened the fall.""The lady who called said that she was screaming like somebody was hurting her. Can you explain?"
"Well, she's been under a lot of stress lately and she gets frequent nightmares. I was taking her home to get her to sleep and relieve some of her stress." Sawyer was lying for me. Why? Maybe he didn't really know what happened and was making something up to get us away from all of this attention so he could figure it out. But, I didn't even know what happened.
"I don't think she needs to go to the hospital since we got her arm fixed up here and she doesn't have a concussion, but I'm questioning her state of mind. Do you have a family member that I could call?" She was talking to me again, but Sawyer cut in before I could speak.
"I'm her brother. She doesn't need to go to the hospital. I’ll make sure she gets home safely.” He stepped closer to me, ready to whisk me away at the woman’s signal.
She continued to speak to me, “Can I speak to you alone for a moment?” I nodded as Sawyer stepped back, giving us space for privacy. The woman stepped in front of me, blocking my view of Sawyer and surely blocking me from Sawyer’s sight.
“Was he trying to hurt you? You can tell me. I won’t let him get to you if he has.” This confused me. I had no reason to fear Sawyer. But it all had seemed so real, the fear from it had caused me to be here; and why was Sawyer lying and trying to get me alone with him again?
“N–n–no, I th–th–think it was j–j–just a ni–nightmare and I wa–was sleep wa–walking.” My teeth were chattering from the cold and the wet rain on my clothes. From behind the man draped a blanket around my shoulders. I grabbed it tightly for fear of losing my only source of heat.
The woman had the look of disbelief in her eyes, a look I knew too well. Linda and my dad looked at me that way whenever I told them that I was fine. The woman gave up reluctantly and said, “Call 911 if you are ever in trouble. They will help you. Be safe, Brooke. You can go with your brother now.” She stepped away and allowed Sawyer to help me stand up. I shrugged the blanket off my shoulders and walked with him.
“My car is right over here.” He opened the passenger’s door without another word. I sat once again in the seat. As soon as my legs were in he closed the door gently but with enough force to close it properly. He started the car and waited for enough time between the congested cars to merge into traffic. I looked in the side mirror and saw the crowd was beginning to evanesce.
“How could you do this, Gabe? To your own mom. You know she has been worried sick about Cori and then you pull this. I know you want to help, but how would it help by doing that?” Allen was astonished that Gabe had requested such a thing and that he had snuck out. To make matters worse, he asked in front of Maya.
Gabe took the verbal lashing quietly because it was in his nature to do so. When he responded, he simply restated his argument, “I know that Cori always wanted to move there someday. Maybe she went there, we could look for her. I’m tired of going to school and pretending like everything is okay. If you hadn’t noticed, nothing has been fine. And you and Mom don’t ever talk about her. You argue again and again about things that don’t matter. Not once have you tried to help her. You send her away for someone else to deal with her problems. I can’t take it anymore.”
“I swear that you are becoming more and more like her everyday. Do you really want to end up like her, Gabe?” Allen did not mean to say it out loud, but he had become so frustrated.
Gabe couldn’t stand Allen talking about her like that. He automatically went to her defense. It was one of the only topics that made him lose his temper. “Do you honestly think that I’m like her? We are nothing alike. Have you even bothered to learn about us? Sure you adopted us, but do you even know who we are? Do you know what she really thought about school? Do you know how she got the money whenever she ran away? Do you know how she feels about living at home instead of going to college? Do you know how many friends she had in the past year? Two years? Do you even know her favorite colour?” Allen was speechless. He continued to glare at his step-dad. Maya had heard Gabe yelling and decided to come back into the room to see what was happening. “That’s what I thought. I’m not like her, but she is my sister and don’t you ever talk about her like that again. She messed up, but she was trying so hard to make both of you happy. She confided in me, not you; and she didn’t end up like anything. She was getting better. I miss her too much to see Mom cry every time I try to talk about her. I’m going with Jordan whether you like it or not.”
Maya began to cry and beg. “Gabe, please don’t go. You scared me half to death when I didn’t see you in your bed this morning. I thought that you ran away, too. I just can’t bear to wake up and know that both of my babies are gone. What if you don’t come back, Gabe?”
He talked softly to his mom because of her fragile state. “I would never leave you, Mom; but I need to do this for myself, for Cori, for you. I have to try looking for her. I’ve seen you cry too many times.” He walked away, relieved that he said what he needed to say.
He headed to his room, but Maya stopped him. She asked in a small voice, “Gabe, how did she get the money to run away?”
“I think that it’s better that you don’t know.” He meant it, but she fell to her knees, sobbing. She was imagining the worst thing possible. He went to his room to pack his bag for his trip. Toby followed at his heels.
Allen had finally awoken from his shock and called after him, “Is this what you wanted, Gabe? To torture your mom by withholding the truth?” He knelt to comfort his wife, but she shied away.
“I want to be alone, Allen. You don’t understand.” This statement angered him. Of course I understand. I am your husband. I know what make you upset, what makes you happy. We have grown older together, he thought.
He grabbed her shoulders firmly. His voice began to rise. “How do I not understand? Am I not a good husband? Do I not provide for you? Have I not given you a life most people would kill for? Did I not love you or our children enough? Tell me, Maya, why are you unhappy?”
She gave an empty stare and replied calmly, “I love you, but you are…you have changed. This is not the life I’ve always pictured. Yes, we have a beautiful house and two beautiful children, but we are broken. I was broken from when I left Ethan when you met me. I was a single mother of two. I had lost somebody I thought I loved who hit me. You never had a chance with Cori. She loved Ethan and thought that you were trying to replace him. You can’t blame a child for thinking that. And because we were so preoccupied with providing Cori and Gabe with a nice house and nice things, we lost Cori. We didn’t see the anger problems that she was going through, her feelings of abandonment. We failed to care for her properly. I failed her as a mother. I adopted her to give her a better life than she would have, but is this life actually better? I need to be alone, to come to terms with myself. I’m going to my sister’s house for a while.”
She stood up straight and left him sitting on the floor too stunned to move. “He’s right, you know. We do nothing but argue. I don’t think we know each other anymore.” She went to their room to pack and call her sister. Not only was his son leaving, but his wife did not want to stay. He could he blame them for wanting to be away from the constant reminder of an empty room, an empty space at the dinner table, an empty sound. But they were supposed to stay together, to weather through this storm with each other’s support. All of this was because Cori was not home.