It's Not Over, Page 2Willow Rose
“You almost done?” Peter asked and stood in the doorway. He walked in and kissed each of the twins goodnight. She smiled warmly.
“Almost. Just a few more pages.”
He looked at his watch. “All right, but hurry up. We have reservations at eight.”
He left, and the kids crept slightly closer to her. She kept reading until Maggie suddenly interrupted her.
“What if we get scared while you’re gone?” she asked.
“Then you have the phone. Remember how I told you that you could call my phone and I’ll be up in less than a minute?”
Maggie nodded with a sniffle. Blake sent her a concerned look. She pulled them both closer.
“I’ll come to check on you once every thirty minutes,” Mary said, her heart aching. She didn’t like this. The children weren’t used to being left alone. On the other hand, she knew Peter was right; they’d be safe in the hotel room, but still. She couldn’t say why, but she didn’t feel comfortable leaving them. “I’ll leave the bedroom door ajar to make sure there’s a little light coming in. It’ll be just like if Mommy and Daddy are right next door.”
“But you won’t be,” her son added, concerned. “You are not next door. What if Maggie has a nightmare?”
“You’ll be fine,” she said, trying her best to sound comforting. “You’ll be sleeping, and when you wake up, Mommy and Daddy will be here again. You won’t even know we were gone.”
Mary sighed and tugged them close to her. She pulled up their covers, then kissed their foreheads gently. As she walked to the door, she wondered if it was because they could sense her unease that they were anxious about this. Children sensed those things in their mothers, often before they did themselves.
Mary flipped the light switch, then turned around to glance at her already half-asleep children one last time. With a deep sigh of happiness, she thought to herself: How did I get to be this lucky?
She did order the Foie Gras. Not because she desperately wanted to eat it again the way Peter thought, but mostly to make him happy. He had wanted to treat her with this delicious meal for years, and now he finally could.
Peter was a sweetheart, and she didn’t want to break his dear heart, so naturally, she ordered Foie Gras for the appetizer and then the fish for the entrée. The food was wonderful, and so was the atmosphere at the restaurant. They were sitting by the big panoramic windows overlooking the dark ocean as the sun set. Everything was beyond exquisite.
After the first glass of wine, Mary began to relax, and as the second went the same way, she no longer had that knot in her stomach, telling her things were about to go terribly wrong. She smiled and laughed at Peter’s jokes, and they talked while looking deeply into each other’s eyes without being interrupted, something they hadn’t been able to do much of in the past five years. Yet somewhere between the appetizer and the entrée, the conversation still turned to be about them, the children. Mary had run out of other topics to talk about, and frankly, they were more on her mind than ever.
“Do you know what Maggie told me today?” Mary said with a light laugh. Her fingers were touching the stem of the wine glass gently as she smiled secretly to herself. “She said she had met a secret spy.”
Peter laughed and sipped his wine, leaning his head back.
“Isn’t that cute?” Mary asked. “I swear; with her imagination, she’s going places. I won’t be surprised if she turns out to become an author one day or a screenwriter or something like that. She’s got what it takes. And Blake?” Mary shook her head, smiling from ear to ear. “That boy is adorable. He took my hand just yesterday and told me he wanted to live in our backyard when he grew older, to be able always to be close to me, and protect me when I got old. Isn’t that the sweetest thing? He’s going to make some girl very happy one day.”
Peter nodded slowly, then ordered more wine. Mary sipped her glass and peeked at her watch.
“It’s been half an hour. I should go check on them.”
She felt Peter’s hand on her arm. “Let me do it.”
She tried to hide her disappointment behind a smile. She had wanted to see them and had actually looked forward to it. But Peter believed he was helping her out. She couldn’t really get angry at that.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I don’t mind.”
He gave her a look. He rose to his feet and bent over and kissed the top of her hair, a gesture that felt both protective and gentle. “You take care of those kids all day long, twenty-four-seven. You need a break. I will go. You stay here, and I’ll check on them. You can go next time, okay?”
She forced another smile, then nodded. “O-okay.”
He leaned down and kissed her lips, then left with the keycard in his hand. The minutes felt like hours while Mary waited, and when he finally returned, her wine glass was empty. She looked up at him expectantly. She almost gasped as she spoke: “How were they? Is everything okay?”
He exhaled, then ran a hand through his hair. He sat down with a sigh. “They’re fine, Mary. Just like I told you they would be. Now, let’s get back to our dinner. I’m starving.”
She had the Alaskan Halibut, and he had the New Zealand Elk Chop. They ate in silence, except for Peter’s groans of delight as he chewed. The food was beyond excellent; there was no doubt about it, but for some reason, Mary seemed to have lost her appetite. The more she put in her mouth, the more it seemed to grow in her throat and made it hard to swallow. She didn’t know why she was feeling this way, nor did she understand why the earlier so soft chairs felt hard to sit in or why the walls in the restaurant felt like they were closing in on her. It was like the anxiousness that had crept up on her all day grew larger than anything else, and she could no longer escape it.
Something was wrong, and she had no idea what to do about it.
You’re being silly. Peter was just up there with the children, and they were fine. They were sleeping, he said. They won’t even notice you’ve been gone.
“And you’re sure they were sleeping, right?” she asked. “Both of them?”
She looked up at him. The look on her face changed to uncertainty. A real smile spread across his, and it miraculously eased the tension—at least for a second or two. Then it was back…the deep, strange fear. His hand crept across the tablecloth and grasped hers in his. He rubbed his thumb on top of her hand.
“Relax, Mary. You’re going to drive yourself crazy with worry. They were fine. Sleeping like babies. Trust me.”
She smiled nervously. “Of course, I trust you. It’s just…”
His eyes caught hers, and they locked. “Let it go; will you, Mary? We need to be able to go out as a couple now and then. We have to be more than just parents. We’re also a married couple, remember?”
She nodded, biting her lip gently. He was right, of course, he was. It was just that she had never had that same desire to be alone with him as he had with her. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him or enjoy being with him anymore; it was just…well, it was like something was missing when they were alone. A part of her was missing. They were missing…the twins. It was like she wasn’t complete when they weren’t there.
But she never could get Peter to understand how she felt because he didn’t feel the same way.
She just wished they could all be together all the time, all four of them.
“Maybe I should go check on them,” she said, swallowing another bite that she barely tasted because her mind was elsewhere.
“What? But I just went fifteen minutes ago?” Peter protested.
Her shoulders slumped. “I know. I just…I feel so anxious.”
“I was literally just up there, and I told you they were fine. I stood in the doorway, and they were both asleep. You don’t trust me, do you?”
“Of course, I do,” she said.
But it was a lie, and they both knew it. She hadn’t trusted him since the twins arrived. She wanted to explain that it had nothing to do with
him; it was her. She didn’t trust anyone when it came to her children. It was just because he didn’t feel the same responsibility as she did. His entire life wasn’t about their every need like hers was. It was hard to let go and trust others when it came to your children. Peter hadn’t been there much. She always took care of them…even at night. He didn’t know that sometimes Blake would forget to go to the bathroom if he woke up at night. Sometimes, he would not go because he was too scared of the monsters in the closet to get out of the bed. Then he’d end up wetting himself. Peter didn’t know about these things, and she hadn’t told him to walk in there and look closely at Blake to be sure he wasn’t awake. Sometimes, he’d lie in there, too scared to say anything. You’d have to stand by his bed and look into his face to know for sure. You’d have to check if his eyes were closed.
Now, suddenly, she was obsessed with the thought. He could be up there right now, trying to hold it in, or maybe he had already wet the bed?
“I just need to make sure Blake doesn’t need to pee. I forgot to ask him before bedtime if he needed to go again. I’m scared he might wet the bed.”
Peter exhaled again, then sipped his wine. “I can’t believe you. Well, if it’ll make you feel better, then, by all means, you should go.”
She shot to her feet, then grabbed the key card from the table. She leaned over and kissed him on the lips.
“I’ll be right back. I promise.”
The keycard slid through the reader with a click, and the small light turned green. Mary pushed the door open with a relieved sigh. In a few seconds, she’d get to see for herself. In a few seconds, she’d see her babies again and know that they were all right. She’d finally feel the sense of peace she had lacked all night long. She’d finally be able to relax.
Babies, Mommy is here.
The first thing she noticed as she stepped inside was a draft. It struck her as odd that there would be one as she closed the door and it disappeared. Next, she noticed the open door. The door to the children’s bedroom was left fully open and not just slightly ajar to let in some light. It was probably from Peter when he went to check on them, she decided, then moved closer when she realized there was a light on inside the twins’ bedroom. More light than she expected. This filled her with an unease that was hard to explain away. It could, of course, be that Peter had left some sort of light on, but why would he do that? The kids slept with the door slightly ajar, not a nightlight.
She walked to the door, then stepped inside the bedroom, her pulse quickening. Her eyes fell on Maggie’s bed, then Blake’s. Her heart stopped beating.
Both beds were empty.
Her eyes shot across the room, scanning the corners for her children, wondering for a desperate second if they might be playing somewhere else. Then her eyes landed on the sliding doors leading to the small porch outside. The light green curtains were fluttering in the wind.
The sliding doors are open. Why are the doors open?
Gasping for breath, she rushed to the doors and went out onto the small balcony outside. Their suite was on the second floor with views of the pool area below.
Barely able to breathe, Mary turned around and stormed across the suite, running for the door, almost tripping over her own feet. She slammed the door shut behind her, then ran to the elevator and pressed the button repeatedly. The elevator came, and she pressed the button to go to the lobby. As it dinged open, she stormed out and ran in her high heels, lifting her dress to be better able to run fast into the restaurant where she spotted Peter. He lifted his glance when he saw her and smiled, but as he saw the terror on her face, his smile froze. He rose to his feet.
She hurried toward him, barely able to keep from screaming.
“What’s wrong, Mary? What’s going on?”
She spoke, but the words sort of fell out of her mouth in a strange jumble that made her hard to understand.
“The children…the kids…Peter…they…Peter the chil…Oh, Peter…”
A frown grew between his brows, and he rose to his feet.
“What are you trying to say, Mary?”
“They’re not in their beds, Peter.”
“What do you mean they’re not in their beds? I was just there.”
“They’re not there.”
“But that makes no sense,” Peter said.
Mary stared at him, then shouted loudly, almost screamed into his face: “They’re gone, Peter. Someone has taken the children!”
TEN YEARS LATER
Cocoa Beach, Florida
“Where are all the yellow ones? Did you eat the yellow M&M’s? You know I love those!”
I gave my sister Sydney a look, and she blushed. She was sitting next to me in my minivan, in the passenger’s seat, the bag of peanut M&M’s between us along with several other empty bags of candy and fast-food.
“What if I did? I like them too,” she said. “Plus, I never get to eat junk like this.”
“You want me to feel sorry for you? You chose to become a Hollywood actress,” I said. “And gave all that up in the process. No one forced you.”
“Maybe not, but now I want to eat stuff like that too. Especially since I’m not doing any new movies soon.”
“Wait, here comes another one,” I said as I lifted my binoculars and looked at the man as he entered through the back door. “That’s fifteen today.”
Sydney took a deep breath. “The poor girl.”
I ate an orange M&M, but it simply wasn’t the same as the yellow ones. “Gotta meet that quota.”
“That’s just awful. I can’t stand it, Eva Rae. Sitting here watching all these men go in and out, knowing she’s in there…it makes me so mad.”
“Good,” I said. “It should make you angry. We can use that.”
“Can’t we just take her back to the shelter with us now? It’s driving me crazy that we know this is happening, and we’re not doing anything about it.”
I shook my head. “Gotta wait till the right moment.”
Sydney groaned. She was wearing a wig, giving her black hair and a bob cut. It looked cute on her, but then again, everything looked adorable on my sister, the famous Hollywood actress. She had just finished a movie, and all the profits from it had gone into our mutual project, House of Freedom. We had literally bought a house for the project, a house to shelter trafficked girls. It was in South Cocoa Beach, by Thirty-fifth Street, directly on the beach, and had become the perfect shelter for the young girls. Supported by trained staff, we nurtured them back to life outside of captivity.
My sister Sydney and I had gotten the idea after rescuing my daughter and a bunch of other girls from traffickers in Miami. We wanted to provide a safe haven for girls like them, a place to stay where they could get all the help they needed. Since Sydney had been kidnapped as a child herself by our biological father and we had ended up growing up apart from one another, rescuing young girls from their kidnappers was a big dream for both of us. Doing this project together, starting the House of Freedom, was a way of healing for both of us as well.
We had recently heard about this RV in a parking lot on the mainland by Rockledge, where a girl was held captive. We had kept an eye on it for three days now and seen more than enough.
I lowered the binoculars and looked at my sister again. We waited half an hour till the guy left, then took a series of photos of him walking out, just for security.
It was getting darker out now as the sun set behind the trees in the parking lot. The darkness would be our friend.
“All right,” I said and grabbed my Glock 17 9MM handgun. “Let’s do this.”
We walked up to the RV, then knocked on the door. It was opened, and a guy I could only assume was this girl’s pimp was standing there. His eyes landed on Sydney and me as a frown grew between them. He stepped outside, smirking from ear
to ear, the door to the RV slamming shut behind him.
“Who are you?”
I pointed my gun at him and placed it right in front of his face to make sure he understood the seriousness of the situation.
“We’re here to get the girl. And make it quick.”
Of course, he had to make a big deal about it.
“What girl? What are you talking about?”
“Do we really have to go there?” I asked, annoyed. “I really don’t want to have to hurt you.”
That made him laugh. He was every bit as nasty as you’d imagine a guy exploiting a young girl like her would be. His teeth were destroyed, probably from meth, and his big stomach bulged over the top of his pants. He had sweat patches under his armpits, and his skin was glistening. Don’t even let me get started on how he smelled.
“You? Hurt me? I’d like to see you try.”
He looked at us like he could eat us, especially my sister. It made me even angrier. I cocked the gun. The sound wiped the smirk from his face.
“I don’t think anyone would miss you, do you? I know the girl in there certainly won’t.”
“Listen,” he said. “I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here, but you have no right to…”
I lowered the gun and fired a shot between his legs. The guy screamed and danced.
“What the…are you crazy, lady?”