*2 weeks later*
I was woken up by the sound of someone pacing. I groaned. Novian had been on edge every since he found out about Marcus and Jake being brothers. He wouldn’t let Beniyah and I out of his sights. He slept in the room with me and refused to move out to the guest house.
“Novian I’m going to kill you if you don’t let me get some sleep.” I groaned sitting up. I turned my bedside lamp on and was shocked by what I was seeing. I looked on side of me and Novian was in a deep sleep with Beniyah laying on his back. I did a double take to make sure I wasn’t imagining this.
“Hey Hope.” He smiled. Hearing his voice brought me to life.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh oh my god!” I screamed practically jumping out of bed and into his arms tears filling my eyes. More screams came out as I cried outnof pure joy. I didn’t care that all this screaming could possibly wake everyone else up. I was excited. It was Zach. My Zach was laugh. “Please please please tell me this isn’t a dream.” I cried hugging him tighter. He pulled me at an arms length tears in his own eyes.
“It’s not a dream Hope. I’m so glad to see you.” He cried making me cry harder.
“Novian! Novian wake up!” I yelled as Zach picked up Beniyah who was wide awake and clinging to him. “Novian!” I yelled punching him.
“Damn it Hope that hurts.”
“Get up please.” I cried. He opened an eye and shoot up his hands immediately going to my face.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” He panicked. I couldn’t speak as I pointed behind him. He turned around quicker than I thought was possible. “Z-Zach?”
“H-how...is this r-real?” He stuttered.
“You bet.” He smiled before pulling him into a hug. For the first time ever both James brothers clung to each other and cried. I grabbed Beniyah as I sat back on the bed. I could feel their pain and relief. They were happy to have each other again. The door opened as Mr.James and Mrs.James entered. Just like I had their mom screamed and rushed over to her boys tears streaming down her eyes. Mr.James stood in the doorway frozen as he stared at them before staring at me. I nodded with a soft smile as he came over to me and hugged me.
“I know that look Hope. None of this is your fault. You can’t keeping thinking that.” I smiled as I snuggled into him.
“I love you.”
“I love you too Hope. Your dad would be so proud of you.”
“You remind me of him.” I laughed. I could feel his deep grumble of a laugh on my cheek as he played with my hair the same way my daddy use too.
“That’s because Fred copied me in everything.”
“He use to say the same about you.” I laughed.
“I bet. Here give me Beniyah. When you figure out how he’s alive come and get me. If he’s a zombie good luck.” I burst into laughter as he stood and grabbed his wife before leaving.
“What’s funny?” Asked Novian wrapping his arms around me.
“Dad called him a zombie and told me good luck.” I laughed.
“So are you two finally back together?” Smiled Zach.
“Working things out.” I smiled leaning against him.
“So how in the hell are you alive?” Blurted Novian as I shook my head.
“So first you snot up my shirt and then you ask me that.” He laughed.
“Great. You’re still an ass.”
“Can you tell us Zach? You’ve been gone for months. Where were you?”
“What?” Yelled Novian and I at the same time. He spent damn near three months in that place.
“What do you mean you were at the apartment this whole time?” Asked Novian.
“Exactly that. After I got off the phone with you Destiny texted me saying she was in trouble and needed my help. I’m thinking fuck that, but realized it was a great opportunity to ask her what made her lose her fucking mind. So I taped a recorder to the inside of my thigh and headed towards the apartment. I mean it was on the way anyways. So I get there and she’s giving me this sob story about how the Cavenaugh’s are forcing her to do all if this,but didn’t tell me why. Then the weirdest shit happened. Some dude who looked exactly like me and two others in hoods showed up out of nowhere. I’m wrestling with them while their trying to put this cloth over my mouth. As I’m getting weaker she says she never meant for things to get this far. She only wanted to hurt Hope. I’m thinking what the hell happened between you two that made her take it to these extremes. Anyways, I wake up a few hours later locked inside your apartment and it’s padlocked shut. There’s electricity for some reason and the fridged is stocked. Now I’m really thinking that all of this was planned. I listened to the recording as I waited. Turns out she saved me and had my doppleganger take my wallet and car keys. He’s the one you guys had a funeral for.”
“Why save you?” I asked. “I mean if she’s really having a change of heart, why is she only warning you?”
“I asked myself the same thing. On the recording she spoke about paying them. Said she was about to come into a lot of money soon and thanked them for their help. I have no clue what she meant by that though.”
“I do.” I blurted.
“A few days before my check up I remembered something. It was about Marcus and the brother he hated. He use to talk about him a lot, but it was only with me. That’s when everything clicked. Novian had kicked his ass in the cafeteria that day and he wanted revenge. So he got together with Destiny and they ended up conning me out of a hundred grand.”
“The only problem with that is that he wasn’t the one that I fought in the cafeteria that day.”
“What?” I asked. I guess now it was my turn to be confused. “But he-”
“I know what everyone had been saying. I made them say it. I didn’t want you to know.”
“Want me to know what Novian?”
“That I was the one he attacked that day.” Answered Zach.
“Hope,” he sighed. “That day I was in one of the old classrooms with Marcus getting high and he brought you up. Asking me questions about us. I mean we weren’t even together yet. Basically he was trying to rile me up so he brought up the party.”
“The party where Zach and I-”
“Yeah. I kind of lost it. He almost died from lack of air and then I picked a fight with Zach.”
“And got his ass kicked.”
“Why didn’t either of you say anything?” I asked.
“We were to busy stopping people from calling you a slut.” Spat Novian.
“What? They were calling me names!”
“Way to go idiot.” Snapped Zach slapping him upside the head.
“I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.”
“Look to make things clear that night at the party didn’t happen the way everyone think it did.”
“Huh?” They both asked as I rolled my eyes.
It was our sophomore year and Zach’s senior year and the party boy was claiming to throw the best party of the year. It was the end of the summer and we definitely need to have some fun.
“No.” Spat Zach.
“Please. Come on.” Begged Novian. This seemed to be tradition. One in which ended in Novian and I sitting on the couch with a pizza watching movies. Not this time.
“Zachy please? I need a fun night. My mom is getting sicker and I...I just-” I felt the tears pricking the corners of my eyes. I hated having to play this card, but it always seemed to work.
“Ugh! Fine. You both have less than ten minutes to get ready. Stay away from me when we get there and stay the hell away from the alcohol. Or else you have to deal with me.”
“Yes sir!” Novian and I said simultaneously as we ran off.
“Hope.” Called Zach making me turn around. I sighed. I knew it was too good to be true.
“You’re like my sister please cover up and stay away from dickheads.”
“Got it.” I smiled running off.
“And stick by Novian! Don’t leave his side!”
“I got it Zach!” I yelled as I ranned down to my apartment. Dad was out again and mom was sitting there staring at a blank tv.
“Hey mom.” Silence. “Did you eat today?” More silence. “Drink?” Still silent. “I’m going out with Novian and Zach. Do I have to be back by a certain time?” Nothing. “Okay mom, I love you.”
I sighed as I headed back to my room to get ready. She was getting worse. Not eating. Not drinking. Not speaking. Nothing. Tonight I wouldn’t let that bother me. I took a quick shower and picked out a tight black pencil skirt with a black crop top with ‘sexy’ written in red glitter. I did a small wing with eyeliner and a bit of mascara with a bright red lipstick. To complete the look I wore my red strap up wedges. I grabbed my phone and keys, kissed my mom goodbye and met up with the James brothers at the apartment.
“Hey.” I smiled getting their attention.
“WHAT THE HELL HOPE I TOLD YOU TO COVER UP?!” Yelled Zack.
“I did.” I pouted.
“YOU CALL THIS COVERED UP?!”
“Come on Zach.”
“Sixteen actually. Remember we started school a year late.”
“Doesn’t change the facts Hope.”
“Fine I’ll change if Novian asks me too.” We both turned to look at Novian who despite his chocolate color was blushing hard.
“Um...I-um...” He stuttered causing me to laugh.
“You’re useless.” Sighed Zach as he took off his jacket and put it on me. I frowned as he smiled. “Keep it or stay.”
The music was loud. The floors vibrated from the bass in the speakers. The house smelled like booze and weed and I couldn’t wait to find Marcus. Zach said no drinking, but thay didn’t mean we couldn’t get high. I winked at Novian as we headed towards the cloud of smoke only to have Zach grab us by our collars.
“If either of you get stoned tonight I swear I’ll murder you.” He threatened.
“You’re no fun Zachory!” I yelled.
“Whatever you say Bumpkin.” He laughed as he walked off. I turn towards Novian with a pout and saw the twinkle in his eyes.
“What are you thinking?” I asked. He took a step closer to me and upzipped the jacket.
“We never listened to Zach before so why start now.” He laughed as he took the jacket off of me. “Besides I think you look great.”
“And you know the rest. We danced. Got stoned and then Marcus gave us something to drink and tricked me into going into a room by saying it was Novian in there. Not to be an ass but you both can be twins. Being under the influence really didn’t help.” I laughed.
“To think all this time I thought it was Hope who was the bad influence, but it was really you.”
“What can I say I’d do anything to make her smiled.” He laughed. Zach groaned as Novian and I continued to tease him.
“I forgot how annoying the two of you can be together. Well I’m glad the two of you can kiss and make up, but how are we going to get your money back.”
“We aren’t Zach. Whatever happens to her from this point on she deserves it. All of this was her plan.”
“How do you figure that?” Asked Novian.
“At first I thought she was made because I didn’t tell her Beniyah had been born, but now I know it was because I had something she could never obtain.”
“A child by Novian.” I said shrugging my shoulders. I had the one guy she always wanted and we had our own little family. I wasn’t going to let her ruin this for me. Not anymore.
We were out at some restaurant not to far from town. Marcus kept going on and on about things and I just needed a break.
“I meed to use the bathroom.” I announced as he continued to stuff his mouth.
“I don’t care. You know better.” I flinched as he glared at me, but nodded before scurrying off. The minute I was im the ladies bathroom my phone was ringing. I smiled seeing who it was.
“Did they fall for it?” I asked eagerly.
“Yeah. Destiny this is kind of cruel. I’ve heard a few stories and they were close.”
“Look Mark I’m counting on you. I’ve told you everything you needed to know-”
“Yeah everything except how to be Zach. Besides I think the kid knows something.”
“Beniyah? No way he’s to young.”
“And nine year olds are graduating from Harvard. I’m telling you the kid is smart. He knows the scam.”
“Mark you’re being paranoid. I need you there. You have to keep them safe. Marcus feels like he got away with things and I think he wants more.”
“What?! I thought we were done.”
“Same, but he was just bragging about his friend that’s a guard where Jake was sent. He used a favor to have him Ronaldo in the same cell.”
“No.” Great. He sounded as scared as I was. “Why would he do that?”
“The two of them are bound to have the same hate for Novian and Hope after everything.”
“What’s the point? What would get from this?”
“What he’s always wanted.”
“And what’s that?”
“Novian dead and Hope broken enough to accept just anyone.”
“You know she hates you right?”
“That’s what I wanted Mark. Now do me this favor and make sure the both of them are kept safe.”
“Fine. I’ll do it, but I won’t like it. It’s cruel to have them thinking Zach is alive when he’s not.”
“I know that Mark. Despite my feelings for Novian I had something real with him. Now I have to live with the burden that he’s gone because of petty jealousy.”
“I get it. Save me a spot in hell if Marcus finds out about this.” We both laughed as he hung up. I took a deep breath as I finished up and went back to the table. Marcus was still there stuffing his face and bragging about how Ronaldo and Jake would take our plan to the next level. This wasn’t my plan anymore. This was madness.
“Destiny, just to let you know you betray me and I’ll kill you myself and this time you won’t be wearing a protective vest. Understood.”
“Yes.” I answered.
“Good.” I held my head down in shame. This was what everything had come down too.
“Hey Zach.” I said standing in the doorway of his room. It felt good to be able to do this again. He looked at me as he put his phone away, but he didn’t say a word to me. I sighed feeling tears pricking the corner of my eyes. “Feel like a being a big brother? I could use one.” He smirked as he opened his arms for me. For a moment it was like these past few months had never happened. Just like on Beniyah’s birthday flashes of our younger years played in my head. Our parents would be in the kitchen hashing it out about their younger days. I’d be in the playroom with Novian. That is until he pissed me off and then I’ll come running to Zach asking for a big brother. He’d open his arms and we’d just lay there, and Novian would come in and jump on top of us. “I missed you Zach.” I smiled getting comfortable as I laid on his chest.
“I missed you too Bumpkin.” He laughed poking the tip of my nose. I frowned. That was something only Novian did and he was trying to teach Beniyah to do it also.
“I told you to stop calling me that.” I pouted trying to shake off this feeling.
“I never will.” He smiled making me sit up. This wasn’t right. To anyone else this could be seen as trivial things, but over these last seven months I’ve learned it’s the little things that would paint the bigger picture. Before I could stop it the words just came pouring out.
“You aren’t Zach, are you? You’re the look alike.”
Before I knew it I had punched him in the face and was wobbling down the halls towards Novian as fast as I could a blood curling scream right behind me.
“Hope what’s wrong? Are you in labor?” He asked panicking.
“No. He’s not Zach. He’s an imposter.” I cried.
“That’s not Zach. The real Zach is dead. I don’t know who he is, but he isn’t Zach.”
“Hope what are you talking about?”
“Ask him. Ask him something only Zach would know.” I said pointing to the fake asshole standing behind me.
“Um...okay? What is Beniyah’s middle name?” I stared at him. There was no way he knew that. Zach was the one that picked it out and no one else knew.
“It’s Emerald. Same as yours.” He replied.
“You’re paranoid Hope. You need to relax.” Sighed Novian. I narrowed my eyes at him.
“No. One more question.”
“No. The day before I went for a check up Zach and I came up with two names. One for a boy and another for a girl. What were they?” We sat there in silence as he stared at me. I smirked there was no way he would no that. Not even Novian knew.
“If it was a girl you decided on Za’karyah Aniyah James. If it was a boy you decided on Za’covian Nakari James.” My mouth dropped.
“You’re not Zach. Zach wouldn’t poke my nose.” I frowned as I stomped off. Something wasn’t right here and I was determined to figure it out. I was only six and a half months pregnant. I still had time.
“Marcus stop!” I yelled tears streaming down my cheeks. I don’t even know what I did to cause this. We were just drinking and smoking a little bit when he got a phone call. Whoever called him definitely said something to piss him off and I was getting the result of it.
“Do you think I’m stupid, huh? You thought I wouldn’t find out?” He yelled. I curled up into myself as he began pacing back and forth. “I don’t get you Destiny. It’s like you enjoy pissing me off. Like you strive to anger me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I cried flinching back as he got closer to me.
“You don’t know- you don’t-!” I cried out as his boot clad feet came in contact with my stomach.
“Where the hell is Zach’s body?!” He yelled.
“W-what?” I stuttered.
“They dugged up the grave nothing was there. No bones...nothing. If Zach is alive and you’re helping him I swear I’ll kill you my damn self.” I sat their frozen. What the hell did he mean Zach’s body wasn’t there?