Chapter 1 - Echo’s POV
I lie here wide awake, staring at the ceiling or looking out my bedroom window from the bed, and I can't sleep. Throughout most of the night, all I did was toss and turn relentlessly. I don't know how to describe the feeling I have inside, and my gut instinct tells me — whatever it is, it can't be good.
I hear footsteps and a soft knock, then my bedroom door opens. The lights shine in from the hallway, then her shadow appears. My mom says, "Echo, baby. I know you're awake. Now, get up and be ready on time." Ugh, I do not want to go to school.
I hesitate, "Yes, mom. I know, and I'm up. I'll be ready in an hour — I haven't slept yet. Can I please stay home for today?" I ask her, not knowing whether or not if she'll let me stay home.
I feel the bed dip, and a soothing touch moves my bed head. "What is it? Why can't you sleep?" My mom's gentle touch helps calm my worried mind.
Should I tell her about this bad feeling, I have. "I don't feel good right now. Besides, what good would I be in school? I'll fall asleep in class." I know I'll fall asleep in class, and I don't want to have detention.
"Fine. I'll make a call, but only for today, and you'll get caught up on your homework. I have to go to work, and I have a meeting later this evening, so I'll be home late. If you want, I can bring you back something to eat..." Mom says, waiting for me to reply.
"Yes, thank you, mom. That'll be nice. I'm not sure what I want but whatever you bring is fine with me." I crave either pasta or pizza, but I don't want to add more strain knowing how hectic her work can be. "What kind of meeting are you going to?" I try to sound interested; sleep is starting to settle in.
She smiles fondly at me and puts my hair behind my ear. "Last minute discussion about the presentation that we have to finish for our CEO. I didn't want to mention this because it might not even happen — I might be getting transferred to our other office. It could..."
"Where?" I ask, suddenly not letting her finish.
"As soon as I find that out, you'll be the first to know, sweetie." With that, she kisses my forehead and tells me she'll see me later.
After taking a shower, I feel somewhat rested and rejuvenated. I'm running low on hygiene products, and I need new clothes; I have to go to the city because of procrastinating for so long. Plus, it's a beautiful day today; the sun is shining bright, the forecast says it's going to rain later this evening. I don't mind the rain because I love listening to the thunder when it sounds across the sky and counting down when the lightning strikes. It's now 3:30 PM. The downside is that I also must fill the gas tank, which I wouldn't say I like going to that place because of the two older guys working there.
When I finish eating my snack, I decide to get ready for my errands. I'm looking at the clothes I have on my bed, and I have a few outfits that I have selected. The first outfit is a sundress just above the knee, floral print and strapless with a schiffy drawstring crop top, and white wedges. The second is a green button-up lettuce edge top, white shorts with vans. The third outfit has been chosen: a denim jacket with 3/4 length sleeves, a white cami top with a built-in bra, black leggings, and trainers. I am done curling my hair and dressing up in my third outfit. (I wish I had the confidence to wear what I want without being so self-conscious. I was always told I'm ugly). But now, I look at myself, and I feel nice. I didn't apply any makeup. I wouldn't even know where to begin because I didn't know to wear it.
I am a brunette, waist-length hair, light gray eyes, a small nose, and full lips naturally red and plump, and I have a fair complexion. My body is curvy, with a trim waistline, wide hips and thick thighs, full breasts and a full bottom. I'm short in height, at 5', 5". My Mom says I look like my father; he's 6′,4", dark brown almost black hair, gray eyes, a strong jawline, sharp nose, full lips, and a beard. He also has long hair and a fair complexion, from what mom told me. He is a big guy and has a built, muscular body. Meanwhile, my mother has tanned skin, 5', 7", long blonde hair, thin, bright blue eyes, a small, upturned nose, and is extremely beautiful.
Anyways, I grab my bags, keys and I head downstairs. I walk around and check the windows to see if they're locked. I turn on the lights in the kitchen, hallway and entrance. I don't particularly appreciate coming home to a dark house. Just before I walk out, the phone rings. I walk over to it and answer it. Nothing. I hang up and manage to walk a few feet away, only for it to ring again.
"Hello?" I ask, almost silently. Hoping that whoever it is, doesn't reply.
All I hear is breathing from the person on the phone. "Hi. Is your mother home?" He sounds nervous.
"She's at work. She won't be home until late this evening. Would you like to leave a message?" The voice on the other end sounds so deep; I almost hang up on him. He has a bit of an accent.
"Yes — who am I speaking to?" The man with a deep voice, and an accent, ask.
Why? I hesitate to answer him. "My name is Echo. Who are you?"
He sighs heavily and goes quiet. "My name is Briar; I'm your father — How have you been?"
I can't. I don't want to speak to him, and it's my turn to be quiet. Why is he calling? How long has he been keeping in touch with my mom? I have so many questions, and I can't bring myself to ask any. "I-I'm doing ok." I stutter.
"Look, I don't mean to call after all these years—I'm sorry." Briar starts to explain.
I cut him off before giving me any excuses. "She has a meeting after work and won't be home until later this evening. I have to go—" Which I don't get to finish, only for him to cut me as well.
"Can you let your mother know that I called and to call me back? My number should appear on your call display. I want to see you. Would you like to meet up?" Briar asks me, almost sounding too hopeful.
"I have to go. I'll let her know that you called. Bye." I almost cry.
"Echo!" Briar yells out.
I hung up. Why? Why is he calling now after 16 years?! I'll text my mom and ask her because I won't talk without wanting to cry.
Echo: Hey... mom?
Mom: Hi, sweetie! Is everything ok at home?
Echo: A man by the name of Briar called.
Mom: What did he have to say?
Echo: He said that he wants you to call him and the numbers on the call display.
Mom: Did he say anything else to you?
Echo: Yes. He told me he was my father and asked how I was. Why? Has he been in contact with you all this time?"
Mom: No. I'm sorry, baby.
Echo: I'm leaving home now. I have to gas up, and then I'm going to go shopping.
Mom: See me after you finish doing your errands. I'll drive home with you. I'll be late, and I don't want you home alone. Maybe we'll stay the night here in the city or on the weekend if you wish.
Echo: Ok. I'll text you when I get to the city and after I'm done. I love you, mom.
Mom: I love you too, Echo.
So far, so good. I don't see any of the guys who give me problems. I get out of the car and start pumping my gas. It's weird. I feel as if I'm being watched, but whenever I look around, there's no one.
I was walking into the gas station. I see a guy sitting at the cash register. He smiles at me and says, "Your total is $45.79, please. Is there anything else I can help you with today?" He's cute. He looks like he's about 20-21 years old. (I've always had a thing for older guys. My father's 3-4 years older than my mom). He is 6', 1", lean and not too much muscle, blonde hair and green eyes. And he's got tattoos on his forearms.
"Hey, Cole. You're wanted on the phone." His co-worker smiles at me. He looks about the same height as Cole, but he has more muscle, and he's wider.
"Be right there, Les; I have a customer to tend to," Cole smirks at me.
"Thank you. Bye." I had to get out there as quickly as I possibly could.
I'm halfway there. I pulled over because the water looked so beautiful, calm and soothing. The ripples on the water are hypnotic. I take my phone out of my pocket to take a picture of the lake.
I hear the trees and ground crunching. I'm not far away from my car. I act like I don't hear anything, and I put my phone to my ear after taking a picture. Please, please, please don't let anything happen. Go to the car. Get to the car. Then my phone rings right when I turn around and start walking towards it.
"Hello?" They hang up. Weird. It's a blocked call.
When I drive off, I see a black SUV pulling on the road and following me from a distance. I try to ignore it, and I keep checking my mirrors. I'm near the freeway now; I never liked driving into the city. I speed up and manage to make my turn-on time, and I forget about the SUV following me until I almost see a car swerve, narrowly hitting another vehicle. I see a tractor-trailer up ahead, and I speed up to get ahead of it. If I do that, then I'll be able to hide when I make my turn. I see the black SUV speeding up just as I'm in front of the semi, and I see my turn just a km away. The truck slows down, and I switch lanes, that's when it passes me, and I'm able to turn in time to see the SUV trying to pass it.
Ping. I get a text. I can't check it until I find a parking stop near the mall. I'm feeling hungry, so I'll look around for a place to eat along the way. My mom's office is just 20mins, away from where I want to go.
Now that I finally parked and have a 15mins walk to the mall, maybe I can find someplace to eat. Shit. I recognize Weston coming my way with his friends, Daenon, Chaz and Brennon. Out of the 4 of them, it's only two that make my life hell. Brennon and Daenon. They've been mean emotionally, physically and verbally since I was seven years old. Weston and Chaz aren't that bad. Weston's the nicest one of their group of friends. Brennon and Daenon cornered me one time after class. They shoved me into an empty classroom and became touchy. Chaz walked in and asked what we were doing. Daenon looked as if he wanted to harm me physically. Brennon grabbed my face and whispered in my ear, but I pulled away from him.
I don't know why they bother me as much as they do, especially when they have girls and some teachers all over them. I want to be left alone and not bothered. Of course, that's not possible. Weston spotted me. Chaz followed his gaze, and before the other two caught on, I walked into a Starbucks. I hope they keep walking and don't stop or even look this way. Please.
My phone goes off, and I know it's my mother calling me. I said I would call when I made it. "Hi, mom. I'm just at Starbucks. I want to get something to drink and maybe something to eat."
All I hear is her sighing. "Sweetie. When will you be done with your shopping? I just got off the phone. Someone broke into the house and vandalized it on the inside and out."
"Oh, my gosh. How long ago, because it hasn't been that long since I've left home." I should mention how I felt like I was being watched and the incident with the SUV.
"I'm going to get off of work earlier than expected. I may not even go to the meeting this evening. They'd like for us to go back home, so they can speak with us and find out if anything is missing. Please come to my office right away. We can go shopping another time. Bring your car, and we can leave it in the visitors parking area for a couple days."
I don't want to go home. "Ok. I'll see you in a bit. Mom..."
"Yes, baby?" My mom's voice is all I need to hear sometimes.
"... I love you." I tell her, in case something happens to me. I hang up because I have to hurry, and I don't want to have a run in with Brennon and Daenon. I'm dreading the thought of having to walk all the way around.