Cabin Fever

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Chapter Three

Monday morning, she woke up and returned to class, trying to resume her normal routine. By now her bruising was able to be covered by makeup as it was nearly gone, and the swelling around her eyes had disappeared. She found it difficult to concentrate on class, her mind still returning to that weekend at the cabin. Dragging herself through the day, irritated at times and angry at other times, she was relieved when the day was over.

Sitting down at the table, she started on her homework. Suddenly she heard a knock on the door, thinking it was unusual for her to have unexpected company. Looking through the peephole, she saw two men standing in the doorway. At first alarmed, she was silent. Again they knocked and it made her jump.

“Who is it?” She asked through the door, afraid to respond.

“Newport County Sheriff’s Department.” She heard one of them say.

Opening the door without removing the chain, she peeked through the crack. “Show me some ID, please?”

They both showed her a badge as one of them spoke up. “Are you Riley St. Claire?”

“Yes.” She answered.

“Can we come in and talk with you for a minute?” The same officer said.

Riley hesitated before removing the chain and opening the door enough for them to step inside, leery of the two men as they shut the door behind them. “Can I help you with something?” She asked, looking at the taller man.

It was the first time she ever looked into his deep brown eyes but instantly felt a sense of trust along with something she just couldn’t quite put her finger on. It was the first time he ever looked into her deep green eyes but saw the fear and devastation locked deep inside. He was instantly overcome with interest and curiosity.

The detective paused to look her over, seeing the faint bruises and the fresh scar on her eyebrow where there were still sutures. Thinking it was irrelevant, he didn‘t ask about it. “I’m Detective Goldman, this is my partner, Detective Hanson. We are assisting in the investigation of a possible arson in Chesterfield. We’re hoping you can explain how your cell phone ended up at the scene of the fire?” The taller man with the dark eyes asked her.

Riley cringed and immediately began her excuses. “That phone was either lost or stolen. Apparently stolen. The last time I used it was, I think, on the thirteenth. I have no idea how it ended up there.”

“Do you know a Dan or Cindy Fielding? Or perhaps Aaron Fielding?”

“No, the names don’t sound familiar. Why?” She lied to him.

“What about a David Doran or Charles Vanderlin?” He asked her without giving any other information.

“No. I don’t know them.” Just hearing their names infuriated her but she tried to hide it from the detective.

“They are the owners of the cabin. It is our understanding that Aaron, David and Chuck were at that cabin last weekend., the weekend of the fire. What about your car, why was it impounded from the side of the freeway in Chesterfield?” Detective Goldman asked.

Riley cringed again. “I was on my way home, to Crystal Falls when it broke down on the side of the road. I walked to the rest area and my sister picked me up from there. I apparently lost my phone somewhere between the car and the rest area because when I got there, I couldn’t find it.”

“You were on your way home? Do you attend Newport College?” Detective Goldman asked.

“Yes, but what does that have to do with anything. I know nothing else about the phone or the fire. The car has been replaced so they can have it as far as I’m concerned. It was a piece of shit anyways.”

Detective Goldman handed her his business card. “Please let me know if you can think of anything else that would help in our investigation.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else I can help.” She said as she took the card from his hand and looked at it.

Detective Hanson left the apartment first. As Detective Goldman walked towards the door, he stood in the doorway and turned back towards her, then hesitated for a moment before speaking. “I know I’m here on official business, but would you like to have dinner with me on Friday night?”

Riley managed a slight smile. “Thank you, but no thank you. I’m not interested.” She declined.

“Oh. Ok.” He looked disappointed and slightly embarrassed as he turned and walked away.

Looking out the door, she watched him as he walked down the hallway towards the glass doors. Turning back one last time, he looked directly at her, smiling as he walked through the glass doors, getting the feeling that he would see her again. Shutting and locking the door, she turned with her back against it and leaned her head back, thinking how stupid she was for leaving her phone anywhere near the cabin.

Sitting back at the table, she continued with her homework. For some reason, she thought about Detective Goldman, thinking he was a tall, dark and handsome stranger. A strong feeling about him came over her that she didn’t understand. She smiled as it was a good feeling and it was nice to think of something other than her recent trauma. But it was unusual for her to be thinking about a man. She didn’t understand why she was curious about the mysterious man.

Forcing herself to concentrate on her homework long enough to complete it, she closed her books, then went to the kitchen and looked through the refrigerator and freezer for something to make for diner. She had no meat thawed and nothing to make.

Throwing her coat over her shoulders, she grabbed her purse and keys then left to go out for dinner. Stopping at a restaurant she had never been to before, she went inside and was seated at a table near the middle of the room. Just after ordering her food, she looked up to see Detective Goldman walk through the front door. She quickly turned her head, hoping he wouldn’t see her.

Without waiting to be seated, he walked to a booth just behind her, followed by a waitress. She called him by name and Riley realized he was probably a regular customer. Just as she thought she was safe from his sights, he came up behind her and softly spoke her name.

“Riley?”

She closed her eyes for a moment, not really wanting the company but looked up into his dark eyes and smiled. “Detective Goldman. So, you have seen me.”

“Please call me Scott. Do you mind if I join you?” He asked her.

“Well, actually, I wasn’t planning on staying long.” She tried to decline him again.

“I understand, neither am I. But I figured we could keep each other company while we eat. I don‘t see any reason for you to have to be alone.”

She wanted to run and hide but she figured she was safe enough with others around her. She still knew she had to start trusting, but it was much more difficult now. But she also thought that with him being a cop, he should be a safer place to start. At least if only to join her for dinner.

Drawing in a deep breath and motioning towards the chair, she allowed him to sit at her table. The waitress located him and brought his coffee as he sat down. “So, Scott, is it? How long have you been a cop?” Riley asked, initiating the conversation.

“Well, I went into the academy straight out of high school, so ten years, although I’ve only been a detective for about six months.”

“So, that would make you about... twenty eight?”

“Yes, that is correct. What about you?”

“Now come on, Scott, you should know a woman never tells her real age.” She smiled. “But, you are a cop, so... I shouldn’t lie to you. I’m twenty two.”

It was the first time he smiled at her, exposing his deep dimples. His brown eyes held long lashes and she realized how handsome he really was. She had been extremely nervous at the apartment and didn’t completely take note of his appearance. Suddenly feeling nervous again, in a different sense, she looked away from him and glanced around the room.

“So, Riley, how long have you been a student at Newport College?”

“Just since August.” She answered, returning her eyes to his. “I just moved here when I started, so I’m still fairly new in town. I really don’t know anyone, except a few other students.”

“So… you have no significant other?”

“No, I don’t have the time, or the want for that right now, like I said. I’m concentrating on my studies. Why, are you telling me that a successful, handsome man such as yourself is not married?”

“No. And there are a few reasons for that. One, because like you, I’ve concentrated on my career. And when I thought I found the right one, turned out I wasn’t her Mr. Right. I found her in bed with my ex traffic beat partner… And was suspended for three weeks for beating his ass. But that was about two years ago. I still find it hard to trust woman.”

“That’s odd, I find it extremely hard to trust men.” She said and wished she hadn’t. Now she knew she would have to explain.

“What makes you say that?” He pried.

She drew in a deep breath, trying to hide the anguish on her face. “Let’s just say something happened when I was sixteen years old that turned me away from the male gender.”

“You were raped.” He assumed, thinking out loud.

“Not exactly. Almost, but I managed to get away.” She spoke just above a whisper.

Scott observed the look on her face as he looked at her while she looked down at the table. “And you’re still trying to overcome it. Have you received any counseling for it, because I can refer you to a good therapist?”

She shook her head as she felt her face get hot and red. “No… Can you excuse me for a minute?”

Riley got up from the table and went towards the bathroom. As Scott watched her walk away, he assumed there was more to her story. Riley stood at the sink and gazed up at the mirror trying to control herself but the tears began to fall down her cheeks. She turned on the cold water and splashed some on her face. It cooled her off but didn’t make her feel any better. Thinking of her situation just made her hate her assailants more.

Standing in front of the mirror until she gathered herself, she drew in a deep breath and returned to the table. Both of their dinners arrived as she sat down. “So, have you always lived here, in Newport?” She asked before the subject could be brought back up.

“Yes. I was born and raised here. This is home to me.” He said then took a bite of food. “Are you originally from Crystal Falls?”

“Yes, born and raised.” She smiled then her face turned somber. “My mother just passed away from a bad car accident.”

“God. I’m so sorry to hear that. When did this happen?” His face held a note of deep sincerity.

“Actually, it was the weekend that my car left me stranded on the side of the freeway.”

“Wow, that recent.” He reached his hand across the table to condole her. For a moment, she let him touch her but then pulled her hand back, nervous and thinking she had said too much.

Riley remained quiet while she ate in a hurry, wishing she could just be out of this situation already. Scott just observed her while he occasionally brought up something about his job, or family. She learned that he was an only child and that his father was a police officer who had just retired after thirty years on the force.

Riley was the first to get up from the table as they both finished eating, leaving him with a smile. Just as she walked away, he gently took her by the hand. “Riley, I’d really like to see you again. Would you reconsider my date?”

“Look, Scott. I’m really not interested. Dinner was nice, but that’s all I can handle right now.” She answered him as she pulled her hand from his grasp and walked to the counter to pay for her meal.

As she walked to her car just after dark, her hands were shaking and she knew she’s had enough contact with him for the day. The drive was only ten minutes from her apartment but she spent the trip thinking of her new male friend. Getting the strong feeling about him again, she was confused as she got out of the car and walked to her apartment.

Feeling a certain calmness she hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever, she straightened up her apartment and got things ready for her return to school the following morning. Smiling in the shower, she caught herself, again, thinking of Scott. Laying in bed in the dark room, she fell asleep rather quickly, feeling overly tired.

Finding herself surrounded by smoke, she was coughing. Trying to move, she looked around and realized she was back in that bedroom, taped to the bed. The flames of the cabin were surrounding her and again she thought she was going to die. She screamed as the flames quickly grew closer to her. Just as she felt the burn on her leg, she screamed again and sat straight up in bed. The room was light and she realized she was back in her apartment.

She could still feel the burning sensation on her leg as she rubbed it, beginning to cry. Jumping as the alarm clock sounded, she grabbed it, ripped the cord out of the wall and threw it across the room, angered. Suddenly, she feared that she could never get peace from the incident. Sitting on the bed for a few moments, she tried to calm herself before starting her day.

Feeling unusually hungry, she stopped at a fast food restaurant on her way to class. She was still angry and irritated when she attended her first class and found it hard to concentrate, thinking of the cabin again. Eating before class only left her feeling nauseated as she excused herself from class to run towards the bathroom to expel her stomach contents.

Just as she was making her way to her second class, she was stopped in the hallway by a man holding flowers and looking for her. She was completely taken by surprise to receive flowers. Looking at the card, she seen they were from Scott. He had written a note that said. “These flowers could never be as beautiful as you.” His thoughtfulness changed her attitude as she smiled and smelled them. Hoping she would change her mind about his offer, Scott left his cell phone number. Slipping the card in her pocket, she carried the flowers with her the entire day.

Leaving school at the end of the day, she stopped at home to care for the flowers and drop off her book bag. Hoping to avoid seeing him for the evening, she decided to go out of town for dinner. Finding herself driving towards Pendleton, she stopped at a restaurant she had never been to before. Planting herself in a corner booth, she faced the reality that she was in their town and could run into any of them at any time. The thought of it made her nervous and she wondered why she even came.

Keeping her eyes open, she watched everyone who came in through the front door. Still feeling the lingering nausea that seemed to hang over her head like the weekend at the cabin, she managed to eat, then left the restaurant.

Sitting in her car, she wasn’t ready to go home yet. She reached into her purse and located Hannah’s drivers license, looking it over. Only twenty five minutes it took her to locate Hannah’s house as she pulled up in front of it. Taking a deep breath, she tried to gather her thoughts before getting out of her car and walking up the snowy sidewalk.

Knocking on the door, she looked around again while waiting for an answer. Riley knew it was Hannah that answered the door. “Hannah?” She asked anyways.

“Yes, who are you?” The girl, who was much younger than herself, asked.

“My name is Riley. I’m sorry to just show up on your doorstep but I was wondering if I could talk to you about something. Do you mind if I come in for a minute?”

“Actually, I do mind, I don’t know who you are.” Hannah declined her.

“Ok. I want to talk to you about Aaron Fielding, David Doran and Chuck Vanderlin. I do believe you know who I’m talking about.” Riley watched the look on her face completely change.

“I go to school with them but I don’t really know them very well. Why do you ask?” Looking directly at Hannah, Riley simply handed her the drivers license. “Where did you get this?” Hannah asked Riley as she took it from Riley’s hand.

“I found it at the cabin.” Riley simply answered her.

Looking around, Hannah grabbed Riley by the arm and pulled her inside, shutting the door. “My parent’s are not home right now and they don’t know about this. I’d like to keep it that way. What do you want from me?”

“Please tell me what happened.” Riley requested from her.

Only looking at Riley for a moment, Hannah hesitated before saying anything. “It was about a year ago, they said they were having a party for one night, at the cabin, so I snuck off with them. All weekend long, they raped and beat me, then dropped me off in the street in front of my house after dark on Sunday night. They told me if I ever told anyone about it, they would kill me, and I believe them. I had to lie to my parents in order to go, then I had to lie to them again, to explain where I had been and why I was beat up. It was three weeks before I would return to school.” Hannah drew in a deep breath, looking like she was about to cry. “Apparently you were there, otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here right now. What did they do to you?”

Riley closed her eyes and put her head back for a moment, not expecting to have to explain it. But it was, after all, fair. Drawing in a deep breath, she looked back at Hannah then started. “It was Friday, January thirteenth. I’ll never forget that day, my mother was in a horrible car accident. As soon as I got out of class, I left to go home, to Crystal Falls. My car broke down on the side of the freeway, I was hitchhiking and they picked me up. Of course, it was all weekend, they raped and beat me too. But, they tried to kill me. I woke up naked in the snow, in the woods, about two miles from the cabin. Then I woke up in the hospital three days later.”

“And you never reported it either?” Hannah asked her, clearly seeing she was in deep distress over it. “Riley, is it? I feel the need to tell you to be careful. I don’t know you, but I know them. If they find out you survived, I believe they will come after you. Your death is the key to their freedom.”

Riley realized she was right. “I am the key to their death. I don’t believe they should go to jail for it. I believe they should die.” Riley said without hesitation.

Hannah studied Riley’s face for a moment, wondering if she was serious. “Look, if you do decide to report it, please leave me out of it. I will deny everything.”

“Just to let you know, Hannah, there was another drivers license that I found at the cabin. The girl was sixteen at the time of her disappearance. She has never been found and that was two years ago. I’m almost certain that her remains are in those woods somewhere. Hannah, I’m really not asking for your help. I just wanted to know what happened to you and inform you about Charlotte, the other girl that is still missing.”

“I don’t know anything about her and I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. Please don’t ever come back to my house.” Hannah said to Riley as she opened the front door for her to leave.

Riley studied Hannah’s face for a moment before walking out the door. Hannah was clearly upset by the news of Charlotte, and of Riley. Getting back into her car, Riley drove away from the house, tears running down her face. She was both saddened and angry to confirm that they had done it to someone other than her. And someone they went to school with. They were beyond brave.

By the time she returned to her apartment, Riley was extremely nauseated. She tried to work on her homework but was interrupted by two trips to the bathroom to vomit. Slamming her books shut before completing her assignments, she paced the floors with clenched fists, listening to loud music and trying to change her train of thought.

She turned off the radio, grabbed her wallet out of her purse and threw her coat over her shoulders. Locking the door, she walked down the hallway and out the glass doors, into the cold. Without getting into her car, she started walking down the sidewalk, just needing to grasp a breath of fresh air and walk off the anguish.

The night was frigid after the sun went down but she couldn’t seem to cool off after walking aimlessly for twenty minutes. Stopping at a crosswalk, she waited to cross the street and noticed the small tavern kitty corner from her. Taking her coat off before walking in the door, she looked around the small room at the smaller crowd.

Sitting at the bar, she ordered a double shot of whiskey and a beer. Immediately she downed the shot and chased it with the beer, then asked for another. The second and third shots went down easier and she decided to take a break after the fourth. Grabbing her beer bottle, she walked to the jukebox and deposited some money. Setting her beer down on a nearby table, she began to dance with the music. She didn’t care if anyone was watching at that point, she just wanted to burn some of the anger off. She had always used music to relax and soothe her, and the dancing to release aggression.

Although the alcohol made her nausea worse, she tried to drown her sorrow in it. After listening and dancing to all the songs she had played, she indulged in two more shots and one more beer before stumbling out of the building. Stopping outside to look around, she couldn’t recall from which direction she came. Staggering across the street, she was nearly hit by a speeding car as she just started walking. Feeling the urge to vomit, she leaned up against the wall and vomited behind a bush.

Wiping her mouth, she started walking again, knowing she had had way too much to drink. After walking for thirty minutes, she recognized where she was and made her way home. Without turning out the lights, she went straight to the bedroom where she kicked off her shoes and removed her coat, then threw herself on the bed. The effects of the alcohol put her to sleep immediately.

Opening her eyes in the light of day, she covered her mouth as she ran to the bathroom, not quite making it to the toilet. She felt the strong hangover and laid on the cold bathroom floor for long minutes before pulling herself to her feet. Climbing into the shower, she cleaned herself off. As soon as she was out of the shower, she cleaned the vomit up off the floor before she dressed.

Walking into the bedroom, she realized she was late for school and dressed in a hurry to leave the apartment and get to class. She lied to the professor, stating she accidentally left her assignments at home, instead of telling them they were incomplete. Just after the second class, she received another delivery of flowers. They were pink roses, again from Scott. Suddenly the day seemed brighter as she smelled them, thinking of Scott and smiling.

Lifting her spirits, she pushed through the remainder of the day. Stopping for Chinese takeout on the way home, she forced herself to complete all her assignments. With her hangover lasting over half the day, she was exhausted as she laid down for bed early.

She managed to make it through the remainder of the week without running into Scott, although he continued to send flowers to her at school everyday. Dragging herself through the last class of the day, she threw her book bag in the car as she anticipated a quiet weekend alone in her apartment. She felt that she needed some well deserved rest and recuperation.

With the nausea still hanging closely over her head, it was now paired with exhaustion as she entered her apartment. Peeling off her coat as she locked the door, she ignored the beep of the answering machine and laid on the couch. Turning on the TV, she was asleep within ten minutes.

Merely two hours later, she woke just as the sun was going down. Her stomach was growling and her severe hunger made her nausea seem worse as she pulled herself off the couch. After using the bathroom, she searched through her refrigerator for something to eat but didn’t find anything appealing. She took a few large swigs from the milk jug, thinking it was odd for her to drink milk, but also knew it would soothe her stomach.

Pulling on her coat, she grabbed her purse and keys as she left her apartment. A certain restaurant was drawing her in as she pulled into the parking lot. It was the same place she had seen Scott, although she wasn’t sure if she was ready to see him again. But she felt the need to thank him for the flowers.

Walking in the door, she looked around at the growing crowd at dinnertime. Seated in a booth by the window, she looked over the menu while waiting for the waitress to return. As she told her order to the waitress, she saw someone enter the building from the corner of her eye. Looking over, she saw Scott. With a quick glance around the room, he saw her looking directly at him. She motioned for him.

A big smile came over his face as he walked towards her, sitting down at the booth across from her. “I was just thinking about you, and hoping that I would eventually see you here.” He said.

“Well, I’m here. I was under the assumption that you are a regular customer here. That’s why I came.”

“Oh, so you were hoping to see me. Does that mean you will finally indulge me?” He looked into her deep green eyes.

“Well, no. I wanted to ask you to please stop sending me flowers.”

“I will. As soon as you agree to a date.”

Staring at him for a moment, she shook her head. “I don’t understand. Why are you so interested in me? I’m just a simple, plain woman.”

He flashed a big smile at her. “Are you kidding? You certainly don’t seem to be simple or plain. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen and you seem to be level headed and know what you want. I don’t know you, at all, but I wish for that to change.” He reached his hand across the table to touch hers but she pulled back from him.

“Look, Scott, I’m flattered, but I’m just not ready for that…”

“All I’m asking for is one date. What’s wrong with just being your friend?” Scott tried to persuade her. “Why not, you’ll sit here and eat dinner with me anyways.”

“This is different, Scott.” She was beginning to get nervous.

“Not really, I mean there are other things to do on a date, but it usually consists of dinner.”

She could not believe she was going to agree to it, but she did. “Ok, fine. One date. Dinner and maybe a movie.”

“I’ll pick you up at six?”

“How about if I meet you there?” She wanted to avoid being completely alone with him, still unable to trust.

“No, I’d rather pick you up. That’s the way it should be.”

She sighed. “Fine. I’m going to trust you. Please don’t make me be wrong.”

He looked at her, assuming it was the incident on her sixteenth birthday that left her feeling skeptical of all men. Shaking his head, he realized she carried deep seated fear and reached his hand across the table again to touch hers.

Closing her eyes, she accepted his touch that was warm and firm. As she opened her eyes, she seen the waitress coming from behind him and pulled her hand back as the waitress placed her plate down. Scott stated to her what he wanted for dinner. Riley felt awkward, eating without him being served, but he got up and helped himself to the salad bar. She closed her eyes and tried to relax before picking up her fork.

Scott’s dinner was served just as she finished eating but waited until he was finished before saying good night to him. Again, she grabbed her bill off the table and left him sitting alone. He got up and walked directly behind her to the cashier, offering to pay for her dinner, but she refused.

Standing just outside the door, he watched her walk to her car, then look back at him as she got in. Then he watched her drive away. Stopping at the grocery store before returning home, she put the items away, changed her clothes, then curled up on the couch with a blanket to watch TV.

Hours later, she woke up in the dim room with only the light of the TV. Feeling the ache in her back from the couch, she pulled herself to a sitting position. Reaching for the remote, the nausea flooded over her. Finding her way to the bathroom in the dark, she threw herself down on her knees before the toilet.

As she laid down in her bed, she wondered how long the nausea and vomiting would last, guessing it was related to the stress and trauma. It seemed to take her hours to fall back to sleep, thinking of everything that’s happened.

She couldn’t decipher the fine line between the second that she fell asleep and when she was being pushed into that cabin. She felt the sinking feeling as she looked around the room and seen the familiar hell. Then she heard their voices laughing. Looking down, she was naked and had already felt completely violated. Screaming and crying, she struggled to move as she felt their hands on her, restraining her and groping her. Suddenly she was on the bed, as Aaron was raping her and the others were holding her down.

As Aaron pulled his weight off of her, she managed to free herself from their grasp. Feeling as if she couldn’t get any traction, she looked down at the floor, somehow making it to the door and flinging it open. As she ran outside, she ran straight into the arms of Scott. Although she suddenly felt safe, she screamed as she sat straight up in bed and opened her eyes.

Trying to catch her breath, she looked around the sun filled room, confused by the nightmare. She rubbed her eyes, trying to control the anger that overcame her. Pulling the covers back, she felt the nausea as she stood up. It was now accompanied by dizziness. Standing, holding onto the foot board, she closed her eyes until it passed.

Climbing into the shower, she hoped it would help her feel better. But it didn’t, she only felt cleaner. Standing by her bed getting dressed, she looked at the clock and seen it was nearly ten. Surprised, she couldn’t remember when she’s slept that late. But considering her recent past, she was no longer surprised.

Looking on the nightstand, her eyes crossed over the card from the flowers with Scott’s cell phone number. She picked it up, contemplating canceling her date. Hearing the phone ring, she threw the card back onto the table and went towards the phone.

Looking at the caller ID, she seen it was home as she answered it. “Hello?”

“Riley, just calling to see how you’re doing.” She heard Aleah’s voice.

“Well, I’ve definitely been better.” Riley paused as she tried to fight back the tears, but Aleah could hear it in her voice as she continued. “I’ve been having a really hard time. And I’ve been thinking of quitting school and coming home.”

“You know dad will talk you out of it. Do you want me to come and stay with you for the night?”

“No, I’ll be alright. You have to work anyways, don’t you?”

“No, I have the next few days off. Are you sure, we could have a little party?”

“Yes. I’m going to try to at least get out of the apartment. Something to keep my mind off of things. Please don’t worry about me, you know how strong I am. I’ve survived it physically, I’ll survive it mentally too. Maybe I’ll come home next weekend.”

“Alright. But you know our number if you just need to talk, or if you need anything.”

“I know, Aleah. Give dad my love and tell him I’ll see him next weekend.” Riley hung up the phone and went towards the kitchen to find something for breakfast. All she could really stomach was yogurt and a bagel with cream cheese.

As the day progressed, she grew more nervous about her date but managed to clean her apartment and get all her laundry done. She ate a small late lunch, wanting to keep her appetite for dinner. She kept thinking about the dream that woke her, leaving her with the feeling of being in his arms just before waking up, having mixed emotions about it.

Waiting until nearly five, she changed her clothes and got ready for her date. Watching the news as she waited on him, she tried to remain calm. Hearing the knock on the door, she hesitated in front of it before opening the door. He seemed to be more attractive than before as he smiled at her. She reached for her coat and purse, then locked her door, putting on her coat as they walked down the hall.

Opening his car door for her, he seemed to be a gentlemen, something she was not accustomed to. Finding herself alone in his car with him, she was suddenly more nervous as he started the car and pulled away while looking at her.

“You look very nice tonight.” He complimented her.

“Thank you.” She smiled and spoke barely loud enough for him to hear.

Looking her over as he waited for the traffic to clear, he noted her shaky hands, and reached over to touch her hand. “Relax Riley, I promise I won’t bite.”

She merely glanced at him as he pulled out onto the road. Remaining quiet, she kept looking at the door handle, hoping she wouldn’t have to jump out. Thinking of her insecurity, it angered her more knowing she had almost regained her trust in men. Aaron, David and Chuck reinforced her insecurity and she hated them more for it. But she also didn’t want to take it out on Scott. He appeared, so far, to be a good man and she was somewhat unexplainably comfortable with him.

Drawing in a deep breath, she realized he was still touching her hand. Turning it, she laced her fingers into his. For her, it was a huge step. His hands seemed to fit perfectly in hers. He smiled at her and squeezed his hand tighter around hers. Pulling into a parking lot, she saw that she had never been to this restaurant before.

As they walked in through the door, she looked around at the luxurious restaurant. The waitress seated them in a corner booth and handed them their menus, then made her recommendations on the choice of wines and Scott heeded her suggestions, ordering red wine.

As she looked over the menu, Riley was worried about his ability to afford it, but he did, after all, bring her here. Steering clear of the most expensive items, she didn’t want to make him feel cheap either. She ordered steak accompanied by a baked sweet potato. His order was nearly identical to hers. Both included a trip to the salad bar.

Strapping her purse over her shoulder, she made her way to the salad bar, Scott following her. Riley returned to the table first and waited for him before she started to eat. “Tell me, Riley, what is it you’re studying?”

“Well, actually, I am pursuing my masters degree in criminal justice. I want to be a crime scene investigator.”

“Really? So you’ll be working with us. Sounds like a good profession. Do you plan on staying here to work, or are you returning to Crystal Falls?”

“I haven’t decided that yet either. I really miss home, but there is more opportunity here. I have two years to decide.” She answered him.

“A lot can happen in two years. You never know where you may be when that two years comes to an end.”

“A lot can happen in two days. Two days can hold the power to substantially change your life.” She merely mumbled, looking down at her plate.

“Yes. You are right.” He answered her as she realized he had heard what she had said. “Your life can change in a split second.”

Looking up into his dark eyes, wanting to cry, she held a smile to hide the tears. Swallowing hard, she looked away from him. Putting her fork down, she scooted out of the booth. “Excuse me for just a minute.” She said and looked around for the bathroom, trying to control herself in his presence.

Walking to the waitress, Riley asked her where the bathrooms were and was pointed in the right direction. Just as she nearly burst through the door, the tears began to fall down her cheeks. She stood with her hands leaning on the counter, looking into the mirror. It took everything she had to control herself from balling up her fist and breaking the mirror.

Turning on the cold water, she splashed some on her face, trying to cool herself down while she was fighting the nausea that tried to overcome her. Realizing that the incident was now controlling her life, she knew she had to do something about it before it destroyed her completely.

Taking merely ten minutes to regain herself, she swung the bathroom door open and walked back to the table, feeling slightly embarrassed. Scott stood as he seen her approaching and then sat across from her. Dinner had arrived while she was in the restroom but she nearly lost her appetite. Forcing herself, she began to eat.

“Are you alright, Riley? You look like you’ve been crying.” He unwittingly put her on the spot.

“You know, I have a hard time dealing with my mothers death. I’m sorry.”

He reached his hand across the table to hers. “Please don’t apologize for that. I wish there were someway I could help you. But unless you’ll agree to see that counselor I mentioned before...”

Drawing in a deep breath, she hesitated. “I’ll think about it.” She said and put her fork down.

He took a few last bites to finish his plate as he watched her not eating. He knew she was traumatized, but he was oblivious to her harsh reality and the depth of her pain. He did, however, see something hidden deep in her eyes as he looked into them. Seeing the waitress from the corner of his eye, he flagged her down. “What do you say we get out of here and go do something fun.” Scott asked.

“What did you have in mind?” She wondered.

“I don’t know. Maybe we’ll go bowling, maybe grab a beer?”

“Bowling?” She smiled at him. “Ok, I haven’t been in a while.”

The waitress approached their table as Scott asked for the bill and a container for her uneaten portions. She agreed, leaving the table and returning promptly with both. Riley threw a considerable tip on the table as she stood to her feet.

Scott looked up at her as he was digging in his wallet. “You didn’t have to do that, it’s my responsibility.”

“Scott, don’t worry about it. It’s bad enough you have to pay the bill. Just come on.” She smiled and walked away from him.

Looking around the large room as Scott paid the bill, Riley was observing the pictures on the wall when she seen one with Aaron in it. It looked like a family photo and he looked just like the man she assumed was his father. Assuming his family owned the restaurant, she instantly felt ill and angered again and turned to leave the building.

Standing on the sidewalk in the cold beneath the orange floodlight, she waited until Scott came outside. He looked at her and smiled as she followed him to the car, trying to control herself once again. She was again quiet for the short trip to the bowling alley, and he again, noticed her despondence. The building was packed as there were Saturday night leagues bowling, but left a couple lanes free for open bowling.

Scott paid for two games and they traded their shoes for alley shoes. After putting on their shoes, they looked through a large assortment and picked out the bowling ball that best suited them. It took a few frames for her to recall her personal details but he seemed to get it right off the bat. He won the first game but she won the second.

They both were just finishing their second beer as they changed their shoes. She suggested they go to the bar for a few more drinks, then decide what to do. He agreed and followed her in, where they sat at the bar. The wall was open so you could see the alleys through the bar. She ordered a double shot of whiskey to go with her third beer but insisted to pay for this round. Scott allowed her, just to make her feel better.

There was a small crowd occupying the bar, enjoying the live band. After Riley had finished two shots and half her beer, Scott took her by the hand and gently pulled on her arm, wanting her to follow him to the dance floor for a slow song. She tried to resist, pulling her arm back but he tried long enough to encourage her.

Standing from the bar stool, she followed him to the dance floor, feeling lightheaded from the alcohol. She stumbled, but caught her balance as he stopped in the middle of the dance floor. Grasping the shirt beneath her arms, he gently pulled her against him and slid his arms around her back.

Closing her eyes, she swallowed hard, trying to fight the urge to run away. Tucking her head tucked beneath his chin, they swayed with the song, his arms strong and harmless as he held her. The longer she allowed him to hold her, the more relaxed she seemed to grow, realizing that his arms felt good around her. Still there was a fear instilled deep inside her that would not release its grip. At that moment, she felt torn between good and evil.

As the song came to a close, they stopped moving but held the position for long moments. He reached up and stroked her head and she pulled back to look up at him in the dimness of the room with colored lights flashing around them. Placing his hand behind her head, he lowered his lips to hers. With barely a touch, she pulled away, leaving him standing alone on the dance floor as she returned to her seat at the bar, scared to death. Her heart was racing.

Scott closed his eyes for a moment and drew in a deep breath, dropping his head and hands to his side. Then looked up at her as she sat with her back towards him, trying to control herself again. He walked up beside her and sat in the bar stool without looking at her or saying a word.

“I’m sorry, Riley.” He finally said, just above a whisper.

She looked at him with a tear in her eye and grasps his arm. “Please, no, Scott. It’s not you. It’s me. I told you I wasn’t interested in that right now. I can’t. I just…” She fell silent.

Scott drew in a deep breath. “I’ll be right back, I have to use the bathroom.”

She watched him walk away and disappear down a short hallway. Looking around the room, her eyes crossed a man who was looking directly at her. She turned her head as she seen him get up. “What’s your name, baby?” He slurred his words.

“My name is get lost.” She responded with attitude.

He grabbed her arm and forced her swivel bar stool towards him. “Hey, I only asked for you name, you don’t have to be so rude.”

“That wasn’t rude, this is.” She said and kicked him in the groin.

He grabbed at himself for a moment, then raised his hand to hit her. Suddenly, Scott grabbed his wrist and the back of his head and slammed him into the bar. He had seen her kick him. Holding him down against the bar, he pulled out his badge and showed it to him.

“I could take you to jail right now for domestic violence. But I won’t, only because I was able to stop you from hitting her. Now, you’re going to walk away.” Scott said and released him.

Fully standing up with Scott still directly behind him, the man elbowed Scott in the stomach then tried to lift his hand to punch Scott in the face but Scott grabbed his hand and the back of his jacket and forced him through the crowd, pushing him out the door. Turning back towards her, he walked back to the bar.

“Can I get you something else to drink?” He offered, changing the subject.

“No, I think I’ve had enough. I think it’s time to say good night and go home.” She said and swallowed the remainder of her beer. She was impressed with his skills. And thankful.

Scott finished his too, then slapped some money on the bar as he got up and followed her out. Opening the car door for her, she climbed into his car. They were both quiet as he drove back to her apartment complex. Parking the car, he got out and went to her side of the car to open her door.

“Please, you don’t need to walk me to my door.” She said as she got out, knowing his intentions.

“I really don’t mind.” He returned as he shut the door.

She turned to him. “Really, I’ll be fine. I will give you a call.”

With one hand, he ran it through her blonde hair as he tried again to kiss her. She resisted again and pulled slightly away from him. “Look, Scott. I’m sorry, I just can’t give you want you want right now.” She said and walked away from him.

He watched her as she disappeared through the glass doors and down the hallway. Entering her apartment, she shut and locked the door and felt safe from the world. She only wished she was safe from her memories.

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