The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 50 - (Un)expected calls

a/n: I didn't mean to make it like this,but it did...oops

let me know what you think :)

CHAPTER 50 - (UN)EXPECTED CALLS

JAMIE'S POV

I stirred against Joe when I heard some buzzing. It couldn't be my alarm clock, I didn't even set it, then what the hell was it? Dad said he'd call, but by noon, he's busy all morning, so it can't be him, and Cole? Hmm, maybe him yeah, he was already throwing a fit at my sleeping out with my boyfriend. Ugh, my brother can be so annoying sometimes!

Rolling over, making Joe mumble in his sleep that it was too early to be up already, I reached for the nightstand. It wasn't not even my phone, then what the hell was it? Maybe it was Joe's? Though his must be in his jeans that we scattered somewhere on the floor. In the rush last night, you know. Lucky thing I've learnt to be silent. Though Aisha wasn't really ... then again, what's the fun of it if you can't be loud? The boy gotta hear you're, liking it, right? And Joe ... hmm ... I certainly very much like it with Joe.

I met him a few weeks ago when I spent a weekend at my brother's dorms while dad was out of town. I could have slept at a friend's, but Cole, being the annoying ass he is, argued that he didn't trust me to be alone for a whole weekend, so, since he couldn't come home because he was busy with mid-term exams, he convinced dad I better sleep at his place, which was an absurd idea anyway, considering he sleeps at the dorms, so I'd be surrounded by college guys, but hey, I didn't complain one bit. Cole realized his mistake when I had fun chatting with guys around. Almost locked me up in his room, I swear. But ... in the end he let me go out alone ... with his girlfriend as chaperon. Ugh.

Though Zoe is nice, they've been dating since barely a month or two apparently, which had him mercilessly dump the girl he was sort of seeing back in our town. I mean, he'd been so excited about this new girl, and then all of a sudden he dumps her. I was shocked, but then I saw Zoe and ... well, they've been friends since their freshman year, she found the guts to tell him she liked him only a couple of months ago. My dear brother fell from the clouds, of course, but after all, when is he ever not clueless? Duh. Long story short, they decided to give it a try and now they're a really cute couple.

So, I was allowed to hang around campus, but only as long as Zoe was with me. Lucky thing the girl is better than my brother, so when she saw me flirting with a boy she conveniently left. The boy was, of course, Joe. He's in his freshman year and we clicked instantly. My brother accepted only because there's only one year of difference between me and Joe, but yeah, Cole did throw a fit when, not finding me anywhere, he kind of searched all his dorm, only to, finally, find me in Joe's bed ... oops, my bad. The boy was too cute to resist. He's quite different from the usual type I date, not nearly as muscled as Hunter, who's been my dream boy since I was ... um ... 12?

Yeah, he's my brother's best friend, and so, sooo hot! But ... he saw me as a little sister. Such a bummer. Though ... um ... cough, cough ... I kind of ... managed to have Mr. Hot Boy in my bed ... ahm ... it took me a good measure of sweetly batting my eyelashes, but he finally caved. Hasn't talked to me since. It was like ... two years ago, in a camp he worked. Hunter and Cole both go to Stanford, so they are still unite, unlike me and my own best friend that have been harping on technology to keep in touch since last year, thanks to my lovely mother doing the bitch and spreading her legs for another man.

Dad was shattered. He loved her. Doesn't realize she's never deserved him. My father is an amazing man, I have no idea how could he end up with such a bitch. Yeah, I know, she's still my mother, dad too reminds me, but I don't want to have anything to do with her anymore.

Anyhow, the thing is, two years ago, because my lovely mommy wanted a vacation, they sent me to the camp where my brother worked that summer, so that they could have their holiday while Cole kept an eye on me. Dad wasn't too enthusiast, said I'd be a burden for my brother because he was there to work, not to have fun, but I agreed, saying I did feel like going, be it only to do something different. I only regretted leaving Natty alone that summer, but she couldn't come, had to help her mother with the hotel. Now, in that camp worked Hunter too ... ok, maybe I agreed to go only when I found out he was there too. I've had a crush on him for years, only lately it's relented and only because I met Joe.

Now, I romanced it a little when I told Natty, knowing she wouldn't agree. She's such an innocent and pure girl, I wonder how did she end up with one like Rivers. Though I always knew she'd see reason and realize. I've known Eric was into her since I caught him staring at her one time that we met to talk about our cheating parents and we spotted Natty jogging towards Sophie's, always late. Me, having a careful eye, wondered why, if he didn't even know her, seemed so interested, but the look on his face, him possibly being in a rare careless moment, mesmerized by my best friend, the look on his face said it all. He was gazing at her as if she was this rare diamond he could admire only from afar. I caught him off guard when I bluntly asked if he liked her and he, still gaping at her, genuinely responded "like her? I love her."

Of course, Mr. Tough Guy immediately withdrew his words, but the ship had sailed ... I knew my best friend was in deep with her crush on Kyle, but he never even noticed her while Eric, then I started paying more attention, was constantly keeping an eye on her, contemplating her from afar and oh, the brightening of his blue eyes every time she smiled or laughed! He looked as if there was no better joy than watching Natalie smile. As if that gave him something to live for.

Eric and I have never been friends, but we kind of talked since we found out about the cheating and I pushed him to try it with Natty, maybe she'd forget about Kyle and see reason, but no, he never wanted to. Last time I told him, it was at Natalie's, he was tutoring her for Math and they were clearly getting closer, I mean, my best friend even dreamed of him and she seemed less nervous around him, but he restated he wouldn't try anything, actually, he said he wasn't getting any closer to her, they'd always be strangers. Eric, being the tough guy he is, hid it pretty well, but I could spot pain in his voice and on his face. Clearly, keeping himself far from Natty hurt him bad and acting with her was only worse.

When she told me he'd kissed her and they even went out on a date I all but squealed, happy because she sounded delighted and I could feel it in her voice that, maybe she hadn't fallen yet, but sure as hell she was on her way to it. Awww, they're such a cute couple! When Aisha befriended me on Facebook we couldn't help but talk about those two and we concluded that Eralie was definitely the perfect ship! Though Aisha and Kyle too make a really nice couple. I don't know her much, yesterday was the first time we met, while we've talked a lot on Facebook and we girls have even lately created our Whatsapp group, which is mostly about me and Aishy giving advice to Natty about her hot boyfriend.

Anyhow, I was saying, I romanced it a little when I told Natty about my first time. In truth, Hunter and I never dated, it just happened that I sprained my ankle once and he helped me and took me to my room, where he took care of it, as gently as he knows. He's always been incredibly kind with me. When I was a child Cole would piss me off not little (though I'll admit it was revenge from his part), but I always knew I could find an ally in Hunter, and every time I felt like crying, I sought Hunter more than my own brother. Not that I felt closer to him, I just felt better every time he hugged me. I realized I was crushing on him when I threw a fit that time he and Cole went to a double date and I felt like murdering Hunter's date ...

I tried to make him notice I was becoming a woman, you know, but he never wanted to see that, always stating and restating I was a child to him. Oh, he knew damn well about my crush on him. He's always known. That's why he felt awfully guilty when, that time at the camp, when he was curing my ankle, somehow our faces ended up real close and ... oh, I remember it so clearly ... Hunter caressed my cheek and as I neared his face, I unconsciously closed my eyes, my heart thumping, even if I wasn't new to such thing with other boys.

That was Hunter, though ... my lovely and caring Hunter. Always protecting me and cheering me up when I needed it. Always there for me. When he delicately pressed his lips on mine I sucked in a breath, unable to believe that was really happening, he even got to such lengths as to taking advantage of my lips being parted (on purpose) to slip his tongue inside my mouth and give me the best kiss I've ever had. But ... when realization of what he was doing struck him, Hunter pulled back instantly, apologizing profusely, saying he had no idea what got into him, I was like a sister to him a blah, blah, blah ... quite simply I moved closer, tugged on his t-shirt and brought him to me, so that I could better savor those lips. Amazingly, he let himself go for a few moments, even cupping my cheeks and bringing me closer to him, but ... in the end he pulled back again, and this time once for all, because, confusedly apologizing, he left.

We didn't talk for more than a week. He kept avoiding me, every time my brother asked him to for instance accompany me here or there, he refused, saying he had things to do, which made even such a clueless Cole suspicious, but he didn't inquire.

A couple of days before my departure, bags all packed already, taking advantage of Cole being responsible for the bonfire they were preparing for the last day, I slipped into Hunter's room, finding him there packing his things. He flinched, taken off guard, and tried to shoo me out of the room, but I resisted. I didn't plan on seducing him, I just wanted to settle things between us. He's always been a great friend for me and I didn't want to lose him just because of a stupid kiss, I told him.

Hunter was flustered, said he shouldn't have kissed me and he'd been tormenting himself because of that since ages, because "I was his best friend's little sister and he'd known me since I was a child, so he couldn't think of me in that sense". I've never had to muster up such an amount of courage as it took me to woman up and confess I ... I was in love with him. Always had been.

Hunter shook his head, repeated I couldn't be in love with him, maybe it was just hero worship, nothing more than that, but I couldn't feel such things for him, he ought to be a big brother for me, just as much as Cole was. Even if hurt, I restated that I'd really reflected on it, it wasn't teenage caprice, I was, truly, in love with him. Since he didn't reply, I sat next to him on bed and leaned my head on his shoulder, which has always been comforting for me.

"I really do love you, Hunter. Truly." I whispered, voice reverberating the hurt I felt inside. Deep down I've always known he'd never look at me like that, but I just kept on hoping, thinking that maybe he'd see reason ... when he looked down at me, I tried to give him a real smile, but it came out sort of broken, and I still don't know if it was to cheer me up or what, but Hunter kissed me tenderly on the lips and got so carried away that I ended up sitting on his lap as we made out, his hands cupping my cheeks. When I whispered against his lips that I knew I couldn't have him, but I wanted at least one favor from him, he sucked in a breath, clearly sensing what I wanted. "Be my first time, Hunter. That's all I ask. Please. I wanna do it with someone I love and I love you, Hunter. I am in love with you and couldn't think of doing it with anybody else."

He had to think it through for long, but in the end he agreed. Only to regret it once it couldn't be undone. So, like I said, he hasn't been talking to me since. It took me all my strength to hide to Natty how hurt I was, knowing she'd worry about me and I didn't want her to. She's such a sweet girl, I love her like a sister, but her bleeding heart causes her to feel deeper than any of us and she cannot stand people suffering, especially when it's people she loves.

Dejectedly, a few days ago she confessed me she kind of knew Eric has been through bad things that he won't tell her because she cried when he tried to. While I tried to cheer her up, I felt bad for her, because, like I said, she has such a truly bleeding heart and she loves Eric more than anything, so I can only imagine how she must feel.

She confessed that the sole idea of him suffering shattered her heart, said if she could go back in time and fix it all for him, she would, said she blamed herself for not having done anything to help him, because maybe if she'd befriended him she'd have found out the truth and she could have helped him, but no, she was selfish and never even saw him.

She believed rumors about his bad reputation and steered even clearer of him, assuming it was everything true and she didn't want to be a victim. Said she feels stupid, because she could have helped him instead. And even though Eric keeps assuring her that she did indeed help him, even if involuntarily, she still feels kind of guilty.

You see, my best friend is the sweetest girl I've ever met. Oh, she has sass inside and lately, as Aisha told me, she's proved to be quite a badass, especially when people say bad things about her boyfriend, I mean, Eric is possibly the rawest nerve my Natty could ever have. She's touchy when it's about him, she'd show her claws to her own mother if Penelope dared say something against Eric.

But, in the end, my Natty is still a good little girl feeling the weight of all the bad things happening to her people on her shoulder. So I couldn't let her see I was hurting. I'm the strong one between us, she's the one that conceals it behind her not caring, but her father abandoning her that she wasn't even born has taken a huge toll on her. Her mother and I have kept her mind off of it the most we could, but I think that Natalie has found her peace of mind only with Eric.

I mean, she loves him and even while being so insecure, she knows all too well that he loves her deeply, and she finds strength in it. I see her stronger because he gives her self confidence, by being always there for her and convincing her she is more than worth it, she is amazing. Something I've never been able to do. Throughout all the years we've been friends, I've tried to win over her insecurities and show her she was nothing less than any other person in this world, but while she agreed on the surface, then when Dana mocked her and abused her verbally she never stood up for herself. I always did for her. But that bitch always cornered poor Natalie when she was alone and I could do nothing for her.

Though one time, in middle school, Natty was waiting for me to go to lunch and I was a bit late, when I reached her she was already balled up in a corner, crying her heart out. Sadly, that wasn't a new sight, but what surprised me was seeing, in the long distance, a fuming Eric grabbing Dana's arm and pushing her into the janitor's closet. Right then and there I thought they had a thing going, but since it took me a while to calm down my best friend, we remained there more than a bit, enough for me to see Dana coming out of that closet ... in tears. Even after so many years, I have no idea what did he tell her, but sure was, that was about the first and the last time I ever saw Dana Langley crying like a child.

Looking back, I know Eric did that only because he got mad that he saw Natalie so broken. I'd ask myself why didn't he go to her, but then I remember that for some reason he's always wanted to keep his distance with her, even if it too visibly hurt him. Well, only after he confessed he loved her I came to observe him a bit better and I realized that, behind that stoic mask he always held, there was a boy hurting because his love was unrequited and he couldn't even show the slightest bit of interest in the girl of his dreams.

Anyway, enough with the mulling. The thing is, this buzzing. Where did it come from? In the dim light of the room I couldn't see much, but I could still tell my surroundings and since there were no sun rays filtering through the curtains I gotta think it hadn't even set yet ... turning to the nightstand I grabbed my phone again: 4 am?! Who the hell dares wake me at 4 am?! What insane mind could do that?!

Already angry, I sat up on bed, a bit too quickly, because Joe stirred a little and groggily asked what was wrong. I didn't reply, just to let him think it was all a dream, so he could drift to sleep again. I really like this boy. I don't think I've ever been into someone as I am into him. Well, if you don't count Hunter ... it'll never really pass, I know that. I mean, I ... I still love Hunter, and I think I always will, but I've moved on.

With Joe. And ... well, a couple of boys before him. Though with Joe it's serious and I might even be falling for him ... maybe. I'm not the kind of girl that, once hurt, shuts the whole world out, it took me long to recover from the heartbreak Hunter caused me, but I made it, especially because I had my Natty beside me, and when I did, I came to the very simple conclusion that Hunter is my very first love and I will always love him, part of my heart will always belong to him, but that doesn't mean I will never fall in love again and ... well, Joe here, he seems to be the right guy to fall for ...

Now, I looked around and there was nothing out of order, if you don't count our clothes scattered around ... well, ok, I get a bit messy when I'm in the mood, is that bad? Looking back at my phone, I realized I had a text message I hadn't seen before. I guess my brain's not really awake yet. Well, it figures, it's fucking 4 am! But ... I caught my breaths in my throat when I read the message:

From: Natty Can you come pick me up? I'm in the woods. No idea how to come back.

Ugh, that girl! Always so stubborn! If she texted me and not Eric, it means they fought, and if they fought and she ran into the woods, it means it's big. Ugh, if he hurts her he's a dead man, I swear!

Quickly standing up, kind of waking up Joe again in the process, but whatever, he'll forgive me, I had more pressing problems to solve, so, faster than light, I slipped on my clothes and headed out after having grabbed my phone and Joe's car keys.

Once out, I scurried down the hall, only to bump into a half asleep Aisha wearing only her boyfriend's t-shirt. I barely caught myself enough not to knock her down, but that seemed to wake her a little and she groggily explained she'd gone to pee, though had forgotten there was a bathroom in their bedroom, I stopped her immediately and explained I was going to the rescue because our Natty was lost in the woods and had no idea how to come back, though I'm not sure I might know how to come back either, but I gotta reach my best friend immediately, so I quickly moved to leave, but Aisha ordered to wait for her, she'd come with, I said I didn't have time to waste, but she gave me a dirty look and dashed to her room, coming back a moment later as she jumped up and down to put on some shorts.

I'd have argued she was forgetting panties, but we didn't have time, so we just sprinted downstairs and out of the door ... only to practically end up hugging a hard back ... ugh, why aren't these people sleeping?!

Though it soon figured, because the wall we'd crashed into was Eric, of course. Let me guess, he was going to search his girlfriend, wasn't he? A bit late. If she's lost, she must have been since a couple of hours at least, but I'll be lenient and suppose he didn't know she was out. If he did know and I find my Natty is hurt, I swear, I'm gonna blow his head off!

"What the hell are you doing awake so early?" He asked us, clearly more than edgy.

I glared at him, pushing him away as I walked past him while speaking: "Going to rescue your girlfriend, you dumbass." Of course, I didn't even make one step forward because he yanked me back, his face going pale as he asked what did I mean. I take it as he didn't know she was out. Figures. She didn't tell him. Then what was he doing out there? Ugh, no time to inquire.

I just grabbed Aisha's hand and ordered to Eric to stay there. If Natty texted me and not him, it means she doesn't want to talk to him, hence: "Stay the fuck away, Rivers! You've fucked up too much already!" Then I ran faster than light, not caring about his response. The jerk is responsible for my Natty being lost in the woods, certainly she ran not to see him because they fought. If she's hurt, I'm gonna strangle him with my bare hands! Stupid jackass!

***

NATALIE'S POV

Sighing, I sat down. No point in wandering around. I didn't even know where I was. Though I wasn't scared, just frustrated. Thinking back, maybe I should have texted Kyle other than Jamie, he'll obviously know these woods, she certainly doesn't, but maybe she woke him? Ugh, if she even read the message! I texted her because I know she's a light sleeper, so hears pretty much everything around her and I thought she'd certainly hear her phone, but maybe she was too tired ...

I feel stupid. I shouldn't have run away like that. But I was in a haze and had no idea where to go or what to do, so I just let my feet guide me and I ended up entering the woods and before I realized I was deep into it and had no idea how to come back. Lucky thing I found a spot where I could use my phone, lucky thing I did remember to take my phone with me ...

I just wanted to run away. Be far from Eric too, because what he told me, what I perceived ... what if am really pregnant? All of our dreams, all of our plans ... everything will be lost. Gee, it's as if I'm condemned to relive my mother's life. She had me that she was 19 though. Well, I'll be 19 in July. Ugh, it cannot be possible. We've used protections scrupulously, I cannot be pregnant! But the doctor at the clinic said birth control might not work sometimes and ... what if one time the condom broke and we didn't notice? It takes very little amount of sperm to impregnate ... ugh, I almost hate I know these things!

If I was stupid and I didn't know anything then I wouldn't have read the symptoms and I would be on the couch sleeping while I let my anger pass, the in the morning I'd forgive Eric because I'd know I've been a pathetic idiot ... I mean, why should I be upset because he had sex with a hooker? Many men do. But he was practically a child ... ugh, whatever. I don't want to think about it. I just wanna go back to the cabin and crawl into my boyfriend's arms. Though I fear telling him ... maybe he won't want anything to do with it. He's been through so much already, a baby would ruin his hopes for a better future.

Maybe, if I find out I am, I shouldn't tell him. Maybe I can try to raise the kid on my own ... my mother succeeded, maybe I can ... oh, what am I saying? It would be unfair! Though it'd save Eric some trouble ... yet I don't want to leave him. I love him. I cannot think of a life without him. Ugh, I'm so stupid! Why did I overreact like that?! Why do I always overreact?! He must think I'm a whiny child that's only gonna be a burden for him. I always end up crying and he needs to cheer me up. Why do I cry so much? I've never been so whiny? What's happening to me? Maybe it's the pregnancy. These mood swings. Maybe I overreact because of that ... God, I don't want to be pregnant. I'm too young to be mother! There are so many things I wanna do! And my mother! She'll be so disappointed in me!

Sighing, I hugged my knees as I leaned my back against a tree, shooting my head back. Maybe Eric would be better without me. Maybe Dana is right, he needs a real woman while I'm only a little girl. A little girl that overreacts every time and forces him to keep his pain inside while maybe sharing it would make him feel better. Ugh, I'm suck a freaking idiot! Tears fogged my sight and I let them. How could I never think that talking might help him feel better? Maybe sharing his experiences will give him strength to get over them. Maybe he wants to tell me because I'm the only one he'd confide too, but he doesn't because he sees I'm such a whiny child and I always cry when we touch the topic. I'm so selfish!

It's just that the only thought of my Eric being hurt makes my heart ache physically and I can't take it. Only the idea of him being abused makes me sick with pain. It's like I feel his sorrow, the emotional one. It's like I can so clearly feel what he must have and it's awful. I'd never want him to suffer like that. Why didn't anyone help him? Why didn't people see? Why didn't I see? If I hadn't been so selfish, so blind ... if I'd become his friend, maybe I could have helped him. But no, I was blinded by all those rumors. There are devils that are less demonic than you think, he once told me. Well, he was right.

But there are also princesses that are much less perfect than he imagines. And I'm the complete opposite to perfect. I'm so flawed, so stupid. He deserves much better than me. Maybe ... maybe with one like Dana he'd be better. She's strong, she wouldn't cry when he tries to open up, she wouldn't be such a whiny child. Maybe ... maybe I should let him go. Maybe it's not true that we're meant to be together. Maybe I can only hinder him and he deserves much better. So maybe I should step aside ...

But I love him. And I know he loves me too. But loves doesn't always suffice, does it? Love is not always enough. And if I end up being really pregnant, I cannot spoil his life. Not now that he's having the happiness he deserves. Kyle too confirms he's seeing Eric more relaxed, less troubled, as if a huge load had been taken off his shoulders. A child would spoil all of this. We're so young. Maybe if I don't tell him ...

***

I'd been sitting against that tree for a few minutes of maybe more, and maybe I dozed off, because when I reopened my eyes there was a bit more light, clear sign the sun was close to setting. Conveniently, my stupid phone died. Ugh. As if this was a stupid horror movie!

Just as I thought I'd stand up and push my luck, trying to see if I could go back to the cabin, I heard voices, female voices, people calling my name. Once they were closer, I recognized Jamie and Aisha. Immediately, I called them back and squinted my eyes to spot them from wherever they'd pop up.

I took a couple of steps ahead, trying to better see, but was startled to hear noises behind me. It was still enough dim for me not to be able to see clearly, that's why I screeched when I felt something gripping me tightly, but that something giggled while sighing out of relief and I looked down, only to see Jamie hugging me tightly.

Behind her, Aisha reached us, running to us to engulf me in a tight hug too. Both confusedly commented on how relieved they were that I was safe and sound and so on, I argued it was ok, I'd been away for an hour more or less, but Jamie said she'd read that message and was worried and she'd tried calling me but my operator was answering, so I pointed out my battery died and they both chuckled.

We remained there, wrapped up in a tight and almost comical multiple hug, for a while, till they pulled back and I saw worrying tears in their eyes, which had me frown and ask why were they on the verge of crying ... they both hugged me again like I'd been missing for ages. Among sobs, Jamie confessed she'd been too worried about me, so much that she couldn't even think straight, neither of them could, as Aisha confirmed, because if they had, they'd have informed the boys, but so far only Eric knew they were heading into the woods to come rescue me.

At his name, my heart skipped a beat and they both felt it and pulled back, wiping their tears. Jamie fished her phone in her pocket and handed it to me. "Here. Call him. He's been texting me every minute to know if I'd found you." She grinned, a bit mischievously but also guilty. "I ordered him to stay away, but I bet he didn't listen, so he must be around here searching for you as well. Call him, he's certainly worried."

I stared at the phone in my hand, not moving. I know he must be worried, but ... I don't really feel like talking to him either. Not before I settle things once for all. So I sighed and handed the phone back to Jamie, telling her to quite simply send him a text where she says they found me and I'm fine, but we're gonna head to the town nearby and will be back soon.

My friends stared at me wide-eyed and I liquidated the thing with a simple "I'll explain later". Both confused, they kept staring, but in the end Jamie agreed and texted Eric. Not even a split second later her phone rang. She handed it to me, knowing it was him, but I shook my head, so, sighing, she took the call.

"Yeah?" She squinted her eyes. I could hear his booming voice through the phone as he asked "where the hell were we and what the fuck did that text mean". Jamie sighed as she explained that I'd requested that, it was the three of us, so we'd be fine, told him not to worry, we'd be back soon, to inform the other boys maybe, so that they wouldn't panic as well, but Eric once more yelled that he needed to talk to me, hear my voice, be sure I was fine.

Jamie restated I was: "I'm looking at her right now, Rivers, so yeah, I perfectly know she's fine." Of course, he asked why didn't I answer to his phone calls, she said my battery died, he asked why didn't I want to talk to him right now, she quite bitchily pointed out I was mad at him, that's why, but I shook my head. She handed me her phone and, when she didn't budge, I took it.

Inhaling deeply, I called: "Eric?"

He sucked in a breath. "Thank God! Tallie, where are you?! Are you okay? Are you hurt? Where are you? I'll come pick you up. Please, tell me, I've been dead worried! I've reckoned these damn woods, but I couldn't find you! You okay? Please, tell me you're okay!"

It maybe smile a little that he was ranting as he never does. Clearly he was panicking. It's normal, I guess. I dashed out of our room without telling him anything, he must have followed me, convinced I was in the living room, but didn't find me and thought I was somewhere else, then Jamie told him I was lost in the woods and he panicked.

Times like this, I feel even more stupid. I should know I have people that care about me and they obviously panic if I go missing. See my friends here, they almost cried because they thought they'd lost me. And my boyfriend ... his voice was as strained as I've never heard it and he was ranting! Eric never rants.

So I gently assured him I was fine and I apologized for running away like that. He demanded I tell him where was I, so he could come pick me up, and if I wanted to go downtown, I should wait for him, so he could drive me there or accompany me anyway if I preferred to walk ... I tried to be as gentle as possible while explaining that I needed to do something downtown and I didn't feel like ... doing it with him there.

Maybe he perceived it, maybe he felt what I meant, but he went dead silent for a long moment and in the end he sighed, agreeing, but: "Please, just be safe, baby. And be back soon. I miss you. And I need to see you." He let out one more sigh. "I guess we're gonna need to talk about this ... thing. Don't keep me out, though, okay? We can face it together. If ..." He swallowed. "... if it is that ... we're gonna face it together, okay?"

Inhaling deeply, I agreed. There goes my plan about not telling him, I guess. Though I shouldn't keep him out. He's right. If ... it's a yes, then we need to face it together. Eric let out a breath he seemed to have kept for a long time as he concluded with a very simple: "Remember I love you, princess."

My smile became a little wider as I truthfully responded: "I love you too, Eric. Truly."

***

"These places kinda look like sets for a horror movie." Jamie commented as we reached the convenience store/gas station. We'd planned on walking to the town nearby, but we had no idea how to get to idea and we couldn't go back to the cabin and take the car, even if Jamie had Joe's keys, so when Aisha said she thought she remembered there was a convenience store nearby, we followed her. And now here we were.

I felt nervous. Really, really nervous. Like ... I could hardly breathe. I was barely able to breathe properly throughout the short trip, imagine now that I was so close to what I was looking for. My friends had been asking, but I never replied. They understood it all when, once inside the store, I headed directly to a precise shelf and grabbed a pregnancy test. Better take care of it as soon as I can, right? I don't think I could sleep with this doubt eating me alive.

Both Jamie and Aisha gasped and they seemed to want to hold me in case I fainted, but I told them I was fine, I just ... needed to find a bathroom. Quickly, Jamie asked the guy at the cash register if they had a restroom that was even only vaguely decent, though Aisha asked me if I was sure I wanted to do it here ... "Maybe you'd want Eric to be beside you when you find out?"

I shook my head forcefully, stating that I preferred knowing the response before facing him. This way I could know how to react when I saw him. Even though, I honestly have no idea how will I react if the response is positive ...

When Jamie convinced the guy at the cash register to give her the key to the bathroom in the back, we all headed there, though they guy stopped us, saying we didn't pay for the test. Ugh. None of us had a wallet, of course. He grumbled, saying we couldn't just take what we wanted without paying and so on, but shut up when Jamie promised him something in return if he let us take the test without making a fuss.

I then asked her what that was, but she shooed me and Aisha away to the restroom as she remained in front of the guy, who was a thirtyish, kind of obese, redhead full with freckles, the perfect stereotype of that kind of guy who barely sees a woman ... which is why his jaw dropped when my best friend, even if annoyed, but managing to give him a flirtatious smile, pulled her t-shirt up and showed him her bare boobs. Just for a split second, but I bet it was enough to traumatize him for life, or in any case to give him a memory he'll never forget.

When she came back to us, I gave a dirty look at Jamie, saying she shouldn't have, but she justified by saying the guy wouldn't have let us take the test and we had no money but needed it, so ...

That brought me back to reality and I let out a shaky breath, which my friends took as a sign I was nervous, so they both wrapped their arms around me. I love my friends, really I do. They're always there for me, no matter what. With Jamie, I am used to it, we've known each other since we were five, but with Aisha at first I was surprised, after all, we've known each other since a couple of months only. Yet she already deems me as her best friend and I'm really happy about it. We're already an inseparable trio, even if Jamie and Aisha have met last night only, but they've been chatting a lot since a while.

Anyhow, taking a deep breath, test in hand, I entered the bathroom. It wasn't truly too clean, but I saw to get over it, for the sake of quickness. It took me a while to feel the need to pee, but when I did, I pulled out the test quickly, not wanting to think, and did everything automatically. Only when I was done I let myself breathe, then washed my hands and got out.

The thirtyish man was still there looking pretty dumbfounded when we reached the store again, and he even winked at Jamie, who rolled her eyes. Though there was another client there. I could spot him at the back of the shop, near the fridge. For a moment I recoiled, because he looked somewhat familiar ... from there I could only tell his dark sort of wavy hair, but I felt nervous, because he seemed to be slyly keeping an eye on us, and the idea that he'd be following us back to the cabin scared me, so much that I considered remaining there and calling Eric or one of the boys to come pick us up, but I shook my head, thinking I was just paranoid. The kid seemed innocuous and who told me he was looking at us? Maybe he was just hanging around. Though it's an odd hour to be around this one.

I shrugged it off anyway. We headed out and waited three minutes against the wall. I almost didn't want to look. What if I was pregnant? My dreams would shatter before my eyes. And how would I tell Eric? How would I look him in the eyes and tell him he had to renounce to the dreams he was just then building up?

Inhaling deeply, I took out the test and looked at it, one eye open first, then the other. Here we go.

***

ERIC'S POV

I'd been sitting on the small staircase in front of the house, waiting for the girls to come back, for what seemed like hours. Kyle and Joe were both still sleeping and I didn't thought about waking them, actually, I didn't really have will of explaining to them what happened.

The sun was starting to show, but it'd take half an hour more to rise, considering it was barely 6 am. I flinched when I heard my phone ringing and I anxiously took the call, convinced it was my Natalie calling to tell me to pick them up or anything, but I heard a male voice: "Eric. Sorry for the early hour, son, but I had to call."

My uncle. His tone was clearly distressed and I already swallowed at the idea of what he wanted to tell me, which could have to do with one person only. Breathing heavily, I remained there listening as he spoke: "He escaped, Eric. Don't know how. But he did. I'm sure he's coming after you. Where are you? No, wait, don't tell me ... the phones might be tracked. Just stay out of town, kid. We're moving already. We're gonna get him before he reaches you. Promise."

I sucked in a breath. The idea of Robert coming after me didn't scare me, not for my own life. I couldn't care less if he took it out on me, I am the one responsible after all, but what if he decides to be twisted, as he always is, and use my own affects against me? Knowing him, he's gonna take it out on the people I care about more before hunting me down. Better said, he's gonna use those people to find me.

Uncle Sam was about to hang up but I forced myself to speak, even if kind of panicky: "Do you ... do you know if he's alone?" There was no time to fuss, I had to reason, to be calculative, to know what the odds were precisely and what could I do to change them. I won't let that bastard hurt the people I care about. I won't let him get to Natalie. He shouldn't know about Natalie, but if Nathan told Portia, maybe he told Robert too ...

"She's escaped with him. But she was found dead not too far from the jail. Clearly, he got rid of the overweight that would have slowed him down." There was a hint of sadness in my uncle's voice. It was still his sister after all. But I wasn't sad. Not at all. Actually, I felt better. One less enemy to fight. Even though, she's never been a big problem. Her husband on the other hand ...

"Stay out of town, kid. We're going to get him. You just stay out of town." My uncle reminded me, before hanging up. I dropped my phone beside me and sighed. Right when things are going good, huh? And there's even Natalie possibly being ... pregnant. What if she is? I should leave her without a word? Maybe I can explain in a few words.

But I can't remain close. She might get hurt. Everybody around me might get hurt. Ugh ... I should have known better. I can't get attached to people. I can't afford such luxury.

Just as I thought that, my phone rang once more. Eagerly I took the call. Maybe my uncle has good news already? Maybe they've caught that bastard already.

No ... the male voice I heard froze the blood in my veins. It wasn't my uncle: "You should have known I'd come get you, my dear son. Naughty boys are to be punished. And I'm gonna punish you like you deserve. But first, I shall take what you value most."

He laughed evilly while I could barely breathe. "You have such a cute little girl. I'm sure Nathan will know what to do with her."

"Leave her alone." I barked through gritted teeth.

He laughed. "Oh, but I can't. Dogs can't be called back when they're hunting, son. Especially not when they're so hungry. Don't worry. I'll make sure he lets her make a last wish. See you soon, my dear son."

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