Pieces of Me (A Pieces Novel)

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Chapter 18 - Danica

I cannot believe it! My fantasy of Aldrich is an actual person! When he came and opened the door of my cab, I didn’t take much notice of him until we went to get my luggage. For a long, yet brief moment, we both looked in each other’s eyes. Damn, those eyes of his were beautiful. I could’ve sworn I was actually meeting Aldrich. Something about him was so familiar, but I know it can’t be him. I’m sure Aldrich would have said something . . . right?

The view from the window in my room is magnificent. Sure. Paris and Rome were also amazing views. But to be looking at a view I’ve dreamed of seeing for so long . . . It just takes my breath away. I know. I’m a walking cliche. But most things in life are cliches. Everything has been so overdone. And everything just repeats and repeats. And there is nothing we can really do to prevent that from happening.

I hurry to my laptop bag and pull my camera out of the front pocket. I als grab my phone because I did tell Aldrich I would let him know when I got to the hotel. I start to take a few pictures of the scenery. Once I have some good shots, I take a couple selfies with my phone. Satisfied, I pick my favorite of the bunch and send it to Aldrich.

Danica93: Made it to the hotel in one piece. Here’s a picture for your smiles-pleasure.

Danica93: Hope you’re well. Talk to you soon!

Almost immediately, I get a message. But not from Aldrich. It’s from Charlie.

Charlie: Sis . . . I don’t know how to tell you this.

Charlie: Danica . . . Gramps had a stroke. I’m in the waiting room.

My heart drops to my stomach. I clutch the phone in my fist, closing my eyes. Oh no, not my Gramps. He shouldn’t be having a stroke. He’s not old enough for that yet! Not in my eyes! I open my eyes for only the amount of time it should take me to sit on the bed. I can’t bring myself to do anything else, except sit in shock. Agony. Anxiety. My phone rings and I answer without hesitation.

“Charlie?” I whisper, afraid to use my full voice.

“He’s a fighter, Sis,” my brother says gently. “Gram called an ambulance after Gramps told her he was feeling pain in his chest. They started working to check him before they got to the hospital, which is when Gram called me. I only got here a short while ago.”

“But I’m not there, Charlie . . . W-what if . . .”

“Danica, don’t go thinking like that. He’s going to be okay. He’s a fighter, and he got help in time. I’m here for now, and once your tour is over, you’ll be coming home before you know it. You’ll be here next week, bub.”

I’m sniffling and trying to control my sobs by taking deep breaths. Charlie continues to console me when there is another voice on his end, talking to him. He replies and suddenly the call goes mute. A couple minutes pass before I hear Charlie’s voice again.

“Danica,” he says; I can hear the relief in his voice. “Gramps is gonna be fine, just like I said. It was an extremely minor stroke, nothing fatal. They’re gonna give him some stuff to help with the pain and he can go home in the morning.”

“Okay,” I nod to myself, though I am still shocked. “But . . . I’m not there.”

“Baby sis, it’s all good. I know for a fact neither Gram nor Gramps are mad at you. You worked hard to get where you are today and they support you completely. You cannot go blaming yourself for not being here.”

I sniff, “Okay . . . Give Gramps a hug for me, please?”

“Of course, Danica. I’ll call you as soon as they let Gramps leave, okay?”

“Okay . . . Love you, Charlie.”

“I love you too, sis.”

With my camera in one hand, a map in the other, I wander the streets of Čačak in bewilderment. There is so much to see! I’ve already visited an art museum, as well as a historical museum. I’ve taken so many pictures of the architecture, the people walking the streets, the partial landscapes. This would make the perfect setting for a book plot. But I am not working on any books or writing for the next week. I deserve the break and I don’t have any pressing deadlines right now. At least I will have these pictures for reference later on.

I haven’t heard from Aldrich since messaging him my arrival. I wonder why he hasn’t replied. Aside of him being busy with work. Two jobs? He is probably exhausted at the end of the day. So, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He will message me when he has time. He said he would. And he said that he missed me too, so . . . He will be messaging me when he gets the chance.

Gramps is back home and doing better. If something like that happens again, Gram is to call Charlie immediately. And Charlie is to call me. Of course, I am praying that I am home before anything like that happens again. If Gramps were to leave this earth while I am not home . . . I can’t even think about it. Losing him, or Gram for that matter, would break my heart.

“Ne beži od mame!” a woman shouts as she chases after a pair of twin boys down the sidewalk. I kind of understand the last word to be ‘mommy’, so she must be shouting for them to stop running away from her. I snap a picture of the little boys smiling faces. I chuckle softly as the mother smiles in apology, passing me to catch up with her children.

I turn my camera to the sky, watching as the clouds start to turn gray and cluster together. It’s so beautiful! I take several pictures, letting the clouds change formation a bit before I take another. The contrast and difference between photos is amazing. These pictures would make great cover images. I haven’t made my book covers since I self-published my second book. That was nearly five years ago. I was barely starting college at the time.

As the sky threatens to release its wrath, I slip my camera into my bag and move to hail a cab. I am a fair distance away from the hotel. An unmarked vehicle pulls up to the curb next to me and the window rolls down. The gentleman smiles at me, nodding his chin in greeting.

“Želite li prevoz?” he says, and I am pretty sure he is asking if I need a ride. I smile apologetically and shrug.

“I don’t understand,” I say, pointing to my ear.

“Ah, Ah-mar-ree-can,” he says with a broken English accent. “I no speak English very well . . . you need car? A ride?”

“Oh!” I exclaim, laughing awkwardly as I nod. “Yes, that would be great. Do you know the Ruzmarin Hotel?”

“Yes, yes! Very nice place. I take you.”

“Hvala vam,” I thank him and walk around the car to the passenger’s’ seat. Although this man is being nice about giving me a ride . . . something is not right. My inner red lights are flashing like crazy. Maybe I should just have him leave me on a corner after driving a few blocks. Once when I was in high school, I went on a date that almost ended so badly. Charlie and Danny had been nearby, thank Heavens. But one of the things Charlie told me after that was to always trust my gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t go further. Walk away.

“Actually,” I say, clearing my throat as the guy stops at a red light. “Would you mind leaving me on that corner? I have a friend who is waiting for me.”

“No, no,” he replies, shaking his head and waving his hand. “I take you to hotel, like you request.”

“Yes, but I’ve just remembered that I should be meeting my friend now.”

The man starts to scowl and my red flags are waving out of control. He accelerates and does a fast U-turn that has me holding to my seat for balance. The hotel is in the opposite direction. I turn in the seat to look to where I know the entrance of the hotel would begin. I look to my captor and begin to fumble for my phone in my bag. I made certain to have the number for the local police, just in case I should ever have to call them. It’s a precaution my grandparents have instilled into my memory from a young age. Whenever we went some place that we are not familiar with, we would get emergency numbers for everything before having our fun.

As I start to dial the number, the guy snatches my phone away and throws it in the back.

“Hey!” I shout, smacking at him. “You have no right! Stop the car right now!”

He says nothing and reaches into the compartment in front of my seat. He pulls out a cloth, shoving it in my face. It emanates a strange odor. But before I can identify what it might be, I black out.

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