Mary and Cameron had been taking turns watching over Annie ever since they had found her. Cameron had waited out in the hall while Mary conducted her examination. He had been relieved when he heard that the physical damage would heal on its’ own. If only the emotional damage would heal as easily. Cameron spent the days at his office, doing his best to make the world believe everything was as it should be. Apparently he had been successful because no one had made any comment about a change in his behavior. At night he sat next to Annie’s bed, holding her hand and wiping away the tears that never seemed to stop flowing. His heart broke each time a tear fell down her face. It killed him to see this strong, smart, and incredibly sweet woman whom he loved with all his heart, broken.
It was late at night on the third day since her attack when Annie finally stirred. Cameron had fallen asleep in the desk chair but awoke the moment he heard Annie’s feet touch the floor. “Annie? Is everything okay?”
“I’m hungry,” she whispered. “And thirsty.” Her throat was parched and she was dehydrated from her days of crying. All she wanted was some water and a little food. After that she could figure out what she was supposed to do.
“Wait here. I’ll go get you something to eat,” Cameron said. He stood up from his chair and left the room. He returned twenty-minutes later with a pitcher of water, some bread, a piece of chicken, and an orange. Annie was sitting at the desk, writing in her journal when he returned.
“I know it’s not much, but it was all I could find,” Cameron said as he set the tray down.
“It’ll be fine. Thank you,” Annie said then returned to her writing.
Cameron stared at her. Her once strong body was now thin. Her beautiful face was now defined by dark circles, bruises, and the hard lines of her cheekbones. It had been days since she’d eaten or gotten any real sleep, he knew because he’d watched her. He sighed with relief when she put the journal away and began to eat. She did not eat much, only some bread and the orange. She did drink nearly the whole pitcher of water. After a long while she stood up and walked over to Cameron who was sitting on the bed.
“I’m sorry,” was all she said.
“Sorry for what love?”
“I broke my promise to you. I’m so sorry.”
“What are you talking about? What promise?” Her words were perplexing to say the least. As far as he was concerned she had nothing to apologize for.
“I promised you that I wouldn’t let him touch me the way you touch me. I broke that promise. I tried to-to...” her words ended on a sob.
Immediately Cameron knew what she was talking about. “Annie look at me,” he said, waiting for her eyes to find his, “you have nothing to apologize for. This was not your fault.”
“Yes it was. I should’ve sent for you, I shouldn’t have been walking the streets alone, I should have fought harder. But I just gave in. I closed my eyes and gave in.”
“Annie. He should have listened when you said no. This is not your fault.” He ached to pull her to him, to hold her close and never let her go, but he knew that would be the wrong course of action. She had been forced and beaten only a few days ago. He could only imagine what further damage he would cause if he yanked her towards him.
Annie nodded. She did not believe a word of what he said. She should have been more careful. But for the first time in weeks she had felt safe. Her sister was gone. There was no one out trying to kill her. Her mission was all but complete. She should have kept her guard up, she thought ruefully.
“Annie, you should get some rest. You’re exhausted.” Cameron’s statement interrupted her self-loathing.
“No! I’m not ready to sleep. I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes I see him. I can’t sleep, I just can’t.” She grabbed Cameron’s shirtfront and began sobbing. “Please, I can’t sleep. Don’t make me.”
He could see the panic in her eyes. The thought of sleep truly terrified her. Once again he felt his heart break. “Shh...Annie, I will never make you do anything you don’t want to do. If you’re not ready to sleep we can find something else to do. Would you like to watch a movie? We could do that.”
“Okay. That sounds good,” she whispered.
“Good.” He could see the panic leave her eyes. “Here, you sit down and I’ll get your tablet and ear buds.”
“Okay,” she replied. She sat down on the bed. Cameron joined her a few moments later.
“Is it okay if I sit next to you? It’ll be easier for us to watch the movie.”
“That’s fine,” she whispered.
Cameron sat down on the bed. “What movie would you like to watch?”
“You can pick.”
“Are you sure?” His only response was a nod. “Okay.” Cameron looked through the long list of movies and finally settled on an animated retelling of Beauty and the Beast. “Will this be okay?”
“Yes. It’s actually one of my favorites,” she replied.
They spent the next ninety minutes listening to a singing candelabra and an uptight clock. Annie remained curled up in a ball for the entire length of the movie; cuddled in a protective and impenetrable shell. The action made Cameron’s heart ache even more. After the movie was over Annie picked another animated tale about a robot named Wall-E. The movie had very little dialogue in it, but Cameron found himself inspired by the cute little robot.
“I’ve always wanted to go to space,” Annie mumbled halfway through the movie. “I want to know if it’s really as beautiful as all the pictures show.”
“I take it man has traveled to outer space.”
“Yes. We’ve even walked on the moon.”
“Well then once you get back I’ll find a way to get you to space.”
“Thank you Cameron,” she replied. She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she couldn’t go back, not now. She was far too broken to be any good to her friends and family. Better that she just let history take its course.
Cameron watched the play of emotions across her face. She look defeated, not that he could blame her. Still, he had to convince her that life was still worth living. He hit pause on the movie. “Annie,” he said, “I cannot begin to fathom what you are feeling right now. I wish that I could take your pain and keep it as my own. Unfortunately I can’t. But I can promise you that I will help you through this in any way that I can, in any way that you’ll allow me. Please, don’t give up. You have so much to live for, so much to share with the world.”
“Cameron, I appreciate your sentiment, but there is nothing you can do. I’m broken beyond repair.”
“No Annie, you are not. Please don’t give up. I cannot bear to lose you,” he pleaded.
His words tugged at Annie’s heart. She had nothing left to give him. In the end he would desert her, not that she could blame him. This was too much for anyone to bear. “Cameron, I cannot ask you to take this on.”
“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” he said. He could see her retreating back into herself. He had to find a way to get through to her. “Annie, I love you. No matter how hard you push me away I cannot let this go. Your pain will always be mine. So please, don’t give up on life. If you won’t do it for yourself then do it for me.”
The truth of his words struck Annie to the core. “Very well, I will try for you,” she lied. She had no fight left in her, not even for him. It was best if she just sent him on his way so he could live a complete life.
“That’s all I can ask,” he said then, started the movie.
Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean
September 9, 2015
Something was wrong, Katelyn knew it. It had been over a month since she had heard from Annie. At first she had thought that Annie had needed time to grieve, so she had patiently waited for Annie to reach out to her. But after a couple of weeks of silence, a knot of tension had begun to develop in her stomach and had refused to go away. With her worry growing more and more each day, Katelyn finally called Annie daily, only to be directed straight to voicemail. Desperate for answers, she had called both of Annie’s parents, neither of which responded. She had made her final call to them two days ago. After that she had booked herself the first flight she could get back to New York. If no one would respond to her then she would go home and get the answers for herself.