Forging Forever

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Chapter 44

Nissequogue, NY

November 2, 2015

Alex sat down in the library with a large glass of wine. It had been weeks since she had read Annie’s journal. Guilt gnawed at her gut. She had been so focused on one daughter that she had all but forgotten the other. Determined to keep apprised of her eldest’s well-being, she opened the journal and began to read.

Two hours later both the wine and Alex’s tear ducts were empty. She stared down at the journal as if it had announced the end of the world. Her mind reeled with all of the information she had just read, all the heartbreak and pain that her daughter had experienced in such a short amount of time. For the first time since opening the journal, Alex wondered if she should keep the rest of this information from her husband. George was strong, but how would he react to the information that his daughter had been raped? And what about the pregnancy? It’s not like Annie would be able to keep that hidden for long, unless of course she came back and decided to end the pregnancy. And what about this Cameron that she had written about? It was obvious that she cared deeply for the man; after all she had accepted a marriage proposal from him. But could that be because of her current condition? Did she need a marriage as a cover?

Alex was overwhelmed to say the least. She took the journal with her and went back into the kitchen to pour herself another glass of wine. How was she supposed to handle all this? She virtually chugged down her glass of wine and poured another. She was halfway through the third when she stopped herself. Getting drunk wasn’t the answer. If Annie could continue despite this then she would find the strength to do the same. With a new sense of resolve, Alex poured herself a glass of water then stumbled out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her room. It was late. Catherine and George had already gone to bed. She hoped that her husband was still awake. He needed to see this; to read this. He would want to know about the well-being of his daughter, even if she wasn’t doing well at all.

When she entered their room she was relieved to see that George was still awake watching TV. “I’m glad you’re awake,” Alex said. “There’s something you need to see.” Alex handed him the journal then sat down on the bed.

“You’ve been crying,” George stated. “What’s wrong?”

“Just read,” she pointed to the journal.

“Okay.” George turned and began to read the journal that Annie had written. As he read, his demeanor changed from sorrow, to rage, and finally to a soul deep anguish that even the most poetic words could not describe. “If that man weren’t already dead I’d kill him myself!”

“I know,” Alex whispered.

“To think that...that,” he stammered, “my daughter was...violated in that way.” His heart broke just thinking about it. “Why didn’t she come back here after that?”

Alex just shook her head, “I have a few guesses,” she whispered.

“Like what?” George’s face was still red with anger.

“Shame, fear, resignation.”

“Why should she feel any of those? It’s not her fault that...that man hurt her.”

“I never said it was. But you read the words in that journal. She said she should have fought harder, that she shouldn’t have been alone. She’s blaming herself George, even if it is unconsciously. And fear? Well why wouldn’t she be afraid? Her sister tried to kill her. She’s pregnant and she has no idea how we will react. Finally, resignation: maybe she’s just given up. Maybe she feels that there is nothing left for her here, that she should just stay where she is and do what she can while she has the time.”

George nodded, “What are we supposed to do? Should we go back and get her, bring her home, and fix her?”

“You can’t just fix something like this George,” Alex hissed. “Besides, could you imagine what it would do to her if we just showed up and dragged her off, possibly against her will? She’s already been forced and betrayed by someone she had trusted. If we were to do it to her it would destroy her. No, as much as it pains me to say this, Annie has to choose to come back to us on her own.”

“Alex,” he started, “you act like she knows what is best for herself right now.”

“George, it is not our decision to make, I don’t care how misguided we believe she is. It has to be her choice.”

George reluctantly nodded his agreement, “Okay.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome,” he whispered back. “Are you coming to bed?”

Alex shook her head. “No. I know I will not be able to sleep tonight. I’m just going to go downstairs and watch a few movies.”

“Okay.”

Alex left the room, taking the journal with her. She knew George wouldn’t be sleeping tonight either. They both had some soul searching to do; had demons to face. She was approaching the stairs when she heard a sound come from Catherine’s room. She walked over and opened the door. The room was dark and Catherine appeared to be asleep. Alex walked deeper into the room just to make sure. Her daughter’s eyes were closed but her mouth was moving a bit. Catherine had been known to talk in her sleep at times, particularly when she was having vivid dreams. That was probably what was happening now.

Alex turned to leave the room when she heard Catherine give a whisper of a chuckle followed by the word “raped.” Her blood ran cold. Why would she be laughing about something like that? And what could have possibly made her think of rape. Alex’s gaze turned down to the journal. Could Catherine have read it? It was definitely possible. Alex had left it out in the open in the library. Still, Catherine was not a big fan of reading, although, she had seen her with a copy of Frankenstein the other day. Maybe she had read the journal when she went into the library to find a book. As quietly as possible, Alex turned and left Catherine’s room then went back down into the library where she plopped down into a chair. “Oh Dad, I wish you were here to help me with this. You always did know how to handle things, no matter how bad they were.”

Alex received no response, not that she expected one. She closed her eyes and sighed. If Catherine had read the journal did she follow the suggestion at the beginning to only read as far as the present day? She doubted it. No, Catherine would have wanted to know her sister’s fate, which meant that as of now, Catherine knew more about Annie’s life than she and George did. She opened her eyes, “I’m sorry Annie,” she whispered then opened the journal and read the entire tale.

New York City

November 3, 1780

“I cannot believe you’re souvenir shopping for your family,” Cameron chuckled as they left the book store.

“Well, I can’t very well go on a trip and not bring something back. Besides, I think this book will do quite well for my dad. He loves military history,” Annie smiled. “My mom will absolutely love the necklace and Katelyn will go wild over the earrings. Now I just need to find something for Catherine.”

“A swift spanking and smack in the face would suit your sister just fine,” he remarked dryly.

“Oh hush, she’ll be angry if I don’t bring her anything,” she scolded. She could understand his sentiment, but still, Catherine was her sister. “Besides, I need to make amends for the way we parted. I wasn’t exactly kind when she left.”

Cameron just rolled his eyes. It was pointless arguing with her on this point. He had tried before. In his opinion, Catherine had been given far too kind of a gift in Annie. It was time she learned how to appreciate it. “So where shall we go next?”

“Hmm...well, Catherine loves to ride. She has two horses. I wish I could remember their measurements then I could get them saddles,” she mused. “Any ideas?”

“Well, we could get her...”

“I know! I’ll get her a riding crop! She’ll love the practicality of it and the history,” Annie interrupted.

“Very well. Let’s go to the tack shop.” Cameron took Annie’s hand and guided her down the busy streets towards the tack shop. It had been a wonderful day so far. They slept in and ate a late breakfast. After that they had left the boardinghouse and gone shopping so that Annie could buy a few ‘trinkets’ for her family. Two hours later she had spent a small fortune on jewelry and books. Cameron didn’t mind. It made her happy and he certainly had the funds. Besides, he had already stashed away the funds they would need for the future; funds that Annie did not know about. He knew that he would find some sort of job in the future only because he was not the type to remain idle. Still, he believed in being prepared just in case things took longer than he anticipated. Besides, he wanted to have enough set aside so that Annie could finish school while he took care of their child. He had promised her that she would achieve all that she hoped and dreamed, and he always kept his promises. His affairs had been set in order for the last two weeks. He had left detailed written instructions for James as well as money to buy the house that now belonged to Annie. Everything was set for their future. Now all he had to do was make sure that they arrived there safely.

“What do you think of this one?” Annie’s question interrupted his thoughts.

“It looks lovely,” he replied. She was holding a brown leather riding crop. The handle was intricately woven. “I’m sure she’ll love it.”

“Good,” Annie replied. They walked to the counter and bought the crop. The store clerk placed the crop in a long box and wrapped it carefully in brown paper. Cameron added the parcel to the stack that he was already carrying then they left the store. “Honestly Cameron, let me carry something. I can handle the jewelry at least.”

“No, I insist,” he replied once again. This was the third time she had offered her assistance. “Really love, I don’t mind a bit,” he smiled.

“Oh, fine,” she sighed. “Well, I’ve completed my errands for the day. What would you like to do now?”

“I’m starving. How about we have lunch?”

“That sounds wonderful.”

“Good.” Cameron guided Annie to a local inn where they found a table. The dining area was partially filled. Most of the occupants sat at a long oak bar. As soon as they sat down a busty tavern maid named Alice appeared to take their order. Annie ordered some tea, grilled chicken, vegetables, and, not surprisingly, strawberries. Cameron ordered the salmon and some wine.

“I’m having a wonderful time today. I don’t want it to end,” Annie declared when the tavern maid left.

“Love, we have all weekend to enjoy. I promise to make it memorable.” There was a suggestive pause after his statement.

Annie swallowed. “I know you will,” she whispered then changed the subject. “What would you like to do after this?”

“Well, I think a little bit of rest is in order. I’m feeling a bit peaked and you, my dear, look exhausted.”

Annie frowned. She didn’t want to spend the rest of the day cooped up in the boardinghouse. “Well, if you insist.”

Cameron held back his smile. She looked absolutely crestfallen when he suggested they go home. “Besides, you’ll need your energy for tonight.”

“Oh, what’s happening tonight?”

“I bought us tickets to the theater. They’re doing a rendition of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.”

“Really?! Oh my gosh! I love that play! I was in a class production of it in elementary school,” she smiled. “I played Portia.”

“I would have loved to see you in it,” he smiled.

“You can. My parents have a video of it somewhere. I’ll find it when we get home.”

Cameron smiled. He could just picture a younger Annie dressed in a Renaissance style dress that was probably a little too big for her, her hair pulled back as she delivered her lines. “I would thoroughly appreciate that.”

She smiled back at him. Their food arrived a moment later and they spent the rest of the time eating their meal. Once they were done Cameron gathered up their purchases and they walked back to the boardinghouse. They spent the afternoon relaxing and watching movies. Well, Cameron watched most of the movies. Annie slept. Around six they got up. They ate a quick dinner then changed and made their way to the theater. Cameron found himself smiling as he watched Annie mouth some of the lines from the play. Once the play was over they went back to the boardinghouse and spent the rest of the night doing whatever they pleased.

Alex was relieved by the time she put the journal down. After reading the whole thing she realized that, for the most part, Annie’s pain was over. Soon she and Cameron would be coming home then they could begin the healing process. She had been happy to read that Cameron was doing such a good job of keeping Annie entertained and for the most part happy. Oh she knew that deep down Annie was still hurting, but the fact that Cameron was momentarily distracting her from her pain so that she could finish her mission and come home brought an immense amount of comfort to Alex. She felt herself begin to respect the man who, for all intents and purposes, was to be Annie’s husband. She only hoped that when it came time to confront her demons, Annie would not fall apart.

The sun had begun to rise by the time Alex finished the journal. Her body was weary with exhaustion. With great reluctance she got up from the chair and made her way to her bedroom. Once there she placed the journal in her nightstand drawer and went to sleep.

Katelyn had been watching the house for hours. For the past few days she had awaited her opportunity to go in and finish the journal, but the opportunity had not presented itself. It seemed like, at least for the past few nights, there was always someone awake. Annie’s family had not left the house since the night they had gone to dinner. Now it was eleven o’clock at night and the house had finally gone dark. She was loathe to go in while people were still in the house, but it had to be done. She had to finish that journal.

Carefully, she edged her way out of her hiding spot in the forest towards the back door. She picked up the spare key and let herself in. The house was silent and dark. It seemed that no one was awake. She removed her shoes and snuck back into the library. She walked over to the end table where she had found the journal. However, the journal was not there.

Katelyn looked around the room in panic. She pulled out her phone and searched the various shelves in hopes of finding the journal. Her search revealed nothing. She sat down in an armchair and thought about where it could be. Could it be out in the open? But if so, where? She highly doubted that Alex or George would just leave a two centuries old journal out where anyone could see it. But then again, it had just been sitting out in the open for her to find before. Carefully she considered her options.

A few minutes later she was sneaking out of the library and up the stairs. Gut instinct told her it was on the second floor. She searched through the study but found nothing. That meant one thing, it was in one of the bedrooms. Caution warred with instinct. Caution warned her to leave and come back another time. Instinct told her that time was running out for Annie. She needed to know what was in that journal so that she could make an effective plan to see her best friend again.

Katelyn heard a door open down the hall. She peaked her head out of the study and saw Alex creeping down the hall towards the stairs. She appeared to have the journal in her hand. As silent as possible, Katelyn crept out of the study and followed Annie’s mom. She walked down the stairs and went into the library then closed the door.

Katelyn hid around the corner and determined her next step. She really wanted, no needed, to read that journal. She thought about waiting until Alex left the library, but odds were she would take the journal with her and that would leave Katelyn in the same position she was in now. The only other option was to go in the library and confront her. It was risky. For all she knew Alex would toss her out. In the end Katelyn decided the benefits outweighed the risk. She tip-toed down around the corner and quietly opened the door. Alex was sitting in an armchair reading the journal. She did not notice Katelyn’s entrance.

Katelyn walked until she was standing right next to Alex’s chair. “I need to see that journal,” she whispered.

Alex let out a quiet yelp. “What are you doing here?”

“You’ve been keeping things from me,” Katelyn whispered.

“What’s in this journal is none of your business,” Alex snipped. “She’s my daughter.”

“And she’s my best friend.”

“You’re no good for her.”

“Why, because I make her see her true worth? Tell me, how can you still see Catherine in a positive light after what she did?”

“Catherine’s confused. But I’m helping her. She’ll come around,” Alex said, although her tone lacked confidence.

“How many times have I heard that?” Katelyn rolled her eyes then came to stand in front of Alex. “You’re delusional. Catherine went back in time to murder her sister. It doesn’t get more extreme than that. Now give me the journal and let me finish it so I can determine a plan to save Annie.”

“She has to choose to come back on her own.”

“I know that. But I also know that Catherine is not done with her yet. She’ll try to finish what she started.”

“No, I’ve been working with her. She’s forgiven her sister.”

“Forgiven her for what? Tell me, what exactly did Annie do to warrant such hate from her own flesh and blood? What specific event took place to garner this type of animosity?”

Alex did not respond because she did not have an answer. She had no idea why Catherine hated Annie so much. But she would die before she admitted that to anyone.

“That’s what I thought,” Katelyn whispered. Alex’s silence told her all she needed to know. “Now give me the journal.”

With great reluctance, Alex handed over the journal. Katelyn grabbed it then sat down on the couch and began to read.

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