Chapter 43: Kiss Of A Criminal
It was around 5 am when she got the phone call that would change everything.
I woke up, startled, to the sound of my phone vibrating next to me. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I reached out and placed the phone to my ear. My breathing caught as I looked off into the distance. The sun was just slipping above the horizon, casting orange hues across the sky and making it look like the entire field was on fire.
“Kirsten, thank God you picked up.”
It was Nala, voice alive against the sleeping night. She sounded panicked, rushing to get everything out at once.
“Where are you?” Her voice hushed to a strained whisper, breathing uneven. I sat up slowly, back pressing against the cool metal of the truck.
Frowning, I replied, mind hazy, “I’m...in a field, Nala, why the hell are you phoning me at five in the morning?” I hissed, anger still present from yesterday’s revelations.
“Are you with him?” She ignored my question, almost snapping at me. She didn’t even bother to ask why I was in a field at five o’clock in the morning.
“Yes mum I am, what’s wrong?” I sighed, glancing over at Miles. He was fast asleep, face squished up against the blankets and eyes tightly shut. He looked so peaceful when he slept, like he didn’t have a worry in the world.
The memories of only hours ago came rushing to the forefront of my mind, making that same feeling fly the butterflies in my stomach.
“You need to get out of there. Now.” I snapped my eyes away from Miles, shoving away my previous thoughts and focusing on only my sister’s words, heartbeat picking up unwillingly.
“What do you mean? Nala tell me what’s wrong ...” I pressed my phone harder against my ear, tightening my fingers around it.
“I knew I recognised him somewhere ...” She half-cried, voice hoarse, “Kirsten he-he’s the fugitive.”
My heart plummeted, the air seeming to still around me. Goosebumps rose on my skin, almost painful, as my eyes filled with tears. That feeling of dread that made you feel as if you were choking, trying to find a way to breathe. I untangled myself from him, blood running cold.
“Don’t lie to me like that,” I refused to listen to her, almost sure she had gotten it all wrong, “Nala please tell me you’re joking?”
“Do you really think I would lie to you about this!” Her voice rose rapidly, almost to a shout, “Just get the hell out now Kirsten, he’s dangerous. The police have a new lead on him, it was on the news and they showed his picture, Kirsten, I know I sound crazy but the picture. It was him. I-”
“Okay!” I cut her off sharply, trying to stifle the sobs that accumulated my fear.
I couldn’t comprehend anything at that moment. The lies, the deceit, the shock, the denial, every second of every feeling since I’d met him all building up. All I could do was get out of there as quickly as possible.
I racked my brain for something to do. It wasn’t like I could just drive off with him lying in the back.
“I’ll leave now. I-I’m pretty sure there’s a pocket knife in the glovebox...” I stumbled over my words, shuffling away from him and climbing off onto the floor. My legs were shaking as I steadied myself, fumbling for the keys in the pocket of my jeans. All the while I watched him in my peripheral vision, making sure that he didn’t stir awake. I didn’t know if he was a deep sleeper, so every move I made was a risk.
“Okay, just be quick.” Nala ordered, “I’ll stay on the phone. Oh and Kirsten, I love you. I’m sorry for everything-”
I shoved my phone into the back of my pocket, silencing her. The ground was cold and wet beneath my feet, mud soaking into my socks. I hadn’t even thought about putting my shoes back on. I shivered in my jumper, the warm feeling from last night having dissipated along with the feeling of his arms around me. I felt sick.
For a few moments I couldn’t bring myself to move away from him, tears streaming down my face. I was so close to just breaking down then and there, screaming at him for doing this to me.
Nala’s words danced through my mind, the news reports a flashing memory, making me turn and run around to the passenger side, fumbling to unlock the doors. I prayed that the noise wouldn’t wake him, that the sound of my staggered breathing and shaky sobs would get drowned out by the chirping of the birds welcoming sunrise.
I threw open the door of the truck, climbing in and slamming it shut behind me. My hands trembled as I reached over and shoved open the glove box, rummaging through what was inside. I knew Nala wouldn’t lie about something like this, no matter what had happened in the past.
I couldn’t run, I had no idea where I was and there was no question I wouldn’t be fast enough. I could force him off of the truck, but what if he lunged at me? What if this was his plan all along? All I could do was find that knife and get away as quickly as possible.
Suddenly my fingers brushed over something hard, slightly larger than a cd case, and I pulled it out, curious. Deja Vu hit me like a wave would hit the shore, as I stared down at the very book I was reading that day in the library with Alice. The handwritten journal that I’d found and lost within the space of two days, the journal about a boy on the run, who met a girl that made him stop.
I blinked twice. Took a sharp breath in. Blinked again.
Nothing changed. It was still there, sat in the palm of my hands like a bad omen.
“Kirsten! Are you still there?” Nala’s muffled voice came from my phone, making me jump. I pulled it out of my pocket slowly.
“Nala I need to go.”
I hung up, not giving her a second thought.
Nausea rolled in my stomach, head spinning. I opened the journal, eyes scanning over words of familiarity, ‘the last couple of weeks have been the definition of crazy, but now I have finally found a way to press pause...she has made me stop.’
I flicked through the pages in desperation, words spilling out like a horrifying confirmation of everything I’d doubted and feared.
‘I know that I said I would stay away, but now I am conflicted with revenge or the girl. Or both.’
My throat felt raw from trying to hold back tears, but they only intensified as the lies deepened.
‘It pained me to see her get in the car with them, watch the rundown land rover pull away from the library where I was sat waiting for her, and disappear off into the distance. To somewhere they would continue untelling their story and pretending to be her friends.’
I lurched forwards, hugging my arms around me. I couldn’t hold it back now. Everything felt as if it was falling apart beneath my grasp, and the ache in my chest was unbearable.
He couldn’t be talking about them. It wasn’t possible, not after all that time.
Austins words rang in my ears from the night at the cafe,“Anyone is capable of anything, don’t you understand that? You can’t trust anyone.”
Could they really have a secret like I’d suspected this entire time? And if so, what had they done? I began to wonder if anyone who had ever entered my life had ever told me the truth.
But why should I believe anything he said? He was a murderer, sick and evil, who killed his dad with his own hands. I had run away with a criminal. Kissed a criminal. Had sex with a criminal. I was dating a criminal. A fugitive.
He’d lied about his name too, obviously as a cover-up. His name was Trent. It made sense why he’d delayed telling me this whole time until he came up with a good alter-ego. It turned out, it wasn’t part of his game. It was part of his lie.
How could I of been so stupid?!
He was the boy I’d seen in the newspaper the day I read the journal, standing in front of a petrol station with his head tilted to the side and a lopsided smile on his face. Hair ruffled and arms crossed.
That smile seemed menacing now, filling me with the kind of fear I couldn’t shake. The kind of fear that made me want to scream.
How had I missed the signs? How didn’t I manage to connect the dots? I had been so blinded by his eyes, his cockiness and this tragically beautiful facade he’d created for himself. The way he made me feel as if I was living in a fairytale. As if I was the only person he saw. That facade I had fallen in love with. This lie I had fallen for.
It just went to show that Austin was right. I really did need to get my head out of the clouds, because I was so blinded by this dream I had that my life would be like a book. A perfect fairytale.
I slammed my hands down on the steering wheel, journal falling onto my lap.
“Fuck!” I shouted, screaming into my hands.
I turned to the back of the journal, ripping one of the pages in the process.
‘I don’t know why I chose that name but I did. And when the word crossed my lips, it felt right. I am lying. I am deceiving her. I am stealing her life away with each road we drive down. She is harbouring a fugitive and I am planting a seed in false hope. But when we go down, we’ll go down together.’
How dare he. How dare he decide my life. My future.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror, eyeliner smeared down my face and eyes red and puffy from crying. There was this hatred in my eyes that I’d never seen in myself before, and it scared me.
I broke. Snapped like a rubber band. Another hard sob racked my chest as one by one, I began to tear out the pages of his journal, anger evident in every rip.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang on the window, causing my head to whip to the side. Blue eyes met mine, startled with worry.
He looked at me desperately, shouting, “Kirsten? What the hell are you doing?”
His voice was distant.
And then his eyes flickered down to the journal in my hands. His journal.
And then he knew. He knew that everything had come to an end.
This road trip wasn’t lasting any longer. He would never kiss me again, never get the chance to speak to me the way he did before, never laugh with me or hold me against his chest. Never tease me, keep me guessing, make me want him.
I would never love him the same.
It was all so insignificant, so pointless.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion as he made his way round to where I was sat, opened the door and grabbed hold of my wrist. I screamed in pain as he shoved me out of the truck, dragging me around to the passenger seat and slamming the door shut.
I was helpless, kicking out and crying for him not to do this, but he did it anyway. I should’ve known that he was capable of anything.
I prayed that someone would hear my screams as he pulled out of the parking lot and made his way onto the road, taking me to God knows where, but I was kidding myself. No one would hear me, not all the way out here. Just yesterday being away from the rest of the world was a blessing, but now, it was a curse.
Reaching over, I attempted to grab the wheel and veer the truck off the road but he shoved me backward, eyes hard and filling with tears.
“KIRSTEN LISTEN TO ME,” he shouted, sobbing, “DON’T BE SO FUCKING STUPID AND CALM DOWN.”
“How-” I could barely talk, head pounding, “How can I calm down? You’re a-”
“Don’t,” He hissed, “Don’t say it.”
“Murderer.” I spat. “Liar, fugitive, monster ...”
I waited for the reaction. Waited for him to erupt in anger. But instead, he stayed silent, which I realised was much more petrifying than anything else.
So I sat, waiting.
Waiting for whatever was going to happen next in my story.
Breathe Kirsten. This might be the last chance you get.