Chapter 19: In the end
Maria was permitted to go home with Gio the next day, and everyone was grateful. Even though they now had more joyful memories linked to the hospital, there was still a lot of painful memories for Alex, Maria, and Elena. None of which had ever gotten over the pain, which might be for the best. Sometimes that hurt can make people stronger, and remind us of our strength.
However, just as Alex had expected, Maria was definitely the over protective, helicopter mom. But he couldn’t blame her. So much had happened within the past few months it made sense for her to be a nervous wreck.
“Are you sure your mom is okay watching the girls for the first few nights? Natalie can be a lot sometimes,” Maria said, walking into the room with Gio in his car seat.
“Trust me, she loves those two. And I think she knows how hard it is with a newborn the first few days. Especially the nights.
“I know, I’m just a little worried, that’s all. I know he is gone, but it’s strange not having anything to worry about, but still at the same time have everything to worry about.”
“It’s okay, I get it. But take a deep breath, because look where we are now.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in and out, then turning her gaze over to the baby. She looked at him, and smiled. He showed just how strong she was, and was a reminder of how she was a survivor. They both were.
“Hi Gio,” she cooed, picking him up out of the car seat and cradling him in her arms.
“Look at those eyes,” Alex said, gawking over her shoulder. “They are just like yours. Big, brown, and beautiful.”
She hummed in response, not wanting to look away for a second and miss anything.
Gio had luckily gone down easy later that night, but neither of them knew it would last from past experience. They took advantage of their opportunity to sleep, but their plans were soon interrupted when Alex’s phone ran around nine-thirty.
He groaned, but rushed to answer and go into the living room so it wouldn’t wake anyone. It was an unknown number, which would have worried him if it were a few hours earlier. But now that there was no threat, he thought nothing of it.
“Hello?” He whispered, walking out of the room, shutting the door softly behind him.
“Detective Rivers, my name is Pam, I’m a nurse here Lansing general. There was a bag that was left in your room and I wanted to notify you so you could come get it.”
“Oh okay, I’ll get it tomorrow, thank you.”
“You should really come now Detective. I’m advised to put in the lounge for people to take if the owner doesn’t come get the item right away.”
“I guess I’ll be there in a few minutes then,” he said, irritated, before hanging up and rolling his eyes. He cracked open the door just enough so he could talk quietly, but Maria was already up Gio who was eating.
“Who was that?”
“The hospital. They said we left a bag there. I’m going to go get it. You need anything while I’m out?”
“No, I’m okay. Hurry back.”
“Will do,” he said, kissing her cheek before scurrying out the door again and leaving in his black truck.
Maria moved Gio so he was against her shoulder and chest when Alex left so she could burp him. When he finished, she put him back down, and he fell asleep with, again, no problem. She prayed that that would last, and that he would be a much easier baby than Natalie. She loved her dearly, but as a baby, she had too many sleepless nights for Maria’s liking.
She stood over his crib watching him in reverence. Humming in the darkness, she left the room, closing the door behind her in case the ice from the fridge made a lot of noise.
Grabbing a glass, she heard a creek come from the front door that was just in the other room. She whipped her head around, the glass still in her hand.
“Alex?” She said, turning the light on wearily, eyebrows close together. When there was no answer, she walked to the front door, even though her head told herself it was nothing. She let out a breath of relief when she saw it was just the front door that wasn’t shut all the way. Maria pushed the door closed with her hip and locked it.
She retuned back to the kitchen, but dropped her glass at the sight.
He was standing there. His cruelty and mercilessness radiating off his body.
“Are you just going to stand there?”
She said nothing.
“What? Are you not going greet you husband? That’s not quite the welcome I was expecting. Let’s see, hmmm, maybe you could show me around your house? How about we start with your dirty little boyfriend’s room? Yeah, lets start there.”
Her eyes wandered the room.
“You must be looking for the dog. Yeah, she is outside. It’s no use. No one is going to save you. You are going to get exactly what you deserve for leaving me and trying to make me pay for what you’ve done. Now, show me around, and explain to me how you got here.”
She didn’t move.
“Do it Maria! Show me! Show me around so I can rip everything you’ve rebuilt without me apart!”
Just like before, she only stood there.
“You bitch. Cooperate with me, or you know what will happen. You know more than anyone what I can do. Now, show me so I can ruin your life again just like you did mine!” He walked closer to her, but her legs couldn’t get her move out of the way. He saw his chance and too it. Grabbing her by the arms, he pushed her against the wall, her head pounding against the wall.
“You see? That’s just a glimpse. Are you ready to see more?” He paused waiting for answer. “Oh you little cunt. Answer me when I speak to you, or I’ll give you reason to not be able to answer.”
“No,” she said defiantly, finding it hard to breath with him so close.
He was taken back by her response. “What did you just say to me?”
He parted his lips and let out a low breath. “Oh, you think you have power over me now? Don’t you? Let me give you a quick lesson. You will never be able to get rid of me. Never. I will always be there. You are nothing, and you always will be nothing.” He took one of his hands and put it around her neck, pressure slowly increasing. When he had enough of that, he let go and put her hands around her arms again. “Be a good girl, and get in the car.”
“No,” she said again.
“Oh,” he laughed. “I am going to make your life a living hell,” he whispered in her ear, giving her only a few seconds to comprehend what he said before tightening his grip and throwing her against the hardwood floor, the broken glass digging into the back of his shins.
“You see? You may have thought this was all over, but I guarantee you, you will be living through this till your very last breath.”
Gaining just enough strength to stand up, she groaned, “How are you even here? You died in a car crash.”
“Yes, there was a crash. But I wasn’t in it.”
“That’s impossible. Your DNA was a match,” she panted, the bottom half of her body in pain.
“Then who died?”
His eyes as black as night narrowed. “You know exactly who,” he said, his harrowingly raw voice rattling though her ears.
She felt her eyes widen as she connected the dots. “No,” she said sharply in disbelief.
“It was your brother. Your brother was in the car.”
“Right you are.”
She felt her breath shorten. “But, but they took his DNA.”
“He is my twin you. We have the same DNA so it was a perfect match. Just my luck, huh? I knew I couldn’t just simply drive over there. I needed a distraction, and he was it. I got the car back, then gave it to him once I messed with the brakes. And I might have slipped something in his drink. Whoops. But he was happy to make the sacrifice, because now I am here, finally getting my revenge.”
“Say that again. I dare you!” He screamed, his feet pounding on the floor as he stomped over to her. “See?” He started when she said nothing. “You are worthless. Nothing. You will never get rid of my because you are afraid.”
“I’m not afraid. Not anymore.”
“We’ll see about that,” he said, grabbing her and pushing, once again, up to the wall. He then took his knee and jammed it into her upper leg.
In pain, she hunched over, all her weight on him. Breathing heavily, she heard the little voice in her head remind her all that she had to fight for now. If it were the Maria five months ago, she would have given up before he threatened her and taken the beating. But now everything was different. She was stronger with people she loved standing by her side, and she wasn’t about to let it go.
Using all her strength, she took her hands and dug her nails into his upper arm. A small amount of blood drew, but he winced anyway.
“Fighting back are we?”
Her nostrils flared, she could feel blood dripping down her legs, but she didn’t stop.
“Is that all you got?”
Without an answer, she wrapped her leg around his, and propelled her elbow over and over again into his chest as grip on her loosened. After he finally let go, she tried to grab him again, but he got to her first, and struck her side of her face. When her nose started bleeding, she wiped it off with her wrist, and used that time to catch her breath. Once her breathing returned to normal, she thrust towards him and used her strength to push him into the kitchen counter. He grimaced with pain in his back, but was quick to recover when he heard small cries come from another room.
The two of them went silent.
“Is that our baby?”
Maria’s eyes widened. “He is mine. You lost the right to him when you stole my daughter from me.”
“Really? You think you would have taken better care of her than me? Look at you. You can barley take care of yourself.”
“I’m her mother!”
“And I’m her father. I’m his father too.” He pointed towards the bedroom door where Gio’s cries were coming from.
“How do you know he is a boy?”
He snickered. “You must have forgotten. I have eyes everywhere.” After looking at the white door for a few long seconds, he looked back at Maria. “I know exactly how to hurt you,” he whispered, his voice haunting her. “By hurting the thing you love most.”
She watched as he walked to the door from across the room. Her eyes moved back and fourth from him to the the door where a piece of her heart lied. Maria could hear her heart pounding in her ears, blocking out every other noise that surrounded her. Her lips parted as she breathed forcefully, thinking of what she could do in these last few seconds to prevent everything from falling apart again. Just before his hand could reach down and touch the door handle, she silently shuffled over the kitchen counter and ran her hand over the few drawers connected to it. When her hand found the top right one, she slowly opened it, her hand searching for the cold chunk of metal. As soon as she felt her finger tips touch the gun. She grabbed it with her right hand and held it up, aiming right towards him.
“Don’t,” she said, feeling overwhelmed with this sudden new power. “Do not hurt my baby.”
Narrowing his dark eyes, his hollowing voice growled, “You wouldn’t dare. You can’t do anything.”
“Then do it... I... dare you.” With his back turned to the door, he stood there waiting for something to happen. But Maria couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger. Her fingers seemed to freeze in their position.
He grinned. He turned back towards the door and put his hand on the silver door handle, only getting it to open a sliver before he felt the wind get knocked out of him, and an unbearable pain engulf his body.
Maria only stood there, closing her eyes, unable to comprehend what her fingers had just done. Soon, she gained enough courage to open her eyes, and the first thing she saw was Matthew, the former love of her life stumbling over to the couch, blood seeping out of the shot in his lower abdomen that was dripping down his skin.
With the gun still in her hand, she walked towards him, the blood from her nose now dried on her upper lip. He was moaning with agony when she got to him, and even with her former lover in tormenting pain, she felt no sympathy.
She got close to his face, but not close enough for him to be able to touch her.
“I am stronger now. I am better without you. And I will not let you ruin my life again. I have come too far, and now I have a reason to fight. I found people who care about me, and people who lift me up. I have a new life now that am I happy with, and you are not allowed to be apart of it. I am not afraid of you, not anymore. And I don’t need you.”
“You just... wait. You’re nothing... without me.”
“No. I’m everything without you. Anything you say to me will not faze me anymore because I overcame you. I have proved to myself that I am strong. That I am good enough. I’ve had people help me see that, and people who were able to see that in me when I couldn’t. And that is all I need.”
Without words, he fell to the ground, the crimson liquid now pouring out around him. Stepping a few feet back, Maria dropped the gun, and let out a long breath of relief.
The hospital, while Matthew was with Maria...
Alex pulled up to the hospital, not even thinking straight because he hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep in the passed two days.
Stepping out of the car, he walked into the lobby, the warm air welcoming his face from the cold, harsh air outside. It was nice seeing the hospital so calm for once. No nurses yelling for doctors, no surgeons wheeling people out of their rooms trying to get them up to an O.R in time before they died, and most importantly, not cops or security wandering the halls.
Rubbing his eyes, he groggily walked over to the front desk, trying to recall what the nurse who called him name was.
“Hi, yes, I was told by a nurse, Pam I think her name was, that me and my fiancée left a bag here a few hours ago after we checked out.” He felt a sudden tingle rush through his veins as he said fiancée, and thought of Maria’s face while saying it. It was hard to believe that even after only spending a few months together they were here. Both dreaming of the day that they would stand in front of one another and be announced as husband and wife.
“Umm... there’s no nurse named Pam.”
“Are you sure? Because she called me saying that I needed to drive over to get or they wouldn’t give it back to me.”
“That’s strange. We keep everything in lost and found for at least a month before we give it away.”
“So there is no Pam, and no time rule?”
“No sir. It might have been just some angry nurse that got let go and wanted to drag someone back here. Sorry to bother you.”
He nodded, slowly stepping back from the desk, then running out the sliding glass door, pulling his phone out of the pocket and dialing Enrique.
“Rique, I don’t know how, but I think Matthew is still alive. I think he is with Maria at the house. Meet me over there.”
Alex got there before anyone else, and he ran out of the car without hesitation.
Before opening the door, he listened carefully, but heard nothing. With that, he swung open the door, trying to prepare himself for anything.
He saw a pool of blood and two legs on the floor, and then there was Maria, just standing there with specks of blood on her face and legs watching. When she heard the door open, she turned around to find Alex. As her eyes focused and her head was pulled back down to Earth, she ran towards him.
“Alex,” she said, a grateful and relieved undertone. She wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his chest, trying to keep herself from crying. Confused at what happened while he was away, he held her, and rested his head on top of hers. She was a lot shorter than him, but it just made them fit in each others grasp even better. They both closed their eyes, finally feeling at peace. But Alex felt the need to open his eyes when he sensed movement in the house. He opened is hazel eyes, and saw one thing before screaming Maria’s name and pushing her away from him.
It was Matthew. The gun Maria had shot him with now in his hand as he aimed it towards her, a week but greedy smile on his face. But instead of the bullet hitting Maria, it hit Alex.
He held his hand up to his chest for a brief moment before pulling it away and seeing blood dripping on it. He narrowed his eyes at his hand, coming to the realization of what happened.
“No!” Maria screamed, using all her upper strength to be able to lean him up against the wall and sit down. He gripped her hand, but felt his muscle deteriorating. “Alex, Alex, look at me.”
He held his bloody chest and he breathed heavily. “Maria,”
She noticed a slight bit of fear in his green eyes. “No, don’t say anything. I’m going to call an ambulance.” She let go of his hand, only for him to grab it and gently pull her back with with shaky hand.
“They won’t get here in time.”
“You don’t know that!” She yelled, feeling her everything go numb. She cupped his cheeks. “I can’t lose you! Any life without you I want no part of. I need you.”
He only looked at her, knowing his fate, and coming to accept it.
She let out a shaky breath, now afraid to look at his eyes that the life was quickly draining out of. But, she gave in, resting her hand on top of his that held his chest. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“There were so many things we were going to do. We were going to get married, and have another baby. We were going to be happy together.”
He took a breath in and choked, Maria feeling the cold from the outside suddenly latch on to her skin. She tried to only focus on his eyes, and not the cherry red blood that was covering both of their hands and bodies.
“You don’t need me to be happy,” he groaned,
“I do! I can’t live without you.”
His heart broke thinking about how this was how he was going to leave her. He felt as though an ocean of guilt’s crashing waves were taking him under, and holding him below the surface so he would drown there. But he smiled through the emotional and physical pain that was taking over him anyway, and whispered, “I love you.”
She felt her body go numb. Every muscle. Numb. Looking at him was becoming harder and harder with every time he slowly blinked.
She held her head low and looked away, trying to hold back her sobs that were escaping one by one.
“It’s... going... to happen,” he managed to get out.
“I...” she couldn’t find the words, and found it to hard to try to get anything out.
“Come here. I want... you close... to... me.” She didn’t move until he added, “Please. I don’t want to go without... without you in... my arms.”
Reluctantly, she met his eyes and putting her head in the crook of his neck, there bodies touching as she rested on top of him.
“I’m dying, Maria.” He took a long pause, noticing her shudders had subsided for the most part. Nevertheless, she still couldn’t bring herself to speak. “But I love you. Please...” Suddenly he started crying, the guilt and the pain becoming to much, “forgive me. I’m sorry. I’m so so so sorry. I’m sorry I’m leaving you. I said I would never hurt you. I’m sorry I’m hurting you.”
As his tears fell, hers started racing down her face too.
Her heart shattered, broke, and cut into pieces. She held his face again looked into his warm eyes for the last few moments before she would lose her chance forever.
He was dying.
And she couldn’t do anything about it except hold him, just as he did her all those times.
“You are my everything, and you are not hurting me. Don’t ever think that. I know you will never hurt me.”
She couldn’t bring herself to say would instead of will.
He wanted nothing more than to smother her with kisses and hug her tightly, but he couldn’t, and that was what was killing him. He clutched his chest hard as he tried to speak, wanting to push through these last few moments of pain so he could tell her every he planned to in the future. The future that so unexpectedly had become the next few minutes. “Maria, I love you. You are my everything, and there is not a second that went by where I did not think I wanted to be with you. I wish I had more time to tell you everything. But I will get to... one day.”
She licked her lips and tasted her tears. “I love you more than anything, and I am so grateful I found you.” Her hand still on his chest, she felt his heart beat slower and slower with every weak breath he took.
“All of me... loves all of you...” he whispered, feeling her warm hands heat his face, and tasting the blood that was spilling into his mouth slide back down his throat so Maria wouldn’t see blood spill out of his mouth. “You never... forget... that.”
“I love you.”
He took a breath before breathing, “And I... love...” and exhaling for he finale time.
And with her hand on his chest, and felt the beats stop.
And the breathing stop.
And the blinking stop.
He was gone.
“Alex,” she whispered, scared that he wouldn’t answer. When his body didn’t move, she screamed. “Alex!”
He stayed in his position, dead eyes staring blankly in front of him.
“Alex!” She screamed a final time, already knowing that he was gone. Maria balled her fist up and punched the wall, the throbbing pain her most likely broken hand was nothing in comparison to everything else.
Her mind finally realizing he wasn’t going to wake up, she felt her chest tightened, making it to she couldn’t breath. She knew she should go outside; the cool air would open up her lungs. But she couldn’t bring herself to leave him. So instead, she wrapped her legs around his waist, and her arms below his armpits, feeling his blood sinking into her shirt, but not caring.
She closed her eyes, buried her head into his once was warm neck, and sank into him, weeping into his soft skin.
It became even harder to breath, but she continued to hold him, wishing she could keep him close forever.
“Alex,” she whimpered, her eyes so puffy she wasn’t sure if she would be able to open them. “Please say something.”
But he didn’t.
Instead he was still, now taken away by an eternal silence.
She tried to compose herself, but it was no use. Instead, she let herself fall apart.
She heard a police siren scream and pull up in front of the house. Her eyes had now been crying for so long that they had no tears left. Standing up, she rested his hand on the ground and walked out the door, her face flat and dazed, under eyes puffy.
Enrique and Adam were walking towards the house, with Enrique in the lead, until the both of them sped up to get to Maria who had blood all her over shirt and hands.
“Oh god. What happened? Did someone hurt you?” Enrique asked, barley getting the chance to finish his sentence before Maria collapsed on her knees in front of him scream-crying. Luckily Enrique had fast reflex’s and was able to catch her before she fell into the grass that had a thick blanket of snow covering it.
“Shhh, shhh,” he said, confused. He motioned for Adam to continue into the house.
Enrique stayed outside to comfort Maria while Adam ventured off. He didn’t get very far before returning back outside, breathing heavy, tears in his eyes.
“What?” Enrique asked, still holding Maria, who hadn’t quieted down.
Adam walked towards him, the trail of his tears turning icy cold. “It’s Alex. He’s...”
Squinting his eyes, Enrique questioned, “He’s what? What happened?!” Enrique’s faced relaxed, his eyes starting to burn with sorrow and disbelief. Adam didn’t have to speak for him to know what happened. “No, that’s impossible, I just talked to him.”
“I was just in there Enrique! He is on the floor! Blood is fucking everywhere! Look at Maria’s shirt! That’s his fucking blood! He’s dead Enrique!”
Enrique was toneless when he spoke. “Call an ambulance.”
“He is gone! They can’t do anything to save him now!”
“I said call an ambulance! I am not about to lose my best friend, so call a goddamn fucking ambulance! Understand?” His last couple of words became inaudible, for his voice broke.
Adam sniffled, pulling his phone out to call the hospital, even though he knew Alex was too far gone. After they said they dispatched one, he called Armstrong for back up, and he was quick to arrive, getting to the house in only three minutes.
Maria pulled away, and Enrique left to go in the house. He saw Matthews two bloodied legs, and felt a rush of anger fill his body. Gulping down hard, he turned his gaze to the right, and found Alex, his loving green eyes still open because Maria physically couldn’t close them.
He bit down hard on his lip as he bent down to get a closer look.
Inspecting his best friend, Enrique rested his hand on his knee and looked away, his heart heavy.
He, too, felt the room become filled with intoxicating air that suffocated him with sadness and anger and things he had never felt before, so he left.
All the screaming yelling faded into the background for Maria as she stared at the house where Alex lied there. Dead. The life stripped from his body.
Armstrong ran out of his car when he pulled up screaming, “What the hell happened? Where is Rivers? Why aren’t you in there?”
Adam and Enrique, who were now both standing with Maria, pointed to the house.
Rolling his eyes, he went in, them came back outside just as everyone else, in tears.
When he walked over to them, he wiped his normally cold and harsh eyes with his finger, trying to hide any sign of weakness, but failing. “Did you call an ambulance?”
Adam nodded, then Armstrong went silent.
“Gio... Gio is still in there,” Maria said, her voice shaky, and the warm blood that was wet on her shirt became cold in the freezing outside.
“I’ll get him,” Adam offered, pulling away from the group, preparing his head for walking in the murder scene again, and having to see his best friend laying on the floor dead again.
He found Gio sleeping soundly in the crib when he got to the room. Picking him up, Adam talked to him in a reassuring tone.
“Hi buddy,” he started, feeling his eyes start to water again. “Don’t worry, everything is going to be okay in the end.”
Maria and all the police she had gotten to know were surrounding her as the paramedics ran out of the back of the truck to get both Alex and Matthew.
She was frozen in time. She went from feeling everything, and letting it all drizzle out to feeling absolutely nothing. Dazed, she watched as they brought Alex’s body out first in a gurney.
“No!” She screamed, running towards him. Enrique quickly followed her, pulling her away. “No, no, no, no, no, no.” She fell to her knees, head buried in her hands as Enrique wrapped his arms around her body that seemed so small. Watching as Alex’s body was put in the ambulance, she screamed more until Enrique finally got a hold of her and pulled her back. She fought, but she knew it was no use. Abruptly, she felt everything stop, and she could only stare.
It was over.
It was all... over.