I watched my dad dial his friend’s number as I held onto Willow’s trembling hand. Telling my dad her story was really hard on her and the rumors are really eating at her. I pulled her into me and wrapped my arm around her waist as she leaned her head on my shoulder. I leaned down and placed a gentle kiss to her head.
“It will be okay, maybe not today and probably not tomorrow, but one way or another it will all be okay. Then we can move forward.”
“What if this just makes everything worse and nothing gets solved? What if Ashley and Tyler just get away with it?”
I rubbed her arm with my hand. “We are not going to start the what if game, Willow. We are just going to do everything we are supposed to do and pray for the best outcome.”
“I just pray we are doing the right thing, Cole. It needs to be done, but I’m scared.”
I squeezed her gently and push her closer to me. “I know, baby, I’m scared too.” That was tough to admit because I don’t want her to know how badly this whole thing scares me. However, if she truly knew the reason I was scared, I think she would walk away.
Dad finishes his phone call and looks to Willow. “My detective friend, Deb, will come over tomorrow. She would come over tonight, but she is at one of her Daughter’s dance recital,” He explains.
“She said if you felt you were in danger she could send her partner over, but I told her that we would be okay.” He rubs his unshaven chin. “Cole and I will drive you to Erin’s tonight; I know you don’t want to leave your car here but this may help things.”
Willow sat up. It was apparent that she was not happy with things, but she had to know her safety was my first priority.
“If Carter or whoever is out there sees me leaving, they would follow anyway, so how would that make a difference if I drove myself or not?” she inquires.
My dad is quick to have an answer, “By leaving your car here you’re letting him believe you are still here. This could be helpful when Deb sends a police officer to do a drive-by tonight, then they may be able to catch him..”
“Okay, I guess that makes sense, but I don’t like the idea of leaving without my car.” I don’t blame her. “It will also make people believe I’m staying here again and it will add to the rumors. I don’t know if I’m willing to face that on Monday.”
Dad’s eyes darted up towards me and he lifted one eyebrow. “What kind of rumors?”
“None that I’m willing to repeat. They just make me angry and want to hurt some people,” I respond. “It’s just Ashley trying to get back at Willow.”
Dad runs his hand through his hair and sadness overtook his features. “How do these kids get away with this? I’m so glad I raised you right, Cole, and have kept your morals. You have turned out to be a great kid.”
A spark of pride ignites inside of me when I can hear how proud my Dad is of me. I always knew he was proud to have me for his son and he was never shy of telling me. He must have known I needed to hear him say it at this moment.
He pats my shoulder and moves his gaze over to Willow. “Willow, as a father, I really want to protect you and Cole. Nevertheless, as someone who works closely with law enforcement, and my job with the mayor I have to report everything you’ve told me. So I need to know what these rumors are. I know it’s tough but this will help us make them stop and put this creep away.” He takes Willow’s hand in his and his identical brown eyes bore into her somber sea blue eyes.
“I know you it’s hard for you to trust people given your history but I need you to trust me. I just want to help you find the peace you deserve.” By the time my Dad was finished Willow curled into me and was in sobbing into my chest. Dad gave me a perplexing looking and said,
“Did, I say something wrong?” She shakes her head,
“No, you said everything right. I was just overwhelmed by your kindness. You don’t really know me but yet you open your home and your lives for me. I truly appreciate it.”
“Willow, this is nothing. We would do this for anyone in your postion, but Cole loves you so this makes you our family. We don’t turn our family away so please let us help you.”
“Okay.” She glances to me and nods her head. Instead of repeating them, I just pulled up Chris’s texts on my phone and handed them to my dad. I held Willow and shook my leg as he read them.
The tension in the room was so thick it was getting hard to breathe. Every so often his facial features would change from anger to sadness back to anger. He looks up and hands me back my phone.
“Willow, do you have the same ones?” he asked and she dropped her head as if she was ashamed.
“Yes and no,” she answers quietly. “I do have the same ones, but I also received some different ones from Ashley. She was basically threatening me to stay away from Cole. She said if I didn’t she would tell him what kind of person I really am.”
“I’m not scared of her but it’s these texts that have me afraid.” She hands her phone to my dad, who reaches out and takes it. As he read them, it seemed like he would never end his scrolling.
“I think you should let Cole read these since they do involve him. I would also suggest you show these to Deb when she arrives.”
From the sound of that I know I’m not going to be happy about what those texts say. I look over to Willow and feel a bit of betrayal since she promised me no more secrets but by the way, she is biting her lip and her pale face, I know why she didn’t tell me. She’s scared to death and she hates it. She hates feeling so weak and powerless.
“I agree and I was planning on showing him but I was waiting for the right time.” She moves her head in my direction and takes my hand. “I wasn’t trying to keep this a secret from you. I have every intention of letting you read them; you were already so tense when I got here I didn’t want to make it worse. Here, please read these.”
She thrust the phone in my hand, gets up and walks into the kitchen where my mom was finishing up. I start to scroll down and just after the first text, I can understand why she didn’t want to show me.
Private number: You think you can hide from me but you are wrong! I always know where you are, Willow.
Willow: Please leave me alone.
Private number: Now why would I do that? I’m never going to leave you alone! When are you going to realize that I’m not going to stop until you are where you belong?
Willow: I’m not yours or anyone else’s and I am where I belong Thank you! I’m really getting tired of you bothering me. This is the last time I’m going to tell you to leave me alone before I go to the cops.
Private Number: I thought you were smart, Willow? Smart girls don’t go running to the cops because they know will only matters worse. If you go to the cops I will destroy those you love, including your precious brother. I will also kill that boyfriend of yours after I force him to watch me take you and make you mine.
Then when I have had my fill of you, I will make you watch while I enjoy slicing his body apart, and I will start with his tongue so he can’t scream out for you. Next will be his eyes so he can’t see you anymore, then I will cut off his hands, for touching my property.
Once I’ve finished with dismembering his body and I’m soaked in his blood, I will make you join me and we will bathe in it. So my dear, if you don’t want his blood all over you going to the cops would be a very bad idea.
Willow: You’re just sick; this is the last time I will respond to you.
Private Number: I’m not playing around here, Willow. If I hear or see the cops anywhere around me I won’t hesitate to follow through with my threats!
Private number: I know where you are, Willow. I know where your boyfriend lives, I know where Erin lives and I know Josh is with her sister right now; all I have to do is stage an accident. Don’t test me, Darling!
Heed my warning Willow, I’m not a man who makes threats or plays games. I take what I want and get what I want.
Private Number: That’s it! You have ignored me long enough! Enjoy your time with your lover because it won’t last long. This time next week you will be mine and I will make you forget all about your precious lover boy. You will only think of me while you enjoy the things I’m going to do to you.
Private Number: Come on, Willow, I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m not really a bad guy, I just need you to believe me and come home. I can’t breathe without you, you’re all I think about and when I think about that wonderful night. What we shared is all I can think about doing again. Willow, please come home to me. I don’t think I can stomach anymore and I was about to put the phone away when my dad told me to continue. I swallowed the lump that had taken up space in my throat.
Private caller: You are testing my patience here, Willow, and I am not a patient man when it comes to getting what belongs to me. I’m done playing this stupid game of yours. You were PROMISED TO ME and I will not back down from that. I don’t care what you think you feel for Cole Knight because once I’m done with him, you won’t want him and when I am done with you the only name that will scream from your lips is mine. Don’t make me any angrier because you won’t like the outcome.
This has gotten crazy and to be honest I’m really freaked out. I push the off button and set the phone on the couch. I peek into the kitchen and see Willow deep in conversation with my mom. They are both smiling and laughing so I decide to leave her be for a few minutes. I turn and face my dad.
“This is really messed up, dad! What are we going to do?” I ask. “I can’t willingly let her go out there without some kind of protection. If I weren’t here in this stupid cast I would be able to protect her. He knows I can’t protect her right now and it’s killing me. He will use me to get to her and I can’t let that happen.” For about the fifth time today, I start pacing.
“First thing you need to do is calm down, you’re not going to help her being all upset like you are. Second, we will have to hand it over to the police and let them do their jobs. Deb is good at what she does and she won’t let this guy get away. You just have to trust us,” he says calmly. “I also think you need to trust that Willow can take care of herself, but in the meantime, I don’t think she should be alone when it’s possible.”
“I agree, dad, but how can I do that when she refuses to stay where we she can be safe?” I let out a breath and scratch my stubbly chin. “I know what she thinks and how she feels about this, but I really feel that she and Josh should stay here where I can sleep peacefully knowing they are both safe.”
“Son, I do understand where she is coming from, but I also recognize where you are coming from; trust me when I say I feel what you are feeling. I identify with how frustrated you are because I’ve been there with your mother. However, I think we just need to talk to Willow and tell her how serious this is.”
“I think she realizes this is now, I didn’t think it would go this far but I guess we were both wrong. I just want to protect her and I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know what to do. I feel the world is working against us because ever since we decided to be together it has been one thing or another."
"I'm not sure if we can handle it. Are we strong enough to face whatever is coming? I feel this is just the calm before the storm and something bad is going to happen before Willow and I can really have our chance.” Wow where did that come from?
Dad sits down and I follow. “Are you saying you want out of this with Willow?” he asks.
“What? No! Why would you ask that?”
“I’m just concerned for you, and for her,” he sighs. “Look, I like Willow. I think she is a great girl and I’m in no way telling you to walk away because I really believe that what she needs is you. It seems you give her purpose and strength where others have failed her. I just want you to think about what you’ve been through with Allan. I know you are broken, Cole, and don’t argue with me because I see it. I just want to know that you are strong enough to help her through this.”
“Honestly, dad, I can’t answer that, but I do know that the love I have for her is strong enough to stand by her and help her get through whatever fate has for us. I just pray that we aren’t both so broken that we can’t come back from it.”
“Cole, we’re all broken in some way, but what makes us stronger is how we deal with it. Do we dwell on why we are broken or do we figure out how to fix it? I know the two of you together can fix each other but I just don’t want you to be dependent on that. Being codependent on each other is not healthy for either of you. You work together but you also work at repairing yourself alone.”
“Wow, dad, you are truly insightful tonight. I never knew you had it in you,” I tease to try and lighten up the wistful mood.
“I guess you’ve never given me a reason to go all Yoda on you,” he laughed. ”Learn you will my young patawan.” My dad can be such a geek when he wants to be. “Come on, I think mom has a slice of chocolate cream pie with our names on it.” He throws his arm around my shoulder and we walk into the kitchen.