She appeared just as stunned as I was, with my cousin plastered against the wall a firm grip on Gabe’s frame, as he struggled in his arms. Anna surged into the room, “Let go of him! What are you doing, Taylor?!” She frantically squealed as I propped myself on my knees, my eyes settling on her in terror. She shouldn’t have been here, why was she here?
“Take one more step, and I will slit his throat!” repeating the threat for Anna’s benefit, she went rigid with untold fear, as she lowered her hand to brush against the slightly protruding bump where I knew Eli’s child resided I was staring at her with wild eyes.
“Run, Anna!” Knowing that my best friend was in danger because of me was more than I could handle. Even if I hadn’t spoken to her in weeks; even if I had written her off as my best friend—I wasn’t able to fathom her getting hurt because of me. Nothing else mattered in this moment, except getting everyone out of here—alive. This is not how I want the children to remember their first Christmas without Cooper. This is not what I pictured at all.
“Don’t move!” he shouted. Anna raised her hands as though in defeat, with her eyes lingering over towards my own. I swiped my fingers through Annabella’s strands of hair, trying not to think about her trembling.
“I won’t have any more babies, I will do whatever you want! Please just don’t hurt Gabe…” I desperately tried to reason with him, afraid that when the police did come it would cause him to do something rash.
“You are incapable of not having children! You just keep taking him back to your bed, over, and over again! I just think you have come to your senses, and then you go right back to your old twisted ways!” He spat at me, and I lowered my head.
I did feel shame sometimes for falling in love with Eli. I felt it when we first kissed, and I believed that we would eternally be damned for what we had done on several occasions. But there was more to it than that. Eli had been my best friend, as well as my protector for longer than I could remember. My first memories were of him, guiding me along the beach, showing me little sea turtles as they waddled across the beach. We had been innocent when we first fell in love, and I hated how time had twisted the people that we were. Eli was half the person he was before he went into the asylum, while I had finally given up completely on everything that we had been back then.
“I am not going back to him this time! Haven’t I proven that already?!” I was still pleading with him, witnessing the terror in my son’s eyes as he struggled, with tears in his eyes. In truth I was already beginning to regret my last feud with Eli. All that I had said to him, all that I had done. I wasn’t perfect. I never claimed to be that, but somewhere along the way I had begun expecting it out of him. I didn’t think about the fact that while he was gone—while my heart had still belonged to him, I had sought refuge with Walter. I had let another man claim me, and now I was furious with Eli for one night of comfort with someone else.
It hit me like a weight colliding down on me—I wasn’t ready to lose, Eli. I wanted to be in his arms right now, if he were here he would know what to do. He would have fought for our son’s life without a thought to the consequences.
“No! You always choose him! You always seem to go back to him! Your existence has ruined my family!” He shouted at me in contempt, and I could see the knife digging into Gabe’s flesh, creating a small drip of blood. Instantaneously he began sobbing, and sniffling louder in his throat.
I had spotted a hockey stick propped in the corner. It was small, but it might just work, if I could only reach it—
Without warning, Anna must have seen her opening. She lunged forward, catching him off guard, tackling him to the floor. Gabe went flying, landing unharmed onto the carpet, the knife landing beside him. Gabe crawled across the room, climbing under the bed, and Annabella was quick to climb out of my lap, to follow him. As usual she went wherever her brother did.
Everything was happening as though in slow motion, and I heard the sirens they were drawing nearer now, but I wasn’t thinking about them. Nor about the fact that Eli was coming, all I could think about currently was the fight occurring on the carpet in front of me. Anna thrashing like a wildcat, pushing against the front of Taylor’s chest, reaching for the knife, but he was faster. Grasping the handle he didn’t think—just reacted. Stabbing into her flesh, blood pooling to the surface, staining her coat, cutting through the layers of her clothing.
All of the children began to scream, and I realized that I was too! Piercing shrieks as I lunged forward shoving my cousin off of her, not thinking about the fact that he still had the knife, and then the searing pain met with my body. I couldn’t tell where I was stabbed. The pain was agonizing, and I never even saw him raise the knife, or react. I winced, screams erupting from my throat, as my vision began to blur around the edges. I saw him raise the knife, but Anna grabbed for it again. Wrestling it from his hand she found with everything she had left to stab him.
Blood splattered down on me, as he fell to the ground, and although she was bleeding, and weak, I saw her stab, repeatedly. Slicing the skin, slicing muscle, flesh, and nicking bone. She was not stopping, but continuing to stab until blood splattered the floor, and both of us. Then with one last burst of strength, Taylor shoved her off, throwing her backwards. She screamed, as he launched her into the dresser her head meeting the corner with a sickening thud, and she laid unmoving on the carpet face down.
Taylor managed one last sickening smile before his eyes closed, and his breathing stopped, as blood choked him. The children were still screaming at the top of their lungs, holding on to each other, but Hope was still where I left her, crying now—but unmoving. My very first instinct was to take care of the children, but I could feel the warmth of blood as it pooled out against my shirt. I was gripping at the wound, as I heard the sound of loud footsteps on the stairs. I was trying to keep my eyes open, trying to remain conscious, but my consciousness was waning.
Bursting into the room with guns out, shouting loud words that I couldn’t make out through my haze I motioned to the children.
“The children…under the bed….poisoned….” I felt hands pushing down on the wound it was near my ribcage, and I felt the pressure being placed as I stared over at the blurry image of my once best friend laying on her front. She wasn’t moving, wasn’t even making a noise. She was the last image that I saw before everything went black.
I didn’t know what state that I was going to find Belle in by the time I got there, all that I did know was that I needed to get there, and fast. I was barely able to scramble out an excuse to my boss as I raced for my far, flinging off my work apron as I climbed in. Turning the ignition the Hyundai’s engine roared to life, and I sped out of the parking lot.
The entire way I was thinking about the children, suffering at our cousin’s hand. How could anyone be so cruel as to poison children? Why would he do such a thing? I suppose that we have been far too trusting of him, and that was our first mistake. We couldn’t trust anyone but one another, we had learned that a long time ago. And I had learned it the day our mother locked me in that asylum. The memory had come back to me, flickering like a bad ache. Being strapped down to that table in that overly bright room. I shook the memory away, not wanting to recall the way she had left me, as though I was disposable. She blamed me, and me alone for Belle’s feelings for me, along with the entire rollercoaster that ensued.
Belle used to tell me that nothing could make her stop loving me, but I knew now that that wasn’t true. If anything happened to her, and the last thing I remember between us is how angry she was at me for my betrayal, then I would never forgive myself.
Stepping on the gas harder I struggled to make it home, but the scene I arrived on was a nightmare. Fully lit lights on police cars were spread out on the street, along with two ambulances, and a fire truck. It was blocking the street, whilst curious neighbors had traipsed out of their homes to figure out what the commotion was all about. Emergencies were so rare in this part of the neighborhood, not to mention everyone had heard the rumors that surrounded me multiple times over. A few children were clinging on to their parents, shivering from the cold, and parents were clutching their mouths, whispering among themselves. Those nasty rumors would spread throughout our town before long, and I was not prepared to listen.
Abandoning my parked car at the start of the police blockade I got out on foot, hurrying through the gawking masses to the front. “Son, you can’t go through there.” A young police officer belayed, with his scraggly hair, and wide blue eyes he couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me. But I didn’t care, I needed to see my sister.
“I live here! This is my house! My sister! I need to see my sister!” I shoved passed him, launching towards the ambulance. He made no move to stop me further. A body was being rolled out on a gurney, pushed into a black body bag, and my stomach churned.
“Where is my sister?!” The children were huddled together in the back of one of the ambulances, blankets draped around their frames, I could see them staring at me, with tears in their eyes.
“I am going to need you to calm down, sir!” One of the female police officer’s raised her hands planting them against my chest.
Calm down?! They wanted me to calm down?!
“Where is my sister?!”I shouted a second time. I could feel the eyes of the neighbors on me, practically feel their judgmental whispers; their damned theories about what I had done to her those few years ago. I wasn’t entertaining the idea of Belle being dead. I simply could not think about who was in that body bag.
“She will be brought out momentarily. She is alive.” The blond continued, her hazel eyes were far more gentle than the male police officer’s had been. She was gentle in every manner possible with her voice, with her touch to my arm, as she guided me towards my wailing children.
“There was a fight, we are still trying to determine what happened exactly. She appears to have been stabbed, and so has another girl, by the assailant.”
“Another female?” I breathed out questioning who might have been in there with her. No one had been home except for Taylor when she had called me. Had our mother come home early? It wasn’t likely, but who else would be in the house? I was wracking my brain scrambling for answers as I stared towards our front door, witnessing them wheeling out another gurney, but this one had Anna on it. A mask covering her face, providing her with oxygen, her eyes closed as far as I could tell.
“T-That’s Anna! She is my sister’s best friend!” I was quick to blurt out. “I don’t understand…why is she here?! She shouldn’t be here?!” I was ready to have a nervous breakdown.
“The EMT’s are going to do all they can for both your sister, and Anna.” Her voice was still kindly, and calm.
I was shaking with tremors breathing through my mouth with labored breaths, tears welled in my eyes as the adrenaline began to wear off. I felt the arms of my children coiling around my waist in fear as I was forced to settle on the edge of the ambulance with them. I could hear them sobbing, and feel them shaking right along with me. “We need to take the children to the hospital, immediately. Will you be riding with them? Or with your sister?” I was in such shock that I didn’t even notice the cold winter air that was engulfing me.
It was an impossible choice. How could I leave our terrified children all on their own to ride in the ambulance? At the same time I would never forgive myself if Belle drew in her last breaths, when I wasn’t there.
“With—With the children.” I managed. They needed me. They needed someone to help abate their fear, and I was all they had for the moment. I stood to my feet as the EMT’s began guiding them onto the back.
Everything soon after moved as one rapid-fire blur. Once we were loaded into the rear of the ambulance we tore through the streets. Hope had oxygen on, hers was steadily declining. Both of the remaining triplets had nose bleeds by the time that we arrived. They worked on them in the back, while I waited in the waiting room. Belle was rushed into surgery, as was Anna, and I prayed for hours, fearing for the lives of everyone I knew.
My mother, and Uncle Ned appeared in the blur of faces, and words. Speaking comforts to me, crying, whilst reassuring me that Belle would be just fine. Anna was carrying a child—my child, and I couldn’t think about how badly I wanted everyone to be okay. Anna’s onslaught of brothers, and sisters were also in the waiting room. The youngest were fidgeting in boredom, whilst the eldest had tears in their eyes as they too prayed for her. All there was to do was wait. The children were so small—so little. They could die from poisoning, depending on how long it had been since they had consumed it.
Their tears of confusion, and horror were permanently etched into my brain. I remembered trying to reassure them, wanting to make them less afraid. I was useless, not legally their father all I could do was stand on the sidelines, and wait from the waiting room. Even though I was proven to be their father all those years ago, I still had no rights to them. Not as anything more than their uncle.
I ignored the comforting words of my mother, as I had all my life. She wasn’t a mother to me, she was the woman that thought only of herself. That would see her only son tortured at the hands of a psychotic doctor, rather than fight to get me back home. I hated her for what she did to me, but I hated her more, for giving up on me. She had watched as I fell in love with my sister, had told me to stop loving her, and then blamed me, when Belle returned my feelings.
As if I could have stopped the inevitable from happening, all of this pain, and suffering had to be for something in the end….didn’t it? We couldn’t have gone through all of this, for everyone I loved to die. I still could feel my heart breaking as I realized that our cousin must have never cared for us at all. To do something so horrific, was unthinkable. Attempting to murder our children? That was the cruelest crime of all. The children were innocent, they didn’t understand the crimes we had committed to create them, all that we had sacrificed to keep them. They only knew that they loved us, nothing more.
It was Christmas Eve, and yet there was no magic in the air; no light—only suffering.
All that I could do was wait—and the wait was agonizing.