Prologue: part 1
Do you know that feeling when you are sound asleep and someone ruins it for you? Hate that feeling.
A loud knock came from my door which made me jump in panic. I rubbed my eyes with my hands and yawned. “Come in,” I said in a weary tone. A second later, my parents rushed into my room with perplexed expressions on their face. “Did something happen? What do you want?” I asked then glanced at the clock on the wall. “It’s only 5 am! Can’t you wait until... I don’t know, maybe, until the sun comes out!?” I was frustrated. But when I looked at my mom’s face, she showed distress and fear.
I knew that something was not right, she was not acting like her usual bubbly self. She shook her head and placed her hand on my knee. “Ella, no. It can’t wait!” She replied and I arched my eyebrows.
“Why?” I asked.
She looked at dad and he nodded for her to talk. “Um, we might die and so will you if we don’t talk right now.” She declared and I was wide awake. Wait, what?
Dad placed his hand on my shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. “She’s right. Your life depends on your thinking and how you are going to act after this,” dad stated in a serious tone. He sounded afraid and anxious and it made me concerned.
This was the first time I see my parents like this. They were happy and always telling lame jokes. Not once in my life, I’ve seen these worried expressions before. I shifted in my bed and took a deep breath. "You’re scaring the shit out of me, what’s wrong?” I countered, wanting to know what was happening.
"Ella, honey. listen carefully, and I want you to stay strong for us, okay?” dad spoke with a sad expression. “Ella, we are... Shit! How do we tell her?” He asked mom and she kissed his cheek.
“Take a deep breath, you can do it,” she encouraged him and he closed his eyes for a minute then looked back at me.
He placed both his hands on my shoulders and I gulped into anticipation. “Just listen to the whole story okay? The first sentence will shock you but you have to focus until the end!” He instructed and I nodded, too afraid to talk. He cleared his throat and opened his mouth. “Ella, dear... we are not you’re real parents. You’re adopted.”
When I heard those words, time froze. It felt like the ground was spinning fast and I was standing on a thread trying to balance myself. It was impossible. I wanted to cry, but the shock was too strong that I didn’t move an inch.
I looked at them to see if they were joking or still sleeping but all I saw was honesty and pain. “Wha... y-you’re what? I’m adopted? You’re not my biological parents? Stop playing games with me. It’s not funny!” I exclaimed.
“No, Ella, listen to me, you just have to believe that we are telling the truth. Have faith in us.” He begged and my eyes got watery. “You should know that no matter what happens, we are a real family that is based on love, and care. You are our amazing daughter, it doesn’t matter if we are not blood-related, what matters most is that we love and adore you, Ella, you are our world,” he clarified with a genuine smile and mom kissed my forehead.
Dad’s words felt like lightning striking through my heart, and I didn’t know how to react to this, so I just kept listening in silence. Mom grabbed my shaking hand and rubbed it softly. “It all started 18 years ago...” she began explaining and I took a deep breath.
“We were newlyweds at that time, enjoying our every moment of life. We had a lovely home and a cute puppy, and we also had great jobs. Your father was a bodyguard for a rich young man, his name was David Black, he happened to be your father’s best friend from college days. I was the personal piano teacher for his 6 years old son. His mother, Sam, and I, became best friends with the time, and our lives took a turn for the better,” mom explained then she glanced at dad.
Dad nodded with a tight smile and continued in her place. “After we became best friends with the Black family, we decided to go on a vacation together. It took us two weeks to prepare for the grand trip and finally, we were ready to travel to Italy. We decided to stay there for two weeks to have fun and enjoy life but in those two weeks, the Black family has changed... their life became a living nightmare.” I arched my eyebrows and tilted my head.
“Wait, what do you mean? What happ-”
Mom slapped the back of my neck and put her finger on her mouth. “Ella, don’t interrupt if you wanna know,” she stated and her face said to shut the hell up and let your father continue. And so, I did.
“Sorry, please continue,” I said with an apologetic smile.
Dad crossed one leg over the other and ran his hand through his hair. “So, while we were in the train chatting our way to our destination, we heard gunshots coming from a separate train carriage. I told everyone to duck and stay put. The passengers were shouting and crying, I thought that I had to do something, my instincts were jumping, therefore, I just started running towards the gunshots while everyone was running away from it.”
He sighed and sniffed. “I was so stupid back then, to the point that I forgot I was a bodyguard and had to protect my client and best friend from situations like this.” He countered and fell silent.
Mom grabbed my hand once again and continued on his behalf. “The moment your father went to see what was happening on that carriage, we remained quiet and didn’t move. Thinking that we were safe if we don’t do anything... but we were so wrong. It became clear to us that the gunshots were just a distraction. A distraction for your dad, they wanted him to stay away from David.”
I looked at them, trying to connect the dots to the fact that I was adopted but nothing came out. My mind was blank. I put my head on mom’s shoulder who was sitting on my bed, next to dad and patted it for her to continue talking but dad decided to do it.
“When I reached the gunshots, I thought that it was a false alarm and returned to join the rest. When I reached the trailer, I knew that it wasn’t a false alarm to scare people, it was a trap for me so they could kidnap David’s son.” He told me and my eyes widened. “I looked at Sam who was crying and whaling and your mother was standing there, shocked at what had happened. David was crying and calling for help. I stared at them for a hot minute and I realized that it was all my fault!” He said and slapped the table next to him. I jumped from his sudden action and mom looked angry.
“It was not your fault! How many times should I tell you this?” She asked and cupped his face with her hands to let him look at her. I felt distressed and I wanted to ease his pain a little.
“Dad, Mom’s right. It was not your fault that you are a good man who wanted to see if there was any trouble, you just wanted to help, so please don’t blame yourself,” I said and he looked at me with grief in his eyes. His eyes were telling that I didn’t know anything about the cruel world that we lived in and he was right, I didn’t. But life kept on moving forward.
Mom cleared her throat to grab our attention. “Anyways,” she pointed out. “At that moment, everything went blank, and I didn’t hear anything. That little boy was like the son that I had never had. I loved him so much, we all did. He was an angel and we wanted to find him soon. After a couple of minutes of chaos, David’s phone rang and it brought us back to reality. He pulled it out and saw that it was from an unknown number. He showed it to your dad who answered it then put it on the loudspeaker.”
Mom glanced at Dad then back at me. “The voice on the other end was deep and sharp. It was clear to me that it belonged to an old man. The man threatened with an ominous tone and I got the shivers. He said and I quote exactly what he said because I will never forget those words: ‘If you want your son back, you will have to pay for your mistakes that you did 20 years ago. Pay us 300 million dollars or your son will die.’ Then the call got disconnected, we all looked at each other in bewilderment.”