Chapter Twenty Two
My eyes open like two flashlight beams, the new temporal inserts providing enough light to illuminate whatever I look at. It’s a wall, a wall of... steel? But it’s moving. All of the place is moving.
It’s a car. A truck.
As I try to turn myself, to stand up, the chains on my wrists behind my back stop me, as well as the pounding pain in my head, it’s like a knife being twisted in my skull. It shots up fast, erasing every thought from my head and paralyzing my body. It feels like my whole body had been beaten and every movement causes some muscle or bone to ache.
Someone hurt me. Once again.
“Fuck, my head...”
The memories come back to me with a wave of guilt, the things that I could’ve done differently, that I should’ve protected myself; I know I could, Kai taught me how. I thought I was stronger, meaner, not the same weak and scared girl that I was a year ago... And yet I couldn’t do anything to avoid this situation.
I feel that my face is wet, my hair, glued to my cheek. It must be blood, because the rest of my body is dry. Oh, God, the old man hit me good.
I should have been prepared for this, after all, I knew that Caden is coming for Avery, but is it okay to blame myself that I didn’t know how his father looks like?
I turn my head to the left, to the sound of something that I trust; to the sound of Avery’s voice. There she is, just in front of me, chained to the wall of the truck as well. I see her bare feet on the ground. But luckily, I can see it clear enough to be sure that she’s not injured.
“Avery? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. How is your head?”
“It hurts like a bitch.”
I try to pull the chains, to let myself free; but it seems like they’re holding me hard, and, because of my aching body I can’t do anything. I can’t let myself free. I can’t save us.
“I’m so sorry he hurt you. That’s all my fault.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
The guilt sits on her face like it was the only emotion it was normal to feel at this point. It’s in her eyes, in those watery whites in her eyes that threaten to burst with tears at any moment. And I know it’s not right, it’s not right for her to feel guilty; but I know exactly why she does, because, if I was her, I would feel exactly the same. Guilty.
“You risked your lives to save me. Lexi was hurt, and Kevin almost died saving me. And now, this...”
A tear falls down her cheek, and now I know she’s completely broken, at the same place she was for thirteen years, alone. And because of some legend, she has to go through it all over again.
“None of this is your fault. It’s not your fault they used you, hurt you. And I promise you, they’re going to pay for this.”
Avery keeps watching me for a while, silently crying, before her head involuntarily starts to nod. I’m not sure what she’s going through, what she’s thinking, or how she’s feeling, but all I know that none of this is her fault. No one deserves to go through everything she went through, and I know now that I’m the one that has to protect her, at all costs.
“Can you tell me what happened? Is everyone okay?”
The last thing I remember is that I was knocked out, with a heavy gun. But what bothers me... where’s Kai? Why he didn’t came back for us?
“I’m not sure, I haven’t seen anyone. When Alexander... hurt you, I found out that there were a lot more men, hiding in the hallway. About five of them, I think.”
“So what happened next?”
The sigh that comes out of Avery’s mouth is a signal, not of her worries leaving but of the level her tension had reached. She reminds me more like an old fashioned kettle - still hot even when some steam forced its way out.
“They grabbed me. I tried to fight, I really did, but you know I am no fighter. They tied me up and dragged both of us out of the room, out of the hotel.”
“But others were outside. Why they haven’t seen us?”
“The hotel is huge, Beverly. And they used the back exit, that’s being used by employees of the hotel, I think. There were dumpsters, other cars...”
She starts crying, sobbing again. She blinks briny tears from her sad eyes, her thick lashes stuck together in clumps as if she’d been swimming. The tears made wet tracks down her face and dripped from her stubbled, wobbling chin.
But all I hear that how perfect the timing was for Alexander. And it was too easy to get us. And I wonder if nothing happened to Kai...
“Did they took Maileen, too?”
“No. At least I haven’t seen her.”
In an instant, she turns away, and I see Avery’s eyes have frozen over like the surface of a winter puddle, robbing them of their usual warmth. Like she just left me. She’s in there, I know it, but it’s like she just took a huge step back from life. I want to reach in and tell her it isn’t hopeless, I have to. I want to rekindle her heat. I always knew she had pain inside, but now its visible on her face and I wish it would go away.
“It’s okay, Avery. Don’t worry, we’ll get out of here.”
“How? They took us when everyone was there, and they still managed to sneak out unnoticed.”
“One thing we always have, is the way out. But what you have to do, is to have hope.”
Hope is the only thing that kept us alive through all those tough times. Hope is what we were holding on, hope is what saved us every time. And if one of us will lose hope... it means we’re losing that person.
There wasn’t a day, a moment when Kai haven’t saved me, or any other person he cares about. It’s not hope; I know he’ll come for us as soon as he finds out what happened. Probably he already does, and, thinking about other times when I was in danger... I know this won’t end good for any of our enemies.
And as much as I know Kai, I know he will figure out a plan how to save us, and end this. He won’t just let go, he spent a year looking for Leonardo, to get his revenge, to make the person that hurt me suffer. Kai won’t just get mad, he’ll get furious.
And the moment seems like slow motioned, when I hear the first bump into a car. Loud. It surely was a small thing, but lethal.
“Avery, get down!”
The bullets jingle as the truck keeps moving, but in an instant, it starts to sway into the sides of the road, probably, the bullet got into the tire. I know they won’t hurt us, the truck is bulletproof; I’m sure when the gunshots keep coming but none of the bullets reach the inside.
Just only one of them, which breaks the little window above me, and the glass shatters on both of me and Avery. I don’t care if I’ll get hurt again, I know we’re safe. They came for us. Just in time.
But the truck lost its balance. I feel how it sways to the sides, turns around and, suddenly, it starts to fall on its left side. That’s probably one of the scariest moments in my life; to die in a car, after everything I’ve been through, explosions, shootings and other dangerous stuff... it would be just pathetic.
With a loud sound, the side of the truck reaches the ground, just under us. The gravity lifts our feet up, as soon as we’re laying on our backs, listening to the gunshots that haven’t stopped coming yet. My head, that already hurts, hit to the wall and for a moment, it feels like I’m going to lose my consciousness; my head starts to spin, and the view starts to get dark.
But I’m fighting. I’m fighting for my life, for my consciousness. I have to stay here, to stay here for Kai.
“Beverly! Beverly, are you okay!?”
Avery starts screaming as I feel my eyes are starting to close, as I feel like I haven’t slept for a few days now. I feel exhausted. My body needs to rest yet my mind needs it to move, to stay here, to fight for myself and others.
I know that I can’t move any muscle of my body when the truck doors break with a loud kick, and a gunshot, getting it widely open and letting the sunlight in. A tall figure of a man, standing in the light; his face is in the shadows, but I don’t need to see it to know that I can trust him.
“Oh my God, baby...”
Brent jumps inside the truck to help Avery, while Kai carefully lifts my back up so he could be able to reach the chains. With a few hard, loud smashes using the back of the gun, I feel my hands getting loosen, the chains don’t hold me anymore. He slowly takes them off my hands, sliding his arms under me and picking me up, holding me in his strong, safe embrace.
It takes so much effort to keep my eyes open, but I manage to look at Kai. And for the first time, I can see that he’s terrified. No, he’s not afraid of Alexander, of Yellow Eye or someone that’s going to hurt him. He’s afraid, terrified to lose me.
“I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry I have left you. I’m sorry...”
“I love you, Kai.”
I notice a glimpse of tears in those emerald eyes, watching me. Examining the wound in my head. The clotted blood on my face. Just before the anger makes his eyes turn red, I see the shock in his handsome face. Guilt. Blaming himself. When in reality, no one of us is guilty for anything that’s happened.
People are bad, and that’s life we’re going to have to get used to.
“Are they okay?”
I hear Aaron’s voice, almost shouting, right behind my head. Kai slowly draws his eyes away from me, frowning.
“Check the driver, if he’s still alive, kill him.”
I hear Aaron’s footsteps, quickly leaving us, but Kai doesn’t look back at me. He’s looking around, like he was afraid to look at me; like the view of me, being hurt, is too much to handle.
“What the fuck happened?”
“Alexander. Caden’s father.”
I see Brent, wrapping an arm around Avery’s shoulder, who seems to be shaking, her eyes running around the place like she was searching for something.
“The old man decided to enter the game, didn’t he?”
“There’s just one thing... I could see who’s driving the truck from the back of it, and the driver isn’t Alexander.”
I glance at Avery, who finally can stop her eyes. On me. She bites her lip as the tension inside her grows and gives her one more thing to worry about.
“Then where the fuck is he?”
I don’t know. I didn’t see where he went, after they dragged us out of the room.
“I think he tried to get two things at once.”
I notice Brent and Kai, exchanging their angry looks. Like they were reading each other’s mind; like they always do.
“He needs Avery, and the script.”
“Now we have to find out where our next stop will be.”
The water is cold, nothing I can do about that. They never heat the water in gas stations, especially in crappy ones like this place is. But I have to wash my face, wash the blood together with pain that’s not only in my head anymore; it took every inch of my body, threatening to destroy me.
I watch the water turning pink as I start to rub my face, the blood leaving it and disappearing in pipes. I tie my wet hair into a ponytail, taking a glance in the mirror before leaving the restroom. God, to we really deserve this?
I couldn’t say I’ve done something wrong in my life, I don’t see myself as a bad person. So why do we have to go through this, every time it feels like things are getting better?
After a few seconds watching myself and searching for answers inside my injured head, I open the door to leave the restroom. Immediately, I spot everyone sitting on a bench next to the gas station, talking. And there’s no need to guess what they’re talking about.
“We can’t follow him, we have no idea where he went.”
“To find Daryl, of course. I’m not sure how that guy is still alive, but I’m afraid that Alexander is not going home without a script today.”
As I reach them, it seems like no one sees me, arguing about how to find Daryl and the script. But the only thing I notice is Avery’s eyes, sadly watching the asphalt under my feet.
“Do we actually need it? We should leave the city, that’s it.”
“We have to get it, and end this forever, Brent. With the script, we would have an advantage, and Caden will follow our rules to get it. Running away is not an option.”
“But how are we going to do that?”
Everyone turns to me and it feels like they even stopped breathing, looking at me like I was insane, and at the same time, genius. Avery’s eyes meet mine, and I feel that we need her to do it not because she’s the only one who can find Daryl. She needs it, to stop blaming herself, to feel that she’s not useless.
“I don’t know... I have never touched him, neither I have seen the script. I don’t think I can do this, it’s not how it works.”
“But we should try this out. After all, Caden believes you’re the key to find the Phoenix, maybe it actually means something.”
Avery keeps watching me, all sorts of thoughts running through my mind, and through hers. I see how everyone starts calming down, looking at each other, thinking about this option.
“Don’t be afraid, Avery, just try it. You’re not going to lose anything if you’ll try.” Brent takes Avery’s hand, comforting her.
“It usually happens when I touch something, hold on something...”
Suddenly, the one that was quiet, shy all this time, stands up from the bench and looks at Maileen.
“Take Beverly’s hand.” I take a look at Maileen, but she seems confident, sure about her words. And immediately, my mind starts thinking - why?
“Somehow, you have a strong connection, you’ve seen each other even before you’ve met. I don’t know why, but I’m sure this will work.”
“But why me?”
“Because she was supposed to find the Phoenix, but she found you. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence.”
We both look at each other, and Avery seems like frozen before her head slowly starts to nod, and she bites her lower lip.
“Okay. I’ll do it.”
Brent stands up and lets me to take his seat. I carefully sit next to Avery and take her hand in mine; I don’t understand this feeling, but I know I can trust her completely, just by touching her. Before she closes her eyes, I smile at her, my look is comforting, telling her everything will be alright.
“Calm your mind down, you know how to do it, we’ve done it so many times. Then focus on it. Focus on every thing that you know about the Phoenix, and especially, the script. Let the vision inside your mind.”
Like they said, Maileen was always the one that was able to control her mind, and tried to teach Avery to do the same. Helping her. Supporting her.
As Avery crosses her fingers with mine, I feel her squeezing my hand. Taking a deep breath, then holding it. Tilting her head to the side. Then slowly exhaling. It’s shown on her face, how hard she’s trying to help us, to help herself.
“I see a tube. Wooden tube. It’s very important to the person that has it, I can feel it.”
“That must be it. Focus on the place where it is.”
Avery swallows before holding her breath again, turning her head to one side, then to another, but keeping her eyes closed. The feeling of trust, of warmth is slowly taking every inch of my body, it’s comforting me, calming me down. I have no clue why I feel it; but deep inside my head, it starts to freak me out.
I need answers. The sooner the better.
Suddenly, Avery opens her eyes and immediately turns to Kai. His posture alters, which was still like a statue just a moment ago, watching her carefully.
“What? Have you seen it?"
"Let’s go. I know exactly where it is."