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Chapter 11

"Dude? What happened?" Jordan asked.

"It's so bad." I stood up and paced the patio. My body was shaking still.

"Erik, you're scaring us."

"I...she...taken...dad...fuck...guys took..."

I couldn't form a coherent sentence; flashes kept coming at me. Her scared face her distressed cry for her dad as the ambulance took him away.

Jordan held my face and patted it hard, trying to get me to snap out of my racing thoughts. My breathing was too fast, and my heart hurt, my chest hurt. My mind was taking me back to my hell.

"Easy there, Erik." Jordan pulled me into his arms. "I got you, man. It's going to be ok."

"No." I pushed him away..." it isn't going to be ok. How could it?"

I walked off inside and grabbed the Vodka bottle, and headed upstairs. I slammed my door and slid down my door. I tilt the bottle up and open my throat, swallowing what I could between uneven breaths. I yelped from the burn as the liquid slid down, but I didn't care.

I then throw it across the room, and it smashed against the wall exploding into a thousand tiny shards.

...

Fuck, my head hurt, I sat up off the floor. My mouth tastes like shit; my stomach was still uneasy. I suddenly remember all of what happened last night—my poor Everly.

I stood up and held onto the wall to keep my balance. My head was throbbing. I open my door and walk downstairs.

I flip the switch on the coffee maker. Once my coffee was made, I take it outside. The sun was just rising. The slight orange and pinks lit up the morning sky. I took a deep breath. 'Oh, Everly.'

....

Everly

I unravel my arms from there tight grip around my body. I must have been holding on real tight. I spring out of bed and run down the stairs.

"Erik??" I search the house for him, but he wasn't here. Then I remember he went home.

I needed him last night. But he left me. My sleep was interrupted by flashes of what happened.

Having a gun pointed at me, being in the trunk where it was pitch black. Feeling like I couldn't breathe feeling so scared.

It was then being locked in the basement. Again in the dark with only a sliver of light from underneath the door.

Finally, I heard the best sound Erik, his sweet voice calling my name through the darkness.

He came to me.

He saved me.

But then there was a bang, and my dad was shot, and it all just happened so fast.

I paced the veranda wishing to see Erik. He has my bag, which has my phone in it.

I noticed my mom's car wasn't here, which means she's still at the hospital.

I need to see Erik. I start walking; maybe I can find his house. I'm pretty good at remembering things. Like once I've seen it or been there, it's like my mind takes a photograph and keeps it in my mind.

But, I also was in a fragile state last night, and I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings.

All I know is Erik lives 30 minutes away. But that's by car, so on foot, I estimated it would take like 2 hours? Maybe.

I just need to remember signs and something familiar.

I remember fireflies in the forest and a sign that said Happy Valley.

That doesn't give me much to work with, but I want to see Erik, and so this is what I have to do.

Hours later...

My legs were hurting; I was thirsty. It was getting hot out. The back of my neck was sweaty. I had no idea where I was. I had thought about going back a few times, but when I looked around, I couldn't remember which way I had come from. I was walking along, hoping I would see the trees where the fireflies had been.

Or remember something, but I remembered nothing. I was lost. I could hear traffic, so I know there are cars close by, but I don't want to stop anyone cause they could be wrong.

Stranger danger.

And after what happened last night, I am not changing anything terrible happening. I will never get in a car again. Unless its with Erik, my dad and mom or Luke.

I needed to rest my breathing; it was too fast. I keep looking around, trying to remember which way I had come.

But each trail looked the same. All the trees were the same.

I could hear the sound of rushing water. So it was either a stream or creek or some body of water. I needed water.

I pushed myself off the mossy dirt ground of the forest. I followed the sound, and with each step, the water sound got louder, so I knew I was getting closer.

Finally, I come to a clearing and see the river running by the rocky shoreline.

It was beautiful. I made my way towards the river's edge. I knelt and scooped the water up with my hands and slurped the water.

"Wow, so refreshing."

I did this a few more times. I then found a log to sit on, and I just enjoyed the beauty around me. It was very tranquil.

....

Erik

The guys came outside and asked me again what happened last night. So I told them. They were shocked. They said I shouldn't have left her. And now I felt terrible. She had asked me to stay, but because of my messed up brain, I just quit thinking she's better off without me.

"Fuck, what do I do?" My breath escaped me.

"You make it up to her. She means something to you, so be a man and go and see her." Ottis says.

"You're right." I stand up and rush up to my room. I changed out of my blood-stained clothes, and then I head out to Everly's house. I stop by a florist shop on the way and buy her a bouquet. I just want to see her cute smile.

I am pulling up outside Everly's parent's house. I see Luke outside pacing the deck...he was on the phone. It looks serious about whatever is going on.

He looks worried. I walk over and wait until he's finished with his phone call.

"Find her please, she's all alone somewhere. She doesn't do well in unfamiliar places. She could be anywhere." He sounds frantic.

"Ok, thank you. I'll look to. Bye, Troy."

Luke hung up.

He shook his head.

"What's going on?" I ask.

"Everly, she's gone."

My stomach drops and my heart felt like it was being squeezed. "What?" I ask.

"I woke up this morning and checked on her, but she wasn't in her room. Or the house. I've checked around the outside.

She could be fucking anywhere." Luke ran his shaking hands through his bed head.

"Maybe she went to the hospital?" I suggest. I am trying to be hopeful.

He shook his head, "no, I called my mom, and Everly hasn't been there. I got a number from my dad to call a guy named Troy. He's a detective that was there last night. So he knows what she looks like. He's got an APB out on her, and he's out there now looking for her."

I hear him, but it's like it's all marbled, and I can't quite comprehend what is going on. All I know is Everly is gone, and it's all my fault. If I had stayed last night, she wouldn't have left.

I got in my car. Luke got in the passenger seat. "Let's go."

I nod my head caus; at this point, it's the only thing I can do without losing it altogether.

I drove from her parent's place along the road to my place, thinking maybe she decided to walk there. But on foot, she could be anywhere.

I reach my house. I check with the guys to see if she's there. They said she hadn't been there. They came with us and offered to help.

We decided to break off on our own and search the forests nearby. It would be faster if we split up. We could cover more ground. We all exchange numbers so we can keep each other informed.

I went south and started that way. The others search the other areas.

I call out Everly's name, her name echoed through the trees. But I hear nothing back.

Please be ok. I just want to hold her. I want to feel her again. Kiss her again. Now she was probably all alone and lost.

Hours felt like days, minutes just as hard. It meant that much longer without her. I kept calling her name; my throat was feeling coarse. I was losing my voice from screaming her name. Her name just bounced back like a boomerang without a peep from her.

The guys have kept in contact, and they have not found her. Every tree looked the same; every path led me on some wild unknown goose chase.

Birds sang over the head. A few crickets chirped—the whispering of branches and leaves rubbing against each other from the light breeze that cast over them.

Please, Everly, come back to me.

I left like I combed every inch of the forest. I got to a clearing at the end of the miles of tree lines. Still no sight of her.

I made a group text for all of us.

Erik: Anything?

Luke: Nothing. This is so bad. She's got no food, no water. She could be anywhere.

Ottis: Sorry Erik 💔

Jordan: sorry Nothing 🤬

Erik: She doesn't even have her phone

Ottis: Maybe someone picked her up, and they're taking her home? 🤷‍♀️

Luke: I'll go home and see if she's shown up and. Please keep looking.

Erik: I'm not stopping until we find her.

Ottis: Looks like we will be staying out too. We will need gear to incase the possibility we don't find her tonight.

Erik: could you guys get some stuff? I'll meet you at the entrance of Pike park, and then we can continue on?

Ottis: Okay

Jordan: Okay. Maybe she showed up at our house?

Erik: I hope so 🙏

I continued back to the forest. I tried different areas, different routes. But with no direction, it was like a needle in a haystack. I left like I was just blindingly wondering.

I called out, but my voice was shot. But it didn't stop me.

Hours later, the guys and I met up at Pike Park, still with no word about her whereabouts. Troy hadn't found her either.

We trekked through the forest with gear in case we have to stay out all night. They brought tents, blankets, water, flashlights and sleeping bags and a few tents.

Luke said their dad and mom were freaking out. Her dad was going to make a full recovery, but he needed to stay in the hospital for recovering.

We stayed in a pack this time as it was getting dark now. It was also getting colder, and who knows if she was dressed for being stuck out in the cold.

Although it was cold, I was freaking sweating.

...

It was now dark, the stars and moon were out. It was a clear colder night out. Jordan and others built a fire. They thought this might light up where we were, and she might move towards it. And this point, we were trying anything.

But I also know how she doesn't like change or if she's in a new scenario, she doesn't do well. This would be entirely new for her. Unless she is somewhere, she knows.

I kept walking. My legs hurt, my body pulled, but I couldn't sit still and not look for her.

We had two tents set up as it looked like we were going to be staying the night.

The hardest thing is not knowing where she is. We could be so far off.

That is starting to set in and rattle me.

My heart can't take this, not on top of what happened yesterday with her being kidnapped.

......

Everly

I'm so cold the breeze is causing me to shake. I have just been wandering around, and I have no idea where I am.

I stayed close to the river cause I thought it was better than walking in the forest, getting even more lost. Plus, it looked too scary and even more dark in the woods.

I kept hearing the cracking of sticks deep in the forest; I could see glowing eyes. I am so scared. I sat on a large platform boulder. My knees were pulled up to my chest. I am so tired. I am so hungry.

All these feeling mixed with missing Erik and wondering about my dad was causing me to feel anxious.

"Erik..." I call out, but all I hear was my voice echoing back. I heard wolves howling in the distance. It sent a shiver up my spine, not in the right way.

The hooting of owls was the only calming thing not making me freak out.

I hear a branch snap over on the hill behind me. I look over and see two glowing eyes step forth.

Shit.

I sat still, hoping the glowing gold slits would just stay away. But they starred in my direction.

No, please.

I place my head on my knees. Maybe if I don't look, this isn't real, and it's all a dream. Moments later, I can hear the thing close, too close as I felt its nose against my hair sniffing me. My body shook. I looked up, and I am staring into a wolf.

"Hey," my voice came out, trembling. Tears slid down me; surprisingly, it licked my tears.

"Aww, you're nice."

I stick my hand out for it to sniff. My dad always told me with a dog to put my hand out for them to sniff; then you will know if they are friendly or not.

I know the wolf isn't a dog, and I should be scared, but I was calm. I didn't feel so frightened. Once the wolf sniffed my hand, it started licking my palm.

He can't be that bad.

The black wolf sat beside me. I brushed my hand down its back. We sat there all night. He finally laid down, and I laid beside him. He licked my face as I looked up at the stars.

I hope Erik is okay, I thought, as I fell asleep. My arm was draped over the wolf. I stayed close, trying to keep warm.

I need you, Erik. I whisper from my lips.

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