Agape

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He said you glowed

Chapter 31

Ella:

Picking myself up off the floor, scrubbing away my tears, I gaze blankly at Olivia with only one thing on my mind. “I’m going to Declan’s apartment,” I state, my voice hollowed out. Every single emotion weaving around my brain is pushed back the moment I’m standing. Crying isn’t going to help Declan or my mother. Self-loathing isn’t going to get me any closer to finding them. They need me, not the weak pity party me, they need the put-together me. I’m done crying. I will not cry again, not until they’re found. I vow it to myself and them.

I’m done waiting, I’m done being helpless. Every second that passes could be another second of them being harmed. I will not waste any more time, too much time has passed already. Who knows what condition they’re in? I’m going to find them, no matter how long it takes, no matter what measures need to be drawn. They would do the same for me.

Olivia slowly pushes herself off the ground, looking at me with furrowed concerned eyebrows, as she stands as well. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” She asks gently as if speaking too loud will set me off into another breakdown. As if I will shatter completely at any waking second. “Ella you’re hurting, I’m not sure going to Declan’s apartment—”

“Will make me feel better?” I finished for her. “That’s not why I’m going there.” Without another glance in her direction, I let my feet carry me out of the bathroom, not wanting to spend another minute in there. The bathroom is my hiding spot and I will not hide anymore. When Hayes showed up on my doorstep and chased me, that’s one of the first places my brain resorted to, running into the bathroom and locking the door. As if the room was a safe place when Hayes easily knocked the door off its hinges. As if whenever my anxiety got the best of me at school hiding in the bathroom would somehow protect me from my nervous thoughts.

Hiding doesn’t fix the problem. Hiding is running away from the problem. My emotions right now are nothing but a roadblock and in order to remove the roadblock, my feelings need to be put aside so my brain can think straight. So that’s what I do, shove it all back into the imaginary barred cells of my mind and lock it up as if the overwhelming emotions were never there to begin with. It’s easy—because when someone takes something precious from you, nothing else matters until you get it back.

Hurt won’t be my fuel. Worry won’t be my fuel. Anger will be. Out of all my emotions that is the one that quakes inside of me, relentless and free. It’s the only one I won’t push back, it’s the only one I can’t push back. Because it’s living and it’s burning as its own person, building in heat and brightness, unable to be shut down after being ignored for so long. For once in my life, I don’t care because nothing and nobody will get in the way of me finding my mom and Declan. Nothing.

Olivia’s footsteps pad softly behind me. “It’s the middle of night Ella; you haven’t slept in days.”

Stopping in my mother’s doorway, I angle my head back. “You can come with me if you’d like but nothing you say is going to change my mind. Sleep isn’t my priority, finding them is.” With that being said, my feet continue their walk into the hall, to my bedroom doorway, not even stopping before the threshold to take a deep breath. Not even to so much as glance at the door vacant from its hinges. What I need is new clothes and not even the memory of Hayes hunting me is going to slow me down.

He won’t control me with fear any more.

*

Putting my truck into park, I open the door and hop out before making my way to the apartment’s staircase. Olivia falls into step behind me staying quiet as she did the whole ride here. I’m guessing it’s because she doesn’t know what to say, but it doesn’t bother me. In fact, the silence helps me think. Ignoring the burn in my calves, my feet take one step at a time, slicing through the dark. Even though it’s nearly two o’clock in the morning and the sky is blanched black, I know where to go by heart even with little illumination to light the way. Declan’s apartment is like my home away from home.

Thinking it makes my chest pang. Shaking my head, I ignore the pain and hurry up the last couple of steps to the black door engraved into my memory. When I’m there for a moment all I can do is stare knowing as soon as the door opens Declan won’t be here. He won’t fill the space with his amused smirks and teasing remarks, he won’t embrace me and kiss my forehead, he won’t crinkle his nose and laugh at whatever dumb thing I said. It will just be a regular apartment without him; it won’t be home.

Taking a deep breath, I knock firmly three times, praying to the gods above. In my peripheral vision, I can see Olivia looking at me as if I’m crazy. She still has no idea why we’re here. “Ella Bella, Declan’s not here.” She says softly, lifting her hand to my shoulder as if to comfort me.

I ignore her hand, my ears straining to hear any noise behind the door. “Just listen,” I murmur, moving closer and pressing my ear up against the door as my hands play with the pull strings of Declan’s hoodie. After an achingly long moment, soft footsteps are heard padding across the floor right to the door. When they get close, I take a step back, my heart beginning to race. Not a minute later the door begins to creep open just a crack and a woman peaks out. I force my hands to stop fiddling as I take in the beautiful woman in front of me while Olivia lets out a small barely audible gasp.

“Can I help you?”

I nod, my teeth finding their way to my bottom lip and nibbling. “Are you umm Declan’s mother?” I curse myself for the slight quiver in my voice, though I have it every time I talk to strangers or people I don’t know. First impressions aren’t exactly my strong suit and seeking out strangers isn’t either by any means. But I know even without an answer, she’s Declan’s mother. Riley looks exactly like her, having the same eyes, hair, and face. Though Riley’s skin is a bit tanner and freckles sprinkle her button nose as well as the crescents beneath her eyes. She’s just a younger, more bright version of her.

Her thick black eyebrows furrow, questions rippling through her eyes, as worry clouds her features. “Have you seen him? Do you know where he is?”

My stomach clenches, and I unconsciously wrap my arms around myself, feeling so completely cold inside. “I don’t know where he is, that’s why I came here,” I confess quietly, answering all her silent suspicions. “I think--well hope you might be able to help me find him.” Immediately tears rim her sapphire eyes, her hand rising to her mouth and it takes everything in me to stay calm knowing her emotions are mirroring how I feel. She loves him just as much as I do and she knows he didn’t just disappear because he wanted to. Seeing her reaction confirms it, she doesn’t think, she knows Julian took Declan.

And I’m pretty sure he has my mother too. Where else would she be?

If she wasn’t here, I don’t know what I’d do. But she is and she might know where Julian could be keeping him. “You’re E-Ellie?” She stutters over my name, but the conviction in her voice has my eyes widening. How does she know Declan’s nickname for me? How does she even know my name? She doesn’t even know me. Hearing her say it though cripples something inside of me, it’s the way she says it. As soft as Declan says it. Like she knows me. And it shoots a sharp pain to my chest, one of yearning as I suck in a breath. Yearning to hear Declan say my name again, to whisper it into my ear like it’s a secret we share.

“How do y-you know my name?” I glance sideways at Olivia, and she must notice my nervousness because her lips curve slightly into a small reassuring smile. Seeing it calms me a bit, she’s here with me and she’s not leaving until I do. No matter how crappy of a friend I am right now, I hope she knows how truly grateful I am to have her as my best friend.

Declan’s mother opens the door wider now, revealing her small frame. “Declan said the name Ella meant ‘beautiful fairy’ in English and ‘goddess’ in Hebrew.” She explained in a quiet voice but it did not lack warmth. Hearing the meaning of my name did something to my heart. When did Declan research my name? “He said if I saw the girl he loved, I’d know it was her because her name was meant for her.” My cheeks burned as I blinked my eyes rapidly to keep my emotions in check. It warmed and broke my heart all at the same time. “When he talked, he’d say Ellie every so often instead of Ella even though h-he didn’t tell me much. He said you glowed.”

I look away from her, not being able to keep eye contact. I sent Declan away and he still talked about me with so much love. Knowing he said that about me, knowing he researched my name fills me with both so much love and pain. He thought those things about me. He said those things about me. It makes me want to scream, it makes me miss him so desperately that it physically hurts. And it hurts so freaking much. I miss him so much that it feels like the world is ending, like the stars are dropping clean out of the sky, like the atmosphere is splitting apart.

When I bring my gaze back to her, it’s full of anguish I can’t hide. “I need him—I need to find him b-before Juli—” I shake my head again, hating how hard it is to say his name. Hating how he could be hurting Declan right now and there’s nothing I can do about it. It makes my cheeks hue bright red and my hands clench, it makes me furious. Olivia’s hand gently grazes my arm in comfort, reminding me that she’s here and that we’re going to do everything to find him. We will find him. I tell myself. We will find them both.

Thankfully Olivia takes over. “We think you might know where Julian is keeping him hostage or at least have an idea or a guess. A week has passed and the police have found nothing, so any information, even if it’s not a lot will hopefully help us get somewhere.” She explains evenly with a plea in her voice. I send her a grateful look, stuffing my hands into Declan’s hoodie pockets to keep the tremor itching at my skin at bay. I’m desperate and grasping at any straws there are that could possibly lead me to him. Right now, Declan’s mom is my best bet. She lived with Julian for years, endured him for years. She might know multiple locations or at least some. Even one would be better than none.

She wipes at her dampened eyes, nodding as her demeanor changes into something fierce and desperate almost mirroring mine. “I’ll do anything to get that man out of our lives for good.” She whispers, pausing and then in a barely audible voice she says, “So he can’t h-hurt my babies ever again.”

*

My fingers tap the wooden armrest of my chair, strumming to the clicking sound of the cheap clock above the police station’s entrance door as I impatiently wait in the front lobby with Olivia. We showed up two hours ago with Declan’s mom, despite it being the early hour of five. She lived with Julian for years and if I’m right about him taking my mom and Declan then she might know some possible locations of where they might be held hostage. Also, she can attest as a witness to Julian’s illegal crimes and the abuse she withstood while being with him.

With Julian escaping during transport and being Declan’s biological father alongside his relationship with my mother, he’s the prime suspect in both disappearances. Now with Declan’s mother here she can hopefully provide enough information to warrant a search of whatever properties Julian owns which would put us like ten steps closer than we originally were to finding them. The only other evidence we have is Declan’s black GMC which was found abandoned on a backroad on the west side of town in a ditch.

But no foreign fingerprints were found by forensics, no blood, and no sign of what caused the accident. Which left no leads to go off of, just loose ends that had no connections. Was he run off the road? Did he lose control of his car? Even if he did lose control of his car, he would have called for help. He wouldn’t have just vanished. He wouldn’t just leave me without saying a word. I know one hundred and ten percent he wouldn’t. My mother wouldn’t either. And I think she wanted me to know that. I think she knew something was going to happen to her.

Without realizing it, my right foot begins to tap alongside my strumming fingers. Each passing minute makes me more and more impatient, like persistent claws raking down the length of my back reminding me we don’t have time to just lounge around when my mom and my boyfriend aren’t safe wherever they are. All I hear is the clock ticking, footsteps scuffing against the cheap off-white linoleum floors, and papers shuffling. Every now and then there’s even a phone call.

Next to me, Olivia has her hands folded in her lap looking as if everything is okay, save for the fact that her eyes keep darting around the room, the only visible sign of her thinning patience. Not being able to take it anymore, I stand up abruptly and begin walking to the front desk, my increasing irritation getting the best of me. My worry is becoming almost unfathomable as if I might burst. We don’t have time to sit around and lollygag, we should be doing something now. I don’t care how desperate I look. I am desperate.

“Ella,” Olivia calls after me, sounding unsure.

But I don’t so much as even glance over my shoulder. I need answers; I can’t wait any longer. It’s been long enough.

*

Omg ahhh I’m so excited for the next chapter!!! I swear I won’t take forever to post it!! I hope you guys enjoy this chapter! I’m sorry if it’s boring but—just bare with me. Also I thought I’d tell you guys I’m going to officially be a college student this fall. I sent in my deposit! Haha anyway I’m sorry for any mistakes or any redundant sentences.

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