SECOND CHANCES

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

A/N: Double update...Whaaaat?

Aaliyah woke with a jolt to the sound of a phone buzzing. Her first thought was to let it ring. However, it stopped for a few seconds and proceeded to buzz one more time. Jason moved groggily in bed next to her, but she was pretty sure it was his phone, not hers.

“Baby, your phone,” she mumbled tiredly.

“Let it ring,” he muttered sleepily, his eyes still closed as he wrapped his arm around her and nuzzled her neck.

The phone buzzed once more.

She let out a small groan and wriggled out of his grasp. She grabbed her silk robe off the hook on the wall and shrugged into it as she switched on the light and staggered across the hall to the living room, where the phone was squalling like a baby. She picked it up to shut it up.

“Hello,” she said weakly.

“Aaliyah.” It was Sylvia, and it sounded like she had been crying. “Aaliyah, where’s Jason?”

“He’s asleep,” she was more alert now. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Samantha,” she sniffled. “She was in an accident. She’s here at the hospital. They are working on her now.”

“What?!”

Jason appeared behind her.

“What’s going on?” he asked, rubbing his face tiredly.

“It’s Samantha,” she answered, turning her tear-filled eyes to him. “She’s been hurt.”

***

Aaliyah stared at the flames, mesmerized. They dance and weave bright blazing orange with tips of cobalt blue in the fireplace in the hospital waiting room. And despite the heat pumping out of the fire, she was cold. Bone-chillingly cold.

She was aware of hushed voices, many hushed voices. But they weaved in and out only in the background, nothing but a distant buzz. She didn’t hear the words. All she could hear, all she could focus on, was the soft hiss of the gas from the fire.

The flames shimmy and flicker, holding her captive, keeping her numb. She focused solely on their flaring, scorching beauty. They are hypnotizing.

She wrapped her arms around herself, and the world fell away from her and reality bled into her consciousness. The creeping emptiness inside expanded some more. Samantha was terribly hurt.

Sylvia sat across from her on the larger-than-large U-shaped couch, holding hands with Matthew. They gaze at her, pain and anxiety etched on their lovely faces. Sylvia looked older—a mother worried for her daughter. She blinked dispassionately at them. She couldn’t offer a reassuring smile, a tear even—there’s nothing, just blankness and the growing emptiness. She gazed at Jason and Lucus, who stood in the corner of the room, all serious faces, talking quietly. Discussing something in soft subdued voices.

Jeffrey was talking to the authorities who were drip-feeding them information. Evidently Samantha was a victim of a hit and run. Unfortunately, the diner had no cameras posted outside and authorities were unable to get a lead on who had hit her.

She closed her eyes in silent prayer, rocking gently. Please let Samantha be okay. Please let Samantha be okay. She repeated it over and over in her head—her mantra, her lifeline, something concrete to cling to in her desperation. She refused to think the worst. No, don’t go there. There was hope.

Jeffrey was suddenly at her side, or had he been there a while? She had no idea.

“Samantha’s strong. She’ll pull through,” he said quietly.

She nodded her head and clutched Jeffrey’s hand. She couldn’t speak, she knew she would dissolve if she did, but the warmth and gentle squeeze of his hand offered her no solace.

Sylvia stood to join the boys, distracting her. That must be the longest she’s sat still. Matthew came to sit beside her, too, and grabbed her other hand.

She glanced at the clock. It’s after one in the morning. With each passing hour, the clawing emptiness expands, consuming her, choking her. She knew deep down inside she was preparing herself for the worst. She closed her eyes and offered up another silent prayer, clasping both Jeffrey and Matthew’s hands.

Opening her eyes again, she stared into the flames once more, the flames still licking and curling around each other, blazing brightly. They stepped out of the emergency room, and everything went into slow motion.

“She’s going to pull through.”

Holy fuck...Samantha. She’s alive. She gazed numbly at the surgeon, trying to work out if she was misinterpreting or if she’s really alive.

When the surgeon broke the news to them, Sylvia hugged him, clinging to him with desperate force.

“Thank you,” she breathed. “Thank you.” Over and over, she repeated the words.

Finally the tears start to cascade down her cheeks. She’s alive, she’s fine. Jason sat down heavily in the empty spot beside her and let out a relieved sigh.

Slowly, gently, Aaliyah gazed up at him. She lifted her hand and stroked his cheek lovingly. “She’s really alive, Jason,” she murmured comfortingly.

***

Aaliyah sat in the passenger seat and dug her nails into her knees as Lucas drove her home on a darkening, ice-covered road. Jason had stayed behind at the hospital to be with Samantha while everyone went home to rest. He had asked Lucas to take Aaliyah home. Aaliyah didn’t think she’d have any rest tonight when she thought about Samantha’s health and stared at the empty house as Lucas pulled up.

“You think Samantha will be okay?” Lucas asked, staring directly into the windshield.

Aaliyah thought about it and whistled resignedly.

“We can only hope,” she answered after a moment’s hesitation, debating the question still.

Lucas heaved and took his hand off the wheel, he pushed his door open and just then Aaliyah returned from her small flight of thought.

“You don’t have to walk me inside,” she hinted, looking straight at the porch of her home and then she shook her head.

Lucas climbed out of the car and took a long whiff of the cool breeze that rushed at his face. With a feeble smile on his face, he leaned over and stared straight at Aaliyah.

“No can do. I made a promise to Jason to make sure you get home safe and sound,” he said and cocked his head to the left assuredly.

Aaliyah shook her head again and pushed her door open. She stepped out silently and shut the door behind herself. She led the way up from the car to her door. The car squeaked lock when they stopped at the door and Aaliyah held herself from jumping. Lucas perceived her trepidation and he offered a mouthed apology.

She paid no mind to it once she discovered no immediate danger to herself or him, turning to her purse and digging through its content to pull out her keys.

She opened the door and stepped in first from instinct, freezing once she was inside as the aroma of coffee hit her. They rushed out of the house that morning to go to the hospital. There was no time for coffee.

Aaliyah flipped on the light switch. The blood drained from her face as she stared directly at those translucent green eyes. He was here, right in front of her, and judging from the smirk on his lips he was in a state of euphoria.

“Nathan,” she breathed.

***

Jason sat by the side of her bed, quietly watching as she slept. He caught her hand, caressing his thumb again around the palace where the IV connected to her vein. A part of him was refusing to believe she was lying there, wounded, but the doctor’s reassured him she would recover. Samantha looked so much younger, and more vulnerable, in her sleep.

He lowered his lips to her skin, pressing softly. “I’m so sorry, Sam.” he croaked.

A nurse came in and checked her vitals.

“Sweetie, why don’t you go up to the fourth-floor cafeteria and have some coffee,” she coaxed.

“I don’t want to leave her,”

“She’ll be fine,” she said. “I’m sure she’d want you to take care of yourself too.”

With a reluctant sigh, he relented. “Fine.”

In the cafeteria-almost deserted at this hour-Jason purchased a small coffee and headed back towards the elevators. He took a sip of his coffee while he reached into his back pocket and retrieved his phone. When he checked his phone for the time, he noticed he had a missed call from Samantha along with a voicemail. He clicked the play button for the voicemail and placed the phone against his ear to listen to the message. p

“Jason, pick up the damn phone.” There was a pause. “Aaliyah’s in danger. There was this guy who showed up at the diner just now. He-he’s here. Nathan found her. I don’t know how, but he did. I’m heading to your place now. Please call me back—”

He heard her gasp, as if in terror. “Oh God!” she screamed. “Help me!” then followed the sounds of hurried footsteps as she ran, “Please!” She pleaded.

Jason flinched when he heard a loud bang followed by glass breaking. The phone disconnected.

There was a shattering sound as the coffee cup landed on the floor.

He dialed Aaliyah’s number. Nothing. She must have forgotten it at home when they quickly left the house this morning.

Or not...

“Shit,” Jason growled and punched the elevator button. He dialed Lucas’ number, hoping to reach him before they made it to the house.

“Hey, you’ve reached Lucus.. I’m unable to answer the phone right now. Leave your name and number, and I’ll return your call as soon as I can. Thank you.”

“Goddammit, Lucas!”

Jason pushed his index finger against the round button again and began to press as rapidly as he could.

The doors to the elevator finally slid open.

He lunged into the waiting elevator. He pressed the button and it started downward. His heart pounding rapidly, his mouth filled with the metallic taste of adrenaline. He prayed that Aaliyah hadn’t made it home yet. If she had already made it back to her house, she and their baby were in terrible danger.

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