Innocent caterers scream and go into hiding, after seeing the lineup of guns. My neck is under tremendous pressure, yet Rick restricts my air flow even tighter. The dark atmosphere around the gang is unbearable. It becomes silent.
I worry for Judah—for a moment, because there is no possible outcome for him or me.
I don’t want to die, especially not like this. Heaving too hard to catch a breath, my stomach aches.
“I hope you know Judah,” Rick hints, while he pokes my head with his barrel. “That I’m killing two birds with one stone.”
The boss closes his eye, as though he’s ready to sleep through this commotion.
“Put your goddamn gun down, Rick,” the boss commands calmly.
“And let this fucker get off scot free? I don’t think so!” he points his gun to Judah now.
Judah and Rick glare at each other, ready to pull the triggers.
I swiftly ram my heel, as hard as I possibly can, into Rick’s foot, piercing through the shoe’s leather. Rick groans out, throwing me hard to the floor.
Gunshots pop off in every direction, shattering glass and bleeding bodies out. He then points his gun at me, but his arm gets shot. Bullets that hit the columns create a powdery debris in the air. I watch Rick cling onto his bleeding forearm.
I crawl to the edge of the veranda, in the midst of this aggressive shootout.
My ears hear my name called out through the beating noise. Judah is suddenly next to me, and he grabs my sweaty palm.
Before I realize it, he dives right off the veranda, holding me against him. The fall lasts a lifetime.
My eyes shut, as I pray for some kind of survival.
Judah, who seems to know what he’s doing, and I land in green bushes. I still hear a series of shots being fired. Without a second to lose, the two of us hop in a Ferrari.
Judah zips down the road, pressing the pedal to its limit, while I fight to put on my seatbelt. The loud engine noise breaks my hearing. My heart jumps constantly in my chest, frightened to death.
As soon as the rear window smashes, I scream and cover my head.
Rick and his men follow us.
We speed away towards the curvy road, in between a valley.
Judah swears infinitely.
I bite my lip, hoping that we’ll somehow make it out alive.
Rick and his army won’t give up, as they shoot at us until they’re out of ammo.
Judah steadies his grip on the gear, racing through the empty road.
I become troubled, when we arrive in a small town. He doesn’t slow down, yet rolls the car into a few drums of goods and fruit stands. Italians crossing anywhere are forced to run to safety. I glance back and spot the numerous SUVs behind us. They are less generous and crash straight into shops.
I grip my hands over my seat, trying not to fly out of it, when we meet a bump in the road. Judah swerves and curves the car effortlessly through traffic, trying to confuse our predators.
Unconsciously, my palm spreads over my stomach.
Now police cars are in the mix. Their lights flash in the background, though they can’t catch up to our speed.
Judah surges towards the highway tunnel on the right, but then quickly turns the steering wheel at the last second, carrying us across the border fence, and into the left tunnel. I shriek—thinking that we’d crash. But my eyes open, and we’re still on the road, driving rapidly. Though, it’s much quieter now.
We’ve lost them.
I can finally hear Judah’s strenuous breaths. I doubt he’s affected with fear, like I am.
For the first time in the twenty minutes of driving, Judah glances at me.
Then, the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. I look out the window and stare at a line of train tracks. Thick white steam escapes the hood.
“What the hell?!” Judah bursts.
He wasn’t addressing me, but I jump at the suddenness and volume of his deep voice, nonetheless. I stare back at him. He rips off his suit jacket and tosses it in the back and rolls up his sleeves. His tattoos come into view. His lips part, taking a long breath. His face stays stern, though his body slackens in his seat, accepting defeat.
“What’s going on? Why are they after you?” I ask, quaking. “Why’d they bring me here?”
I know it’s useless to ask this now. He hits the steering wheel.
He closes his eyes and sighs, “Rose...”
“Tell me the truth!” I cry out.
There’s a reason they took me—using me still.
Judah murmurs his swears and pulls the car onto a set of train tracks. I look at him, waiting. He cuts the engine and sits back.
“2 years ago,” he starts, “I killed Rick’s brother.”
I don’t move. I don’t breathe.
Judah sighs again and looks straight ahead. There’s more to the story, but he refuses to go back in time.
“It’s complicated,” he ends.
Silence emerges between us. My body weakens and tortures me for not taking care of it properly. My head pounds, and nausea gets the best of me. I lick my dry lips and swallow my cold saliva.
I can’t think of anything to say. Our breaths are uneven.
“You lied to me...” my voice cracks.
I listen to him sigh.
“I can’t tell you everything,” he says.
The anger that I’ve collected lashes out.
“That’s your problem!” I scream, though nothing fazes him. I pant, as my shoulders shake. “It doesn’t explain why I’m here!”
A small, invisible grin lifts his lips. His hand rubs his jaw and settles over his mouth.
“No, it doesn’t.”
The bridge of my nose burns. Seeing him again makes everything hurt again...
I look away, because I can’t face my problems.
“Judah...” I say out loud, “I’m pregnant.”
Judah’s eyes lock on me. He’s a statue. I can’t study his face—nothing is written on it. My shaky, sweaty hands turn into fists and press into my thighs. Tears roll down my cheeks, and my lips tremble.
Judah then breaks the door open and throws it shut, causing the car to shift side to side.
My tears fall. I sob alone in the car, while Judah kicks his feet in the sand. He pulls out a pack of cigarettes. His fingers fidgets around with it. I watch him fumble a cigarette to his lips. He struggles to light it, but once it’s lit, he takes the longest drag. I count the seconds before he releases the smoke out of his lungs.
At this rate, I feel like I’ll crumble.
At this rate, he’ll double his chances for lung cancer.
Will he leave me now? Will this end now?
Judah finally stops pacing around. He throws his finished cigarette in the air, into nowhere. I can only see his broad back from inside the car.
My eyes cry less, yet burn. I want to be strong, really. But this is all too overwhelming.
Judah drops his head back and expels smoke out of his lungs and above him. He holds a serious, unreadable face. He regains composure. The wind doesn’t move him.
Hours pass between us.
We stay apart until the starry night drifts over us. Sitting here starts to suffocate me.
I step out, raising my dress off the rubbly ground, and walk to his side.
Judah’s eyes don’t meet mine. They stay fixated on the edge of the sky.
My mouth opens. I was ready to tell him that I didn’t need him, until his grey eyes land on me. Who am I fooling?
Those eyes saw me as beautiful. Those eyes promised to protect me. Those eyes begged me to stay by his side. Those eyes looked at me.
“I’m leaving you—” I murmur.
Judah cuts me off dryly.
“Not with something that belongs to me.”
I’m not certain whether he’s talking about my body or his baby.
My eyelids fall and rise slowly, unable to see him clearly.
“I wish I never met you,” I say, lowly. “I don’t need this, any of this. And I know you don’t love me...”
I turn to walk off.
I want to just walk away from him for good, but Judah grabs my arm and stops me from making the right decision.
“I always loved you,” he then says, staring at me with furrowed brows.
I shake my head, “Shut up! I don’t believe you.”
Judah grabs both my arms and brings me closer to him. He stares me down, and never blinks.
“Since day one, my priority was protecting you. The others—they think I’m weak because of you, and I am! That’s why I did what I did, and said what I said. I’m sorry. I had no other choice,” he tells me, breathless. “Do you know how hard it was... watching you walk away from me? I’m not going to again.”
“So you think everything is okay now?” I shout, pushing against him. “If I meant anything to you—you would have stuck up for me.”
Judah drops his hands and looks away, rubbing the sides of his mouth. The wind pushes his hair in his face.
I continue crying, “Or you would at least called me, and explain things... to me. But you just disappeared.”
It’s silent for a moment.
“I wanted to kill myself,” he cuts. “I should have. I don’t deserve you.”
My mouth sews shut. My heart just softens.
“No, Judah don’t say that,” I sigh, feeling dizzy.
“I’m sorry, Rose. I am,” he pulls his hair back and looks in my eyes. His voice breaks. “I don’t know what to do. Fuck.”
Even if I forgave him, things couldn’t go back to how they were. I can’t stay near him anymore. I have a bigger responsibility. My nerves go down. I exhale, finally feeling ready to move on.
Judah’s eyes shift to my hands holding my stomach, which throws me off. I quickly fold my arm across my chest, trying to shake away the chills.
He opens his mouth, about to say something.
A far away screeching noise reaches both our ears. Judah peers over my shoulder. I look back, too.
The black SUVs swerve down the road towards us...
And as if on cue, the train hurries in our direction.
Not needing any instruction, I hold on to Judah for dear life, as he carries us off the tracks.
Together, we run ahead. Despite the loud noise coming from the train, I hear Judah shouting for me to grab onto it. I stretch my arms and reach for the ladder’s handle.
I clutch it and jump onto the moving train. My dress hitches beneath my feet, and nearly makes me slip off. But Judah follows and presses his body behind me, securing me. The wind blows through my hair.
In the blink of an eye, the Ferrari is crushed and pushed away by the train’s mouth.
I feel relieved, once we step through an open cargo door.
I’m not sure how, but Rick suddenly jumps on quickly, following us inside. The train hits a rocky bridge.
“Judah! Watch out!” I shriek.
My body falls backwards, and my eyes look up. Judah dodges Rick, and sends him a hard punch. The two struggle in a bloody fistfight. My nervousness, fear, and nausea hinder my vision, as my eyelids fall on me.
Rick no longer laughs, when Judah swiftly kicks him out the open cargo gate.
It all happens in slow motion. Reality blurs.
Rick whips out his gun, falling. He pulls the trigger, before disappearing below the train. My eyes widen.
The echoing sound of the single gunshot deafens my ears.
And my heart suddenly stops. Every fibre in my body screams out.