Chapter 1: Reminiscence
The sunrise brought the feeling of renewal and hope to the weary Canadian capital. Bright shades of pink and orange contrasted against the slowly receding night sky. It was a beautiful beginning of the spring season.
Down below, a cheerful atmosphere settled over the city as its inhabitants woke up; its early risers already scurried to their daily tasks.
After a particularly harsh winter, the citizens of Ottawa were ready to embrace warmer weather. The first flowers began to grow, which added a rainbow of color to an otherwise grey environment. A chorus of bird-song included their cheery melody to the noisy atmosphere.
Only ten months had passed since the federal elections of May 2011, yet already a dramatic change was evident across all the spectrums of social unrest.
Within three months of his victory, Prime Minster Alexander Moore signed the new Tax Cut Bill, which prompted several companies to reinstate their positions in Canada, and also offer thousand-dollar bonuses to their employees. As such, jobs returned to the Canadian market, and the unemployment rate reached a record low.
It was the first time in over forty years that the Canadian people felt accomplished and filled with hope for a better future.
Residing within the old, affluent neighborhood called New Edinburgh, the Prime Minister’s children bid their parents farewell as they prepared to leave for an anniversary getaway.
“You kids be good. Do your homework, brush your teeth, and go to bed on time.” Katherine Moore glanced pointedly at her son.
The boy huffed in annoyance, while his older sister rolled her eyes in exasperation.
“We’ll be fine, Mom. You and Dad will just be away for two days,” she said.
Her mother raised an eyebrow in skepticism, while Alexander chuckled.
“Have some faith, Katherine. Besides, they won’t be alone.” He nodded towards the short line of two private tutors, two maids and a butler.
The grey-haired butler nodded. “Not to worry, Mr. and Mrs. Moore. We’ll make sure that the children are on their best behaviors.”
The boy scoffed. “I’m twelve, not a baby.”
His sister rolled her eyes once more. “With the way you’re complaining, Tim, you act just like a baby.”
Timothy Moore glared at his sister, while their mother sighed in exasperation.
Alexander slowly led his wife to the car. “We’ll be back by Friday. Love you, kids!”
“Love you too, Dad,” the children replied.
With a last wave, Alexander and his wife entered the Platinum Subaru XV Crosstrek, and the car carefully drove down the street.
Once the car was out of sight, the butler cleared his throat. “Ms. and Master Moore, once you’ve eaten your breakfast, you’ll be starting your lessons for the day. After lunch, your parents have given their permission for you to do as you please.”
The two siblings exchanged a look that had a grin form on their faces. “Yes, Mr. Campbell.”
As promised, the two Moore siblings were given the afternoon off from their studies.
After they informed the driver of their plans, the siblings hurriedly changed into appropriate clothing and went outside with a rushed goodbye to the other occupants.
The driver took them to the New Edinburgh Park, and made the siblings promise him that they wouldn’t go too far nor get into trouble. Their silent bodyguard gave them a pointed look as if daring them to disobey.
While their bodyguard followed behind, the siblings took off into the park. They laughed wholeheartedly while they threw snowballs at each other.
Several park visitors who recognized the siblings saluted them, which prompted smiles from the teenagers.
The Moore siblings spent several hours playing in the snow. At one point, they set up a contest to see who could hit their motionless bodyguard with a snowball.
After fifteen minutes of no success, they grew bored and decided to walk around the park.
As the siblings made their way down a path, a ginger haired teenager walked by them.
His stunning blue eyes were warm as he smiled at the girl.
She shyly smiled back, prompting a snicker from her younger brother.
“Cat got your tongue, Rachel?” He teased.
The girl scowled at him. “Shut up, Tim. It won’t be long before you start looking at girls.”
Her brother gagged. “Eww, as if I’d want to deal with girls. You’re all crazy.”
Rachel halfheartedly punched him in the shoulder.
As the sun began to disappear over the horizon, their bodyguard informed them that it was time to go.
Slightly disappointed, the two siblings grudgingly followed the tall man back towards the car.
While they were chatting with each other, the siblings didn’t notice the exchanged look between their chaperones.
After a ten-minute ride, the small party arrived back at the house, yet a police car was parked in front of the gate.
The Moore siblings stared at the vehicle confusedly.
“Why’s there a cop car here?” Tim asked.
Mutely, the driver brought the SUV into the property, and shut it off.
“Mark, what’s going on?” Rachel asked their bodyguard.
The man looked back at her. “Take your brother and go inside of the house.” Without another word, he exited the SUV, and walked back towards the gate.
“Rachel, why won’t anyone tell us what’s going on?” The boy asked her anxiously.
Rachel shook her head. “Come on, Tim. Let’s go inside and wait. I’m sure that Mr. Campbell will tell us what’s going on.”
As she spoke, her gut twisted uncomfortably.
Despite her brother’s protests, Rachel urged him to follow her to the house.
Once inside, Timothy went straight to their unusually somber butler.
“Mr. Campbell, why’s there a cop car outside?”
A sad expression passed over the butler’s face as he knelt to the boy’s level. “Master Moore, a terrible accident happened.”
A confused look plastered itself on Tim’s face. “An accident? Where?”
Rachel, on the other hand, felt her heart drop to her stomach.
“Miss Moore, Mr. Moore.” Someone called out.
Both siblings turned their heads towards the front door.
A middle-aged police officer stepped inside and made his way to the siblings. A sober look was on his face, as well as on the bodyguard’s who stood behind him.
Even before the officer spoke, Rachel knew exactly what had happened, and felt her world collapse.
A high-pitched sound disrupted the once quiet room. The vibration traveled through the wooden desk, and roused the brunette from her light sleep.
Drowsily, she picked up the source of the noise, and answered it upon recognizing the number. “Hi Tim.”
“Hey Rachel!” Was the cheerful greeting. “How’s it going?”
Said person shrugged. “Same as usual. I’ve got an exam coming up on Monday.”
“The same exam that you’ve been going on about for a month? Take a break, Rachel. You’re more than prepared. You should be going out on a Saturday.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “This is my last final exam. If I don’t pass it, then I won’t be able to graduate this April.”
“Ray, you’ve got this,” her brother encouraged her. “If you keep on studying, you’ll just burn out your brain, and you won’t remember a thing come Monday.”
“I’ll be there for your graduation. Sophie will come too!”
A hint of a smile curved the brunette’s full lips. “Mr. Miller promised to attend as well.”
“That’s great! It’s almost like the whole family will be there.”
At his remark, Rachel looked at the calendar. The date was March 21st.
The brunette sighed. “It’s their anniversary.”
Silence passed through the two siblings.
“It’s been eight years,” Rachel added.
“Yeah, it has,” Tim replied quietly. “How are you, really?”
Rachel took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I’m taking it day by day, year by year. Moving to Montreal helped distract me, yet it didn’t completely take the pressure off of the pain.”
Tim sighed. “I know, Ray. I miss them too, but Mom and Dad wouldn’t have wanted you to suffer. You’ve got to move on.”
Rachel scoffed. “That’s exactly what the psychologists said, and yet they never told us how.”
“No one can, Ray. Only you can find the way. If you keep on beating yourself over something that you had no control over, you’ll never get out of your dark place.”
Silence fell once more. A thousand thoughts plagued Rachel’s mind, until she was pulled out of it by the sound of rattling dishes.
“Rachel, I’ve got to get going, but I’ll call you again soon. Take it easy, okay?”
“I’ll try,” Rachel replied quietly.
“Good. Love you, Ray.”
“Love you too.”
An ice-cold numbness momentarily took hold of Rachel as she stared blankly at the instrumental-themed calendar.
She remembered very clearly her brother’s emotional breakdown as the police officer told them the tragic news. Rachel was too shell-shocked to do anything other than stare with widened eyes.
Quickly, the shock turned physical, and Rachel ran from the living room to the nearest bathroom where she vomited her stomach’s contents.
Even through the closed door, the teenager could hear her younger brother’s screams and cries as he begged Mr. Campbell to deny the harsh truth.
A mental image of her parents flashed in her mind, and she once again heaved over the toilet. Despite the stomach cramps and her sudden headache, none of them compared to the pain and emptiness she felt in her heart.
She was pulled from her brooding by the sound of her neighbor slamming the door, which caused Rachel to sneer in annoyance.
She shook her head and got up from her black office chair and made her way to the kitchen.
After she turned on the TV, Rachel made her breakfast. She slowly ate her buttered toast as she watched the news.
Tension had risen for several months across countries who shared borders with Blackouts, yet it would only take another more devastating terrorist attack on a major city to shatter the cracked glass of stability.
The coffee machine hummed as it finished brewing.
Rachel took out a blue mug from a cupboard and walked to the coffee machine. She poured the hot liquid in the mug and inhaled the delicious aroma.
Immediately, her senses were more alert, even before she began to sip.
Despite expecting it, Rachel found it hard to breathe as the news showed a memorial broadcast for the eighth anniversary of the death of Alexander and Katherine Moore.
It played for ten minutes, briefly going through the life of Alexander, the highlights of his term as Prime Minister, until his tragic demise.
Even once the news switched to a sports event, Rachel’s eyes stayed wide, and her heartbeat strongly pulsed through her blood vessels.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang, which almost caused her to jump up in fright.
She held a hand to her chest in an effort to calm down her heart, while placing the mug in the sink.
The doorbell rang again, which prompted Rachel to investigate.
Rachel peeked through the peephole, and saw a familiar smile stretched wide across a freckled face.
Rachel opened the door with a small smile. “Hey Liz. Forgot your keys again?”
The woman’s hazel eyes brightened. “Hey Rachel! You know me too well.” She winked and walked into their shared apartment.
As the ginger-haired woman took out a water bottle from the fridge, Rachel leaned against the wall. “Had a good run?” She asked, eyeing her roommate’s sweaty exercise clothes.
“Absolutely. I saw plenty of cute guys, too,” she giggled.
Rachel chuckled in amusement. “That’s what you always say, and yet you’re still single. I’m beginning to think that you’re too shy to ever commit.”
Liz stuck out her tongue. “I’m not a prude. I just enjoy playing hard to get.”
Rachel smirked. “More like hard to catch. You literally run like the wind.”
Both girls shared an amused chuckle.
The red-head placed her bottle back in the fridge. “I’m going to take a shower.” She gave Rachel a look-over. “You look like you could use one too.”
Rachel agreed. She was still in the same clothes from last night, her skin felt oily, and her hair was a stylist’s worst nightmare.
While her roommate showered, the brunette sat down on the sofa, and closed her eyes to “power nap.”
To her surprise, it only took Liz fifteen minutes to get out of their shared bathroom.
Upon her comment, Liz rolled her eyes. “I’m not going on a date this time. There’s no need for me to look like a queen.”
Rachel’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “So, what’s your pick for today?”
“A naturally beautiful goddess.”
After she grabbed her white towel, Rachel entered the bathroom and stepped into the shower.
She quietly moaned in appreciation as the warm water dripped down her skin.
As she scrubbed her body, Rachel felt a portion of her emotional weight lift off her shoulders.
After rinsing off the soap, and quickly washing her hair, Rachel reluctantly turned off the water, and wrapped the towel around her slender body before she stepped out of the bathroom.
She ignored the goosebumps caused by the cooler air and placed the towel on her bed, before walking naked to her closet.
She dressed herself in a long sleeved, spring-designed silver sweater, and a pair of navy jeans.
She matched the look with silver-hooped earrings, and her golden watch that was given to her for Christmas in 2017.
Rachel decided to apply a light-pink lip-gloss to add some color to her pale face.
After she quickly combed her hair, Rachel lifted her brown locks into a ponytail.
Upon entering the living room, Liz’s eyes widened, and a large grin formed on her face. “Hey there, cutie!”
Rachel rolled her eyes, yet she couldn’t help but smile in amusement.
Liz sprang to her feet. “I’m glad that I don’t have to force you to wear fashionable clothes. We’re going out!”
Chocolate brown eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Tim called you, didn’t he?”
A sheepish look appeared on her roommate’s face. “He did, but I know that he called you too and told you the same thing!” Liz defended herself. Her eyes softened. “Besides, all you’ve done for the past few weeks is study until you pass out. You need to take it easy.”
As she thought about her brother’s words, Rachel finally decided to take his advice to heart. She’d much rather view the 21st of March as the first day of Spring, and not as a reminder of loss.
At least, by spending time with her roommate, the brunette would get distracted.
Rachel sighed. “You’re right. I suppose I should go out once in a while. What do you have in mind?”
Liz’s face beamed as she grabbed hold of the brunette’s arm and guided her to the door. “Let’s check out the new exhibition at Place des Arts. The reviews so far are very good.”
After the girls put on appropriate jackets, Liz continued to talk about the exhibition as they left the apartment building.
Rachel spent April 2nd working at the Natural Products store a block away from her apartment.
A week had passed since her final exam, and she still didn’t receive her result. Needless to say, Rachel was nervous.
After finishing her shift, Rachel stopped by the convenience store on her way home.
Upon entering the apartment building, Rachel walked over to the mail deposit.
She rummaged through the usual advertisements when a letter with the McGill University emblem caught her eye.
Her heart began to pound, and Rachel hurriedly made her way to her apartment.
She placed the bags on the kitchen countertop, and sat down on the chair.
Liz entered the kitchen, and greeted her, but Rachel was busy opening the letter and reading it.
The letter was short and straight to the point, and Rachel felt joy rush through her soul.
Liz glanced down at her curiously. “What is it?”
Unknown to her, a genuine smile blessed Rachel’s face. “I passed,” she said breathlessly.
Liz’s eyes widened like saucers, but then she tackled Rachel in a tight hug. “That’s wonderful! When’s the graduation ceremony?”
Rachel patted her arm, until Liz let go.
“It’s on April 25th.”
“That’s in just under four weeks! Do you even have a dress?”
The somewhat sheepish look given to Liz was a sufficient answer.
The red-head sighed. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Take me shopping?” Rachel asked, a ghost of a smile curled her lips.
“You bet your butt I will! We’ve got to get you something that’ll stand out from the crowd. A real head-turner.”
Before her roommate got too enthralled in her planning, Rachel excused herself to go call her brother.
As expected, Tim was ecstatic. “You’ve got to tell Mr. Miller. He’ll be so happy.”
“I will.” Rachel promised.
“I’ve got to go and book our plane tickets. We’ll see you in a few weeks!”
Once the conversation ended, Rachel did as she was asked, and looked through her phone book before she dialed the number.
Since it was an international call, it took slightly longer than normal for the call to go through.
“Peter Miller, here,” came the gruff voice.
“Hi Mr. Miller, it’s Rachel Moore.”
“Rachel? Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve last spoken.”
“Yeah. I’ve been pretty busy,” was the excuse.
“I understand. Going through medical school isn’t an easy task,” the man replied amicably.
“On that note, I wanted to let you know that I’ve passed all of my finals. I’ll be graduating on the 25th.”
“That’s excellent! You’ve worked very hard, Rachel. You’ve earned it.”
“Thank you,” she replied shyly.
“I’ll be there, as I’ve promised. I’ve also got some exciting news of my own, but it’ll have to wait until I see you personally.”
Rachel’s curiosity was peaked, but she knew the man long enough to understand that no matter how many times she asked, he wouldn’t even give her a hint.
“I look forward to seeing you, Mr. Miller.”
“It’s Peter, Rachel. You’re already past the age to still be calling me that.”
A small smile graced the brunette’s face. “A hard habit to get rid of.”
Peter chuckled briefly.
A short pause ensued. “Your parents would be very proud of you.”
A lump difficult to swallow formed in Rachel’s throat, and tears started to blur her vision. “Yeah.” She finally said, not wanting to talk more in case she had a breakdown.
Peter caught on, and sighed lightly. “You and your brother have been through so much. You’re both incredibly strong. Take care of each other.”
“We always do,” Rachel said with more confidence and blinked away the tears.
“I know. We’ll keep in touch. I’ll see you on the 25th.”
With that, the call ended.
Once she placed her cellphone on the table, Rachel rubbed her eyes with her knuckles, and took deep breaths.
Once she was emotionally stable, Rachel rose from the chair, and went back out to converse with her roommate.