Abandoned Lives

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Chapter 11: Candi...

Coming awake is a slow process. There were no more nightmares, thank goodness. I’m lying wrapped around Chris like a vine. He’s so warm and is holding me so tight that I feel the first bit of security I’ve had in a while now.

He starts to stir under me, rubbing his palms up and down my back, slightly stretching under me, “How you feeling?”

“I’m ok.”

He cocks his head, trying to see my face, “You sure?”

I nod, “Yeah. Thanks for staying with me.” I know I should get up, but I can’t make myself do it. I just want to lie here with him the rest of the day. Push the world away and just be me and him.

“Of course. Anytime.” He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry either, considering that he pulls me in tighter and keeps rubbing my back.

I tilt my head to look up at him and he slowly leans down, just a whisper of a touch on my lips. When he pulls back, I follow. I need more than that. Using his chest for leverage, I lean up and press my lips against his. He seems shocked for about a nanosecond and then he puts his hand in my hair and pulls me further into the kiss. Within moments, he’s opening his mouth, beckoning my tongue to join his.

Just when it starts getting good, he pulls back. In confusion, I ask, “What’s wrong?”

He grimaces and runs a finger down my cheek, “I don’t want to take advantage of you.”

“You’re not. I want this…. I want YOU.”

He shakes his head, “No you don’t, Candi.” When I open my mouth to correct him, he talks over me, “You think you do right now because you had a bad dream. But, you don’t want to be with me. You want Kieran. I can’t be the guy on the side.”

Suddenly, I’m thrown back into my dream. All it took was Kieran’s name and I’m damn near hyperventilating. I sit up, trying to catch my breath, and he follows me up, “Hey, hey, what is it?”

I shake my head, “I can’t tell you.”

“What? Why the hell not?”

I look at him, letting him see the fear in my eyes, “You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“Candi…” He stops and sighs, “I’d never think that. I know you. If you were crazy, I’d have seen it before now. Just tell me.”

So, I do. I lay it all out for him… everything I’ve seen that no one else has, the dream that I no longer believe was JUST a dream, even down to Kieran telling me to change my hair. I’ve never been the type of girl to change myself for a guy, but I willingly went and had that done. In fact, I was so upset about taking out my dreads that I cried over it. That’s not me. Something’s not right here.

“Oh!” I blurt out, “And the vitamins!”

“Vitamins?”

He looks confused, so I go into some detail, “Okay, so when we were getting the table the other day?” When he nods, I continue, “I bought prenatal vitamins. There’s no reason at all for me to do that. Also… I think I stopped taking my birth control.”

“You THINK you did?”

I nod, “Yeah. Like, I remember dropping one down the sink and thinking that I’d just take the next one tomorrow. Cause…. Ya know… hard to get pregnant when you’re not having sex. So, no big deal if I miss one. Right?”

“Yeeeahhhhh.” He drags the word out, like he’s waiting for where I’m going with this.

“Okay, I don’t remember taking anymore after that. In fact, I don’t even know where they are.”

He’s quiet for what seems like forever, before he finally says, “Is that all of it?”

“Yep. You think I’m crazy now, don’t you?”

He laughs, “No. I don’t think you’re crazy. But…”

“I knew there’d be a but in there.”

“BUT… a lot of this can be explained away by stress.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Well… okay… you had the shit happen in New York with douche bag. Then you were attacked. Then you moved away from most of your family, like really far away. Then you got locked in the basement… in the damn dark…. Over night. Just ONE of those things would be enough to cause issues. You have all of that and then some. Maybe your brain is just trying to tell you that you need to take some time to chill out a little. Like it’s overloaded or something.”

I stand up and start towards my closet, so he follows and asks, “Did I piss you off?”

Without looking at him, I reply, “Nope. I knew that anyone I told would blow this off. I just thought you, of all people, would make an effort to believe me. I mean, you’re my best friend, Chris.”

“Hey,” he reaches out and pulls me around by my arm, “I’m not blowing it off. And I’m not saying I don’t believe you. I just want you to look at all the possibilities here. You’re not crazy. I’d never believe that. I DO think you have too much stress. BUT… if you think it’s something that you want to look into, like you think the house is haunted or something, I’m in. I’ll help you do whatever it is you need to do.”

“You will?”

“Of course.” He clears his throat and backs away. “First thing, though? We need to get you back on your birth control. I don’t know what the deal is with that, but it needs to be fixed.” He glances down at my shorts and tank, “Sooner rather than later.”

I can feel my cheeks heat in a blush, but I choose to ignore that last part. For now, anyway. “I’m not sure, either. But, there was a running theme in that dream. Kieran wanted to get a girl pregnant. It could have just been my subconscious telling me to get back on it. Maybe I just forgot about it. OR, there could be something going on with him. Either way… it scares me.”

“Yeah, it does me too.”

“So… I’m calling the pharmacy first. And then… I don’t really know how to go about it. I guess the next thing would be to find out about the people that have lived here before.”

“Not sure. We can check with the realtor, I guess. Maybe go look into back issues of newspapers. I’m sure the library will have those.”

“Alright. I’ll get dressed and call the pharmacy and the realtor. I guess we can go from there.”

He nods, “I’ll go get dressed and meet you downstairs.”

As he walks out of the bedroom, I can’t help but go back over my dream in my head. It seemed so real. And what was up with the woman in white? If it really happened, who was she? If there’s no hope of him ever stopping, then why even show me that stuff?

***

A quick call to the pharmacy reminds me there are other options for birth control. If I get the shot, I don’t have to remember it right now. I can just get another shot in 3 months. That’s probably the best option. Even if all this is just in my head, I’m obviously having a memory problem where the birth control is concerned. Even crazy girls have sex, and I definitely don’t need to bring a kid into my life the way things are going.

Chris tells me there is a health center in town, close to where we are going, so I call them and get the go ahead to come in and get that taken care of today.

According to the realtor, the best way to find out about previous owners of the house is to go to the courthouse and look in their public records. Apparently, I can search the registry of deeds and trace back through each owner of the house.

Once we leave, our first stop, of course, is the health center. The nurse reminds me that I’ll need to use condoms for the first week, to give the medicine time to be in my system good. They even set me up with reminders. Apparently, a week before my next shot is due, they’ll send me a letter and call me with a prerecorded message to tell me it’s time. That takes a lot off my mind with this. I don’t know why this is happening, but I refuse to end up making another mistake that affects the rest of my life. I’m already dealing with the one from New York that will obviously follow me everywhere I go. Hell, I moved out in the middle of nowhere and I’m STILL being told that people have seen me naked.

Walking into the county clerk’s office, I’m told that the records from 1995 and later are on computer, but we’ll have to physically go through the others. This is gonna take a while. We have to start with now and actually go back through every single deed. Which means we can’t just split up and one person take the computer, while the other goes through the books. And, yes, it’s actually in books for the older records. Not all in the same book, either. We have to make a trace through each one until we find the beginning of this horror show.

By the time the clerk comes in to tell us they’re closing soon, we’ve managed to make it back to the beginning. At this point, we’re double checking all of the names and making sure that we have everyone written down. Climbing in the car, all I can think about is a hot shower and an equally hot meal. This has been the longest and most boring day in history.

As he turns the ignition, Chris looks at me, “So where do you want to go from here?”

“I have no idea. I hadn’t really thought it out that far, beyond finding out who all lived there.”

“Ok,” he pulls out into the street, “we need to figure out how to track them all down, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright. Then we should probably start with a google search. See if they pop up as having moved somewhere else. If not, we can try to find where they came from and talk to people they may have known.”

“Yeah, sounds about right.” Even I can hear the hopelessness in my voice as I lay my head back against the headrest, staring out the window at the trees whipping past us.

“Hey,” Chris grabs my hand and I turn to look at him, “We’ll figure this out.”

“There’s no way we’re going to find all those people, Chris. We don’t even know how to go about it. There’ll be hundreds, probably thousands, of names to go through with a google search.”

He squeezes my hand, “True, but we’ll go through them and we’ll find the ones that we need to.” I open my mouth to contradict him, but he continues, “No, we’re not gonna be able to find everyone. That’s a given. But, we should at least find a few, enough to either show you that they were actually killed or to show that you’re just having nightmares. If it’s nightmares, we can look into getting you someone to talk to, to help you through it. If the house is haunted and people are dying there, you need to know that, too.”

I shrug, “What’s it gonna help if it is? Do I move? That won’t help the people that he killed or the people he’ll kill in the future.”

He stops at a red light and turns to me, “No. You won’t just move. If there’s no other way to fix this, I will burn that fucking house to the ground.”

My eyes go wide, “You can’t just burn my house down. There are laws against arson.”

“Don’t care. I’m not letting anything happen to you.” Before I can say anything else, he changes the subject, “Ok, so first off, let’s stop by a store and get some prepaid cards.”

“Huh?”

“Well, there are a lot of sites that you can go on and get people’s addresses and information about them, but you have to pay for it.”

“Okaaayyyy. Why prepaid?”

He shrugs, “I don’t trust the internet like that. I don’t want you giving out your credit card info on line. We’ll use prepaid cards. That way, if it turns out to be a scam to get ahold of your accounts, they won’t get any further than just what’s on one card.”

“Wow, you’re seriously on top of everything.”

“No, if I that was the case, we’d already know what’s going on.”

We stop off at the store and grab a handful of prepaid debit cards, putting $50 on each one. When I asked why we needed those, instead of just gift cards, Chris explained that you apparently can’t use gift cards for recurring payments and some of these sights want you to sign up for a subscription, which will be charged each month. When I mention that I’ll just cancel when we’re done, he just shrugs and says that we still have to use the debit cards because they won’t take a gift card. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter either way. At this point, I think my brain is trying to throw stuff up in an attempt to make me not think about what’s actually going on.

As we’re pulling into my driveway, Chris says, “There is one thing I don’t understand about this.”

“Just one?” I ask, with a raised eyebrow.

“Well obviously, there’s a lot. But… what’s going on with you and Cam?”

“Huh?”

“The two of you have this connection. The twin thing or whatever.”

“Yeah, so?”

He puts the car in park and turns to look at me, “All these times you’ve had nightmares, it’s been me that came to you. Why hasn’t he? Does he not feel that too?”

Damn. That’s a good point. “Usually he does. I don’t know why he hasn’t lately. I mean... he’s always known when I was upset or when something was going wrong with me. I don’t know…”

He nods, “That’s what I’m saying. When he was in New York and you were here, locked in that damn basement, he knew something was up. He was insane trying to get to you. But, since he’s been back, he hasn’t checked on you in the middle of the night once. And you’ve been having a lot of these nightmares, or what the hell ever they are. So, that kind of makes me feel even more like something’s going on. That it’s not just bad dreams on your part.”

“I agree. I didn’t want to mention it to him, though, because I’m trying to keep the amount of people thinking I’m crazy to a minimum.”

“I really don’t see him thinking that.”

“I do. I’d think he was crazy if the situation were reversed.”

Chris rolls his eyes at me, “No you wouldn’t. You’d be on top of it, trying to find a solution.”

I just shrug and walk into the house. As I head up the stairs to my room, I hear him coming up behind me. I don’t even turn to acknowledge him as he follows me in and sits on my bed, watching me get clean clothes out of the closet. I need a shower and I could really care less about this conversation right now. At least until I get the dust off.

His next question has me turning to him instead of the bathroom, though, “So, you mentioned that in this last dream he put some bodies in the attic, right?”

I nod and he continues, “Well, that would probably be the easiest thing to verify.”

“Yeah, it might be. But none of us has found an entrance to the attic yet.”

“But have you really been looking?”

“I mean, kind of. Not seriously looking, but I glance at the ceiling in every room to try and find it. Why?”

“I was just thinking that before we get cleaned up, we might as well look around and see if we can figure it out. You know there’s gonna be a lot of dust and shit up there. Might be better to look first, shower later.”

“And this didn’t occur to you BEFORE we spent all this time looking through old books?”

“Honestly? Not really. Sorry.” Yeah, he doesn’t sound too damn sorry. He stands up from my bed, clapping his hands together once, “Ok. Here’s the deal. I have flash lights in my truck. I’ll go get them and we’ll work together. Maybe with two sets of yes at once we’ll find something.”

I nod in agreement, while looking longingly towards my bathroom. My glorious bathroom with all that yummy hot water. Damn it!

As soon as he comes back in, Chris hands me a flashlight and we start looking in every nook and cranny, trying to find the entrance. By the time we’re done, I’m starving and so tired I’ve switched my longing from shower to a long, long bath. Still no sign of an attic, though.

I had put my clothes back in the closet while we looked, so I step in to get them, but I forgot that I had just dropped them in the floor and I trip over them. When I land against the back wall of the closet it feels like there’s some give in the wall and there’s a slight creaking noise.

Chris runs in, asking if I’m ok, as I stand up and start pushing against the wall. But nothing happens. Another thing I’m imagining?

“Candi, what the hell are you doing?”

I shake my head, “I swear it moved.”

“What moved?”

“The wall.” I’m talking absently now, still trying to push on the wall, and he comes closer to see what I’m talking about.

“The wall moved?” He sounds skeptical and when I look over my shoulder he’s looking at me like I’m crazy.

“Yes, Chris, the fucking wall. It moved when I fell against it.”

He sighs, but comes over beside me, nudging me out of his way. “Point where you hit it.”

When I do, he starts pushing against that exact spot. At first there’s nothing. Then, he braces his foot and starts pushing as hard as he can. The wall suddenly breaks free and pushes inward, like it’s a door on hinges. Dust flies everywhere and Chris falls face first into a set of dirty stairs.

“Oh my God! Are you ok?”

He’s coughing and wiping the stuff off his face when he says, “Yep, all good.” He stands back up and looks up the steps, “Well, guess we found it.”

“Yeah, but why is it hidden like that?”

He looks back at the ragged edges of the door, running his finger over it, “Look right here. It’s paint. Years’ worth of it. Someone painted over it and then it just kept getting painted over until you couldn’t see it.”

He points his flashlight up the steps, and turns back to me, “Any chance it would do any good to ask you to wait here?” When I just look at him, he mutters, “Didn’t think so,” and grabs my hand, pulling me up behind him.

We go up the creaky stairs slowly until we come to another door. Looks like this was just a little corridor for the stairs. The door at the top is easier to open, requiring nothing but a turn of the door knob and a quick push.

The attic is almost as packed with junk as the basement is. Chris shines the flashlight around, looking for a light switch, because the only light is coming in through a small window. Nowhere near enough to see what we need to. He mutters “stay here” and walks over to the left, switching on the light.

As the room is illuminated, we get a good look at how much crap we’re gonna have to go through to even look for bodies up here. There’s more furniture and more clothes stashed here. This looks newer than most of what’s in the basement, though. Almost like they ran out of room to store people’s stuff, so they just threw it wherever they could.

With a sigh, Chris turns to me, “Did you see where he put them?”

I stop and look around, then close my eyes, trying to pull the dream back up. Suddenly I’m hit with it like it’s happening now. I can see him carrying the bodies, one by one, up the stairs and placing them over near the window. He’s actually being very careful with them. Almost like he cared about them and regrets killing them.

I’m snapped back out of it by Chris shaking me by my shoulders and calling my name. I’m gasping for breath and my head hurts like crazy.

“Jesus, Candi, what the hell?”

I bend over, putting my hands on my knees, still trying to catch my breath, and mutter “Huh?”

“You weren’t here! I mean… you were but you weren’t. What the fuck WAS that?”

“I don’t know.” I stand back up, in control again, “But I saw it.”

I walk over to the window, trying to find the exact spot, only to see that there’s furniture and clothes stacked there. I point it out and tell Chris that’s the spot, so we start throwing stuff, trying to find the floor.

Finally, we get down to the last item, a dining room table covered in a black cloth. When I pull the cloth off, Chris picks up the table, setting it aside. We both look down at the same time, seeing the misshapen blankets lying there.

I grab his hand and whisper, “Do we really wanna know?”

He squeezes my hand before letting it go and reaches down to the closest blanket, carefully unwrapping it. And there they are. I’m on the floor on my knees, sobbing, because the one closest to him was also the smallest. I’m looking at the skeleton of Makayla. That sweet little girl that did nothing but come looking for her mother, only to find a monster instead.

I feel a small hand on my cheek and hear a child whisper, “Don cwy Canni. Don cwwy.”

I gasp and look up, but there’s nothing there. I can still feel her though, so I say, “Makayla.”

“Yeah, I Kayla.”

“Oh honey.” I’m right back to crying, “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry this happened to you.”

I can feel her rubbing her hand on my cheek, “I ok, Canny. I ok.”

And then she’s gone. I look up at Chris, but he’s just standing behind me, staring down at her remains in shock, still holding the edge of the blanket in his hand. I reach up and pull the blanket out of his hand, covering Makayla back up, which snaps him out of his daze.

As soon as I’m done, he’s pulling me back into my room, closing the door behind us, and grabbing a duffel bag out of the closet. He starts throwing clothes into while I sit staring into space. He leaves me sitting there and I hear him in his room next.

I don’t know how long I’m out of it, but I hear two thuds downstairs and then he’s back, pulling me out of the room and down the steps. Oh… that’s what the sounds were. He threw the duffel bags over the railing.

Just as we get to the car, I look up and see Kieran coming around the corner of the house. It looks like he’s coming from the direction of that path up into the woods. Suddenly my heart is racing and my palms are sweaty. I’m freaking terrified! But, then that pull is also there. It’s like my body just wants to run to him and forget this whole thing. Just let him hug me and kiss me and make it all go away. The closer he gets, the more the fear fades away and the more I want him.

When he walks up to the car, I can’t even remember why I was afraid of him. All I can think about is him and being with him. I walk over to him, lifting my face up for a kiss, which he obliges. He does, however, keep it short, before he turns towards Chris.

“Hey, can you spare Candace for a bit? I wanted to take her for a walk.”

I turn to Chris with a smile, about to tell him I’ll be back in a bit, when I notice his frown. A flicker of unease stirs in me, but as soon as Kieran puts his hand on the small of my back, it disappears and I just want to leave with him again.

I don’t get that chance, though, because Chris says, “Actually, we’re in the middle of something. Any chance you can come back later?” When I look closer at Chris, I see that there’s a muscle jumping in his jaw, like he’s grinding his teeth together. I don’t understand. I thought everyone was getting along just fine, but Chris doesn’t like him?

“We can’t continue this another time?”

He turns back to me, “No, actually, I won’t be here later. I have to go out of town. So, we need to finish up tonight.”

That’s enough to have me pulling away from Kieran. “You’re leaving?”

All I get is a nod. Just one jerk of his head. So, I turn back to Kieran, “I’m sorry. But, if Chris needs me I need to stick around.”

I see the rage in his eyes, but he holds it in when he replies, “Anything I can help with?”

Chris is the one who answers him, “No. I appreciate the offer, but this is personal to me and I’d prefer not to have anyone else in it.”

Kieran narrows his eyes and looks back and forth between me and Chris, before he says, “Is there something going on between you two?”

“No!” I blurt out, “Chris is my best friend.”

“Then I don’t understand why you’re putting him ahead of me.”

I blow out an irritated breath, “Like I said, best friend. Plus, Chris has been there for me every time I’ve needed him. You’re a recent addition to my life, so I’m sorry, but if he needs my help, he’s gonna get it. I’m sorry if you can’t understand that and I hope it doesn’t make you want to stop coming around, but that’s just how it is.”

The rage starts to twist his features, but he still doesn’t release it, just grits out, “I see” before he turns to walk away. As he gets to the end of the drive, he turns back to me, “I’ll come by tomorrow.” And he walks back into the woods.

On one hand, I feel guilty for making Kieran mad, but on the other, I feel like I need to be there for Chris. Whatever is going on with him seems pretty serious.

“Let’s go, baby girl.”

“Huh?”

He sighs, “Let’s go. Get in the car, Candi.”

I nod and follow him as he opens the passenger door for me. It finally all hits me once we reach the main road. All the fear floods in at once, leaving me bent over, gasping for breath.

From beside me, I hear, “Finally.” He pulls onto the side of the road, putting the car in park, and starts rubbing my back, “You ok?”

I shake my head no. Because I’m really not. “What the hell is wrong with me, Chris? I was just gonna go with him. I didn’t even know there was anything wrong.”

“I don’t know. I don’t know how he’s in your head like this, but we’re gonna figure it out.”

I nod, “Where are we going?”

“My house. We need to get you away from that house.”

“Can we not?”

“Huh?”

“I don’t want to talk to anyone. If we go to your house, your parents might stop by. Can you just stop at a motel or something? I mean… you don’t have to stay with me or anything. Just drop me off.”

He snorts, “Yeah, that’s not happening.”

“Chris, I really just don’t want to see anyone.”

“That’s fine. But, I’m not dropping you off. I’ll stay with you.”

I don’t say anything else, but I’m actually relieved. I don’t want to be alone, but I wasn’t lying about not seeing his family. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. But, I’m exhausted, heartbroken, and terrified and I really can’t deal with the questions that will pop up if they see me there.

The further away from my house we get, the more like myself I feel. As we come into town, I see a rundown looking motel off to the side and something just feels right about it, so I point it out. Chris looks skeptical, but he pulls in when I tell him to.

He goes inside to check us in and I look up to see an old woman sitting inside the office, just staring outside. I don’t know why, but I feel like I really need to talk to her. Almost like something is pulling me to her. After all the crappy stuff happening lately, I decide not to ignore my feeling. So, I get out of the car, walking into the office behind Chris.

He never turns around, just keeps talking to the woman behind the counter. So, I walk over to the old woman, who is now sitting there staring at me, only one eye showing clearly. The other is the milky white of cataracts. I sit down across from her… she’s sitting on one of those old couches that everyone seems to have at one point in their lives, brown with leaves on it, and I sit on the matching loveseat with a coffee table in between us. She doesn’t say anything at first, just stares at me. When she opens her mouth, I’m a bit in shock at what comes out.

“What are you doing here? Did he send you?” She’s shrieking, sounding in a full-blown panic.

“I’m sorry?”

“You leave me be! I never did anything. I stayed away.”

I shake my head, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Yes you do, child. You’ve met him. His taint is all over you.”

I suck in a shocked breath, “Kieran.” I sit down and look her in the eye, “I’m not here for him. I’m here to escape him. Please… if you know something… please tell me. Everyone thinks I’m crazy.”

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