The Twilight Saga


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THE ART OF FALLING GRACEFULLY

Preface

The rain began as soft as velvet; it was calm and refreshing.  It was as if the rain was cleansing her soul and washing away all the pain and heartache she had endured over the sum of her twenty-two years.  She looked now toward the future; whatever it held in store for her she was ready.  She was ready to live she had been dead inside for far too long.

 

She said a silent prayer of thanks to God for opening her eyes to what had been right in front of her all along and for giving her a second chance at life, love and happiness.  Thinking back she had never thought she would be given this hope for a second chance.  How crazy was it that only a few weeks ago she had been so sure that true happiness would never be hers and love was only a fantasy for little girls.  Of course that t was until she found a friend so true that the very thought of what had transformed her life brought tears to her eye.  Was it possible that her search was finally over?  Did she dare believe?  She wanted to oh she really wanted to believe in happily ever after  but she didn’t want to be hurt again; the scars were still too raw and she never wanted to hurt that way again.

 

Sydney Jordan was a quiet, sheltered young lady.  She did not make friends easily, spoke only when spoken to.  She always seemed to be looking over her shoulder as if she expected someone to be sneaking up behind her.  When she smiled there was always a trace of sadness etched around her mouth and if you looked closely enough you could see the ghosts hiding in her eyes.  Sydney Jordan was a very mysterious young lady.

 

CHAPTER ONE

BLAST FROM THE PAST

 

Trent Isaac sat in the corner of the crowded restaurant, slowly drinking his coffee.  He could see her over the rim of his cup as she ran in a hundred different directions.  He secretly admired this woman; she was responsible for everything that happened in this bustling café from the cooks to the waitresses.  If something was broken she would fix it, if someone was sick she would make them feel better or send them home and fill in, if something was misplaced she would find it.  He smiled thinking about it, there didn’t seem to be anything that she couldn’t do.  He was amazed by her. 

 

He never came in when she wasn’t here of course if her car wasn’t on the parking lot he usually drove on by.  He continued to watch as she refilled drinks, boxed to go orders and answered the phone.  It never seemed to matter how busy she was she always made time to chat with the regulars and prepare their usual orders.  Trent loved to watch her as she worked the floor because when she interacted with the customers was the only time he got to see her smile. She was always beautiful but this was different it was as if an angel had came down to fill the café grace and beauty with just a simple smile.  He wondered why she didn’t smile more and he wondered what it would be like to be the one to put a smile on her angelic face.

 

Trent wasn’t sure what had made her so unhappy, shy and scared.  He had known her for ten years or longer, he honestly couldn’t remember when he had first met her.  They had attended the same high school but she had been a year older and not his type or at least that had been his excuse for never asking her out.  She had been so smart, graduating as Valedictorian of her class with scholarship offers from all over the country and yet here she was working at a minimum wage job.  He could still recall how kind and caring she had been and so full of life.  She always seemed to have this glow about her that seemed to radiate and light up the whole room whenever she walked in. Wherever she went she brought laughter and happiness with her.  He wondered again about her smile she had always smiled easily and it had been contagious soon everyone would be laughing and having a good time too. She had always gone out of her way to make everyone feel included, always giving but never expecting anything in return.  She was just a caring and giving person and found himself wondering what had happened to her over the last ten years.  What had changed her so drastically?  The thought of it all bothered him more than he cared to admit.  He had found himself thinking a lot about Sydney.  In fact since that day six months ago when he had seen her through the Café window he had been able to think of little else.

 

“Daddy what are you staring at?”

 

“Kelsey I am not staring.”

 

Trent had almost forgotten that his six year old daughter was with him today.  His mother had had a doctor’s appointment so he had had to ditch work early.

 

“What is you thinking about daddy?”

 

“The correct question is what are you thinking about daddy and the answer is what are we going to do this afternoon, any suggestions?”

 

Kelsey Isaac was the picture of innocence in its basic form.  She was petite with blonde hair and blue eyes topped off with dimples designed to make any attempt at telling her no almost impossible.  She had the cutest little turned up nose with just the right amount of freckles.  She was the mirror image of her mother.  Her mother had been the center of Kelsey’s life; Trent had never imagined that she would ever have to live without her mother.  He had never entertained the idea of being left alone to raise their little girl alone.  He knew he was ill equipped for such an important job. 

 

“Daddy can we go to the park and feed the duckies?”

 

“The ducks not the duckies.”

 

“Can we go to the park and feed the ducks, please daddy.”

 

Trent grinned at his daughter and gave in without much of a fight, “I think that sounds like a terrific idea.”

 

Trent could see Kelsey fidgeting and glancing at the front counter.  He wondered if she was as infatuated as he was with Sydney.  She stood on her tiptoes and watched as Sydney handed an ice cream cone to a little boy about her age. 

 

“Kelsey what’s the matter honey?”

 

She looked back toward Sydney and then smiled at her Trent, “Daddy may I ask Ms. Sydney to go with us to the park?”

 

“Honey I don’t think Ms. Sydney can just leave work to go to the park with us.”

 

Trent watched Kelsey as her face fell and she looked down at her feet.  He hated telling her no but he and Sydney had never been friends, they never spoke more than the casual hello or hi all through school.  He could see the disappointment settling in Kelsey face and her slumped shoulders broke his heart.  He sighed he knew she would say no but what the hell, maybe Kelsey wouldn’t take it so hard if she at least got the chance to ask her herself.

 

“Daddy please I just want ask her.  She is my friend and she is super nice to me. Please Daddy?”

 

Trent thought about it a moment longer, what would it hurt?  After all Sydney was always nice to Kelsey, giving her treats and candy when she came in.  Who knew she just might say yes.

 

“Well?  Can I please just ask her?”

Trent could never say no to Kelsey, “Okay fine go ahead.”

 

He watched as Kelsey ran to the counter and began to talk to Sydney.  He could see a smile on Sydney’s face as she leaned across the counter and patiently listened to Kelsey.  He watched as she began nodding her head and saying something in return.  In a few short minutes Kelsey was back at the table with a balloon and ice-cream in hand.

 

“Look what Ms. Sydney gave me.”

 

Trent watched her cheeky grin as she took a bite of the cold vanilla cone.  He watched as the ice-cream covered her nose. 

 

“That’s great honey, now are we ready to go?”

 

 “Daddy we can’t leave yet, we have to wait for Ms. Sydney.”

 

Trent was frustrated how was he supposed explain why Sydney wasn’t going with them?  He wished he had taken her to Burger king to eat.

 

“Kelsey sweetheart, Ms. Sydney is very busy and I am sure she has more important things to do other than spend a lazy day feeding the ducks with us.”

 

Trent could see the disappointment and hurt filling her sweet face and it almost brought him to his knees.  She had been through so much and he hated seeing her upset.

 

“Honey we need to go.”

 

“What you’re going to leave without me?”

 

Trent looked up to see Sydney standing behind him with an impish grin on her face.  He was utterly shocked to say the least, honestly he wasn’t sure what to do or say.  He realized he must look like fool with his mouth gaping open.  He tried to regain his composure.

 

 

“Sydney you’re really going with us today?”

 

“Well I couldn’t disappoint this beautiful little girl here, now could I?  That is if you don’t object.”

 

Trent knew he was smiling like a fool but he was pleasantly surprised that Sydney was even talking to him. 

 

“Object, of course not.  I’d be honored to have you join us.  I’m just surprised that you can leave like that?  We aren’t going to get you in trouble or anything?”

 

Sydney tried to hide a smile as she rubbed her hand on Kelsey’s back.  She looked at Trent and wondered what he was doing back in Cole County.  He had been one of those who talked about getting out and never coming back; but she had been one of those too and here she was right back where she started.

 

“No worries I have connections with the boss.  I was just filling in for a couple of hours this morning.  One of the girls called in and you know me I rushed right over to help out.  I guess that’s what happens when you own the place.”

 

“Yeah I guess that’s what happens when…..You own this place?”

 

Once again Trent looked over to see that impish grin playing on her lips.  He caught his breath as he watched the light filtering through the window making it look as if she had a halo framing her head.

 

“Well mostly seventy five percent belongs to me and the other twenty five percent is held by my brother  I run the day to day running of the place Brett just sees the bottom line.”

 

“So that’s why you’re here all the time.”

 

“That would explain it.”

 

Trent was even more intrigued by this woman standing beside him.  He couldn’t help but think that there was a lot more he would like to know about her.

 

“So how long have you owned this place?”

 

Sydney leaned on the table top as if she were thinking back to another time and place.  She straightened back up and looked a little embarrassed.

 

“Sorry I was wool gathering.  Brett and I bought this place about six years ago, right around the time I got married.”

 

Trent had taken a drink of his lukewarm coffee and almost chocked.  He thought he must have heard wrong, “Did you say married?”

 

By the look on her face she had most definitely said married.  “Yeah I got married a couple years after high school.  I tried to stay in college but it was too hard.  We were trying to start a family, trying to get this place up and running and college something had to go.  Not to mention Rick was a few years older and he had graduated that spring before we got married in June.  So anyways I dropped out.  I only had two years left and I just walked away.”

 

Trent knew the look on her face well one of regret.  He could see it her eyes and ached to tell her it was okay.  “Sydney you could still go back and finish what you started.”

 

“Well I am taking night classes right now and hopefully by Christmas I’ll be finished.”

 

“That’s really great Sydney.”

 

“Thanks so subject change, your turn on the hot seat.  So Mr. Isaac inquiring minds want to know what you have been up to.”  Sydney could see Trent’s face filling with embarrassment as she teased him.  She wasn’t sure what had gotten into her but it was as if she could just be herself with him. “Seriously, I haven’t seen you in ages where have you been hiding?”

 

“I haven’t been hiding.  I just moved back about seven months ago.  I bought the old McGee place, you know on the outskirts of town.  I’m still working on the renovations but I think it’s coming along really good.”

 

Sydney nodded her head as she listened to the timber of his smooth soft voice.  She found herself staring at his lips as he spoke and she began to wonder how they might feel against her skin.  She shook herself out of her random daydream and tried to follow the flow of the conversation.

 

“I wondered who had moved in over there.  It’s funny I usually hear all the gossip but no one as even mentioned you yet.  Do you mind me asking what made you decide to move back here?  I can remember back in high school all your talk about getting out of town and never coming back.”

 

Trent shifted uncomfortably in his seat and glanced at Kelsey, who was totally absorbed in her ice-cream.  He lowered his voice, “Well after Meg died I needed some help with Kelsey.  My mom came to live with us for a while but then dad got sick and she had to come home.  I tried daycare and sitters but nothing fit then mom called and volunteered to help if I agreed to come home and run the family business.”  Trent paused for a moment to let Sydney take his words in.  He was actually surprised that she remembered him at all. “I didn’t want Kelsey growing up in the city.  I wanted her to grow up in the same small town that Meg and I did.  A place where she could play outside without having to worry about drive by shootings or drugs on the playground.  I guess I decided Cole County wasn’t so bad after all.  Besides all that Dad was forced into retirement after his heart attack so I took over Isaac Construction.”

 

Sydney had heard about Megan St. John’s death and she had wondered how Trent had handled it.  She could see the demons nipping at his heals and she knew she couldn’t go down that road yet.  She decided to try to change the subject.

 

“Wow I didn’t know your dad retired.  So you are now the owner/operator of Isaac Construction Company; no wonder your house looks so good.”

 

Trent was brought out of his melancholy by the sound of her gentle voice and he smiled at her compliment. “Thanks I am trying to do it on my own mostly on the weekends.  Of course Ryan is helping me out, when he’s not out wooing the women of Cole County.”

 

Sydney laughed as she remembered the tall athletic guy with the green eyes and blonde hair, “I suppose that would be Ryan Harper your infamous partner in crime.”

 

“Hey I was home asleep when Mr. Varner’s house got toilet papered, that was all Ryan and Conner.”

 

Sydney felt the laughter bubbling up her throat as she envisioned Ryan and Conner with a dozen rolls of toilet paper, “I guess you’ve forgotten that you were pretty good at wooing the ladies of Cole County too.”

 

Trent could feel his face flushing at the barb, “Nah not me, you must have me confused with someone else.”

 

“Maybe but I don’t think so.”

 

“Okay enough about me, let’s get back to you.  How long have you and your husband been together?”

 

Sydney nervously looked down as if she were studying the floor beneath her feet.  She finally looked up and smiled weakly in Trent’s general direction, never making eye contact.

 

“We would’ve celebrated our sixth anniversary last week, if we had stayed together.”

 

Trent felt like an idiot as his eyes looked at her ring finger and saw the white circle where her wedding band had once been.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were separated.”

 

Sydney avoided making eye contact by wiping a spot of ice-cream from Kelsey’s cheek.

 

“We’re not we’re divorced.”

 

She turned and threw the napkin away taking a moment to gather her runaway emotions.  She still found it hard to believe that she was a divorced woman.

 

“I’m still sorry for bringing up what must be painful memories.”

 

Sydney shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t be it happens, divorce I mean.  Trust me I am fine with it.”

 

Trent wished he could believe her but he could see a single tear on the bottom of her eye, threatening to start a tidal wave at any moment.  He could almost see the ghosts trying to come out.  The awkward silence stretched on for an immeasurable time until Kelsey’s voice sliced through tension filled room. 

 

“Ms. Sydney can we go feed the ducks now?”

 

Sydney looked down at Kelsey; she was such an adorable child.  She wanted to reach down and pull the little girl into her arms.  Sydney took the little girl’s hand and headed to the door.  She turned toward Trent with that grin on her face again, “Hurry up Mr. Isaac we have a date with some very important ducks.”

 

Kelsey chimed in a sing song voice, “Yeah, come on daddy.”

 

 Sydney and Kelsey were already outside before he could even think to move.  What was wrong with him today?  What kind of affect was Sydney having on him?  He had learned a little more about her in the brief conversation at the café but oh how he wanted to know more about this lovely lady.  He wanted to know everything about Sydney Jordan.

 

Once outside Sydney   realized what a beautiful day it was.  The last couple of weeks had been unbearably   hot even for July.  The temperature had dropped off and it was actually a nice day with a breeze.  It reminded her of a late September day, why hadn’t she noticed how pretty it was before?

 

“Sydney do you want to leave your car here?”

 

Sydney shook her head, “I would really like to go home and change if that’s okay with you guys.”

 

Trent nodded, “Sure that’s fine.”

 

“Great if you want to go on to the park I’ll meet you there.”

 

Trent thought about that for a moment, now that she had said yes he didn’t want to let her out of his sight.  He was very afraid that she might change her mind.

 

“Why don’t we just follow you home and wait for you?  Then we can all go together?”

 

Sydney hesitated for half a second, “Okay as long as you don’t mind waiting a few minutes.”

 

Trent felt the air he hadn’t realized he was holding rush out mixed with the words, “I could wait forever.” He could feel his face turning bright red, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud, “What I meant to say was Kelsey and I are in no hurry so take as long as you need.”

 

Sydney watched as he buckled Kelsey in her booster seat.  She quickly opened her door and slid behind the wheel.  She hoped that Trent hadn’t noticed her staring at him.  She couldn’t believe that she was going to be spending the whole day with Trent Isaac and his daughter.

 

She tried to convince herself that she had only accepted because it had been Kelsey who had asked her to go.  She was such a sweet kid and she had been through so much losing her mom at such a young age.  Sydney ached for the void that must have filled the place her heart had once been, poor Kelsey. Sydney would do anything for her, but she also knew in her heart the real reason was Trent.

 

Trent seemed to be such a funny and down to earth guy had he always been like that?  Had she failed to notice how great he was until now?  She had thought she had known him in high school, but he had never even known she was alive. 

 

He was tall, athletic and very good looking.  He had short black hair and amazing green eyes.  The first thing she had noticed about him all those years ago had been his eyes.  She had found herself lost in a sea of green and she had wondered what was hiding behind those guarded orbs.  Of course he hung out with the basketball players and cheerleaders which had never been Sydney’s crowd; it wasn’t that she had anything against them but she didn’t drink or swear.  Sydney was comfortable in her own skin and she didn’t feel the need to make others feel small in order to make herself feel big.  

 

Sydney had been involved in almost every club and after school activity but somehow she never crossed paths with Trent, maybe because she headed the opposite direction anytime he was near.  She had played softball from the age of five and she loved it. She had been really good at it o, she had loved being on the field with the smell of the fresh cut grass and the feel of the dirt under her feet.  The feeling of standing on the pitcher’s mound and making eye contact with the batter and then hearing the simple words “Strike three, you’re out!”,   what a rush that had given her as if she were invincible and nothing could touch her.  She sometimes wished she could still play but that had been a lifetime ago.

 

Sydney still remembered the first time she had met Trent; it had been the summer before her sophomore year.  She had practically lived at the ball park playing on an all-state team and coaching a younger team.  One of Sydney’s best friends, Marley Timmons had been helping with the team.  She had been going on and on about some new guy, who had just moved to town apparently to play basketball.  He would be starting school in the fall.  When Sydney heard he had transferred to play ball that was all she needed to hear to know he would be out of her reach.  She just didn’t mesh well with jocks and girls who wore clothes two sizes too small.  Sydney listened as Marley rattled on and on endlessly about Trent Isaac.  It really didn’t matter if Sydney liked him or not because it was beyond obvious that Marley had a thing for him.  Sydney knew her friend well enough to know that what Marley wanted Marley got.  She loved her friend but everything seemed to come so easily to Marley and it wasn’t that she was jealous; she just wished that guys noticed her like they did Marley. 

 

In the Jordan family Sydney had been the only girl with three brothers and seventeen cousins all of whom were boys.  She had grown up following the guys she had been a tomboy and they just treated her like one of the guys.  She had always insisted on doing whatever they were doing , baseball, basketball, football, go-carts, camping, hiking, fishing , hunting you name it she could do it. Growing up as one of the guys had been so much fun and she had loved every minute of it.  She had taken pride in the fact that when teams were picked for sports everyone wanted her on their team.  She was better than all of the guys put together and they all knew it.  It had driven her mother crazy, she had wanted Sydney to be lady like and pristine but she would no part of it.  She had refused to wear dresses except for church and chose to wear jeans and hand-me down t-shirts the rest of the time.  She had never stopped to think that one day her mother would be proven right.  Then one day it happened the guys started taking an interest in girls.  They had started dating and Sydney couldn’t very well tag along on dates to the movies and dances.  So the guys had grown up and left her behind.

 

When Marley had brought Trent to the ball park to watch her play Sydney had been swept away.  She had never seen anyone who made her melt—until she laid eyes on Trent Isaac.  She however seemed to have no affect on him at all.  He had smiled and been polite but all of his attention had been on Marley.  Being the new guy in town had given him an advantage no other guy had, mystery.  Everyone wanted to know about Trent Isaac and everyone wanted to be his best friend.  The romance was short lived and by the time school started every girl in Cole County wanted to date Trent Isaac.  Sydney had comforted Marley after the break up but seeing Marley so upset made Sydney think little of Trent Isaac.  That had been the end of her dreaming about Trent Isaac.

 

Sydney came crashing back to reality as she turned on to the road leading to her apartment.  She had to stop this insane daydreaming, enough of memory lane for today.  Trent might be older and more mature but he was no more interested in her now than he had been in high school.  Trent Isaac was, is and would always out of her reach.  After all until today he had never said more than two words to her, hello or goodbye. He hadn’t even known she had existed.  He was only letting her tag along today because of Kelsey.  Well she was with them for today and she would enjoy it while it lasted and only God knew how ling that might be.

 

Sydney pulled her mustang in slowly and killed the engine.  She almost ran to unlock the front door.  Trent and Kelsey pulled into the parking space next to her. 

 

“Ms. Sydney can we take your car to the park?”

 

“Sure if it’s okay with your daddy.”

 

Kelsey looked hopefully at Trent, “Well can we daddy?”

 

“What’s wrong with my truck? Do you two lovelies think your too good to ride in my old work truck?’

 

Sydney could see the mischief twinkling in his eyes.  He stood with his hands on his hips, staring down at Kelsey and glancing in Sydney’s direction.  Sydney couldn’t help smiling at the pair.

 

“Nothing daddy, but I like Ms. Sydney’s car.  We can ride with the wind in our hair like the people on TV.”

 

“Okay I have to admit that I have been dying to ride in Sydney’s new car ever since she got it. Who knows she might even let me drive.” 

 

Trent flashed her that perfect smile that made her want to melt into a puddle at his feet.  She realized that right about now there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for him. 

 

“Maybe who knows?  Stanger things have been known to happen in Cole County.”

 

Sydney tossed her keys on the table and ushered her guests in.  She talked over her shoulder as she left the room, “Make yourselves at home. There are sodas in the fridge and the remote is on the coffee table.”

 

“Syd we’ll be fine, just go and get ready.”

 

Hearing Trent call her Syd almost made her stop in her tracks.  She felt tears fill her eyes, how long had it been since a man had been in her house?  How long since a man under the age of fifty had called her Syd?   She was being silly and far too emotional.  She told herself to get a grip as she scolded herself, “Gees you would think I was back in high school and the captain of the basketball team was sitting in my living room.  Come Syd Trent is no longer the captain of anything; he is a friend waiting for you with his six year old daughter.”

 

Sydney hurried in and out of the shower to her walk in closet.  She searched for her Capri pants, red tank top and old comfortable sandals.  She began to hurry she hated the thought of Trent getting impatient or simply changing his mind and leaving without even saying goodbye.  She brushed her hair and applied a touch of makeup.  What was that commercial if it took longer than five minutes you’ve got too much on?  Sydney studied her reflection in the mirror and knew it would have to do.  She slipped her feet into the worn but comfy sandals and headed for the stairs.  Would he still be waiting or had she taken too long?  She held her breath as she turned the corner and looked over the railing.  She descended the steps two at a time.  She stepped off the landing and entered the living room.  She could feel her lips forming a smile as her eyes took in the sight of Trent and Kelsey lying in the floor watching her favorite Disney movie Beauty and The Beast.

 

“It looks like you two are doing alright and I was afraid you’d be bored.”

 

“Hey I didn’t even hear you come down...” Trent wasn’t able to finish his sentence when his gaze fell on Sydney.  He found himself speechless; she was breathtaking in a clean pure sort of way. She had very little need for makeup for she had a natural beauty that radiated filling the room with a glow, “Wow you look great and it only took you ten minutes I’m impressed.  I’m also amazed it always took Meg at least an hour to get ready to go to the grocery store….” Trent caught himself and an awkward silence filled the room.

 

Sydney saw the look of sadness flicker in his eyes as he spoke of his deceased wife.  She wanted to reach over to hold his hand and take some of his pain and grief she saw reflecting in his eyes on to herself.  She wished she could be the friend that he seemed to need; she just wasn’t sure how to go about being that friend without crossing the unseen line around his broken heart.  She had never been very good at relationships even platonic ones she always seemed to inevitably screw them up.  Impossible relationships seemed to be her forte.

 

She cleared her throat, “Thanks it usually takes me longer but I hated to keep you guys waiting so here I am.”

 

Trent pushed his feelings of guilt away and smiled at Sydney.  She was always thinking of others and never seemed to think of herself or what she needed.  He didn’t think she ever considered what she wanted or needed.  Like today for instance he was sure she could’ve found a hundred other things to do today but here she was agreeing to spend the day with them.  Well with Kelsey, he was sure that if it wasn’t for Kelsey Sydney would never have agreed to spend the day with him alone.

 

Trent couldn’t imagine what a loser her ex-husband had been or what could have possible made him leave such a wonderful woman.  He had to be crazy or blind if he hadn’t realized that he had had the prettiest, sweetest and smartest wife in Cole County.  Trent found himself wondering what had gone wrong for Sydney just didn’t seem the leaving type.  Trent looked at the pillow in his hand to see he was clutching it so tight his knuckles were white.  The thought of anyone hurting Sydney made him so angry he couldn’t even think straight.  He would gladly make anyone who hurt her pay dearly for their transgressions. 

 

Sydney’s voice pulled him out of his troubled thoughts, “Well are we ready?”

 

She and Kelsey were standing at the door waiting for him.  Sydney looked so nervous that she might run up the stairs and hide under the covers if he didn’t say something. Kelsey’s excited voices chimed in breaking the uncomfortable silence, “Come on daddy let’s go!!”

 

Sydney grabbed her key ring off the table by the door and waited for Trent to follow them outside.  She caught his eye and playfully tossed him the keys, “Heads up Mr. Isaac.”

 

Trent looked from the keys now in his hand and back at Sydney with confusion clouding his handsome face.  He continued to look from the keys back to her as if he truly had no idea what to do with them.

 

“Syd I was only kidding about driving.  I honestly didn’t expect you to let me drive your new car.”

 

“I know that but I feel like being pampered today so you get to be our chauffer today Mr. Isaac.”

 

Sydney climbed in the backseat and buckled Kelsey in beside her.  She rummaged around in her bulky straw bag and pulled out two pair of sunglasses.  She put one pair on Kelsey and then slid the other pair on preventing Trent from seeing her eyes.

 

“Are you sure about this Sydney?”

 

“Absolutely now come on Sir time is wasting let’s go.”

 

Trent shook his head as he grabbed Kelsey’s backpack out his truck and tossed it in the vacant seat beside him.  He laughed at the sight of Sydney and Kelsey sitting in the back with their sunglasses on and singing some kid’s song at the top of their lungs.  He slid in the seat and turned the key in the ignition and sighed at the purr of the engine.  One thing was for sure Sydney had excellent taste in cars.

 

“Okay everyone buckled in and ready for takeoff?”

 

Sydney checked Kelsey’s car seat and then fastened her own, “Ok captain ready for takeoff.”

 

Trent slowly backed out of the parking space and pulled on to the road.  He was a little nervous driving her new car, “Syd are you sure this is okay, what if I have a wreck?  You would probably hate me and never speak to me again.”

 

“First of all my insurance covers anyone driving as long as I am in the car.  Secondly that is just the silliest thing I have ever heard.  You will not have a wreck and if you did I would still have to talk to you.”

 

Trent watched her in the rearview mirror but the dam sunglasses made it impossible to see her eyes.  He could hear the teasing in her voice, “Really and why is that?”

 

“I always talk to the regulars at the Café so you see problem solved.”

 

Trent laughed at her ridiculous reasoning and shook his head, “Okay then we have a date with some ducks!!”

 

Kelsey cheered and raised her hands in the air as he pulled on to the main highway.  She looked at Sydney and tried to talk so that she could hear her soft voice over the wind whipping around them. 

 

“Ms. Sydney will you slid down the slide with me?”

 

“Sure I will sweetie.”

 

Kelsey clapped her hands excitedly, “Great daddy won’t he says he’s too big.”

 

“Maybe he’s just scared.  We’ll work on him.”

 

Trent could see the smile on her face and knew she was teasing him unmercifully.  He felt his heart skip a beat she was beautiful and he knew he was falling for her.  The question now was what was he going to do about it?  He would not let her slip away from him again.  He knew he would have to take a risk but he had to find a way into her heart because his was lost to her the day he walked into the café six months ago.  He listened as his two favorite girls sang off key and he wondered exactly how someone falling in love manages to fall gracefully.

 

 

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

MOVING FORWARD

 

Sydney found herself sitting alone in her car wondering what to do now.  She had left in a huff determined to put an end to all of this one way or another but how exactly was she supposed to do that?  She had no way of knowing where or how to find Rick and even more to the point what would she do if she found him?  She had been angry and running on pure adrenaline when she vowed to put an end to Rick.  She knew full well that she valued life too much to end another’s even one as vile as Rick Wells.  She reached in the glove box and grabbed a left over napkin and dried her eyes before blowing her nose.  She had to think but her mind was stretched to the breaking point and she couldn’t focus.    She had too much on her plate and she had to slow down and stop fretting about everything.  She glanced at the clock and realized it wasn’t even noon yet.  She knew that Mac could handle the Café so she would head home and try to pull herself together maybe even take a nap. 

 

As Sydney pulled onto the road she found her thoughts turning to Trent.  She wondered how his day was going.  She hoped he had been able to finish his sketches and model for the presentation tomorrow.  She knew it would be amazing and that he would get the job hands down but she knew he would push himself until every little detail was perfect.  She smiled as she thought of him hunched over his desk with his hair mussed and a pencil behind his ear.  She hadn’t realized she was already home as she turned into the apartment complex.  She climbed out of the car and walked to the door just as Marley and Alana were coming out.

 

“Syd, is something wrong?”

 

Sydney could see the look of concern in their eyes and she shook her head no. “I’m fine; everything is fine I just needed a day off.”

 

Alana let out the breath she had been holding. “That’s a very good idea you do look a little pale.”

 

Sydney grimaced, “Gee thanks that’s always good to hear.  I have class tonight and I want to take a nap before I finish my paper.  So what are you guys up to?”

 

They followed Sydney into the kitchen and sat down at the table while she grabbed a mug for decaf green tea. 

 

“I’m going to go talk to Sam about the position that will be available soon.   I think it would be a lot better than what I’m doing now which is little more than cleaning up puke and checking IV bags.”

 

Sydney hid her smile as she carried her mug to the table and joined her friends.  “I really think Sam will value your experience and I really don’t see anyone else applying for the job.”

 

Marley wasn’t so sure about that. “You might be surprised. It’s a private practice so it’s Monday through Friday and on call every other weekend those are perfect hours.  I know we’ll have rounds in the early mornings but this is really a nice safe community so I don’t see it being that big a deal.”

 

Sydney could see the excited look in Marley’s eyes. “I really hope it works out for you.”   Sydney turned to Alana. “So what’s on your agenda today?’

 

“I’m meeting with Trent this afternoon to sign papers for the remodel.  I want to go by the house and get those pictures he asked about.  I also need to run by the library and the local paper for some research for an article I’m thinking about writing.”

 

“That sounds like a lot to get done in a short time.  If you need any help let me know I wouldn’t mind going through your grandmother’s attic.”

 

Alana laughed. “Sydney you need to rest but trust me I will take you up on that offer at a later date.”

 

Sydney drank her tea and nodded her head.  She could feel her eyes growing heavy and she pushed away from the table.  “I’m going to go lay down on the couch just set the alarm and lock up when you guys leave.  Al tell Trent I said hi and I’ll see him tonight.”

 

Alana raised her eyebrows. “Another date on a school night, whatever will your mother say?’

 

Sydney stuck her tongue out at her annoying friends. “My mother doesn’t have to say to me these days so who knows what goes through her mind; now good night all.”

 

Alana and Marley remained silent until Sydney left the room.  “Al let me know if you find anything out about you know who or if you need any help going through old newspaper articles.”

 

Alana stood to her feet. “I got it but I’ll let you know what I find.  Good luck on your job hunt.”

 

Marley laughed and followed Alana out of the kitchen.  They could see Sydney curled on the couch buried under a heavy fleece throw.  They quietly left the house locking and setting the alarm behind them.  They waved at once another as they left the apartment each in a different direction.     

 

Marley drove to the town square and parked on the corner across from the post office.  She could see the sign that read Davis and Davis family medicine.  She climbed out of the car and waved as several of her old classmates walked down the street.  She could see that nothing had changed Nancy’s This and That still sat on the end of the block next to The Abracadabra Family Hair Salon.  A small thrift store that sold everything from vintage movie posters to hand me down fishing poles still sat next to the doctor’s office. She breathed in the smell of the cherry blossoms that surrounded the square.  She realized that she really had missed home as she passed the drugstore complete with an old fashioned soda fountain.  She would have to stop in for a real cherry coke because of all the amenities the big city had to offer you couldn’t find a real cherry coke anywhere.  She opened the door to the doctor’s office and stepped inside to see the place her dream s of becoming a doctor had been born.  She could smell the scent of alcohol and peppermints as she walked further inside. 

 

Marley approached the receptionist and stopped mid step as her eyes met the cold hard stare of Millie Hanover.  She hadn’t seen the girl since graduation but she could tell that the years hadn’t changed Millie’s hatred for Marley.  Marley smiled and rested hip on the edge of the desk.

 

“Hi Millie how are you?”

 

Millie glared at her before offering her a sickly sweet smile. “I’m just fine and how are you Marley?”

 

“I’m fine thanks for asking.  I need to see Sam if he’s not too busy.”

 

Millie began to check her appointment book as she clucked her tongue against the roof of her mouth.  Marley clenched her teeth to keep from screaming.  “I don’t see you down for an appointment and I’m afraid we’re all booked today.  If you want to make an appointment I’ll have to make it for next week.”

 

Marley was quickly losing her patients. “Millie give it a rest okay?  It’s been six years and this isn’t high school anymore.  I am sorry I stole your prom date and I’m sorry I won homecoming queen but gees get over it already.  I don’t need an appointment, hell I’m a doctor myself, I just need a minute of Sam’s time so please let him know I’m here.”

 

Millie stood up and leaned across the desk, “I am not the least bit impressed that you’re a doctor or worried about you stealing my crown or my date besides AJ and I have been married for three years now.”

 

Marley looked at her trying to conceal her shock.  AJ had actually married this conniving, deceitful little witch?  She restrained herself from reaching across the desk and smacking the smug look off her horse shaped face.  “Well congratulations that’s great but I really need to talk to Sam.”

 

“I’ve already told you that he’s extremely busy so…”

 

She was cut off as Sam walked into the lobby.  “Marley I didn’t know you were coming by today.”

 

She breathed a sigh of relief as she crossed the room to join Sam.  “Hey Sam how are you?”

 

He hugged her as he led her to his office away from prying eyes and ears. “I’m good and how are you Dr. Timmons?”

 

Marley laughed. “I’m good I was talking to Syd this morning and she mentioned that you might be looking for a partner at the end of the month.”

 

Sam’s ears perked up. “As a matter of fact it may be sooner than that.  My dad had heart problems and I have barred him from the office. So are you interested in the job?”

 

Marley jumped up and down unable to contain her excitement. “Are you kidding me?  I would love to work with you.”

 

Sam smiled and offered her his hand. “Marley you are an answer to my prayers.  I think this will be the beginning of a great new partnership.”

 

Marley shook his hand. “Thank you so much Sam.  I can’t wait to get started just tell me when you want me to start.”

 

Sam looked at his desk planner.  “Tomorrow’s the first and dad has two weeks of appointments set up.  I don’t really think you have to be here for those their just check ups and you already know everybody and they all know you.  I know you want to give notice at the hospital. So why don’t we say you’ll start on September the 20th?”

 

Marley hugged him again. “Sounds perfect, thank you, thank you, thank you!!”

 

Sam laughed as he walked to the door. “I should be thanking you for making this so easy.  I can’t wait to tell Jena she’s been worrying herself sill that’ll I wouldn’t get around to finding a replacement.  I think she was really worried about me not spending time with her and the twins.”

 

Marley laughed. “I am sure that had a lot to do with her worries.  Tell her I said hi and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”

 

Sam followed her out to the lobby and stopped by Millie’s desk. “Millie meet my new partner.”

 

Marley smiled as Millie’s mouth all but dropped to the floor. “So Millie I’ll be seeing you real soon.”

 

Marley waved over her shoulder as she crossed the room and stepped out into the warm sunshine.  She decided to the drug store and ordered a cherry coke to celebrate her new job.

 

Marley pushed the heavy glass door open and stepped into Norton’s Drugstore.  She chatted with Mr. Hoskins her high school biology teacher who was now retired and spent most of his time keeping Mr. Norton company.  She took a seat at the end of the counter and ordered her cherry coke before pulling out her cell phone to call Alana.  She thanked Mr. Norton for her soda as she tapped her foot impatiently on the bottom rung of the stool she was perched on.  After what seemed like forever she heard Alana’s voice.

 

“Hi Marley how did it go with Sam?”

 

Marley gushed, “I got the job can you believe it?  I start in a couple of weeks!!”

 

Alana was happy that things were working out for her friend but as for her she wasn’t having as much luck.  “Congrats Marley.”

 

Marley could hear the dejected undertones in Alana’s voice. “So I take it things aren’t going well with the search for Brian?”

 

Alana groaned into the phone. “No it’s like he never existed at all. I swear when the Jordan family want to make something disappear they bury it so that no one will ever find it.  However I am not most people and I do not give up that easily.  I started with the paper but oddly enough every article from that summer and early fall were missing.  I found that strange until I realized that Sydney’s uncle owns the paper and it’s now run by Beau, Sydney’s cousin who is no help at all.”

 

Marley sipped her soda as she listened to Alana. She wasn’t surprised that the Cole County News was a dead end.  “Alana that’s typical of Beau even if he knew anything about what happened he wouldn’t risk alienated his father to talk to you.  Besides I doubt there was much in the paper about it anyway Brian was adopted by Beau’s parents after Brady died in 1989.”

 

Alana had found more information out in the last five minutes then she had in all of her hours of digging.

“Marley how do you know all that?”

 

Marley slurped down the last of her cherry coke. “Well I was born and raised her of course so I know all the gossip.  You moved her five years after that so I’m not surprised you didn’t know all the details.”

 

Alana had a brilliant idea as she listened to Marley. “Marley you are a genius.  I need to sit down with you and find out all the details of what happened all those years ago.  I think we need to stop looking for a paper trail and rely on what all small towns thrive on local gossip.  I am sure that some of the older ladies in town know exactly what happened that summer.”

 

“That is probably your best idea we can get together tonight after Sydney goes to class.”

 

“Ok sounds good I have to run now or I’ll miss my meeting with Trent.”

 

Marley knew she was right and she wondered why she hadn’t thought of that before.  After she ended the call she decided to pay Gram a visit. 

                                                                       **********************

 

Sydney stood in the middle of the now empty Café and wondered where the week had gone.  It was now five fifteen on Friday afternoon and in about an hour the place would be filled with people to celebrate Javon and Mackenzie’s engagement.  As for Sydney she had spent the week restless and ill at ease wondering exactly what to do about Rick.  Her friends and family had settled into a routine of checking in on her sporadically throughout the day and Trent refused to let her go anywhere after dark alone.  She had feared that she might lose her sanity but then again being so close to Trent was never a bad thing and she found that she wouldn’t mind getting used to it on a permanent basis. 

 

She was already exhausted and she wondered how she would ever get through the rest of the night without falling asleep.  She fell into one of the empty booths and lowered her head to the table breathing a sigh of relief that another week was over with no sign of Rick.  She prayed that maybe, just maybe he had taken the hint and moved on somewhere else.  She doubted it but she could always hope.

 

“Here Syd I brought you a cup of tea.”

 

Sydney laid her head on her crossed arms and smiled at Suzy. “Thanks Suzy I need all the caffeine I can get.”

 

Suzanne could see the dark circles under her eyes and the paleness of her cheeks.  “Syd you just relax and tell me what to do.”

 

Sydney looked around the room and thought how to accommodate the flow of traffic as people mingled and walked through the buffet line for food.  Sydney knew that a lot of people would bring cards and gifts so she thought a small table by the door would be fine for that.

 

“Suzy I thought we could put the food along the counter and people can go along both sides so it won’t be so congested.  I also thought we could cover the tables on the floor with the black table clothes then lay the silver netting on top I have some ribbons to tie at the corners to make them swag.”

 

Suzanne was nodding her head as she began to move tables around to make an area in the middle of the room for dancing.  She then began to cover the tables with the black table clothes.  She glanced over at Sydney and could see her already asleep.

 

“Hey Suzanne would you like some help setting up?”

 

Suzanne looked up to see Dee coming out of the kitchen with Javon.  She smiled and nodded.

“Thant would be great but Jay you get out of here this party is for you.”

 

He grinned as she walked to the table by the door where Suzanne was fussing with the table cloth and the arrangement of red roses and the guest registry.  She placed one hand one her hip as she surveyed the table.

 

“I think it looks okay what do you guys think?”

 

Javon walked up behind Suzanne and placed his arm around her shoulders. “I think it looks perfect.”

 

She sighed as she tilted her head back to look at his laughing eyes.  “Thanks Jay I know I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”

 

He gave her a one armed hug. “That’s why we love you because you always keep us in line.”

 

She grinned as she walked with him to the door.  She unlocked the door so he could step outside. “I’ll see you tonight and good luck on keeping this a secret from Mac.”

 

Javon laughed. “Syd covered that, she told her it was her job to keep Alana away from the Café.  She is going to be so surprised when she gets here and realizes the surprise was for her all along.”

 

“I’ll be sure to have my camera ready!! See you later.”

 

Suzanne waved from the door as she locked it.  She could see the tables along the back wall had been covered with the black table clothes and Dee was making her way around the center.

 

“Dee I’ll start adding the silver and the bows while sleeping beauty rests.”

 

Dee could see Sydney beginning to stir in the corner booth.  “I think she may be waking up.”

 

Suanne began to reply but she saw Trent pulling in the lot.  She walked to the door and let him in.

“Hey Trent how are you?”

 

“Hi Suzy I’m good where’s Syd?”

 

Suzanne pointed to the corner booth. “Sleeping Beauty is waiting for her prince.”

 

Trent could hear Suzanne’s laughter fading behind him as he crossed the room.  He paused beside the booth as the sunlight streamed through the blinds as if it was kissing Sydney’s skin.  He slid in the booth beside her and dropped a kiss to her lips.  He watched in amazement as her eyelids fluttered open to reveal her beautiful brown eyes.

 

“Hey you are you ready to go home?”

 

Sydney straightened and stretched her arms over her head.  She nodded yes as she scanned the transformation that had taken place while she slept.  The Café had taken on a whole new look and it was absolutely beautiful.  The ceiling had been covered with tiny little white lights and soft gray netting. The potted plants in the corners had been covered in white lights as well.  The tables looked beautiful and elegant with crisp black table cloths and silver netting and red bows.  She could smell the roses that had been placed on several of the tables along with balloon bouquets.  She grinned as she saw the arch of helium balloons that surrounded the front door.  She turned toward the counter and saw that the Kerosene lamps had been placed along the counter and the tables to offer romantic feel as the overhead lights were dimmed. 

 

“Ladies you out done yourselves; this is absolutely beautiful I feel like I’m back in high school and going to prom.”

 

Suzanne laughed. “Thanks Syd but all we did was do what you had planned.”

 

“Thank you both.  I’m about to head out with Trent, lock up when you leave?”

 

Suzanne nodded and caught the extra set of keys as they sailed across the room. “Ok we’ll finish up and meet you back here in an hour.”

 

“Ok see you then.”

 

Sydney walked outside with Trent and smiled for the first time all day.  She couldn’t seem to help it but whenever she was with Trent everything just seemed to be better.

 

“So Mr. Isaac how was your day?”

 

He tried to contain his excitement but he finally let his news rush out. “I got the job for the Bed and Breakfast and we started working on Alana’s remodel.  I guess you could say I had a very productive day.”

 

Sydney squeezed his hand. “Congratulations I’m so proud of you.  I know the B & B will be amazing but I am really anxious to see how Alana’s house turns out.”

 

Trent opened Sydney’s door as she climbed inside.  He was giving her a ride home to change and then he would pick her up for the party.  He would then follow her home afterward.  He walked around the car thinking about how much he was looking forward to the renovation on Alana’s house.  He had looked into the history of the house and found that once it was restored to its original design could be listed as a historical landmark.  He hadn’t talked to Alana about that yet but he hoped she would let the historical society feature the house in their quarterly magazine. 

 

As they drew close to Sydney’s apartment he pulled himself out of business mode.  He would not think anymore about work tonight, he knew Sydney was leaving tomorrow for her week long adventure with Alana and Logan.  He thought he had heard Marley say she might tag along too so he was sure that Sydney would be well taken care of but he still would miss her every moment that she was away.

 

“So what are you wearing tonight?”

 

Sydney looked up from her own thoughts and smiled. “I’m just wearing a simple little black dress.”

 

He snorted at the phrase ‘simple little black dress,’ yeah he just bet it would be anything but simple. He often wondered why women said simple when the dress might appear to be modest and simple while hanging in their closet but he knew once Sydney slipped it on it would take on a whole new definition.

 

Sydney glared at him as he pulled up to her curb. “What exactly is so funny about that?

 

He put the truck in park. “Nothing I just know that once you put it on it will not be simple.”

 

She laughed. “You may be right about that but you’ll have to wait and see.”

 

Sydney leaned across the seat and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “See you in an hour.”

 

He watched as she ran up the steps and into house.  He could feel his lips curving into a smile as he did a u-turn and headed out of the apartment complex to pick up Kelsey.   He knew she was excited about the party and seeing Leah again the two girls had hit it off great and he was glad Kelsey seemed to have a friend now.  He hoped that maybe she and Leah would remain as close as Sydney, Alana and Marley had over the years.         

                                                       *********************

 

A couple of hours later the party went off without a hitch and everyone was having a great time.  The gift table was piled high with beautiful wrapped boxes, gift bags and cards. Mackenzie had been taken completely by surprise when she, Javon and Alana had walked into shouts of surprise.  She had no idea that the party had been for her and Javon all along.  Sydney stood behind the counter refilling drinks as Javon escorted Mackenzie to the center of the empty dance floor beneath hundreds of twinkling lights.

He now held up his glass and tapped the side to get everyone’s attention.  “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls may I have your attention please.”

 

Javon waited a moment as the guests took their seats and the room grew quiet.  “I would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us here tonight.  I would also like to thank Sydney for planning and arranging all this.”  He held his glass up in her direction.  She smiled and waved as everyone cheered. “Now most of you know why we’re here tonight but for those of you who are out of the loop let me enlighten you.  I have asked Mackenzie Griffin to marry many times over the last year but tonight I want to make it official.”  Javon dropped to one knee and took Mackenzie’s hand in his and slid a beautiful ½ karat diamond solitaire on her ring finger.


“Mackenzie Cheyenne Griffin will you marry me?”

 

Mackenzie raised her other hand to her mouth and nodded her head emphatically yes as the word came out of her mouth through her tears.  “Yes a thousand times yes.”

 

Javon smiled as he continued to speak. “I vow before God and all of these witnesses that I will put no one above you it other than God almighty.  I will love you unconditionally through good times and bad, I will love Leah as my own and I will cherish you both for all the days of my life.”  He then took her in his arms holding her close to his heart whispering promises of love and how he would never let her go. 

 

Sydney could feel her eyes filling with tears as she watched her two friends so happy in love.   She was truly happy for them and prayed for nothing but good things to come.  As she watched Javon and Mackenzie dancing under the soft twinkling lights she felt an emptiness settling inside.  She wondered if Trent would ever make such vows to her, would he promise to love her forever.  She tied to smile even though her soul was drowning on the inside.  She knew she was being very selfish and self-centered and feeling downright sorry for herself when she should have been overjoyed and celebrating her good friends good fortune.  She wondered yet again what was wrong with her.

 

Sydney looked around the room at the happy couples and she wished she had what they had.  She could feel Trent’s gaze upon her and she threw her hand up in a wave and offered him a smile.  She feared he might cross the room to where she stood but thankfully his mother and Kelsey cornered him.  She saw him take a laughing Kelsey to the dance floor before lifting her to stand on his feet.  She felt a single tear slid down her cheek and she slipped out of the crowded room into the empty kitchen.  She leaned over and tried to calm her nerves, unsuccessfully.  The room seemed to be burning as she felt tiny beads of sweat popping up on her face and neck.  She felt as it room were spinning and the walls closing in around her.  She needed to get some fresh air.  She glanced over shoulder at the dozens of people dancing and laughing behind her.  She gnawed on her lip she really shouldn’t go outside alone but she would only be a minute besides how stupid would Rick be to be here with every law official in the county right inside?  She pushed open the back exit and felt the cool night air caressing her hot skin.  She leaned against the door with her hands on her knees taking deep calming breaths.  She had so much on her mind that she was completely unaware of the man lurking in the shadows behind her.  She stood and turned to go back inside when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Sydney as always the picture of innocence, “he ran his rough hand up her bare arm until his hand fisted in her hair.  “But I know what a two faced little tramp you are.”

 

Sydney was trembling now as he held her so hard she could see the bruises forming on her fair skin. “Rick what are you doing here?”

 

“Why do you think I’m here?  I came to teach you a lesson.”

 

Sydney tried to scream but he quickly covered her mouth with his other calloused rough hand.  Sydney bit down hard on palm and a strangled scream erupted from her lips as the sting of his slap ricocheted off the side of her jaw.  She could feel the blood filling her mouth and she wasn’t sure if it was hers or his or both mingled together.  Sydney tried steady her erratic breathing but panic was bubbling up her throat.

 

“Please Rick don’t do this.”

 

Sydney shuttered at his low, evil laugh filled the air around them.  He was so close to her now that she could smell the alcohol on his breath.  Fear gripped her heart as he pinned her against the side of the building.  She recognized the look in his eyes and she knew exactly what his intentions were. 

 

She closed her eyes as Rick began to jerk the zipper on the back of her simple little black dress down.  She shivered at the sound of the teeth slowly coming undone.  She cried and begged for him to stop but Rick was beyond the point of reason and now it was all about control.  She felt the fabric slip to the ground leaving her exposed before him and she knew that her life would never be the same.  She squeezed her eyes shut as only a few feet away her family and friends were laughing, dancing and completely unaware of what was happening to her in the cold dark night.  She continued to kick and scream but her voice was growing horse and no one could hear her anyway.  Sydney’s last coherent thought as he threw her to the ground was for God to help her.

Oh GOD!!!!!! Noooooo! This cant be happening! I loved everything up until the last part. What a horrible thing to happen. Please let Trent or someone save her. Please dont let him do that to her. She has gotten so much better I fear this will send her spiralling back to the shell she used to be. Please let Trent find her before he gets to far. Oh Esme you did a wonderful job and what a tragic twist. I am completely in suspense so please dont leave me hanging to long. I have to know what happens and I hope Rick gets the stuff kicked out of him by Ryan and the rest of the guys! Please post more soon!!!! I need more! As your boss I demand more. lol AMAZING JOB!!!

Hi Alice I am so glad you liked it and so sorry about the cliff hanger. I am about to finish up the next chapter but i am not sure you'll likeit much better. I promise it will all come together in the end. Rick definitely needs the stuffing beat out of him and we may have to wait a little while for that but no worries what goes around comes back to bite you on the butt lol. Ok off to finish up the new post. thank you so much Alice for reading and always supporting my writing even if it's not the best. Love ya!!

Hugs

Esme

love it

keep going

^^

Thank you so much C.O.O.L!! I am so glad you read it and loved it.

Hugs

Sarah

OH MY JOE!!!!! Wat is dat lunatic gonna do to Syd?!?!?!!!!!!! Plzzzzzz let this be the end of rick!!!!!!

Hey Smru how are you? Thanks for reading and I am so glad you liked it and sorry for the cliff hanger but all will come together eventually. Thanks so much for reading. Did you checkout Little Girl Lost?

Hugs

Sarah


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

THREE STEPS BACK

 

When Sydney regained consciousness she struggled to open her eyes as the very act caused a throbbing pain behind her closed lids.  She squinted to ease the dull ache to find that she was lying in the alley between the Café and the Newspaper.  She could taste the metallic bitterness of blood in her mouth.  She realized that she was shivering as the cool night breeze grazed her bare skin and she saw her ripped dress and undergarments lying at her feet.  She tried to sit up but a wave of nausea hit her as her head began to swim and her vision blurred.  She squeezed her eyes shut and pushed the mind numbing pain away.  She couldn’t remember what had happened to her, how had she ended up here like this? Slowly she began to lift her head and inched across the cold hard ground to the building.  She managed to pull herself up to lean against the wall of the Café.  She breathed in and out trying desperately to remember what had happened and how she had ended up here like this.  She slowly sat up to reach for her clothes and her mind began to clear and she suddenly felt a cold chill run up her spine as she remembered the repulsive feel of Rick’s touch on her skin and the pain of his hand connecting with her jaw line as pain had exploded behind her eye.  She felt fear curling in her belly as she looked frantically around for some sign of him but she found herself completely alone. 

 

She tried to clear her mind and think of what to do, she could hear the laughter and the pulsing music inside the Café; she didn’t want her friends to find her like this.  She gradually calmed her rapid, choppy breaths as she slipped what was left of her dress over her trembling shoulders. She then walked in the door that led to the back of the Café.  She made her way in the dark to her deserted office and grabbed her keys before walking out the back door.

 

She walked on wobbly legs to her car that was still parked in the alley.  She was thankfully she hadn’t moved it after unloading the decorations earlier that day.  She unlocked the doors and collapsed in the driver’s seat.  She reached for her cell phone that was tucked inside the cup holder that sat between the front seats.  She was terrified that if she stayed here too long someone would wander outside and find her huddled in her car.  She didn’t relish the idea of going home to a dark, empty apartment but the only other option was calling her mother.  She knew that would only end badly for several reasons one her mother wasn’t exactly the sensitive type.  Secondly Sydney knew that on some level her mother loved her but she feared that her mother would be disappointed in her.  Then thirdly she had already experienced that on more than once occasion in her life and she really wasn’t up to dealing with that tonight.  She thrust the keys in the ignition and headed home alone. 

 

Sydney was completely oblivious to the scenery blurring past her window.  She drove the car almost mechanically and was surprised to find herself sitting in front of her apartment with no memory of how she had gotten home.  She grabbed her ripped undergarments and stumbled to the door placing her hand on the scanner to disarm the alarm.  She reset the alarm and locked the door before closing all the blinds in the downstairs.  She climbed the stairs on rubbery legs and finally walked into the safety of her bathroom.  She sat on the edge of the tub and turned on the water before climbing in with her ruined dress still on.  She raised her tearstained face to the hot spray of water and let the tears fall her legs grew weak and she slid down the wall to rest against the back of the tub.  She lost all track of time as she scrubbed her skin raw trying to get rid of the feeling of Rick’s touch but she couldn’t get rid of the dirty feeling that was embedded deep inside her soul.  She turned the now cold water off and grabbed a towel off the rack and rubbed the drops of water off her arms and legs.  She slipped her old tattered robe then gathered her ruined clothes and walked back downstairs.  She rummaged around under the sink until she found a black trash bag and put her clothes and shoes in the bag.  She swiped angrily at her tears as she shoved the offensive bag into the trash can by the backdoor.

 

She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes again but she just didn’t seem to have the will to stop them from falling.  She managed to make her way to the living room before falling to the floor.  She gathered her legs to her chest and clasped her arms around her knees.  She sat there in the middle of the living room rocking back and forth crying.

 

She wasn’t sure how long she sat like that or what time it might be but she knew that her friends would be starting to worry about her.  She hadn’t told anyone what she was doing or that she was leaving and she knew they would be looking for her and they would find her.  She crawled to the couch and grabbed the phone to call Suzanne.  She waited as the ringing of the phone echoed in her ear.

 

“Syd, what happened to you?  Trent is about to go nuts looking for you?”

 

Sydney could hear the concern in Suzanne’s voice. “Look Suzy I need you to do me a favor.”

 

Suzanne could hear the strain in Sydney’s voice as she tried to sound light and breezy.  “Sure Syd is everything okay?”

 

Sydney closed her eyes and prayed that God would forgive her for lying. “Yeah, I wasn’t feeling so well and I slipped out and came on home.  I was hoping you and Joey would lock up after everyone leaves.”

 

Suzanne knew Sydney had been under a lot of stress and was exhausted so she agreed. “No problem but if you need anything just call me and I’ll come right over.”

Sydney was well aware of the fact that any one of her friends would be by her side with just a simple phone call but she wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened.  She feared that maybe she never would be.  “Thanks Suzy oh and will you tell Trent I’m sorry for running out on him but I’ll talk to him when I get back.”

 

Suzanne could see Trent pacing by the front window glancing out at the dark night sky. “Sydney he’s really upset maybe you should talk to him now.”

 

Sydney knew she would never be able to lie to Trent and she just didn’t have it in her to tell him what had happened.  She knew it was her own fault, what had she been thinking to walk outside like that?  She hadn’t been thinking and look where that had gotten her.

 

“Suzy please just tell him I’ll talk to him later okay?”

 

“OK Syd and I’ll give the extra keys to Mac tomorrow.”

 

“Thanks Suzy see you when we get back from our road trip.”

 

Suzanne mumbled a quick goodbye and crossed the room to tell Trent about Sydney’s call.  She knew he would be upset but she couldn’t leave him wondering what had happened to her.  She hoped Sydney was okay and that it was just exhaustion that her sounding so a drift. 

                                                       *************************

 

Alana and Marley stood restlessly by Suzanne as she told them what Sydney had said on the phone.  Alana didn’t like this at all she knew Sydney well enough to know that sick or not she wouldn’t have just left like that without telling someone.  She also knew she would have had someone walk her out to her car rather than take the risk of Rick lurking around in the shadows.  She had the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that something was very wrong.  She waited until Suzanne crossed the room to join Joey and turned toward Marley.

 

“Are you thinking what I am?”

 

Marley was already heading for the door. “That something else made Sydney leave and it had nothing to do with her not feeling well?”

 

Alana was right on her heels. “Yeah that’s exactly what I was thinking.”

 

Marley stopped long enough to tell Ryan she was heading home with Alana to check on Sydney.  He was somewhat disappointed that she was cutting their night short but he understood.  He made her promise to call him if they needed anything. 

 

Alana was waiting in her rental car at the front door when Marley stepped outside.  Marley barley had the door closed as Alana sped off out of the lot and around the bend that led home. The two friends didn’t say a word leaving each to their own thoughts.  Alana parked her car behind Sydney’s Mustang and hurried to the door with Marley right behind her.  She wasn’t sure what she expected to find but she held her breath as she pushed the door open and stepped inside the dark house.

 

“Marley I’ll check upstairs you lock the door and set the alarm and check down here.”

 

Marley nodded as she locked the door and rest the alarm.  She laid her bag on the entryway table and slipped her shoes off before walking into the bedroom, then the bathroom.  She could tell that Sydney hadn’t been in the downstairs bath and the bedroom was untouched as well.  She stepped back into hall and met Alana at the base of the stairs. 

 

“She’s not upstairs and all the lights are off down here so unless she’s asleep why would she be sitting in the dark?”

“Maybe she’s asleep or trying to get rid of one of her migraine headaches.”

 

Alana wasn’t sure but they headed into the darkened living room.  As they entered the room Marley flipped on one of the lamps and heard Alana gasp at what she saw.  Marley looked up to see Sydney was sitting in the corner of the couch curled up like a ball.  She had her hands clenched around her knees rocking back and forth.  She looked so fragile and so helpless as if she had lost all her will to live.  Marley crossed the room and took in the left side of her face as it was turning a dark purple, her eye was already turning black.  She noticed her upper lip was busted and a small trickle of blood had dried on her chin. 

 

Alana hurried to her side and placed a gentle hand to her shoulder.  Sydney shrank even further back into the cushions with her hands covering her face.  She was trembling and begging to be left alone.

 

“Sydney calm down it’s just me and Marley.”

 

Sydney raised her head and met Alana’s worried stare.  She watched like a deer cornered in the forest as Alana sat down beside her and Marley knelt on the floor in front of her.  She finally collapsed in their arms and cried.

 

Alana looked at Marley wondering what they should do next.  Marley carefully pushed Sydney back on the couch.  “Sydney honey, I need you to calm down and tell us what happened to you?”

 

Marley had seen this before in Chicago so many young girls had been brought to the ER in shock after being attacked.  She could see the way Sydney was shaking uncontrollably, constantly looking over her shoulder as if she expected someone to be there; she twitched and jerked away from the simplest touch even though it was only her friends in the room.  She had all the signs of post traumatic stress. 

 

Sydney began to speak in a low frightened voice. “I’m really scared just give me a minute.”

 

Alana held her hand and Marley patted her knee. “Take all the time you need Syd.”

 

Sydney pushed the image of Rick breathing in her face and the rank smell of soured alcohol from her mind.   She drew in a breath and began to speak. “I’m not sure exactly what happened or how it happened so fast.  I had been feeling a little light headed and it was so hot.  I walked to the kitchen to clear my head and everything seemed to be spinning and I had to get out of there.  I stepped outside to get some fresh air and to clear my head.  I was just standing outside when someone grabbed me from behind.  I opened my mouth to scream and he covered my mouth.  I tried to fight back but it was like all my defense classes completely left my head.  He slapped me around and pushed me to the ground and left.”

 

Alana was sure that Sydney was leaving out some vital information, but why?  “Sydney why didn’t you come back inside the chief of police and half the police station was right inside.”

 

Sydney shrugged. “I guess I was too embarrassed and all I wanted was to come home.”

 

Alana looked at Marley and knew that she wasn’t buying her story either. Alana looked back at Sydney. “Syd you need to go to the hospital and get checked out.”

 

Marley nodded her head in agreement. “You really do Sydney.”

 

“Marley can’t you just check me out her?”

Marley agreed and left to get her medicine bag.  She hurried back to the room and checked Sydney’s vitals, the she felt for broken bones.  She noticed dozens of bruises up and down her arms that looked like someone with very large hands had been squeezing her arms for an extended period of time.  She knew that if the attack had happened as quick as Sydney wanted them to believe that there wouldn’t have been time for so many bruises.  She also feared that by the size of the lump on her head that she might have a concussion. 

 

“Sydney are you sure that you’ve told me everything because your bruises and other injuries don’t add up. “

 

Marley watched as Sydney pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and gnaw.  She was sure that Sydney was keeping something from her.  She could see doubts and fear filling Sydney’s big brown round eyes.  Marley never took her eyes off of Sydney waiting for her to tell her the rest of the story.

 

“Marley I honestly don’t know what happened after her threw me to the ground because I blacked out.  I have no idea how long I lay there before I woke up a bit disorientated.”

 

Alana looked at Marley as she rubbed a soothing hand on Sydney’s back. “Syd was it Rick?”

 

Sydney lowered her eyes and stared at her hands.  She shook her head no and raised her tear filled eyes toward her friends. “I don’t know who it was but does it really matter it happened and that was bad enough.”

 

Marley looked at Sydney’s hollowed expression and wondered if she would ever be able to get over this.  She also feared that there was more that Sydney wasn’t willing to share or had happened after she blacked out.

 

 “Sydney honey I need you to be honest with me okay?”

 

Sydney mutely nodded her head in agreement but she was now looking at her hands again.  Marley knew this was going to be the hardest question to answer.  “Sydney did he rape you?”

 

Sydney could feel the tears filling her eyes again.  “I don’t know Marley.  I could feel his hands all over my body then the sound of my zipper as he viciously yanked it down and then as my dress fell around my feet I hit the ground.”

 

Marley knew that by the bruises on her arms her attacker had held her down and more than likely he had raped her.  She wasn’t sure how to make Sydney agree to going to the hospital and to calling the police.  She knew that even if they caught the man without any physical evidence it wouldn’t matter; it would be Sydney’s word against her attacker.  Marley feared that Sydney knew her attacker and that it was Rick but what Marley couldn’t understand was why Sydney refused to tell them.

 

“Sydney I know how hard this has been for you and I am so sorry you’ve had to go through this but I need to know where your clothes are.”

 

Sydney looked up and pointed to the kitchen. “I threw them away.”

 

Marley watched Alana slip out of the room toward the kitchen.  “Okay Sydney there are two very important things I need you to do.  I need you to go the hospital and have a rape kit done and I need you to file a police report.  I think you should also file a restraining order against Rick.”

 

Sydney let out a shaky laugh. “I already have a restraining order against him and a lot of good that’s done so far.”

 

Marley continued to press the issue. “Ok then we need to file a report with the police and you still need to have an exam done at the hospital to prove that you have been assaulted.”

 

Sydney was shaking her head no but after a few minute she gave in.  She knew that it was the smart thing to do and so far her own actions had gotten her in trouble in more ways than one. She also knew that if she didn’t go that Alana and Marley would nag her until she did.

                                                  *****************************

 

Alana sat in the waiting area with Marley as Sam administered a thorough exam.  Marley had felt someone not so close to Sydney should do the exam just in case the evidence was ever needed in court.  She nervously tapped her foot on the floor and wondered what was happening on the other side of the curtain behind the window. 

 

“Al you want some coffee or something?  I don’t think I can sit still much longer.”

 

Alana looked over at her friend. “It’s not like you’re sitting still now, your foot has been tapping for half an hour.  Besides I don’t want Sydney left alone if Sam leaves.”

 

Marley knew she was right. “Ok fine there’s a Coke machine in the nurses’ lounge I’ll be right back.”

 

Alana watched Marley cross the room and disappear through a door behind the nurses’ station.  Alana debated on what she should do about Sydney.  She knew that Sydney’s story didn’t ring true to her but she had never known Sydney to lie and she hoped that maybe she was just not telling the whole story.  She wanted to help her but she wasn’t sure what she could do.  She stood up and began to pace the small cramped space by the window leading to the ER exam rooms.  She wished she knew what was going on back there but Sydney had refused to let her or Marley go back with her. 

 

Alana felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up to see Marley standing beside her offering her a coke. “I thought you might be thirsty.”

 

Alana took the ice cold soda and popped the top.  She watched the foam bubble up over the opening and then settle back into the tiny opening she sipped the cool dark liquid and continued her pacing.

 

“Marley what do you think really happened to Syd tonight?”

 

Marley played with the tab of her Coke and shrugged. “I can’t be sure but I think that Rick was spying on Syd tonight and when she walked outside he seized the opportunity to attack and rape her.  I also think that either she knows that or she has blocked it out of her memory and either way she wouldn’t tell us anyway.”

 

Alana shivered at the thought of that creep touching her against her will. “We have to help her Marley.”

 

Marley was about to offer a suggestion when Sam came out into the hall. “Hey guys Sydney’s getting dressed.”

 

Alana looked at Sam and saw the worry in his brilliant blue eyes. “Is it okay if I go back and help her?”

 

“I think that’s a good idea because I honestly don’t think she needs to be alone right now.”

 

Alana nodded and hurried back to help her friend, leaving Marley with Sam.

 

“So how is she?”

 

“She’s bruised and banged up pretty good but I think she’ll be fine.  Marley I’ve given her a script for LORTAB 500MG for pain but they’ll make her sleepy and since she has a concussion don’t let her take them until you know she’s okay.  You guys will have to keep her awake for a couple more hours.  You know what to watch for dilated pupils, lapse in memory and erratic behavior; if she hasn’t showed any of these signs in a couple of hours you can give her one then.”

 

Marley took the paper from Sam and nodded. “Ok got it, Sam how is she really?”

 

Sam looked at Marley with apologetic eyes. “Marley you know I can’t violate patient/doctor confidentiality so all I can say is she’s going to need all the support she can get right now.”

 

Marley nodded her head in agreement as Alana lead Sydney into the waiting area with discharge papers in hand.  Sam sighed in relief thankful that Marley was stopped from asking any more questions that he couldn’t answer.

 

                                                           *****************

 

Several hours later Marley and Alana sat alone in the kitchen drinking coffee and discussing what they could do to help Sydney.  They both knew that something was weighing heavily on her mind and they feared that it was once again all Rick Wells fault.

 

“How long do you think she’ll sleep?”

 

Marley sat her cup down and looked across the counter at Alana as she tidied up the dishes. “The LORTAB is pretty strong so she should sleep soundly for a couple of hours.  The real question is what do you think about leaving her here alone for a week?”

 

Alana didn’t like it all but what could they do?  They couldn’t make her go to Maine and she had flat out refused to discuss it.  She said she was not up to flying or going that far away from home.  Marley feared it was because every hour, minute and second that passed she was retreating inside herself afraid to let anyone get close to her again. 

 

“I understand her not wanting to go but why did she flip out when you told her you would be here too?’

 

Marley turned her cup around between her hands as she thought about Sydney’s bizarre behavior.  “I think she wants time alone to deal with what happened but I’m even more afraid that she may not be physically able to leave the house.”

 

Alana sat down in the stool across from Marley. “I think your right.  I mean as soon as you said that you could take some time off because you were leaving in a couple of weeks anyway she insisted that you take her place.  I don’t like the idea of her being alone here and not to mention that she refused to talk to Trent on the phone.”

 

Marley took a sip of her luck warm coffee. “I know he wanted to come over here and see her but she freaked out on him.  I am almost positive that Trent will here bright and early tomorrow because whether she goes or not he thinks were leaving early in the morning!! I don’t think he will let her leave without seeing him first.”

 

Alana knew she was right. “I guess we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

 

Marley agreed as she poured what was left of the coffee down the drain.  They turned out lights, checked doors and windows before finally checking the alarm and setting the motion detectors. 

Marley quietly entered Sydney’s room and curled up in the corner chair to keep a silent vigil throughout the night.

 

                                                                    ********************

 

The morning sunlight beamed brightly through Sydney’s window far too early the next morning.  Marley hadn’t slept much during the night as Sydney cried out from nightmares that she claimed not to remember.  Marley slowly stretched her arms over her head and got to her feet.  She could see Sydney lying on her side but she knew she was awake.

 

“Hey Syd how are you feeling this morning?”

 

Sydney continued to stare out the window never looking directly at Marley. “I’m fine thanks and how are you?  I am sure you didn’t get much sleep in that old chair and not to mention the ravings of a lunatic at all hours of the night.”

 

Marley knew Sydney was trying  to sound casual as if all was right with the world but Marley heard no inflection or emotion in Sydney’s words.

 

“I slept fine thanks.  So what’s up for today?  I’m pretty sure that Trent will be showing up here any time this morning.”

 

At the sound of Trent’s name she saw Sydney flinch and shift closer to the wall.  “I’m really not up to visitors will you tell him I’m fine just tired.”

 

Marley could hear the tremor in Sydney’s words. “Syd, we’re talking about Trent here the guy who loves and adores you not some stranger off the street.”

 

Sydney shook her head. “Marley I don’t want to see him.  I know he’ll be hurt but I’m not good for him so please just don’t tell him I’m not going with you guys and that I’ll talk to him when we get back.”

 

Marley crossed the room to the door. “Sydney I love you and I am so sorry for what happened to you last night but I will not lie to Trent.  You are not bad for him and he loves you so if you’re going to break his heart then you’ll have to do it on your own because I will not help you do it.”

 

Marley left the room closing the door firmly behind her.  Sydney lay on her side as the tears began to pour from her eyes.  She loved Trent but she couldn’t see him not like this and she knew that he deserved someone far better than she would ever be.  She was broken, scarred and unable to give him what he needed her heart.  She didn’t think she would ever be able to put all the pieces of her heart back together again so how could she possibly give it away?

 

She heard the phone ringing and glanced at the caller ID on the phone by her bed.  She saw Trent’s name and number on the screen she knew she should pick it up but she just couldn’t talk to him.  She had no idea what she would even say to him if she did pick up the phone.  She heard footsteps down the hall and Alana knocking on her door. 

 

“Syd Trent wants to talk to you.”

 

She sat up in the bed and looked at Alana. “I don’t think I can talk to him.”

 

Alana entered the room.  “Sydney he’s downstairs, he was calling from his cell phone outside. He thought you might not answer the phone.”

 

Sydney looked around the room and wondered what to do. “What did you tell him?”

 

“I told him you were upstairs and to I’d check on you.  He has no idea what happened we haven’t told anyone.  It is completely up to you if you tell him what happened to you.”

 

Sydney climbed out of bed and crossed the room to the closet.  “Tell him I’ll be down in a minute but please don’t leave.”

 

Alana nodded. “We still have an hour before we have to leave are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

Alana could hear Sydney’s muffled voice coming from the closet as she got dressed. “I think I need some time alone so this will be better for me.”

 

“Ok I’ll go let Trent know you’ll be down in a minute.”

 

Sydney threw on a pair of sweat pants and a long sleeve t-shirt that concealed her bruised arms. She hurried to the bathroom to try and comb her hair and look at her damaged face.  She cringed as she saw the split lip, black eye and ugly purple bruise on her jaw.  She knew there was no way to cover it up so what was she going to tell him?  She tried to add some makeup to hide the severity but it still looked bad she fluffed her hair to hide her jaw line.  She wondered what Trent would think if she wore sunglasses in the house.  She would tell him she had a migraine headache and that the light hurt her eyes which wasn’t really a lie, her head was pounding and the light was playing havoc on her senses.  She opened the drawer and found a pair of sunglasses and slipped them on. After a quick look in the mirror she thought it just might work.  She took a deep breath and left the bathroom to head downstairs.  She placed one unsteady foot in front of the other and concentrated on not falling down the stairs head first.  She managed to make it to the foyer in one piece but she knew the hard part was taking the final steps to the living room and lying to the man she loved.  

 

 

No! Oh Sydney! I wish it didnt happen like that but I understand why you did it. It was so intense and emotional. I wish she would tell someone. She has to tell someone the whole truth to start recovering from the traumatic experience. I hope Trent wont let her crawl into a hole of lonely-ness and pain. Please let there be some light for her. I am so worried of what might happen. Oh my that was a hard chapter to read so I am sure you had a very hard time writing. You did such a great job with the way the emotions came out to me. WOW. Please post more soon. I will worry. I couldnt stop thinking about what would happen next and now that I know I am afraid of how this will affect her.

Hi Alice thanks so much for reading and yes she has to tell someone before she explodes. I hope you don't hate me after you read the next chapter. I wasnt finished with it but i kind of left it with a cliff hanger cause i hated to keep you waiting any longer. I hope you like it.

Hugs

Esme


CHAPTER NINETEEN

NUMB

Trent sat at his desk with the phone still in his hand, peering out the rain splattered window wondering why Sydney refused to talk to him or to leave her house.  She had been fine until the night of the engagement party and then something had happened but he had no idea what.  She had seemed fine bouncing around the Café and then she had been gone.  Trent had looked for her but she had left without saying a word to anyone and that wasn’t like her.  He had tried to call but her cell phone had went straight to voice mail.  He had stopped by her house the following morning to talk to her before she left on her road trip only to find that she was remote and distant not looking at him or saying much of anything.  He could still see her nervously tapping her foot as she avoided looking at him or offering anymore than a one word response to his questions.  After several minutes she had finally told him that she didn’t want to see him anymore with the it’s me not you defense.    

 

He had thought he would be able to talk to her when she got home but that had been weeks ago and she refused to answer the phone or return any of his messages.  As he thought about it he realized that she never left the house these days and he wondered if she was avoiding him or if something had happened to make her afraid to leave the house.  He had this feeling deep down in his bones that something had happened to her, something so horribly bad that she had decided to push him away.  The more he thought about that the angrier he got.  He would not let her do this, she was not the only one hurting every day, hour and minute he spent away from her was slowly killing him.  He had the overwhelming need to see her, to touch her and to hold her until she forgot why she had been hurting in the first place. 

 

He released his grip o the phone and dropped it back on the cradle.  He was agitated and restless as he ran his hand over his rough, unshaven chin.  He was tired of waiting for her to return his calls and texts and he was tired of sitting around waiting for some form of human response from Sydney.  He stood to his feet and grabbed his jacket before heading out into the pouring rain.

 

He ran to his truck with his head down as the rain pelted the back of his bare neck.  He didn’t feel the rain or the wind whipping through his shaggy hair all he felt was the cold numb ache where his heart was supposed to be, where Sydney was supposed to be.  He slammed the door shut and thrust the key in the ignition.  He heard rumble of the engine and his hands shook as he adjusted the heater.  He found it hard to believe that it was already November and he hadn’t seen Sydney since September.  As the heat blasted from the vents he felt his fingers begin to unthaw.  He heard his cell ringing in his pocket and he slowly checked the caller ID to see Ryan’s number.  He answered it in a gruff voice.

 

“Yeah what ‘s up?”

 

Ryan could hear the undercurrent of stress and worry in Trent’s clipped tone. “Hey boss I just finished up stripping all the walls at Alana’s place.  I checked the foundation for termite damage but it’s all good. I guess I am going to tell the guys to head on home for the weekend.”

 

Trent glanced at the digital glow of the clock and saw that it was after six.  He hated the way night fell so early in the winter.  “Okay thanks Ryan have a good weekend.”

 

Ryan knew his next question was quite likely to get his head ripped off but he asked it anyway.  “Trent, you okay?”

 

Trent sat alone in his truck watching the rain roll down the windshield wondering how to answer such a loaded question.  He sighed and let all his barriers fall. “Honestly I don’t know if I’m coming or going anymore.  I just need to see her and know that she’s still there.”

 

Ryan could hear the quiver in his voice as if he might cry at any moment.  “Trent I just got off the phone with Marley she and Alana are both with her right now.  I’m heading over there to take Marley to dinner so maybe you should just happened to meet me over there.”

 

Trent was already pulling out of the parking lot heading that way.  “I’m heading that way I’ll see you there.”

 

He heard the click of the phone in his ear and he hoped that Sydney would at least talk to him.  He missed her voice in his ear, the feel of her hand holding his, the warmth the smile she gave only to him and the sound of her heart beating so fast it sounded as if it might jump right out of her chest when he held her in his arms. Hell he just missed her and all the time in the world wouldn’t change that.

 

He pulled up in front of Sydney’s apartment and saw that Ryan hadn’t made it across town yet.  He sat in the cab of the truck and wondered what was going on behind those dark windows and closed doors.  He sat alone watching for Ryan’s headlights in the rearview mirror.

                                                                **********************

 

Sydney listened to the steady rhythm of the falling rain on her window.  She had no sense of time as it seemed to make no difference at all what day of the week it was as one day flowed endlessly into the next.  Time seemed pointless as her life had become one of solidarity and seclusion.  She couldn’t even imagine stepping out into the world that lay outside her front door or taking the chance that Rick might be there waiting for her.  She feared that he might be in her car, slinking down the block, hiding behind a menu at the café or behind her at the grocery store it had all become too much.  She imagined him everywhere so she just shut down.  She knew her family and friends were worried about her but she would not take them with her on this journey into nothingness.  She still ached for Trent, for his soft words of comfort and his touch that was like a soothing balm to her soul but she refused to pull him into the hell that had become her life he deserved far better than that. 

 

Sydney’s life had all but ended that night two months ago when Rick had attacked her in the alley.  She honestly couldn’t remember anything that happened after her head hit the cold concrete but she feared the worst.  She had ached and hurt all over and even now weeks later she could feel his rough calloused hands roaming her body and clasping her arms.  He had left her body there bruised and battered but he had left her soul numb and broken beyond repair.  She shivered as the shrill ringing of the phone cut through the quiet of the empty house.  She listened as the answering machine picked up and once again it was Trent’s soft pleading voice floating in the room around her.  She squeezed her eyes shut as he begged her to pick up the phone and to talk to him.  She turned away from the sound and tried to push the nagging little voice that told her to pick up the phone and call him back.  She wouldn’t, it was better this way eventually he would forget her and move on.  She knew he would find a nice, normal girl who wouldn’t bring havoc and drama at every turn.  She swiped at the tears that slipped from beneath her closed eyelids as the thought of another woman in his arms chipped what was left of her heart into tiny little pieces.

 

Sydney welcomed the numb feeling that had taken root deep inside for it was so much easier to feel nothing.  She knew that as long as she stayed here that nothing could touch her or hurt her again.  She had lied to Trent and told him she was fine but that things were just moving a little too fast for her.  She had told him she needed time and that she understood that he might not want to wait.  He had tried to tell her that he would wait until she was ready but she had told him in no uncertain terms that she didn’t love him and it was pointless for him to wait for something that might never be.

 

So now here she sat alone remembering the words he said before he left that day. He had been hurt, upset and angry.  His words repeated in her head over and over every day.

 

‘Syd I don’t know what you’re running from or what you’re trying to find but when you get there I hope you find me.”

 

She cried as the tears fell and she suddenly felt ill.  She jumped to her feet holding her stomach and ran to the bathroom.  She knelt in front of the porcelain toilet until she had emptied her stomach.  She wondered what exactly she had thrown up because she wasn’t eating much these days, in fact the very thought of food made her nauseous.  She was more than a little worried about her lack of appetite, weight loss, lightheadedness, unquenchable thirst and the urge to pee every five minutes.  Marley had noticed as well and advised her to make an appointment for some test to rule out diabetes.  Sydney knew that adult on set ran in her family but she prayed it was just her nerves and the stress of what had happened in September.  She had an appointment with Sam this afternoon and Alana was supposed to be going with her.  She rubbed her hands on her pant leg and slowly stood to her feet.  She looked at her pale face in the mirror and wondered what exactly was wrong with her.  Sydney quickly washed her face and brushed her teeth before walking back to the couch to wait for Alana.

 

Sydney was deep in thought trying to remember all the things she had said to Trent that horrible day after her world had came crashing down around her.  She closed her eyes and tried to remember what he looked like and what he had said but it was all a blur in her mind and it was fading in out until she couldn’t distinguish that from the image of them at the park, the beach, the baseball field and sharing ice=cream on a hot August night.  She wiped at the stray tear that had escaped her eye and rose to her feet as she heard Alana’s voice from the door. 

 

“Syd, are you ready?”

 

Sydney stood rooted to the spot and tried desperately to put one foot in front of the other and walk the short distance to the front door.  She could feel her breaths coming in faster as her lungs seemed to be on fire and her heart began to pound in her ears.   She stumbled and caught herself on the door frame leading to the foyer.  She leaned over pulled in long deep breaths, willing her heart to slow down.  She felt Alana’s hand on her shoulder.

 

“Syd here take one of her pills.”

 

Sydney looked up and saw her prescription bottle in Alana’s hand.  She had taken the anxiety medicine after several months of therapy when she had been ready to try and leave the house.  She had forgotten about it but she was glad to have it.

 

“Al, how did you know about that?”

 

She placed one of the capsules in Sydney’s hand.  “I remembered you were taking some meds last year to help ease the anxiety of leaving the house.  I know you were embarrassed about it but I called in a refill on the empty container in the medicine cabinet.  I hope you’re not upset with me.”

 

Sydney took the pill and shook her head no.  “Not at all; in fact I’m grateful.  Thanks Al.”

 

Alana took Sydney’s hand. “No problem do you want to sit down and wait a few minutes for the medicine to kick in?”

 

Sydney glanced at the clock and shook her head no.  “Just get me to the car and I’ll be fine.”

 

Alana walked slowly with Sydney to the front door letting Sydney take all the time she needed to get there.  They stood looking out the open door until Sydney felt safe enough to walk outside.  She held Alana’s hand and stood looking up and down the street for several minutes before she took one tentative step down the sidewalk to the car.  She stared straight down at the ground concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other until she was standing by Alana’s eco-friendly Prius.  Alana reached around and opened the door for Sydney to get in. She then closed the door and ran to the other side and climbed in beside her to drive the short distance to Sam’s office.

                                                *****************************

 

 

Sam closed his office door and faced Marley.  He had a few minutes before Sydney’s appointment and he wanted to talk to Marley before he began.  He could see her sitting nervously on the edge of his desk bouncing her leg furiously up and down.

 

“Sam what is this all about?  Is there something wrong with Syd?”

 

Sam crossed the room and sat down across from Marley’s anxious face. “Calm down Marley, I haven’t even seen her yet.  I just wanted to know how she’s doing.”

 

Marley shrugged her shoulders. “She emotionally and physically she’s a wreck.  She barely leaves her room much less the house and she refuses to talk about what happened.  She won’t answer the phone or return any calls and she flinches anytime a man come near her.  I am really worried about.”

 

Sam wondered if Sydney would be comfortable with him doing her exam.  “Marley do you think Syd would be more comfortable if you perform the exam.”

 

Marley eased herself off the desk and paced the floor. “I think she’ll be jumping out of her skin if you come near her; but we should wait and see what she wants.”

 

Sam nodded. “Ok she’s probably here by now.  I told Millie to take her to exam room 3 why don’t you come with me and we’ll let her decided.”

 

Marley followed Sam down the hall to exam room 3.  She saw Alana sitting with Sydney and she ached to ease the pain that was etched on Sydney’s pale cheeks.  She stepped in and closed the door on Millie who was hovering around the corner.

 

Sam watched Sydney for signs of distress.  “Sydney you called and scheduled this appointment today but I am concerned that you may not be up for me to do the examination.  I am more than willing for Marley to do it or for Alana to stay with you while I do the exam.  Syd, my concern is for you and your overall health.”

 

Sydney could feel the fear crawling up her throat and the tears filling her eyes.  “I trust you Sam and I want you to do the exam.”

 

Alana looked at Sydney and spoke softly. “Syd do you need me to stay with you.”

 

Sydney shook her head no. “Thanks Alana but I’ll be fine.”

 

Alana followed Marley into the hall. “Al she’ll be fine if anything happens Sam will come get one of us.”

 

Alana nodded. “Ok I’ll be in the lobby if you need me.”

 

Marley watched Alana’s retreating back as she opened the door that led to the waiting room.  She then walked back to her office to look over the charts for her afternoon patients.  The lines began to blur as her thoughts returned to Sydney.  Marley had been worried about her for weeks and had thought she would never be able to convince her to see Sam.  She wondered what he would find after all the blood work and labs came back.  She knew that it might be nothing but Marley feared it was more than stress and anxiety.   She shuffled her files and headed out to see her first patient.

 

                                                **********************

 

Sydney sat nervously in the exam room waiting for Sam to tell her something, anything besides the fact that she was crazy.  She realized she was biting her fingernails she hadn’t done that since high school.  She could still remember how it made her mother cringe.  She stuffed her hands in her pockets and wondered what was taking so long.  She was growing impatient as she glanced at the clock and realized she had been here for over an hour.  She sat up straight as she heard a soft knock on the door. 

 

Sam walked into the room and quietly shut the door behind him.  “Syd are you still doing okay?”

 

Sydney gave a shaky laugh. “I don’t know I thought that was what I came here to find out.”

 

Sam sat down on the stool by the exam table. “Well Syd, let me put your mind at ease you are not sick or terminal ill.”

 

Sydney swallowed. “Am I diabetic?  That runs in the family.”

 

Sam gave a good natured laugh. “That was my first concern but the test was negative however there is another condition that has similar symptoms.”

 

Sydney raised her eyes to see Sam smiling at her sadly. “Ok Sam what is it?”

 

“Well Syd you are very much pregnant. I estimate your due date around May 28.”

 

Sydney thought she must be hearing things.  “Sam did you say pregnant?”

 

He nodded his head.  “Yes Syd I won’t be sure of the due date until we do an ultrasound.  If you’re up to it we can head over to the hospital and have it done now.”

 

“Sam are you sure?  I mean how is this even possible?”

 

 

Sydney could feel the ice around her heart beginning to thaw but the fear in her heart was unbearable.  She was pregnant and she had no idea who the father was.  She had been with Trent on the Sunday before Rick attacked her in the alley on Friday and the due date could be plus or minus a week.  She could feel the tears falling soundlessly down her face as she left the room with Sam.

                                                                **************

 

Sydney sat alone in her room staring at the calendar as if the dates might magically change.  She had no way of knowing who the baby’s father was.  Her little miracle could very well have been conceived that one night with Trent or the night that she couldn’t remember when Rick had violently attacked her.  Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on her door.

 

“Come in.”

 

She watched the door open and Alana walk in. “Syd, Trent is on the phone again.”

 

Sydney bit her lip and looked away from Alana’s probing eye. “Al will you please tell him I’m asleep.”

 

Alana sighed. “Syd, please talk to the man.”

 

“Al, I can’t not right now.  Please just tell him I can’t come to the phone.”

 

Alana continued to stand her ground. “He calls here every day and you’re never able to come to the phone.  Come on Syd just talk to him you owe him at least that.”

 

Sydney clutched her stomach.  “I don’t want to discuss this right now.”

 

Sydney ran past Alana toward the bathroom as her stomach began to roll.  She rested her head on the toilet as she heard Alana hanging up the phone. Sydney climbed to her feet and splashed water on her face.  Alana stood in the door watching her reflection in the mirror noticing how pale and weak she looked. 

 

“Sydney, you okay.”

 

Before she answered Marley came down the hall.  “Hey what’s going on?  Syd what is it you look a little green.”

 

Sydney grew weak in the knees as she leaned against the sink.  “I’m not okay and I really need to talk.”

 

Marley and Alana flanked her one on each side and helped guide her down the hall. “We’re here for you Syd, just tell us what’s going on and what we can do to help.”

 

Sydney sat down on the bed and began to talk in a hushed voice.  “I’m pregnant.”

 

Both girls looked at each other and wondered what to say.  Marley spoke first. “Syd, how is that even possible?  I mean after the miscarriage I thought it was impossible for you to get pregnant.”

 

Sydney wiped the tears that had trickled down her face with the back of her hand.  “Yeah that’s what Sam thought too.  After Rick pushed me down the steps I lost the baby and they removed half my ovary because of a tumor.  Sam honestly didn’t think I would ever be able to have a baby.”

 

Marley nodded. “Okay I get that but didn’t Sam give you the morning after pill when he examined you after the   attack?”

 

Sydney looked at her friends and knew she would never be able to handle all of this on her own so she decided to tell them everything.

 

“He tried to but I refused.  I would not kill an innocent baby no matter what happens from here on out I will love this baby.”

 

Marley knew how much Sydney wanted to have children. “So I guess this means that your unknown attacker did in fact rape you.”

 

Sydney drew in a deep breath and steadied her nerves. “Well I am still not sure what happened that night but it was Rick.”

 

Marley had been 99% sure that it was that jerk from the beginning. “Ok so we know that he raped you.”

 

“The thing is I don’t know if he did or didn’t. “ Sydney could see the confused looks on her friends’ faces so she hurried on with her confession. “You guys have to understand how Rick’s mind works.  The way he was looking at me was more about control and he knows he has the upper hand because he knows I’m going crazy right now by not knowing what happened.”

 

Marley was shaking her head while Alana held Sydney’s hand. “Syd that is one seriously messed up dude.  I hate to ask this but did you not know how screwed up he was before you said I do?  What about his family?”

 

Sydney had no idea what his family was like she had never met them. “I don’t know Marley, I’ve never met them.  His mother died when he was young, his dad is a an alcoholic and I have no idea if he’s still alive and I think he had one brother but he never talked about him much so I don’t know.”

 

“Ok so what are you going to do now?”

 

“Honestly I don’t know but there’s more.”  Sydney sat staring at the floor struggling to find the words to voice her greatest fears.  “The thing is that my pregnant doesn’t mean that he raped me.”

 

Marley exchanged a worried look with Alana as they both wondered what Sydney was leaving out. Sydney could feel the tears leaking from her closed eyes; she drew a deep breath and said the words that shattered what was left of her fragile heart.

 

“Before I blacked out Rick was taunting me and telling me what a lying, conniving tramp I was.  He said he knew I had cheated on him with Trent because he had been following me and he had seen his truck her Sunday night.”

 

Sydney’s words hit Marley like a ton of bricks. “Oh my gosh Sydney.”

 

Alana looked a little confused as if she didn’t understand what the big deal was. Sydney looked at her and whispered the answer as she imagined fate laughing at her.  “Al you know I don’t sleep around and until Sunday night Rick was the only man I’d ever been with.”

 

Alana’s eyes grew wide with understanding. “You and Trent oh…”

 

Sydney nodded her head slowly as the new dilemma sunk in.  Marley asked the unspoken question so now you don’t know who the baby’s father is, it could be Trent or it could be Rick if he did in fact rape you.”

 

Sydney nodded her head dejectedly as the words still lingered in the air. Alana handed her a tissue as the tears fell like a torrential rain storm with no sign of stopping.

 

The two friends flanked Sydney one on each side and held her as she cried.  After several minutes Sydney blew her nose and sat up on the bed.  She looked at her best friends in the whole world and wondered what they were thinking right now.  Alana cleared her throat and looked at Sydney’s red puffy eyes.

 

“So Syd what are you going to do now?”

 

Sydney shrugged her shoulders and stared out the window. “I don’t know that I have that many options.”

 

Alana stood and began to pace the floor. “Well of course you have options,  first there’s the question of your health.  Did you ask Trent what the risks were for you if you decide to have this baby?”

 

Sydney shifted and looked indignantly at her friends. “I already know what the risks are it will be a difficult and high risk pregnancy but that’s not even an issue.  I am having this baby.”

 

Alana nodded her head. “Ok well then the next question is when are you going to tell Trent and are you going to try and track down Rick and get a paternity test?”

 

Sydney couldn’t even think about seeing Rick again or having to deal with him for the next eighteen years.  “Alana don’t you understand?  This baby may or may not be his and I will not ask him to take responsibility for a baby that very well might not be his.  As for Rick he can burn in hell before he ever lays eyes on this baby.”

 

Marley picked that moment to chime in with her opinion. “Sydney don’t you think you owe it to Trent to tell him the truth and to let him make his own decision based on all the facts?”

 

Sydney turned away from her friends and wiped the tears away. “I just don’t think I can tell him what happened to me.”

 

Marley could see her retreating inside the walls she had build over the last several weeks. “Sydney why can’t you tell him?”

 

She wrapped her arms around herself and they could see her shoulders begin to tremble.  “I don’t want to see the pity in his eyes or have him sacrifice his own happiness to save me and I guess what scares me the most is the fear that he might never look at me the same way again, that maybe he’ll look at me as if I’m broken beyond repair. “  Sydney blew her nose and wiped her eyes. “But the real thing that scares me is what if he’s right?  I mean look at me I’m a mess I can’t even leave the house or be alone with a man so how am I ever going to have a relationship with Trent?”

 

“Sydney Trent loves you, he’ll help you through this.”

 

The tears began to cascade down her pale cheeks as her body began to tremble. “It’s been over two months and it’s not getting any easier.  I can’t even leave the house, I’m afraid to answer the phone or to check my own mail for fear of what I’ll find.  I fall apart at the mere touch of my brother’s hand on mine.  I am so far gone this time I don’t know how to find my way back to the girl I used to be.”

 

Sydney let her friends hold her and dry her tears.  She felt like the whole world was falling in around her and that she might never see daylight again.  She wondered how she would ever get through this without falling apart every and what exactly her mother would have to say about her unplanned pregnancy.    

 

After several minutes she untangled herself from Marley and Alana’s arms.  “Okay guys I need to start taking better care of myself.  I am going down to the kitchen to eat some crackers and try to stop the rolling in my stomach.”

 

Alana nodded her head animatedly. “I’ll pick up  your prenatal vitamins and some bottled water.”

 

Sydney gave Alana a grateful smile. “Thanks Al that’d be great.  Look guys I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do about little bit so promise me you won’t tell anyone.”

 

Marley and Alana swore to keep secret until she was ready to tell her family and friends.  They hated keeping it from Trent but they knew it was something that she had to do on her own.  Marley heard the door bell and knew it was Ryan.

 

“Come on guys that’s probably Ryan.”

 

Sydney walked down the stairs with Alana and Marley right behind her.  Sydney could feel her palms beginning to sweat at the thought of Ryan seeing her like this.  She walked quickly into the darkened living room and sat with her back to the door and watched the rain that showed no sign of stopping.  She could hear Ryan and Marley talking and then the sound of the door closing.  She knew that she was being rude but she wasn’t up to pretending like everything was okay when in fact everything in her life was slowly falling apart.  She heard footsteps behind her and waited for Alana to say something but all she heard was the heavy silence in the air and the rain bouncing off the window. Then she froze as a soft voice floated across the room.

 

“Hey Syd how are you?”

 

Trent could see her sitting in the soft glow of the moonlight streaming through the rain splattered window.  The sight of her tore at his soul, she looked so lifeless as if she had withdrawn inside herself blocking everything and everybody out.  She never moved an inch but continued staring out the window into the cold dark night.  He moved quietly across the room and ached for the shell of the woman he saw before him who didn’t resemble the girl he knew at all. 

 

Trent stood by the window with his heart slamming in his chest at the sight of her once bright eyes now flat and cold.  He could feel her pulling away from him as if she didn’t care if she lived or died.  He wouldn’t let her push him away and hide in a corner.

 

“Syd, please don’t act like you don’t know or like you can’t talk to me.  I want to be here for you, to help you and to be whatever you need so please don’t shut me out.”

 

He could see her lips pursed in a hard line, refusing to meet his gaze.  She slowly shook her head from side to side still watching the leaves and rain blowing frantically outside the window.  Trent wanted to reach out and touch her, to shake away whatever deluded thought had taken root in her head taking her away from him as if she were already dead.

 

“You haven’t left this apartment in weeks, you haven’t even been to the Café since Mac and Jay’s party, you don’t answer the phones, you ignore my texts and messages.  Syd your hiding from the world but you don’t have to hide from me, please Syd I love you.  Please don’t let Rick do this to you again.”

 

At the sound of Rick’s name he saw her flinch as her hooded eyes watched him from beneath her lashes.  She couldn’t let him see her fall apart, no she had to hold herself together and make him understand that there was no future for them.  She wouldn’t let him see how hard this was, the hardest thing she had ever done. She knew that leaving Trent would be harder than ending her marriage, losing her family and friends and losing the illusion of the happily ever after that all little girls dream of.  Yes this was the hardest thing but she knew she was damaged beyond repair and he deserved so much more than she would ever be able to offer him.  He deserved someone who was able to give him their heart but she knew her heart wasn’t hers to give.

 

Sydney hardened her heart and thought of all the things that happened to her and how ugly it made her feel.  She pictured Rick and Brian and she could feel hatred consuming her and she knew she would tell him her version of the truth however distorted it might be.

 

Trent watched as she turned slightly, raising her cold empty eyes toward him but not really looking at him.  He saw those ghosts in the depths of her hate filled eyes.   

 

 

 

 

 

Oh my lord.. Shes with child... whose child??? This is an issue!! ANd whose Brian.. what did he do to our syd?!?!?!??!

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