C 30


“Higher, Mama! Higher!” Milo squealed with glee as I lifted him up and swung him around and around. It was a warm and sunny day and we were enjoying some time at the park together. It’d been three glorious months since we’d left our old lives behind and moved to the peaceful desert town of Tuckerwood. It was so quiet here, you could almost hear the tumbleweeds passing through the streets. It was exactly what we needed.

“Okay, little guy. I think that’s enough of that…we don’t want to get too dizzy.” I kissed him on the cheek and set him down. “It’s time to go get some lunch…how about we eat then come back here later?” I mentioned to him as I straightened my clothes but he wasn’t listening…he took off with his hands stretched out in front of him. “Look Mama! Puppy!” I caught up with him just in time to stand in between him and the strange dog. “You can’t run up to animals like this, Milo! You could’ve been hurt!” I scolded him.

“It’s fine, mam. Cinnamon is completely harmless.” I whirled around and came to face to face with a handsome redhead. “You can pet her if you’d like.” He smiled down at Milo who in turn stuck out his lower lip to pout. I sighed and gave in. Milo always got his way. “Go ahead.” I waited long enough to let Milo pat the dog on the head a few times. “That’s enough. Thank you.” I politely told the man and then I took Milo by the hand to lead him away. “Wait…may I ask you something?” He called after me. I halted and glanced back at him. “Yes?”

“Well…forgive me for intruding…but are you married?” His cheeks turned pink as he asked this. “No…I’m not.” I crossed my arms over my chest and stared at him warily. “Look, I’m sorry.” He apologized sincerely as he shifted his weight from one foot to another. “I’m not usually so forward. It’s just that I couldn’t help but notice you while I was walking my dog. And I had to come speak to you.” He shrugged sheepishly. “You’re a very beautiful woman.” My suspicions began to fade then. I was flattered.

“Do you think maybe I could take you out for coffee sometime?” He looked so full of hope…I knew it would be hard to let him down easy. But before I got a chance to really think it over, my mouth began moving on it’s own. “I’d love to! We should exchange phone numbers right?” He nodded his head eagerly and pulled his cellphone from his pocket. “Oh…I’m Paul, by the way.” He introduced himself with a shy smile. “Well hello, Paul. It’s a real pleasure to meet you.” I flirted shamelessly as I stuck out my hand for him to shake. “My name is Rachel.”

The End.



C 29


“So Hannah…are you having an affair with my husband?” I asked bluntly at dinner. “What?” The petite brunette choked on her food and looked up at me in bewilderment. I stared back at her steadily then drained my wine glass. She turned her questioning gaze to Ricky and he shook his head to silence her. Hannah was different from the woman in my dream but in a sense, she was the same. “You know what…you can have him. I won’t get in your way.” I shrugged and poured myself another glass of wine. “Isabel.” Ricky warned me darkly. “You’ve had enough.”

“Oh, you’re right. I’ve had enough. Of you.” I stood suddenly and took Milo out of his high chair. “Let’s go bye-bye…how does that sound?” He grinned and clapped his hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” Ricky jumped up from his chair, his face red with anger. “I’m doing what I should’ve done years ago. I’m leaving and I’m taking my son with me. And if you even dare to try and stop me, I…WILL…KILL…YOU.” I hissed at him furiously. Ricky put his hands up and backed away from me. “Isabel…you’re not acting like yourself. You should really go lie down. I’m sure you’ll feel better in the morning. Now come on.” He took me by the arm and tried to drag me back to the bedroom.

“Get off of me!” I cried as I pulled his hand to my mouth and bit down hard enough to make him squeal. I’m pretty sure I tasted blood and in that moment, I felt invincible. He jerked away and gaped at me. “I can’t believe it! You bit me? Like some kind of animal? Have you lost your mind?” He yelled frantically as Hannah hurried over to inspect the bite. “You should be medicated!” She spat at me then she cradled Ricky’s arm. “It’s pretty funny that you say that.” I growled, turning in her direction. “Maybe I’m crazy? Maybe I should be sent to a mental institution? I bet you already have a place in mind. Right?” She looked at me in shock, opening and closing her mouth but no words came out.

“Please…you can’t take my son away. I don’t deserve this!” Ricky pleaded with me. “No, you deserve a lot worse actually! In fact, the two of you deserve each other.” I glared at them with a deep hatred burning inside of me. I wanted to hurt them…so badly…but I couldn’t. Milo was watching. “Izzy, baby, think about what you’re doing.” He tried to appeal to me once more. “I know exactly what I’m doing! And do not call me that!” I screamed. He shrank away from me in terror. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath to calm myself. Then I bent down to pick Milo up. He giggled and cupped my cheek. Instantly my heart felt lighter. “If you come after us, you’ll be sorry. I promise you that.” I told Ricky and Hannah as I walked to the front door. Luckily. they made no move to stop us. “Goodbye, Richard.”

It was finally over. We were free.

C 28


I sat upright and clutched my pounding chest. As my breathing slowed down, I scrutinized my surroundings. I was at home. In my bed. Milo tugged on my leg to get my attention once more. “Mama! Up!” He clapped his hands and grinned. “Yeah…I’m awake, little guy.” I tried to smile back at him and failed miserably. With a deep sigh, I flopped back onto my pillows and stared up at the ceiling. I’d never had a dream feel so vivid before. So real.

Then came the all too familiar sound of heavy footsteps stomping down the hall. The door flew open and Ricky walked in. He curled his lip in disgust. “What are you still doing in bed, Izzy? It’s almost dark outside! Get up!” He demanded as he wagged his finger in my face. I quickly jumped up and pulled Milo onto my hip. “And just look at this mess! You just let your son destroy everything while you sleep the day away?” I stared down at my feet guiltily. “I’ll clean it up, I promise.” I told him when he finished ranting and raving at me. “You sure will. We’re having a guest over for dinner tonight. You need to take a shower, get dressed, and wear something nice. Now get a move on it.” I jerked my head up and looked at him. It was déjà vu all over again. “Is it a woman?” I asked. He raised a brow and grunted. “Yes. A co-worker of mine. And I want you and Milo on your best behavior tonight. Do you understand me?” I ignored him and stared out of the window for a minute. Things were getting weird. Ricky turned his back and began to walk away.

“Wait. Is her name Savannah?” I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. “Close. It’s Hannah.” He narrowed his gaze at me. “Have you been been eavesdropping, Izzy?” I shook my head and tried to look as innocent as possible. “No, not at all. It was just a guess.” He gave me a distrustful glare before stomping off.

I began to clean in a frenzy and all the while my mind was trying to process what was going on. Was there more truth to my nightmare than I’d originally thought? Was it a glimpse into the future…or was I really starting to lose my grip on reality?

I was brushing my teeth after my shower when I happened to glance into the mirror. I gasped when I saw Rachel standing there. “Guess I really am crazy.” I snorted and almost swallowed a mouthful of toothpaste, which appeared to amuse Rachel. As I gazed back at her, realization finally hit me. She’d been with me all along…Rachel was part of me. An identity I’d created to help me cope. She was all of the things I wanted to be. Bold. Fearless. Strong. And unwilling to take shit from anyone. “It’s time.” She whispered into my ear. I nodded my head and closed my eyes. “It’s long past time.”

C 27


We were crouched down on the floor, frozen in place. “Did anyone follow you back here?” Rachel mouthed to me. I shook my head. “I don’t think so.” She looked very worried. We moved closer to the door and tried to avoid the window since the curtains were drawn back. There was another knock and it was a lot louder than the first one. Rachel put her finger to her lips and looked down at Milo. I kneeled down and took his hand. “Let’s be quiet for a minute, okay?” He nodded and batted his eyes sweetly at me. “Who is it?” Rachel called out bravely.

“Willow Creek Police Department!” Came the voice from the other side. “Come out with your hands up!”

At that moment, a weird feeling passed over me. “Something isn’t right.” I mumbled and held my head in my hands as the room swam before me. “I feel dizzy.” Rachel shook my shoulders hard. “Pay attention!” She urged impatiently. “Now this is the plan.” She told me in a hushed whisper while she pulled a gun from the waistband of her pants. “You’re going take the kid and go out the window in the bathroom. I’ll distract the cops while you escape.” My eyes grew wide when I realized her intent. “Are you crazy, Rachel? I’m not leaving without you! We’re in this together!” I reminded her. “Well…one of us has to take the fall. And it’s not going to be you.” She gave me a sad smile. “I told you I’d do anything for you. And I meant it. Now get out of here.” She leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. “No! I can’t!” I wailed. She cracked the door open. “Alright! I’m coming out!” She warned the officers waiting outside. “You’ve only got a minute or two at best, Isabel. Go. Now.” She demanded as she put the gun up in front of her and began to walk outside. “Please, Rachel…I’m begging you! Don’t go out there!” I sobbed and reached for her. She turned her head back to me and focused her fierce green eyes on my face. “You know what you have to do.” Then she was gone. I held my breath and waited with dread to hear the sound of multiple shots going off. But instead, I was met with silence.

“How strange.” I whispered. I turned to Milo and motioned for him to wait for me, then I walked outside. A small gasp escaped my lips as I stared ahead. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing . Or rather…not seeing. There was nothing out there. Nothing but pitch black. I turned around and around…and eventually I got lost.

Then I felt a soft nudge at my side…and my eyes flew wide open.

C 26


The sounds of laughter quickly snapped me out of my despair. I wiped my swollen eyes and stared ahead…my mouth dropped in shock at what I saw before me.
Rachel and Milo were in the floor playing together. Rachel tickled him and threw him up in the air. Each time she caught him, he giggled even louder than before. “Look who’s finally here!” Rachel called to me when she finally noticed me standing there. Milo turned his head to me and grinned. “Mama!” He cried happily and reached his arms out for me.
I rushed over to them and pulled Milo close to my chest. “He’s okay. I’m just so glad he’s okay.” I kept repeating as I held him tightly and rocked him back and forth. “Of course he’s okay, Izzy.” Rachel raised her eyebrows and stared at me. “Why wouldn’t he be?” Milo squirmed in my lap and began to play with the bottom of my sweater. He wasn’t paying any attention to what was being said. I peered over the top of his head at Rachel. “I just came from Ricky’s…the cops were there. I know it was you, Rach. But why?” She avoided my eyes. “There was no talking to them. They wouldn’t let him go without a fight.” She smiled and ruffled Milo’s hair. “And I can see why. He’s a great kid, Izzy.” She then sighed loudly and stared up at the ceiling.
“So I did what I had to do. And it had to happen, Izzy. You know that. There was just no other way around it.” I looked down at my son…I was so happy to hold him once more. But at what cost? “What about Milo…did he see? You didn’t do it in front of him…did you?” I frowned at her in horror. “Of course not!” She insisted. “He heard the gun go off…but I told him it was fireworks outside.” She winked at me. “But you should know that I would never do anything to harm him in any way. He’s yours. And I love you. Therefore that means I love him too.” She placed her hand over the top of mine. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or terrified…so I went with my gut feeling.
“Rach…I-” I began to say…but I was immediately interrupted by a loud knock at the door.

C 25


The next morning, I got up at the crack of dawn and found that Rachel was gone, her side of the bed looked unslept in. There was a sticky note on the bathroom mirror that said “Be back soon.” I took my time getting dressed then went to the motel’s lobby and found something to eat. Eventually I got tired of waiting around for her. So I called for a cab and went back to Ricky’s house…without her.
But when I got there I was greeted by sirens. Cops were milling around the yard and in and out of the house. In a panic, I jogged up the walkway and through the windows of Ricky’s front door I saw two bodies lying on the floor. I could feel my breakfast slowly making it’s way back up my throat. “Mam, this is a crime scene. You can’t go in there.” A young detective came out and closed the door behind her, hiding the gruesome mess from my view. “Wh-what happened in there?” I stuttered faintly. “I’m Detective Gallagher.” She handed me her card. “Did you know the couple that lived here?” She asked me. “Yes.” My heart was pounding in my chest as I responded. “How did you know them? Are you a family member?” She narrowed her gaze at me. “Uh…no. My name is Rachel. I’m the babysitter. Is he…is the boy okay?” I managed to mumble. She pulled a wrinkled piece of paper from her pocket. “He’s missing. We’re doing everything we can to find him. Fortunately a witness saw someone leaving the house this morning. Have you ever seen this person before?” It was a rather crude portrait of a woman…I immediately noticed that it resembled Rachel. I felt sick to my stomach. “No. I can’t say that I have.” The detective nodded her head and took the drawing back, tucking it deep into her pocket. “A neighbor says that the man who lived here was married before. Can you tell me anything about the wife?” In that moment I realized that not one single picture of me was anywhere in the house. “No, I’m sorry. I never met her. I don’t even know what she looks like.” I lied. “Thank you for your help. If you can think of anything else please don’t hesitate to call. You have my card.” I shook her hand and tried to get out of there as quickly as possible without looking suspicious.
By the time I made it back to the motel, I was in tears. I was relieved when I saw Rachel’s car in the parking lot. I put my ear to the door of our room and listened…she was in there. I could hear her talking to someone. “Rachel!” I flung the door open. I could barely see inside from the tears streaming down my face. I began to sob uncontrollably at that point. “Oh Rachel…what did you do?”

C 24


Later that evening, I had just taken a bubble bath and put on clean clothes when I heard the door to the motel room open then slam shut. “Izzy! Are you here?” Rachel called out. I came out of the bathroom and went to her. She was furious. “I’ve been looking for you all day long! Where were you?” She asked through clenched teeth. “I suppose I should’ve left a note.” I gave her a small smile hoping that would ease her anger. It didn’t. “Where, Izzy?” She repeated. “I had to see Milo. I couldn’t wait any longer, Rach.” I shrugged and hoped she understood. “Are you crazy, Izzy?” She gave me an incredulous look. “They could’ve called the police on you! You could’ve been sent away again! And me! I’m the one who helped you escape! There was so much at stake…how could you be so careless?” She groaned in frustration. “I do NOT have to listen to this.” I told her coldly as I turned my back to her.
“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you, Isabel!” Rachel screeched from behind me. “I’ll do as I please!” I hissed at her as I picked a bag up from the floor and began to stuff my very few belongings into it. “Where do you think you’re going to go, Izzy?” I didn’t reply, just kept packing. “Stop!” Rachel jerked the bag from my hand. “We’re in this together remember?” I had no reason to be so upset. I knew she was right. I nodded in response. “Now sit down and listen.” I perched on the edge of the bed and looked up at her. “I’m so sorry, Rach. Will you forgive me?” She rolled her eyes but the corners of mouth lifted up. “Of course I forgive you. But you just don’t get it.” She plopped down next to me. “I had a plan! Now they know we’re here and they’re going to be waiting on us to make a move, Izzy.” She frowned. “Good. I hope they’re afraid. I’m going to go back every single day until they give me my son. I’m not leaving this town without him.” I vowed solemnly. Rachel shook her head. “It won’t work like that, Izzy.” She sighed in defeat and stood up. “But there’s no talking to you right now. Just get some rest. I’m going to shower off then I’ve got to go out for a bit.” I reached for her but she walked away. “Just remember you did this. You forced my hand.” She told me quietly as she shut the bathroom door behind her.

C 23


Rachel took me back to her hotel room which actually wasn’t too far from the town I used to live in. That night we celebrated my escape by ordering pizza and watching old movies until we finally passed out around dawn. I woke up at noon and tried to slip out of bed as quietly as possible while Rachel still snored away. I pulled on some of the clothes Rachel had bought for me and put her car keys in my pocket then out the door I went. I was on a mission…

When Ricky opened the door, he stared at me in apparent disbelief. “Wh-what are you doing here, Izzy? Why aren’t you at the hospital?” He stuttered. “They released me.” I lied to his face. “And I know about the checks, Richard. How long were you planning to keep the ruse going?” I glared at him fiercely. He gasped and covered his mouth. “I can’t…I can’t believe this. This is insane. They let you go? Just like that?” He stood there shaking his head. “Get out of my way…right now. I want to see my son.” I barged past him, nearly toppling him over, and walked right in. Milo was in the living room playing with his blocks. “Hey there, little guy!” I said to him in a cheerful tone and kneeled down next to him. “Mama!” He cried out as he ran into my open arms. I picked him up and hugged him tightly. “Oh, I missed you so much.” I whispered into his ear.

“You need to leave, Isabel. The doctors may have given you a clean bill of health but you’re still not welcome in our home. Don’t make us call the cops.” Savannah told me threateningly. Ricky stood behind her nodding his head in agreement. “We can’t have someone like you around Milo. So just put him down and go. This is something we can settle in court. But I’ll warn you now…you won’t win.” She sneered at me. “Is that so? But we all know that I’m not crazy…right?” I gave her a knowing smile. “Maybe you should call the cops. That’s a conversation I’m dying to have.” I raised my eyebrows. All of the color drained from Savannah’s face. It felt good to have leverage.”But…I will be the bigger person and go. For today. I refuse to do this in front of my son. I will be back though.” I promised them both. “This is far from over.”

C 22


A week had gone by before Rachel fulfilled her promise. I’d almost lost hope that she was coming back for me. “Come on Izzy, get up!” She hissed urgently. I groaned and rolled over. “Rach…is it really you?” I squinted up at her. “How are you here?” She shrugged like it was no big deal. “Well…Joan let me in. She’s always liked me. But she probably won’t now that I put sleeping pills in the coffee pot. We gotta go before someone sees us.” She began pacing the floor. “And Izzy…I did some snooping around before waking you up. You were right. Ricky IS paying off the staff to keep you here.” I sat up straight in bed. “Show me.”
Rachel took me by the hands and gently tugged me down the hallway to Dr. Wilkes’ office. “Come on. Quietly.” She put a finger to her lips as she opened the door and led me inside. She pointed to the desk in the middle of room and then peeked out in the hall. “I’ll keep watch. Just hurry, Izzy.” I went to the desk and in the first drawer, I found a handful of checks made out to the institution. Ricky’s signature was at the bottom of each check. Disguised as donations, it was thousands of dollars to cut me out of his life. “I knew it!” I cried angrily. “It would’ve been cheaper to just file for divorce.” I muttered under my breath. Then I noticed the medicine in the back of the drawer. After reading the label, I realized it was the same stuff they’d kept me on the whole time I’d been here. Maybe I could have it tested. I slipped a few bottles of it into my pocket. “Is your curiosity sated now?” Rachel called to me. “Can we go?”
After we made it outside and past the gate, I stopped and took a deep breath of chilly night air. I rubbed my arms and shivered from the wind. “I haven’t been outside in so long.” I whispered to Rachel by my side. “Thank you for coming back for me.” I gazed up at her. “Of course, Izzy. I’d do anything for you.” She held my hand once more and stared into my eyes. For just a moment I thought she was going to lean down and kiss me…and I mulling it over in my head, trying to decide if I wanted to kiss her back or not. But instead, Rachel smirked and said, “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

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