Why had it come now, when things couldn’t be worse for Hunter and me? Was this a sign? Was this the way out?
I walked back to the house on autopilot, clutching the letter in one hand and the rest of the mail in the other. When I came inside I tossed the mail on the counter and stood there, rereading Marco’s letter.
“Lorrie,” Hunter said. “Hey, Lorrie. Is something wrong?”
I shook the fog away and saw him sitting in his wheelchair next to me. His brows were furrowed in concern.
His eyes darted to my hand. “You walked into the house like a zombie. Didn’t even hear me when I called your name. What’s going on?”
Marco’s letter was still clutched tightly between my fingers, a little clammy with my sweat.
I took a deep breath and tried to come back down to reality. “I’m sorry. I’m okay.”
“What’s that?” Hunter asked, looking at the letter with suspicion.
Even though I had been hiding the fact that my nightmares about Marco had been getting worse, it didn’t make sense to hide it anymore when the end of our problems was so close.
I held up the envelope. “Do you remember the letter I wrote to Marco? Well, he just wrote me back.”
“What did he say?” he asked, his eyes widening.
I didn’t feel like explaining everything, so I just handed the letter over. “Read it.”
He frowned and scanned it over quickly. When he was done, he cleared his throat. “I don’t think you should go.”
My face felt flushed. His response wasn’t what I was expecting. “Why?” I asked, louder than I meant to. “What if I want to go?”
“Something about it just doesn’t feel right,” he said, shaking his head. He had softened his tone, but I could tell he felt pretty strongly about this.
I didn’t say anything. This was the lifeline I had been looking for and now Hunter didn’t want me to go. A million things ran through my mind as I thought about how to explain to him how important this was for me.
Hunter sighed. “If he really wanted to give you some answers, why couldn’t he write them in the letter? Also, why did he choose a specific date? I dunno. Something seems off.”
I heard the words he was saying, but they didn’t sink in. All I could think about was the nightmares stopping. I could finally have some answers. An answer. That was worth the risk to me.
“I have to know,” I said. “It’s been driving me crazy, especially lately. I’ve been having all these dreams at night, and I’ve been daydreaming about it during the day, and I can barely think about anything else. If there’s any chance he will give me an answer, I have to try.”
He grimaced. “I dunno Lorrie, I really don’t wanna see you get hurt again by this guy. He kinda seems like a psycho.”
“I have to try!” I yelled. “I just have to! If it works, I’ll be free from this. I haven’t been there for you recently as much as I’d like to be, and it’s because I haven’t moved on from what happened to me yet. Don’t you see? Once I get the answers from Marco, I can finally just concentrate on us. On you. And why did the letter come now? Just when we need answers the most? It’s a sign . . . ”
I babbled on while Hunter reached his arm around my waist and hugged me tight to him. I started to push him away, but then stopped. It felt good to be in his arms.
“Lorrie, shh . . . sh . . . it’s okay. It’s okay. Just don’t rush into it. It’s tomorrow right? Just sleep on it and you can decide in the morning.”
I’d gotten myself so worked up I was shaking. “Okay,” I said, trying to stay calm, but my mind was already racing ahead. The end to all of our troubles was close. I could feel it.
TOSS AND TURN
The rest of the day drifted by at a snail’s pace. I didn’t tell anyone other than Hunter about the letter. I hadn’t even decided what to do yet and I just knew that if Aunt Caroline found out, she would freak out.
Even though I managed to pretend to be normal the entire day, my mind kept weaving its way back to the letter. Was he really going to tell me if I went? What would he do if I left him waiting?
Hunter kept trying to catch my eye at dinner, but I avoided him and focused on my food the whole time. My aunt and uncle were continuing to try and give me space, so my silence didn’t get commented on. The general feeling in the house was a mixture of awkwardness and tension. Even the kittens seemed to be staying out of sight.
Dinner gave way to innocuous family time with the TV on and Billy and Joel horsing around, blissfully ignorant of any reason things should be any different than they were. Finally, everyone got ready for bed. I said goodnight thinking I would probably want to go to the prison the next day. Even if I was going to leave the final decision for when I woke up, that was how I was leaning.
I changed into pajamas, turned off the lights, and got under my covers.
And failed to even begin to drift off. I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling, feeling my heart race. Adrenaline surged through my veins like I was running for my life, but all I was doing was trying to lie still.
Visions of Hunter’s expression as he tried to catch my eye at dinner ran through my mind. He looked worried. We’d been on pins and needles since we’d gotten back from the hospital, and it wasn’t getting better.
It wasn’t our fault. We were both trying hard, Hunter especially. Life was just awkward at the moment because we both had things outside of our relationship that were really weighing on us. Hunter’s problems were way more immediate than mine and they weren’t going anywhere. If I could just shed my obsession with Marco, I could focus more completely on Hunter.
I turned over onto my side and buried my face in my pillow. Tears emerged from my eyes and wet the pillowcase before they even had a chance to roll down my cheeks. Frustration welled up in my chest. I breathed in and out heavily, trying to calm down. What choice did I have? I had to take a chance on getting rid of this voice in my head asking why. Why?
When I rolled onto my back, I felt wide awake. Dawn was cracking through my window. Maybe I’d managed to sleep for a while, or maybe it was adrenaline, but I was full of energy.
I sat up in bed. Whatever sleep I’d gotten was all I was going to get. I shrugged my covers off, stood up, and flicked the lights on.
Before I knew it, I was getting ready to go. It was time to face this.