My body stays tense for I don’t even know how long. It feels like maybe ten minutes. Only ten minutes or so, maybe twenty? I can’t track the sound of the clock; it’s going too fast and then too slow and then it blurs together and I can’t focus on it. It feels hotter and hotter in this small space, but I don’t waver. Never daring to move. Not even after it’s silent. With stiff legs and an aching back, I finally lower my hands and that’s when I realize how my neck is bent. It hurts; everything hurts from being shoved in this small space and hunched over, crouched down. My ankle dares to stretch forward, causing my toes to brush against the cabinet door.

Did they really leave?

Not a sound is heard when the cabinet pushes open, ever so slightly. I didn’t do it on purpose, I just needed to move.

Nothing happens. There’s no sign they’re still here and I could see myself sneaking out slowly, risking a look.

I still don’t trust it though. What happens if they’re right outside and they see through the windows that I’m here? A black vision passes before my eyes and my head falls back, feeling the anxiety rush through me.

Staying as still and as silent as I can be, I wait, praying for a sign that I’m safe.

All I’m given is silence. God didn’t answer my prayers for my sister. Why would he answer me now?

For the longest time, there’s nothing but silence. The tick of the clock goes on and on, and I endure it. Not daring to move.

And then everything happens all at once.

The slam of the front door, and then the back door to the garage. My hands whip up to my mouth to cover the silent scream as my entire body tenses and my skin scrapes against the wooden walls of my hiding spot.

The crash of glass breaking, I think a window in the back room, makes my shoulders hunch and I wish I could hide even further back. All of it is followed by the sound of tires squealing from outside my house. At least two cars. At least three men. And one with a pair of white shoes with red stripes.

I don’t think I inhale the entire time. It doesn’t seem like they came back in. They merely broke something from the outside. Did they throw something inside the house? A bomb? That’s the first place my head goes. They threw a bomb in here and I’m going to die anyway. Still, I can’t move and nothing happens.

There’s no noise, no explosion. Just silence again.

Possibilities run furiously through my mind as I try to calm down. The back of my head rests against the wood as my thoughts turn dark. I think about how desperate I was to move, and how they were right there waiting. How close I was to playing into their trap.

I don’t have long to drown in gratitude and the horror of what could have been. Maybe five or ten minutes go by before I hear another car. That’s all the time that passes from the squeal of one set of tires leaving and then the shriek of another set slamming to a halt in front of my house.

I nearly upheave at the prospect of what they came back to do.

The front door opens, loud with intention, banging off the wall. Then I faintly hear a gun cock, followed by his voice.


“Bethany!” Although he screams my name with a demand, his cadence is laced with panic. “Bethany, where are you?” he calls out as I hear the crunch of glass beneath his feet. “Fuck! Bethany!” He screams my name louder and still I don’t move.

There’s a moment where I feel relief. Where I want to run to him and get out of here, climbing into his arms and begging him to take me away from here and spilling everything.

But then I remember. The black words on cream paper with the blue underlined ink left from Jenny. All I can think about is how CROSS was in The Coverless Book. A hidden message from my sister.

The unknowing fear is crippling and the pain in my chest makes me grip my shirt, right where it’s hurting.

I hear the faint sound of a phone dialing – muted and barely heard, followed by my cell vibrating on the coffee table. They left it?

“Fuck!” Jase screams and then hurls something across my living room that makes my entire body jostle.

My thoughts scramble, my emotions stay at war with one another, but one thing is for certain: He’ll protect me. The selfish thought forces me to lurch from where I am.

I push the cabinet door open, the creaking a companion to the aching pain of my muscles screaming from being cramped up for so long. “Jase.” I try to call out his name, but it comes out jagged and hoarse from my dry throat. I fall on my ass and right thigh as I make my way out of the cabinet, wincing from a cramp sending a sharp pain shooting up my side just as Jase sees me.

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