We walked, or rather, Jason carried me back to the hotel in silence. The only sound was our labored breathing and my sporadic sobs that wrenched themselves from my throat. I was too overwrought to do anything but cling to Jason like a lifeline as we made our way slowly through the heavier rain and biting wind. The next thing I knew, we were standing outside of the room and Jason shifted me in his arms to unlock the door. He unwound my stiff arms from around his neck and lowered me gently to the floor, his iron grip finally relaxing its hold on my body. Reluctantly, I allowed him to leave me on the floor while he went into the bathroom. Run! My mind screamed at me, but I found that I couldn't move, and didn't want to anyway. I was so tired, it took all of my energy to turn my head towards the bathroom door as Jason returned with a stack of towels.
"J-jason," I hissed between chattering teeth, "s-so c-cold." He looked at me sadly, his eyes conveying that he knew I wasn't just talking about body heat.
"Let me help you get your clothes off," he said solemnly, "then you can get into bed and I'll warm you up." I nodded and allowed him to help me into a sitting position and peel my shirt off of my back. He gently unfastened my bra clasp and let it fall away, leaving me exposed but I didn't care. I was too cold and stiff, all I wanted was his warmth against me. He pulled my soaking wet jeans away from my legs and reached for one of the oversized bath towels. Quickly, he wrapped it around my shaking shoulders and ran his hands in slow soothing motions up and down my back., attempting to restore warmth and circulation and ease the constant chattering of my teeth. Eventually, my shivers gave away to frequent shudders. Jason tenderly lifted me from the floor and eased me back onto the bed across the room from where Josh now lay in a silent slumber. Automatically, my knees curled into my chest and I wrapped my arms around them. Jason stripped himself down to his boxers and slid into bed next to me. He cocooned both of us in the sheets and comforter, pulling them tight around me protectively With what strength I had left, I turned to face him. In all the time since he stopped me from jumping into the river, he hadn't reproached me for running. I searched his eyes expecting to see something like repulsion or anger. All I saw was compassion. I screwed my eyes shut, abruptly aware of the fact that we were so close. I was also painfully aware of the fact that I ran from him. Yet he ran after me, brought me back, and he still cared so much. No one else could have brought me back. No one else cared about me, at least no one who could have followed me if they wanted to. Dad was a killer, I didn't want him. Mom was dead, he didn't want her, but oh how I needed her!! "C'mere Amy." He opened his arms and in those three syllables, my stone wall crumbled. I let him pull me close and reveled in the feeling of warmth and security. I couldn't cry anymore, I had no tears left. His next words shocked me into consciousness.
"Don't you ever run from me again," Jason declared with meaning laced in his tone. His voice vibrated in his chest against my ear. I glanced at his face and saw his eyes red rimmed and serious. I nodded slowly and tried to look away but he caught my chin in his hand and forced me to look at him. "I thought I had lost you Amy, I couldn't live with that, don't you dare run from me again." He pressed a light kiss to my forehead. When he spoke again, his voice shook and I could tell he was crying. "I know it hurts," he continued when he had swallowed. "But don't ever think that you're alone. Don't ever think that no one cares about you. You can't do this by yourself, you aren't supposed to try to do it by yourself. I care about you Amy, it would break me forever to lose you, don't ever run from me again." Though his voice held the edge of a threat, I could tell he was speaking with nothing but love and compassion towards me. It had never occurred to me that someone could depend so much on my existence. With this realization, something inside me cracked. Before I knew what was happening, I was sobbing uncontrollably. Tears rolled down my cheeks and on to his undershirt, soaking him to the skin. My arms formed a vice like grip on his upper body and I buried my face in his chest. His shoulder muffled my cries that must have sounded like a wounded animal.
"I won't," I whispered when I had enough control over my body to speak. "I'm sorry I did that to you, I was just so scared, I don't know what came over me. I wasn't really running from you- I was running from all of this shit I've had to deal with for the past 16 years, and now my mom is gone, she's dead! And it was just the last straw."
"I know that," he spoke sympathetically as he held me closer. "Just, if you run again, please, take me with you." I looked at him, seeing in his eyes that he wasn't joking.
"OK, I can do that."
"Try to sleep."
"How can I sleep? God Jason, she's gone, my mom is gone, dead and my dad killed her." Tears sprung again to my eyes as I remembered the last conversation I had had with her. She told me not to wait too long to call again. And I had waited too long. Then I was crying. 'Here I go again,' I thought bitterly It seemed like all I could do anymore was cry. I had three people in the entire world on my side, and one of them was recovering from massive doses of psychotic drugs and sedatives. "I don't want to cry anymore," I whispered against Jason's shoulder, slowly drifting out of consciousness.
"Shhhh….it's ok, I know…just sleep." I was afraid to go to sleep, afraid of the nightmares that I might have, the same ones that plagued my brother's mind as he slept. My exhausted body had other ideas, and I found myself drifting off only half unwillingly as Jason ran his fingers through my hair.
It was almost noon the next day when I finally woke up. I was greeted with the familiar run-over-by-a-train feeling in every part of my body. I set my jaw and ground my teeth together to keep from crying out, but I couldn't help it. Jason had slept beside me the entire night. He shifted to his elbows above me and looked down into my face, sympathy and concern evident on his face.
"Sleep well?" I nodded, fighting back emotional and physical tears. He kissed my forehead gently and handed me two Advil and a glass of water. "Take these, you'll feel better." Enthusiastically, I took the pills and gulped them down in one swallow, eager to rid myself of the pain in my burning muscles and my headache.
"What am I going to do Jason?" I looked up at him, hoping he had some solution to my problems. "I can't keep running from him. He'll find me sooner or later. This is no way to live my life."
"I know that, believe me, I do. Don't worry about it, my mom is working hard on it. She has friends who are lawyers. She's filling them in on the details. They'll help you, I promise." I pulled back momentarily in shock.
"What? Jason why didn't you tell me?"
"You had enough to worry about with Josh being missing. I didn't want to make it harder for you." I buried my face in his shoulder again, trying to maintain my composure and process the information.
"I know it'll be OK, I keep telling myself that, but I feel so helpless against him. He did it once, he can do it again, and I can't stop him."
"Yes, yes, you can. And you will. These lawyers that my mother knows are good people, they know what they are doing."
"No matter how long my father goes to prison for, it won't bring my mother back," I reminded him scornfully.
"I didn't say it could, I'm so sorry Amy, I don't know what would happen to me if I lost my mom. I can't begin to imagine how you feel right now. I can only promise you that I'll be here, Mom and I will both be here, and Josh is here too. You're lucky to have a brother like that." I caught the catch in Jason's voice as he spoke the last few words. I still had Josh. But he had lost Jesse. I knew that he still blamed himself for her loss. His face turned to stone suddenly, as a million memories came flooding back. He squeezed his eyes shut and turned away from me. Instinctually, I wound my arms around his neck and pulled him down. He resisted at first but I wouldn't let him go. He relented and laid down next to me, resting his head on my chest.
"It's not your fault," I assured him, running my hands up and down his back. I don't know when we had learned to read each other's minds, but I knew what he was thinking and it broke my heart. "Jesse's gone, but you saved me," I reminded him. "I'm sure she's looking down on us right now, and I'm sure she's very proud you." The next thing I knew, he had turned his head facing into my shoulder, and started sobbing. The hollow sounds wracked his body. I held him tighter, pushing the damp hair away from his face with a free hand before running my fingers through it. We lay there for a long time, Jason holding on to me for dear life, as I had held on to him only hours before. Finally, his death grip on my body relaxed and he boosted himself up to stare down into my face.
"I'm sorry," he looked truly contrite. I stared back at him, bewildered.
"Don't go there," I scolded gently. "You have nothing to be sorry for, just like I have nothing to be sorry for. We are victims of bad circumstance." He said nothing, only laid down again and sighed deeply. We sat in silence for a few minutes before movement from the bed across the room caught our attention.
"Amy," Josh's fatigued voice reached my ears. Jason and I both sat up at attention and I ran to kneel at the other bed. Josh threw his arms around me and I crawled up on the bed beside him. I noticed satisfactorily how his arms seemed stronger than they had been. "I was so worried about you Amy," his words came out faster than I thought possible for a human being. "When you ran, I didn't know what to think, I didn't know what to do. Thank God Jason found you, what the hell were you thinking?!" I suddenly felt pangs of guilt for putting my brother and his fragile health through hell last night.
"I'm sorry Josh, I'm really sorry. I won't run again, I already promised Jason, and I'll promise you, I won't run."
"You know that you're not alone here, right Amy? Jason and I, we're here for you." I nodded and clutched my brother closer to me. Jason nodded his head in agreement.
"I'll be OK, I just have so many questions and no answers."
"Josh, do the cops know? Are they looking for us? Are they looking for Dad?" Josh hesitated, he took a deep breath, and I had a feeling that I was about to learn some things that I didn't want to know.
"I saw him after he did it, I had just walked in the door and there he was with his gun, standing over her." I could hear the tears starting to threaten his voice. "I looked at Mom, I knew she was...dead...so I ran, I turned around and ran and called the cops. I had just hung up the payphone when four guys charged me, they grabbed me, threw me in a van, drugged me..." His voice trailed off. "And the rest, no one ever needs to know," he whispered almost inaudibly.
"Josh, it's OK, really, you don't have to tell me anything else." I squeezed my eyes shut to keep the tears from flowing again.
"They're looking for him Amy, I don't know if they'll ever find him, but they're looking for him." I buried my head against yet another shoulder, and started to cry again. This time, Josh joined me. We held each other and cried as brother and sister, mourning for the mother we had lost, and the father we both wanted, on some level, to kill.