I stared, silent, unable to move or react. Nothing made sense. The room was still, no one moved. I blinked, but the image before me did not waver.

My eyes surveyed the room frantically, one hand clutching at my chest and the other supporting my weight on the door frame. I couldn't breathe. My eyes traveled to the corner of the room where I could recognize my father, unconscious on the floor, to another body that I didn't recognize, sprawled haphazardly across the living room floor, blood staining the pristine white carpet beneath him. A potted plant had been over turned in the struggle. Dirt was scattered over a second body, unmoving, face down on the floor.


I looked up at the sound of my name. Cole stood in the center of the room, watching me. He had a long gash cut across his left cheek, from his cheek bone to his lip, and I could see bruises starting to rise on his forehead and neck. My first thought was that he'd been attacked, too. The tears started before I could stop them. I was so relieved to see him still standing, and not laying limp and unconscious on the floor.

"Oh my God, Cole," and I took two steps forward, toward my boyfriend. My first instinct was to run to him. But he surprised me by shaking his head, extending his left hand toward me, his palm up in a stopping motion. I paused, taken aback. I put my hand back on the door frame for support. My whole body was shaking, and I just felt so weak.

"Layla," he said, his voice strained, "just…stay there, okay?"

I couldn't understand why he was acting so strangely. It was then that I focused in on his hands for the first time. I took in the hand stretched toward me, the scrapes on the palm, then let my eyes wander from his left hand to his right. It had been slightly hidden by the way he angled his body toward me before, but I could see it now.

It held a gun.