Chapter 23

It was the third night when J and I sat on a couch in front of the large fire place instead of watching a movie on the TV screen. It was just us and the wonderful surrounding silence. We sat there after eating dessert and stared at the roaring fire.

"J?" I asked, playing with his fingers.

"Yes?"

"What's your name; like your real name?"

"Just call me 'J', Adylann."

"Okay, J. How old are you?"

He took a deep breath and answered, "Twenty-five."

"Can you answer a serious question, now?" I asked him.

"Probably not, but I could try," he said.

"How did this start? How is it I knew your voice before you spoke to me? Why is it I recognized the lullaby you sang to me for the past two nights? You notes; how is it you always know what is going on in my life? Why do you know me so well and care so much?"

"Adylann," he started softly.

"Don't tell me you can't answer that," I interrupted.

J sighed and let a minute pass before he said, "You knew my voice and the lullaby because when you were just a little girl I used to sing it to you. Occasionally I still would when you'd fall asleep in the Hatch. I know what's going on in your life partially because I hear you rant on about it, and partially because I see it in your eyes; you have very honest eyes. I've known and watched you grow up and with that, I know you deserve a perfect life and I've been here to help you get it."

"J," I said. "Why didn't you ever say anything to me before; in person? And why don't I remember you?"

"You were a very little girl," J repeated. "But now, I have something to tell you."

"What is it?" I asked him.

"You can't stay here."

"What? No!" I yelled shocked.

"I've been thinking about it, and it's not right. You're a minor and you already have a family and a home. This is technically kidnap and your family is probably worried sick. This isn't the mature way to handle what's going on."

"I don't care! Besides, what does the fact that I'm a minor have to do with this?"

"Because!" J yelled, standing up from the couch. "I can't be in love with somebody who is still just a girl!"

I looked back at him in shock. My mouth dropped open and I felt stunned. He loves me; J loves me. Could the love he feels for me be similar to the love I feel for him?

"J," I whispered.

"I love you, Adylann. That's why I need to send you back home. I can't keep you here!"

"I don't care," I told him sternly. "I'm not going back home! I want to stay here! I want to be with somebody who makes me feel safe; and somebody that listens to me; that understands me! I want to stay with somebody that I can love back! I need to stay with you!" I yelled at him, tears flowing out of my eyes. I found myself standing up now, facing him head on.

"Adylann," J whispered.

Then, he took two big steps forward and cupped my face with his hands, kissing me violently. This wasn't a small, gentle kiss like Gabe's. It was passionate and rough. J said he loved me, but this kiss told me much more. This kiss was filled with emotion! It was full of bliss, passion, long-awaited love, and secrets. Almost immediately, I kissed him back. J then picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he held me. I put my hands around his neck for support and he backed up and sat on the couch. He pushed me off and shoved me underneath him. He kissed me again, more and more violently. Once I realized where we were headed, I stopped. J, who sensed my awkwardness, stopped kissing me. Before he could say anything though, there was a hard bang on the door.

"Hey!" yelled many angry people outside.

I looked up worriedly at J. He looked confused at first, and then angry. He got off of me and slowly walked to the door. Instead of opening it, he locked it and looked out of the window next to it. There were more angry yells coming from outside the front door. It sounded almost as if there was a mob of people!

"J," I said. "What's going on? Who's outside? They're not going to take me home, are they? I'm not going back home!"

"They're here for more than just you," J whispered.

"What?" I asked.

"Let her go, you monster!" I heard one person randomly scream.

"He's had his chance!" yelled another person.

"She's just a girl!"

"The police are after you!"

"Open the door!"

"I say we just burn down the house! That'll get him out!"

"Yeah!" other people agreed.

I recognized some of these voices. They were neighbors, parents of friends, teachers. What were they doing here? How did they find me? Were they really going to burn down the cabin?

"J!" I warned.

"We have to go!" J told me.

Just then, the door broke down and a huge mob of people ran inside. J dashed over to me, grabbed my hand, and pulled me out the back door with him. The mob yelled and chased after us, making whatever possible damage they could in the process. I could see it on J's face as we ran outside that he was angry; but I could also see that he was scared. I couldn't blame him. I was scared as well.

He led me to the barn I saw the first night I came here. J opened to door on the side of it and ran to a corner with me. We crouched down and he held me. He put his pointer finger in front of his lip, indicating we had to be quiet. I nodded and a few small tears escaped from my eyes, streaking down my face. He gently wiped them away with his thumb.

A few seconds later, I heard the screams and yells from the angry mob again. As the closer they got, the less angry they sounded. Pretty soon, I heard cheering and yelling. I pondered this for a quick moment until the answer burned right in front of me eyes.

Slowly, the barn became consistently more smoky and stuffy. The windows burst and the far half of it became torched and suddenly blew up in flames. The heat raged our way in a big gust of wind and I buried my head in J's chest. He stood up quickly and began saying something to me, but another window shatter and the glass flew everywhere. A few pieces scraped across my arm and a large chunk landed in J's leg. He fell down, yelling in agony.

"J!" I screamed.

I jumped up and sprinted over to him. My hair fell in my face as I leaned over J's wound to examine it. I quickly tied my long brown hair in a messy ponytail so it would not get in my face. The blood was everywhere and he was twisting and gritting his teeth in pain. Then, the side door to the barn exploded. Slices of wood landed everywhere. Once piece of wood hit the back of my head and I wiped out on top of J. I moaned and slowly sat up on my knees. The smoke started to get to me, and I began coughing incessantly.

When I caught my breath I asked J, "Can you stand? Can you walk?"

"Go," J demanded.

"What? No! I'm not leaving you here!" I cried. "I'm not leaving you!"

"Adylann, they'll keep chasing you as long as they know I'm with you. This is the only way I can set you free. Now go! Get the hell out of here! Run away or go back home. Do whatever you want! Just leave! Go!"

"I can't leave you, though," I cried weakly.

"Adylann!" J yelled angrily at me. "Please! This is my only request for you. Leave me here."

His only request for me, I thought. This is the person who changed my life and not once asked for anything in return. This is now the man in front of me begging me to leave him here to die; his only request.

"You are no family member, no acquaintance, and no angel. You are though, my savoir."

I then leaned in and gave him one long, last kiss. My tears smudged all over his face and I heard him moan in pain from his leg. I couldn't stay here. I pulled away for the second time tonight and ran out the last door in the barn that hadn't blown into smithereens. This door was the one that led me straight into the woods.

I ran. I just ran. I didn't think, I didn't feel, I didn't react. I just ran. I ran wherever my legs took me. That's all I did. Everything was silent now. There was a slight ringing noise in my ear and my head began to ache. I felt a little dizzy but refused to stop running. Running was all I had now. I didn't care when my air pipes started to thicken. Neither did I care that my eyesight went fuzzy and I started to have another coughing. I staggered over a few feet to the side and stumbled into the side of the tree. I leaned against it for support and bent over coughing.

I forced myself up straight again after my coughing fit and stumbled over again; but this time I stumbled down a small hill to a stream. There was little water flowing through it, but it was still water; just what I needed. I crawled forward a few inches and dunked my head into the icy water. Instinctively, my head whipped back as I gasped in shock, cold water dripping out of my hair and down my neck; but I knelt down again, opened my mouth, and drank as much water as I could muster. When I was satisfied I lifted my head out of the stream. I didn't run again though. No, I was tired. I was tired of everything. I didn't even care anymore. I had a pounding headache and a ringing noise in my ear that would not stop. I stayed on the ground by the stream and curled up in a little ball. I shut my eyes and hoped to find some sleep. Under my breath, I sang a kind poem I have heard many times this past weekend.

Sleep my dear, sleep

The winds sigh

A sweet lullaby

Close your eye

Let the night drift by

The moon is high

Sleep my dear, sleep