Memories trickled through my dazed mind as I hung limp and lifeless over the Spectre's shoulder. I closed my eyes when we moved into the thicker part of the forest and let them wash over me.
"Lola… My sweet Lola."
I'd just come home from school. Dad left work early for some reason and he was sitting beside mom on the couch, dark eyes puffy and red. Afternoon sun slanted through the living room window and spilled across mom's long blonde hair—she looked like an angel.
I dropped my backpack. "Mom? Dad?"
And she kept her teary green eyes on me when dad couldn't bear to look anymore. He covered his face with both hands and leaned on my mother as she tried to stiffen her lower lip.
"We have some news for you," mom said, trying to smile. "Why don't you sit down?"
Chris staggered at that moment and almost fell over, jarring me from the memory. He had to stop and catch his breath. I could feel sweat spreading across his back.
I'd always thought she would pull through. Brain cancer sounded bad, but my mom wouldn't leave me so early in life. She went to her appointments, she knitted herself hats when her golden hair fell out in thick clumps, like an angel losing her halo. It was always positive at home.
But it took her faster than the doctors ever imagined. One day she was baking cookies and playing video games with Brian and I, and the next she was a small gaunt husk in a big hospital bed.
We started moving again. The crickets and cicadas sang in the distance as Chris panted and limped to bring me back to hell. Tears swelled in my eyes as my memories continued.
"I love you, Lola."
Brian had already said his goodbyes. He didn't quite understand—he was too little—but I knew full well that my mother was soon to be a distant memory. I would never hug her after school again. I would never call her and cry when a boy hurt my feelings. My angel was being dragged back to heaven, no matter how badly she wanted to stay with us mere mortals.
Mom had no tears left. Her eyes were red but she couldn't cry. I sat beside her in a rickety chair and held her frail hand and wondered why my mother had been chosen to die.
But I managed to smile as hot tears rolled down my cheeks. I could cry for both of us. "I wish you didn't have to leave."
"I know, baby." Her misty green eyes roamed to the window and she smiled, faintly. "But God wanted to bring me home a little early. We'll see each other again."
We were in the driveway. I saw my father's patrol car parked near the end, and noticed two doors were wide open—the driver's door, and a rear door. My eyes widened and Chris stopped. Two doors open meant two people had been in the car.
There was a quiet knock on the door. Mom was too weak to call out, but I hesitated before letting the visitor come in. I didn't want to give up my last brief moments with her. I didn't want to share my mother with anyone else. She was my mother; my angel, even when she was bald and waifish.
"C-come in," I said, squeezing mom's thin fingers. Her engagement ring bit into my skin.
Chris peered around the edge of the door. He was hunched over with his hands in his pockets and his blue eyes were deeply sad. He'd been crying, too.
"Hey, Scar," he said. He didn't even look at me.
"Hey," she whispered. "What took you so long?"
The Spectre was cursing under his breath as he investigated the car. When he turned I could see a green bag sitting in the backseat. My little brother had been with my father.
Another chair was pulled up on the other side of my mother and Chris sat down. He took her hand without asking, clasping it between both hands, and kissed it. Mom smiled a little and he started crying. I played with her fingers, knowing I should give them privacy but unwilling to leave her side. What if she slipped away while I was in the hall?
"Lola," she rasped. "Would you mind giving Chris and I a few minutes? I promise you can come right back."
My heart twisted painfully but I obliged. I stood from my seat, trembling like a leaf, and gently placed my mother's hand back to her side. She was consoling Chris when I reached the door.
"Shh," she murmured. "I know. I know. It's going to be okay, darling."
I paused just outside to listen. The hallways were deserted and dad was grabbing food for us in the cafeteria. My fingers pressed to the wall.
"Motherfucker," Chris said. He was still having a hard time breathing. "Fine. No one will believe him, anyway."
"You can't do this to me, Scarlett," Chris sobbed.
Mom sighed, exasperated. "Well, Christopher, the brain tumor would like to disagree." Her bed creaked a little. "Keith and the kids have to find a way to live without me. So do you."
"I can't. I can't. I love you."
The room fell silent. I strained to hear, wondering if I was missing something. But mom hadn't said a word. I couldn't see her but I could imagine the expression on her face.
"You have to let go." Her voice was sterner than I'd heard in months. "It will eat you alive."
Boots stomped up the stairs with some difficulty. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to blink the rest of the tears away. There was nothing else to reflect on. I'd come back in the room after dad brought dinner and mom died with both of us beside her. It was enough. I didn't need to hurt anymore.
The front door slowly swung open and Chris stepped inside with me still slack over his shoulder. He shuffled forward and kicked the door shut then twisted the lock. His breaths were really ragged and I wondered if he was about to pass out. Dad had really beaten the shit out of him.
"We're home," Chris said.
I was too tired and defeated to fight back but I could feel him trembling more and more with each step. He stopped a few feet away from the basement stairs, taking haggard, shallows breaths, and his wounds finally seemed to catch up with him. One knee buckled and I nearly fell off his shoulder as he fell hard and fast to the floor.
Chris caught himself with a free hand and groaned in pain. This time I slid off his back and rolled quietly onto my side, eyes wide and staring at the front door. There was a trail of blood leading to where we were on the floor in the dark living room. All was still.
Slowly, I turned my head to look back at the monster falling apart beside me. Blood was streaked through his blonde hair and drooling off his face in long, gooey lines. Each time it fell there was a soft splattering noise that seemed to reverberate through the house. His arms shook. Sweat mingled with the blood.
The monster was falling to pieces. He had no white mask to hide behind; no black gloves to obscure his hands. He was a weak human just like everyone else.
I smiled, cracking the dried tears on my cheeks. "You're going to bleed to death."
Chris glared at me with his badly beaten face and even his glacial eyes were losing their edge. He reached for the wall to pull himself up and cringed when his knee bent. His leg gave out again and he fell on the floor like a ragdoll, moaning under his breath.
But I was still in one piece. After all I had suffered from him, I was unbowed, unbent, and unbroken. The joy gurgled up from the pit of my stomach and I was giggling at Chris before I knew it.
"I'm gonna kill you," he snarled.
The small private giggles soon grew louder and I rolled on my side to hug myself as I laughed and laughed and laughed. Happy tears sprang in the corners of my eyes and I had a hard time getting a grip on myself. He was going to bleed to death. Slow and painful. Exactly what he deserved.
There was some movement behind me, and I turned back to see Chris had managed to sit up. He weakly dragged a linen from a side table and tore it in half to stem the bleeding in one leg. His skin was deathly pale and his lips were turning white. He'd lost too much blood to be a danger to me anymore, but I knew he wouldn't give up that easily.
"The rest of the cops will be here soon," he said in the Spectre voice. He was trying to gain control by using deep tones but his voice wavered. He stared at me as he wrapped his other leg. "And they're going to believe me."
The smile faded from my face. "No, they won't."
Chris laughed this time, wiping the blood from his face. His nose looked a bit crooked and he had a black eye. All his pearly white teeth glinted like daggers through the dark.
"You're clinically insane. And since your father is probably a bloodless corpse..." He paused, furrowing his brow and pursing his lips like he was thinking hard. "You're going to need a caretaker throughout your treatment. And… it just so happens that I am your psychiatrist."
My heart pattered a little faster and I sat up, too. Holy shit. Dad.
Body language gave me away. I looked toward the door, no longer scared and helpless, ready to tear the entire forest apart until I found dad. He had to be alive. It had only been a little while. I couldn't lose him, too.
The Spectre lunged forward like a snake when I tried to stand. Long fingers locked around my ankle and I lost my balance. I tumbled to the floor again and screamed and thrashed as he tried to drag me toward himself. The shadows and the blood and the pale skin and the haunting blue eyes made him look like a demon.
"Get away from me!" I shrieked. I lashed out with my other foot and kicked him hard in the side of the head, but he was a creature possessed.
Metal glinted in the dim moonlight and I felt sharp, searing pain in my outer thigh. My screams turned shrill as Chris ripped the knife out and stabbed me again in the front of my thigh. It was fight or flight and I wasn't able to flee—but fighting wasn't helping.
Terrified that he would stab me in the chest next, I clawed at the floor and managed to turn over on my stomach. He panted and used his weight to crush me and I kept screaming like I never had before. My thoughts raced back to when he would chain me to the bed and rape me but his attack felt more personal than ever before. I could barely breathe.
The knife bit into my throat and I instinctively stopped moving. Chris was fully on top of me and I couldn't push him off. My eyes were wide and wild looking for a way to escape.
His chin was on my shoulder; mouth near my ear. He was breathing hard. "You're mine, you little bitch." Fingers tugged my pants down a few inches. "I'll make sure it's the last thing you think of before you go see my Scarlett."
"You have to let go. It will eat you alive."
My blood boiled so furiously that I was surprised it didn't burn Chris. The pain from him stabbing me was immense but the rage I felt was even stronger. I wasn't going to let him torture me or my mother's memory anymore. I wasn't some pawn in his demented game.
"My mother never loved you," I hissed. "She only let you hang around because she felt bad for you."
The knife pressed closer but it was shaking up and down. He was either angry and seriously distraught. "Shut your fucking mouth!"
Lights passed through the windows. A car?
I grabbed the knife with both hands before Chris could react. The blade was small but it chewed through my skin as I squeezed it and struggled to push it away from my throat. He tried to resist but seemed to be weakened from the blood loss.
"She saw right through you," I snapped through gritted teeth. "She knew you were a psychopath but she was too kind to let you fall through the cracks. Scarlett Wilson never loved you and she never will, no matter how many girls you tortured and murdered to satisfy your sick obsession."
The door was kicked down before either of us heard a sound and flashlights quickly illuminated us. I didn't have to do much else—a group of people dragged Chris off of me and people were kneeling on the floor beside me. I'd torn the knife from the grip as he was yanked away and had to rip it out of my right palm with a free hand. It clattered to the ground and I trembled as gentle hands touched me.
A blanket swept over my shoulders, covering my whole body. I kept my bloody palms open and stared at the deep gashes until another person hurriedly began binding them in gauze. So many people. Was I… Was I being saved?
"It's going to be ok, Charlotte," said the woman wrapping my hands. I couldn't help but notice that she was blonde and had green eyes. They met mine, and she smiled. "We have your father at the hospital—he should be fine. Brian is there with him. We'll explain everything once we have you on your way there, too."
Chris was screaming in the background, having lost all semblance of sanity, and three people forced him to the ground. The blood seeped through my gauze but I knew I would be okay. For the first time since mom died, I knew everything was going to be okay.