Crosswinds

Tears blurred her vision as the windshield wipers desperately attempted to throw off the rain. Rain which poured from the sky, faster and heavier until it was blinding. Tires screeched and slid across the wet road. Even her headlights seemed to be useless against the unnaturally thick fog. A tree suddenly appeared in the light, almost as though someone had placed it there just then. She turned the wheel in an attempt to not hit the solid oak before her. Her headlights flashed in the rain, quick as lightning. The car spun away from the tree. When the vehicle finally stopped sliding, the girl stepped out of the car, ripping the keys from the ignition.

Her breathing was ragged and her tears had yet to stop, only now they mingled with the rain as it pelted her skin. There was no more pavement to drive on, only trees and darkness. She tried to look in each direction, turning in circles as her car had just moments before. Her thoughts were too jumbled to make sense of where she was. The chaos of memories and fears tumbling around in her head prevented her from understanding anything. She simply needed to keep moving. Her heart sped up. The girl ran her fingers through her hair as she played with the metal in her other hand. She stopped and suddenly pitched the keys in a random direction. They were of no use to her anymore. Neither was the car. But she couldn’t just sit there and wait for him to arrive. He hadn’t found her yet. And she wanted it to stay that way.

Spinning around again, she ran in the opposite direction from which she had come, going deeper and deeper into the thick of the trees. There were no markings or any sort of sign as to where she was, not that she could see anyway. The fog seemed to become thicker, feeling as though it was choking her, claiming her as it’s next victim. The rain fell harder. Each step felt like a thousand. Her body ached yet she continued to run.

“Hey!”

His voice rang out clearly in the night, almost as if he truly was right behind her, though she knew he wasn’t. It was becoming difficult to tell what was reality and what her mind was simply playing back to her. Looking over her shoulder once more, her ankle twisted. Her wedges lost their grip in the slick mud. The land sloped and she slid down what seemed to be a never ending path. Her fall only stopped when her head came in contact with a solid object. She could not see what it was, nor could she think clearly. Her last thought before her eyes closed was that she could not even see the stars that were always in the sky.



Cold. That was all she felt. A moment flashes: burning pain in her head, sticky mud, damp clothes, a man’s voice. Then darkness consumed her senses once more. Each moment that came fled too quickly for her to understand where she was or what was happening. She felt herself being carried and jostled as rain pelted against her face. Something soft and wet brushing against her arm— an animal? The thought of an animal near her didn’t bring as much fear as it should have. Everything was too much of a mess and she had no control over what her body did. She could not open her eyes or move her limbs.

Voices filled the air. Soft. Muffled. Common sense told her they had to be shouting over the storm she still felt against her skin. But she could only hear a murmur of what sounded like names. She could feel the of vibrations running through the stranger’s chest where her head laid. Was it a stranger? She didn’t have time to find her answer before her mind went blank once more. A numbing exhaustion took over.



A rough tongue licking her face was how she awoke the next morning. Light was streaming through the windows, barely visible with the rain, but definitely sunlight. She quickly jumped up, knocking away the golden retriever which was set on making her its newest friend. The tangle of blankets wrapped around her legs as she attempted to stand. Her clothes were stiff and caked with mud. The fire beside her was still burning strong and a little too close to the couch she had just awoken from. The couch, she assumed, was responsible for the harsh aching in her back. Her hand immediately reached up to touch the sore spot on her head before realizing that a thick gauze had been placed over it. She heard footsteps rushing towards her and quickly grabbed one of her shoes which had been resting on the floor beside her.

A man came rushing in the room and looked in her direction. His eyes filled with the slightest bit of relief while hers eyes filled with confusion. Her confusion, however, did not stop her from throwing the shoe in her hand at the stranger upon his entrance. His relief at seeing the girl awake and alert quickly went away as he dodged the flying wedge heel.

“Hey!”

The girl did not speak. She only looked cautiously at the man in front of her with fear and determination glowing in her bright emerald eyes. The room was as unfamiliar as the man. She wanted answers. His disheveled appearance screamed at her that she had woken him up. Was this his house? His clothes were wrinkled and his dark hair fell in messy waves over his ice blue eyes. He was tall; his stiff posture showed that he was just as wary of her as she was of him.

“Grey?”

The two broke apart from their stare down to look at the boy in the doorway that neither had heard approach. He turned his eyes to the stranger. He was young, maybe only 10 or 11 years old and strongly resembled the man in front of her. The child’s hair was not quite as curly, though, and his blue eyes seemed much warmer. He took a step forward despite the warning look the man had sent his way.

“Hi,” he said to the girl in front of him. “I’m Aiden.”

“Aiden! Go back to your room. I’ll come and get you in a bit.”

Aiden ignored his brother’s words and took another step forward.

“H-hello,” the girl stuttered. Her throat was dry from her voice not having been used in a long time.

The man’s eyes shifted back to her as she spoke.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I-I’m...um...well I’m,” the girl’s words stopped as her heart sped up. She looked up. “I’m not sure,” she whispered.

The brothers exchanged confused looks.

“What do you mean you’re not sure?” asked the man who Aiden had called Grey.

“I mean that I’m not sure” she explained, slight annoyance shining through before fear filled her eyes once more.

The older brother’s eyes filled with concern, though the mistrust was still there too. He glanced at the bandage which was wrapped around her head and asked her to sit down so that he could take a look. Now it was her turn to look uneasy. She sat down as the man had asked her to.

“That’s my brother Greyson, by the way! He’s a doctor! Don’t worry, he’s not a mean doctor that gives shots. I don’t really like shots. Do you like⸺”

“Aiden,” the man turned to look at his younger brother, his voice low and filled with a slight warning as he cut off the young boy’s rapid speaking, “why don’t you grab some water for her? I’m sure she’s thirsty.”

“Okay!” The boy skipped off to what must have been the kitchen. His excitement hadn’t faded in the slightest despite being interrupted.

The girl’s eyes continued flitting around the room. Mainly she stared at the man across from her, but every little noise seemed to make her jump. She was unsure of whether or not she could trust the mysterious stranger in front of her. Panic rose in her chest but she did her best to keep it at bay rather than let him see.

“Doctor?” she questioned.

“In training,” was his short reply as he inspected her ankles. “It’s a miracle your ankle wasn’t sprained or anything when you fell with those heels on. There’s a bit of bruising on the right so it may be a little sore but that will go away in a few days. There’s also some bruising on your neck. I can’t be sure if it was caused by your fall, though.” She lifted her hand to feel the tender spot he had indicated near her collarbone.

“So do you have any idea of what your name is? I’d rather not keep calling you ‘stranger’.”

“I told you—”

“There’s an ‘L’ on her necklace,” interrupted Aiden as he returned with some water.

“Thank you,” she whispered before taking a sip.

She glanced down at the small charm dangling from her neck which had gone unnoticed before now. The tiny north star had miniature stones placed in each of its points which appeared to be diamonds and there was indeed a tiny, cursive “L” in the center as the boy had said.

The water in the glass was room temperature, not chilled as she had expected, but the liquid did it’s job and eased the soreness in her throat.

“The light’s out in the fridge, Grey,” said Aiden as he went to sit on a chair in the far corner of the room.

“Shit. The storm probably cut the power.” He stood and flipped the lightswitch. Nothing happened. “Don’t you have a phone or something? Anything that can tell us more about you than a letter of the alphabet?” Greyson huffed as he went back to cleaning the cut on her head.

“Does it look like I have a phone with me?” was her response as she gestured to the little clothing she had on and the lack of personal belongings. “Where are we? How the hell did I get here anyway? Who are you?”

He seemed to be annoyed with her snippy attitude. “I found you unconscious in the woods last night. We’re in the middle of a hurricane, in case you didn’t notice, so I brought you home with me. But please, feel free to leave at any time.”

“Okay so that answered one question. Where exactly is “home” though? And who are you people?” she asked again.

“As my brother told you before, I’m Greyson and his name is Aiden. We’re not far from Allen’s Point, just a few miles outside of Gainesville.”

“Gainesville?” She questioned.

“Florida?” was his exasperated response.

“I know where Gainesville is! I’m not stupid, I’m just trying to think of why I’m here. Maybe I’m from Gainesville or visiting there or something if it’s not that far.”

Greyson stared at her expectantly. She glared in response. “I don’t know if I am or not, it was just a thought.”

The pair grew silent. “Well, what should we call you? Obviously we’re not getting anywhere at the moment with figuring out your name and like I said, I’m not just going to call you stranger all the time.”

“Just call her ‘L’,” stated Aiden, who had been silent during their banter as he fidgeted with his hands.

The girl smiled for the first time since she’d woken up. “Why not? The kid’s got a point.”

Greyson sighed “I guess it makes the most sense.”

L sighed as she shivered yet again. “I’m sorry, but do you happen to have any clothes I can borrow? And maybe somewhere to wash up?” Her clothes were still slightly damp, giving her a chill despite the fire that the boys had kept going.

“Oh. right.”

L swore she could see a slight color fill Greyson’s cheeks but ignored it as he grabbed a bottle of water off the table and gestured for her to follow him. He entered a room at the end of the hall, too large to be a guest room but it had obviously not been used for a long time. The bed was made and a small TV sat atop the largest dresser. There was an end table on either side of the bed, each littered with pictures of two boys, a man and a woman. L could only assume it was Greyson’s family. There was also a small jewelry box on the left side table. Greyson quietly handed her a small pile of clothes and the bottle of water.

“Thank you.”

He lifted his eyes saying, “You’re welcome. You can change in here and meet us back in the living room. The storm must’ve knocked out the water and power but there’s a bathroom through that door. You can try to use that to wash up a bit,” he said, gesturing to the water he had handed her.

“There should be towels in there as well.” L stopped him before he could leave, not missing the shift in his personality when they came into the room.

“I’ll return them, I promise,” she said, gesturing to the clothes in her hands.

He gave a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “It’s fine. Not like she’s coming back for them.”

L was confused but Greyson didn’t offer any further explanation before quickly leaving the room. She looked back at the picture that sat on the dresser he had pulled the clothes from. The family in the picture seemed so happy, though it was evident the photograph was not recent. L couldn’t help but wonder what had happened. Greyson had seemed cautious while in the room, like a child in a place he knew he shouldn’t be. He was almost...uncomfortable. She brushed off the thoughts to simply another mystery for her to unravel, maybe after she figured out who she was first. One thought lingered in her mind, though, making her question why she felt the need to comfort the strange man that she barely knew.

L entered the bathroom and placed the clothing and water bottle on the sink before looking in the mirror. She nearly jumped at the sight, bringing her hand to her mouth as a gasp escaped her lips. Her hair was even darker with mud and there was a large gash at the top of her head where blood had braided itself into her tangled waves. Her eyes were surrounded by dark circles, from both the exhaustion she was feeling and from her makeup which had melted with the rain. Every inch of skin not covered by clothing had a thin layer of dirt which made her skin feel crinkled. Through the dirt she could see the bruises littering her neck which Greyson had mentioned. Her maroon sweater slightly hung off of her shoulders and had multiple small tears. She could see more scratches on her skin through the holes in the thin fabric. She quickly pulled off her denim shorts which stuck to her body like a second skin; they had dried stiff and were surely ruined. As she began to peel her sweater off of her arms, there was a sudden feeling of deja vu.

“No!”

The flash was so quick she couldn’t be sure if it was real. A man standing over her in a dark room. His hands on her neck. Her screams filled the air as she kicked the man away from her and he grabbed at her shirt, creating a small tear.

“Stay still!”

L looked up in the mirror as tears filled her eyes. She grazed her thumb over one of the rips in her shirt near her arm. Why was she in the woods last night, in the middle of a hurricane? She tried to remember more but the throbbing in her head only became worse. She ripped the sweater off the rest of the way and threw it to the floor. Grabbing a washcloth, she poured a few drops of water onto the material and began to wipe down her face before ringing out the cloth and adding more water. She did this a few more times until the bottle was about half empty and she had wiped down her body as best she could. Finding some mouthwash in the cabinet, she rinsed her mouth before taking a small swig of water. She used the rest of the water bottle to get the blood and dirt from her hair as thoroughly as possible, careful of the bump on her head. Using a hair tie which had been on her wrist, she pulled her thick hair into a messy bun before dressing in the clothes Greyson had given her. The black yoga pants were a near perfect fit, though the long sleeve blue cotton tee was a bit baggy. She looked in the mirror once more before gathering her muddy clothes and laying them across the bathtub. L let out a relieved breath at how much better she felt before returning to the living room.

The air was tense as the three sat in the living room, not speaking or moving. L was first to break silence when she couldn’t stand the grumbling in her stomach any longer.

“Do you happen to have anything to eat?” she asked.

Greyson’s eyes shifted from the window to the girl in front of him. “Uh, yeah. We don’t have too much that we can make without a stove, but there should be some stuff for a sandwich or something.”

He stood and headed in the same direction Aiden had gone earlier to grab her water. After a moment, L rose from her seat and followed him towards the kitchen. Sitting on a chair across from Greyson as he gathered the materials for a peanut butter sandwich, she asked him how he had found her.

“I’m just curious why you were in the woods. Like you said, there’s a hurricane outside,” she said playing with the charm around her neck.

Greyson didn’t even bother looking up as he sighed. “If you must know, our dog, Winslow, ran into the woods when we were trying to get in the house. Aiden would’ve been heartbroken if I left the damn thing out there in the storm. When Winny and I were heading back, we saw you laying in mud. You looked so pale I almost thought you were dead.” He slid the sandwich across the counter to her.

“Oh. Well, thank you. I mean for not leaving me out there. Most people probably would’ve kept going.” L shook her head as she picked at the sandwich in front of her. Silence once again filled the room. Before either had the chance to speak there was a loud bang and Aiden came running into the room. Winslow had started barking at the abrupt noise and was following close behind the young boy.

“Somebody’s at the door, Grey!” he said looking back and forth between the living room and his brother.

“Stay here with L while I see who it is. Probably just somebody needing a little help ‘cause of the storm.” He said as he rose towards the door. L went to stand too.

“Stay here and eat. Who knows when the last time you had food was.”

Greyson walked towards the living room as L and Aiden sat in the kitchen. Winslow laid at Aiden’s sock-clad feet, his head held high as though listening to the conversation in the other room. L could hear a few words being exchanged. Whoever was at the door was definitely male and seemed to be looking for something. She caught some words like “girl,” “ran away,” and “last night.” As she took a bite of her sandwich, another image filled her head.

“But what if I don’t want to take over the company, Dad?”

“Well of course you want the company, Lennox! Don’t even joke about a thing like that.” The man sighed while shaking his head.

“What if I’m not joking, Dad? I wanna go to art school. Explore. Volunteer. Do something with my life!”

His face was becoming even more red at this point. “Stop this nonsense right now, Lennox. You’ll ‘do something with your life’ by taking over this damn comp—”

“Sir?” The conversation was cut short by a young man standing in the doorway. “The board meeting is about to begin.”

“This conversation is finished,” he said with a cold glare, leaving Lennox alone in his office as he followed his employee to the meeting without glancing back. The young man, however, kept his eyes firmly on Lennox. His look left her almost as cold as her father’s words.

“Miss?”

Her head spun to look at the security guard who now stood in the place her father had vacated.

“I’ll escort you out now.”


Once again the image faded as quickly as it had come. Lennox? The door slammed from the living room causing both Aiden and L to jump at the sound. Winslow stood as well with a soft ‘woof!’, before padding towards his master. Greyson stormed into the kitchen looking more than a little annoyed.

“Who was that?” asked Aiden.

Greyson ignored his brother’s question. “Wanna tell me why some guy with your picture was on my front porch?” he asked L while taking a seat on the stool beside her.

She froze, placing down the sandwich on the plate in front of her. “Someone was looking for me? And you didn’t tell them I was here?” She jumped up to head towards the door when a strong hand gripped her bicep.

“Hold up. First of all the guy didn’t have a uniform or badge. Second, the picture he had of you looked like he cut it out of a yearbook or something. Third, he wouldn’t tell me your name. It didn’t exactly seem trustworthy to me. Figured I’d talk to you first and see if you maybe had a sudden memory which would explain the creep on my doorstep.”

“Oh. Well, what did he look like?” She asked.

“Tall, dark hair, and a lot of muscle. Looked like he could’ve worked in security or something.”

Her mind flashed to the guard she had seen in what she assumed to be a memory just moments before. Her breath caught as she contemplated her answer.

“No, doesn’t sound familiar” she shrugged before returning to her sandwich.

An entire week had passed, each day duller than the last. At least, for the brothers it was dull. They spent their days rationing food and playing board games by the fire, waiting for the roads to clear. Apparently it would take some time seeing as their home was a bit ‘off the beaten path’ as they called it. L just referred to it as the middle of nowhere. However, for L, the week had been anything but boring. Each day brought new memories to the surface. Each dream brought a snippet back to her of what had happened, leaving her waking in a cold sweat and swallowing her scream in an attempt not to alert Greyson or Aiden. As for those two, they knew nothing of her resurfacing memories. She had almost been caught one night when Aiden had awoken in a seizure and Greyson wondered why she was awake.

“J-Just a nightmare,” she replied.

“Anything to do with what happened maybe?” L’s body had stiffened and she willed it to relax as she tried to answer with a steady ‘no’.

“What’s wrong with Aiden?” she asked quickly as she knelt beside Greyson and laid her hand on the shuddering boy’s forehead.

Greyson simply ignored her question, brushing her hand away from his brother and replacing it with a cool rag. When Aiden finally stopped seizing, Greyson stepped out of the room muttering something about being back in a minute.

“L?” she heard a soft whisper.

“Hey, buddy. How you doing?” she asked while brushing a stray hair off of Aiden’s head.

“W-what happened?” L chose her next words carefully. She wasn’t entirely sure but had a decent enough idea about the situation and didn’t want to frighten the poor boy.

“Well, you were just shaking a bit, buddy. But, it’s alright. Greyson took good care of you so everything’s good now and you can go back to sleep.”

“I-I don’t wanna go back to sleep,” was his shaky reply.

“Well then, how about a story?” She couldn’t force him to go to sleep. God knew she didn’t want to sleep after the horrible images her dreams had been showing her. The dark room. The man. They seemed to endlessly follow her.

“A story?” Aiden’s voice brought her back to the present.

“Yeah, a story. You know, a good story always helps me sleep.”

“Really?”

“Of course! Stories, ya know, they help us dream if you read one before you go to bed. So how about a happy story for some happy dreams?”

“C-can you read me Narnia?

Narnia?” She asked in surprise. “Well that’s a pretty long story. We may not get through it all tonight.”

“Pretty, pretty please, L?” She couldn’t ignore the hope in his eyes.

“Alright, I suppose we can always finish it later if we don’t tonight.”

“Yes!” Aiden slowly slid his feet off the bed to the floor and shakily grabbed a faded book from a small shelf in the corner. He was so full of excitement that she almost forgot this was the same boy who had laid seizing in bed just ten minutes before. L tucked him back into bed, making sure he was comfortable before she began.

“Chapter One: Lucy Looks Into a Wardrobe”

Narnia, huh?” L nearly jumped at Greyson’s voice as she attempted to close Aiden’s door without waking him.

“Um, yeah. I thought maybe a story would help him sleep and this is what he picked.” He softly took the book from her hands, playing with the frayed pages.

“Our mom used to read him this all the time. When she died, I started reading it to him.” L’s eyes widened at this piece of his life that he was sharing. He had been anything but open since she had arrived. She didn’t push her luck by asking more about his mom, instead opting for, “Why’d you stop?”

Greyson chuckled softly. L almost stopped breathing at the sound. This was the first time she had heard him laugh.

“I don’t really know. I had originally just picked up where my mom left off, but then we finished the last chapter and instead of starting over we just put it on the shelf. Have you ever read it?”

“I think my—” She stopped realizing the mistake she had almost just made.

“You think what?”

“I-I don’t remember really, but it seems sorta familiar. I think maybe I might’ve read it before when I was younger or something,” she covered quickly. He handed the book back to her.

“Well, it’s a good book. Maybe it’ll jog a memory or something while you read it. Speaking of memories, remember anything about that guy on my porch yet?” Just like that, Greyson’s suspicion had returned. She could see the tension return to his shoulders, almost as though she was watching his walls build back up around him.

“No,” she whispered, keeping her head down slightly. “Nothing.”

“Hm. Well, it’s late. You should get some sleep.” He turned his back and headed towards his room.

That was the problem. L was a terrible liar but the more she remembered, the less she felt inclined to share should the two want to send her away. She had grown oddly close to them as the days passed. Aiden was witty, though she discovered that he struggled with academics. Greyson was mysterious and distant yet she could see how soft he was with Aiden, and even with her at times. The two had come to an odd sort of friendship that neither truly acknowledged, but both knew was present.

L continued reading at least once a day with Aiden after that night. It was a calming distraction and even Greyson joined in once in awhile. Winslow would sit by their feet and bark whenever Aiden became excited at a certain part of the story. L had Aiden read along with her sometimes, hoping that maybe it would help him a little when he returned to school.

One morning, L awoke to find Greyson rushing around packing food and adding it to a pile near the door which held blankets and other supplies.

“Greyson?” she asked with a questioning look towards the pile.

He stopped and looked towards the girl on his couch. His eyes were red and the dark circles showed the lack of sleep. This was the most stressed she had seen him look since they had met.

“We need to go into town. We’re leaving soon, so you may wanna get changed.”

“Town?” She asked. “I thought that the roads still weren’t cleared?”

“Not completely but we’ll find a way. It just might take a little longer.”

“What’s the rush all of a sudden?”

Greyson seemed to be avoiding her eyes as he went back to packing. “I didn’t realize how low on supplies we were. We need to pick up more from town and I don’t know how much longer it’ll be until they finish clearing the roads back here so we’re just gonna go.”

“Okay,” she agreed. L was still half asleep and too tired to argue despite not truly believing Greyson’s words.

The ride into Gainesville took around 3 hours: about 2 and half hours more than it should have taken, but it was quicker than the three had thought it would be. Every few minutes there would be trees or some other sort of block in the road which Greyson, and even sometimes L, would need to get out and move. Then when they reached Allen’s point after an hour, they discovered that the small town didn’t have what they needed and they would have to keep going to Gainesville. Along the trip, L had learned that Aiden was in desperate need of medicine which was the reason for rushing into town. Greyson was not happy with L knowing that the boy was ill and refused to share any specifics. All she knew was that it was not your average cold. Aiden took several different medications daily. It was also his illness which caused his difficulty with learning and the seizures which she had awoken to that one night.

Gainesville was very busy and bright compared to the quiet Allen’s Point and the cabin L had spent the last week confined to. Her head began to hurt as she looked at all of the shops and people. She was still sensitive to light and sound due to the concussion Greyson had diagnosed her with. It was decided that their first stop in town would be the police station to see if there was any information about L, much to her dismay. Not that the brothers knew that.

“Sorry, there’s no report of you here, Ma’am. But I’ll put in your information and keep an eye out. We’ll send someone for you if anything new shows up,” the officer stated as he searched the police database and stack of missing person flyers beside him. L relaxed and felt the tension leave her shoulders.

“Thank you, sir,” was Greyson’s reply before the three hurried to the pharmacy. While Greyson went back to speak with a pharmacist, L and Aiden scanned the shelves looking for anything they may need. A face caught L’s attention. A tall man with dark hair and eyes was staring openly at her, his muscles and silence intimidating. L gasped. The security guard. She quickly ducked below the shelves and searched for Aiden who had been beside her just moments before.

“Aiden?” she whispered.

“Yeah?” His head popped up from the candy aisle the next row over.

“Let’s go find your brother.”

Greyson was just finishing up with the cashier when L and his brother reached his side.

“Ready to go?” he asked. Aiden replied, but L kept looking around. “L? You okay?”

She glanced at Greyson. “Oh...mhmm.”

Greyson brushed off the girl’s weird behavior and exited the store. She could tell that he hadn’t really believed her, but was too concerned with checking her surroundings to give much thought to the trouble it might bring her later. She quickly climbed back into Greyson’s truck whispering a quick prayer that she hadn’t been recognized.

“Wanna tell me why a girl with no memories suddenly seemed real keen on getting out of Gainesville so quick?”

L spun around to look at Greyson, a hand flying up to her chest in shock at his sudden appearance behind her. They had returned from Gainesville a few hours ago, the trip back being much quicker due to the path they had cleared earlier. Greyson had taken Aiden by the arm back to their rooms as soon as they were indoors and L hadn’t seen the brothers since.

“Excuse me?” She said once she caught her breath, not entirely sure she had heard him right.

“You were so excited about getting out of Gainesville. Don’t think I didn’t notice you practically running to the truck. Now, if I’d lost my memories, I wouldn’t be so quick to leave the place that might have some answers. But you—you ran out of there like you were afraid of something. That leads me to think that you’re hiding something and I wanna know what. You didn’t even care to ask many questions in the police station.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Greyson.” I wasn’t rushing anywher—”

“Do not lie to me, L,” Greyson interrupted in a low voice. “My brother and I have taken good care of you for this past week; I’ve trusted you and let you into our home, but I will not allow you to stay here if you are some kind of threat. Now tell me the truth!”

“There was a guy, okay!” L didn’t want to lie to him, but she couldn’t tell him what had happened. Instead, she simply gave him as much of the truth as she could. “There was a man in the store. He was staring me down and I was uncomfortable. I was scared, okay? The guy creeped me out. I didn’t want to be near him. I got Aiden and came to find you,” she sighed.

Greyson’s eyes softened a little bit and there was silence between the two for a moment. “Are you sure that’s all that happened back there?” he questioned before a knock interrupted them. Winslow barked. He walked towards the door to open it without another word, the golden retriever close on his heels.

“Hello?” L couldn’t see who it was, but could hear the male voice.

“Good evening. I’m sorry to interrupt your night; my name is Walter. My daughter went missing during the storm and I’m trying to see if maybe you can help me. She was last seen not far from here. Her name is Lennox. Lennox Ashby.” L could see the man pull a photo from his pocket.

She saw Greyson freeze in the doorway before turning to look at her. Without an invitation, the person standing outside the door pushed their way inside. This time it was L who froze.

“Lennox?” A regal looking man stood stood before her. His suit was clearly well-made and his hands were clasped in front of him as though he was making a business deal, not looking for his missing daughter. A smile slid across his face, but it was not the type of fatherly smile one would expect. L could see the coldness in his eyes, which his smile attempted to hide.

“L? Do you know this man? His name is Walter. He says that he’s your father,” Greyson said, closing the door and stepping around Walter.

“L? Really Lennox?” Walter chuckled under his breath.

L could feel her heart speed up. Time was distorted. She was only brought back when a young voice broke the silence.

“Grey? What’s going on?” Aiden stood in the doorway with the same look as a week before when L had first arrived.

“Aiden, this man may know L. He’s trying to help us—”

“No” Lennox interrupted, the word just a whisper under her breath but loud enough to make the men stare at her.

“Excuse me?” Walter asked.

“I said ‘No,’” she said more clearly.

“Lennox, this is ridiculous. Get your stuff and let’s go. We have a long ride home.” Walter’s patient, happy parent facade was slipping.

“Mr. Ashby, if L says—” Greyson began at the same time that L chuckled, “Home,” making him stop mid-sentence to look in her direction.

“I’m sorry Greyson, Aiden. He’s telling the truth that my name is Lennox Ashby. But that place,” she chuckled again, this time a little more desperate than humourous. “That place is not my home and I have no intention of going back.”

“Lennox, please stop with the dramatics. I have to be at the office in the morning and it’s already been a very long day. Damien is waiting in the car to drive us back.”

“Damien?” she froze again.

“Yes, Damien. He offered to help. He cares about you, Lennox. He’s a good man and a great employee.”

At this point, Greyson stepped forward to place himself between Walter and Lennox. She was sure that he was upset with her, but she thanked God that he had a good heart.

“Sir, I think that we should just sit down and talk about this. Obviously Lennox is a bit uncomfortable with the situation and your friend outside,” Greyson said and despite his hesitation when saying her real name, she was grateful for his concern.

“Please, son, there is nothing wrong with Damien. Lennox is just being over dramatic. He was very worried about her,” Walter said.

Worried? About me? More like worried about himself! He’s the reason we’re in this mess to begin with. He attacked me!” Lennox cried hysterically as tears began to fall from her eyes. Greyson turned to look at her, his eyes widening. “I-I just wanted to go home and find you and mom and tell you what happened—force you to do something. I knew, though, that you wouldn’t believe a single word I said about your golden boy. No way. Damien would never do a thing like that. Just another way for poor little Lennox to get the attention. So I hit him with a lamp and I grabbed my shoes and my keys and I ran. Maybe I was a coward, but I protected myself. I had to protect myself because I knew that you wouldn’t. You didn’t even care enough about me to file a missing person report at the police station.” The tears were still streaming from her eyes as she turned to look at the two brothers who had been so kind to her.

“I really didn’t remember anything that first day, I swear. The memories came in flashes while I was doing something or while I was asleep. I was in the woods that night because I was running from Damien after what he tried to do. I was running from my life. But, I didn’t lie about not knowing who I was when we met. And then I remembered and I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. And then the longer that passed without telling you, I got even more scared that you would hate me. That you would be so disgusted by what had happened and what I’d hidden from you that you would just tell me to go. I’m so sorry.”

Aiden was crying too at this point. Even Greyson seemed to have a sadness wash over him before his body tensed. She could see the emotions as they passed through his blue eyes: the confusion, the sadness, but most importantly the hardness that suddenly swept all emotion away. His hands curled into fists. She knew it wasn’t threatening, but rather frustration. Still though, she cried harder seeing the built up anger.

“I think you should go Lennox,” he said before placing a hand on Aiden’s shoulder and pushing him towards the kitchen.

“B-but, Grey,” Aiden began.

“No, Aiden. I think it’s best if Lennox goes with her dad. They obviously have some things to work out.”

She felt her heart stop once more. No matter what she did, what she said, it wouldn’t make a difference. She had lied to them and that was that.

“Grey, L and I—we have to finish Narnia. We didn’t finish reading. W-we have to finish it,” Aiden sobbed looking back and forth between Greyson and Lennox. Greyson’s eyes seemed to harden more at the mention of the unfinished story.

“I’ll read it with you,” Greyson said.

“B-but,”

“I-it’s okay, Aiden. Your brother’s right, I should probably go with my fath—with my dad. I should probably go with my dad now. Greyson can pick up where we left off and finish the story with you,” Lennox said as she walked towards her small pile of belongings beside the couch. She had thrown away the sweater as the rips couldn’t be repaired but still had the shorts and shoes she had first arrived in. Tears fell from her eyes but Greyson was mad and she didn’t want to push his anger any further. She had done enough damage as it was. She glanced back at the brothers again whispering a light, “I’m sorry,” once more before leaving. Walter nodded towards the brothers before following his daughter to the car. She stopped and turned to him.

“I’ll pack my bags when we get back and I’ll call a cab to take me to Gainesville. I’ll find my own place to stay from there,” she said. Her eyes were still red yet her voice was steady, void of emotion.

“Lennox, don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not, Dad. I meant what I said. That place is not my home anymore, I don’t want the company, and you made it very clear inside that you will choose Damien over me. I’m moving out.” She turned and stepped into the SUV before Walter could say anything else.

The return home had been filled with fake tears from her mother and fighting once both her parents realized she was serious about moving out. After an awkward hug with her mother, she had gone straight to her room and gotten a hot shower. Of course, the Ashby home had few damages from the hurricane and their electric and water had been turned back on almost immediately. One of the perks of owning one of the biggest companies in Florida. After that, she had put her clothes into suitcases and boxed up the few other belongings that she would truly miss or need. Walter had threatened to freeze all of her accounts as she dragged her bags to the truck she had called for, but Lennox only laughed and continued loading her belongings. She had always known that one day her father would stop giving her money unless she did what he wanted. She had started a separate account at a different bank years ago. The small allowance she had put into the account each month had built up over the years, leaving her with a good sum of money to get on her feet before finding a job.

But that was over 3 weeks ago. It was easy to find an apartment in Gainesville once she arrived, as several places had been damaged in the storm and the residents had moved out rather than spend the money to fix everything. Her apartment was on the third floor of the building and was very small with only one bedroom and one bathroom, but it was perfect for her. She was able to fix the damages quickly and start making the apartment her own. After the apartment deal had been settled, Lennox also made a point to stop by the local police station and file a restraining order against Damien Collins. It wasn’t hard to prove what had happened, especially with her concussion and amnesia explaining why it took so long for her to file a report of the incident.

Lennox sighed as her alarm blared beside her bed. She reached for the medication the doctor had prescribed for her headaches before taking two pills to ease the pain. After a few days in the city, she had finally decided to see a doctor and get a real diagnosis on her injuries. It turned out that Greyson had been treating her concussion perfectly and there was little left to do other than checkups and getting a prescription for the migraines.

Greyson. Lennox sighed as she thought of him and Aiden. She thought of them most days and couldn’t deny how much she missed the two brothers. They had brought her into their family and showed her what it was like to truly be happy for the first time. Then her father had ruined it—maybe she had ruined it too. But that was life. People come and go.

But today was not the day to dwell on the past. Today she needed to pick up another migraine prescription as hers was about to run out. The pharmacy had already called to inform her that a new one was waiting. Lennox had no other plans for today, a much needed reprieve after twenty years where every minute was planned, so the small errand could be done without a problem. She reached for some fresh clothes and headed to the bathroom.

Gainesville was just as bright and busy as it had been when she’d first arrived. The trip to the pharmacy hadn’t taken long and she stepped through the doors to find the hot Florida sun beating down on her face. As she looked around the bustling street, Lennox decided that coffee would be a good way to postpone her decision on what to do next.

The quaint coffee shop beside the pharmacy had become accustomed to her frequent visits. The owners were a sweet older couple who knew her order by heart. She had come to love the small shop and loved even more to sit beside the window and relax. To watch the people go by. It was so...normal. A smile graced her lips as the thought filled her head. Normal. A nice notion after the last few weeks.

“Here you go, dear. Nice and fresh, just for you,” the elderly women handed Lennox a small iced coffee and blueberry muffin before taking her money.

“Thank you, Esther. I’ll see you soon!” Lennox shoved a few dollars into the tip jar before heading outside. The bright sun was inviting and there was a small bench beneath a shady tree just outside cafe.

Woof!”

Just as Lennox was about to bite into her muffin, a mass of yellow fur lept onto the bench beside her. She barely had time to shove the pastry back into the bag before paws were on her lap and a tongue was in her face, spilling the coffee which had been resting on the arm of the bench.

“Whoa, boy,” she laughed. “Take it easy. You owe me a coffee.”

She pushed the dog back to see him more clearly. The golden retriever stared at her expectantly. Her eyes widened at the dog before looking at his collar. Blue with an orange ‘W’.

“Winslow!” A man’s voice yelled before pulling the dog off of her lap.

“I’m real sorry about him. He’s a big baby,” he laughed before looking up.

“It’s okay,” Lennox smiled as she looked into his familiar ice blue eyes.






Kapri Koflanovich is a Junior Integrated Marketing and Creative Writing Major with a Minor in Spanish. She is a Poetry and Fiction Co-editor for Quiddity and the Public Relations Officer for ASL Club. In her free time, Kapri loves reading, writing, and dancing. She hopes to work for a publishing company after graduation and eventually write her own book.

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