TwentyA Chapter by emily
Everyone descended into an uproar. Hannah and I jumped from our hiding place. Eli and Isaiah dropped to their knees next to Ruben. Roy shot again, narrowly missing Isaiah and causing them both to jump back.
Isaiah looked towards us. “Addy, Hannah, go!” Hannah was able to respond before I could, and she pulled me away into the bushes.
We waited long enough to see Eli get to his feet and charge at Roy with a roar, trying to fight the gun out of his hands. Isaiah pulled him off and they ran into the forest, away from us, with my family at their heels.
It looked like Hannah would go after them, so I grabbed her arm and ran, knowing there was no way we could catch up. We sprinted through the forest, trying to navigate through the maze of trees, trying not to think about what we were running from.
We finally emerged to find ourselves not far from the house. Hannah stopped froze and I turned in anxious circles. I was realizing what I had done. I had left Eli and Isaiah to fight my family alone, and we had all left Ruben behind
“What now?” Hannah asked flatly.
“‘What now?’” I repeated, amazed that she could be so calm. “What do you mean, ‘what now’? We have to go back out there!”
“Adeline, we can’t do that,” she insisted, catching my arm to keep me from running. “It won’t do any good. We’ll never find them now. If I have to remind you it was you who ran away in the first place!”
Even as I struggled against her, I knew she was right. “Well I have to do something. I can’t just leave them out there! ”
“You have to, Adeline,” she said, seeming to have calmed significantly. “You just have to trust that they will be all right.”
“Don’t you know what Roy is capable of?” I sniffed, defeated. I thought of last night, how Roy was completely unstoppable when it came to getting what he wanted, no matter how hard I fought.
“Of course I do!” she snapped. “I saw what happened out there. But we both know what Isaiah is capable of. Don’t you know how strong he is?” She had me there, but I had no idea how she could be so suddenly calm.
“Now, I need to wait for Eli, and you need to go wait for Isaiah.” I looked at her for a long minute. I could see she was still terrified, and I felt even guiltier for making her get control of me as well as herself. “They will both come back.” She said it like she was trying to convince herself it was true.
“All right.” I breathed. “If… if you find out something before me, please…”
“I will.” she nodded.
“And make sure Jordan doesn’t know how bad this is. I was about to tell her…”
“I know.” I could not tell how she felt about it. She had killed her emotions again.
I could not think of anything to say to her, even though we were in exactly the same position, so I turned from her and walked towards the house.
I was too numbed by shock and fear to cry, so I hoped Mama would not notice anything when I came in the house. But when I saw her standing in the hall, blocking my way, I realized she already knew.
There was no getting around her, so I knew she had something to say. But she waited, taking in my weakened figure before speaking.
“They’re going to kill him,” she said flatly, but somehow still smug.
I looked down. “You don’t know anything.”
“They’re going to finish what they should have ended four years ago.”
“We all knew he was back,” she cut me off. “Unfortunately, Roy knew little about your whoring about now or then until Ethan brought it to his attention.” She took a step towards me and I instinctively flinched away.
“This foolishness ends today, Adeline,” she spat.
I wanted to run away from her, knowing that she may have been speaking the truth. But I could not let her win, not when I was so close to losing everything else.
I clenched my jaw and took a brave step closer to her. “You’re wrong,” I snarled. “This is just the beginning.”
She was obviously surprised by my ability to stand up for myself, and I used her shock to my advantage. I pushed past my mother and sprinted up the stairs. I heard her call after me but I did not stop until I had bolted the door of my room behind me and crawled into the attic.
Then there was nothing but to wait.
I don’t know how long I waited. Every suspenseful second felt like an eternity in my panicked mind. I paced wildly around the room, feeling more helpless than ever before.
Isaiah was out there, maybe dying on the ground, his blood on the hands of Roy, Ethan, or my father. They could have been whipping him, torturing him or worse. What if they took Eli too? What if I lost another friend in an attempt to save Isaiah’s life?
Too much. It was too much to think about. I was making myself dizzy from pacing. If something didn’t come soon, if I did not get some kind of sign, I was going to go mad.
The sun was setting after what felt like years when I heard a rustling and a groan outside the window. I rushed to open it.
I almost collapsed when Isaiah swung into the room. I moved to throw my arms around him, but I stopped. He was not in such a condition that I had hoped.
He had been beaten, that much was clear. His shirt was open, revealing several bleeding cuts from a knife. His face was bruised and blood trickled from a cut on his mouth. There was a shallow slit in his neck. If it had been much deeper, I knew he could have been killed.
“Oh Isaiah…” I sniffled and threw my arms around him. He groaned and I realized I must have hurt him. “Isaiah I’m so sorry,” I said, apologizing for more than just that.
I pushed off his shirt to inspect the damage. I ripped up the sheet of the cot to bandage him while Isaiah sat in broken silence. He clearly did not want to talk about what had happened. I tended to him quietly until I could not take the suspense anymore.
“What happened, Isaiah?” I asked quietly, trying not to sound too forceful, as I wiped blood from the cut on his neck. “Is Ruben…?”
“Dead,” he said in a low, defeated voice.
I inhaled sharply and Isaiah did not say anything more for a long while. I was beginning to think that I would never know, but then he began to speak, avoiding my eyes.
“Eli went after Roy, and I had to pull him off. We ran, but they followed. We wouldn’t have fought, but when there was nowhere else to go, we had to.
“There were two of us and three of them, but with Ethan having one arm and your father being older, we were pretty evenly matched. We were doing all right, but Roy got a hold of me while I was trying to fight your brother off Eli.”
Roy had a knife.” Isaiah’s voice started to shake and I held him. “H-he cut slowly. He t-told me you would never s-see me again. You w-would never know what h-happened to me. He c-called you a w***e and said what happened t-to you would b-be worse than what h-happened to me.” Isaiah instinctively raised a hand to the slit in his throat. “He held the knife… he held the knife to m-my neck and told me to say I had never loved you.”
I took his hand. “What did you do?” I asked, almost afraid of the answer. From the way this story was going, I could not see any way Isaiah could have made it out alive.
Isaiah met my eyes for the first time since he began telling his story. For a moment, they were not filled with pain, but determination and strength. “I told him I had loved you my whole life, and I was never going to stop.”
I looked at him with in awe. I knew it was true. Isaiah had refused to deny me at the risk of losing his life.
“Really?” I breathed.
Isaiah nodded and took my other hand. “If they let me live, it would have been a life without you, and I don’t want that life again. Roy backed me up against a tree and held me there by the throat, with the knife at my chest. He asked me how I could think you could ever love me. I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t breathe. Then Eli knocked out Ethan and pulled his pistol again. Eli…” he looked up at me with a tiny, sad smile, “Eli saved my life.” I returned his gaze with a reassuring smile, thanking God for our brave, reckless friend.
“We could tell Roy was afraid of the even number, especially since he had left his rifle behind. He backed down and let go of me. He said he would let us go, but if you tried to leave with me, he would track us down and kill us. I wanted to stay, then, to have the chance to beat them, but Eli ran and I went after him. They didn’t follow.
“We went back for Ruben…” he trailed off, his face full of pain. “But we already knew. There was nothing we could have done. He was dead when he hit the ground.” As if that made it better. “Eli… Eli is going to bury him.”
There was a long, sorrowful pause while Isaiah regained control and I fumbled with a response. My mind had frozen after Roy’s theat. “W-what should we do?”
He looked down. “I don’t know. But… but I’m afraid of what will happen if you try to come with me.”
“Well then stay here,” I offered hopefully. “I can hide you, for as long it takes. Then when Roy…”
Isaiah shook his head, “No, Addy, no. You know you can’t hide me here forever.”
I stared at him. “Are you… are you saying I have to stay, if you leave?”
“I’m saying Roy could catch us if we try to run. He could hurt you, and I can’t let that happen.”
“Roy will hurt me either way,” I insisted, forcing Isaiah to look at me. “But if you stay here, or if I go with you, you can protect me and I can protect you. If you leave me behind you leave me alone with him.”
Isaiah looked at me, conflicted. “All right,” he said, pulling me close. “I won’t leave you.”
I breathed a relieved sigh and embraced him. “But there’s something else…” Isaiah said cautiously, as if he knew I would not like what he was about to say.
I did not like the sound of that. I looked at him with worried curiosity. “What do you mean?”
Isaiah broke my gaze. “I learned something today, Addy. I learned that we couldn’t run away from what’s happening. I can’t hide out in the north and hope the south loses the war while people are dying so I can be free.” He sounded serious, almost angry. “I have to do something.”
“What are you saying, Isaiah?” I asked, not liking the sound of this.
“Addy,” he said, taking my hand in his. “I want to fight for my rights. I want to fight for the Union.”
I stared at him. “What?” He couldn’t really be thinking about enlisting.
“Listen, this way we only have to go as far as it takes to find the nearest regiment. They’ll help us, Addy. They can take you somewhere safe while I’m gone, somewhere to wait for me.” Isaiah was genuinely excited about this plan, but I felt sick with worry. War was not something I wanted Isaiah to involve himself in. And the last thing I wanted in the world was to wait for him.
“No!” I said a little louder than I intended. “You can’t go into that war. You’ll be killed!”
“I don’t want to wait for you, not knowing if you will ever come back. I’ve done that before, and I can’t do it again.” The words had come out in a harsh and angry stream. I would have taken them back, but what I said had been true. I really did not think I could wait for him anymore.
Isaiah’s face fell into an emotionless façade. “You… you don’t want to leave with me?”
I shook my head. “No, no,” I insisted. “It isn’t that. I just… I just want you to be safe. I can’t lose you again.”
He looked at me. “Then what would you have me do, Addy?” he asked angrily. “Hide here in the damned attic for the rest of our lives, so I can be ‘safe,’ waiting for you to be done with your real life so you can come for me at night?”
“Isaiah, you know that’s not what I want…”
“Well, Addy, it sure as hell seems like it’s what you want!” he stood, raising his voice. “You forget that you left me too. I waited for you too! Don’t you realize that if you wouldn’t have left me behind in the beginning, before anyone knew, we could have had a real life together? But you wouldn’t! So this goddamn attic is all we’ve got left! It’s all we’ve ever had and you’re afraid to leave it behind! So now you sit here and say you love me while you know you’re not willing to be with me if it means leaving your easy little life behind.”
“I’m willing to go with you as long as you don’t leave me behind!” I yelled at him. “You can’t take me away from everything I have only to abandon me again! If you walked away right now it would be easier on me than if you left me for that godforsaken war!”
“Well then maybe I should just leave!”
I had not expected that kind of threat. Unable to think of anything to say, I began to cry.
Isaiah’s eyes softened and he sat next to me again. “I don’t want it to be like this. But you have to let me try. You have to let me go out there and try to change things. Look at me.”
I looked up at him and saw his face shining with that old determination and innocence I had thought was lost to him. It was the look he got when he believed he could change the world. It was the most beautiful look I had ever seen. “I'm going to go out there and fight. Not for the Union, and not for myself. For us. If I stay here, nothing will change, and this attic will be all we ever have." He sounded so determined, so eager. This was something he really wanted.
But I was still unwilling to accept it. I shook my head. “Just think about this, Isaiah. For once in your life just sit down and think something through. You really think that you can change everything by shooting as many rebels as you can before they shoot you? That’s not how it works. Can’t you please just stay until we work something else out?” I begged.
Isaiah took a long, serious look at me. Then he stood and pulled on his shirt. “I can’t make you understand, and I can’t make you come with me. But no matter what, Addy, I’m leaving. I can’t stay. Roy will come looking for me. He’ll know I’m still here,” Isaiah said solemnly. “I have to leave, Addy, with or without you.”
He moved towards the window and I panicked. I was going to lose him again. “Isaiah wait!” I called, and, to my surprise, he turned. “You said you didn’t want to live if you couldn’t have a life with me. You were willing to die for that. How can you walk away now?”
Though the candle in the corner had burned down, I could still read his face in the dark. Isaiah’s eyes filled with sorrow. “I want a life with you, Addy. I don’t want an affair,” he said sadly. “I want to be with you every day for the rest of my life. I don’t want to hide anymore. I don’t want to pretend, and I don’t want to lose anyone else by trying to stay here.”
He was right. It wasn’t fair to ask him to stay, but I was not ready to leave. I stood and pulled him to me. Isaiah returned the embrace and I began to cry again.
“Please,” I said quietly, pleadingly, into his chest. “Please don’t go. I love you.”
Isaiah tipped my chin up and kissed me, but the act did not give me any hope. It was a kiss goodbye.
I pulled my head back and looked into Isaiah’s eyes. His angry exterior had been broken, and, though I could see the conflict all over his face, I knew he had made his choice.
Isaiah kissed my forehead. “I love you too,” he said softly. “No matter what happens to me, I will always love you. But this is something I have to do.”
He took something from his pocket and placed it in my palm, closing my fingers around it. I opened my hand and saw he had given me the second pin, the one he had taken with him when he last left. I could only look at him in sorrow and disbelief. He was really going to leave me.
He broke away from me and I held fast to his hand, like an abandoned child. Isaiah turned again and held my sorrowful gaze. “Goodbye Addy,” he said quietly. I could not bring myself to say anything more. There was nothing I could do to change his mind.
When I did not respond, he turned sadly away and dropped out of sight.
Then I thought of something. Jordan. I hadn’t told him about Jordan. He would stay if he knew. He wouldn’t leave.
I couldn’t let him go. I had just made the worst decision of my life. I had to tell him before it was too late.
I leaned as far out the window as I could without falling. He was on the ground, running already. “Isaiah!” I called as loud as I could, not even caring who heard anymore. “Isaiah, please, wait!”
He stopped very briefly and turned. I was filled with hope for just a moment; hope that I had not destroyed the best thing that had ever happened to me.
But that hope was shattered when I looked at his face. In the moonlight, I could see the decision in his eyes. I could see he was not coming back up, not matter what I said.
And maybe I imagined it, since it was too dark to see clearly, but it seemed to me that, ever so slightly, Isaiah shook his head. In my mind, that meant that he was not coming back up because he wanted to leave. Nothing could change his mind and nothing had gotten through to him.
I had lost him again.
Then he turned and ran into the night, leaving my life again as quickly as he had come.
© 2012 emily
Added on May 16, 2009
Last Updated on March 13, 2012
AboutHello all! My name is Emily, I'm 18, I am definitely not at home in this tiny MN town, and soon I will be the most famous author my generation. I go to Barnes and Noble to see where my book will sit .. more..
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