tagNovels and NovellasLost & Found Pt. 03

Lost & Found Pt. 03

byHazelRah©

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Chapter 8

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The reality of freedom did not set in for a long time. Not when she was escorted to the local police station and interviewed alongside an FBI agent. Not when she checked into a local hotel and had a hot shower. Not when she sat on the bed and watched BBC with the running headline: "MERCENARY CORP BUSTED. KILLINGS TIED TO INTL CRIMES. AMERICAN HOSTAGE FREED." Her headshot once again flashed on screens, along with Maximus' and a few others from the complex that had died earlier. It was the biggest news of the day.

Yet, Carly felt nothing. The next morning, a female FBI agent came to interview her. They had breakfast downstairs. It was a luxurious continental breakfast.

She felt nothing when she repeated to the agent, "Yes, I was imprisoned. They had kidnapped me. No, they didn't torture me. No, I wasn't raped. Yes, I was treated reasonably well, but I had no access to the outside world. Yes, I know person X and Y, he was there from month A to B. Yes, this picture you are showing me is the person I identify as George. Yes, Maximus was the one who shot XXX outside his mansion that night. No, I don't know the name of George's accountant, he was off site and was only referred to as the numbers guy."

She did hours of interview. Repeated the same thing so many times she wondered what the point was. It was all recorded, right? There was always a female FBI agent present and they were extremely polite and caring.

After three days of exhaustive interview, she was told they were done with her part of the investigation. Now the female FBI agent brought up therapy and counseling. "We will refer you to see professional therapist and counselors when you are back in California. We understand how traumatic this experience must be to you and we will do anything to help you. Please take care of yourself. And don't hesitate to contact us if you can recall any information about the organization."

It was at that moment she struck up the courage to ask, "Can I ask a question?"

"Yes, of course."

"One of the guys we've discussed...this guy, Eli...what happened to him?"

She had told them everything except two things: Eli killing Antoine, and having slept with Eli.

The female agent responded with an understanding warmth, "I appreciate you caring about individuals, Miss Morris, that is very admirable of you. But that is not an information I can give you."

"Do you know if he's alive or dead?"

"I cannot give you that information." The female agent made it clear that was that.

He's probably dead. She decided to put him out of her mind. He was not paramount to her life anymore. She was free now.

There was a knock at her hotel room door. She opened to find two tear-strewn faces belonging to those of her parents. She was immediately embraced, so tight she could not breathe, so hard she could not fall, for she would have fallen to the ground and crumbled into pieces, if they had not locked her in their tight hug. They exchanged words of sorrow and joy. They showered her with love that had been built up over the months during her disappearance with nowhere to release, now pouring out all at once and blissfully drowning her. She was safe and back in the arms of her family.

They sat on the bed and talked. They ate downstairs and talked. She caught up on her siblings' activities and found things to be more or less the same. Things don't change that much outside in just a few months. Lydia dyed her hair a different color. Mary got accepted to college. Lyon was doing well as a journalist in Chicago. Her dog missed her. Her horse missed her. Veronica felt extremely guilty about her abduction and was flying in the next day.

They were very careful not to ask her about what happened to her during her imprisonment. In fact, so deliberately careful that she thought it was too obvious and a little hurtful.

"It's okay if you ask me about what happened when I was there." She told them the following morning over breakfast, "I'm strong enough to handle it and it's important for my recovery."

They were hesitant but said, "Sweetie, you are so brave! Take it easy, take it slow. We have all the time in the world when we get home."

They flew home together unceremoniously. Her siblings were sweet in welcoming her back. There were more tears and hugs of joy. They protected her from media and excessive visits. She stayed in their beautiful vineyard surrounded by serene views of grapevines and the light dust misting the dry air. The last of summer's heat receded as fall came, though in Sonoma County, the seasons were mild and winter was never cold.

She would have nightmares, as the therapist had warned her. She would wake up in the middle of night, her body frozen with fear. It would take her a while to recognize that she was not in her prison room anymore but the room she had grown up in all her life. A room with beautiful dark wooden floors, a large plush bed, pictures on the wall of her throughout the ages, memorabilia from school years. She'd sit there in the dark and listen. There would be no sound but the whistling of leaves outside the window and faint dog bark in the distance. She would dream of being assaulted again. Memories of being smashed against the shower wall, the searing pain and taste of blood in her mouth, her limbs being yanked violently like she was nothing of value.

Breathe, breathe. The therapist taught her. Don't run from it. Let it go through you. Face it, one bit by bit.

She would be living with PTSD for a long, long time. The nightmares were hers and hers only.

Or was it?

It took a while for her to come out of her cocoon to see how the incident had affected her family as well. They had become excessively protective of her. They avoided talking about any violent news in her presence. They tried to get her mind on everything else that was peaceful and joyful in the world. They pushed her to go back into horse riding because they heard it was rehabilitative - that part they weren't wrong with. She re-bonded with her horse and truly enjoyed long, solitary ride along the countryside. She would walk along the road on her horse, rising high above a sea of ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Harvest season was upon them and the tourists were pouring in from the bay area and all over the country. She'd see traffic build up on weekends, long black limousines carrying crowds of beautifully dressed people, their cheeks rosy from tastings. Bachelor parties, weekend getaways, wedding receptions. Sonoma county is perpetually a happy place. Only the happiest of people come here and they consume the wine and the cheese and the merriment.

Ah, the happiness. The true happiness these people don't realize they possess, she thought as she strode down the road on her horse, is their freedom.

Only when it's taken from you do you realize nothing else in the world matters.

So it could be said that her family didn't understand her. Any description of her imprisonment would only cause them to shriek and gasp with "you are so brave, my love!" How could she express the nuance, of, say, how she felt about Maximus? How could she describe Maximus truthfully, as a human being who killed, but also used his prize money to order her underwear and books from Amazon? The sadness she felt when he died. How could she describe them when she didn't even know how to process it herself?

She concluded it was not possible. Even her therapist wouldn't understand. She would sit on her chair and listen to Carly, nod, and say things Freudian like.

"This is a normal feeling to have" was the most common thing she would say when Carly expressed conflicting thoughts about her abduction.

Yeah, but you don't really get it. You don't.

To get it, you have to be there. But you weren't.

But she didn't say that out loud, because that would be rude.

Harvest season came and it was busy time at the vineyard. She appreciated the influx of tourists as this put her mind off her troubled past.

Then one day, in the middle of a warm fall afternoon, as she was helping examining the cellar and taking notes of their stock, it struck her.

- He had told her to stay in the room the few days before.

Why?

Did he know they were coming?

Why would he?

One possible explanation came to her mind: He was a snitch. He sold them out.

In return...for what?

They knew her name - the authorities. Before they busted the complex, they knew the missing American tourist was inside. The most likely explanation, then, was that he had told them.

She steadied herself by resting on a wooden barrel. The cellar was cool and she started sweating icy cold sweat and began to shake. Did he finally listen to her and let her go?

"Oh god..." she closed her eyes as the pain of the past overwhelmed her once more, and she stood there fighting her inner demons.

Maybe he did save her, after all. Maybe that cancels out all the wrong he had done. She felt remorse and sorrow. He was human, like any human. He did a lot of wrong things, but maybe in the end he redeemed himself - if her hypothesis about her liberation was right.

Then another thing struck her. Something she had completely let go in her mind since she came back. Something that all the sudden became front and center.

She had not had a period since that night. She was regular the months before, even when she was stuck in the complex. In fact, Maximus had been extremely uncomfortable with ordering female hygiene products.

It can't be. But it could be. She knew the only way to find out was to go to the drugstore. So she did. In her spotless private bathroom in her family's beautiful home, she peed on the stick and it did not even take 3 seconds for the stick to shoot all the way out to the second line.

Pregnant. I'm pregnant. From having slept with a guy once. The one time I did not have protection.

Her medical training kicked in. It was still early and abortion was an option. It would not even be that painful. Pop a mifepristone and wait for the body to expel the fetus, bleed and cramp a little, and it would be done. Compared to a lifetime of commitment to another life.

I have the freedom of choice. I can decide what I want for my body. Whatever I decide, I know my family will support me. The choice is mine and mine only.

Carly spent a few days thinking about it. Her family was used to her suddenly needing time alone and let her be. She walked through the vineyard and paced up and down for long hours at a time. She looked at the tourist children giggling and dancing in the dirt. She looked at the loving couples drinking her family's wine and speaking of their future to start a family. She would have to be realistic about the hardship of a single mom, especially if she also wanted a career.

At the end of it, she realized she was ready for a child. She had faith in her strength. She had material support from her family. All she had to do was plan ahead and execute. Her family, with all their resources, would be able to come up with a plan to support her through raising a child and starting a career as an equine veterinarian.

There was just one thing: explain how she got pregnant.

She decided not to lie. It would be easy to say she was raped and they would understand. But that wasn't what happened and it would be traumatic for them to think she was. Explaining the full truth, the entire backstory of it all, would have been even harder than trying to get them to understand Maximus. So that was also out of the question.

She decided to strike a balance in between.

"I have something really important I have to discuss with you guys." She started with her parents, "I'm pregnant."

The response was anticipated. They gasped, hugged her, and said they would support whatever she decided to do.

"I just want you to know that I was not raped. I don't want you to feel bad for me. It was...consensual." They nodded, but their eyes expressed confusion, "It's complicated and it's hard for me to talk about it right now, but trust me when I say I was not hurt and I think I can handle this. You guys will help me, right?"

"Of course!" They again praised her for being incredibly brave and vowed to dedicate all their resources for their dear beloved daughter.

It was decided that she would stay with her parents and give birth at a local hospital. She would raise the child with her family for the first year. Then the coming year, after the child was a year old, she would start her residency at a local veterinary clinic. It was a solid plan and she felt confident about it.

Winter came - though winter in Sonoma County just meant not 80 degrees during the day - and she started showing. Her clothes stopped fitting so she bought cute baby doll tops to go with stretchy jeans. She was still petite, but with a good look everyone in town could tell she was pregnant. Though her family said nothing, the town - this town she grew up in so everyone knew everyone - looked at her and smiled and said nothing. But they knew there was no husband or boyfriend and what had happened to her before, so without an explanation, they gossiped amongst themselves. She could just imagine the conversation:

"Did you see that Carly Morris is pregnant?"

"Yeah, and you know what that means..."

"Poor girl. She's brave."

"Yeah, she'll be a single mom, but her family is there. She'll be fine."

"It's going to be harder to go out and date when you already have a child though."

She ignored all that gossip. She knew her family was blocking the gossip from her, but she was neither blind nor deaf.

It doesn't really matter. She didn't care. They can talk all they want.

She was ready to face all the challenges life brings with her family behind her.

That was, until the ghost of past came knocking on her door. Well, technically speaking, the ghost appeared at a local coffee shop wearing sunglasses, a white t-shirt, and jeans.

At first she didn't see him, as she was sitting at a table focused on her laptop and reading about baby gear.

Hmm, what color to decorate the nursery. Oh! this baby blanket looks adorable! How many outfits do I need to buy for the first 3 months? Need to find wipes that are not full of fragrances.

Since most of her friends were just starting their career, no one had kids. In fact, most of them weren't even married. She was alone in the matter and had to rely on internet forums. Luckily, there were lots of internet forums, though she quickly realized that on every topic there were always exactly two answers: definitely do A, and definitely don't do A.

This is tiring. She lifted her gaze off her laptop to stretch. She wiggled her neck and mindlessly checked her surroundings.

Her eyes locked with the guy standing near the café entrance. At first she wasn't sure it was him because he was wearing sunglasses. But then as he did not stop staring at her, she became sure it was him. Her body froze.

Her mind flipped back to fight or flight mode as she quickly assessed the situation. For the first time, he did not have a gun on him. (If he did, it would've immediately cleared the entire café) Also, no knife. (Also would've cleared the café)

There were plenty of people coming in and out of the café. This was a public place.

He had no leverage over her.

Carly also had her greatest weapon: her voice. Any noise she raised and the entire world would know she was in danger. In the free world, she had the upper hand.

Carly stared at him with a daring look and watched him slowly walk to her table and sat down. He took off his sunglasses and put them on the table. His expression was troubled.

She made the first move, "So you're alive."

"Hmm, yeah."

"They didn't lock you up."

"...no, long story."

She was beginning to believe he did sell them out. Her heart skipped a beat.

"What are you doing here?" If you say you're coming for wine tasting, I will definitely yell for the police to take you away, because that is a lie!

He lowered his gaze, "I wanted to see how you are doing."

"Hmm, I'm doing fine. Thank you." She answered in as cold a manner as she could.

"They're not bothering you anymore, are they?"

"Who?"

"The FBI."

"No, they pretty much stopped talking to me after I came back."

"That's good."

Then there was silence. Silence except that her heart was pounding so heavily she could hear it.

"I..." Eli sighed and began to speak with obvious difficulty, "I don't know if it matters that much to you, or if you will believe me when I say this. But I'm really sorry. Truly sorry for what I have done."

Oh great, now you ask for forgiveness! She could feel the rage rising in her. "I don't know if I can do that. I don't know if I can forgive you."

"You don't have to. You can keep hating me. But I want to see how you are doing and you look good. I want to let you know that I'm sorry."

As he finished speaking, he looked at Carly with such remorse that she almost wanted to forgive him. Until she remembered everything he had done.

Stop coming back into my life. I don't need this.

"OK, I get it. I take your sorry statement." Her voice was strained, "Is there anything else?"

"No." Eli paused, "Well, I guess, I should say, congratulations?"

"What?"

Eli looked at her waist, "I'm not mistaken when I say you're having a baby, right?"

Carly could feel her nerves reaching breaking point, "Yeah, it's pretty obvious."

"So...congratulations are in order? Are you getting married soon?"

She figured out what he was saying, then she exploded. Only because she was still in a public did she not throw her laptop at him.

She closed her eyes, "You...are...such...a...jerk."

Eli was confused, "What?"

She inhaled deeply then said, "What... in the world... makes you think... I would get knocked up right after I get out from a 3-month imprisonment? What saintly man would wait for me back home, welcome me with open arms, and say 'honey you're back let's make a baby right this minute'?"

Eli was silent, then he put two and two together. "Really?"

She wanted to stand up and slap him in the face. For once, she felt she could get away with it. Carly inhaled deeply once more, "Yes, it is what you think."

"From one time?"

"That's how sex works!" Carly lost her cool, "You can have sex with a guy once - just once, and get pregnant from that! You think I had access to Plan B from CVS the next day? No! I did not! Oh my god I cannot stand you! I have to leave here before I start throwing things at you!" She violently threw her laptop into her backpack and stormed out of the café, not caring how many looks she got.

"Carly, Carly...wait!" He caught up with her in the parking lot, "Please explain this."

"What is there to explain!?" She screamed now that she was in a parking lot with no one around.

"OK," Eli took a breath in, "So that is...because of me."

"Yes, you asshole!"

"And you are not putting the baby up for adoption."

"No! Because his Y chromosome came from a guy who was abandoned at birth and look at what a sick individual he's turned out to be! No! I'm not going to put him up for adoption!"

"...It's a boy?"

"Why do you care!" Carly tried to open the car door but Eli stopped her.

Eli faced her glaring stare, "OK, Carly, can you at least listen to me say one thing?"

"Yeah?" She raised her voice sharply at the end.

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