~ Contributed to by Breanna Vincent
Ross held his sobbing wife despite the fact he was already late for work. Though he was late so frequently since his daughters disappearance most would probably think he was supposed to come in about an hour later than what his start time for the day actually was. If his wife wasn’t falling apart he overslept from staying up all night trying to figure out what happened to his daughter. He had once had hope his wife would come out of her depression but the loss of their daughter had sent her spiraling so far down he didn’t know if he could ever pull her back up unless he found Lucy.
It was only when he felt his phone vibrate that he let go of her atall, it was his boss “I’m sorry, I’m coming”
“I can hear your wife. Take the day off if you need it”
“I don’t have any more vacation days”
“I don’t care, stay home with her. She needs you more than we do at the station”
“Thank you, thank you so much for all your understanding”
“I have two daughters of my own…If I lost them…just take care of your wife okay?”
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow” Ross said as he hung up the phone.
“You should go.”
“How can I when you’re like this.” He brushed his fingers through her hair and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“I want he back, Ross, I want her back.”
“I know baby and I’m going to get her back, I promise. You believe me right?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I understand.” She cried until she was exhausted and wound up laying down on the couch. Ross went and got her some water and Tylenol, knowing her head had to be hurting. He grabbed his laptop and sat down at her feet, deciding to work in there in case she needed him.
It was incredibly frustrating when he still couldn’t figure out anything hours later. He felt like a failure, not only as an officer but as a father. Lucy was his little girl, it was his job to protect her, to keep her safe and he had let someone take her. He had ignored her complaints, brushed them off as her imagination when she started talking about an entity she couldn’t see bothering her. He kicked himself nearly every day for not listening to his daughter. Ross’s eyes needed a break from his computer so he shut it and looked over at his still sleeping wife. He truly worried about what would become of his wife. When they had met she was such a happy, vibrant soul and now she sobbed daily.
When she had first gotten depression early in their marriage he had blamed himself but had managed to lose that guilt, knowing it was a chemical imbalance, not him but now he was back to blaming himself for that too. Maybe it was his fault, maybe he was just a sorry excuse for a husband and father. Wallowing in self pity or hate wouldn’t help but Ross couldn’t help it some days. He got up, kissed his wife’s head and decided to go for a run. He couldn’t be in this dark place when Kelly woke, she needed him and if he was a failure in all else he was determined not to be a failure at being the rock that kept her holding on at all.
Ross quickly wrote a note and taped it to the wall so she’d see it if she woke before he came back. After that he changed into something more suited to run in, locked up his home and proceeded to run around his neighborhood. The wind in his face was welcome as he picked up his speed a bit. Nothing could calm Ross quite like a run. The fresh air, the sounds, the sun, it was all amazing and one of his few comforts anymore.
Even though he knew she was safe, it was still hard to leave her alone. He doubted everything these days but the most expensive house alarm they could afford eased the tension. He pushed himself and ran harder. He wanted it to hurt, he was desperate for anything to take the emotional despair away even for a moment. His lungs were on fire but he couldn’t stop. Something in the back of his mind was telling him to turn around, to look behind him. He knew no one ever came to this park but he turned anyways. Nothing, of course there was nothing, he was just paranoid since his daughter disappeared. He brought his focus back to the trail, but again felt like he should turn around. He sped around, alone, but couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t right. He decided to cut his run short and head back.
When he got back his wife was still sleeping soundly, just like he knew she would be. He wasn’t sure what had gotten him so worked up but he couldn’t deny any bad feelings anymore. If he had just listened in the first place they wouldn’t be here, mourning their only baby girl.
“Where are we now?” Lucy asked as she walked side by side with Soter. It had been six months since they started this journey and she hoped they were getting closer to home. Of course even if it took them another six months, at least she got to spend that time with Soter as well as their friends Rain and Fallon.
“I’ve only been here once before, but there is a monastery with silent monks in it.” Rain replied.
“Like a vow of silence?”
“Yes, but only on monastery grounds. The place is sacred to them.”
“We’ll break there.” Fallon said. “They’re actually really nice.”
“Do we have to stay quiet?”
“No, feel free to ask as many questions as you like. They’ll probably direct you to the library though.”
“That sounds like a fun way to pass time.” Soter added. “Want to go read with me after we eat?”
“sure” she replied, her mind pulling her back to her sixteenth birthday party again and how much fun she and her parents had. It was on Lucy’s mind so much today because it was her seventeenth birthday tomorrow. She hadn’t mentioned it to the group. She thought it would be silly to take time out to celebrate. They were either traveling or resting and she didn’t want them to go through any trouble for her. It did however make her wonder if the monks celebrated their birthdays. Their lives were devoted to meditation and so much more. Even if they did celebrate their birthday she wondered what they would even do. She didn’t know a ton about monks in general but she guessed this was a good time to learn.
Kelly suddenly jerking awake startled Ross who had been focused on going over his notes. “Hey baby.” He said as she sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Did you sleep okay?”
He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Want me to get you something to eat?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Come on, you need to eat, Lucy would want you healthy.”
“Maybe a little.” She leaned forward and looked at the date at the bottom of his computer screen. “It’s her birthday tomorrow.” Her voice cracked a little.
“Hey, it’s alright.” He pulled her into a hug.
“It’s just not fair. She’s going to be seventeen, one year from being an adult and she’s not here.”
“I know.” He tipped her head back, giving her a small smile. “How about we bake her a cake?”
“How is that supposed to help, she won’t be here to eat it.”
“You don’t know that and I bet she would want one of your cakes, you make the best cake. Besides, even if she’s not here tomorrow, she might show up after and she’d be happy having some of your cake to come home to.”
“Okay, I..maybe that’s something I can do. Make a cake every few days so when she gets here we can just celebrate”
“I like that Kelly, when she gets here, not if, I’ll get her back..okay?” Kelly nodded then hugged him “I love you Ross”
“I love you too” she seemed to have a small glimmer of hope and he was happy his suggestion had given that to her. Hell he’d buy the entire isle of cake stuff if it would make her even just a little happy. Kelly hurried into the kitchen and pulled out her mixing bowls and everything she’d need for a cake. The only thing she didn’t seem to have was icing so she took her keys out of their key bowl and told Ross she’d be right back. “want me to go with you?”
“I’d rather you keep doing what you’re doing”
“Okay, just be safe and vigilant”
“I will baby” As soon as he saw her car leave their home he checked his phone to make sure his volume was still up. He never turned it down but he needed to be sure if she called him he would know and could answer. When she returned she set a bag of food down in front of him. He looked up and saw it was from dairy queen “I wanted some ice cream and I thought you might be hungry”
“No..thank you Ross…I…even when my depression started I know I wasn’t always the easiest to live with but..ever since we lost Lucy I know it’s been hell. You’re hurting too and I just..I” He quickly stood and hugged her before she began crying “I love you kelly, You’re not a burden to me, not in the slightest”
“I just love you so much Ross and I don’t want to ever lose you too”
“Never, I meant my vows, until death do us part”
“This book says there used to be dragons here.” Lucy said as she let her eyes move over the text. She took a bite of the soup the monks had brought her, being careful not to get any on the pages. “It says they just disappeared. Do you think they moved to a different world?”
“Probably, there are a lot of them so they could have gone anywhere.” Soter answered as he looked over her shoulder.
“I only met the one at Thalassa’s and she was really cool. She had all those tattoos and she looked so wild. Are they all like that?” She looked up at him and blushed at how close he was.
“Actually there are plenty that live in normal, human society. You wouldn’t know they were one unless the shifted or breathed fire or something.”
“So I could have run into some without knowing?”
“Of course.” He smiled and her heart danced in her chest.
“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”
“You’re pretty cool.” He said and she cracked a smile. “You have such a pretty smile. I wish I could see it every day.”
“Yeah, so tell me what I need to do to keep you smiling and I’ll do it. I know this journey has been hard on you, I know you miss your parents, so if there is anything you want tell me.”
“Maybe if the monks have anything we can bake something for my birthday” Soter looked confused a moment then said “is it your birthday today? Why didn’t you say anything” it seemed to upset him that he didn’t know. “No, um, it’s tomorrow”
“were you not going to tell me?”
“I just didn’t think it was important with everything going on” he took her face gently in his hands to make sure she looked at him “Everything about you is important to me. It honestly makes me sad that you might not have told me. If they don’t have anything here I’m getting what we need and we’re celebrating your birthday tomorrow. I want to, we need something cheerful” Her heart fluttered, not only at the contact but how much her birthday obviously meant to him.
He let her face go then took one of her hands and walked he to the kitchen where Rain and Fallon happened to be “whats up guys?” Rain asked and Soter answered “her birthday is tomorrow’
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Fallon said as she jumped up. “I’m going through the pantry. Rain, we should see if the monks have anything for decorations.”
“Okay baby.” He said with a laugh. “You should have told us Lucy, you deserve to celebrate your birthday.” He left to talk to the monks while Fallon started grabbing ingredients and setting them on the counter.
“You guys don’t have to make such a big deal out of it.”
“Yes we do, it’s your birthday. This is the last birthday you get to have before you’re an adult right?”
“Then it’s a big deal.” Soter said. “I have to go gift shopping. Hey Fallon, is there a market nearby or something?”
“Yeah about an hour on the South road.”
“Could I borrow some money to get something for Lucy, I’ll pay you back.”
Fallon grabbed her wallet and tossed it to him. “Just get whatever and don’t worry about paying me back, it’s for her birthday.”
“Oh Soter, Fallon, you don’t have to”
“we want to Lucy” Soter said, giving her a tight hug “let us celebrate the day your mother brought you into this world. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry over me if it takes a long time. Remember I handed my captors ass to him” She couldn’t help but worry about him but she just let him run out. Fallon kept rummaging through cabinets until she had everything she needed “we have everything here. Vanilla or chocolate cake?”
“woman after my own heart, chocolate cake it is” As they started preparing it Fallon said “so one year from being an adult, how exciting Lucy”
“yeah..I suppose so”
“I remember how excited I was. My mother couldn’t stop giggling at me”
“how long after you were an adult did you meet Rain?”
“I grew up knowing Rain. He was working as a guard for my father even before my father met my mother. Us satyrs are immortal aswell”
“Thats amazing, so you’ve always known him”
“yes, he started training me to fight with a sword and as I grew older love blossomed between us. Not long after I grew up we were married, my parents were so happy since they knew what a good man Rain was.”
“How did he ask you?”
“well, I declared from a young age that the man that married me would have to be, well I can’t remember the precise words I used but basically he’d have to be able to beat me at sword fighting and be faster than me and things of that nature. When I grew up my father held a tournament so only the strongest man could oppose me. It was what I wanted but I did deeply want Rain to win. It turns out he did too. He had been training and since he was my teacher he made sure I was just the smallest bit slower than him so he could defeat and marry me. A cheater entered the tournament but Rain still won and I was the happiest woman alive in that moment”
“Wow, sounds like a real fairy tale. I hope maybe someday I’ll get to fall in love like that, well maybe not exactly like that, I don’t think I could fight and I’m not exactly fast even though all this walking is helping me get in shape.”
Fallon smiled. “Different people fight for love in different ways. Sometimes the battle is just getting up the courage to say I love you.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. Love is scary, but it’s really the best thing to ever happen, you’ll see. Someone will fall head over heels for you, just be patient. It’ll happen when the time is right.”
“What colors do you think she’ll want on her cake?” Kelly asked from the kitchen.
“I say green and maybe some flowers?”
“Sounds good. I hope she still likes chocolate.”
Ross smiled hearing his wife sounding so upbeat and he prayed it stayed that way. He decided to head out and check out the spot where Lucy was last seen again, thinking maybe he would find something new. He knew he had been over the area a million times, but her disappearance had been so odd. There had been no get away vehicle, no nothing like that, she was just there and gone in an instant. “Hey honey, I’m going out for a bit.” He said as he stood and went into the kitchen.
“Okay, just be careful, take your gun please.”
“I always do.” He gave her a kiss the headed out, once again checking his phone.
Kelly admired her husband for trying so hard. There wasn’t a single day that had passed since Lucy went missing that he didn’t at least do something to look for her. He was a better man than she knew he gave himself credit for. If anything, she hoped Lucy one day knew just how much her father loved her. Maybe if heaven was real they might meet there one day even if she never got to come home so she’d at least know her father didn’t give up. When Ross arrived where his daughter was taken he did the long, slow look around he always did. He didn’t know what precisely he was looking for but it was a chance at finding something and grasping at straws was all he had.
He walked bigger and bigger circles, his eyes on the ground, searching for any missed clue. It was when he felt a strange tingle go over his skin that he paused. He looked slowly around, feeling incredibly strange. He moved away and the feeling stopped. When he moved back to where he had been, he felt the feeling again. It was just this one spot next to a large tree. He didn’t understand it, but it was almost like a strange energy was flowing off the tree. He even reached out, letting his fingers slide over the bark. It felt like a normal tree. He shook his head and checked his watch. He hadn’t realized it had been an hour already, he needed to get back and check on Kelly. He studied the tree for another moment, trying to decipher that weird energy, but when he found nothing, he turned and walked away. He would come back later.
Lucy read a book while she waited for Soter. She wondered how his shopping was going and if he was safe. She would hate if he got picked up by another bad demon. He was so sweet and gentle, she couldn’t bear the idea of losing him. Her thoughts made her blush. He seemed to be on her mind more and more lately. He was always so concerned with her happiness and health and he never complained about anything. She sighed as she closed her book. She realized she had been staring at the same paragraph and couldn’t remember what it said. She slipped the book back in its place then decided to go on a walk around the monastery.
Soter was having a hard time picking a gift for Lucy. He knew her pretty well at this point since they talked a lot on the road and they had been traveling together six months but it was still extremely difficult. He wanted her to love it, to maybe even gasp when she saw it and he simply didn’t know what would leave her in aw. Another thing that made picking a gift hard was the fact he didn’t know how much longer they would be traveling. He didn’t want whatever he got her to become a burden since she’d carry it in her bag.
Eventually worry about something bigger becoming a burden he decided on this gorgeous necklace that would bring out her beautiful green eyes. He hoped he hadn’t spent too much of Fallons money but this would look too stunning on her for Soter to pass up. He adored her eyes and thought about them and how pretty this would look on her all the way back.
“Did you find anything?” Kelly asked as soon as Ross stepped through the door.
“No, not really, at least I don’t know if I did.”
He sat down next to her. “There was something odd out there, but I don’t know what it was.”
“Do you remember when I used to tell you I could feel certain things, like changes in the air right before a perp was going to draw a gun or just a sort of wrongness when I walked into a house where someone had been murdered?”
“I felt that today, but it wasn’t so much wrong as it was odd like there was this vortex or blank space, I’m not really sure how to describe it.” He sighed. “Maybe I’m just going crazy, maybe I’ve finally lost it.”
“Don’t say that, please don’t say that. It’s a start right, a lead. It could be something, you never know, so don’t say you’re crazy. I believe you.”
He smiled. “You’re really something, you know that.” He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “How did the cake turn out?”
“perfect, she will love it if we get to share it with her” Ross walked into the kitchen to see it, smiling when he saw how hard she obviously tried to make it perfect. He deeply hoped he could get Lucy home in time to enjoy it. He didn’t want his wife’s heart broken if she had to throw it away because it became stale.
“Hey Rain, do you think the monks have any sort of wrapping paper?” Soter asked once he returned. He wanted to find Lucy, but he didn’t want her seeing her gift.
“They did.” Rain moved what decorations he had been making around and pulled a piece of brown paper free. He then grabbed some twine and handed them both to Soter. “That’s the only color they had, but I don’t think Lucy will care.”
“What did you get her?” Rain whispered.
“A necklace, I hope I didn’t spend too much.” He pulled out Fallon’s wallet and handed it to Rain. “If I did, I’ll pay Fallon back, I swear.”
Rain chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry about that. Besides, she wouldn’t take it.”
Soter smiled as he quickly wrapped it, making sure it looked perfect. “So where is she anyway?”
“Last time I saw her she was heading out back.”
“Okay, before I run out to her, do you need help?”
“Oh no, I have this, go keep her company. If I need help I’ll ask my wife or the monks. Lucy will probably be glad to see you back okay. I could see she worried over you while you were gone” Soter smiled, his heart warming at the thought she cared about his safety while he wasn’t near her. He knew he was twenty two and she was only seven teen but his feelings for her were growing and now, now it was only a year before it would be okay to express his attraction to her. He was happy to be patient though. She was amazing just to be around. Even next year, if she rejected him he would be happy just to be her friend.
He knew a lot of other demons might think him a pansy but it didn’t matter to him, he was in love, in love with the most amazing women he had ever met and he would be lucky if she felt the same this time next year. When he saw Lucy he hugged her tightly, spinning her around and she laughed “welcome back Soter” relief washed over her, he was back and he was safe from harm.
“Have you been having fun?”
“This place is interesting, that’s for sure. Did you know they grow and raise their own food. They have chickens and sheep and some pigs oh their garden is huge.”
“That sounds amazing.” He lifted up her gift. “Look what I got.”
“What is it?”
“Can’t tell you, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow, but you can try and guess.”
“I can wait, I’d hate to ruin the surprise.”
He tucked her hair behind her ears and her cheeks flushed, making him let out a little laugh. “You’re so cute, you’re cheeks are all red.”
“No they’re not.”
“They are, would you like me to find a mirror?”
Soter chuckled happily once more. The next morning when Lucy came out of her room she was greeted by a monk who held up a blind fold. She smiled and let him tie it on her. He guided her somewhere and when she opened her eyes she saw she was in the dining room and everyone yelled happy birthday. Lucy could have cried “thank you” Soter was beside himself to give Lucy her gift so he set it in front of her the second she was sitting. Lucy excitedly opened it ‘Oh my goodness” she said in obvious aw. Soter was glad he picked it “can I help you put it on Lucy?” he asked and she told him to go ahead as she moved her hair for him.
He let his fingers brush the back of her neck and goosebumps covered her. He dropped his hands, feeling embarrassed that he had even thought about touching her like that. “So do you like it?” He asked.
“It’s beautiful, Soter. Does it look good?”
“Of course it does, it suits you, I knew it would. It perfectly compliments your eyes.”
She stood and gave him a tight hug, making him melt. “Thank you so much, I’m so happy right now.”
“That’s exactly what I hoped for.”
“I’ll go get the cake.” Fallon said and left the room. When she came back, she started singing and both Soter and Rain joined in. Fallon set the cake down in front of her and once they finished, Lucy closed her eyes and blew out the candles, wishing to see her parents soon. Everyone clapped and Fallon went ahead and started serving. The moment Lucy took a bite of the cake, she felt herself tear up.
“What’s wrong?” Soter asked from beside her.
“The cake isn’t bad is it?” Fallon asked.
Lucy shook her head and wiped at her eyes. “Sorry, it just reminds me of my moms, it’s really good.”
Soter hugged her. “Hey, remember, I promised to get you back and I won’t stop until I do. Smile okay because you’re going home, even if I have to make some unsavory deals.”
“You better not, I’ll beat you up.”
Two days later Kelly stared mournfully at the untouched cake for her daughter. Ross had been standing at the entrance to their kitchen, thinking up something to say to his wife “Maybe…maybe we could freeze it baby?” Kelly shook her head and began to cry, that obviously hadn’t been the right thing to say and he hated himself for causing her to break. He took her in his arms and just held her, letting his wife cry it out. “why don’t we eat it together then, in honor of our daughter.” she sniffled “Okay” it was so weak, a soft word he could only just barely hear. He let her go and served them each a large slice. He then guided his wife to the living room and put in a DVD of one of his wifes favorite movies, hoping it would provide any comfort.
When she was asleep for the night he kissed her cheek, left a note and went back to that park. His wife wasn’t going to hurt anymore, he was going to get to the bottom of this. It was the middle of the night but he didn’t give a damn. His family needed him, he was their protector, their safe place. He would look all night if he had too. That’s what flashlights were for weren’t they?
Ross frantically searched but was called by his wife before too long out there “why did you leave at this hour, come home?”
“I can’t, I can’t let you hurt any longer”
“Baby theres nothing at that park. You could get jumped by someone and I could lose you too…I can’t lose you too”
“I’ll be fine, I’m a cop”
“Kelly, please.” His voice cracked for the first time since this had started and Kelly went quiet. “Sorry, I love you, you know that? I just…I can’t watch you go through this anymore. I want to see you smile again and it’s killing me.”
“Oh Ross, it’s not your fault.”
“It is, I’m supposed to watch over you two, but…god I failed Kelly, I failed so hard and this is all I can do to fix it. I promise I’ll be home soon, but I need to do this.”
He heard her swallow and knew she was on the verge of tears. “Just…please text me every hour okay?”
“I will, I promise, even sooner if I have to. I love you baby, really and truly love you with all of my heart and I’m going to find our baby.”
“I love you too.”
Lucy’s legs were killing her but Rain and Fallon swore the portal they were sure would lead to her world was only a few more miles away. She wanted to stop but she couldn’t. She wanted to see her parents so bad her heart hurt more than her legs. She would keep going just as her companions were. She hadn’t gone much farther when she was in Soters arms again “Soter”
“as I’ve said countless times. It isn’t taxing at all for me to carry you. We demons are incredibly strong Lucy”
“I’ll massage you later if that’s okay” He had done it for her one other time and he would be happy to do it again if it was okay with her. “sure, if this portal isn’t really the one then I’d love that.”
“it has to be, we’ve been trying for so long. I don’t want you to turn eighteen without your parents” They arrived and her heart swelled with the same hope it always did when they thought they might have the right one. Her adventure was amazing and one she’d love to look back on as an old lady and tell her grandkids of but she just wanted her father to hug her again, for her mother to kiss her goodnight. As Soter began to step through with her in his arms she shut her eyes “please be the one, oh please be the one”
~ The End