I was adopted at the age of seven. Not many people know that about me, and when someone finds out, I just tell them I don’t like talking about it. They’ll give me a sad smile, and say, “I understand, it must’ve been hard for you.” They must think my parents died, or abandoned me. Maybe I was abused or neglected, and I don’t want to relive awful memories. The truth is much worse, much darker. It’s easy to forget about it, to push those memories to the very back of my mind and lock them tightly away. But sometimes something triggers them, and this time I just can’t ignore it. Let me start from the beginning:
I was the middle child in a family of five. I’d enjoyed a few years of being the youngest daughter, doted upon by my mother, father, and my older sister, Sarah. Then Sam showed up, and the new baby brother brought an unexpected burden to the family. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to be a big sister, and my parents adored the three of us. But Sam was a sickly baby and our finances dwindled. I was too young to even think about money, all I knew is that we were getting fewer presents on holidays, and we didn’t get to travel anymore. So about two years after Sam was born, when my dad had a business trip just out of state, the whole family jumped at the opportunity to take a small vacation.
I remember stopping at my Aunt Lydia’s house after a long car ride. She was my mom’s only sister, and actually the only extended family member I can remember. Mom and Dad were exhausted; Sarah and I had been bickering the whole way. She was 15 and had no time for pesky little sisters. Sam had slept soundly until the last hour, when he broke out into an inconsolable wail. We weren’t staying with my aunt, but she lived close to the hotel we’d booked, so it was the perfect place for a pit stop.
I’d always felt a little uncomfortable around my aunt; she was nice enough, but she kept stroking my hair, petting my cheek, and kept me in her sight for our entire stay. Mom said later that Lydia had been unable to have kids and thought of me as a daughter, even though we rarely came to visit. We had the same red hair and grey eyes, I noticed, and wondered if that was why she preferred me to Sarah.
“Casey,” my aunt said as we were leaving, “I have a gift for you.” She produced a woven necklace from her pocket and tied it around my neck. There was a small charm on the end: a small disc carved out of wood, and it had some kind of drawing on it. I wondered if she’d made it herself? She put her finger to her lips and smiled; I realized she’d only gotten a present for me, not Sarah or Sam, and didn’t want them to know.
“Thanks, Aunt Lydia,” I said shyly, and hopped in the car.
After arriving at the hotel and unpacking, we had a pretty uneventful first night. There was a pool at the hotel, and Sarah and I were excited to go swimming first thing in the morning. Sarah had spotted some cute boy one floor below us, so she spent about an hour picking out a swimsuit to wear. I flipped through the TV channels while Sam toddled around unsteadily, laughing as Mom played peek-a-boo with him. Dad had left for his conference already.
I first noticed something strange a few hours after we’d gone down to the pool. Sarah had gone back up to the room about fifteen minutes after leaving; the cute boy was nowhere to be found, so she wanted to trade her cute swimsuit for a comfortable one. I’d waited and waited for her to return, as she’d promised to show me how to do a handstand underwater. Finally, I swam over to where my mom was, sitting by the kiddie pool as Sam splashed in the shallow water. I asked where Sarah was.
“Who?” Mom asked. She looked up from her book. I thought she hadn’t heard me, so I repeated: “Where’s Sarah?”
“Who’s Sarah, honey?”
Chills ran down my spine. I didn’t even know how to respond. Just then, Sam tripped and dunked his head underwater, and Mom whisked him out of the pool and onto her lap, momentarily forgetting about me.
Who’s Sarah? The words rang in my ears. I must’ve misheard her, or she was joking. A knot formed in my stomach, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask a third time. I spent the rest of the day in the pool, trying to touch the bottom of the deep end, diving deep until my lungs burned and my ears felt like they would burst. Sarah never came back.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t make a big deal about my sister going missing. I guess I felt that if the grown-ups weren’t worried, I shouldn’t be worried. Maybe they’d let her go somewhere on her own, and my mom just misunderstood when I asked about her. What other explanation could there be? But to this day, I don’t know why I didn’t bring it up again when she didn’t return that night, or when I noticed her things had disappeared from our room…
The next day, things got worse.
Sarah still hadn’t returned, and what baffled me was that no one had even mentioned her. It felt like it was a taboo subject, and I wasn’t going to be the first to break the silence. Dad didn’t have a meeting til that evening, so he was going to spend that afternoon with us at the pool again.
“Up you go, Case!” he said as he threw me over his shoulder. I giggled, and some of the tension I’d been feeling since yesterday lifted slightly. We were still up in the hotel room; Mom and Sam were downstairs in the lobby already. Dad carried me out into the hallway and pressed the elevator button.
“Oops,” he said. “Forgot the towels.” He set me down and said, “Hold the elevator for me, I’ll be back two shakes.”
About a minute later, the elevator came. I stuck my foot against the door. I could see our room’s door at the end of the hallway and waited for it to open. The elevator doors tried to close. Once. Twice. On the third time, a buzzer sounded. Obviously I’d been holding it too long, so I took my foot out and let it close. Three more times the elevator came, and each time I held the doors until I heard the buzzer. Dad didn’t come out of the room. The hallway was empty, and I felt so alone. Tears began to stream down my face.
The next thing I knew, the elevator opened again. Mom was inside, holding Sam by the hand. The second she saw me, she began to yell.
“Where were you, Casey?! I’ve been looking all over for you, don’t you ever wander off like that!”
My once-silent tears turned into sobs, “I was with Dad, you knew that!”
Mom’s face turned from anger to confusion, “What are you talking about?”
“Dad went in the room, he was going to get t-towels so we could go swi-swi-swimming,” I choked out through my sobs.
Fear flickered across my mother’s face. Just then, the door to the stairwell opened up and a maid came into the hallway. My mother grabbed her arm. “My daughter says there’s a man in our room,” she whispered frantically. “She said he claimed to be her father, but I’m a single mother.”
My mouth gaped. What was mom talking about? The maid nodded, eyes wide, and rushed off to find security. Bewildered, I took Sam’s hand. I said nothing.
Hotel staff searched the room and found nothing. Dad wasn’t there. Neither were his things. They checked the cameras too, and said there was no man there, they just saw me leaving the room and waiting by the elevator. Mom scolded me for telling lies, and said I couldn’t go swimming today. She said I was to stay in the room all day and think about what I’d done.
It was as I walked toward the hotel room, humiliated and utterly confused, that I felt it. It was a dizzy feeling, like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. I stopped at the doorway of the open room, my toes just at the edge of the door frame. I felt, no I knew, that if I took just one more step, I would topple, plunge into—into—nothingness. I swear I could even hear the hollow echo of a bottomless abyss.
In seconds, it clicked: it was the room. Sarah had gone back to the room to change, and with the closing of a door, she had vanished. Disappeared from existence. Dad had gone back, shut the door, and—poof!—same thing. But Mom, Sam, and I stayed in the room too, I wondered. Then I realized: Dad and Sarah had gone in alone. And, now, so would I…
This realization had happened in seconds. I took three huge steps backward and ran smack into Mom. She, still furious with me over my “lies”, grabbed me by the arm and started to drag me toward the room. My heels dug into the carpet and I started to scream.
“No. No! NOO!! Let me go!” I shouted and she pulled me closer to the room. I scratched at her arm and kicked her legs. Even then, I was appalled at myself: this was my sweet, adoring mother, and I had never lashed out like this before. She had no idea she was pulling me toward death, or worse, nothingness. Guests poked their heads out of their rooms at the commotion. Sam sat down in the middle of the hallway and began to wail.
We were at the edge of the room, and in a desperate attempt to free myself, I bit my mother on the hand that was holding me. Hard. Shocked, she dropped me and stepped back into the room. I fell to the ground. Then, though it was an accident, I did something that I regret to this day: while scrabbling backwards, my leg kicked out and slammed the door shut.
All was quiet. I stared at the door in horror. After what seemed like an eternity, I stood up and, against my better judgment, turned the doorknob. It was locked. Oh, right, I thought, and fumbled for the magnetic key in my pocket. I turned the knob again, and the door swung open. The room was empty.
Fresh tears pricked my eyes, and I turned away. That’s when I noticed Sam wasn’t crying anymore. His face was unstained with tears, and the only flush in his cheeks was the glow of a happy baby boy. It was as if had never been crying in the first place—as if he didn’t remember Mom and me fighting at all. He looked up at me and cooed.
Just then, the stairwell door swung open. It was the same maid who’d gotten security for us earlier. She was pushing her cart of cleaning supplies past us, when she noticed my expression of horror. She knelt down and asked me what was wrong. When she looked at me, there wasn't even a flicker of recognition.
“I can’t find my mom,” I said after a few seconds. I didn’t know what else to say. I sunk down on the floor and hugged Sam to me.
The police came that night, along with CPS. The hotel staff had been stumped as to how two children had shown up in their hotel alone, and no one had noticed it until now. I told the police my home phone number and address, and they had my hometown’s precinct check it out. The house was empty and the number disconnected. I didn’t know my aunt’s address, but I gave them her name. I didn’t tell them anything else after that.
It was on the official report that Sam and I had been abandoned at the hotel, for reasons unknown. No foul play was detected. It seems that no family members came forward, so Sam and I went into foster care for a brief while before he was adopted. They don’t like to split up siblings, but it still happens. Luckily, I was adopted soon after by a wonderful couple, and despite what I’ve been through, I’ve been living a happy life. My previous life has all but vanished without a trace, aside from Sam who I see only occasionally. He doesn’t remember a thing. One fear has still lingered: I refuse to be alone in a room with the door closed.
Now back to where I started, why I’m writing this now.
Well, my boyfriend, Ryan, and I decided to take a short trip before heading back to college for our sophomore year. Not to anywhere in particular, we just thought we’d go where the road takes us. On the third day, I guess I hadn’t really been paying attention to the map, and we found ourselves very near that fateful hotel. It was getting dark, and I only realized where we were when Ryan pointed at a sign and said, “Hey, maybe we can stop there for the night.”
I froze when I read the sign— it was exactly the same hotel. I broke into a cold sweat, but at the risk of Ryan thinking I was absolutely crazy, managed to stay calm and suggested we get another hour or two of driving in tonight. I hoped he couldn’t hear the twinge of fear in my voice. Ryan shrugged and said that was fine by him. I breathed a sigh of relief.
But it was just a couple miles down the road when I saw something that made me slam on my brakes. Ryan cursed as the car behind us blared its horn and swerved around us. But I didn’t care about that. What I did care about was the house just in front of us. Even in the fading light, I recognized it: Aunt Lydia’s house. And outside in the garden was a familiar woman with a shock of red hair…
I was in shock. I couldn’t speak, and I certainly couldn’t drive anymore. I’ll never forget how Ryan didn’t freak out when he saw what state I was in; he gently pulled me over into the passenger seat, went around to the driver’s side, and drove us to the nearest motel. He didn’t say a word as he helped me up the stairs and into the room, just held me until I was ready to talk. And when I still couldn’t talk, I wrote.
So that’s my story. You’ve read it, Ryan’s read it, and I’m finally ready to take a huge step: tomorrow I’m going to see my aunt. I wonder if she’ll remember me? Or if she’ll remember her sister, my mother? I can’t be the only one to remember them after they’d disappeared, I just can’t.
And, as unlikely as it seems, I still have the carved necklace she gave me, one small token from my previous life. I’m sure Aunt Lydia made it herself, so she has to remember…
The morning after I wrote my first post, Ryan and I drove back to my aunt’s house. We parked outside for almost an hour as I worked up the courage to walk up to the front door. Ryan and I had been up almost the entire night talking about my past: my family, the hotel, the disappearances… I’m not even sure he believed me—what sane person would?—but he believed in me and that’s what mattered. I got out of the car, gave him a small wave, and headed across the street to the house. I had to do this alone.
I knocked. Once. Twice. The third time, I stopped mid-knock when I saw the curtains rustle in the window next to the door.
“Hello?” I called out. “Lydia…?”
The door creaked open. I gasped as a woman stepped forward: red hair, grey eyes, it was her! It felt like it was a dream come true, or a nightmare. This woman, my aunt, was evidence of a terrible part of my life I wished weren’t real, but here she was in the flesh. She peered at me, and with a sinking heart I knew she didn’t recognize me, that I was a stranger to her. But I’d come this far to give up…
“Aunt Lydia?” I said, in a small voice. My hands were shaking.
Her eyes narrowed, and then opened wide. “Casey?”
She remembered me! Without thinking, I flung myself into her arms and began to sob. She hesitated for a second, and then hugged me back.
“Casey, my dear! All these years… I’ve been so worried! When your mother and father…” she trailed off, and continued to hold me wordlessly. She remembered Mom and Dad. I’m not crazy. I sniffed and took a step back. Lydia stroked my hair and looked at me, smiling fondly. The last time I’d seen her, I was a child, and now I was just an inch or two taller than she was. There was just so much to take in, and Lydia seemed to understand.
“Why don’t you come in for a cup of tea,” she offered, and held the door open. As I entered the house, I heard Ryan’s car start up. I had my cell phone in my pocket; he’d come back to pick me up when I called.
Inside, the house looked the same as I remembered it. The walls were a little dingy, with peeling wallpaper, and the shelves were lined with all sorts of little knick-knacks: ceramic figurines, decorative plates and utensils, and strange dried flowers. The whole house smelled of herbs of some sort. I wondered if she cooked often. I looked for photos on the wall, hoping to see one of my family, but there were none.
Aunt Lydia handed me some tea. It was bitter, but the warmth felt good. I sipped it and waited for her to speak.
“When your parents left you, the police did contact me,” she began slowly, sitting across the table from me. “They said you told them my name. It was strange though, they weren’t able to prove that I was your aunt. In fact, they weren’t able to prove who you were or who your parents where. I was distraught, I told them you needed to be around family, but they couldn’t even tell me what happened to you.”
Because my parents were sucked into a haunted hotel room, I thought. And the second I thought that, it seemed absolutely ridiculous. I was a child then, could I have remembered it wrong? Did my parents actually abandon me, and I twisted it around in my head so it wasn’t their fault? I flushed as I realized that’s probably exactly what happened.
Aunt Lydia mistook my embarrassed blush for one of sadness, and patted my arm. “There, there, everything’s okay now.”
We spent the rest of the day talking, not about the sad subject of my abandonment and, subsequently, our estrangement, but of my life. I told her about school, Ryan, and my friends back home. She listened intently to my every word. She told me a bit about her life as well: her gardening, her job, and even her fiancé who lives down the road. Before I knew it, it was dark out. I’d been here the whole day!
I stood up to go, and Aunt Lydia stopped me. “I have a spare room, please stay the night. You are always welcome here.”
I hesitated, but still elated that I’d finally found my aunt, decided to stay. I called Ryan and apologized profusely, and he agreed to pick me up the next day. Lydia asked me to stay downstairs while she readied the room.
I busied myself by combing through my hair in the bathroom. I found myself wishing I’d brought a toothbrush and PJ's. Maybe Lydia had some upstairs? I climbed up the steps and saw three doors. The first one I passed was obviously her bedroom. She wasn’t in there, so I peeked into the next room. Inside was a crib, a rocking chair, and a changing table. Strange, I thought, didn’t Mom say she couldn’t have kids?
“Your room’s this way,” came a voice from behind me. I jumped. Lydia took me firmly by the hand and led me to the third room. She seemed a little agitated, and I felt bad for snooping around. My room had two double-beds, which I also found strange for someone who lived alone, but I was glad I’d be able to stretch out comfortably. There was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, though, and I wasn’t sure why.
“Thanks, Aunt Lydia,” I said. And I meant it, this whole day felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. She smiled warmly and started to leave. Just then, a thought popped into my head: this whole time, she hadn’t once asked about my sister or brother. Not that I knew what happened to Sarah, but she must want to hear about Sam.
“Sam’s doing okay, too,” I called out. She turned but didn’t say anything, so I continued. “He was adopted into another family, they live far away but they’re pretty nice and I see him on holidays.”
“Oh, that’s nice, sweetie,” Lydia said. “I’m glad to hear it.”
She turned and walked away. That was weird, I thought. It was like she didn’t even care about Sam, but all day she’d been enraptured with my mundane life. I’d always been her favorite, but I thought she’d at least want to hear if Sam was okay. I pushed the thought out of my mind. It was late, and I’d hardly gotten sleep the night before, so I just wanted to go to bed.
I left the door open a crack, a habit born from my fear of closed doors. Even with my new revelation that I’d imagined the whole hotel incident, that fear wasn’t going to go away so easily. I took my phone out of my pocket, and with it came the woven necklace my aunt had gave me so long ago. I’d forgotten I’d brought it with me to remind her, and it turned out I didn’t need it after all. I placed the necklace on the dresser, and thought maybe I’d find some PJ's in the dresser drawer. It was locked. I sat down on the bed, still feeling uneasy. Then it hit me: the room was exactly the same layout as the hotel room!
I felt a little sick. Surely it was a coincidence, but it was exactly the same nonetheless. I didn’t want to bother Lydia, but I needed to get out. Just for a minute though, just for some fresh air.
I crept out of the room, past Lydia’s closed bedroom door, and left the house. It was a breezy night, and I felt so much better the second I was outside. I’m overreacting, I thought, but I still wanted to go for a walk before heading back inside. Just a couple houses down, I noticed something odd.
One house had the door wide open. The house was dark except for a dim light in one upstairs window. It seemed like a safe enough neighborhood, but I still doubted the owner would’ve chosen to leave his front door open. I ran up to the stoop and called into the house, “Hello?”
After a moment, I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. My pulse quickened. What if I’d just stumbled into a robbery, or worse? I wished I’d brought my cell phone…
A man appeared by the door. He looked disheveled, a little annoyed, but otherwise harmless. I wondered if I’d just woken him up.
“Sorry, I saw your door was open, so I just wanted to make sure everything was okay,” I explained. “I’m staying just down the road, maybe you know Lydia?”
The man smiled softly, “Ah, sorry, I’ve been keeping the door open lately. You must be Casey. Lydia’s told me so much about you.”
I was puzzled. When did she have time to talk to someone else since I’d arrived? I thought back to our earlier conversations and decided this must be the fiancé she was telling me about. I nodded, and the man continued.
“Lydia’s been so kind lately. I’ve been going through some… issues.” He took a deep breath, like he was getting ready to tell a big secret or confession. “My wife and baby disappeared a few months ago. They didn’t walk out on me, they just… disappeared. First my little boy. One minute he was in his room, then I noticed he hadn’t cried in a while so I went to check on him. He wasn’t there. And my wife, she—she said we didn’t even have a son.”
His words were coming out in a rush. He looked apologetic, like he wasn’t sure why he was telling me this, but he couldn’t stop himself. My eyes grew wide.
He continued: “She was insisting we had no kids, and I started to yell at her. She was frightened, and I grabbed her arm and dragged her upstairs to the nursery. She couldn’t deny our son while standing in his nursery. She screamed as I threw her in the room and slammed the door. Then she stopped screaming. I thought she was hurt, or worse, so I opened the door. She was gone. Just… gone.”
He raised his eyes upwards in defeat. Then he looked back down at me and saw the terror in my eyes. “I am so sorry,” he said. “I don’t know where that came from. But Lydia’s the only one who believes me, everyone else says I never had a wife or son. I guess I just wanted to talk to someone else who’d believe me, and you are her daughter, after all.”
The word “daughter” snapped me out of my daze. “I’m not her daughter,” I said, and another lie occurred to me. “And you aren’t her fiancé, are you.”
The man looked confused, “I’m sorry, she’s always talking about her daughter, Casey, who lives out of town. And I didn’t think Lydia had a fiancé. Actually, I thought she might be interested in me, but considering the circumstances…”
I cut him off. “I believe you,” I whispered. Pieces of a puzzle were starting to fall into place, but I couldn’t make out the whole picture. A hotel room where people disappear behind closed doors; a nursery where a wife and child vanish; a man who shared my fear of closed doors. And somehow, Lydia is in the middle of this. I shuddered as I remembered the rooms in her house: a nursery and a hotel room! I glanced back at the man, hoping for more answers, and gasp. For the first time, I noticed something tied around his neck. It was a woven necklace with a wooden carving, exactly like mine.
Over the course of an hour, I told the man, Nathan, everything. He was pale and shaken by the end of my tale, but mostly he was furious. We couldn’t be sure, but we had in idea of what had been going on. He said he’d seen strange books while at Lydia’s house; they looked like they had symbols and maybe spells written in them, but she’d whisked them away before he could get a good look. It would seem that Lydia, unable to have children, coveted her favorite niece as her own. Using some sort of witchcraft on the spare rooms in her house, I imagine, she’d concocted a plan to orphan her prospective “daughter”, but the plan backfired. Years later, a handsome, but married man, moved into the neighborhood, and Lydia’s jealousy flared up again. The necklace, Nathan said, was given to him for protection, according to Lydia. He wasn’t superstitious, but he wore it in appreciation. We assumed she gave us the necklaces to keep us from disappearing as well. I also wondered if it was the reason we could remember those who disappeared.
After we’d told each other our stories, Nathan became agitated. “It’s all her fault,” he muttered over and over. Then, without warning he took off toward Lydia’s house. I was scared of what he would do when he got there, and even more scared of what I would do. I ran after him. When I got within sight of the house, my stomach dropped. Ryan’s car was parked out front.
I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. I overtook Nathan, who’d had a good head start on me, and ran into the house. I wanted to call out to Ryan, to see if he was okay, but my gut told me to stay quiet. The living room and kitchen were dark and silent. I paused, not breathing, and heard a muffled sound coming from the second floor. Then I nearly leapt out of my skin when Nathan appeared behind me. I put a finger to my lips and pointed upstairs.
We crept up the stairs, wincing at every small creak that might give us away. Lit candles dotted the shelves and floor, casting long, ominous shadows. The noise I’d heard grew louder, and I realized it was someone chanting in a raspy voice. As Nathan and I reached the landing, I saw that the door to the room I’d been given was open. I stifled a scream when I saw what was inside.
Ryan was tied to a chair, his face bloody as if he’d been attacked. Lydia was standing over him, a book open in her hand. I inched closer, and I saw that the dresser drawer was unlocked now, and open. Inside, I could see more books, along with what looked like strange, dried plants and different shaped rocks or bones. There was something drawn on the floor around Ryan’s chair. It looked like the same symbol that was on my necklace, but it could’ve been different.
Before Nathan or I could make a move, Lydia turned around. Her face was covered in some sort of white dust; it was streaked through her hair and down her front. A mass of bones and teeth and —was that hair?— was strung around her neck and hung down over her chest. I couldn’t even tell if she was wearing a shirt underneath. When she saw us, she let out a guttural yell and leapt forwards.
Nathan froze as Lydia approached. I only caught a glance of his face, and saw it was a terrified grimace. But what I was focusing on was the bedroom: I had no idea what Lydia’d done to Ryan, but if she’d turned yet another room into a deathtrap, once that door closed I would never see Ryan again. I wouldn’t even remember him. As Lydia rushed forward out of the room, I dodged to the side and sprinted towards Ryan. Outside the room, I heard Nathan yell, then a series of thumps, and a final crash. Then silence. Complete silence.
I tugged at the ropes around Ryan, and he started to stir. Every couple seconds, I glanced towards the open doorway, into the darkness beyond. I was terrified. Was Nathan okay? Where was Lydia? The ropes were almost off when I glanced up again and saw a figure standing in the doorway.
It was Lydia, her face still chalk white and her eyes burning. “You ungrateful bitch,” she snarled, looking at me. In one stride she crossed the room, and with superhuman strength, grabbed Ryan and tossed him effortlessly out of the room. She then slammed her fist hard into my stomach, and I fell to the floor, completely breathless. I’m not wearing the necklace, I thought. I’m not safe. My vision faded as I watched her leave the room and swing the door shut.
But seconds passed, and my sight returned. I’d only blacked out from the blow. I looked up and saw Ryan, his arm pinned between the wall and the door, keeping it from closing. The door was shaking, as if something on the other side was hitting it with tremendous force. I shakily got to my feet and ran toward my boyfriend, stopping only to grab my necklace that was still sitting on the dresser. For protection. Using all the strength I could muster, I slammed myself against the door. It swung open, freeing Ryan and sending Lydia flying across the hallway. In an instant, she rushed back towards us. Adrenaline pumping, I braced myself and stepped aside at the last second, grabbing Ryan in the process. Lydia tumbled into the room.
Without missing a beat, Ryan slammed the door shut. And then: silence. We waited, holding our breaths, and looked at each other. Then I looked down. Our hands were clasped, knuckles white from the pressure. Clutched between our palms was my necklace. Feeling brave, I opened the door. It was empty. Not only was Lydia gone, but her trinkets and spell books were nowhere to be seen. My phone lay on the bed.
Ryan picked it up and turned to me, “She called me with this. She saw you were gone, and I guess she thought you’d run off with me. She said, ‘I’ll take away everything she loves until all that’s left is me.’ I came right over to make sure you were okay.”
I shuddered and put my arms around him. Suddenly, I felt like all I wanted to do was sleep. After finding Nathan at the bottom of the stairs, shaken but okay, we drove back to the motel.
It’s been some time now, and Ryan and I haven’t talked about the incident much. His arm is still badly bruised where the door slammed on it, but it’ll heal. I’m actually not as upset by the whole incident as I should be, it all just feels like a bad dream.
But there is one thing that has been bothering me.
When we got back to the motel, there was an extra cot in our room. Ryan and I didn’t remember asking for a cot, and the motel manager said he was sorry, he must’ve thought there were three of us. Then I found some shirts packed in with my clothes, shirts that I didn’t remember buying. Finally, as we were leaving the motel, I found a half empty pack of cigarettes in my car. I don’t smoke, and I’m certain Ryan doesn’t either. Back in Lydia’s house, Ryan had been there for a while before Nathan and I arrived. I was able to save him from disappearing, but I wonder— was there someone else I didn’t save?