Based off of Little Red Riding Hood. A work in progress.
|The first thing I noticed coming out of the darkness was the stench of chemicals. I tried to remember where I was and what I was doing there and how I got there. I convinced myself that what I thought just happened was a nightmare and nothing more. I moved to stretch my body when I felt something tied around my wrists. I couldn’t move my arms because my wrists were chained to the bed. As I became more aware of my surroundings, I realized that I didn’t recognize the bed I was lying on. It was uncomfortable: hard and stiff. When I became awake enough to open my eyes, there was very little light to help me see. A door was cracked open with white light spilling out. A shadow moved across and blocked the light. The shadow opened the door to let more of the white light loose. The shadow approached the bed.
“What did you do to me? Why are you doing this?” I whispered to the shadow, but it did not answer. It only moved closer to the bed. I tried to move my body as far away as I could, but my mobility was limited. The shadow’s hand stroked my hair and then lingered on my face.
“I just want to go home, please,” I continued to whisper although I wasn’t sure why.
“I love you,” the gravelly voice replied.
“But I don’t want you to love me.” Then the hand left my face and slapped me. My cheek stung and I could feel it turning red. Then the shadow realized the harm it had caused me in its moment of rage. Its mouth kissed the stinging tenderly.
“Get away from me!” I screamed. The shadow moved back.
“Be quiet, my love. This is for your own good,” the shadow said calmly.
“Why? Why me? I don’t want this! Let me go!” Something heavy hit my head and I blacked out.
Frantic voices were talking all around me.
“Give her more sedatives.”
“She’s already been out for hours!”
“We need to talk to her.”
“But we can’t if she keeps trying to fight us.”
“Brooke, you’re okay. Nothing bad will happen to you. You’re safe here.” I recognize the calm voice, a savior from the chaos. I open my eyes and the darkness disappeared and the pink sky peaked through a barred window to my left. Elizabeth was standing above me at my right. Two nurses stood behind her. I thought I recognized one of them, but my head was spinning. My wrists were fixed in leather bracelets tied to the sides of the hospital bed. A monitor near my head beeped and an IV ran from my right hand to a stand near the monitor.
“Your father and I thought you needed to rest. That’s all. You can go back home when you’re ready.” She stroked my tangled and damp hair away from my forehead.
“Did he tell you that I’m not really his daughter?” I finally found the words to speak. I remembered the fight we had before I was dragged off like a crazy criminal. She looked back to the nurses and whispered something. They exited the room and closed the door loudly.
“He told me that a young man named Sawyer has been trying to convince you that you are somebody else.”
“The real Brooke is here. I’m not her.”
“Then tell me who you think you are. Where is the real Brooke?”
“I, I don’t know. She went with Sawyer. But I’m not Brooke.”
“You are Brooke Conall. You were born on March twenty-fourth, nineteen-ninety. Your father is Raymond Conall. Your mother left years ago. You had a terrible accident a month ago and now you have amnesia, but a boy you met only yesterday has told you different. You are now questioning your family, pictures, and doctors because of a boy who is wrong. You are surrounded by people who love and care for you, but you trust a boy that you don’t even know, who doesn’t have your best interest at heart. You have put yourself in dangerous and stressful positions. To me it sounds like you don’t want to be Brooke because you are frustrated with not being able to be yourself again.”
“What was my friend’s name?”
“I’m sorry?” She was caught off guard and looked at me with her eyebrows causes wrinkles on her forehead.
“The one who killed herself? The one whose funeral I went to before my accident.”
“Emily.” Her face smoothed over. “Any other questions?”
“I remembered something.”
“What did you remember?”
“I remembered that I was in a hotel room and a man was hurting me. When did this happen?”
“Probably when you had your vacation in Yosemite and the group of men raped you.”
“I thought you said I was raped in the woods, away from people and buildings.”
“All I know is what your father told me and he doesn’t know all of the details. It was a horrible thing that had happened. He didn’t want to pressure you into reliving it.”
“Looks like I am anyway.”
She sighed. “Do you feel well enough to talk to him for a bit? He has been so worried about you.”
“I never want to see him again! He’s not my dad! Why aren’t you listening to me?” I screamed.
“I am listening to you. You need to calm down. I won’t let him see you right now, okay? I’m going to have a nurse come in and give you something to help you relax. Here’s the call button if you need anything and the remote for the TV. I’ll come back in the morning to check up on you.” Her voice never rose; it was too calm. She didn’t believe me. I started to cry with frustration. Nobody was ever going to believe me except for Sawyer and he didn’t know where I was. Elizabeth left quietly. Shortly after, one of the nurses in the room from before came in. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a braid. She was brandishing a syringe between her long, plastic-gloved fingers. I looked at her pleadingly and saw her ID badge. Her name read LIESE, Rebecca and her picture was familiar. Her hair was down and her smile was the same apathetic smile with a hint of empathy as I saw the previous night. It was Rebecca, Sawyer’s sister.
“Rebecca, it’s me.”
“I know. We’re working to get you out of here, but you need to wait. You’ll be safe.” She injected the fluid into the IV. “Rest, you’ll need it.” My body started to go numb. I didn’t know what she meant, but I stopped crying. I had hope now, however blind it was. I allowed myself to relax, but not completely. I didn’t want to be unconscious again. I turned on the TV, but kept the volume down low. I had limited movement with my hands, but I managed to press the buttons on the remote to find something remotely interesting. I fell asleep midway through a movie on the Lifetime channel, something about a mother and her daughter. My sleep was uneventful, dreamless. As soon as I woke up when the light was spilling in from the barred window, I had my mind set on not falling asleep again. I didn’t know when Rebecca would be back or what we would do when she did come. After a nurse came in and found that I was conscious again, she went to fetch Dr. Stav.
Dr. Stav came in no more than twenty minutes later. I had kept myself busy counting the dots on each panel of the ceiling, but quickly grew frustrated. So then I tried to see what mindless things were on the TV. I settled for an old game show, but I couldn’t concentrate on it. The excited host sounded sarcastic and the applause was obnoxiously overwhelming. She came over and turned it off.
“Brooke, are you ready to talk to your father?”
“I told you, he’s not my father,” I said calmly while trying to give her a mean look.
“Then who is?” she asked coolly. The way she said it reminded me of the game show host.
“I told you I don’t know. I want a DNA test so I can prove to all of you that I’m not his daughter.”
“That wouldn’t exactly work out, Brooke.”
“Why not? And stop calling me Brooke. I’m not Brooke.”
“Okay. Well, whatever-name-you-wish-to-be-called-by, you were adopted, so your DNA wouldn’t match his.” I could tell she was mocking me. It made me so made. And to think that I actually trusted her, confided my deepest wishes with her.
“And I suppose he told you that as well.” All I wanted was for Rebecca to come back and get me out of here.
“I’m going to bring Mr. Conall and Linda in so we can talk and get some questions answered, okay?” She turned to leave the room, not even waiting for my answer. I resumed staring at the ceiling. I never wanted to see him again and now she was bringing him in to make my life even worse. I clenched my teeth to keep myself from screaming. I didn’t need any more excuses to make them think I was crazy.
She returned with Linda following close behind her. He came in a few seconds later, closing the door quietly. Linda was dressed casually in black skinny jeans, a tee-shirt with Marilyn Monroe’s face printed on it, a rainbow scarf thrown loosely around her neck, and a light black coat. Her hair was in a loose braid and it made her seem younger, closer to my age, even though she was only twenty-three. He was wearing a suit, as always. He looked well put together and had just enough hint of concern etched into his face. They all pulled up chairs to sit near my bed. Dr. Stav warned him to situate himself as far away from me as possible, but close enough to talk at a calm tone.
“Now, Linda, I wanted to go over the time period in which Mr. Conall was gone and up until he returned, that being the morning of March twenty-fourth until the morning of March twenty-fifth. What did you and Brooke do after our appointment?”
Linda looked nervous and kept moving her eyes between him and her. She was uncomfortable sitting there and ratting me out. She gave me the impression that she was trying hard to appear to be on my side, but she was trying too hard. I didn’t believe her for one second, I didn’t know what to believe anymore. She kept shifting her legs to get comfortable in the hospital chair. “Well, I picked her up and I went to give her the birthday present I made her, a scrapbook, that was in my car. We went shopping and to the salon and out to lunch. We got back to the apartment just in time for the six o’clock news. After she went to the bathroom, she came out and told me that while she was waiting for me after her appointment that morning, she had met a boy named Sawyer. She said that he had invited her to meet him and his friends at Piet 39. I told her no since I didn’t know him and Ray wasn’t in town and she wouldn’t be supervised.”
“Would you like to add or correct anything that Linda has said?” Dr. Stav turned to me.
“Oh, are you finally going to listen to me?”
“Now, now, Brooke. We don’t need any of that attitude. Dr. Stav is just trying to get the story straight,” he said calmly. I couldn’t believe him. He was talking like he hadn’t sentenced me to be chained to this bed and forced drugs.
“Shut up! I don’t even want to see you!” I screamed. I couldn’t keep it in any longer.
“Raymond, it’s okay,” Dr. Stav said to him and turned to me to say, “You can just pretend that he’s not here. You are talking only to Linda and me, or even just Linda, if you want.”
“Fine,” I mumbled. “That’s pretty much what happened.”
“And what happened after Linda told you no?”
“I stayed in my room and then decided to sneak out to go see him.”
“And did you?”
“Yes. I met up with him at Pier 39 with his friends, just like he told me. We went to a restaurant, but I left early with him because I had a headache.”
“Okay. Linda, what did you do when you realized that she was no longer in her room?”
“I called Ray and he said he would leave as soon as he could. He told me to stay calm and wait for her to come back. He knew she would come back. And she did.”
“How did you get back?” She looked at me now.
“Sawyer gave me a ride back, but I remembered something and ended up cutting open my stitches. I snuck back into my room after the paramedics fixed my arm. I still had a headache, so Linda gave me some of my medicine.”
“Linda, did you ever see this Sawyer?” She turned back to Linda
“No.” She was staring at her feet, now placed firmly side-by-side on the floor.
“What happened the following morning, Linda?”
“Well, I took her to her appointment with you, like always; but then I got a call from you saying that she was gone.”
“Where did you go when you left the appointment?” Her eyes turned suspicious, hungry for the truth.
“I had called Sawyer and asked him if he could pick me up to discuss what had happened the night before. He met me in the lobby and took me to a tea garden.”
“How did you end up back at the apartment when Linda and Mr. Conall got there?”
“Sawyer brought me back so I could prove to him that I was who he said I was. I was showing him the scrapbook when the real Brooke Conall came in.”
“And why were Sawyer and the real Brooke not there when Linda and Mr. Conall got there?”
“We had decided to play along with it, get some more information about why he was saying I was Brooke and why he was lying to me. Sawyer told me that I was Cori Baine, the missing girl from the news. He knows her brother and he was at Pier 39 with us. So Sawyer and Brooke left so that I could get more information.”
“So neither Linda nor Mr. Conall ever met Sawyer or the Brooke?”
I said through my teeth, “Yes.” They nodded their heads thoughtfully.
“Are you absolutely positive that Sawyer and Brooke were real?”
“Yes. Why would I think they were fake?”
“Well, I think you are exhibiting signs of hallucinations, Sawyer and Brooke and all the others you met the other night.” He let out a sigh while she gasped and looked to him. “I’m going to prescribe some medication to see if it helps stops the hallucinations.” She was no longer talking to me; it was if I wasn’t even in the room with them. He nodded in agreement solemnly. They all left the room after that. A nurse came in with another syringe and injected it into my IV.
Hours passed and I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to be awake when Rebecca came back. Show after show, I waited. I didn’t want to press the call button and bring attention to me or another nurse into the room. I remained calm and quiet when a nurse would come in periodically and change the bag of saline or check on my monitor. I never talked to any of them even if they asked a question. I just stared at them until they left.
Finally, when the light behind my bed and the TV illuminated my room, Rebecca came. She had on a baseball cap with her hair tucked underneath and a large and dark trench coat. She was carrying something in a bag. She closed the door and made sure that nobody had followed her in. She placed the bag on the edge of my bed and went to work on releasing my arms from the cuffs. I felt good and free. Then she turned off the machines and grabbed a cotton ball. She took off the tape holding the needle into my hand and placed the cotton ball on top as she extracted the needle. Then she taped the cotton ball onto my hand and helped me sit up. She took a large coat out from the bag she had brought with her.
“Put this on,” was the only thing she said. I stood to put my arms through the holes, but I was a little disoriented. She grabbed my arm and held me steady. I put it over the hospital gown they changed me into while I was unconscious. The bottom of the coat touched the floor, covering my feet. I sat back down as she pulled out my shoes they took off. Then she shoved my hair beneath a hat.
“Make sure you cover your face. There are security cameras near all of the doors in this ward. I can take you down to the back entrance, but then I have to come back. They think I’m just picking up some stuff I forgot from earlier.”
“Where am I going? I can’t go by myself. I can barely walk two feet!” I tried to keep my voice low.
“Sawyer is waiting with the real Brooke. He’ll see you and pull up. We have to hurry though.” She shoved the bag into one of the deep pockets of her coat. I gripped tightly to her arm to walk. She opened the door and looked out for a sign of anyone. When she determined the coast was clear, we walked to an elevator that was in a discrete corner. She pressed the button quietly and the twenty seconds it took for the doors to open dragged on for an eternity. We walked quickly into the small box and waited for the descent to end. When the door reopened we walked briskly with our heads looking at our feet through a dimly lit hallway to a door marked with big neon green letters declaring EXIT. She pushed the door open and waved into the darkness interrupted with streetlights and cars.
A small car pulled up close to the door and I recognized it immediately. Sawyer jumped out and took over for Rebecca. I whispered my thanks to her during the exchange. She nodded in return. He walked me over to the backseat door and waited until I was in safely to close it. I looked to my right and saw Brooke in the passenger seat, staring stoically out the windshield. I looked back over to thank Rebecca once again, but the door was already closed and Sawyer clicked his seatbelt. Then we drove. Nobody said anything the entire time. It was totally silent except for the sounds of tires moving on the pavement.
I decided to ask a question to occupy us with anything but silence. “Where are we going?” My voice was hoarse, but they both heard me.
Sawyer answered, “We’re going to my apartment. It will be safe there.”
“I hate that word.”
They were both confused. Sawyer looked back and forth between the street ahead of us and the rearview mirror to look at me. “What?”
“Why?” Brooke asked. She stilled looked out at the passing cars.
“Because there’s no such thing.”
“How is that?” Sawyer asked, a little too forcefully.
“They said I would be safe at the hospital, that they would take care of me, but then they allowed me to go with him. He said I would be safe with him and Linda, but that’s only damaged me more. Then he said I would be safer back at the hospital, but I was hurt. People are never safe. They said that my mind has locked up every memory from before my accident to keep myself safe from the terrible things that happened, but the memories leak out and cause harm; and not remembering why or what happened has ruined me. And now you say that I will be safe hiding from these people who claim to know me, but for how long? How long can I hid from them? How much will this end up hurting me?”
“We’re trying to help you! If you wanted to stay chained to a hospital bed, I’ll turn around right now and bring you back! And forget about Rebecca risking her job to get you out because she just did it for nothing! Oh, we could be arrested for this, too!” I had never seen this side of Sawyer, but how could I since I’ve only known him for a few days? Something about the way he acted in our earlier encounters never indicated that he had such a short fuse.
“No. I appreciate what all of you have done, but how long can we keep this up? Nothing lasts forever, not even the most important memories. Those are the only things that no one else in the entire world can take from you, but your mind can wipe out in a single second. Do you even know how frustrating it is not being able to know anything about your own life when everybody else can?”
“Yes,” she said calmly. I stared at her wide-eyed. “Everyone has amnesia.”
“No, they don’t. Every normal person can remember their lives, who they are.”
“If you asked anybody anywhere in the world, they wouldn’t be able to remember most of their childhood or a single event only a few years ago. Time makes martyrs out of memories. Time is the cause of amnesia, the one and only disease experienced by every human.” I was speechless. We resumed the silence.
I asked, only to relieve the tension, “Where are we going?”
When she divorced Ethan, she had a three-month-old and a four-year-old. For two years, they lived in a tiny apartment. She still had a job as a nurse, but she had to cut back on her hours to care for them. He didn’t even help out with child support or fight for even visitation rights. But she didn’t mind it that much since it meant that she wouldn’t have to see him. She had put up with his abuse until the moment he touched Cori. By then she was two months pregnant with Gabriel. Then came the day she met Allen. He was good to her and to her children. Cori was nine when they were married. She didn’t remember why Ethan had left or why her mother was marrying this man. Gabe took to Allen right away, but he never gained trust from Cori.
When she was thirteen, that’s when it got too hard for them to handle. First, they tried counseling. When that didn’t work and she started experimenting with drugs at fourteen, they put her in a rehab center in the closest big city, Eureka. Her mother helped pay with every treatment they tried. She came home and did well for a couple of weeks before she started sneaking out and using again. She wasn’t the little girl Maya knew and Allen was getting frustrated. But they tried sending her to a different rehab center, farther away. It broke her heart when she read Cori’s letters, desperately pleading to come home. Despite Allen’s warnings, she brought Cori home early only to yield the same results as before. Cori grew depressed and started to cut herself. They took her to another therapist, but that only lead to her suicide attempt.
When she wasn’t cutting or trying to kill herself, she tried to runaway. Sometimes she wanted to find Ethan and find out why he wasn’t apart of her life. Other times it was to find her birthmother with the little information Maya had provided her. It always ended after a few days when a police officer or a bus driver or someone who recognized her would turn her in and bring her back.
She ended up graduating early, despite missing so much school, but she did most of the work through the special programs for troubled teens and independent study. After her graduation, when she was seventeen, they sent her to a wilderness program that helped teens with problems like Cori’s. It was far away and they couldn’t visit. But at least it had worked. She was changed when she came back, calmer, but still harbored so much anger. They continued to take her to therapy. She was doing so much better, but then she was gone again. And now they were looking for her and something wasn’t right. This wasn’t like the other times.
“Cori? Is it really you?” he said. I wasn’t sure, but I knew I was definitely not Brooke Conall, so I was willing to be her. He kept his distant and spoke quietly, so as not to startle me.
“I don’t know, but maybe.” He rushed up and hugged me. He hugged me so tightly that I could barely breathe.
“I’ve missed you so much,” he whispered in my ear.
“Gabe, we don’t know for sure. Let’s figure this out first.” Sawyer was still in a bad mood from the car ride. We were in Sawyer’s apartment. It was small, but enough for the group of us. The living room held an old couch with two side tables on the ends, scattered with mail and framed pictures. A small T.V. set directly across from the couch, but it was dusty, so I guessed they didn’t use it that much. The kitchen was attached to the living room by a door less doorway and had one counter sprouting out of the stove/oven. An old refrigerator sputtered next to the stove/oven and the single row of wood cabinets. A unlit hallway started between the kitchen and the living room. Gabe reeled back and guided me by the wrist to the couch.
“You guys are real, aren’t you? I’m not imagining you?” I almost forgot to ask the question, but I didn’t want to be crazy, so I needed to know.
“Of course we’re real. Why? Did they tell you that we weren’t? When will you stop believing their lies?”
“I don’t know what to believe anymore. Can you just try to imagine how confused I am right now? Can you try to think what it’s like to not know who you are?” I was getting annoyed with Sawyer’s negativity towards me.
“Stop, please.” Gabe looked at us with pleading eyes. Brooke was in the corner, not saying anything. “You’re Cori Baine. You’re my sister and we love each other. Our mom’s name is Maya and our step-dad is Allen. You’re birthday was the day before you were taken by that…that…man, if you can even call him that.”
“He’s still a man, a drunk man with a temper, but he’s still a man. I haven’t loved him in years, but he’s still my dad.” The real Brooke said quietly with hurtful eyes.
“Then why does he think that I am you?” Brooke didn’t have any response to that. We sat in silence listening to the ticking clock in the kitchen for a couple of minutes.
“I’m sure it’s been a long couple of days for you, Cori. You should probably get some sleep and we can talk about it in the morning.” Gabe sounds so much more mature than his age and I am taken aback by how easily he calls me Cori. The name is foreign to my ears, not wishing to accept it as my own. But then again, Brooke is not my name either. I didn’t realize how tired I was until he mentioned it even though I should have no reason to be this tired. I had been “resting” in the hospital for the past two days.
“Okay,” I said glumly.
“You can sleep in Rebecca’s bed tonight and there’s a pair of her pajamas that you can wear tonight, if you want.” Sawyer avoided my eyes, but his tone was softer.
“Thanks.” Gabe put his arm around my shoulder to guide me to Rebecca’s room. We left Brooke and Sawyer to discuss quietly in the little living room. Gabe led me to the second door in the short hallway where a small room with a freshly made bed with a folded pair of pajamas sitting atop of it.
“I love you, Cori,” he said as he hugged me tightly. He almost didn’t let me go, maybe because he was afraid he was never going to see or touch me again.
“Thanks,” was all I could say. He left me in Rebecca’s room and closed the door so I could have some privacy. Her room was simple: a bed, a dresser with a small mirror, and a bedside table. Pictures of her with her brothers and friends and Tyler were scattered on the bedside table and taped onto the mirror. There were also pictures of Gabe and Cori with her and her family.
It was strange to see pictures of the girl that I possibly was. We looked extremely different. The one in the picture had long blonde hair and did not produce a real smile. She seemed little and distant and sad. It was possible that we were the same person, but it was hard to conceive the idea. I had a hard enough time accepting that I was Brooke; it took me almost a month, but then that conspiracy was blown away in less than one week. Why did I have to be a girl in a picture? Why couldn’t I create my own life? Why couldn’t be different than I was before? Why did I feel compelled to please the people I believed to be my family?
Maybe I could just leave, get a fresh start, be who I want to be, I thought to myself. I decided to stop thinking and go to sleep; maybe then I could think clearer or come with a plan. I changed into Rebecca’s pajamas and, of course, they were too long for me, but they were comfortable enough. I turned off the light and fell into a deep sleep.
I dreamt of myself as a little girl with a baby brother. My mother was not like the one in the pictures I had committed to memory. She had light brown hair, tired and caring eyes, and a small, closed-lipped smile that let me know that she loved me. She showered me with kisses until I giggled. I left the room and my baby brother started crying. I tried to go back into the room, but my mom ignored my attempts to soothe him. I fell further back every time I tried to step forward. Soon, the room was nowhere in sight. Dark skies and tall trees surrounded me. A car pulled up. I knew it was just a dream, but I was terrified because I couldn’t leave. I got into his car and I let him touch me. I ran away, but he found me. He hit me and all I wanted was to go home. I didn’t know how he got me into that room without anybody noticing. I screamed forever, begging for someone to hear me, to save me. He hurt me and I couldn’t do anything to defend myself. His voice echoed, “Oh, God. You look so much like her.”
I woke gasping for air. My face was wet with tears and Sawyer was sitting on the end of the bed. Soft light from the street lights came in through the blinds on the window.
“What happened?” he asked faintly.
“I was having a dream.” It was a dream until he came into it and tarnished it, turning it into a nightmare.
“You were screaming.”
“Nobody helped me.” I broke down and cried at this realization. I knew Sawyer and Gabe were telling me the truth this whole time. I knew who I was really Cori Baine. “Why didn’t anybody stop him?”
“We didn’t know.” He was holding me now. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Why me? Why did he take me?” My memory was still fuzzy, but certain things were becoming clearer.
“I don’t know.”
“I remember, now.” I stopped crying and sniffed.
“What do you remember?”
“I don’t know details, but I know that I’m Cori and Gabe’s my brother and I remember my mom and Rebecca and Jordan and you.” I looked into his big brown eyes and paused to grab hold of the memory flitting through my mind of Sawyer. Tall, goofy haircut, three missing teeth, tan from summer’s sun, and blue swimming trunks. We were running along the small waves, avoiding their freezing grasp. We laughed and screamed when they snuck behind our feet and tickled our bones with coldness. My mom called us over to the towels were she already gave Gabe, Jordan, and Rebecca fruit popsicles. We raced over to them to see who would get the last strawberry popsicle. He won because he was older and stronger than me, but he let me have a bite. I wished I could go back to that day, remember what else we were doing, remember the rest of the time we spent together. It could only be filled with happy days like that one.
“You have always been so good to me,” I whispered into his chest. “I don’t deserve it.” Then I started to cry all over again. I couldn’t remember exactly the whole reason why, but I felt like I had hurt him, and not just once.
“Don’t say that.” He pulled my head away from the warmth of his chest. I closed my eyes so I could pretend that he couldn’t see me. It reminded me of the time I was scared of the pitch black of my room when I was little and hid myself under the covers so the monsters wouldn’t find me.
His warm fingers wiped away my tears, one by one, gently. It was almost like a feather. He stopped at the source of the salty water and then held me tight in his arms.
It seemed like we stayed like that for hours until I had expelled all of the liquid within me. I was exhausted again when he let go and let my body fall back onto Rebecca’s bed. My raw and puffy eyes wouldn’t let me open them to see Sawyer one more time before my body forced me to sleep. He whispered as he pulled the blankets back on me, “Go back to sleep. It’s okay.”
I fell back asleep just like he and my body had commanded. I didn’t have another nightmare, but I didn’t have another dream either. Just peaceful blackness. The smell of pancakes woke me up. I remembered waking up and running to Gabe’s room across the hallway to tell him that Mom was making pancakes and maybe this time she would put chocolate chips in. She would always make the pancakes in the shape of the first letter in each of our names: C for Cori, G for Gabe, M for Mom, and D for Dad. I never called him Dad though. I struggled to remember the name I called him, but Gabe opened the door.
“Pancakes, your favorite.” He stood in the doorframe. He wasn’t the little Gabe from my reverie. He was grown, his head nearly touching the top of the frame.
“Good, I’m starved.” A smile stretched itself from ear to ear as I stood up to give him a good morning hug.