How about five more pages? Feeling like a bit of a historical? How about time travel? How about both?! Today’s story is No Recourse.
The piercing pain in her chest grew worse, but she couldn’t stop running. A flash of lightning split the darkness once again, temporarily blinding her. Thunder roared in her ears and her racing heart felt as if it would burst. Again, the pounding of the horse’s hooves beat the dirt path behind her. Closer this time. He was closer. A high-pitched scream ahead in the distance, just beyond her in the mist. “Erin!” she yelled. “I’m coming.”
The cramps in her legs intensified and she stumbled over a rock in the path, but caught herself before she fell. She could not keep up this insane pace much longer. She had to get to Erin before the dark man on the horse caught her again. More lightning, another crash of thunder. Blinded by the rain, she stumbled through the brambles. The wind howled as she struggled forward against its gale force. “Aaaa!” she cried as she tripped over a tree root. Another faraway scream, another flash of lightning.
Dragging herself back up, she felt the hot breath of the horse against the back of her neck, two callused hands lifted her up through the air. Out of time–he’d caught her again, the sound of familiar laughter beside her now. Another scream–farther away this time–barely perceptible. She’d failed again. “Erin!” She kicked out with all her might. “Erin!”
The man beside her laughed harshly, whispering in her ear, familiar, terrifying words. One last scream–this time coming from her own lips, trying to drown his words, his laughter. The rough hands began to shake her. Shaking her so hard her teeth rattled. Fight back, she thought, fight back.
“Hayley, wake up! Wake up!” Hayley opened her eyes adjusting her vision to the dark room. Bright light from the hallway poured in from the open doorway and she felt disoriented.
“Yes. God, Hayley. Wake up!” She shook slightly as her friend patted her hair and murmured comforting words. “You’re awake now. You’re safe.”
Hayley sat still for several moments, silently willing the trembling to stop. She hated the look of absolute panic on Tori’s face. “I’m okay. Really.”
“That was a hell of a nightmare. I heard you all the way down the hall.”
Hayley shrugged nonchalantly though her hands shook as she tried to untangle herself from the sweat-soaked sheets.
“I thought you said you didn’t have nightmares anymore. How long have you been having these?”
“Awhile…just since she disappeared,” Hayley whispered, her voice hoarse from screaming.
Tori looked unconvinced. “You need to talk to someone about them. It’s not good for you to have such violent dreams. You know, I bet my mother knows someone who could help you.”
“A shrink?” She felt calmer and her wits were returning to her. “No, thanks, I don’t think a psychiatrist is going to be able to do anything about a silly nightmare. Besides, I tried it before, remember?”
Tori crossed her arms over her chest and raised her eyebrows angrily. “Two months, Hayley. You tried it for a total of two months and then you quit when some progress was being made.”
“She was a hack and it was a waste of money. I work hard for my paycheck and I resented giving it to her so she could blame all my problems on Marian. It’s just being here, Tori. It brings everything back.” At Tori’s incredulous look, she deepened her lie. “I’m fine at home.”
“Right, you don’t have these dreams anywhere but here?”
“No, well, maybe a couple of times right after I went home last summer, but not since then.” She hoped her light tone made her lie more convincing. Truth was she had endured bad dreams since she was a child, but the nightmares had become more frequent and frightening since last June. A year. She still couldn’t believe it had been one year. She’d spent the last twelve months in a fog, simply going through the motions of living.
Tomorrow was her best friend Erin’s birthday. It was also one year to the day since Erin had mysteriously disappeared without a trace. The June girls were together again for the summer, minus one very special member. Erin, Hayley and Tori had spent every summer together since they were ten years old. The first ten summers were spent at Camp Spring Rock, then last year here at Tori’s family estate, Fernwood Grange in Dover, England. They had penned themselves the June girls during their first summer at camp as all three of them had June birthdays and they had remained friends through the best and worst times of their lives.
Hayley was spending a couple of weeks at Fernwood Grange with Tori. It was only her second vacation since beginning her job as a counselor in a women’s abuse shelter in St. Louis two years earlier. Tori, an elementary school librarian, was spending her entire summer break at the Grange and Erin, until her disappearance, had traveled the United States with her band Delancy’s Dreamers.
Tori disrupted her thoughts. “We should have gone somewhere else this summer.”
Hayley reached for her friend’s hands. “No, Tori. I wanted to come back, to spend time with you. Besides I’ve been thinking that perhaps time and distance may help us solve this mystery. There are some things about last year that have been bothering me and I thought we could run down some of the leads that weren’t fully explored.”
“Are you kidding me?” Tori yelled. “Dammit Hayley. I didn’t come back here to start the search up again. There are no leads to track down.”
“I’m just not sure the detectives followed up as much as they should have.”
“Will you just stop it, Hayley? She’s gone. Erin is gone. I thought coming here might help us heal.”
“Yes, heal, let go of the past, move on. I know those are pretty radical concepts, but they’re something you might want to try sometime.”
Hayley felt her friend’s words like a blow to the chest. She knew she had a tendency to carry around her ancient history like well-worn luggage, but Tori, of all people, should understand why she did so.
“I–I don’t think I can–”
“Aw hell, Hayley. I’m sorry. So sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, but dammit, I can’t drudge all of this up again. We have to get past it. We were both in such a daze at the end of last summer. I haven’t been back to this house myself since then. Despite my mother’s nagging, I spent Christmas with my cousins in Liverpool. I didn’t think I could face the demons here without you.” Tori’s voice broke. “I came back, hoping we could find closure. I miss her so much.”
Hayley reached for her friend, holding her as Tori cried. She didn’t think this trip would help either one of them. They were ghosts of their former selves and although she found solace with her friend, it wasn’t enough to counteract the guilt and pain she felt over losing Erin.
As Tori quietly cried, Hayley realized she hadn’t cried since Erin’s disappearance–not once. Instead, she lived in a hollow cocoon, feeling cold and empty all the time. Her childhood with a tyrant father taught her from an early age that emotions showed weakness and–having learned that lesson the hard way many times–she refused to be weak.
Gradually, Tori regained control of her emotions and looked up guiltily. “You had the nightmare and I’m the one who’s falling apart. Isn’t that always the way? Erin was so much a part of us. This last year it’s felt like we were missing a limb, but we’ve gone on. We’ve both been successful in our jobs and we have each other. There are still good times to be had and I really don’t think Erin would want us to wallow in self-pity and misery. Remember the time Tuck Mathews fell into the lake?”
“As I recall, he didn’t fall in. Erin pushed him.” Hayley laughed at the memory.
For the next hour, the two friends reminisced, sharing laughter and tears as they talked about the wild adventures of the June girls at camp.
Finally, Hayley said the words that never completely left her consciousness. “The worst thing is not knowing.”
Tori nodded, clearly understanding what she meant.
“I think that’s what hurts the most. It drives me crazy sometimes, Tori. Just wondering, never knowing for sure she won’t walk through that door any minute with some crazy tale of her lost year.”
“Wouldn’t that be great?” Tori said. “Actually, I think deep down inside, I hoped we would come back and find her here. Isn’t that silly?”
“No, it’s not silly.”
“Sometimes, these past few days, I’ve actually felt like she was here.” Tori shivered. “Maybe I need to see the shrink?”
“No, I’ve felt her too. I thought it was just me.”
Neither of them spoke for several minutes as they considered what it might mean to feel Erin’s presence–her spirit in the house–until Tori, shaking off thoughts of her friend’s possible death, stood quickly. “That’s it. I’m for bed again.”
“Me too. Rough day tomorrow. Her twenty-third birthday.”
Tori paused in the doorway. “Tonight helped, I think. I’m stronger with you, Hayley. Sweet dreams?”
“Tonight helped,” she repeated. “Sweet dreams.”
She listened as Tori returned to her room, then got out of bed and crossed to the window seat. Curling up on the blue brocade cushion, she felt bad for lying to her friend about the nightmares. Erin and Tori were her best and only friends. After her mother, Marian divorced her alcoholic father, she and Hayley moved frequently from one run-down apartment to another, usually trying to escape bill collectors or the latest in a long line of Marian’s seedy boyfriends.
Because of the instability of her home life, Hayley became a loner. Growing up, she watched her mother cower under the demands of her abusive father and then a string of other unsavory men. Determined not to be like Marian, she had difficulty fitting in. She was strong-willed, with a quick temper and an independent streak a mile wide. Her tendency to speak her mind tended to make others uncomfortable and she had never trusted anyone until she met the June girls.
Tori and Erin were loners as well, although for different reasons. Erin’s isolation was the result of lifestyle, not choice. She was an only child traveling with her father and a folk music band comprised entirely of adults. Despite the lack of other children to play with, she was vivacious, beautiful and made friends easily. Tori lived a life of privilege with wealthy parents. The problem was they were both extremely successful workaholics, who left the rearing of their only daughter to a string of nannies.
Shaking herself back to the present, she decided sleep was beyond her. Looking around the room, she decided to read the romance novel Tori had loaned her earlier that afternoon.
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