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His Heart33

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His heart

Introducing…

His Heart Print

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The past…

One of my favorite moments…

Do you remember when it happened? What book?

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Mike stood up when she came out and she looked down as she walked to the couch. He sat on the chair and waited, hating that she couldn’t even look at him.

“I owe you an explanation,” she said as she finally met his gaze.

He shook his head and smiled.

“You don’t owe me anything. I pushed my way here and it’s obvious you are really uncomfortable around me. I don’t want to leave you alone, so I’ll call Julie and I’m sure she can come over for tonight,” he stood up and crossed his arms.

“I’m really sorry I put you in this position. I guess I just wanted to help you,” he looked at her and sighed. “Just so you know, I would never make you look at me. I know my injuries were bad, and I know it’s not something you should have to look at, but I didn’t realize my shirt was ripped. I’m truly sorry.”

She was stunned.

“What? What do you mean your injuries?”

He shrugged.

“I just figured you were afraid I was going to take my shirt off and you would have to see the scars from what happened. I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t going to do that. I would never do that, you know, force you to look at me.”

Realization dawned over her and she felt the air go out of her lungs. “Oh my God,” she sat there and put her head in her hands, her hair flowing over her fingers. “I’m such an idiot.”

He was confused. Should he leave?

She stood up and walked over to him.

Mike scarcely took a breath as she reached up and moved his hands, which held his shirt together. She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes.

“You are so amazing. You are smart and strong and incredibly handsome. There is no part of you that I would be afraid to see.”

He reached to her face and stroked her cheek.

“You don’t know what happened. You say that, but you don’t know how bad it is,” his voice quivered as he looked into her eyes.

She smiled at him and shrugged.

“Then let me see.”

He didn’t expect that.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Do you think that little of me?”

His eyes were wet as shook his head.

“No, but I don’t think I could stand it if this changed.”

She reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand, her thumb stroking his skin. She could feel his fear.

“If what changed?”

“The way you look at me,” he said.

She said nothing and slowly unbuttoned the rest of his shirt before she pushed it off his shoulders. He watched her every move as she removed the fabric and looked at him, this being one of the most profound moments he had ever experienced. His scar was from the middle of the left side of his chest and went almost completely to the other side and down to his waist. She couldn’t see below, but she figured it went farther.

What pain he must have endured.

Jade placed her hands on his chest and looked up at him. “I think you’re beautiful,” she said as her slate gray eyes sparkled at him.

He felt a tear spill over his cheek as he was at a loss for words. He bent down and softly brushed her lips with his, barely touching them. He hesitated, not sure if she was comfortable until she moved her arms around him as he connected with her mouth again, wrapping his arms around her, his heart pounded as the soft fullness of her lips made his blood rush through his veins. He had wanted to kiss her for so long that he was afraid he would hurt her with the passion and intensity of the moment.

She smelled of coconut shampoo and she tasted like mint. He cradled her head in his hand, his fingers tangled in her hair as his other hand moved to the small of her back, pressing her to him. He forgot that he had ever kissed anyone else before. She simply had his heart.

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A look behind Left Behind

Moving the series ahead nine years brought a lot of opportunities to explore, as well as a lot of challenges. I had to consider all of the issues and experiences the characters lived through during the nine years we missed. I also had to discover the voices of the children now that they were older.

I never wanted to write the kids as mini versions of their parents. While they embody the core morals and values of their parents, they are truly their own people and I needed to allow them to explore the world around them.

I also had my hands full with Mike and where his story was headed.

First and foremost, at the end of “Red”, the parents faced the reality that the kids would have to learn about their pasts. Brittany was especially worried about this for obvious reasons, and it took me a while to decide how to have that discussion.

I wasn’t sure of Naomi’s reaction.

I didn’t know if she would be mad or hurt or scared or confused. I worried about her reaction like Tommy and Brittany did and then it occurred to me.

Living in this day and age, there was no way she would have avoided any and all press about her mom.

So I helped them out. I had her know a little about it and they filled in the rest. It also reinforced that the kids are going to run into all of this- whether or not the adults are ready.

Back to the most pressing matter at hand.

Mike.

Did I consider killing him?

Yes.

I also considered having his heart be the one that saved Jade.

But when I thought about it, I realized how cruel that would be as well as how detrimental it would be to the stories I had planned.

Mike is tied to so many stories on the canvas, Jimmy and Rebecca and Nick being the biggest.

Sara and Eden don’t even know Mike was married once before and Jimmy knows nothing about Rebecca. If he survives, he’s bound to have questions.

Jade needs her husband and the twins need their father, but I know that what we need is not always what happens. Life works in ways we can never predict.

But still, it occurred to me that Mike’s return would allow for some amazing stories for the whole canvas.

So he was found alive, but in worse shape than any injury I have written.

I decided that he would live, for now, but his recovery was not a guarantee.

I began Left Behind with Jade in a position of strength. I have always been irritated with myself for writing her so passive. Yes, she was nervous and shy and innocent and suffered a lot in her life.

But she is not someone who is weak and I wanted her strength and love for her family to stand out.

Going through a heart transplant while being a single mother of twins requires a special tenacity and belief in yourself. I wanted to show that.

I also wanted Mike to know that he had someone at home who couldn’t wait for him to return.

Having Evan and Elizabeth and Alec involved in the rescue was fun and I missed Alec. He had been used in “Love Endures” and not again. I liked bringing him back. In fact, we may see more of him in the future.

Moving on, I also had the fact that Brittany was pregnant and nobody outside of Tommy knew. Having her go with Bill was a stretch, but they believed it was to bring home a body, nothing more.

I loved having Jack figure out Tommy was hiding something and their connection is something I still love writing.

Almost every time I write in a pregnancy, I know the outcome. The one exception was when Julie was pregnant with triplets. I didn’t decide to have her miscarry the boys until halfway in. With Brittany, I knew she would lose the baby, but I didn’t know when. I did know it wouldn’t be as a result of her trip.

Back to Mike.

I made his injuries especially gruesome and part of that was to springboard Bill and Julie’s next arc. Bill has never really dealt with all his time overseas has done to him and I wanted this to be a turning point for him. A realization, if you will, of just how much he loves his life and how blessed he is. The problem was that he didn’t know how to deal with it. He didn’t want to burden his family with his struggles.

But when you’re married to someone like Julie, you don’t get to shut her out. That’s why I adore her. She is blunt, powerful, compassionate and vulnerable. She loves how her husband helps others, but she will not tolerate being ignored or seeing her children upset. What happened when Josie got her period and Bill didn’t come home, was some of my favorite scenes. I knew that Julie was missing her mom and a lot of her anger at Bill came from her own sense of loss. When he came home and she leaves to go to a hotel, well that was something that needed to happen. Bill needed to see how his behavior effected his family. When Josie told him she knew he loved her but didn’t think he liked her, I felt the hole grow in Bill’s heart.

He has always been afraid of ending up like his father. Even though he is nothing like him and never has been, Josie’s words killed him.

This would definitely come back to haunt him at the end of the book.

Back to Mike. Bringing him home was just the beginning. His road to recovery would not be easy and it was important for me to show that. There was no quick fix and even at the end of the book, his survival is not guaranteed.

Another story that took shape in Left Behind was Tessa and her health and self esteem issues. I have always had a soft spot for Tessa. She is so sweet and sensitive, but she has an older sister who appears perfect and parents who are incredibly high achievers. Tessa has always had more anxiety than most and her Crohns disease has caused her to be even more withdrawn. She has always felt closer to Mike and through the years, he has taken her to the farm and she has felt a sense of belonging that she didn’t anywhere else.

Tessa missed Mike so much and her fears about being alone seemed to grow each and every time her parents tried to shield her from the truth. They were hoping to protect her. She felt that they didn’t trust her. It is a struggle Jack and Stephanie are going to have deal with as the series moves forward.

Mike’s return allowed Tessa to show her parent’s just how strong she was and their connection helped Tessa feel important and useful.

For now.

I also had the budding romance between Naomi and Jimmy as well as David and Bee.

Putting David and Bee together is not a guarantee and having worked with teenagers for many years, I am ready to write the ups and downs. David is a lot like his dad, and although handsome and smart, his self esteem is tenuous.

I also want to show Sabrina as more than a pretty face. She stands up for her family and friends and she is a force to be reckoned with. She will become a bigger character as the series moves forward.

One of my favorite scenes was with David and Bill when they were discussing Bee.

“Oh, so she doesn’t like handsome intelligent boys who come from good families who respect each other.”

David smiled.

“That’s not what I meant. Bee and I have been thrown together since we were born. She is probably tired of me.”

“Well, you seem to be making a lot of assumptions about her and not allowing her to surprise you. If I’ve learned anything by being married to your mom, it’s that I can never make assumptions about what she wants or needs. We need to talk about things and make sure we’re on the same page. It’s not always easy, but it’s better to ask questions and not make guesses.”

“But you and mom are different.”

“How?”

David played with his napkin.

“You and mom aren’t boys and girls, but mom and dad. You can’t choose to like me or not, it’s your job.”

Bill thought of his own parents and his relief at hearing his son’s reasoning just stopped him in his tracks.

“Dad? Are you okay?” David worried at Bill’s silence.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just really glad you feel that way.”

I want to focus more on Bill and David’s relationship and I hope to erase some of Bill’s worries that he is like his pwn father.

The truth about Chris will have to be told to David, and he learns a little from Jack and Julie, but in book 20, Bill will sit down and tell David the truth.

He will have no choice.

Left Behind ends with two major points. Jimmy’s accident being the first.

Rebecca was bound to resurface and with Nick being responsible for Mike’s torture, it was only a matter of time before she showed up. I had her first approach Jade and the twins to reintroduce her to the story.

I also had Jimmy and Naomi’s growing friendship as a bright spot in the heaviness of the trauma.

I initially wanted Naomi to be the one injured by Rebecca’s car, but I changed my mind at the last minute.

I wanted to use Jimmy as a catalyst for more truth’s coming out.

Tommy had to operate and Naomi put all her faith in her dad. What he perceived as failure, was anything but where Naomi was concerned.

Jimmy’s story has a long way to go in book 20, and it won’t be easy.

To end Left Behind, I chose to have Josie kidnapped. It was an innocent bike ride and nobody did anything wrong.

None of the adults have ever faced the idea of losing a child in such a brutal and senseless way and for Bill and Julie, this is simply unbearable.

Lives will be forever changed and what happens in book 20 takes many characters by surprise.

It’s not what you expect.

It’s not what you are prepared for.

I hope you love it!

 

 

 

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Looking for feedback

I am looking to write some more background stories for you of whatever book you want. Is there a book you would like more behind the scenes information about?

How about why I put certain characters together? Where I got the ideas?

Any couple in particular?

You might be surprised by who I initially wanted to put together :)

 

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Sometimes, we need a reminder…

One of my favorite moments between Bill and Julie…

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He pulled her to him and held her tightly. She knew how torn up he was about everything and she hated to add to that pain. “I’m okay,” she said softly.

He just held her and didn’t say anything.

“You’re squishing me,” she said and grinned at him. He let her go and she turned to face him. “Want to talk about it?” she put her hands on his chest.

He shook his head.

“Okay, so how about if I talk and you listen,” she said. He didn’t object, so she continued. She turned back around and leaned against him. “Am I hurting your chest?”

“No,” he wrapped his arms around her and she took his hands in hers.

“Good,” she sighed. “I think you need to understand something. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change what people see when they look at you. You are the epitome of what it means to be strong and to be brave. I know you hate the hero word, but seeing as I am a teacher, I need to educate you on something. My students often have to look up the word hero and figure out what it means. Being a hero doesn’t mean that you don’t lose sometimes. Being a hero doesn’t mean that you can’t doubt yourself. Being heroic certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t get mad at what happens. A hero is simply one who thinks more of others than themselves and no matter what the cost is to them personally; they do what they can to ensure the people around them are safe,” she kissed his hand.

“It also means that after the battle, when everyone doesn’t come home, the hero may feel like he failed. What’s worse, when the people try to thank him, it makes all of his perceived failures so much worse. The fact that the hero takes such grief in each and every loss is what really and truly solidifies him as a hero.”

She turned around and saw his blue eyes glistening with tears. “When people want to honor a hero with medals and titles, it is because they know how much it takes to be someone heroic. They need to honor you because it is all they can do to show you just what it means to them to know you and to learn from you. They aren’t forgetting the ones lost and they aren’t suggesting you deserved to be here more than anyone else. It is a tribute to you and a reminder to them to be the best in all situations,” she felt her own tears fall and he cupped her cheek in his hand. “I am so proud to be your wife and I am most proud to be someone you feel is worthy of your love. I will never apologize for having you back and wanting you to survive,” she sighed. “But I need you to be happy. I need you to be able to move on and to know that you deserve all of the love and all of the honor you receive.”

He leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers, gently at first and then with more intensity. She felt her fingers and toes tingle with his kiss. He looked at her and smiled.

“Thanks. I needed to hear that,” he said softly.

She nodded. “I know,” she smiled. “But just remember. You may be a Sergeant, but I will always outrank you.”

He grinned and pulled her to him again, crashing his lips to hers.

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Book 20…

This is a sneak peek at the beginning of book 20…

Enjoy! Title and cover reveal coming soon.

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Bill and Julie raced behind Hope and they froze when she led them to Josie’s broken bike. Tommy called Tramp over and he sat with them.

“Oh God,” Julie said as she sank to the ground. “What does this mean? Where is she?”

Bill called Evan’s phone and he could barely keep it together.

“It’s Mike. What did you find?”

“Hope led us to Josie’s bike. It’s mangled and she’s not here. I don’t know where else to fucking look!” he cried.

“Send me a picture of the area surrounding the bike,” Mike said.

“Okay,” he said and snapped a bunch of images and sent them to Mike.

Tommy walked to his sister and helped her back up.

“Hey, look at me. We are going to find her, okay? Don’t you dare forget that.”

She looked at him and her face held an expression he had never seen.

“She’s my little girl,” Julie said brokenly.

Tommy nodded and put his arm around her.

“I know.”

******

David walked into the family room where Stephanie and Brittany sat. He looked at Bee and Naomi and he wiped his eyes. The FBI was in the kitchen with the police.

“I’m going to look. She’s my sister.”

“David, you can’t leave. I know you’re scared, but you need to stay here,” Stephanie said. “Uncle Jack is on his way back with Tessa, so let’s just wait for them.

“I’m not scared, I need to help. She’s my baby sister and I know I can find her.”

Brittany looked at David and she nodded.

“I know you want to help, David. I understand that more than anyone, but I also know that when there is a plan like your dad has, it’s non negotiable to listen to him. He and Mike are the very best out there and I will never doubt them. They need you to believe in them and listen to them. They will find Josie.”

David wiped his eyes and Sabrina walked up to him.

“Why don’t you sit with me and we can make a list of things that will make Josie happy after she gets home?”

David looked at her and she took his hand.

“I promise, I’ll help you get through this.”

Stephanie wiped her eyes as she watched them and David walked to the table and sat with Bee.

Elizabeth walked in and looked at them.

“Evan is still with Mike and he feels like they will be able to help. We just need to wait.”

Brittany looked at Naomi who was huddled on the couch and she moved closer to her.

“Hey, you okay? I mean I know you’re not, but is there anything else you need to tell me? I don’t want you to hide anything. If you’re feeling badly, let me know.”

She wiped her eyes and shook her head.

“I’m scared and I’m worried about everything. I’m also still so scared for Jimmy.”

Brittany smiled and pulled her close.

“How about if you hold onto me and let me try and take some of the fear away.”

Naomi snuggled against her and sighed.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too Mini Red.”

*******

Jade helped Mike as he tried to look closer at all the pictures Bill sent. He had her scroll through them a bunch of times and he was struggling to see with just one eye, but he refused to stop.

“Can you call him again please?”

Jade dialed and Bill answered, putting them on speaker.

“Sergeant, look around and see if there are any trees that appear to be moving outside of the wind.”

Bill looked at the phone.

“You think she climbed a tree?”

“It’s possible. It’s also possible they told her if she made a sound, something bad would happen, so she may see you and not want to say anything for fear you will be hurt.”

Julie and Tommy ran to the trees.

“Josie? It’s mommy! Baby you can come down, it’s okay. We are all safe. Please say something if you can hear me!” she called out.

“Jo? It’s Uncle Tommy. We’re all here and we love you. Can you call out to us?”

They all were quiet and heard nothing.

Mike squinted at the pictures and Jade enlarged them as best she could. Evan looked with them and saw nothing.

“Sergeant, the large Maple tree with the nest in the third branch from the top, do you see it?”

Bill looked and Tommy and Julie came back over.

“I see it,” he said and pointed out the tree.

“Okay, about 65 degrees southwest, I think there might be an odd shape to the ground, like maybe a mound of dirt or an opening to something?” Mike said.

The adults ran over and saw what Mike meant. It was a freshly dug mound of dirt.

“Oh God! Did they bury her?” Julie cried as they started digging.

“Stop!” Mike said. “It’s probably a decoy. Look the opposite direction and see if there is anything closed off. Are there any cabins or garbage cans or any kind of shed.”

Tommy took Tramp and walked him to the area when suddenly, Hope and Tramp both barked and ran to a small shed none of them had seen. Bill ran after them and pulled open the door to the small shed.

To be continued…

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Are you ready??

Are you ready for a preview of book 20? I can’t believe I’m working on book 20 already. It seems like I was just starting the series.

I will have some fun stuff coming up to share about the characters and a preview if you want one.

 

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A new flashback

Another never before published flashback. Enjoy!

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Tommy looked for Jack after school when his friend didn’t show up for a baseball meeting. It had been a month since Jack’s mom had died and they were getting close to graduation and their final season on Varsity. Tommy had won the catcher position and Jack was pitching.

It was all they ever hoped for.

But it meant nothing.

Everything had changed for Jack. His mom died after a battle with cancer and his dad took off, basically leaving Jack completely on his own. Tommy and his family took him in and were making sure he was taken care of, but Tommy knew how upset his friend was.

He drove out to the park and saw Jack sitting on the bleachers, alone. He parked and got out, making his way to see him.

“Hey, what happened to you? I thought we were going to head to the meeting together,” he said as he jumped on the bleachers and sat next to him.

Jack looked at his hands and shrugged.

“I needed some air. I have to figure things out.”

“Like what?”

Jack looked at him in annoyance.

“Like what the fuck I’m supposed to do with my life? Baseball doesn’t matter anymore. College isn’t even possible. I am all alone and I need to figure out what that means.”

Tommy was confused.

“Why isn’t college possible? You earned a scholarship and we’re going to be rooming together. You love baseball and what else is there to figure out? Besides, I can’t wait to get away from Julie, so you have to stick to the plan,” he grinned.

“My mom is dead and my dad left me. I don’t know how to figure that out,” he said and wiped his eyes. “Nobody would care if I ran away and never came back.”

Tommy looked at him.

“I would.”

Jack sniffed and sighed.

“You say that now, but you’d get over me. Besides, you always hate how I beat you at everything. Your life would be better if I wasn’t here.”

“Well I wouldn’t miss your arrogance, but that’s not true.”

“That I beat you or you hate it?” Jack asked with a tiny smile.

“It’s just your damn dimples,” he grinned. “I’m smarter and I’m nicer.”

“I’m nice,” Jack pouted.

“You’re cocky.”

“I’m confident.”

“You’re arrogant.”

“Weren’t you here to cheer me up?” Jack asked.

“Well I was, but now you’ve pissed me off. Why are you such a dick?”

“It’s part of my charm. Maybe that’s why it’s best if I go.” “

Go where?”

“Who cares?” Jack stood up and walked down to the grass. “Isn’t that the whole issue? Who is around to care anymore? Why do you care if I’m such a jerk?”

“Because you’re in my picture,” Tommy said.

Jack looked at him and was confused.  “

I don’t follow.”

Tommy got up and followed him to the grass.

“You’re in my picture. When I look at my life, any part of it, you are there. You have been my best friend since we were six and when I look at the future, I see us together, going to college, hanging out at parties, dating women, graduating and opening up our successful medical practices together. You’re a part of my life and I don’t want that to change. I’m sorry your dad was a dick and left, but your mom had such faith in you, and I know you don’t want to throw that away. You’re in my picture and if you weren’t there, it wouldn’t be my picture anymore. I like my picture.”

Jack smiled and Tommy shrugged.  “That sounded kind of creepy,” Tommy said. “I just would miss you if you weren’t around, that’s all.”

“You think we’ll be this close in 20 years?” Jack asked.

“Sure. You don’t?” Tommy questioned.

“Not much in my life has lasted like I anticipated. I don’t know if I believe this will.”

“Well, I’m kind of annoying like that. I tend to stay long past my welcome. I wandered into your driveway and really never left. My sister worships you and as much as I tell her to back off, she treats you like her brother. My parents adore you and at times I think they would rather have you as their son than me. I just don’t see a scenario where we aren’t in each other’s lives.”

Jack nodded, deeply affected by Tommy’s words.  “You promise?”

Tommy punched him on the arm and smiled.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

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A scene I’m most proud of…

I was looking back at the series and trying to decide which part to dissect. I do that sometimes, when I’m stuck in a certain part of the story or if I feel like I’ve lost the true essence of one of the characters. Sometimes I just like to look back and see how far the characters have come or if they need to grow some more.

I talk a lot about Brittany and her strength moving forward after her attack. I think it’s still something I love writing about as more and more people learn of her incredible story.

However, one of the scenes I am most proud of happened in book 10 “Courage Lies Within”. It wasn’t something I planned at first, but through Tommy, I was able to push Brittany to tell the story about how she moved forward.  He wanted to know how she handled the actual moment she found out she was HIV positive.

I included Stephanie because she was such an important connection to that time.

It’s not a happy scene nor is it one I truly looked at as profound when I wrote it, but now, it means a lot more to me. It reminds me that I can never forget the girl Barb was and how much strength and courage she showed in the face of such a horrible attack.

What are some of your favorite moments?

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Stephanie was working in Paris and volunteering at the clinic for battered and abused women. They had a special group dedicated to working with people newly diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, and Stephanie’s own battle with Multiple Sclerosis helped her to connect. She and Nikki had arrived a few months before and Stephanie was in her first year of an accelerated pre med program at the University. Nikki was making a name for herself in the fashion industry and Stephanie knew it would only be a matter of time before her friend hit it big.

Nikki had begun dating a guy named Josh who Stephanie had a really bad feeling about. He was possessive and rude and Stephanie could see something in him that just rubbed her the wrong way. She knew it was early, so she decided to reserve judgment.

“Stephanie? There is a woman here who asked to see you. She won’t talk to anyone else,” a nurse broke through her thoughts.

Stephanie smiled. “Did she give you a name?”

“No. She seems in bad shape.”

Stephanie nodded.

“I’m on my way,” she hoped this wasn’t another domestic violence case. It broke her heart to see so many women who felt stuck in situations that were so horrible. She went to the room and opened the door, stopping in her tracks when she saw who it was.

“Barb?” Stephanie cried as she saw a shell of the friend she had grown up with. “Sweetie is that you?”

The frail teen looked at Stephanie and pulled her hat off, allowing her long red hair to spill out and she nodded.

“I didn’t know where else to go,” she said in a tiny voice and Stephanie rushed to her. She pulled her into her arms and Barbara cried out in pain. Stephanie rushed back.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Stephanie said, her eyes filling with tears. She helped her friend to the chair in the room and sat next to her.

“What the hell happened to you? You said it was no big deal. You said you were just bruised after a fan got too rough.” Stephanie saw the bandaged hand and the faded bruises and knew it was worse, but the most horrific part was her friend’s eyes. They were simply hollow.

“I need help,” Barbara said and Stephanie nodded.

“Tell me what happened,” she went to take her hand when Barb pulled it away.

“I got this a few days ago and I don’t understand what it means. Can you help me?” she handed Stephanie an envelope and she took it, recognizing it as test results. She opened it and her heart crumbled. She looked into her friend’s eyes.

“It’s the results of an HIV test.”

“Am I going to die now?”

“No, sweetie, you aren’t. Barbie why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell me the truth? Have you been all alone?”

“Please don’t call me that ever again. Please don’t,” her chin quivered.

Stephanie nodded. “Did anyone come with you? Where are your people?”

“They all left. I came alone. I’ve been alone since I woke up in the hospital.”

Stephanie took a deep breath.

“Were you raped?”

No emotion.

“Yes.”

Stephanie felt her tears fall as she smoothed her friend’s hair down. “I’m so sorry. What can I do to help you? Should I call your grandma? Nikki?”

Barb looked at her and shook her head.

“I don’t want anyone to know. I just wondered if you could help me with the meds? I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and I didn’t have anyone to help me. I can’t trust anyone but you.”

“We have a great doctor here who can help you. I’ll get her in a minute,” she took Barb’s hand in hers and held it. “Were you examined?”

“Yes. I was in a coma for three days. They did whatever they needed to do.”

“When you woke up, who helped you?”

“Nobody. I left after and flew back to London. My grandma is in a nursing home and she doesn’t know anything. I need to figure out what to do next.”

“Will you stay with me and Nikki? We can help you.”

“No. I have a flight back this evening. I just wanted to see you and thank you for being my friend.”

Stephanie wiped her eyes and shook her head. “Barb, you can’t leave. I don’t want you to be alone.”

“I’ll be okay. I’ll stay in touch and let you know what I decide. Can you get the doctor?”

Stephanie sighed and did as she asked.

******

A few hours later, Barbara sat alone in a plush hotel suite in Paris. She didn’t have a flight back for another couple days, but she didn’t want to talk. She didn’t know what to say or do. She locked the door and walked into the bathroom, removing her clothes and looking at her body. The remnants of deep bruising were all over, but she had to look hard to see it. She had long ago stopped crying. She had long ago stopped feeling. Everything about her was cold.

She was cold to Stephanie.

She hadn’t meant to be, but it was almost like she didn’t know how to talk to people. She felt badly about it, but even that seemed distant.

Her hands ran over her naked body and she wondered if there was a part he didn’t touch. What he did to her body was nothing compared to what he did to her soul. She died in that cabin. She actually felt her soul leave and what was left now was a shell, a carcass, a used and defiled carcass. She walked to the counter and took the pair of scissors she had purchased. She took her long red curls and chopped them off. Her eyes were empty and cold as she took the hair and put it in a bag. She took another shower and pulled on baggy clothes before she crawled into the bed and looked at the pamphlets Stephanie had given her.

HIV.

AIDS.

How much time did she have? How much time did she even want? What did this mean for her? She closed her eyes and knew one thing for sure. This meant what happened to her would never truly go away. She was forever damaged.

She lay there for hours, not sleeping, not moving. There needed to be a decision made. Maybe she could look for her mother? She knew nothing of her and even less about where to start. She could overdose on pills. Another teen star taken too soon. She could see the headlines and the outpouring of support. Rolling over, she rested her head on her arms.

She didn’t want to die; she just didn’t know how to live.

Another few hours went by and she got up, knowing she had to eat something. She ordered room service and when it came, she looked at the food and the newspaper delivered with it. Eating without tasting, she looked at the paper. She couldn’t read French, so it was pointless, but she looked at the articles. Flipping through the pages she came upon a picture of herself. There was an article about her disappearance and she tried to figure out what it said, but couldn’t. She could come forward and tell everyone she was okay. She could continue her life as it was.

The problem was it wasn’t okay.

The problem was that she was changed.

She swallowed her food and brushed her now short hair. She would start over. She would stay in London and figure things out. She had money, so that wasn’t a problem. Her life needed to begin again, and she would make it happen.

Her resolve didn’t last and she soon found herself huddled again in the fetal position on her bed. She just wanted her daddy.

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