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Dark Redemption
Author: Charlotte Byrd

 


1

 

 

Dante

 

 

I arrive in Minnesota to surprise her. She hasn't been returning my calls and it's a total long shot. I don't know if she's not interested anymore, or just busy or occupied.

Her mom's surgery didn't go well and the last time we spoke, she cried into the phone and then hung up and didn't answer any more of my calls.

I don't know where she's staying. When I get to the hospital, they tell me that a lot of people tend to stay in the apartment hotel just across the street. Once I'm there, Jacqueline is not very difficult to find as the woman at the front desk confirms that she is staying here but refuses to give me the number of her room.

I sit in the parking lot for hours wondering if I'm just going to make a fool of myself. Probably, but still, I can't pull away.

I have to see her.

I have to talk to her, even if it's a foolish thing to do.

Right at twilight, I see a woman walk across the parking lot weighted down with a stack of books in her arms. Her hair's pulled up in a messy bun. Her skin is pale, but her eyes are vibrant with a wild expression that’s difficult to describe. She doesn't see me as I walk up and I again, hesitate, debate consider leaving.

When I get her attention, however, everything changes.

Days pass and I'm still here. I call off work. I reschedule a meeting and I stay with her. Then she gets the bad news about her mom's condition.

Now, there’s nothing we can do but wait. Jacqueline sits for hours in the hospital room, taking the occasional break to go for a walk. I insist on these excursions to clear her head, to get her body moving, to engage with who she is as a person and not just a daughter in grief.

We walk and we talk about everything and anything.

I tell her about my childhood. I tell her about my mom, my brother and his wife. She tells me about her own father and the disappointment that he has been. She tells me about her dreams of finishing her journalism degree and getting a job in a magazine or TV news.

We talk and we walk, we walk and we talk and our connection seems to grow deeper and stronger.

The following morning after the scare at the hospital, I wake up and see Jacqueline sitting with my laptop on her knees.

"What are you doing?" I ask, rubbing my eyes and stretching my arms above my head.

"What is this?” she asks, her eyes full of rage.

I lean over.

Jacqueline brings the laptop to my face and points at the email from the Danick Clinic.

I swallow hard.

I knew that I shouldn't have given her the passcode to get in, but it seemed so innocent.

"What are you doing with my laptop?" I ask, trying to turn the conversation onto her.

She glares at me.

"Mine ran out of juice. I wasn't snooping around. I opened it to look something up, your email popped up, and this is the first one I saw.”

I open my mouth to say something when she cuts me off.

“Why are they talking to you about paying for my mother's medical bills?"

I shrug and avert my eyes.

“Did you pay her bill? Were you the anonymous donor?"

Swinging my legs over the edge of the bed, I pull on my underwear and reach over for the jeans that are laying on the floor.

"I can't believe that you did that. You didn't even know me then. Why are you ..." She shakes her head, walking from one side of the room to another, trying to figure out at what point she told me about her mother being sick.

 

My head starts to thump, the blood pumping through my veins clenches up my heart. The problem is that the only reason I knew about her mother was that she told her friend, Allison, over FaceTime messages, which I should not have had access to.

"Look, you mentioned it and I looked into it," I lie.

One lie has to cover up another and another, but I can't possibly tell her the truth.

"What are you doing?" Jacqueline asks, staring at me as I button my shirt.

She pulls on my shoulder to turn me to face her.

"Why are they contacting you?" she asks, glaring into my eyes.

"I told you, you had mentioned that your mom was sick."

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did,” I lie. “You mentioned the Danick Clinic, you mentioned what kind of cancer she had. I knew your last name. This is a very common thing," I lie again.

Lies upon lies, but it's all for a good cause, right? That makes it okay.

She looks at me as if she is going to throw up. I know that she doesn't believe me, but I can't bring myself to tell her the truth.

"So you looked it up? You called the clinic and what? They just told you about her medical condition?"

I take a deep breath and breathe out just as quickly.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I hang my head in between my shoulders.

"I liked you a lot, okay?” I say, lifting up my eyes and looking at her through my hair. “We have this connection from the first time that we met. I told you that when I went back to the Redemption, I just couldn't complete the deal with anyone else. You were different."

"Okay, whatever."

Jacqueline gets up. She starts to walk away from me, but I grab her hand and pull her closer to me.

"Not whatever, it's the truth,” I whisper.

"What does this have to do with my mother?"

"I told them that I was going to pay the bill. I didn't need any medical information, but I didn't want my name to be revealed. A lot of donors do that and they're happy to accept payment from anyone as long as the check clears."

"I don't believe you."

I shrug and press on. "That's why I did that. I wanted to help you and your mom. I'm sorry that the surgery did not turn out like you had planned, but it seemed to be her best bet according to her doctors, right? According to everyone you spoke to."

Tears start to roll down her cheeks. "You had no right to do this. You lied to me."

"But it was a nice thing."

"I don't care!” Jacqueline screams, grabbing her jacket and purse.

She throws her feet into her boots and, without lacing them up, she walks out the front door, slamming it shut behind her.

When she leaves, darkness engulfs the room. Not knowing what to do, I plop down on the bed and stare at the ceiling for what feels like forever.

After I'm certain that she's not coming back anytime soon, I get on my laptop and read the email requesting additional money for all of the additional expenses that her mom is now incurring as a result of the complications.

The decision is simple. I'll pay it even though the surgery has cost me quite a bit already. Maybe I'm just trying to make up for what I did wrong.

When I first started watching Jacqueline, I just wanted to make sure that she was okay, but then something had changed.

I found someone I connected with. Jacqueline was the only one who could break through all of my walls. And when we spent time together, I started to fall for her.

I wait for her to return for the rest of the day, but she doesn't.

I wait late into the night.

I call room service and order two three-course dinners at the hotel restaurant, Champagne, a bouquet of roses, anything to show her how sorry I am.

She doesn't show up.

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