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ONE MONTH AGO
“I never thought I’d be setting foot in this place again.”
I looked up the clear morning sky for the first time in ten years. The children’s park where I used to play were all still here, but a lot has changed.
The slow creeks of the rusty swings and windswept sent shivers down my spine. The park was now barely visible as the of moss and vines patched the surroundings. All memories of my childhood came flooding back.
This had been a place of joy, peace, and contentment. This was where we played, ran, fought; and the once silver slide had turned bronzed. Now, this place could serve a set of some horror film.
“Are you really sure about this? There’s no turning back now,” Oliver asked.
“We are already out of the house, so let’s get started.”
Oliver smiled. “See? What did I tell you? You can do things if you just put your mind into it. Look at you now. I should’ve searched for Alayna a long ago and brought her to you.”
“I’m not just doing this for her. I’m doing this for myself,” I reminded him. “It would kill me if another man snatches her and I cannot do anything.”
“But Brandon, you can walk around the house, and you managed to come out. You can drive a car, and you seemed fine. I see that you don’t have a problem in getting out at all,” he stated.
“It’s not that I can finally come out, Ollie. I’m still struggling. I don’t want the people to see me. I don’t want to encounter them. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror because All I see is a dead man’s reflection. This is my insecurity.” I touched the covered part of my face.
“It’s not as ugly as you think. The world is even uglier, and yours is just skin.”
“I didn’t want to see the
“But you found yourself again,” he said. “How else are you going to find justice? This is the answer, and you are finally getting there.”
“I know where I can find Annette now,” I informed.
“You do? Does Alayna really know where she is?”
“Yes, but I cannot face her if I’m like this. You are right. I need to get better. You know that there’s no one I could ask but you.”
“I never turned my back.” Oliver stepped aside; then, he held the whistle. “Take off your mask, Brandon. It’s a distraction.”
Gently, I pulled undid the rubber tie around my ear and took out the mask, letting it fall on the ground. I instantly shuddered as the cold wind blew against my bare face. I covered my face with my hand.
“You don’t have to hide your face from me,” Oliver said kindly.
I tensed up and slowly faced the world in front of me.
“Now, can you see that tree over there? That’s about a half kilometer. I need you to run there and get back here. Don’t stop until you can’t run anymore. We need to work on how far you can go when you run. I don’t know if this is going to work, but we will still try. Even if it’s hard, I don’t want to hear ‘No and I give up.’ Do you understand?”
I held my breath. As long as people won’t touch me, I could do this.
“Are you ready, Brandon?”
“I said, are you ready?!”
“Yes, sir!” I shouted as loud as I could.
“On my mark…
I looked up the man blocking the way. It was that mask, the same cerulean eyes, and melodious baritone voice. I didn’t know if I was dreaming or if I was already drunk.
It was definitely Brandon. And he was outside.
How is this possible?
“Brandon,” I announced, still unsure. “No… It’s impossible,” I uttered.
A deep groan vibrated in his throat, and his chest tensed up. He grabbed my wrist; his thumb pressing on my pulse. I could feel the warmth of his palm on my skin.
“Do you not know when to stop or when to come home?” he questioned, sounding furious.