If I Fall, page 1part #5 of Unraveling You Series
If I Fall
(Unraveling You, #5)
Two and half years before the start of the fall
Almost two years later… A couple of weeks before the start of the fall…
About the Author
Also by Jessica Sorensen
If I Fall
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Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Sorensen
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
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Cover Design by MaeIDesign
Created with Vellum
I remember the first time I tried it. It tasted like poison. And somehow, the poison burned the fear out of me.
For a moment, I broke free of my past and the scary, unfamiliar world that terrified me every hour of every day. It felt like I could do anything.
Then came the fall. And eventually, I had to crash.
This is the start of my story. The start of my addiction to drugs, to numbness, to self-destruction. It’s not pretty. It’s not romantic, at least not in the beginning and the middle. And most of the time, it’s painful and heartbreaking.
I guess it’s not just my story. It’s also Sage’s, since we sort of fell together.
And of course, it’s the dead girl’s. Because, without her, there might not even be a story.
Two and half years before the start of the fall
I’m going to die today. I can sense it in the air. Weakened, beaten, bleeding, I wait for death to take me away. I almost welcome it. Once death arrives, the pain, the desolation, the sheer helplessness, and the torture, it will all be over.
Come and get me. I’m ready. Please, please, please.
Water rivers over my feet, the coldness seeping into my skin, begging me to give in.
Yes, yes, come take me away.
Let me sink into the water.
Falling, falling weightlessly.
I won’t bother coming up for air.
Because sometimes, it’s harder to breathe,
Than it is to be submersed in water.
“Sadie, open your eyes. You need to go. Now.”
The voice sounds far away, nearly untouchable, yet it rings with familiarity.
“Come on, Sadie. It’s time to get up,” the voice begs. “You can get out now, but only if you open your eyes and run. They’re gone. You can get away. But you have to get up.”
Summoning the last of my energy, I lift my heavy eyelids and raise my head. Squinting against the darkness I’ve grown used to in the almost two years I have been here, I take in the four brick walls, rotting with murky water, and the cracked and caved-in concrete floor now flooded with lake water.
“What’s happening?” I whisper as water gushes through the gaps in the floor, slowly filling up the room we’re trapped in.
“What’s happening is that you’re going to die.” A girl steps out from the shadows like a ghost, her skin as pale as the moonlight peeking through the thin cracks in the roof.
Recognition clicks. I know this girl. I watched her die. How is she here? Am I that close to death that I’m seeing the dead?
“Unless you get up now.”
“I can’t go anywhere. I’m trapped.” I move my arm forward, and surprisingly, it moves freely. I turn my head to glance behind me. The chains that were once fastened to my wrists now hang down the wall. “I’m free,” I breathe out as the water soaks the rags of clothing I’m wearing. “Oh, my God, this can’t be happening … I’m dreaming. I have to be dreaming.”
“You’re not dreaming.” She steps toward me, moving through the water that now reaches her knees. “But you’re not free yet, either. You need to get up and run before you drown.”
I look down at the swishing water that is rising higher and higher. For the briefest instant, I contemplate staying where I am, letting the water bury me, ending the pain.
Drown, drown, drown me,
Burying me where I lay.
I have no fight left.
It seems easier to stay.
What happens if I go?
What happens if I fight?
Where will I go?
To a life I don’t know.
A life full of struggle.
A life crushed with pain.
Broken cracks in the ground.
Waiting to split open,
And drag me back down.
Is there such a thing?
Is it worth it?
“What about your brother?” The girl stops in front of me with her hand outstretched. “Are you just going to let him suffer, too? Are you just going to give up? Let them win? Please, don’t let them win. Please, get out and fight. Make them suffer. For you, for your brothers, your mother, me, and everyone else they hurt.”
The icy water seeps into my skin, drenching my clothes and making my body feel heavy as it rises up to my neck. My limbs, my heart, my mind, they all want to give up, put me out of my misery. But my soul, it pleads with me not to give up just get.
As the water reaches my lips, I suck in a breath, lean up, and grab the dead girl’s hand. My fingers slip through hers as I stumble to my feet. My malnourished body can hardly support itself, and I almost fall right back down.
“Be strong,” the girl says. Then she turns and wades through the water toward the collapsing doorway. “Follow me.”
I take a deep breath and step forward. My legs wobble, and the weight of the water nearly sends me back to the ground. However, I do what the girl said and dig out every ounce of strength I have in me as I trail behind her and out the door.
The water rises higher and higher as we make our way through the collapsing house. The air reeks of rotting bones and flesh, but I’m used to the stench by now. The floor cuts into my bony, bare feet, and the freezing cold water sends my muscles into a fit. I shiver uncontrollably, my body shutting down.
“Don’t give up,” she begs, guiding me toward a thick door. “We’re almost there.”
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up.
“Open your eyes, Sadie,” she says. “You’re free.”
My eyelashes flutter open, and all I see is light. Everywhere. Flashing. Stinging my eyes.
“I’m free …” My knees buckle out from under me.
“Almost,” she whispers in my ear. “But first, you need to free me.”
“How do I do that?” I ask through my chattering teeth. “You’re dead.”
The only answer I get is the screeching of sirens.
Almost two years later… A couple of weeks before the start of the fall…
The girl standing in the middle of the courtroo
Maybe she’s not dead? Maybe I’m not the only one who can see her?
My palms dampen with sweat as I frantically look around the room. No one appears to be alarmed, and they’d definitely be terrified if they could see her. With her blood-stained hair, ghostly pale skin, frail body, and a thinned face covered in scratches, her appearance is startling.
“You’re the only one who can see me,” she says, as if reading my mind. “But I think, deep down, you know that already. Just like you know why I’m really here.”
Seriously, Sadie. On top of seeing a ghost, you now think you’re seeing a ghost that can read your mind.
Oh, my God, after two years of putting myself back together, I’ve finally lost my damn mind.
“You’re not losing your mind,” she promises. “You just haven’t completely freed your conscience yet.”
Yes, I have! Yes, I have! Yes, I have! Look at what I’m doing right now. This has to make up for all the bad things I’ve done.
“You think testifying against your father and the cult will erase what happened to me?” The girl laughs at me as I struggle to get through the questions the lawyer is throwing at me. “You think this is your penance for what you did?”
Trying to ignore her, I continue answering questions about the last several years of my life and the terrible things that happened to me in that house. I tell the court about my drug addicted and abusive mother, about the home my siblings and I grew up in. I tell them about my older brothers, Felix Stephorson and Ayden Gregory, and how they suffered with me. Then comes the questions about my father and his cult.
I swallow hard. “I’m not sure where to start.”
The lawyer offers me an encouraging smile. “Why don’t you start from the beginning?”
The beginning? My stomach churns as I force myself to remember when the madness first started.
The first time my father and his cult entered my life, I wasn’t even a teenager yet. My mother handed my brothers and me over to them because of a deal she had made with my father, and then he killed her.
For months, he kept the three of us locked in a rotting house where we suffered through mental and physical tortures. The only thing that got me through that godawful, soul-killing time were my brothers. They were my rocks, always promising me that we’d get out if I just hung on.
Eventually, we were rescued, and I naively hoped I could go back to living my old life. However, my brothers and I were separated and put into foster care.
Over the next couple of years, I bounced through homes and spent a lot of time rebelling, hurting, and wishing I had a family. What got me through those dark days was the hope that I’d get to see my brothers again.
That hope was yanked away when I was almost sixteen and my father showed up in my life again, stole me from the home I was living in, and locked me in the house by the lake for almost two years. He attempted to kidnap Ayden, too, but thankfully, by then he had been adopted by the Gregorys, a nice family who protected him. Felix wasn’t so lucky. My father ended his life.
I suck back the tears as I tell the jury about Felix. “He was kind and caring … And yes, he had his faults, but he didn’t deserve what they did to him.”
“Did you see them hurt your brother?” the lawyer asks, pacing the length of the floor.
“No, but I saw them …” Tears sting my eyes. “I saw them hurt others.”
God, did I see them hurt others. Hurt everyone and everything they could get their hands on. And their fucked-up, twisted beliefs made them think it was okay, that is was what they were supposed to do.
The pain they caused … The blood they shed … I shudder.
I saw a lot of terrible stuff happen in that house; stuff that still messes with my head. Night terrors and guilt are issues I struggle with every day, though I keep most of what goes on to myself, knowing if I ever divulged the truth, I’d be locked up forever. And I refuse to be locked up ever again.
I glance at the dead girl still watching me, thinking about what happened to her. How they tortured her, made her scream, broke her apart bit by bit. I want to blame her death on my father and the cult. But, deep down, I know some of her blood is on my hands.
The haunting smile that rises across her face chills my bones. “And now you need to make up for it.”
How? I want to ask, but I’m not about to open my mouth in a room full of people and make myself look crazy. I need to appear level-headed and sane.
“Sadie?” The lawyer draws my attention back to him. He has a semi-patient look on his face, as if waiting for something.
I squirm nervously in the chair. “Um … I’m sorry. Will you repeat the question?”
“What you’re doing … it won’t make up for what you did.” The dead girl slowly stalks toward the podium I’m sitting behind, dragging the chains bound to her wrists. “You’ll have to do more than this to erase what you did to me.”
I keep my eyes on the lawyer and concentrate on the questions he’s asking while trying not to stammer out my responses. The entire time, I feel my father’s cold eyes on me, silently warning me to keep my lips sealed. I’ve known this day was coming for nearly two years, and I’ve prepared myself to remain strong. There’s no other choice. My father deserves to be punished for what he did to my mother, my brothers, me, and all the other people he hurt.
“One last thing, Sadie,” the lawyer says. “The man who kidnapped you; is he here in the courtroom today?”
The moment I’ve been waiting for, for almost two years. I’m terrified, yet I’m strong. I’m no longer that broken girl anymore.
I look my father dead in the eye as I point my finger at him. “Yes, he’s right there. That’s the man who tried to take my life away from me.”
After both lawyers have finished their questioning, I’m allowed down from the podium. My father’s gaze tracks me as I cross the room and take a seat next to Lila Gregory, my foster mother and Ayden’s adoptive mom.
“You did well,” she whispers with a small smile.
I’ve always found Lila’s smiles comforting, even when I’m having a shitty day. Today, though, I don’t feel as comforted through the coldness of my father’s stare and the dead girl’s chilling presence.
“Thanks,” I whisper back. “I’m just glad it’s almost over.”
She squeezes my hand. “Me, too. For yours and Ayden’s sake, as well as the victims’ families. I know it won’t erase everything, but I hope everyone will get a little bit of closure.”
I internally sigh. As much as I’d love to believe that, when the trial is over, I’ll be able to move on, I’m not sure that’ll happen. This morning, I thought maybe, just maybe, after I looked my father in the eye, faced the fear, I’d be able to completely let go of the past. But the dead girl standing at the end of the row of chairs, watching me like a hawk, proves otherwise. I have an unsettling feeling her presence is going to hover over me like a violent hailstorm until I figure out what she wants.
For the next half hour, my father continuously glares in my direction, and my anxiety increasingly soars. It’s been months since I’ve felt this panicky, so by the time court’s dismissed, I’m so restless and worked up that I just want to run until my lungs explode.
“How about we get something to eat before we head home?” Lila suggests as we push out the double doors of the courtroom and head toward the elevator, leaving the dead girl far, far behind. “We could go to that Italian place you love.”
“I was actually thin
She grows quiet as we join about ten people on the elevator. Deep beneath my flesh, under my veins, hidden within my bones, the slightest sensation of panic rises as my elbows brush against others. A year ago, I would’ve fled. Now, I’m stronger and manage to stay put.
“I can go with you, if you want,” Lila says as the elevator’s doors glide shut.
“If it’s okay with you, I want to do this alone.” I feel bad, but with how stressful the day has been, I need some time to myself to decompress and take everything in.
I faced the man who destroyed my life today, and I didn’t break apart. He can no longer hurt me, or put me through hell.
As the revelation strikes me hard, tears burn my eyes.
“Sadie.” Hesitancy fills Lila’s tone as she notices me tearing up. “I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to go off alone. It’s been a stressful day. I don’t want you to overdo it. Plus, I’m sure Ayden wants to spend some time with you.”
“I know he does,” I tell her, swiping my fingers under my eyes.
He actually wanted to come to the courthouse with me today, but I told him not to. I didn’t want him listening to me recount the horrible details of those years I spent with our father and his cult. He already blames himself for what happened to me, even though there’s no way it was his fault, and if he knew everything, I’m afraid his guilt would tear him apart.
“I won’t be too long, Lila. I promise. I just want to … I don’t know, see them,” I say as we squeeze our way off the elevator. “And tell them that it’s all over.”
JESSICA SORENSEN SERIES:
Other author's books:
- The Coincidence of Callie & KaydenThe Secret of Ella and MichaThe Redemption of Callie & KaydenAlluring RavenShimmering ChaosOblivionEntrancedSaving Quinton
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