Awake, page 12
Shaking his head, he opened the back door of a black taxi. "Get in, babe."
I did as he said, and he climbed in beside me. I looked at the driver and froze. Shaun. What was Noah's dad doing here? Noah hadn't told me he was coming, too, and why wouldn't he have taken the same ferry? Were we being busted? My heart sank. If Shaun told my parents I would be in so much trouble.
"What's going on?" I asked, gulping and looking between the two men. They watched each other through the mirror. Wasn't he about to bust us?
Noah took a deep breath, clenched his fists and looked out of the window as Shaun locked the doors and sped off. I gripped the seat in front of me as Shaun's erratic driving had me falling to the side. He levelled off and started to drive properly. My heart was rattling in my chest. This isn't right.
"Noah!" I said. "Look at me! What's going on?"
He refused to face me, but I could make out him squeezing his eyes closed as he leant against the window. I started to feel sick. Noah had never made me feel anything but safe and loved before, but right now, it was like I was sitting next to a different person - one that scared me.
"Shaun, what's going on?"
"We are taking you home, sweetheart."
Beside me, Noah's body tensed.
"Home? What do you mean home?" We weren't getting back on the ferry. "Shaun, what do you mean?"
"Eternal Light, Scarlett. We are taking you home."
My eyes widened. What? "I don't..."
Suddenly everything slotted into place and my world spun off its axis. They are part of it. Whimpering, I pressed my fist to my mouth as bile shot up my throat. No, no, no. He lied. All this time Noah had been lying to me.
I couldn't believe he was taking me back to them. After everything my parents said, after everything he knew about them, he was taking me to them. They were part of that cult and had come to England to get me. I was glued to the spot with shock.
Noah is part of Eternal Light.
No, he can't be. He can't!
"Noah," I whispered, tears rolling down my face. "How could you?"
His jaw tightened. "Hurry up, Dad."
"I can't speed, son, you know that."
"Shaun, please," I said, finally moving. I poked my head between the seats, desperate to get him to listen to me. "They're going to kill me, you know they are. Just let me go and I promise I won't tell anyone. Please, I just want to go home. You don't have to do this."
"Sit tight, Scarlett, it won't be long until we are back."
I shook my head, hair flying around my face, sticking to my tears. Neither of them cared that I was going to die for no reason. Falling back in the seat, I looked at Noah wide-eyed.
This can't be happening.
Had everything he said been a lie? He told me he loved me, but he couldn't.
"Why did you pretend to love me?" I asked, far too calmly for the situation. I felt like I was in one of my dreams.
He'd pretended to love me. It hurt, so badly. He might as well be stomping my heart into the ground. "You didn't have to take it that far. Did you want to hurt me before they murdered me? Was that it? Do you hate me?"
He stared out of his window, clenching his fist against his forehead. He looked in pain, and that made me want to strangle him.
"Noah!" I snapped. "You at least owe me an explanation. You didn't have to take it that far! Why? Answer me, damn it!" I thrashed my arm out and hit his shoulder. He didn't even flinch. I was so angry, so hurt that I felt like I was going to explode.
"Settle down, Scarlett," Shaun said. "Noah had his instructions."
"Shut up!" Noah shouted. "Both of you. Please, just stop talking." He rubbed his forehead roughly.
"Did you ever live on that Island?" I asked in disgust.
He shook his head.
"Always in Ireland?" He didn't have the Irish accent.
"Since I was seven."
Wow. He made up a whole life. Just like my parents. Was there anyone in my life who didn't lie?
"Was any of it real?"
He turned away again, and I wasn't sure if that was a yes or no. As much as it broke me, I wanted to believe no, it was easier than knowing he loved me but did it anyway.
"You're going to be fine, Scarlett. Your parents will explain better than we can so just sit quietly until we get there," he said.
"But I'm not going to be fine. You know I'm not. My parents told you what those people are going to do."
He blinked a few times, looking down at his feet. The blood drained from my face. He knew before that. "No," I whispered, and his eyes closed again. Pain cut through my chest.
Noah knew they were going to kill me all along, and he still brought me here.
I have to get out. Gripping the door handle, I tugged at it until I thought it'd break. The door was locked. The window wouldn't open. I'm trapped. No, no, no.
Sobbing, I pulled my legs up, curling into a ball and cried. My heart was splitting, pieces breaking off. Everything he'd said, we'd done, we had, set on fire and burned to ashes. None of it was real.
He'd played me, and I fell for it. That hurt.
I held myself tighter, holding my body together. How could he? Did he even care about me at all or was it all one big, fat lie to get me to his cult.
"Scarlett," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
Sorry would never be good enough. I would never forgive him for what he'd done. He always seemed so mature and level headed. How was Noah in a cult?
Noah is part of Eternal Light. Shit.
"Don't talk to me ever again," I growled, sobbing around each word. I was done. No matter if he felt guilt or not we were done.
Sighing, he looked away, and I cowered back inside myself, burying my head between my knees and wrapping my arms as tightly as they'd go around my legs. Think. You can still get out of this.
I didn't know what I was going to do or how I was going to get home. How stupid was I to go off somewhere without my parents knowing, even if it was with someone I trusted. I was so upset with them for lying to me that I'd compromised my safety because I was angry.
No one knows where I am.
All I wanted was to be home. I wanted to forget Noah ever existed. It was too good to be true. I should've known I wasn't going to be lucky enough to find the one in school and marry my childhood sweetheart.
Noah's betrayal was already killing me.
I had no one to blame but myself.
DAD PULLED UP to the commune and Scarlett tensed. For the thirty-minute car ride, she'd said nothing to either of us and stared out of the window in a daze. I was worried that she was in shock - of course, she was in shock. Before she turned into stone, she'd cried nonstop. Every sob was like a deep cut to my skin. I felt her pain like we were one person.
I wanted to ask if she was okay, but I knew I was the last person in the world she wanted to talk to. And I knew she wasn't okay.
Her eyes, which were usually so full of light and happiness, were cold and empty. She hadn't looked at me much but when she had it was with hate and contempt. That wasn't the girl I knew and loved. But it was exactly what I deserved.
"Here we are," Dad said. "Are you ready to be reunited with your parents, Scarlett?"
She glared at him. Her skin was pale but around her eyes was red and blotchy. She looked like she was going to be sick. I wanted to take her and run again.
"Scarlett," I said softly, "It's going to be alright."
"How?" she spat, finally looking at me. I was momentarily stunned by how much darker her eyes looked. It was like a punch to the gut. She may well be The Light, but it'd definitely gone from her eyes.
I felt as sick as she looked.
People started to gather and walk towards the car, led by Donald and Fiona. They all looked so excited, our saviour was here. Only I wasn't sure she was, not for Eternal Light anyway, but perhaps she was mine.
Scarlett saw everyone walking, and her eyes widened in alarm
"Shh, it's alright now, you are home," Dad said.
She shook her head, eyes filling with more tears that took my breath away. I wasn't at all ready for how I felt seeing her so upset.
Turning to me she whispered, "Noah, please."
I'd never felt so low in all my life. Even after everything I'd done, she still turned to me. I knew it was only out of desperation, but she still relied on me.
"I promise you, it'll be fine," I said. I didn't know how yet but there had to be a way. She didn't believe my words. I wasn't sure if I believed them either.
"Don't do this. You told me you love me, and I loved you. Please don't let them hurt me."
That was out of my control entirely. I didn't get to make decisions for the community. We did that as a whole, and there was no way I'd be able to convince them to postpone. They'd wanted this for years. It would be like asking a child to wait a week after Christmas to open presents.
Her door was opened by Donald. She shouted no and leapt into the middle of the backseat, wedging me against my door.
"Scarlett, it's okay," Donald said, staring at her in amazement. No one could quite believe she was finally with us again.
"Hey," I said. "I'm going to get out my side, and I want you to follow me. It's going to be alright, just come with me."
She laughed without humour. "Why would I trust you ever again? Get away from me, all of you freaks just leave me alone!"
"Scarlett." Donald's tone was sterner. "You have nothing to fear. We are not going to hurt you. Please do as Noah asked or take my hand."
She pressed back against my side, and I opened the door, grabbing her hand and taking her with me. Malc and Drew grabbed her so she wouldn't get the chance to run. We were out in the middle of nowhere, and she didn't even know which way was north, there was no way running would do her any good.
"Get off," she yelled, thrashing in their grip. "Noah! Get them off. Let me go. Get off! Get off!"
I couldn't stand there and watch her like that. I took off, going back to my house, leaving her to be carried into Donald and Fiona's kicking and screaming. I hated myself and had never felt lower.
Flopping down on my bed, I growled into the pillow, pulling my hair. Everything felt hopeless now. What was I going to do when Scarlett wasn't walking around on this planet anymore? Her happiness was my happiness.
It took me ten minutes to compose myself. I knew I didn't have long, I was supposed to be over the moon about her being back. When I stepped outside the house having changed I was greeted like a king. Friends came up and hugged me. My community thanked me and told me how incredible I was for pulling it off and getting her home.
I had a hero's welcome. I didn't feel like a hero.
I was the devil.
Scarlett had struggled, but Donald and Fiona managed to get her in their house. I knew they would be taking her inside straight away to prevent her running so they could explain, but I didn't like being separated. As much as she hated me right now, I was one of the only people she knew here.
"Noah, well done. Didn't I tell you that you're the best man for the job!" Zeke said, slapping me on the shoulder. Zeke was a year older than me, and it was either me or him going to England to get Scarlett. I was closest to Scarlett's age, though, and Zeke did look older than he was. I had a better chance at blending in with fifteen and sixteen-year-olds.
Smiling, I nodded and replied, "You did. Least she's here now." I half wished it was him that did it so I wouldn't have to carry around as much guilt as I was. She deserved better than how I'd treated her.
"I know you were nervous, but I never had any doubt. This is it, Noah, this is what we have been waiting for."
He was absolutely correct; this was everything we'd worked for, everything we believed. But it didn't feel right anymore.
"I know. Hard to believe it's finally happening after years and years of planning."
I remembered it all. The planning and discussions. When was the best time to get her? Some thought right away, but Donald and Fiona wanted her to understand what was going on. But we couldn't leave it another four years for the next cycle to be complete. It was easier to get her away from her parents but if we'd have waited until she was twenty she could've had a boyfriend.
Logically I knew I wasn't her boyfriend anymore, she hadn't said anything but I knew the second she found out, she'd ended our relationship, but I still felt like it. The whole thing was only supposed to be for show, but I couldn't fool myself. It was much, much more than that.
Ironic how she started out being the only one really into us and now that was me.
"You alright?" he asked. "You don't look very pleased."
I wasn't rejoicing like they were; that's what he was questioning. I couldn't let anyone know I was having doubts. Well, I could, everyone would be there for me and help me through it but I didn't feel like Eternal Light lessons right now.
"Yes, I'm fine. Sorry, it's just been a very long day. I've missed home and honestly, lying to so many people, even strangers, didn't feel great."
We'd been taught the value of honesty. No one told lies here, but I'd been telling huge ones for months.
He winced. "Sorry. I should have thought. It couldn't have been easy being away. And everything else you had to do. You weren't lying for selfish reasons, though, Noah, you were doing good."
"I was. It feels good to have her here, be home and not have to lie anymore." So why was I still lying?
"Do you want to grab a drink? My dad made another batch of pear cider yesterday, and it's his best yet."
No, I wanted to go and check on Scarlett but I knew I couldn't do that yet. I smiled, making it as genuine as I could. "You have no idea how good that sounds. The mass produced stuff is nothing like Kian's."
Kian and his wife, Marley, were over on their porch handing out the cider. Zeke strolled up and grabbed two that his mum handed him.
"We're so proud of you, Noah," Marley said. Her sentiments were echoed again by everyone that was around us.
"Thank you," I replied, taking a sip. "Do you know when my mum and Finn will arrive?"
"We spoke to them about half an hour ago and their ferry had just arrived. They're going a different route, though, to make it look like they're headed for Shannon airport."
My dad was doing that as well. After dropping us off, he was going to head to Cork airport in the hope that the car would be spotted on CCTV and lead police to think we'd maybe left Ireland.
We weren't stupid, once Jonathan and Marissa discovered Scarlett wasn't at Imogen's they would call the police. Eventually, the police would find out where we'd taken her. I had no doubt that they'd call the police, despite what it would do to them. They loved Scarlett and put her life before theirs. They were nothing like Eternal Light.
An hour later, Fiona came out of her house looking as calm and composed as ever. Scarlett's clear distress hadn't bothered her at all then. For me, it felt like taking a knife.
I held my hand up, leapt to my feet and jogged over to her.
"How is she?" I asked.
"She is doing well, Noah."
"Can I see her?"
I hoped she didn't pick up on how desperate I was. Scarlett had every right to hate me, and when we met again, I knew it wouldn't go how I wanted it to but I had to see her.
"I don't think that is a good idea," Donald said, shutting his front door behind him. My dad had stopped beside me, too. Why did I get the feeling that I was being kept away from her?
"Noah," Dad said, "I know you've formed a friendship with her, but it's unlikely that she will want to see you until Donald and Fiona have had a chance to explain and educate her."
Well, how long would that take? Once the rituals started, she had just seven days. Would I get the chance to talk to her at all before she was
"I understand that she's angry with me, but she doesn't know anyone here. She knows me and surely we don't want her to feel alone?"
"Absolutely," Donald said, smiling. "We all want exactly that, Noah, but she's not even been here three hours yet. It is too soon. Give us today to talk to her and tomorrow we will bring her out in the community before the rituals start. Alright."
I didn't like it. Donald's words used to be gospel. I believed everything he said, but now he didn't satisfy the questions I had. And there were a lot of questions.
"Alright, I respect that. I just want this to be as easy on her as possible. She's a good person."
Fiona touched my arm. "We understand how you feel and know your intentions are good. You will get to see her and spend time together before the ceremony, we promise."
Now I was confused. In my community, you never made a promise you couldn't keep. Never. Even though I was questioning Eternal Light, I knew that Fiona would not break that promise.
I could see her soon.
I ached to hold her. Something she would never let me do again.
I SAT MOTIONLESS on the sofa, same thing I'd been doing for what could've been minutes, hours or days. But it'd only been two and a half hours. I still couldn't believe it'd all happened. Noah was someone I trusted. I never thought he would betray me. I never thought he'd be involved in a damn cult. He hurt me more than my parents.
His lie wasn't to protect me it was to hurt me. Kill me.
Donald had come back, but Fiona was still...somewhere. He looked completely clueless as to what to do with me. They tried talking, but I didn't want to talk. They didn't listen when I shouted, screamed and pleaded with them to let me go so why should I do anything for them? All they kept saying was 'let us explain' and 'if you'll allow us we can show you the truth'. I didn't want to hear it.
The sun was starting to disappear, and I felt my heart go with it. My parents thought I was staying at Imogen's, and Imogen would cover for me. They took my phone, which I was positive Noah would use to text Mum, telling her I was at Im's.
I was so stupid.
Fiona came back after about half an hour and knelt in front of me. "How are you doing, Scarlett?"
What a stupid question.
"Awful," I replied. "What are you going to do to me?" I wanted to hear her say the words. What part of killing your own child made sense to her?
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