Awake, page 21
Dad's face paled. "We knew that she was born to protect you, we thought spiritually. God, how stupid we were."
"I'm so sorry, Scarlett." I could tell what Mum was thinking, and I guess she was right. Evelyn probably died out in the forest. But what if she didn't? Either way, she deserved to be found. I wasn't sure how many resources the police would put into looking for a girl that went missing twelve years ago. They would have to look. They were legally required to look, surely?
"Why haven't they found him yet?" I asked, changing one painful conversation for another. At least I knew he was definitely still out there. For now, I had to concentrate on him. "I need to go and help look."
"No, honey. We just got you back, and you need rest. You need to stay right here; they'll find him," Mum said.
"But I don't understand why they haven't found him. What did they do to him, Mum? I shouldn't have gone. I should've stayed and helped him."
"Shh," she whispered, stroking my hair again. "You did the right thing. Noah did the right thing by making you run."
Logically, I knew getting as far away from them as possible was the right thing, but they were insane, and I didn't think, for one second, that they wouldn't hurt Noah. He'd disobeyed them, gone against everything they believed and everything they'd taught him to save me. I hated him at first but he did the right thing, and that was what mattered.
"Can you take me for a walk, please? I'm tired of sitting in this bed worrying."
Dad stood up. "I think that will do you good. Do you need a wheelchair?"
"Yeah, thanks, Dad." My cut feet made walking very difficult and very painful.
"I'll go with you to find a chair," Jeremy said.
"How're you feeling?" Mum asked when they left the room. "And I don't mean physically."
I took a deep breath. That I didn't know. "Right now it all seems like a bad dream. I know what happened, I know how scared I was and then how relieved I was to escape, but I don't know. I feel disconnected. Do you think there's something wrong with me?"
"No, I don't. I know exactly what you mean, Scarlett. You're safe, thank God, but it's not over yet, is it?"
I shook my head. "Not until Noah's found. He was part of it."
"Yes," she said. "He had us all fooled, but that is something I can identify with. For years, your father and I, even you and Jeremy, believed the same things as Noah was taught and, like us, he realised the truth and turned his back on it."
"What if he never gets a chance at a normal life?"
"I have faith that he will."
We didn't even know if he was alive.
Jeremy held the door open as Dad wheeled in a chair. "Your chariot awaits. We're only allowed down the corridors on the ground floor, but it's better than these four walls, right?" Dad said.
"Definitely. I'll take anything right now," I replied.
Swinging my legs off the bed, I stood carefully and winced as my tender feet screamed at me for putting weight on them. "Here," Jeremy said, leaping forwards and taking my weight with his arm around my waist.
Dad pushed the wheelchair because I couldn't get it to go in a straight line. It felt good to be out of bed. We rounded the corner with Mum and Dad behind and Jeremy walking next to me. I even managed to ignore the police officer behind us.
We went through the double doors to go through the Accident and Emergency waiting room when paramedics and doctors came jogging towards us, gripping the sides of a gurney and talking rapidly.
Dad moved me to the side of the corridor, so they had plenty of room to get through.
The first thing I saw was blood, and then my whole world came to an abrupt stop.
"No!" I pushed to my feet as Noah's pale, sleeping face cut my heart.
"OH GOD, NO, no, no."
"Scarlett," Mum said, rushing to me, but it was too late. I was already up and hobbling along towards them.
One of the nurses looked back and held her hand up. "You know him?"
I nodded frantically and collapsed to the floor, consumed with grief. "Is he dead?" I asked, sobbing on the floor.
Mum knelt down and wrapped me in her arms.
"He's dead, isn't he? They killed him. He's gone."
The same nurse had a quick conversation with someone else and then came rushing towards us as they took Noah through another door.
"Scarlett, sweetheart, you need to get up," Dad said. I could barely understand what he'd said. My mind was stuck on seeing Noah like that. He couldn't die. After everything we'd been through and what he'd done to get me away from Eternal Light, he couldn't just be gone.
"I can't. It hurts so much," I sobbed, trying to catch my breath. He was gone, and I had never felt anything hurt so badly. I was consumed with grief.
"Are you alright?" the nurse said, kneeling in front of me.
"No. Is he okay? You need to make him okay," I said, gripping her arm.
"Shh, we're doing everything we can for him, but I need you to help. Can you do that?"
I nodded. "Whatever you need just, please, don't let him die." Tears burned my cheeks and made everything blurry.
"Do you know his name?"
She smiled and nodded her head. "We thought so."
"How do you know?"
"He was found about thirty minutes ago in the forest."
The police had found him.
"Why is he bleeding? What's wrong with him?"
"Let's get you back to your room and then-"
"No. I'm not going anywhere until I know he's okay."
"Alright. Maybe we can get you back in your chair and go in a room up the corridor where you can wait."
I looked longing at the door where they'd taken him. They wouldn't let me in there, so I didn't even bother asking. "That would be great," Dad said, picking me up and carrying me to the room. I couldn't get up. Jeremy wheeled the chair in, too. After lowering me on one of the chairs Dad kneeled on the floor, probably worried that I would take off.
"What happened to him?" I asked, sobbing.
The nurse smiled, but her eyes didn't. "He's received a stab wound to his abdomen and lost a lot of blood."
Stabbed. I coughed, crying at the same time. "W-What?"
"He'll be alright," Mum said, stroking my hair from the seat beside mine.
What if he wasn't?
I cried harder. I'd lost him once, but we'd found each other. I couldn't lose him forever. We'd been through too much for it to end like this. We deserved a chance, a proper chance.
"Mum," I said, leaning over and crying on her shoulder. My body shook with every painful sob. "He can't die, he can't die," I chanted. This was too much. I wanted to retreat back into myself and stop the pain, but Noah was a part of me now. There was no way to stop it hurting so much.
"Shh, honey, it's okay," Mum soothed. "I'm sure he's going to be alright." She was crying, too. That didn't look good. Noah wasn't her favourite person right now, but she was still upset over what was happening to him.
"I'll go and check on him and let you know when we have an update," the nurse said.
"Thank you," Dad replied.
The update could be he's fine, or I'm sorry, there's nothing more we can do.
"I need him, Mum."
"I know you do. Jonathan, Jeremy, can you follow and see if there is any immediate news you can find out rather than waiting?"
"You've forgiven him completely?" Mum asked when Dad and Jeremy left.
I curled up against her side. "Yes. Have you?"
She was silent for a minute. "I think so. I understand what it's like to be completely controlled by someone or something else. Don't get me wrong, I'm angry, you could've died, but I don't blame Noah. He was merely a pawn in their game. They would sacrifice his life to get what they want if they had to. They make you feel part of the best thing on earth. I could never judge Noah for something I would've done when I was still under
"Do you think Jeremy will come around?"
"Of course. It's a little more difficult for him, he was so young and never knew the level of control people like that have over you. Noah believed he was doing what was best for everyone. You included. His love for you was able to override that and question what he was taught, just like us. Then he was able to think freely and form his own opinion."
"Thank you," I said, wiping my wet cheeks with my hands only for them to be damp again the next second. "It means so much that you don't hate him. I knew you'd understand." How could she not, though?
"Of course, honey. He's going to need a lot of support. Living outside the commune and knowing what a fool you'd been for so long isn't easy."
"I'll be there for him."
She smiled and kissed the side of my head. "I had a feeling you might."
"What do you think is going to happen to him now? I mean after he's better because he will get better." There was no way he couldn't.
"He'll be fine, and I guess that's up to him. He is in charge of his life now. For the first time, he can do what he wants, go where he wants, and believe what he wants."
"Yeah," I replied. He deserved that, and I think he'd want to be with me. I took a deep breath and threaded my fingers together, nervously tapping the backs of my hands. Now I was sitting down and a little calmer than before I felt the consequence of standing up. My feet hurt, but it was nothing compared to the feeling of possibly losing Noah.
I still loved him so much. Probably more now than before he'd betrayed me. Now it was my turn to help him, and when he was better, I was determined to do just that.
IT WAS ANOTHER thirty minutes before I found out what was going on. Dad and Jeremy had come back shortly after leaving, having heard nothing new. Adele turned up and tilted her head to the side.
"You okay, Scarlett?"
"I'm fine. Have you heard any news?"
"I've just spoken to the doctor on his way here and Noah's out of surgery and doing fine."
I closed my eyes as the relief took my breath away. Mum squeezed my hand. "Thank God. Do you know when I can see him?"
"A nurse will come and get you...from your room, so let's get you back up there. They're just getting him settled first."
I nodded and accepted Dad's help into the wheelchair. I'd gone back out after learning he was being rushed into emergency theatre. "Okay, let's go so we don't miss her."
Dad laughed and started pushing me towards the door.
Adele waited until I was back in my room and then said, "Thirty-eight members of Eternal Light have been picked up. There was a massive raid on the commune and most of them were still there. Donald and Shaun were found on the edge of the woods, still looking for you. The couple from the house are okay. Seamus is in hospital with stab a wound but nothing as serious as Noah's injuries. He'll be allowed to go home tomorrow."
"Oh, my God," I whispered. They were only trying to help us and that was what they got because of it. Guilt burned in my chest. I wiped yet another round of tears and replied, "Okay, thank you."
"I'll be outside if you need me," Adele said. "The nurse shouldn't be too long now."
I practically leapt out of bed when the nurse came for me. Mum, Dad and Jeremy trailed behind. I hadn't had chance to speak to my brother about Noah yet but his clear concern meant he'd forgiven him. Or at the very least was willing to work on it. There was no doubt that Noah saved my life.
"Slow down, Scarlett," Jeremy said. "I'm not carrying your arse when you collapse on the floor."
He was right, I should. I was still beyond tired and every single part of my body ached beyond belief, especially my legs, but Noah was alive and wanting to see me as much as I wanted to see him. A normal walking pace was not an option.
"I won't collapse." Well, I would but not until I saw he was okay and was back in my bed.
I reached his room with a lot help from Dad who was practically holding me up the entire way and turned to my family.
"You want a few minutes first?" Mum asked.
There was a police officer outside his room but he gestured with a nod for me to go in. I recognised him from the station, but he hadn't been one of the ones questioning me.
"Noah," I said, slowly peeking around the door. He was pale and looked exhausted but he was sitting against his pillows alive. "Can I come in?"
He half smiled and nodded once. "You alright?" He even sounded tired.
"I'm fine, just worried about you," I said, taking very slow, careful steps towards him.
"Um, because you were stabbed!"
"Wasn't too bad. Good thing my dad is a bad aim."
I stopped dead, eyes filling with tears. No. I assumed it was Donald. "Your dad did that?"
"Don't be surprised, Scarlett, your parents were going to do the same to you."
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but his parents had raised him for sixteen years. How could his own dad turn around and try to kill him? "I'm still sorry."
Sighing, he replied, "Yeah, me, too. Scarlett, why are you even talking to me?"
"Because of what happened."
"That's exactly why you shouldn't be talking to me. I know what you said when we were out in the forest but we're safe now, the danger is over. You don't have to forgive what I did to you..."
"You saved my life, Noah. I'm not going to pretend that I understand Eternal Light, but I do know that when it came down to it you put me before what you'd believed your whole. That means everything." I sat on the bed. "Seeing you like that, being wheeled into hospital..." Taking a deep breath, I continued, "It changed me. I was terrified that you wouldn't make it. You chose me, and you almost died because of it.
He gulped. "Yeah, well, I love you. I always knew it, but I didn't know how strong it was. I love you more than everything, and I didn't care if the prophecy was true and you were the key to eternal life because you deserve this life. Every dream or goal you have, you deserve a chance of achieving."
"You're pretty amazing," I said, swallowing what was likely to turn into an ugly cry. My heart swelled at his words. "And I love you, too. I tried to stop when I found out who you were, but I couldn't turn it off. That actually made me even angrier with you. But I do really love you."
He held his hand out. "Come and lay with me for a bit."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't, just stay on the side that wasn't stabbed."
I dropped my head. He was stabbed saving me. I lay on the bed against his pillows keeping a little distance so I didn't put any pressure on his body at all. "I won't break, Scarlett." He pulled me closer, and I laid my head on his shoulder, keeping my arms and legs away from him.
"You were stabbed, and I don't want to do anything to hurt you more." He'd lost a lot of blood and was also out all night and most of the morning in the cold.
"Believe me, you laying with me won't hurt. How are you feeling?"
"Tired, sore and achy but nothing a really, really long sleep won't fix."
There was a lot more than that to fix, but I couldn't even think about the emotional stuff right now. If I stopped to admit how scared I still was and how much I just wanted to hide away, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it through another minute.
"It's going to be alright now," he whispered.
Now was the start of the hard work to be okay but that was fine. I didn't have to fight for my life now. I just had to fight to come to terms with having to do it.
"My parents and Jeremy are outside," I said, tracing the letter S and N on his chest with my finger.
"They didn't want to come in." He said it as a statement not question.
"That's not it. They're giving us some time first."
He looked away in shame. "I'm surprised they let you near me again."
"They've been you, Noah. Don't forget that."
He raised his head and looked me in th
"No one hates you." Except probably every member of Eternal Light. "I want to help you."
His smile was unconvincing, and I wasn't sure if he didn't think I should help because he felt guilty or if he wanted a clean break and was worried about ditching me. A clean break would probably be the most sensible thing to do, we had a lot to work through, but it wasn't what we both wanted and if we left each other then Eternal Light would win.
Mum, Dad and Jeremy gave us ten minutes before coming in. They had nothing but sympathy and understanding for Noah. It made him uncomfortable. He didn't think he deserved it. But you shouldn't forgive and help someone if they felt worthy; you should do it just because.
"What's your next move?" Jeremy asked. He was still mad at Noah but he was trying, and I couldn't ask for more than that.
"I don't know. I don't have a plan yet," he said. "I'm nineteen next month but-"
"What?" I asked, cutting him off. He wasn't that old.
"Almost nineteen?" Dad said. "Noah, we thought you were sixteen."
"That's what I was told to be. My birthday is the same, Scarlett, I just lied about my age." He closed his eyes and sighed. "I'm so, so sorry."
I nodded. After everything that'd happened, him being a couple of years older wasn't that big of a deal. "Okay," I said, wondering just how much more there was that he'd lied about. I was sixteen, he was nearly nineteen, that wasn't too bad. I was fine about it and understood that he was following instruction. Now I wanted to know the real him. But I doubt even Noah knew who the real him was right now.
Even if he didn't know what his next move should be I did. "I want Noah to come home with us," I said. The atmosphere thickened. Mum and Dad, although clearly not thrilled, couldn't really say no. They were in the same position as Noah when they left the cult.
Noah shook his head. "No. After everything, Scarlett, you can't ask your parents to do that."
"She's not asking," Dad said. "We're offering."
Jeremy's eyebrows shot up in shock, and I think mine did the same. I expected to have to chew Dad's ear off before I got him to agree. "Jonathan, you've done more than enough for me already."
Dad held his hand up. "You saved my daughter's life. I almost stood by and let her be sacrificed, too."
I licked my lips. I hated hearing about myself like that. I was nothing to my birth parents but the key to an imaginary door. It wasn't a great feeling.
Noah breathed deeply and squeezed my hand. "I don't know what to say."
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