Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 16
I shift nervously on my feet. “I should probably go, I have a driver waiting for me. Not like a chauffeur, I just don’t have a car. Or a license. I don’t even know how to drive.” One of his eyebrows rises, and I can tell he thinks I’m an idiot. “Can…can I take Poppy home with me? I really miss him. He’s my family.”
He shrugs and pulls a pack of cigarettes out of the back pocket of his jeans and lights one up. I’m not sure exactly what happened to him, but I remember the detective who questioned me in the hospital telling me Tyler was in a fire when he was younger. They asked me to describe his scars, but I didn’t remember them at all until the detective mentioned them. All I could remember were his eyes and how I wished I could walk right into them, like an ocean. He hadn’t frightened me the day he saved me. Not even a little. I was transfixed by him, grateful to him. Curious about him. And I still am. It’s odd to me that he would want to put a small stick of smoke and fire into his mouth after going through such a horrific accident.
I wait for him to do or say something—anything—but he just stares off into the distance, as if he hopes if he ignores me long enough I will just go away. A tactic I tried many times with my captor. I may be new to interacting with people, but I can definitely take a hint. “Okay,” I say awkwardly. “Thank you again for everything. Take care.”
Still holding Poppy, I turn and head back in the direction I came, expecting him to stop me and demand I leave the dog with him—or want to talk to me after all—but after I’ve walked for at least five minutes, it’s clear he’s not going to do anything of the sort. My heart sinks like an anchor that may never surface again.
For months, I daydreamed many different scenarios in which I saw him again, and not one of them was even close to what just happened. He was completely uninterested and borderline rude. How hard is it to say hello? Or you’re welcome? Or how are you? Or hey, take your dog and just go. Something. Disappointment seeps into the places in my heart that shut down a long time ago, and a dull ache sits in my chest as I walk back to the waiting car. For years, before the television was given to me, I sat on the dirty floor with my fairy-tale books, daydreaming of walking into a beautiful sunset with the man who would eventually come to save me. That’s where the happiness is supposed to happen. It’s in the books. The prince saves the princess, and they live happily ever after.
The bad man would step on my books, leaving his smudged shoe prints on the white pages that I loved so much. He’d pick them up and hold them behind his back, taunting me until I knelt, and obeyed. And I did. I choked, and I cried, and I begged until it was over and my books were given back to me.
“Fairy tales don’t come true, little girl,” he’d say, zipping his pants. “No matter how many times you read them.”
“It’s not true, Poppy,” I whisper, shivering against the cold breeze. Dead people should stay dead, especially the bad ones. But they don’t. They keep living in our heads and come out whenever they want to keep hurting us. I know Tyler tried, but he didn’t kill the bad man. He’s still here, torturing me, even from the grave. I won’t let him win. And I won’t give up on Tyler.
The secret to fairy tales is believing in them. That’s what makes them come true.
“Where did you get a dog from?” the taxi driver asks sharply, peering over her shoulder, when I climb into the back seat.
“It’s my dog. A friend was watching him for me.” I settle Poppy on my lap. “Is it okay for him to be in the car?”
“Usually I’d rather not, but I guess it’s okay,” she frowns. “He seems well behaved, and he’s tiny. I wouldn’t want some huge-ass dog back there.”
“He’s very well behaved. Is there a pet store we could stop at on the way back to my apartment? I need to get him a few things. It won’t take long, I promise.”
She shrugs. “Sure thing, honey.” I wonder if she thinks I’m crazy. She knows the place she picks me up and drops me off at is a recovery facility, and with this being such a small town, I’m sure everyone knows what kind of people live at Merryfield.
When Poppy and I lived in the basement, all he had was a food and water dish, which is about the same as I had. He never had any toys, bones, or doggy beds to sleep on. He went potty on the floor, and I would have to clean it up with paper towels and put it in a bucket until the man came and threw it away. Sometimes the smell would be horrible, but I loved the company of the dog so much I didn’t mind.
I pet his head absently as I stare out the window, making a mental list of things I will need to buy at the pet store. Finally, the money my father sends me is going to some use. “Get yourself something nice,” his card always says. I hope dog supplies fall into that category.
After a quick stop at the local pet store, the taxi driver expertly navigates through the afternoon traffic and pulls in front of my apartment unit at Merryfield.
Poppy whines in my arms and licks my chin as I grab my bags, thank and pay the driver, and walk up the small walkway to my and Feather’s apartment. Because we’re considered residents now, we have a private apartment with a separate doorway that leads outside. When I was just a patient here, I had a much smaller shared space in the main building, like a hospital room, with a door opening into the main hallway so the staff could monitor us.
Feather is draped across the couch, engrossed in a phone call, when I walk in. She does a double take when she sees me, bolts up, and tells the person on the phone that she’ll call them back.
“You got a dog?” she asks incredulously.
“No…I found my dog. This is Poppy. Remember I told you about him?” I ask excitedly.
She eyes me suspiciously. “Okay…how exactly did you find your dog? I thought you went for your usual walk?” Her tone is laced with disbelief like she thinks I’ve possibly lost my mind.
“I was looking for the Forest Santa, and I found him in the woods. The man who saved me had him. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him! Poppy, I mean. And the Forest Santa! He’s the guy, Feather, my prince! He didn’t talk to me, but seeing him again was so unbelievable.”
Her eyes go bigger, and she shakes her head really fast.”Wait…what? Slow down a little, because I’m lost. You were looking for what?”
Sighing with impatience, I put Poppy down on the floor, and he runs over to sniff Feather’s feet. She leans down to pet him, and he licks her hand, making me smile. Even after everything he’s been through, he’s always been a friendly dog.
“The girl at the store where I bought the Christmas photos said there’s a legend that a man they call Forest Santa decorates them.”
She nods. “Okay, yeah. I think I’ve heard of that before, when I was younger.”
“Well, I wanted to see if I could find one of the trees, so I emailed the photographer, and he told me where he found them. So I decided to get a taxi and go there.”
“Holy shit, Holly, are you crazy? You shouldn’t be traipsing around in the woods alone! Why didn’t you ask me to go with you?”
I shrug and clasp my hands together. “I don’t know,” I admit, and I really don’t, other than I’m used to doing everything alone. “I didn’t even think about it. I just kinda went.”
Her face takes on a disapproving look, much like my mother’s. “You have to be careful.”
“I was very careful.” I decide not to tell her about the masked man jumping out of the tree. “Anyway, I walked for a little while on the path, and I found a tree, and it was beautifully decorated and magical, just like I knew it would be!”
She raises her eyebrows at me, and I can tell she will never appreciate my love of Christmas trees.
“And then there was a man by the tree, with a Santa hat on, singing Christmas songs.”
“Singing? In the woods? With a Santa hat on? Holly…” Her eyebrows rise, and she scratches her head. “Are you sure about all this?”
“Yes,” I insist. “Then Poppy came running, and he went right up to the guy with the hat, and they walked away together. I was literally just stunned.”
“I know the feeling,” she says, falling back onto the couch. “You do realize this sounds crazy? Like I legit think you may have hit your head and just stolen someone’s dog.”
“I did not. I’m totally serious.” My eyes burn with tears of frustration. I need her to believe me and not think I’m crazy.
She puts her hands up. “All right, don’t get upset. I’m sorry. It just sounds like a crazy coincidence, that’s all. Tell me what else happened.”
“Well…” I try to recall where I was in the story, and I wish she hadn’t interrupted me when she knows sometimes it’s hard for me to remember things when I’m talking. “Then I walked some more. And I found a little house in the woods, and Poppy was there—and so was the prince.”
“Holly, you have to stop calling him that. This is real life now.”
“But he’s real.”
She scratches her head and thinks for a moment. “Do you mean Tyler Grace?” she finally asks. “The guy who found you in the woods and killed that douchebag loser pedophile?”