Read the first episode here.
Chapter 16 – Rachel Holbrook
Rachel let the water of the shower beat down on her as she tried to clear her mind for a moment of all the stress that had been building up. She hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. Everything that had happened since she’d woken up on the bus played over and over in her head and plagued her with confusion, worry, fear, and—worst of all—guilt. She could still hear Eduardo’s screams as he cried out for someone to save him. She could also still see his face as she bitched him out for something he had no control over. And now, he was gone. The last person he talked to was some woman he didn’t know that was chewing him a new one because she couldn’t keep her own anger under control. And then, those pitch black hands were on him. She’d cried about it at the bottom of the stairs when she’d gone to get Hadley.
When she wasn’t thinking about the Empty People grabbing Eduardo, she was remembering them grabbing her. She hadn’t realized at the time how close she’d been to being taken. It hadn’t dawned on her until she’d watched Tara and Alexandra pull on Nathan’s legs with everything they had to no avail. Even when Michael had tried to help, the Empty People still took Nathan with ease.
Michael. Thank God for him. Rachel had always told herself that she was fine on her own; that she didn’t need anyone’s help; that she could take care of herself. But, even she had to admit that there was no way she could have fought off the Empty People alone and, if it hadn’t been for Michael, she wouldn’t be here. And, like the bitch that she was, she hadn’t thanked him. Now, she’d have to, and she hated doing that.
If her own thoughts weren’t enough to keep her up last night, then Hadley sure was. The two hadn’t talked much after settling into the room. Rachel had told her to take a bath and listened from outside as her niece cried her eyes out. But, what could she have done? She wasn’t ready to be a parent yet—she’d only just recently started thinking about it—but as of two weeks ago, Rachel was the only family the girl had, a car crash taking away her parents—and Rachel’s little brother.
Once Hadley had finally gone to sleep, her nightmares had started. The child shook and screamed all night, leaving Rachel helpless to do anything. Anytime Rachel had dozed off, Hadley had woken her up, and the stress piled on.
And, to top everything off, there was work. She had no idea where she was or when she was getting out, and she absolutely needed to. She’d already taken too much time off for her brother’s funeral, and she couldn’t afford to miss any more. The first thing she’d tried to do when she and Hadley had gotten to their room was use the phone to call her boss, but of course, it didn’t work. How would he react if she didn’t show up for work tomorrow? The advertising business could be cut-throat, and there were plenty of backstabbing worms clamoring for Rachel’s position as Senior Project Manager. After years of work getting to where she was, now she might lose it all.
Nothing was the way it was supposed to be.
Rachel turned the shower off and stepped out. She took her time drying off. Her hair would be a frazzled mess without a blow-dryer, but who cared? They’d have to leave to meet everyone soon, and who knew what they’d find out? After a couple of minutes of staring through the steam in the mirror, she opened the bathroom door and saw Hadley sitting on the bed, waiting for her.
“Are we going to meet the other people now,” she asked.
“Soon, I think.” Rachel put the underwear from the day before back on, reeking of the fear-based sweat that she had just washed off. She needed to get her suitcase from the bus. She grabbed her hair tie and began struggling to tug her scraggly disarray into it.
“Are we going to see Miss Eliza again?”
“I don’t know,” Rachel said as she shimmied into her skirt. “Probably.”
“She looks at me funny. Like she knows me.”
“Then try to ignore her.” She was being short, but she had too much on her mind to worry about funny looks. She was suspicious of Eliza: true. But, there were more important things to worry about at the moment.
“It’s not like how most people look at me,” Hadley continued. “Like you.”
Rachel stopped buttoning up her blouse for a second. That comment couldn’t have meant anything good. “What do you mean?” She didn’t look at her.
“Like you’re scared or angry. Most people seem scared when they look at me.”
So, she had noticed. Rachel had tried to keep it from her, but apparently she hadn’t.
With Rachel living in Denver and her brother’s family living in St. Louis, she hadn’t really gotten to know Hadley too well. She’d seen her maybe once every year for a few days when she visited her brother. But, even with Rachel’s limited experience with kids, it wasn’t hard to figure out that Hadley was different. There was something in her eyes—her father’s eyes—that was… peculiar. It was like she saw a world that Rachel couldn’t, and there was no way for Rachel to relate to her. It was hard enough being forced into parenthood. But, with a kid like Hadley? How was she supposed to handle that? She loved her, but that didn’t change the fact that Rachel hadn’t asked for this.
The sound of a door slamming outside saved Rachel from having to answer. She walked over to the window and peered through the curtain. Frank and Eliza were walking toward the office building and Seth was already making his way to the diner.
The scenery hadn’t changed much. In fact, even the clouds looked the same. From behind them, orangish purple light peaked through and cast the Midhaven Motel in an eerie glow. If the clock hadn’t read 10am, Rachel would have sworn it was dusk. Just another question to ask.
“Put your shoes on,” she said to Hadley. “It’s time to go.”