“Hush little baby, don’t say a fucking word,” he sang in an ominous voice, twisting the lyrics to the old nursery rhyme. His voice was the only sound in the small damp space aside from a low rattling in the corner; I didn’t want to know what or who was making that noise.
I kept my expression blank and my eyes downward as I sat there uncomfortably. The room was cold and dark and smelled of mold. I coughed as the mildew filled my lungs, and my body shivered on the old rickety chair I was tied to. I didn’t even bother trying to scream; no one would hear me. No one would be coming to my rescue now. It was just the two of us. After everything, it had come to this. My head dropped forward with fatigue. I just wanted to sleep, but I didn’t want to close my eyes. I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to do something when I wasn’t watching. My heart ached for the situation we were in. And I was scared. Really and truly scared, possibly more scared than I’d ever been in my life. This was different from the unknown of the island—the island had been bright and sunny, while this room was dark and dreary. This room screamed of danger, and every nerve in my body was on edge waiting to see what would happen next.
“I didn’t want everything to go like this.” He held the gun to my head. “You understand that, right? I didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t want it to come to this.”
I nodded my understanding, my throat too constricted to speak. My body was frozen in fear as an image of a black stallion running down a white sandy beach flashed into my mind. A strong, beautiful stallion with mesmerizing blue eyes. The beach reminded me of our island and the stallion reminded me of Jakob: strong, powerful, and wild. Somehow the image made me smile and calmed my nerves for a few seconds.
“A life for a life, right?” His voice sounded broken and raw. “That’s what they say, right?” His voice echoed his sorrow. He didn’t want to do this, but I knew he thought he had no other option. I couldn’t allow myself to look up at him. All I could think was, Is this how it’s all going to end for me? Is this how my story’s going to end?
“He shouldn’t have done that to my parents, Bianca.” His voice was pained. “He ruined my life.”
“I understand,” I said softly, my voice cracking as I spoke. I did understand. I didn’t know if I could blame him. “It’s not your fault.”
“You’re making this hard for me, Bianca.” He sighed and kneeled next to me, moving the gun away from my head. He grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him. His eyes bored into mine, and I could see the regret shining at me. Regret and another emotion I recognized. My heart thudded as I stared back at him. I still had a shot at changing my story. The emotion in his eyes was one I knew well—adoration. He had feelings for me. That was the opening I needed to try to change his mind.
“You don’t have to do this,” I said softly. “You don’t have to go through with it.”
“I do,” he said, but his voice was unsure as he gazed at me, his eyes scrutinizing my face.
“No. If you do, we can’t be together.” I nearly choked on the words, but I knew I had to say them. It was my only chance.
“You would want to be with me?” He froze. “After all this?”
“Yes.” I nodded and made myself smile. “We’re meant to be together, don’t you see that?”
“It was always you, you know.” His fingers touched my leg. “From the first time I saw you, I knew.”
“So then don’t do this,” I pleaded with him. “This doesn’t have to be the end for us. This can be the beginning.”
“A new beginning?” He spoke softly, his eyes glazing over as he considered what I’d said.
“Maybe this is why everything happened,” I said, my voice shaky. “Maybe we’re meant to be together. Maybe this was fate’s cruel joke on us. Maybe this was the only way.”
“Maybe.” He nodded and stepped back. My body was trembling as I waited for him to decide what he was going to do next. “You really think we’re soul mates?” He stared at my lips, and it took everything in me not to shudder at his gaze. And then suddenly there was a loud bang. I screamed. He fell forward, his head hitting my lap hard, and I screamed again.
“No!” Tears fell from my eyes as a pool of red blood filled my lap. “No!” I screamed, and looked into his face. What had just happened? I wasn’t even sure. Had he shot himself? He gazed at me with a weak smile, the life draining from his face.
“Your father did this to us,” he mumbled. “He did this to me.”
“No,” I whispered, my stomach churning as I felt a wave of arctic coldness fill me. “I’m sorry,” I said honestly. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.
“Hush, my little baby, don’t say a fucking word,” he said again, though this time his voice was but a whisper in the coldness. “This is how it should be.”
“No!” I screamed this time, my voice no longer restrained by fear. I stared at his body and at the gun on the ground, just inches from my feet, the red of his blood trickling into a pool beside it.
“Please don’t die,” I whimpered, feeling woozy as I took a deep breath. “You didn’t have to do this.” Then I froze. The rattling in the corner of the room was back.
The fact that I still had company didn’t make me feel better.