Caden

What if everything you knew was a lie?

Julianna thought she was just a broken girl who prayed for it all to stop.

Caden knew he was a man with a damaged, dark past who prayed for it all to end.

Together they learn that some of the greatest gifts are Unanswered Prayers.

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1. Chapter One

Julianna
 
December 18, 2012 – Just after midnight
 
I sat tucked into the small window seat of my bedroom and burrowed under the blanket, savoring the warmth it gave me. With the lights off, the flurries of snow could just be seen in the dark. The weather forecast had called for a snowfall on my birthday, but I hadn’t gotten my hopes up. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise as the antique grandfather clock downstairs heralded in the new day to see the ground outside turning white.


I rested my forehead against the cool glass of the window and closed my eyes. The peaceful silence sank into me and I smiled. Today was my Sweet Sixteen. My parents, in an attempt to hide the fact they’d been fighting again, had said I could stay home from school. Which was fine, considering the following started winter break anyway. My mind drifted, not quite dozing, but not fully awake either.


A streak of light suddenly flashed, bright enough to pierce through my closed eyes. Startled awake, I jumped and smacked my head against the glass of the window. I let out a yelp of pain and scrambled off the bench, tripping over the blanket as it tangled around my legs. My head clutched my forehead where it throbbed and I glanced around my room, dazed.


“Mom! Dad?” I cried out, as the room began to slowly spin a circle around me. I took an unsteady step forward and bumped into a small table I kept a lamp and my alarm on. Both hands flew to my ears and I winced when the table toppled in the dim room and the contents on it crashed to the floor. The sound practically vibrating through my ears at a frequency almost painful.


I suddenly felt hot, like I had a fever, burning up and began to sweat. Scared, I called out for my parents once again. “Mom! Daddy, please!” My skin felt tight, my heart was racing and my head began to pound. I dropped to my knees, crying.


The door swung open so hard it bounced against the wall and I looked up to see my mother racing into the room. She’d obviously been asleep, her blonde hair disheveled and eyes still had the blurry, unfocused look to them. But as they landed on me, they widened and cleared immediately.


“Glenn! Call 911, now!” she yelled over her shoulder as she raced over to me. She dropped to her knees beside me and wrapped an arm around me. “What’s wrong, Anna? What happened?”


Before I could respond, my father skidded into the room with the phone clutched in his hand speaking quickly. “–at 665 Stoneridge, yes. I’m not sure, hold on,” he said to the person on the other end then dropped down beside me. “Carlie, what’s going on?” he asked my mom, worry dripping through his tone.


I opened my mouth to answer, then watched in shock as the world started to slowly tilt sideways. My mind sluggishly registered my mother screaming. Helpless, I could only lay there as everything faded to black.
 
***
 
I fell, the distance great and daunting. One moment I was standing in solitude and the next the wind rushed around me. I'd known it would happen; one didn't go against commands and not be punished. But mercy was sometimes necessary and love was to be shown, or so we'd been taught. I had learned through my time nothing was black and nothing was white, but there were many shades of gray. Others weren't ready for such truths.


Pain. Such excruciating pain enveloped me from within. The agony had me writhing and twisting in the air even as I continued to fall. The screams were inhuman and I barely recognized them as my own. It felt as if everything within me was being turned inside out, broken and pieced back together, but not as it should.


The burning misery of my body plummeted faster and faster, ever gaining momentum. I knew what had happened to me, just as I knew why. The feeling of bitter betrayal swept over me, overriding the intense discomfort my body was experiencing. As the Earth rose to meet me, there was no regret for what had caused this. I knew I would make the same choice again, for it was what we'd been asked to do.


And just before my body made heavy impact, a booming solitary voice echoed through the vastness of my mind...
"Long shall ye suffer."

 
***
 
“BP is 160 over 90. Fever’s 104.1. I’m starting the IV now.”


The words spoken over me by a woman I didn’t recognize floated through on the edges of my consciousness. My body jolted and I groaned weakly as pain lanced through me. I finally realized I was in an ambulance and its siren was blaring loudly. All around was motion, beeps and alarms and try as I might, I couldn’t open my eyes to see any of it. Panic started to set in when I found I couldn’t move.


“Shit,” the woman over me swore suddenly. “Jackson, BP’s rising. 167 over 95. Heart rate is going up too.”


I tried to speak but I couldn’t. Just when I thought I might be able to break free of the hold on my body, I felt the darkness slip over me again. As it fell over me, I heard the woman shouting to the driver, “She’s seizing again!”
 
***
 
Soft, murmuring voices surrounded me as I slowly swam to consciousness. The words were beyond my ability to comprehend at the moment, given the level of agony my head was experiencing. Low beeps and hisses sounded periodically, and I frowned in confusion, not recognizing the noises.


I struggled and finally managed after several tries to blink my eyes open. They couldn’t be more than a squint, however, as even the dim light was torture. My eye lids felt like sandpaper and I was pretty sure my lashes were clumped together with grit. Despite the resistance, I made myself look around to see where I was, but found my confusion only grow stronger.


I was in an emergency room. The beeps and hisses were the machines hooked up to me, their wires and leads attached all over. I lifted an arm and grimaced at the IV inserted, the skin angry and red around it. My eyes traced the thin tube from the needle up to the bag hanging above my head. From there they swept around, taking in the various monitors and machines I was hooked up to. Some of them I recognized, but some were a mystery.
One thing was a certainty; I wanted my parents.


I felt a flash of excitement when my gaze landed on the cord with a red button. With more effort than expected, I managed to grab it and call for the nurse. The moment of triumph soon turned to dismay when instead of someone actually coming in, a beep shrilled behind me.


“Yes? Can I help you,” a woman’s voice asked over an intercom.

“I–,” I started, but then began coughing from my throat being so dry. I tried to swallow but found I couldn’t. There was no moisture to wet anything.


A sigh sounded behind me, then, “I’m sorry. What?”


I couldn’t stop coughing. I struggled to breathe and swallow, but it felt like my throat was beginning to stick together. Off to the side the monitors started alarming as I began to panic. Finally, I managed to gasp out, “Help!”


Just then, my mother and father rushed into the room, followed by a woman in blue scrubs. My mother’s face went gray with worry when she saw me. The woman in scrubs pushed past her and quickly checked over my monitors. She stood beside me and studied me for a moment before she reached over to a stand next to us. She quickly punched in a series of numbers, jerked a drawer out, grabbed a package and opened it without taking her eyes off me. All the time, I couldn’t stop coughing, convinced I was going to suffocate, my throat burning and dry.
She placed a hand on my shoulder and spoke, her voice calm but commanding, eyes locked onto mine. “Julianna, I need you to listen, okay? Are you listening to me?”


 I nodded, silently begging her to help me.


She held up what looked like a lollipop with a foam top. “This is going to help with the dryness. I want you to suck on it, okay?”


Again, I nodded and took it greedily. Almost immediately I felt relief and was able to swallow. After several seconds she removed it and put a new one in its place. While the taste was awful, like wintergreen and gasoline, it was like a well in the desert and I wasn’t going to complain.


When she was sure I could swallow and speak, she took the foam pieces and threw them away. She then turned to my parents and told them she was going to get my parents and hurried from the room. They nodded and then moved closer to me, nervous smiles on their faces. I blinked at them for a second, my eyes still feeling like sandpaper covered them, before I sighed.


“You guys aren’t doing much to make me not worry,” I muttered. I rolled my head over on my pillow and stared at the monitor beside me with the wires going from my chest to the machine. “What’s going on?”


My mother reached out and took my hand in hers. I frowned at the sweaty feeling of her palm. “We don’t know, Julianna. Do you remember what happened? At all?”


My eyes flicked up to the saline bag above me again as I tried to recall what happened before I woke up in here. Bits and pieces flashed around in my head. “I remember sitting in my window seat. I think I fell asleep?” I glanced toward my father. “There was a weird flash and I remember it was hot…I guess you guys turned up the heat.” My father frowned, shaking his head.


“No. But when we came in, you were burning up, sweating,” he told me.


My brow furrowed as I tried to remember more. “I remember being in the ambulance, I guess? Something about an IV. After that, I woke up here.” I took in a shaky breath and looked at my mother. “Mom, what happened to me?”


She shook her head. “We don’t know, honey. They think you had a couple of seizures.”


My jaw dropped as my grip tightened on her hand. “What? How?”

“We’re not sure. You were having one when they brought you in,” she explained. “We’re waiting on the doctor now.”


“How long have I been here?” I asked, looking at the clock.

“Not that long actually,” my father replied. “We just got here a little while ago.”


Before I could ask anything else, a knock sounded, and the door opened. My breath left me in a soft sigh as the tallest man I’d ever seen walked in, followed by the woman in blue scrubs. she barely registered, however, as the man seemed to overshadow everyone in the room, commanding all attention.


“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Morris,” he said as he strode in. “I’m Dr. Vitus, the E.R. physician on duty tonight. I’ll be the one attending your daughter,” he introduced himself, an accent that couldn’t quite be placed tinging his deep voice.


Well, hello, nurse!’ I thought to myself as I fought the urge to giggle like the teenage girl I was. Not that anyone could blame me; even my mother was blushing as the man shook hands with her. Between the muscles, the bronzed skin, short, almost black hair and eyes that were such a piercing light blue they almost glowed, you couldn’t help but become a puddle when you looked at the man. Throw in the multitude of tattoos I could make out, the aura of confidence and a touch of almost danger that seemed to surround him and…wow.


“Julianna? Are you going to answer him?”


I stared at my mother after she asked me the question, confused. I then blushed furiously when I realized I’d been so involved at gawking, I hadn’t heard a word of what was going on around me. “What?” I glanced at Dr. Vitus and blushed. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you. What did you ask?”


He smiled kindly. “No problem. You’ve been through a lot tonight.” He took a stethoscope from around his neck and placed the ends in his ears, motioning the nurse to help me sit up. “I asked if you’d been feeling ill at all over the past few days.”


I shook my head as he began listening to my heart and breaths. I was surprised he wasn’t hearing anything weird, given one was racing and the others were short and breathy. “No. I felt fine, even when I went to bed earlier.” I went on to explain what I could remember of what had happened. He listened intently while examining me, asking questions occasionally. After I was done, he gave me a smile that officially had me puddling in the bed.


He went to the sink and washed his hands. As he dried them, he turned to my parents. “Well, I’d like to have some tests ran to rule the normal concerns out.” He looked at the nurse and started rattling off orders. “I’d like blood cultures done, an EEG…” he trailed off as he glanced at his watch. “It’s almost one. Imagining isn’t going to be happy, but I’d like their radiologist paged. I want an MRI done too.”

 

The nurse smirked. “You’re right, they won’t be happy. They don’t like being called back in.”

 

“They’ll get over it,” Dr. Vitus muttered back. He looked at me. “We’re going to take good care of you, Anna. We’ll figure out what’s going on, okay?” he reassured me with a smile. He reached out and rested a hand on my over mine. “It’ll be all right.” Then he turned and strode out of the room.

 

I couldn’t have spoken anything if I tried, however. Because when he touched me, another memory from the night had returned. It was a memory of pain and betrayal and it didn’t belong to me. The problem was, I didn’t know who it belonged to.

 

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