They arrived at their next stop just after night fell. Jaynes grabbed three duffles from the back while Terrah carried her only one. They walked up a few flights of stairs and knocked on a door numbered 1735. It didn’t take long for it to open. A tall, thin woman stepped aside to let them inside.
“Thanks for letting us stay here, Ash.”
“Always happy to help out a friend. Go ahead and put your things in the guest room.”
Terrah knew this area like the back of her hand, spending most of her early adulthood in that very guest room. It looked much the same. Ashley had finally thrown out the gaudy bedspread that used to occupy the full sized mattress. Hideous shades of orange, green, and brown sewn together in a patchwork mess that had no rhyme or reason.
Though she declared her hatred for the blanket often, Ashley claimed she loved it. To which Terrah always replied, “yes, but not enough to have it on your own bed.”
Her duffle bag was put next to the lounge chair in the room. She headed back out to the living room, knowing Jaynes would take a little longer than her. Ashley was in the kitchen, pouring drinks for the three of them. They always drank when they were together.
“Do you guys need any food?” she asked, back still turned to her.
“We ate before we came.”
Jaynes joined them. Arms wrapping around her waist. A gentle kiss pressed to the top of her head. Terrah let her guard down in his embrace. “Could I have a double, Ash?” he asked.
“Sure. Go ahead and make yourselves comfortable.”
They always compensated her for putting them up. And for how much alcohol they drank. Jaynes steered them to the love seat a few feet away. They sat down, the plush cushions far more comfortable than the leather seats in the rental.
Ashley handed them their drinks a few moments later before getting her own. Terrah put the glass to her lips, but didn’t drink.
“How’s life on the run treating you? You two have been off the radar for almost a year.” Ashley asked as she sat down on the couch across from them.
“Fine,” Terrah answered. “They’ve been pouring more resources into their search so Jaynes and I have been separated for a few months.”
“So what’s the next step?” she asked.
“Sorry, Ash. Can’t tell you this time. The less you know, the better.” Terrah gave a small smile, hoping her friend would understand.
Her friend changed the subject. They chatted about most of the events that occurred in their absence. Ashley had gotten herself a new girlfriend who lived out of state and was seriously thinking of moving in order to be with her. They congratulated her.
Keeping in touch would be difficult, but they’d make sure to stop by if and when that happened. Hours passed before Ashley declared it was time for her to go to bed. She was an upstanding citizen now—well, aside from her currently housing fugitives.
Terrah gets ready for bed first. Jaynes is busy—as always. “Your turn.” He locks the encrypted tablet before leaving the room. A kiss pressed to her lips quickly.
She puts her clothes inside the duffle. And notice that Jaynes left one of his opened. Terrah moves to close it when black and white photos catches her eyes. Masked men armed with assault-style weapons. Her breath caught in her throat as memories of that day came swirling back.
Pain ripped through her body. She fell to the floor, clutching her side. Gunfire echoed loudly around her. “Terrah!”
She could feel hands gripping her. Blinking several times, she could make out Jaynes. Not just him, but Ashley too. A broken sob escaped her throat as she reached for her husband. He pulled her near.
“Why?” she asked, voice breaking. “Why do you have those photos?”
“I need to know,” Jaynes answered. “I need to know who did this to us, to you.”
She pulled away from him. “I don’t want you to look for them. They…did enough. Just forget about them.”
“I can’t,” he whispered.
Terrah moved away and stood on shaky legs. “If you go after them, I won’t go with you.”
“I’m going after them. I can’t let them get away with this.”
She stumbled toward Ashley. “I’m going to sleep elsewhere.”
Her best friend said nothing, but helped her into the master bedroom. Terrah couldn’t understand why Jaynes would give up the final step of their plan for something that didn’t matter. They hadn’t succeeded.
Once they took care of the main threat, the two of them could live in peace. Could make their clean break from the life that had given and taken so much. She laid down on the bed and turned to face the wall.
Memories of that day plagued her throughout the rest of the night.
Morning came far too quickly. She felt Ashley leave the bed. Terrah knew that she should get up. They had planned to leave earlier in the morning. She couldn’t bring herself to move. The sound of her alarm going off gave her the final push to get up. The door to the spare bedroom was open.
As she walked into the living area, Terrah noticed Jaynes was nowhere in the apartment.
“Is Jaynes waiting outside?” she asked quietly.
Ashley turned around, a frown on her face. Her eyes darted toward a piece of paper. On it was all capitalized letters.
I’m sorry, Terrah. This is something I have to do. Proceed with your half. I’ll meet you later.
The ink on the note smudged under a water drop. Her stomach churned, forcing her to run to the bathroom. After emptying her guts, she curled up into a ball on the floor. Tears flowing freely now.
Ashley entered the restroom. A glass of water in hand. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. You two will always find each other.”
Terrah shook her head, wanting to tell her friend the weight of the situation. She couldn’t. Jaynes had abandoned her.
“I’ll call in sick today. Seems like we’re going to need a girl’s day.”
She didn’t say anything. Her mind raced with the idea of what she would have to face alone. Before, everything seemed less daunting. Jaynes was by her side. He had promised to be by her side forever.
Now, their wedding vows felt hallow. After what happened, she had spent several months apart from her husband. He had kept himself busy in putting together their final plan. They reunited about four months ago, promising that they were done forever.
Revenge wasn’t part of that plan.
Terrah wanted to forget everything that had happened.
Once the tears stopped, she moved out of the bathroom and in to the living room. Ashley was eating breakfast and watching a sitcom. Terrah noticed a plate set out for her, but she couldn’t bring herself to eat. Not right now.
Instead, she remained still and tried to figure out how best to explain what had happened last night and this morning to her best friend. Ashley deserved an explanation at the very lease.
The words were harder to say.
“Hey, you don’t need to tell me anything you don’t want to.” She looked at Ashley. Terrah nodded in understanding, grateful to have a friend like her, but the truth needed to be told.
“Jaynes and I got married almost a year ago,” she whispered.
“The day we got married is also the day I almost died.”
To be continued…