Authors: Christina Leija
Charlotte awoke in the hospital. She looked around, her head still pounding. What happened? How did she get here? Charlotte’s memories began to rush back as she snapped fully awake and tried to sit up.
John jerked up and rushed to her bedside in an attempt to calm her. “Shh, baby, its ok, you passed out.”
“What are you doing here? Where’s Andrew! Oh My God! Andrew, where is he? Please, I have to have my son.” Charlotte’s fear rushed her at the thought of the custody hearing and everything that happened. Did Alex have him?
“Honey, it’s ok, Ms. Nelson has him, safe and sound.”
“What are you doing here!”
“Well hello to you too beautiful. I was at the court house waiting on Mr. Black when there was a swarm of people rushing the courtroom and someone yelling for an ambulance. I was so worried.”
“Why on earth would you be worried? Get away from me you son of a bitch!” Charlotte was more confused than ever. What exactly happened? Why was John there?
“I love you Charlotte Jackson, that’s why I was there.” John stopped Charlotte dead in her tracks. She never thought she would here that from John and with such sincerity. The look in his eyes told her that he meant it. A rush of warmth wrapped around her like the tide rushing the sands to sweep them away. He was here for her. Not against her; with her. Thoughts of Victoria and all the events form the past few weeks played back through her mind. “Victoria.”
“Yes Victoria, she was with your ex at my father’s office the night the process server was at your house. That was the first time I met her officially and I remembered her form your picture. I rushed over to Mr. Black’s house.” John was cut off by Charlotte’s stunned face.
“Mr. Black? You sent him?” Charlotte was touched by the new information. John sent him to her. A white knight, on his horse, to rescue and help. Could this man be any more of an angel?
“Yes, Mr. Black. He was an old partner of my bastard fathers, the one who sent me through law school. You see he and his wife raised me when my mother passed and my father turned a cold shoulder to me. You wouldn’t talk to me so I had no way of telling you that night in the hospital.”
Charlotte grabbed John’s shirt and kissed him so fiercely she thought she might pass out again. His kiss was sweet and soft, this was real, not a dream, but like her dream she didn’t want it to end.
John pulled back and Charlotte puffed out her bottom lip pouting in complaint. “Charlotte, we need to talk about your cancer.”
That caught her off guard, Charlotte had forgotten she told Vitoria about it, it only makes sense that she told everyone else. Just then Charlotte’s anger began to mount again. “What John, what about it? It’s out, are you happy? You know my secret that soon I’m going to die and leave Andrew alone in this world, just as my mother left me.” Charlotte started to cry and hot tears swept her face as she finally admitted her worst fear, a fear that she had avoided since she found out. A surprising comfort came from her words, like a burden had been lifted from her shoulders.
John paused at her words. It hit him hard, she was right; he was going to lose her soon. Somehow, someway, he would find a way to save her.
“That’s the information that Victoria had, that’s Alex’s claim to fighting for Alex. Charlotte, I promise that no matter what, I won’t let him take Andrew. I will protect him.”
Before Charlotte knew it she was awoken by tiny little hands playing with her hair. As her eyes opened she was as happy as a kid opening up a new present on Christmas. Her son was in her arms. “Good morning, momma.” Andrew gave his mom a kiss and the most precious smile that Charlotte ever knew. “I’m sorry you’re not feeling well mommy, but I was hungry and Ms. Nelson said it would be ok if I had a bite of your pancakes.” Andrew genuinely looked worried that his mom may be mad at his sneaky behavior. “Honey, you can have whatever you want, I’m not hungry anyway.” The light lit up in Andrews eyes as he jumped for her tray and began to swallow the pancakes whole. Charlotte just laughed at his behavior.
Oh her son, nothing in the world made her happier than having him near, even if he was getting her sticky with syrup.
Ms. Nelson sat down next to her bed and just rubbed Charlotte’s hand in sympathy. “I sent John away to rest and get some food. He hasn’t left your side all night and frankly, he’s looking like hell.”
“I can’t believe this whole time she’s been sleeping with him behind my back?! It’s just not right Mrs. Nelson, she was supposed to be my childhood friend and now I find out they have been together for years!” Betrayed and angry, Charlotte was now yelling and ranting over the fact that the reason Alex always stayed one step ahead of her was because of Victoria’s betrayal. Charlotte quickly lowered her voice when Andrew stopped his eating binge to gaze at her momentarily.
“Charlotte, my dear, we cannot live with ‘what if’s” in life, it would drive the best of us crazy,” Mrs. Nelson was a calm and soothing voice that Charlotte needed right now. “The good thing is that you didn’t contract anything and she actually did you a favor, so stop belly aching and get strong”. Mrs. Nelson sounded more motherly than she ever had, snapping Charlotte back to reality.
Dr. Johnson came in around 8am to wake Charlotte up and offer a bit of good news: what she didn't know is that John had been working around the clock to find a miracle for Charlotte’s late stage stomach cancer that was taking her life slowly each day.
"Hi Dr. Johnson, um I guess you're here to fire me?" Charlotte felt her gut tighten and anxiety build at the site of her department head, a man who had given her a chance to further her career and a man she had lied to. Now he knew her secret and she was sure he was going to fire her immediately.
"Fire you? Charlotte I understand why you didn't tell me and I admire your determination. No, I'm not going to fire you, but at the insistence of a very determined and convincing young man I have been researching all night and bugged...." Dr. Johnson paused to stare at John out of the corner of his eye; if looks could kill John would have been burned 1000 times over. Dr. Johnson continued with slight annoyance in his voice. Charlotte had always admired her boss for his light humor in a stressful situation. "But I may have found a treatment, still extremely experimental in stages, but it is open for participants and may lower the continued cancer progression." Charlotte was shocked and speechless. Not only did her boss care enough to save her but John once again became her hero.
The weeks had flown by so fast to Charlotte. Life seemed to sail smoothly by with John in her life. Charlotte had started her 30 days of extensive cancer treatment, a treatment that comprised of chemo, radiation and a new experimental shot that was sure to tire her out. Charlotte’s main goal was to fully the time she had now: who knew if in two months she would have any time left. Things with John had gone surprisingly well. In fact, he had begun to move his things in to her apartment, an apartment that was much less impressive than the apartment penthouse that he had hidden. Not that she blamed him, she actually admired him, he didn’t flash his money around and money to him brought bad childhood memories.
Two souls from money; but with rich hearts, full of love and caring. That was rare compared to the life they came from.
Charlotte had decided to make Ms. Nelson and John breakfast. John had taken over with Andrew, helping out tremendously and even taking him to school every day. In fact, Charlotte could see that Ms. Nelson felt a bit put out and Charlotte thought a nice pancake, egg and bacon breakfast would show her that they still cared and needed her as much as before. Charlotte sat with her coffee while the bacon finished, she loved her dysfunctional blended family and she wouldn’t ask for anything more. The door knock broke Charlotte out of her daydream. Ms. Nelson never knocked, who could it be?
As Charlotte opened the door she dropped her coffee and stood stunned. At her door were Alex and Victoria. Charlotte couldn’t breathe as she stared at the two people who killed her soul almost to the point of no healing-- that was of course, until John came into her life. Her anger mounting, Charlotte went to say something but Victoria stepped forward into her apartment and pulled Charlotte back with such force that she tripped and fell backwards. She scrambled to get back on her feet and screamed before Victoria covered her mouth. Alex stepped into the door way and methodically shut the door with a measured look on his face. A look that Charlotte knew brought physical pain. Just then, Charlotte knew she was going to die.
Alex stopped just short of Charlotte and Victoria. Hot tears streamed down Charlotte’s face. “What are you doing? Leave now before I call the police.”
Alex laughed as Victoria looked like she was enjoying the pain she was bringing. “Do you actually think I’m going to leave with you able to call the police? Really Charlotte, how dumb do you think I am?”
“What do you want? Take my phone. Take whatever you want, just please leave, now!”
“I don’t want your stupid phone, you dumb cunt, I’m here to make sure you don’t ever take my son from me again, I will get custody and you will not stand in my way, ever. It’s finally time you learn a lesson: not to cross me.” Alex backhanded Charlotte hard across the face and instantly blod began to run from Charlotte’s mouth. Her face throbbed as she was thrown from Victoria’s arms with the sheer force of Alex’s fist. Charlotte squinted as she scrambled to her feet in an attempted to grab her phone or anything near her that she could use as a weapon. As she took the few first steps Victoria grabbed the back of her hair and pulled her back, knocking her off her feet. Charlotte’s elbow hit the counter on the way down. She could see blood on her carpet near the entry way.
Charlotte lay with her head in Victoria’s lap staring up at her. Instead of her longtime friend all she saw was hatred and evil in her eyes. “Please, Victoria were friends, please don’t do this.” Victoria smiled as she leaned down to whisper in Charlotte’s ear… “Friends? No my dear were not friends, we’ve never been friends. Friends don’t betray each other. You took everything from me, now it’s payback. Alex is mine, Andrew was supposed to be my child not yours, you’re nothing but a fucking little selfish bitch that I’ve had to endure over the years while you stole my husband, friends and life. Payback is a bitch.”
“You’re sick, you’re truly sick Victoria, let me go!” Victoria clawed Charlottes face from the top of her left eye down to her right cheek. Charlotte hardly felt the scratches as her face was already throbbing and swollen.
Alex tied Charlotte’s feet together as Victoria took care of her arms. Charlotte tried to wiggle and squirm but she was too tired from her fight with them and her cancer treatments.
Exhausted, Charlotte begged for John to come home before he headed to work. John had told her that he had to run by Mr. Black’s house to pick up some final files for court on Thursday before heading in for his Monday full work day. He had been taking half days since Charlotte’s treatments started to help her. He took Andrew to school every morning and picked him up so Charlotte could rest and still work at the hospital part time.
Charlotte was bound and unable to move as Victoria started methodically torturing her. The evilness of her actions stunned Charlotte. This was not the Victoria she knew. No, this was Alex’s influence, Charlotte was almost sure. Charlotte felt dizzy and nauseated. She was weak and fought through the excruciating pain and was sure she was going to pass out. A pain she knew all too well from her years of marriage to Alex. A pain she thought she could escape. Maybe death, Charlotte thought, was the only true escape.
“Hmm, let me see what Alex saw in you, surely your body has to be somewhat impressive since he obviously didn’t marry you for your whit or brains. Victoria ripped Charlotte’s shirt open, breaking the buttons on her Burberry silk blouse. The blouse fell open to show Charlotte’s body, a body that unlike many woman her age, she kept under wraps by only showing it to John. With John Charlotte felt beautiful and he looked at her like a Goddess. Now, Charlotte was humiliated and embarrassed. Feeling inferior to her attackers, Charlotte felt defeated and overwhelmed.
“Stop fucking around and do it already, dammit.” Alex’s voice was fierce and commanding.
“You never let me have any fun.” Alex leaned down and gave Victoria a hot kiss before turning on Charlotte and mouthing the word “Mine.” Just then, something pierced Charlotte’s chest and everything went black.
Ms. Nelson’s heart stopped as she saw the apartment door open and blood on the floor. She ran through the house and called out to anyone there, looking for Charlotte. As she rounded the corner she saw Charlotte’s foot poking out of the bathroom door. She came to an abrupt stop when she saw John cradling her lifeless body, sobbing uncontrollably with his cell phone open and left unattended. Life flashed, all their happiness taken from them. She knelt next to John slowly, unsure of what to think and grabbed his phone. She looked at the text message that was open, a picture from an anonymous number. There was Charlotte naked and bound on the floor. Immediately, Ms. Nelson clicked over to the phone application and dialed 911 and she and John sat as tears fell uncontrollably. Ms. Nelson couldn’t believe what happened, who could do such a thing. Her rage mounted as one person came to mind and Ms. Nelson was done playing nice guy.
The doctor had just come in to speak with Ms. Nelson. She braced herself for the worst news. Deep in her heart she was hoping that Charlotte wasn’t truly dead, paramedics surprised them all with the discovery of a faint heartbeat, hope as Ms. Nelson called it. Hope that she would hold onto with her last breath.
They had to sedate John when he refused to calm down, not that she blamed him. He wasn’t family in the eyes of the law so he had no right to privatized information. The doctor also was being a bit of a pompous asshole, remembering his earlier interactions with Charlotte concerning his cancer treatments. John had bothered and bugged him for four days straight on finding a cure. Persistent one he was, though in this moment of agony he was more of a hindrance than a help.
“Ms. Nelson, we’ve gotten the bleeding to stop, however we are not out of the dark yet. The police were able to speak with us concerning the injuries Charlotte had sustained. It is a miracle she was alive. I know being personally attached to a patient is never a good thing, but as my best employee I wouldn’t trust her care with anyone else.”
“So she’s alive? When can I see her?” Ms. Nelson couldn’t hide her anxiety and excitedness at the news she had just gotten.
“I’m sorry but she’s not stable enough for guests yet, though I have set up and arranged a foldout sofa chair, our finest, for you in Mr. John Ranger’s room for comfort. Andrew can stay too. The police were able to pull DNA and fibers off Charlotte for testing, though I’m afraid these things take time and we won’t know anything, if anything at all, for some time.”
“Thank you very much Sir, though Andrew is with his father, and right now were unable to get him. That is another case all its own and were fearful for him, but Mr. Black is beginning the paperwork for that. If anything changes I’ll let you know right away.” Ms. Nelson fell silent. She was saddened and fearful for Andrew. She was sure that Alex, his mother and that dreadful slut were involved somehow in the attack on Charlotte. An attack that almost left a poor child alone in this world and now that monster had his hands on the boy and she was unable to help in anyway. Putting on a smile for show, Ms. Nelson followed Dr. Jacobs to the rooms.