Three years later
You can do this.
One more step.
My body sways forward as my feet stop dead in their tracks. My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to be happy, healthy. The world was going to be my oyster!
Until it wasn’t.
Now, I’m this little nobody girl that can barely function. I have no friends. No family. Nothing but the UPS man that delivers my packages and the girl that delivers my groceries each week.
I’m the freak the entire block talks about. The stupid girl that can’t leave her house. The girl with no courage. The day I lost Lucas my entire life spiraled out of control. I couldn’t focus long enough to put one foot in front of the other.
When I lost my baby, I thought, for a fleeting moment, that my family would accept me again. I thought they would help me heal.
I was wrong. I’m always wrong. Everyone in my life I should have ever been able to count on has let me down.
And so, I’ve moved half way across the country from Rapid City, South Dakota to a busy, unexplored city. In fact, since arriving in Charleston, West Virginia I haven’t done anything outside of my home.
The shrink I speak to on the phone once a week says I’m borderline agoraphobic, and I need to try and push myself to step outside. Open the windows. Feel the sun on my skin. She cautions that the moment I step outside, I’ll be so overcome by such deep and intense emotion that I’ll have a panic attack, and that it’s okay. That I should embrace it until I can’t anymore.
She asked me to open the door today, take three steps back, and count to thirty before giving in to my need to lock myself inside once again. I’m standing within reach of the door handle, just one step closer and I could open it.
Except… I can’t.
I’m paralyzed by fear that when I open that door, that when I feel the breeze and the sun, I’ll feel Lucas. His loss. His tiny body in my arms. I’m terrified I won’t be able to climb back out of the depression I get swamped in.
“You can do this, Codie Ray. You have to do this.”
Solidified by hearing those words spoken out loud, I take that final step to the door. Unlocking the three deadbolts and the chain, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, turn the handle and pull.
One, two, three…
Heal. Recover. Trauma.
Three fucking words I’m so sick of that if I hear them said one more time I am going to go just as postal as my team thinks I’m headed.
I’m just fucking fine. What I need is to get back in the field. To have a purpose. I’m fucking sick to death of sitting on my ass and doing jack shit but workouts. It’s been nearly three years since my capture and subsequent torture, and two years since I was rescued by my team. I’d been left for dead in a cave deep in the desert. If not for some local tribe leader and his son coming upon my body and making a call to the United States government, I’d be dead for sure. Just like my captors wanted. The whole ordeal is nothing but pain and torment. I barely remember where we were, how often we moved, or what they wanted.
While the Syrians that took me knew how to put a man through his paces, they hadn’t broken me. That much I do know. It’s why my back, chest, and arms are covered in scars. They put China’s torture of a thousand cuts to shame.
I suffered a year in hell before my team found me then spent another year in rehab and psychiatric hell before I was released into the real world again. It took six months more before I was finally able to find my family in Loveland, Colorado. Hayes, my sister, found herself a good man, a fighter with a mean upper cut. Levi takes care of her, and that’s all I gave a shit about.
On my return home, she was pissed at me, though. Pissed that I left and led her to believe I was dead. That wasn’t quite my fault, however. But I get her anger. The night my parents were notified of my disappearance, my baby sister lost everything, too. Nearly, her life. Her Olympic dreams were crushed in a second.
She’ll never find out I paid those punk ass shits a visit, or that Foster had some fun explaining all the ways he could thread an explosive through their dicks.
After spending a few months at home with my family, I packed up to join my team in West Virginia. While we live a high-action career, we all like the sedate town of Charleston. It isn’t overly small, but it isn’t bustling like a major city either. We’re able to relax and unwind after a long mission.
Which brings me to today. I run…every day. Same time, same pace, same route. Being in my line of work, you’d think I wouldn’t, but the routine helps me shake off the demons chasing me. Lately, the past week or so, the girl next door—the one who never goes outside, whose windows are always closed, and I don’t think I’ve seen a visitor outside of delivery vehicles—has been sitting in her doorway.
She watches me. Even when she tries not to, I catch her. Her gaze follows me with an emotion I can’t quite identify. She always appears sad when I pass her house. I’m not even sure she knows that I’m her neighbor and not just some random guy from the block.
Feeling her gaze on me again has me wondering who she is. So, after a quick shower I run a search through the city’s housing database and find out her name is Codie Ray. She’s the only person listed on the mortgage. For twenty years old, I’m impressed. She owns her own home. Not many people her age can afford that.
Curiosity highly piqued, I do a few more searches on her. She pays for nearly everything to be delivered; lots of online shopping. No car listed with the DMV. Nothing obvious to show if she has a significant other or not, but from what I can tell, she doesn’t leave her home. Even her job, a merchant dealer online, she can do from home.
“I wonder what her damage is.”
There has to be something wrong with Codie. No twenty-year-old girl stays home as much as she does without reason. I’m tempted to hack into her medical files but figure that’s a hit on her privacy even I can’t take.
When I joined Task Force 779, I knew I was going to be violating a lot of laws, people’s privacy, and countless other scenarios. I knew there would be nothing left untouched when it came to our missions. It was my job to know everything, to make sure my team didn’t go in blind. Not researching everything there is to know about my mysterious neighbor is a punch to the gut.
She’s been here longer than I have from what I can tell, but until a week ago, I don’t ever remember seeing her. I’ve never paid this much attention before, either. But now that I know she’s here, I can’t stop thinking about her.
★ P R E - O R D E R ★
Apple | Kobo | Nook | Google | Amazon