At first, there had been plenty of information. He’d simply had to get on his computer and sift through the dozens of news stories from the weeks following her rescue. Things had not been easy for Livvie once she’d crossed the border. She had been the target of a controversy-starved media. They followed her every move, and her reluctance to speak with the press only made her a more attractive target.
Her beautiful face had lit up his computer screen, but all he had learned was that she refused to speak to anyone. She had looked sad, and his heart had ached because he’d known it was his fault. Then, after a few weeks of coverage, Livvie had seemingly disappeared.
Caleb had called the bank in Mexico and was informed the account he had set up was closed several months back. The person who’d closed the account had left no messages with the bank.
His next plan of attack had been to find Livvie through her family. Caleb knew the FBI would be keeping a close eye on Livvie and had decided to hire a private investigator online. Livvie’s family was gone and the private investigator he’d hired couldn’t provide him with any answers. Instead, the investigator had asked to meet in person, and Caleb had severed all communication.
He’d almost given up hope of finding her until he remembered she’d had a friend named Nicole. Caleb didn’t know the girl’s last name and he’d had to go about finding her himself. She was attending university in California. He’d followed her for weeks, but saw no signs of Livvie.
His break didn’t come until Nicole left her laptop unattended while she went off to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee with her friends. Caleb had simply walked past the table filled with belongings and snatched it up, along with other things of value he could grab in a few seconds. He wanted it to look like a general robbery.
Livvie had not been easy to find and at first he had been glad. However, as the months had passed, he’d become obsessed with knowing how she was. Nicole’s laptop stood the best chance of letting him know how Livvie had fared. He’d told himself he only wanted to make sure she was safe and happy, but in the back of his mind, he’d known the real reason he wanted to find her again.
“I’m yours! Isn’t that what you said? Isn’t it what you promised? What we swore!” she’d cried.
Back at his hotel, he’d opened the laptop with shaking fingers and a racing heart. At first, he’d thought it was yet another dead end, but then he realized Nicole had been trying to make contact with someone named Sophia, for quite some time. He followed the trail, opening each message Nicole had sent until at last, he arrived at an email from Sophia.
To: Nicole <whitefish4568@...>
From: Sophia <[email protected]..>
Subject: Re: Where the hell are you?
December 23, 2009
Hey girl, long time, no hear – I know. I’m sorry. Even as I write this, I know you have every right to hit the delete button, but I hope you’ll at least hear me out. It’s almost Christmas, and I’m lonely. I miss you. I miss my family (never thought I’d say that).
I’ve been wandering around Europe, seeing all the things most people won’t get to see in their entire lives. The truth? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The French are truly assholes. I wouldn’t suggest coming unless you speak fluent French, because they’re pretty crappy to tourists. For the city of love, it’s pretty damn lonely. I had to take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower and when I finally reached the top I realized I had no one to share the moment with me. I mean, it was crowded and people were pushing, but the view was truly gorgeous, but alone, it’s just another tall building. Someone stole my wallet and I didn’t notice until I tried to get something from the gift shop.
England is super expensive. Did you know it’s like two dollars to every pound?!? I didn’t stay there long. The money I have is great, but it won’t last forever if I don’t take care of how I spend it. The one great thing about England is the people are much nicer, but the men remind me a little too much of you know who. The accent makes me want to cry.
I miss him, Nick. I know it’s stupid, but I do. I think it’s why I couldn’t talk to anyone after I left the hospital. I didn’t think you’d understand. It’s not that I don’t trust you – I do. It’s just that I love him and everyone else hates him and I can’t deal with it.
Someday, I’ll be ready. Someday, I’ll stop loving him and seeing him everywhere I go. I’ll stop hearing his voice in my head and dreaming of his kisses every night. Someday, I’ll be able to see things the way I should and I’ll hate him for everything he put me through – but not today. Not tomorrow.
You’re angry with me and believe me, I get it. I would be pissed if you decided to fall off the edge of the earth and not reply to my messages, but I needed time. I still need time. If you’re not there for me when I’m through this, I’ll understand. Just know, I love you and I never wanted things to be this way between us. If I don’t hear from you, have a Merry Christmas.
Caleb searched the rest of the messages, but didn’t find any dated after Livvie’s email. Apparently, Nicole had moved on, and Livvie had let her. Perhaps, Caleb thought, he should do the same with Livvie, but his heart had been claimed. He needed to know if she still loved him, or if he’d been right and everything she had felt for him had been based on her need to survive.
He’d agonized over whether or not he should seek her out. He knew her answer could destroy him, but he needed to know. He needed to know if she suffered without him, as much as he suffered without her. If she loved him, he wanted to spend the rest of his life trying to be worthy of her. If she didn’t, he could at least take solace in knowing he’d made the right decision in setting her free.
Caleb looked at the girl sitting outside the café. Did he even know her anymore? Could she sense her life as she knew it hanging precariously in the balance? Could she feel his eyes on her? Did she have a sixth sense for monsters? The thought made him sad.
He’d been here before. He’d done this, before. He shouldn’t be watching her. He shouldn’t be contemplating thrusting himself back into her life. He still had work to do, women to free from the slavery he had subjected them to live through.
He looked at the girl one last time.
I love you, Livvie.
He put the key in the ignition and drove away.
Day 392: Madrid, Spain
It’s just a feeling, but I’ve been having it for a while. Someone’s been watching me. I’ve been in touch with Reed and he’s dutifully put out some feelers to find out if I might be in danger. He’s supposed to meet me in a few days, under the guise of following a counterfeiting case. In the meantime, he wants me to behave normally. He doesn’t want whoever’s following me to know I’m on to them.
Reed says he’s heard reports of someone targeting Rafiq’s known associates. Rafiq has been missing for over a year and his government is none too happy about it. They think the FBI has something to do with his disappearance. Of course, they can’t prove it. Reed doesn’t seem too bent out of shape about it though. The culprit is apparently some sort of vigilante. He’s freed eighteen women from sexual slavery.
When I first heard the news, I immediately thought it might be Caleb and my heart felt like someone had squeezed it in their fist. Reed didn’t say it, but I thought he might suspect it was Caleb, too. It was in the way he asked me if I had any idea who might be responsible, or if anyone had been in touch with me.
“James Cole is dead,” I had whispered.
“Yes,” Reed replied, “I hope he has enough sense to stay that way.”
I want to agree with Reed, but in my heart, I know what I really want. I want it to be Caleb. I want to know he’s alive. I want to know he’s out there trying to correct some of his mistakes. More than anything, I want to see Caleb again.
I’d contemplated killing myself early on, but then I’d hear Caleb’s voice in my ear, telling me to survive, that it was the coward’s way out. So, I’d taken the money Caleb had left for me and decided to see the parts of the world I’d heard so much about and thought I’d never lay eyes on.
The last year has been a whirlwind. I’ve lost so much and only now have I started to get some of it back. To date, I’ve seen four of the seven wonders, and I have plans to see the pyramids before the year is out. I have a job, working as a waitress at an Applebee’s of all places. Who comes to Barcelona to eat at an Applebee’s? I don’t care though, it’s work and it pays for my classes at European University Barcelona, where I’m studying creative writing.
I don’t like to rely on Caleb’s money, so I have a financial advisor who invests it for me and looks after my affairs. Each month, I receive a generous stipend to supplement my income from working as a waitress.
Things were really hard at first, but it continues to get easier if I take my life and break it up into small increments. I wake up, take a shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, and go to work. I meet people and I’ve even managed to make some friends. I met Claudia and Rubio in line for a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Claudia had been dressed as Colombia, and her boyfriend as Riff Raff. I didn’t dress up.
They’re great friends. They don’t ask me questions about my past and I don’t offer any information. Mostly, we like to hang out after work and drink pitchers of sangria outside El Gallo Negro. They serve the best chicken/seafood paella I’ve found anywhere. After we get good and sauced, we usually go see the latest movie or go back to my place and play Rock Band on my PlayStation.
My friends may not ask about my past, but they’re always interested in my present and future. They often try to set me up with their other friends, but I firmly resist. It isn’t that I don’t want a boyfriend, I do, but I’m not ready.
Caleb still fills my dreams and stars in each and every one of my fantasies. I still have the picture Reed gave me, and so, I can still imagine his face with perfect clarity as I touch myself. Sometimes soft and slow, reaching for climax like one stretches after a good nap. Sometimes, I like it fast and rough. I pinch my nipples hard and rub my clit while I push my fingers deep inside my pussy and play Caleb’s words in my head.
“Is that good, Pet?” he asks.
“Yes, Caleb,” I answer.
I never mention Caleb to Claudia or Rubio. My memories and fantasies are my own business, but I think Claudia can tell whenever I miss Caleb. She smiles and reaches for my hand. She reminds me I don’t have to be lonely.
I’ve been thinking about Caleb more frequently in recent months. Ever since I thought I felt his eyes on me one day outside of a café in Germany. I’d been sitting outside, typing on my laptop. Then again, I’d been writing about him.
I’ve been writing our story for over a year, every detail I can remember. I know I’m not supposed to talk about what happened with the public, but it’s occurred to me how many people want to hear my story. Why shouldn’t I be able to tell it? I’m not a complete idiot. I’ve changed all the names and locations. I’ve decided to market the book as fiction. And of course, I have a pseudonym. The important thing for me is people read it and perhaps understand why I’m still in love with the man who kept me prisoner.
I know all about James Cole. Reed can be a dick, but his heart is usually in the right place. He told me as much as he could. I’ve deduced the rest. At first, I felt gutted by everything I had learned. I had called Caleb a monster, but he’d only been doing the things he’d been taught to do.
I often think about the day he’d walked into the room, covered in dirt, smeared with blood, and devastated by whatever he’d done to get that way. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind he’d killed Rafiq. I just wish he’d known his tears had been wasted. I wonder if the reason Caleb pushed me away was because he felt guilty over what he’d done to Rafiq to save me. Perhaps, if he’d known what a true monster Rafiq was, he’d have taken me with him instead of throwing me out of his life. Then again, maybe not.