chapter twenty two

My eyes hurt as the bright light threatened to seep through my closed eyelids. My body hurt all over, the soreness not even letting me think straight. Slowly, I inched my eyes open. I stared out into whiteness. White walls, sheets, floor, the works. I was in a hospital room. But why am I in a hos--oh God.

As if invoked, the events of the previous night came rushing towards the very front of my mind, sending my head reeling. Immobile, I recounted the previous day’s events; the morning, the early afternoon at Nick’s, the late afternoon and night at the beach. The horror of being assaulted, the fear of being hurt. Tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I started to fall into an unconscious sleep and the culmination of the night dawned on me: Raped.



“What do you need?”


“She’s alright, AJ,” Howie reassured his friend. “She’s in another room, she’ll be fine.” At least he hoped she’d be fine...

“...D, I...see..for myself...”

“J, you can barely speak right, what makes you think you can get up and walk around easily? You stay right there and get some rest; Cassie is perfectly fine.”

AJ sighed painfully. His body hurt. He could feel the bruises, both the ones that were visibly present and those yet to surface. He didn’t remember much of the attack yet, but the memories were coming. Despite Howie’s reassurance, he knew she wasn’t alright. He had to see for himslef, but no one would cooperate with him, no one would take him to her. She was hurt, he could feel it.

“Howie...I have to...”

“AJ, I’m not relenting. You need to stay here and heal. Look, I promise you I’ll check in on her and give you a full report. But you need your rest. Get some sleep, man, your mom will be in here soon.”

Those were the last words AJ heard before sleep finally claimed him.


Howie closed the door to AJ’s room and sighed. What had AJ done to deserve this? He was always so careful, able to defend himself in any situation. What had gone wrong? And why wouldn’t they let anyone see Cassie?

Howie walked over to the waiting room that stood in between both Cassie’s and AJ’s rooms and sat next to Keri, who had her head in her hands and was crying softly. He wrapped his arms around her and comforted her as best he could. Keri, grateful for his presence, asked him about their friend.

“How is he?”

“He’s bad, Ker. He really took a beating.”

“Thats awful. Any news on where or how the found them?”

Howie shook his head. “None yet. Denise is still at the front desk asking questions.”

“I hope we learn something soon. I’m desperate to know what happened to my sister. Why won’t they let me see her?”

“I don’t know, Keri, I wish I could tell you. AJ’s been asking to see her. The boy can’t even carry a conversation, but he wants to get up and walk to her.”

Keri sighed and turned her attention to the front desk, where Denise, AJ’s mother, was filling out papers. In one last attempt, Keri made her way to join Denise. As soon as she got there, the nurse behind the desk addressed her.

“Are you family of Ms. Cassandra Alvarez?”

“Thats what I’ve been telling you for the past two hours.” Keri replied, annoyed.

“We need to contact her mother.”

“Don’t bother,” Keri answered angrily. “I already have. Can I see my sister?”

“I’m afraid thats out of the question at the moment.”

“Out of the question? OUT OF THE QUESTION?!? You all seem to enjoy this stupid little game of yours, don’t you? Keeping us out here, worried as hell, not even tossing us a line to keep us stringing along!”

“Miss, I’m going to have to ask you to--”

“Save it!” Keri hollered. “I’ve had it with you!”


Keri turned at the sound of her mother’s voice. She was walking hurriedly towards her eldest daughter, distress and worry drawn clearly on her beautiful features. Charlie, Keri’s stepsister, was rushing right behind her.

“Mom.” Keri flung herself into her mother’s arms, crying freely.

“Keri, darling, what happened?”

“No one knows, mom,” Keri sobbed. “I ask questions, and they ignore me. I ask to see Cass, and the say its out of the question. They won’t tell me anything, mom!”

“Well, they better tell me what I want to hear,” she said, focusing her eyes on the nurse behind the counter. “Charlie, take your sister to the waiting room.”

Charlie led Keri back to the waiting room, where Howie was pacing back and forth nervously.

“Hi Howie,” Charlie said softly, hugging her friend. “How’s AJ?”

“He’s bad, Charlie. But at least we know he’ll pull through. Your sister, on the other hand...” He trailed off, holding his hands out hopelessly.

“I know,” she replied. “My mom’s at the desk asking questions.”

“I hope mom can get more done than I did,” Keri sniffled. “Those people sure made me feel useless.”

“You are not useless,” Howie scolded softly. “You were the one who called all of us in. You had to be more than strong to repeat that conversation more than once.”

“So where is everyone?” Charlie asked.

“They should eb on their way. I just got here, actually. Keri and Denise were already here when I arrived, I suspect the guys should be along soon.”

No sooner was that said than Charlie spotted Brian and Nick no less than running towards them. Both had equal looks of fear and worry on their faces, and both simultaneously asked their questions.

“Guys! GUYS!” Howie interrupted. “Chill for a second, ok?”

“But I need to know how--” Brian protested.

“AJ’s fine,” Howie started. “We don’t know about Cass just yet.”

“But what happened to them?” Nick demanded.

“They got assaulted last night.” Keri spoke up. Charlie, Brian and Nick turned their heads sharply toward her.

“They WHAT?” Nick exclaimed.

“They were assaulted,” Keri began again. “AJ got hurt really bad. Howie and Denise have seen him, only they won’t let anyone see Cassie. They won’t even fill us in on her condition! We don’t know anything about her condition.”

At that moment, the group spotted Cassie’s mother going into Cassie’s room. The five friends drew in sharp breaths, praying for good news when she came back out.

[chapter 21 | chapter index | chapter 23]