Rosalie blinked back tears as she packed her backpack. In her haste, books were spilling out over her bed, some landing on the floor. She took a breath and leant down, shovelling the heavy objects into her backpack. Now was not the best time to have a group assignment due the next day, there were dark circles under her puffy eyes and she was sure that her make-up was a mess, her dark brown waves caught up in tangles on the top of her head.
‘Sadie should be here soon honey- what’s wrong?’ He mother appeared in the doorway, a concerned look on her face, which was framed by similar dark brown hair to Rosalie’s.
‘Nothing Mom,’ Rosalie lied, slinging her backpack over her shoulder at the distant sound of the doorbell.
‘Did you and Christopher have a fight?’ Her mother queried but her daughter ignored her question, pressing a kiss to her cheek and walking past her.
‘Remember to be home by seven!’ Rosalie heard her mother call after her.
Rosalie passed her little sisters room, stopping for a moment to peer past the open door. Mackenzie was on the floor, dolls in her hands as she spoke incoherently to them. The four year old must have heard her sister as she looked up and smiled a big toothy grin at Rosalie before focusing her valuable attention on the dolls that resided in her tiny hands.
Rosalie ran down the stairs and opened the door, but behind it was not her blonde best friend like she was expecting, but her boyfriend. Well, as of that morning, Ex-Boyfriend.
Chris’s tall stature was an intimidating presence and she refrained from opening the door more than she had to, half her body still protected by the wood, separating her from the clearly upset boy. His eyes looked tried and his face was strained.
‘What are you doing here Chris? I told you I didn’t want to see you anymore,’ she said harshly, the tears were well gone from her eyes and the anger and betrayal from that morning was starting to pool once more in the bottom of her stomach.
‘Why are you doing this Rosy? Let me in and we can talk,’ Christopher said, smiling a completely fake smile at her. His eyes were teary, and his words were desperate.
‘No Chris, I am done, we,’ she gestured between them, ‘are done.’ She was proud of the force that she was able to put behind her words. She knew that it wouldn’t last long but she had a defiance in her at that moment. Christopher wasn’t allowed to treat her like he had. She was taking charge.
Christopher’s face hardened at her words, ‘We aren’t done until I say we are done.’
His words and the severity of his tone sent shivers up Rosalie’s spine and she was half expecting him to smile after a few seconds and tell her that he was sorry, but it didn’t come, his expression stayed tense and angry.
Rosalie could barely recognise the boy she had been dating for over a year. When she had first met Christopher they were both starting their sophomore year and Christopher had been a shy guy. He wore only dark clothes and his black hair was grown out and covered his eyes whenever there was a light breeze. The boy was tall and thin, seemingly blending into the crowd. He was quiet, anti-social, and distant from the other students but Rosalie couldn’t stand to see someone in distress. Recognizing his need for friends, the brunette had practically skipped over to the boy, a huge smile on her face and asked him if he wanted to sit with her and her friends at lunch. As they say, the rest is history.
Now that shy boy had changed. Not only was his hair shorter but he had finally grown into that lanky body of his, some muscles forming under his dark shirt. He had a troubled life, a junkie dad and the only reason that he was attending school in Jacksonville, Arkansas, AKA, the middle of nowhere, where his grandmother lived. Rosalie had helped her boyfriend overcome the demons of his past, but now, looking into the angry, fiery eyes of Christopher, she couldn’t help but wonder whether she really was as much help as she had thought.
‘I need space Christopher, please,’ she said, gently, wanting to calm the monster she could see rising in front of her.
Christopher’s anger problems were known, but they were never bad around Rosalie, still, she didn’t like to take the chance.
‘I love you Rosy, you love me too, I know it, just let me in and we can talk about this.’ His words, if spoken softly and gently would have inspired some positive emotions in Rosalie, but the words were spoken with a finality and harshness that scared her to the core. This was a dark side of the boy she once loved, of the boy she had trusted up until that morning.
He took her silence as permission and tried to walk past her into the house. Rosalie was much shorter and lighter than him, so knowing her own weight wouldn’t stop him, she tried to close the door. Christopher saw the action immediately, grabbing her wrist in an effort to stop her. Rosalie cried out, pain spreading through her arm.
‘You are not allowed to break up with me.’ The words were whispered in her ear, the low, dark sound of his voice making her blood freeze in her veins as her body froze in fear. He pressed an ice cold kiss to her cheek and when she tried to recoil from his touch, he only tightened his grip on her arm.
He slowly pulled away, his hand staying put on her arm, and his expression was unlike any other she had seen him wear. Rosalie felt a single tear fall down her cheek. She wasn’t sure if the tear was from the pain in her forearm or the pain in her heart at seeing Christopher like this.
He opened his mouth again to speak, but a car horn sounded, causing him to let go of her arm.
‘You coming Rose!?’ was yelled out of the car and Christopher gave Rosalie a dark smile before turning on his heels and walking away.
Rosalie stood still in shock, blood dripping down her arm, where his nails had dug into her skin. She could feel her body start to shake from the shock of it all and she tried to steady herself as her eyes followed the drops of blood as they made their way to the floor with a silent splash.
‘Rose?’ the sound made her jump and drew her eyes up to Sadie, her best friend, who she had assumed, must have gotten out of her car since she hadn’t made any effort to move from the doorway.
‘Rose? What happened?’ The blonde grabbed Rosalie’s fragile wrist gently, but Rosalie yanked it out of her grasp.
‘Nothing, I don’t want to talk about it,’ she said, fixing the strap on her backpack and closing the door behind her.
‘This isn’t nothing,’ Sadie accused, worry dripping from her words. ‘Rose, what happened?’
Rosalie shrugged it off, ‘Come on let’s go,’ she told Sadie. ‘I’m fine.’
It was seven-thirty and Rosalie was freaking out, her parents were always strict on her, being the eldest child. Sadie was being no help, refusing to go above the speed limit, causing her best friend to ignore her for all of three seconds. Rosalie tapped her fingers anxiously against her leg as Sadie hummed to the song on the radio next to her. She imagined the disappointed look her mother was going to give her the second she walked past the door and sighed.
Finally they pulled up to her house. Sadie pulled into the drive way, turning to look at her best friend.
‘What happened today? One minute you and Christopher were all lovey-dovey and then you were crying, and this afternoon, your arm, did he do that?’
Rosalie didn’t want to worry her friend too much, so she shrugged, ‘He cheated, Benjamin caught him yesterday and told me this morning. He was just a little upset this afternoon.’
Rosalie knew that she was understating, but she knew that Christopher was just hurt and over time he would be fine. If Sadie knew that Christopher had hurt her, then she would have gotten Parker, Deon and Benjamin to beat him up or something, and Rosalie didn’t want to be responsible for something like that.
‘Did he hurt you?’ Sadie asked gently, her eyes trailing the red marks and small cuts on her friends arm.
‘No, it was an accident.’
‘Ok,’ Sadie nodded hesitantly.
‘I’ll see you at school tomorrow.’ Rosalie forced a smile and got out of the car. The cold breeze seemed to be going straight to her bones and she tugged her dark jacket around her. Rosalie waved Sadie goodbye before going into the house.
She noticed, even though it was dark out, that her father hadn’t turned on the outside lights like he usually would for her. It was strange. The house was usually quiet, there were no sounds of her parents talking or the television being on. Her parents were loud people, always a television blasting or the radio turned up while they cooked together. The house being quiet at this time of night was not usual for them.
Rosalie reached into her pocket for her key before realising that it wasn’t needed, the front door was slightly ajar.
Her golden retriever was known to wonder, so the front door was never let open. She pushed open the door slowly, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling in her stomach and the way her hands quivered slightly with the fear and adrenaline surging through her veins.
She tried to calm herself, opening the door to her two story house slowly, revealing the open planned living room. She placed her back pack at the door and took a few steps into the house. The lighting was dimmed and she could make out most of the room. She took a breath, seeing nothing disturbing, that was until her eyes travelled to the ground.
The hard wood floors looked to be normal, save for the strip of darkened blood which looked like something or someone had been dragged.
Rosalie followed the blood silently, noticing it lead to the storage cupboard. She looked at the doorknob, her hand ghosting over it for a few seconds before grabbing hold of it and turning the knob slowly.
It opened to reveal the small darkened room and when she turned on the light she had to muffle a scream with her hand. Her golden retriever lay still on the ground, blood spilling out of the now dead animal.
She was terrified now, she knew that something terrible was going on. Her mother, father and sister were somewhere in this house, possibly with an intruder. She knew that the smart thing to do would be to run away from the house as fast as she could but there was no way that she was going to leave. Mackenzie was inside these walls somewhere and she couldn’t forgive herself if something happened to the little girl.
She grabbed her phone from her back pocket, texting Sadie.
‘Intruder in my house – Call the police’
She didn’t have time to call them herself, she had to find her family. Walking through the dimly lit family room she stepped quietly, slowly keeping a watch on her surroundings. She could hear muffled voices, seemingly coming from the kitchen. The words were too low to make sense, but then someone screamed and Rosalie feared that it was her mother.
She walked to the edge of the kitchen doorway, poking her head around the corner. She could see a man dressed in black with his back to her, his hooded jacket disturbing any view of him she might have had. Next to him was her mother, red faced and crying, a gun pointed to her head. Her father was standing next to her mother and from the look of it, they were holding hands.
Her father saw her from the corner of her eye and hurried to cover up his frightened look before the man could see it. Rosalie’s heart pounded through her chest and she shook with fear. She stepped back into the hallway, gently banging her head against the wall and covered her mouth with her hand, trying not to let the sobs escape her mouth.
The voices were clearer now.
‘We don’t know where she is,’ her father said and from the frustration in his voice it wasn’t the first time that the question had been asked.
‘You do know! You are her parents!’
‘She isn’t coming home tonight,’ her mother cried out. ‘She’s staying at a friend’s house.’
‘That’s a blatant lie. Don’t you dare lie to me again. WHERE IS ROSY!’ he man screamed and she knew that voice.
Rosalie tried to comprehend what was happening, that her ex was holding a gun to her parents heads. Christopher was the one under that hood. The man that she had loved was the one threatening to end her parent’s life in a bloodbath.
Her phone buzzed in her pocked and Rosalie’s heart fell to the floor.
Suddenly a deep laugh sounded, ‘I see you’ve made your way home Rosy.’ Christopher’s voice crept into her ears and she shook at the amusement in his tone.
Knowing that she was already made, Rosalie stepped into the kitchen hesitantly. She looked around, but didn’t see any sign of her sister. She hoped to God that Christopher hadn’t done something to the little girl.
‘Run Rose!’ Her mother screamed desperately and Christopher took the safety off the gun, silencing her mother.
‘C-Chris, what are you doing? Pleas-‘ Rosalie chocked out.
‘SHUT UP!’ He screamed, placing a hand on his head, as if her words were messing with his brain.
‘You can’t do this, please Chris,’ she begged. She needed him to listen.
‘Why did you end it Rosy? We could have had it all! We were so happy.’
‘We can be happy again.’ Rosalie realised that she might have to lie her way out of this, ‘I still love you Chris!’
‘LIAR!’ Christopher screamed before pulling the trigger. The sound of the bullet leaving the chamber echoed through Rosalie’s mind as she screamed as loud as she could. Her father clutched at his chest, causing her mother to scream as her father slid onto the floor with wide eyes.
‘DAD!’ Rosalie cried as she ran the few steps towards her father, kneeling down beside him. She didn’t care that the gun was now pointed at her. She shook him but he didn’t move. His eyes closed and then his chest stopped rising and falling. Her father’s blood covered her jacket as she held onto him, willing her father to breathe again.
Her mother was still standing, shock overcoming her body.
‘Look what you made me do!’ Christopher screamed, tears running down his face as he placed the gun to her mother’s head.
Rosalie let go of her father and stood slowly, ‘Let her go, please, please Chris.’
Christopher suddenly stopped crying and in his eyes grew that fire and anger that Rosalie had only seen once before, when he had hurt her arm.
‘If I can’t have you, then no-body can have you,’ he said, pulling the trigger.
For a second Rosalie could only stand there, still and unmoving. Her mother’s limp body fell to the ground with a thump. They’re gone was all that Rosalie could think. Her mother and father were gone and that knowledge hit her like a bullet to her own chest. She covered her mouth with her hands as she stared at her parent’s bodies lying haphazardly on the floor.
She only had Mackenzie left.
Rosalie turned and bolted from the room, the hard footsteps of Christopher following her. She ran up the steps, almost tripping a few times but managing to steady herself.
‘MACK!’ she called out as she ran to her sister’s room, hoping with all she had that her little sister was alive. If she wasn’t then she would let Christopher kill her, she wouldn’t care then.
‘Rose?’ A frightened voice came from the closet and Rosalie opened it up to reveal her four year old sister, standing there with a doll in her clutches.
‘I had forgotten about this one.’ His low, dark, velvety voice came from the doorway, causing Rosalie to look at her Ex. Rosalie pushed her sister behind her, protecting her with her own body.
‘Don’t you dare hurt her!’ She screamed, a sudden burst of defiance running through her veins.
‘What about me!’ he screamed back. ‘How dare you hurt me! I loved you! I loved you with all I had and then you-’
The tell-tale sound of a bullet leaving the barrel sounded and Mackenzie screamed, hugging her sister’s legs tighter.
Rosalie looked at her stomach, blood covered her jacket and she wondered how she felt no pain. She had been shot hadn’t she? Where was the pain?
Her eyes raised to see Christopher on the ground, blood pouring through his left shoulder as he groaned. A man with a police uniform on stood above him. Other uniformed cops came into the room, one of them saying something about a coroner and a medic.
‘Are you alright?’ Someone said, but from then on her senses dulled and she felt the need to sit down and run all at the same time.
Instead of trying to work out her surroundings, she turned around and picked up her sister, cradling her tightly in her arms as the young girl cried and screamed, her tiny arms wrapping around her big sister.
She didn’t remember much after that, but the one thing that she did remember was what Christopher said as they were walking him out of the room.
‘If I can’t have you, then nobody can.’
Just Over A Year Later
Rosalie was awoken suddenly, a hand grasping at her wrist. As a reflex the girl shot up, searching her dimly lit room for any danger, but all she saw was the face of her five year old sister. Mackenzie had suffered nightmares since that night and regularly snuck into bed with her sister, but even then, Rosalie never felt comfortable with people grabbing her wrists when she wasn’t expecting it, the memory of that day always coming to the forefront of her mind.
‘Mack, you scared me.’ Rosalie rubbed her eyes.
‘Sorry.’ The little girl looked down at her feet, dark waves falling over her the shoulders of her bright pink pyjamas. Rosalie moved over on the bed, patting the space next to her. Mackenzie saw the movement and smiled slightly, moving to the spot.
‘What are we going to do tomorrow, Rose?’ Mackenzie asked her sister, clinging gently to her side.
‘How about we go to the park with the puppy?’ Rosalie asked, knowing that her sister would love to spend the day with the dog that she had gotten for her fifth birthday.
‘Will Ben be there?’ Mackenzie asked quietly.
‘Do you want Ben to come?’
‘Yes,’ The girl said and Rosalie was pleased at how much her sister approved of her boyfriend. After the death of their parents, Mackenzie had become quiet and reserved, after she saw a children’s therapist things had gotten better and Mackenzie had gotten mostly back to her old self, but she still had a deep distrust for people, often hiding behind her sister when meeting new people and sometimes even with people that she had known, all that was needed was some reminder of Christopher, a black hood or a gun, fake or real, that would send her into a fit of tears.
Benjamin seemed to get along great with Mackenzie and he was one of the few people she trusted.
Benjamin had been friends with Rosalie for years, but they had gotten closer after the death of her parents. Christopher and Benjamin had been best friends, and Benjamin had been devastated by what had happened, leading him and Rosalie to find comfort in each other.
It had taken Rosalie a long time to be able to trust anyone, let alone another boyfriend, but Benjamin was nothing like Christopher. He had never shown any anger, towards her or anyone else, and he understood her situation always accommodating Mackenzie into whatever they did.
Rosalie and Mackenzie had moved in with the only relative they had left, their Aunt Lani, who thankfully lived in Jacksonville as well. Their Aunt had never had kids, so she had no idea what to do with Mackenzie, leaving Rosalie to care for her sister. Rosalie had become her sister’s unofficial mother, and she didn’t mind, she would do anything for her sister.
‘Close your eyes Mack,’ Rosalie told the girl next to her, but the little girls eyes stayed open in defiance.
‘I don’t want to,’ she shook her head, brunette strands flying around at the force of it.
‘Why not?’ Rosalie asked gently.
‘I have bad dreams.’
Rosalie wrapped her arms around Mackenzie and held her close, trying to comfort the young girl.
‘I do too Mack, I do too.’
Rosalie had just gotten dressed, jeans and a black jacket covering her thin frame as she walked down the stairs of her aunt’s home, only to be ambushed at the last stair.
‘Don’t forget to take some water!’ Lani handed a bottle to her, appearing out of nowhere.
‘Rose! Rose! Aunt Lani let me wear my new dress!’ Mackenzie was twirling around, the bright blue dress fanning out as she did.
‘Thanks Aunt Lani.’ Rosalie put the water into her backpack.
‘I have work, see you guys tonight!’ Her aunt grabbed her handbag and went, kissing Mackenzie on the head as she passed the twirling girl.
‘You’re going to get dizzy and hurt yourself,’ Rosalie warned. Mackenzie opened her mouth with a retort ready, but she was suddenly falling. Rosalie’s hand shot out, catching the girl just before she hit the floor. Mackenzie smiled apologetically at her sister, who just gave her an I-told-you-so look.
‘Don’t you love my dress?’ Mackenzie smiled, her hands caressing the colourful fabric.
Rosalie bent down to her sister’s level, ‘It is beautiful but we are going to the park, you will get it dirty.’
Realising what she was saying, Mackenzie’s smile turned into a pout, ‘But Aunt Lani said..’
‘I know Mack, but do you trust me?’
The little girl huffed, ‘Yes.’
‘You will get it dirty, I’ve laid out some jeans and a blue shirt on your bed, how about you go get changed into that.’
The little girl’s pout remained as she stomped up the stairs at her sister’s request.
Rosalie whistled and a small Labrador puppy came running towards her, stopping at her feet, tongue half falling out of its mouth as it jumped up and down in excitement. She attached a leash to the dog’s collar and waited for her sister to join them.
Mackenzie came running down the stairs within a few minutes, dressed in the clothes Rosalie had set out for her.
‘Yes Mom!’ Mackenzie smiled, running towards the door.
For a few seconds Rosalie stood still, shocked at the notion of her sister calling her ‘Mom’, but when the puppy pulled on the lead, anxious to get closer to Mackenzie, Rosalie opened the door, leading her sister and dog to the car.
When they arrived at the park Benjamin and Deon were already there, standing next to a table near the playground. The area they were in was all fenced off, so Rosalie let the puppy off of the leash, seeing as there were no other dogs in the park.
Mackenzie pulled on her hand, a smile on her face as she tried to get to Benjamin quicker. Rosalie let go of her hand as they approached the table, and Mackenzie ran towards Benjamin.
‘Mack!’ Ben laughed, picking her up for a hug.
Mackenzie was the only one who could get away with calling Benjamin ‘Benny’.
He placed her on the ground, ‘Look how tall you are getting!’ he cooed.
‘I will be taller than you some day!’ Mackenzie said happily, making Benjamin and Deon laugh.
‘What’s up little lady?’ Deon ruffled Mackenzie’s hair fondly, making the girl laugh.
‘The sky,’ Mackenzie said proudly and Deon laughed, giving her a hi-five for her joke.
‘Can I go play?’ Mackenzie asked her sister.
‘Go have fun.’
Mackenzie didn’t need telling twice, seeing no other people in the park, she ran towards the playground.
‘Hey Babe,’ Benjamin smiled fondly at his girlfriend, gently bringing her in for a kiss.
‘Hey Ben, Hey Deon,’ she greeted the man next to Benjamin who grinned at her.
They all sat down at the table and Rosalie couldn’t help but admire her boyfriend. Benjamin had a thin body, but it suited him. His shaggy hair was almost blonde in the right light and his bright eyes were like endless pools of deep blue.
The man sitting opposite them was handsome as well, his dark skin covered some serious muscles. His hair was short and it made him look older than his eighteen years.
They had just finished high school and Rosalie knew that she had to cherish days like this, knowing that most of her friends would be going off to college in the fall, leaving Mackenzie and her in their small town.
The day was beautiful and the sun shone through the clouds, lightly bathing Rosalie in its gently light. Looking around she saw Mackenzie and her dog, of which Mackenzie had named Snowy, playing in the playground.
‘So I broke it off then and there.’
‘You broke up with another girl?’ Rosalie laughed, realising that she was missing another one of Deon’s break-up stories, Deon went through girls faster than Mackenzie’s shoe size changed, and that seemed to be every other week at the moment.
‘She was “annoying and too loud” apparently,’ Benjamin mocked Deon’s endless reasons for breaking up with people.
‘That’s a real reason,’ Deon defended himself.
‘Yeah, your reasons are always so solid, remember the time you broke up with Lindsay because she, and I quote, ‘she thought that terminator two was better than the original’.’
Benjamin laughed, ‘Or the time you broke up with Claire because "she owned a black cat".’
‘Hey! Black cats are bad luck and terminator two? Was she crazy? I think so.’
Rosalie and Benjamin laughed so hard that they didn’t hear the people coming up behind them.
‘Are we missing all the fun? It looks like your teasing Deon, let me join, have you seen his tattoo, it’s a tribal tattoo, so outdated.’
‘That’s just mean!’ Deon pretended to sulk at Parker's comments as Parker and Sadie sat down.
‘Deon broke up with ANOTHER girl,’ Rosalie informed her friends who laughed.
‘Was her hair "too many different colours" again?’ Sadie teased. Her blonde hair flying around her in the breeze. Rosalie wondered if she was cold, her short skirt could pass for underwear, but she wasn’t judging, Sadie was her best friend.
‘Nah, I bet she tried to make him watch the notebook,’ Parked laughed.
‘Okay, enough about me!’ Deon threw his hands up in submission.
A cute guy walked past them at that moment, sending a wink in Sadie’s direction. The girl was no newcomer to being the center of attention, so she smiled and winked back. The second he was out of earshot she nodded, ‘I’d hit that.’
‘I’d hit that too,’ Parker smirked.
‘I’d hit you,’ Deon laughed at Parker.
‘I am going to take that as a compliment,’ Parker laughed.
‘No, I mean I am going to hit you. You have a boyfriend.’
‘I can still look!’ Parker defended.
‘Come on Rose! Your dating Ben and you’d hit that right?’ Sadie turned the attention to Rosalie.
‘Yeah Rose, would you?’ Benjamin teased, nudging his girlfriend.
‘Yeah he was hot, I would,’ Rosalie smirked, kissing the pouty look of off her boyfriend’s lips.
‘Mom! Mom! Look!’ The voice was familiar but the words were unknown. The group at the table turned around to see Mackenzie, who was standing next to Snowy.
‘Look!’ she said, doing some action that seemed confusing to the dog who just sat there watching his owner with curiosity.
‘See! I am teaching him to ‘stay’!’ the girl said happily and Rosalie smiled.
‘Good Job Mack.’
Mackenzie seemed content with that, running away again, the snowy white dog right on her heels.
The whole table seemed to be looking at Rosalie, ‘What?’ she said.
‘Was it just me,’ Benjamin started, ‘Or did Mackenzie just call you Mom?’
‘I’ve never heard her call you mom before,’ Sadie said, confusion in her tone.
Rosalie shrugged, ‘Eh, she did it this morning too, I don’t know what it means.’
‘You have been a mother to her for the past year, you can’t blame her for calling it how she sees it.’ Parker commented, pushing his dark hair away from his face.
‘What if she doesn’t remember our Mom? Should I have shown her more photos?’ Rosalie started freaking out a little bit, she wasn’t Mackenzie’s mother, she needed to know that Mackenzie remembered their parents.
‘Shh,’ Benjamin put an arm around her shoulders, ‘You are doing a great job at raising her.’
‘You are the best sister she could ask for,’ Deon grabbed her arm comfortingly, but the movement shocked Rosalie and the flashback to the doorway a year ago echoed through her mind within a millisecond, causing her to yelp and back out of both mens holds.
‘Shit Rose, I’m sorry,’ Deon apologized.
‘It’s ok,’ Rosalie said shakily, ‘I think I’m going to go on a walk, can you guys watch Mackenzie for me?’
She looked into Benjamin’s eyes as she asked, and even though they all said yes because it was Benjamin’s yes that gave her the most piece of mind.
‘I’ll be right back,’ she called out to her sister, who nodded absentmindedly, her eyes not leaving her dog.
Rosalie took a walk around the park, venturing further out into the wooded area. She knew that the only person who would hurt her was locked up in a mental institution in a whole other state, yet every time she closed her eyes, every time someone touched her wrist, she saw the face of a boy. The boy wasn’t wielding a gun or a knife, he wasn’t out to get her, he was gone. He was so happy and innocent back then, yes he had a bad childhood, but they were so happy, weren’t they? She remembered movies where he held her hand so nervously that the sweat on his palm gave him no grip at all. She remembered when he first kissed her, how red his cheeks had gotten and how surprised he was when she kissed him back with more fierceness and passion then he had ever seen her display. She remembered the dead look in his eyes when she broke it off and finally she remembered the moment she watched him kill her parents, the moment she saw him raise the gun towards her mother’s head and pull the trigger.
She remembered it in sequence, which is what made it harder, the loss so much more profound and made the guilt weigh more profoundly on her already broken heart. She lost her parents and her boyfriend that day, but she had Mackenzie and she had Benjamin and her friends.
Benjamin wasn’t the love of her life, but after Christopher, she wondered whether she was really meant for love, someone as broken as her. Realising that she had been walking for quite some time she made her way back to the park.
From the distance she could see her friends at the table, laughing about something. The sight caused her to smile. As she got closer she noticed that she couldn’t see Mackenzie in the playground. Opening the gate, she walked past her friends table to stand closer to the playground, fear surging through her veins.
She whistled and saw Snowy, but the dog was on the other side of the fence.
‘What is it?’ Sadie asked.
‘Where is Mackenzie!?’ Rosalie asked, fear leaking into her voice at the question which was aimed at Benjamin.
‘What?’ they all looked around, no-one seeing the brunette child.
‘There’s Snowy!’ Parker pointed, but Rosalie was already walking towards that side, opening the gate before running to where Snowy was.
Within seconds her friends were with her, and Rosalie picked up the tiny dog.
‘Mackenzie!’ She called out, but the girl was no-where to be seen. This side was thick forest, trees and shrubs covering the terrain.
‘Spread out! Deon and Sadie go that way, Parker go that way, Rose, you can come with me,’ Benjamin told everyone where to go and they all set off, calling out for the girl.
After a minute or two Rosalie remembered that there was a small lake around where they were, ‘Mackenzie loves to feed the ducks at the lake!’ she told Benjamin who followed her.
Soon enough they reached the lake, the murky water was unnerving and she peered down at the liquid.
‘Mackenzie!’ she called out, hoping that she was around here somewhere.
The tiny dog in her arms started barking at something to her left and when Rosalie looked she saw Mackenzie, the girl was standing next to a duck, a huge smile on her little face.
‘Thank-god,’ Benjamin sighed beside her, and Rosalie hastily gave him the dog before running over to her sister.
‘Mackenzie!’ she grabbed the girl, throwing her into a hug and holding the girl as close to her as she could.
‘Rose! You scared the ducky away!’ Mackenzie struggled against her hold, trying to reach for the duck.
‘Mack,’ Rosalie met her eyes, ‘What were you thinking, running away like that?’
‘I came to find you, I thought you might be with the duckies, Benny said I could.’
Rosalie looked over at Benjamin who was balancing a dog in one hand and his phone in his other, probably alerting the group where they were.
Rosalie carried Mackenzie over to Benjamin, ‘You told her she could come find me?!’ She accused and Benjamin’s face froze in shock.
‘You told Mackenzie that she could come find me with the ducks?’
‘What?’ Recognition hit his face and he turned his gaze to Mackenzie, ‘Oh Mack, I told you that once your sister came back we could go see the ducks, I didn’t mean right then.’
‘Oh,’ the girl sighed in Rosalie’s arms before her green eyes went wide and teary, ‘Am I in trouble?’
‘No Mack, just never do that again.’ Rosalie pressed a kiss to her forehead.
‘There you are!’ Sadie appeared next to them, Deon and Parker close behind.
Rosalie handed the girl to Sadie, who cooed over her while Deon and Parker looked at her, assuring themselves that she was fine.
‘I am so sorry Rose, It’s all my fa-’ Benjamin apologised but Rosalie smiled and wrapped her arm around his waist, hugging him with one hand and patting the dog in his arms with the other.
‘When she was three I lost her in a toy store.’
‘It was my first time babysitting her overnight and I took her to a toy store and got distracted, and she wondered off. The worst ten minutes of my life. It’s bound to happen, it’s ok, I’ll just need to keep a firmer eye on that girl.’ she said and Benjamin visibly relaxed.
Rosalie knew that kids wondered off, but that was the first time since her parents were gone, and she had to keep reminding herself that Mackenzie was safe every few seconds until the fear finally wore off. She wasn’t ever going to let that happen again, she needed to keep Mackenzie safe, if it was all she did in her life.
‘Let’s go home,’ she said, taking Mackenzie’s hand and walking back towards her car.
A week later, Benjamin had turned up on Rosalie’s doorstep, two flowers in his hand. He handed one to his girlfriend and one to Mackenzie who blushed an adorable shade of red when she accepted it.
‘I come bearing Chinese,’ he said as he walked into the house.
‘Wow, Flowers and Chinese, you planning on proposing tonight?’ Rosalie joked.
‘Well, you do look beautiful,’ he joked and Rosalie slapped his arm lightly as she looked down at her sweat pants and plain black singlet. ‘I was kidding, you do look awful.’ She laughed, hitting him again, but at that point Mackenzie had figured they were playing a game, so she joined in, slapping Benjamin who pretended to be majorly injured at every hit, gasping and dramatically falling to the floor.
‘I yield! You win little princess.’
She smiled triumphantly and offered him a hand which did little to help him up off the floor, but the intent was there.
‘And then the princess and the prince..’
Rosalie smiled as she walked past Mackenzie’s room, seeing Benjamin reading her a bedtime story. The young girl looked mostly asleep already, her eyes fighting to stay open as she lay on the bed, covers hitched up around her shoulders. Benjamin sat on the end of the bed, animatedly reading the story and in his voice Rosalie could tell how much he was loving reading to her.
She kept walking, entering her room and placing her clean laundry back into the drawers.
Rosalie was carrying the empty washing basket back when she saw Benjamin leaving Mackenzie’s room, a smile on his face.
‘Hey there,’ he said, joining her in going down the stairs.
‘Have fun reading about princesses and ponies? I’m sure they are your all-time favourite subjects,’ she laughed.
‘Well, truth be told, rainbows and fairies are my most preferred, but Princesses and ponies are close behind,’ he said as seriously as he could, but a smile made its way to his lips.
They stopped at the bottom of the stairs, ‘Do you know how amazing you are?’ she smiled up at him.
‘Yep, I am absolutely wonderfully perfec-’ His words were cut off when Rosalie kissed him passionately, dropping the basket in her hands she wrapped them both around her boyfriend as her mouth attacked his.
His hands rested on her back sliding up and down as they kissed, mouths never leaving the others. Rosalie felt as his hands moved from her back to her ass, lifting her up so that her legs could wrap around his waist. Benjamin, with this newfound control, walked the few steps over to the wall shared with the stairs, pressing her back against it. The action caused Rosalie to laugh quietly, pulling back for a breath before attacking his lips again. She smiled into the kiss and then he moved his lips, kissing a path down her neck, making her smile.
‘What are you doing?’ The voice came from the top of the stairs and caused Rosalie to drop her legs from around her boyfriend as he hastily set her back down on her feet.
‘Nothing Mack, go back to bed, ok?’ she told her sister.
Mackenzie just smiled, a little laugh making its way past her lips.
‘Run along otherwise I will tickle you!’ Benjamin mock threatened, but the little girl stood her ground, placing her hands on her hips.
‘Want to try me Mack?’ He said raising his hands and stepping forward causing the little girl to giggle, running back to her bedroom.
‘Well, that was awkward,’ Rosalie laughed, picking up the discarded laundry basket and placing it on the table.
Benjamin gently clasped her hand, making sure that she saw the action before he did it, and made sure to grab her fingers and not her wrist. Rosalie smiled at the care he took to accommodate her, and allowed him to lead her to the sofa.
‘So, you know how we have all this free time since we are done with school?’
‘No,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘I have a five year old girl to take care of, what is this foreign concept of free time!?’
He laughed and shook his head, ‘Well, Sadie was telling us about her brother’s cabin, the one near the national park.’
‘What about it?’ she asked, remembering going there with Sadie a few years ago during summer vacation.
‘Well, we were thinking of going up there for a few nights, before everyone goes off to college, and since Parker and Brayden just broke up he wants to get away, so we were thinking of leaving on Friday.’
‘What? Are you asking me to go on vacation in three days?’ She laughed, ‘Who will look after Mack?’
‘Your Aunt is perfectly capable of looking after her,’ Benjamin said gently, ‘You don’t have to hold all the responsibility, babe.’
‘Yeah, I do, plus, I’ve never left Mackenzie alone for more than a day since..’ Her voice trailed off sadly at the memory.
‘You can call her every day, morning and night.’
‘Yeah, but my aunt is a little incompetent when it comes to kids, like, she lets her wear whatever she wants regardless of the weather and she doesn’t know how to braid hair, and Mackenzie likes wearing her hair in braids.’
‘Oh, call social services.’
Rosalie slapped his arm, ‘I don’t know how to let other people take care of her, she’s my baby sister.’
‘I know babe, but sometimes you need time for yourself. Just imagine it, you and I with our friends, days swimming in the lake, movies in the cabin, it would be great.’
‘Your right, I’ll talk to Mack and Aunt Lani and see what I can do.’
‘Thank-you, Babe.' He gently kissed her.
That’s how, three days later, Rosalie was packing her bags, Mackenzie sitting on the bed watching her.
‘Are you going to go swimming?’ Mackenzie asked as Rosalie carefully placed clothes into the bag.
She nodded, ‘Yep, at this big lake near the cabin.’
‘Will there be ducky’s?’ the little girl asked hopefully.
‘I’m not sure, maybe you can come next time and we can find out?’ Rosalie offered, knowing that her little sister would jump at the opportunity.
‘Yes,’ Mackenzie smiled at her sister as Rosalie added her swim suit into her bag.
‘Mmm?’ she mumbled absentmindedly doing the zip on her bag.
‘Will you be safe out there? Are there bad people at the cabin?’
Rosalie stopped and sat beside her sister on the bed, ‘I will be fine Mack, promise,’ she tapped her finger to the tip of Mackenzie’s nose, making the girl giggle.
‘And are you going to be good for Aunt Lani?’
‘Maybe,’ Mackenzie teased and Rosalie twirled a stand of her sister’s brunette waves around her finger.
‘You are a big girl now, so I think that I can trust you to be good for your Aunt, don’t you think?’
‘Yeah I guess so.’
‘I love you Mack.’ Rosalie kissed her sister’s dark brown hair and couldn’t help but notice how the shade was so similar to her and their mothers.
‘Love you too,’ Mackenzie said with a smile.
‘Girls?’ Lani stuck her head into the room and smiled, ‘All packed Rose?’
‘They are all here,’ her aunt told them.
‘Yay!’ Mackenzie squealed, jumping from the bed and running down the stairs.
Rosalie grabbed a bag, ‘Thank-you for looking after her while I’m gone.’
‘It’s my pleasure sweetheart, you are a great parent to her but even I know that you need some time for yourself, so have fun with your friends and your girl will be safe with me.’
With her free hand Rosalie pulled her aunt in for a hug, ‘Thank-you, and make sure that if it’s a windy day that she wears a jacket, and she doesn’t like pumpkin, remember that, and if she can’t sleep make sure to-’
‘To read her a book about princesses because those are her favorites. Run along Rose, it will all be fine.’
Rosalie smiled at her aunt and left the room, carrying the bag downstairs and outside where Benjamin’s SUV was parked, Sadie and her boyfriend standing next to it. Mackenzie was talking to Benjamin while Sadie looked like she was trying to stifle a laugh.
Rosalie put the bag into the trunk and when she turned around Mackenzie was there a pout on her lips. ‘I don’t want you to go,’ she said and threw her arms around her sister’s legs.
Benjamin came over to them, ‘What’s wrong Mack?’
‘I don’t want Rose to go!’ she said, little droplets of tears falling down her cheeks.
Benjamin placed a hand on her arm, ‘How about this, when we get back in a few days, I will take you to feed the ducks and then we can go out to dinner, just you, me and Rose? How does that sound?’
‘Yes,’ was all Mackenzie said, nodding her head.
‘Give Rose a big hug and we will see you in a few days ok?’
‘Ok Benny.’ She hugged his legs before turning to Rosalie.
‘Love you Rose.’
‘Love you Mack.’
‘ROAD TRIP! ROAD TRIP! ROAD TRIP!’ Sadie laughed, jumping up and down in the back seat.
‘Honestly Sadie, please shut up,’ the driver, Benjamin plead exasperatedly.
‘I am just excited!’
‘I know why you’re excited,’ Rosalie chuckled from the passenger seat.
‘And just why would that be?’ the blonde asked.
‘Because you get to spend your days with Deon in the lake, without a shirt.’
‘You like Deon? This is new, and to think, I thought you only dated pretty white boys?’ Benjamin said sarcastically from the front.
‘No-one was talking to you,’ Sadie retorted with an upturned nose. ‘And yes, I do like Deon, but even if nothing happens between us, it’s still exciting! I can’t remember the last time we went out to the cabin.’
‘Very true,’ Rosalie said absentmindedly as she stared at her cell phone.
‘Babe, we have been gone for an hour, nothing’s going to happen, no-one’s going to ring that phone.’
‘I guess your right,’ She sighed and was about to put the phone into her pocket when it started ringing.
‘On second thought maybe you’re wrong,’ Rosalie laughed, answering the call.
‘Rosalie Montgomery, at your service.’
‘Rose! Thank-god! I am in danger!’
‘What?’ Rosalie asked hurriedly.
‘Deon is a dick and is listening to the shittest music I have ever heard! Save me from this car from hell!’ Rosalie sighed at Parker’s childishness.
‘Parker, I thought you were actually in danger and I’m sure that Deon’s music isn’t that bad.’
Rosalie heard her boyfriend and best friend snicker at her words.
The voice then changed to Deon’s, ‘Parker, I refuse to play that pop shit you call music!’ ‘Why not Deon? Huh?’ ‘God your so annoying, I want to hit you’ ‘Oh are you trying to say that you’d hit that, you’re not really my type, sorry to disappoint’ ‘For the last time Parker, I don’t want to sleep with you’ ‘Are you calling me ugly? Is that what you’re trying to say? I take great offense to that Deon! For the love of god, please turn that shit music off!’
‘PARKER!’ Rosalie tried to get his attention.
‘Your point is…?’
‘Oh right, please let me switch into your car! Please!’ Parker begged and Rosalie came up with the perfect plan.
‘Sure, you can swap with Sadie.’
‘Huh?’ Sadie said from the backseat, hearing her name.
‘You are a goddess Rose! There’s a gas station about a mile up, lets meet there.’
‘Are you sure you’ll survive that long Parker?’ Rosalie joked and was rewarded with a dial tone. He had hung up on her, Rosalie laughed at that.
‘What’s going on?’ Benjamin asked.
‘Meeting the guys at the gas station about a mile ahead, Sadie’s going to swap cars with Parker.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ Sadie smiled from the backseat, ‘at least I get to ride shotgun.’
‘You’ll be riding something alright,’ Benjamin muttered causing Rosalie to laugh and lightly slap his arm.
‘Thank-you Sadie!’ Parker emerged from Deon’s car and threw the blonde into a hug, ‘You are a life saver.’
‘That’s okay Parker,’ Sadie struggled against his tight hold.
‘I’m going to go get some sodas,’ Rosalie said as she got out of the car. She looked over at the beat up gas station.
‘I’ll come,’ Benjamin wrapped an arm around her as they walked towards the small building. It was a tiny store, the air-con must have been broken, seeing as the windows were all open. They talked as they decided on the sodas they wanted.
‘I bet you $50 that they have sex by the end of the day.’
‘Sadie and Deon?’
‘No, Parker and Deon,’ he laughed.
‘Ok, Ok, nah, Sadies not a slut, they aren’t even going out,’ she said, picking up a bottle of coke.
‘That hasn’t stopped her before.’
‘Sadie isn’t like that.’
‘Remind me, was it two or three pregnancy scares last year.’
‘Four, but they were only scares,’ Rosalie muttered dejectedly and Benjamin laughed, carrying the drinks to the counter.
The woman at the counter was older, in her mid-seventies, and smiled brightly at the couple as she rung up the items.
‘Hello, what brings you two up to this neck of the woods? I haven’t seen you two around?’
‘Oh no, we are from Jacksonville, just going up to a cabin for a few days.’
‘You two be careful in those woods.’
‘What do you mean?’ Rosalie asked, curious as to what she was referring too, bears? Mountain lions? Her mind was conjuring up awful images of her running away from vicious creatures in the woods. She had to stop herself from shuddering.
‘Those woods are awfully complicated and vast, quite easy to get lost in, had a couple just the other day get lost for over ten hours and they were lucky.’
It wasn't great news but Rosalie was just happy that she wasn't referring to bears. She could handle the woods, plus she was sure that her friends wouldn't venture too far from the cabin. She doubted that they would get lost.
‘We will be staying close to the cabin, and we’ve got phones,’ Benjamin told her.
The woman looked at him with a tilted head, ‘Oh, no phones work all the way out there.’
Now that was a scary thought. No phones? No way to contact Mackenzie? ‘No cell signal?’ Rosalie asked, panicked.
‘Not that I know off, you two just make sure that you don’t go too far into those woods, you never know what situation you’ll find yourselves in.’
‘Thank-you,’ Benjamin told the woman and carried the sodas out of the store.
‘No cell signal! Why didn’t I think of that, Ben, what if something happens? Aunt Lani doesn’t even know the address of the cabin, hell, we don’t even know the address of the cabin, we are going off of Sadie's memory here, how are they going to find us if we-‘
Benjamin pressed his lips to hers reassuringly before pulling back, ‘Your over stressing, if we need to we can drive back into the town for signal each day, okay?’
Rosalie nodded, calming her breathing. She was being overly dramatic right? It wasn’t like they were going into a secluded cabin in the middle of no-where, where they wouldn’t be able to be contacted at all. No, wait, it was.