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Laurels
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Cause what you see isn't always the truth
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June 5, 2015, early evening

Edie sat on the living room couch, staring at the fireplace in the room. The fire wasn't lit, but she simply stared forward and kept her eye on it, as if it would light just from her stare. She took a sip from her mug of tea, then sighed. As she did, Angie walked in.

"Okay, Ella and I are going to go for a walk," Angie said. "We should be back in time for dinner."

"Alright," Edie said. "We're just going to order pizza, if that's okay."

"Yeah, of course," Angie said. "I just want to have a talk with Ella, that's all."

Angie pulled her phone out of her pocket, then set it down on the coffee table.

"I don't want any interruptions," Angie said, "but we shouldn't be gone for long, so if anything comes up, just tell us when we get back."

"Okay," Edie said, turning back to look at the fireplace.

Angie silently stared at Edie, before turning away. Ella was standing at the front door, waiting to go out with her mother.

"Alright, ready to go?" Angie said.

Ella quietly nodded. Angie opened the door and guided Ella outside. She closed the door behind her. Once the room was silent again, Edie lowered her head and sighed. Before she could do anything else, she heard Angie's phone go off. Edie stared at the text message on Angie's phone. It was from Christian. It was a picture of Kelly sitting at a bar, along with a message saying he had found her.

Edie's eyes widened and she reached forward to grab the phone. The phone was still unlocked from when Angie last checked it, so Edie began to type a message.

"Okay," she began to write.

Edie paused for a second. She wanted Kelly home as soon as possible. She was writing a message to ensure Christian knew to get Kelly home. However, this meant writing as Angie. She could tell him Angie was out of the house, but she'd pass it along, but what mattered was getting Kelly back home before anything happened. She needed to say something to him, but wasn't sure what. After a few minutes of waiting, Edie finished the message.

"Do whatever you have to to get Kelly home. I don't care anymore."

Edie sent the text. Maybe it was wrong to send a message on Angie's behalf, but she wanted to ensure that Kelly got him. Things were already going crazy in the house. One minute there's fighting and cursing, then Christian's kicked out of the home, while Angie removes Noah's bedroom door and Arnold gets exiled to the couch for the night. Maybe Kelly being home wouldn't make things entirely better, but they'd be a start.

"I better call the police..." Edie said.

Edie got up from the couch and walked to the kitchen. She needed to let the police know they found Kelly before a missing person's report was filed.



Angie and Ella walked along the sidewalk of the MacIntyre's neighborhood. Since schools had closed due to the kidnappings, there were a lot more kids out and about in the area. Some were playing baseball in the road, while others were playing tag in their yard. As they walked along, Angie noticed Ella didn't seem to pay much attention to them. Ella kept her gaze to her feet as they walked. Angie put a hand on Ella's head.

"I know," Angie said. "You're not happy."

"No," Ella said. "I'm not."

Angie sighed. "I know, and you have a right to be. This has been a terrible month for everyone."

Ella stared at a pair of children fighting with lightsabers in front of their house. The kids were making fake lightsaber sounds and shouting at every parry.

"Not for them," she said. "They're acting like nothing's happening."

"Well, maybe they don't know anyone abducted," Angie said. "They might say prayers at night for the kids."

"But that's not helping," Ella said.

"You don't know that," Angie said.

"Yes I do."

Ella glanced away from the kids and started to walk ahead of her mother. Angie tried to match her pace. The two kept walking along the sidewalk, and were nearing a small park.

"Why don't we walk around that park a bit and then go back home?" Angie said.

Ella nodded. Angie silently followed Ella, and the two soon made their way to the park. The park was a small block with only two or three trees littering the area. There were a few benches scattered around the dirt paths. The two made their way over.

"Ella, I know it's hard to tell, but this event will change this city forever."

"How?" Ella asked.

"Well, over one hundred kids have been kidnapped. Unless there's a miracle, all but one will die. If we're lucky, that one will be Noah. It's going to hang around the citizens for a long time. Parents might be more distrustful of the school system or make a larger call to action, such as suing the government. The kids you see playing around may act like everything is okay, but that's because they don't know to be afraid."

Angie and Ella walked into the park and started along a trail.

"Is everything going to be different for us?" Ella asked. "Even if Noah comes home?"

"What do you mean?"

Ella stopped walking and looked directly at her mother.

"Are you and Dad going to get a divorce?"

"What? Why?"

"I heard you," Ella said. "Dad's cheated on you before, and he kissed Noah's mom. Is that it for you guys?"

Angie shook her head.

"El, it's too soon to say. It's a chaotic time, and we're not being logical."

"But when you have time to think, is it going to be over?"

Angie paused, then lowered herself to Ella's level.

"Ella, I love your father. We've been together over ten years, and he gave me you. I'll always be grateful for that. But I recognize that he's made mistakes, and he's done things that have hurt me. I'll know what to do with him when the time comes, but right now, I want to think about your brother and what he's going through."

Ella tried not to look at her mother. Angie put a hand on Ella's shoulder and smiled.

"Don't worry. I'm sure he'll come home soon," Angie said. "Maybe we can all go somewhere fun once he gets back. All seven of us."

Ella nudged herself back, removing Angie's hand from her shoulder.

"Mom, he's not coming back. Noah's not getting off that island. He's alone and sick, and he'll probably be killed by one of those crazy kids."

"Ella-"

"If he doesn't come back, then Dad probably won't either."

"Whoa, what makes you-"

"Because Dad like Noah's mom. She's sad, and Dad would kiss her if it makes her happy. He'll choose her, and you'll leave him, and he'll stay here with her."

"Ella, that's-"

"And honestly, if Noah doesn't come home, it's probably for the better. His grandpa doesn't like him at all, his mom's a wreck, his dad's hurting everyone, and you're mad at everyone. He's going to come home and learn everyone is a liar and that everyone just uses him to get back at one another."

"Ella, stop!" Angie shouted.

Ella looked up at her mother. She could see her mom's eyes were starting to water.

"Ella, I love your dad. Yes, he's lousy, but I don't want to let this destroy our relationship. His grandpa may not like what Noah does, but I sure as hell knows he'd rather see Noah dance in a dress than fighting his peers on some island somewhere. And yes, his mom might be doing some crappy things right now, but it's only because she loves Noah so much. He's her only baby, and she's so scared about what would happen to him.

"If some terrorists abducted you and forced you into a similar game, I'd probably be as much of a wreck as she is. You're my only daughter, and it's my job to make sure you're safe and secure. I know I won't always succeed, but I know that losing you would be the most devastating thing to ever happen to me. And believe me, I wouldn't want to sit in some room watching you run around an island, I'd want to be calling everyone I can to find a way to get you home. I'd want to see those monsters punished for what they did to you, Noah, and every other child they murdered in these sick games.

"So please, don't hate your dad. Don't hate Noah's mom. Don't hate his grandparents. And please don't hate me. I'm sorry we haven't been good to you these last few weeks. I'm sorry if you've been scared or angry or upset. We're all scared, angry, and upset, and maybe we're not handling this the best way, but dammit, we're trying. You might not believe it right now, but we do love each other, and we all want the same thing. We all want Noah to be okay and we all want to get past this horrible incident."

Angie could feel tears starting to fall down her cheeks. Ella's eyes were also starting to flutter from tears. Angie pulled Ella close and hugged her tight.

"I'm so sorry, Ella. We should have been better, but I don't think anyone can be prepared for such an event."

Ella sniffled. Angie hugged her tighter.

"Come on. Let's go home and have some pizza. I bet the Edie knows a good place."

"Do you think they have stuffed crust?" Ella asked.

Angie looked at her daughter and smiled. She nodded.

"We'll see. But if they do, we can ask Edie."

Angie wiped her eyes. She stood back up.

"Come on, let's go."

Ella wiped her eyes, and the two started walking back out of the park. Ella grabbed her mom's hand and held it tight. Angie smiled and held Ella's tiny hand as tight as she could.



"Yes. Yes. Thank you."

Edie hung the phone up, keeping her hand on the phone for a few extra seconds. She held her hand over her heart and closed her eyes. She felt her breathing start to get heavy. The police knew Kelly was okay. She knew Kelly was okay. Christian would surely find a way to get her back home.

The back door opened and Arnold walked in. He had just finished taking another smoke break, and now the smell of tobacco filled the kitchen.

"What was that?" he asked.

"Christian found Kelly," Edie said. "I was just letting the police know."

"Oh, thank god," Arnold said. "Where is she?"

"Some bar," Edie said. "I don't know where."

Edie tightened her fist against her chest. Her breathing was concerning, and she was starting to feel weak. She stepped away from the phone and into the living room. Arnold followed after her. Edie sat down on the couch, sighing as she rubbed her forehead. Arnold stood at the entrance to the kitchen.

"Edie," Arnold said. "Can we please talk?"

"I'm not in the mood," Edie said, moving her hands to her eyes.

Arnold quietly rolled his eyes.

"Look, Edie, I know I was an ass last night. But I think there's worse to worry about like-"

"Arnold, please just shut up and leave me alone!"

Arnold froze. Edie had gotten mad at him in the past, but she never just snapped at him.

"Edie, what is it?" Arnold asked.

Edie shook her head. "I just haven't been feeling well. So I'm just going to go lay down upstairs."

Edie stood up from the couch and began to walk towards the stairs. Arnold started to walk after her. Edie paused at the bannister, her breathing starting to pick up. Arnold noticed her frozen in place.

"Edie, what are you-"

Before Arnold could finish, the strength in Edie's legs gave out, and she fell to the ground. Her body was half on the stairs, and half on the ground. Arnold rushed over to her.

"Edie! Edie! Are you okay?" He asked, turning her over.

Edie wasn't responding. She was still breathing, but she was hardly moving. Before Arnold could do anything, the front door opened, and Angie and Ella walked in. Angie froze in place, removing her hand from Ella's.

"Arnold, what happened?" she asked.

"Edie collapsed," he told her. "Call 911."

"Got it," Angie said.

Angie ran into the living room. "Ella, get her some water!" she shouted.

Ella was frozen in place, but then hurried into the living room. She passed her mother and ran into the kitchen. Angie grabbed her phone and quickly dialed 911.

"Hi, please help. My...friend has collapsed. She's breathing, but she's not reacting."

Arnold held Edie close, trying to keep her conscious.

"Edie, please stay with me," he muttered. "Please, please stay with me."

Ella ran back with a glass of water. Arnold took the glass from her and held it to Edie's mouth. Edie sipped the water, some of it dribbling down her chin. Angie then ran back in.

"Okay, they're sending an ambulance," she said. "Let's move her to the couch."

Angie pocketed the phone and moved over to the others. Arnold held Edie under her armpits, while Angie grabbed her by the legs. Ella moved out of their way as the two carried her over to the couch. They laid Edie down on the couch. Angie looked at her phone, anticipating a message from the paramedics. As she did. she noticed some text messages she missed. Christian had apparently found Kelly. Not only that, but someone had told him to get her home however she could. Angie didn't think much about that right now.

"Where will they take her?" Angie asked.

"What?"

"Where's the nearest hospital?"

"Probably Kingman Regional Medical Center," Arnold said.

"Great," Angie said. "I'll tell Christian."

"Christian?"

"He found Kelly, apparently," Angie said. "He and Kelly can meet us there."

Angie began to type the message, unaware that Christian had just put his phone on silent. Arnold continued to stroke Edie's forehead, while Ella stood silently in the corner.

"Please god, not her too," Arnold muttered under his breath.

Edie didn't show it, but she heard Arnold say that. She lay motionless, even as the sounds of an ambulance drifted closer to the house. She didn't know what to say, so she remained silent.
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