Let's see if anything new happens with the Campions, after that recent dramatic event...


Scene 7: Free

A.D. 2015

"I can't believe it," he murmured once they'd returned to their hotel room, numbly shaking his head as he sat on the edge of the bed. "What happened, it's just... my God, just like that, he's - he's dead."

Lacey closed the door behind her, slowly entering the room but then stopping to stand near the wall at some distance away from her husband. On any night other than this, she would have hastened to sit down beside him. But somehow, in more ways than she wanted to admit, this night was different. Something in her heart had shifted.

"I just never thought he would do that, you know?" Ryder spoke, blue gaze distant and dark with the afterimage of the death that he'd witnessed mere minutes ago. "Sure, he was troubled, and some of his thoughts bordered on suicidal, but he was supposed to be past all of that. That was why they released him; they said he was stable, fully recovered, and he - he really seemed to be. I just don't understand why he did it. How he did it. To actually take his own life, it's just..."

Ryder's voice trailed off as he remembered that Simon was not the only person he knew who had once struggled with suicidal issues. Lacey could tell that this was the notion that had crossed his mind and reduced him to silence. She knew all too well. On some level, she'd always known that her attempt to kill herself, consumed with grief that time he'd tried to leave, was the primary reason why they were now married.

In any event, she now felt the need to break the heavy, tortured silence. "It's just so sad," she remarked quietly. "I'm so sorry."

And she was - not only as a condolence, for the poor veteran's death, but more so for everything else. For not being able to tell her dear husband the truth, that Simon had intended to kill him, rather than to kill himself. In light of how she knew about this, there was no way she could try to explain it to Ryder. Not now, at least; maybe not ever.

And more so yet, Lacey was sorry for everything that, as of tonight, she had finally acknowledged within herself, to her own great dismay and regret. For having pressured Ryder to wed her by some form of piteous duress, and for passively prolonging their union by the force of this foreboding, ever-present threat. For blindly convincing herself every day that they truly belonged together, that they always would, and that she loved him far more than anyone else ever could.

She did love him. With every fragment of her fragile heart, she knew this to be true. But if she loved him as deeply, as unsurpassably, as she was supposed to, then - then why had someone else done what it should've been her place to do? Someone else who hardly even knew Ryder, no less, as far as Lacey could tell. Someone whom Lacey intensely resented, hated to the bone, more than anyone... though in this moment, she realized, perhaps not as much as she hated herself.

And what was Ryder thinking now, she wondered - surely much of his mind was occupied with the tragedy that had transpired tonight, but just as surely, some part of him had to be registering what the brown-eyed girl had done for him. And what his own wife hadn't.

But regardless of what he was thinking, about that, she knew that he wouldn't say anything.

"Yeah, I - I feel so sorry for him, too," Ryder concurred, bracing his elbows on his knees and staring at the floor, his eyes the saddest shade of blue. "After all he's been through. He didn't deserve this."

Lacey bit her lip for a few seconds. Then she brought herself to speak, summoning all her strength though she had never felt so weak. "Ryder, I... I know this might not seem like the best time for me to say this, after what happened tonight; I know I should be grieving with you, giving support and comfort, as I often try to do, but - but I just..."

His brooding gaze rose to meet hers, full of questions that it hurt for her to answer.

But she had to. "I am so, so sorry," she expressed. "I've been so unfair to you, and I know now that I... I have to set you free."

The questions in his beautiful eyes deepened, multiplied.

Lacey couldn't bear to look into those eyes as she went on, remorsefully. "Deep down I've always known that you could never love me," she confessed. "I've denied it for so long because I wanted to be happy, but that's been so selfish of me. I had to be your wife, since I didn't know how to survive otherwise, so I turned a blind eye to the pain I put you through, to all your misery, but... now I see."

He didn't blink. Neither did she.

"What matters most to me is that you're happy," she professed, "and I know that can't happen as long as you're with me."

Ryder's lips presently parted, after what had felt like an eternal silence. "Lacey..."

"Just for tonight, at least," she torturously breathed. "Tomorrow I have no idea how I'll be, honestly - and I can't promise that I'd survive, if you leave... but at least for tonight, I want you to be free."

He blinked at her, still full of questions, unable to fathom where all this had come from. "Lacey, what... what does that even mean?"

Lacey drew in a deep breath, releasing it slowly. "I want you to be with someone who can truly make you happy."

He blinked again. "But we're married," he reminded her simply.

She heaved another painful sigh, barely able to stomach the words that now slipped past her lips. "Maybe we shouldn't be."

Ryder's eyes widened in utter disbelief. He lowered them toward the floor again, struggling and failing to make sense of what he'd just heard. "Lacey, this - this isn't something that either of us could decide overnight. I don't know what has led you to feel this way, but if..."

"I know this is the total opposite of how I've always been," she recognized, "and I know that you must be confused, and that you're... too good a man to be unfaithful, even if I let you. Even if I tell you to."

Silently in her mind, the thought continued: but if I were to make it happen, then you would be powerless to resist. Just as you've been helpless to escape from this marriage, because I wouldn't allow it. All because of this strange, superhuman gift that I apparently possess.

That gift had been a curse to Ryder, throughout all their time together. But at least for tonight, just for once, she wanted to release him from the prison of their union, let his heart beat beside the one to whom it rightfully belonged. Though the little brunette hadn't known him for long, maybe somehow, considering the sacrifice that she had been ready to make for him - and given that Lacey's acknowledgment of her seemingly mystical powers had already required her to abandon the natural restraints of reality and reason - maybe Ryder and Cloe, she figured, shared some sort of unspoken connection. Maybe.

She took in and let out another deep breath. "You know, this hotel has a lovely garden on the rooftop terrace," she told him, not bothering to introduce the change of topic with a smooth transition. "Why don't you get some air. Maybe you'll find some clarity there."

Ryder still for only a moment, then nodded and stood up from the bed. "Okay," he agreed, voice slightly wavering. He went toward the door, controlled by fateful forces of which he knew nothing.

And his wife watched him leave, unsure whether her heart would ever beat again.


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Next scene, we'll check in with Atria in B.C. (and the scene after that, we will finally see Rider and Cloe!)...

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