Twenty

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Alexa...

Alexa, can you hear me?

Everything was still. I was convinced I was dead. That this is what limbo was like, because I may not have believed in hell, but I sure couldn't have made it to Heaven.

Isn't there something you can do?

There's nothing you could do. There's nothing anyone could do. I was dead. Finished. It was all over. I just hoped Anna had made it.

Give her some time...

Time? My time had surely run out!

That's when I felt it. The pull. As if I was a piece of metal and this strong outside force was a magnet. I could feel the intensity of the force yank me from the darkness as my eyes softly opened.

A dimly lit room surrounded me. Everything was blurry for a moment, but after a minute of blinking, I could make out the face of Derik.

"You should have your own room by now," Derik claimed once I came to. "The nurses know your face."

"Where's..." I lost my breath. "... Anna?"

"She's still receiving oxygen," he said. "Your mom is with her."

That's when Derik stood from his chair and made his way over to me. All was silent but I knew he had a million things he wanted to say.

"What you did..." he started. "It was insanely stupid. You know that, right?"

My eyes threatened to close again, but I forced a nod.

He rubbed his eyes. "Alexa, you needed fifteen stitches on your head."

"But I'm not dead."

"Miraculously," he claimed as he sat on my bed. "But it was also extremely courageous."

My eyes finally focused back onto him.

"How's Melissa?" I wondered.

Then the look on his face changed. Suddenly, my heart was pounding again. The monitor I was hooked up to indicated high blood pressure. Had she died? Oh God, I couldn't hear that. I couldn't hear that she had lost her life in that God-awful place.

"She's in critical condition," he revealed.

Critical condition. But she wasn't dead. She was still very much alive, in my opinion. Melissa was strong. She could pull through, right?

"What happened?" I asked.

Derik sighed. "When she called me before you two even went into that place, I called your dad. He was closer to Pasadena than I was, so he went there immediately."

I cringed at the thought of my father.

"When he got there, he saw you carrying Anna, but knew Melissa had been with you, so he went into the warehouse to find her. When he did, she was lying next to Paige, who was already dead..."

Paige was dead. Melissa had killed her.

"He picked Melissa up and tried getting her out of there quickly, but then the explosion happened..."

The look on Derik's face changed, and suddenly I had a million questions. Was my dad dead? How had he made it there in time? Why had he left us in the first place? Had he been on his way to meet us after bailing?

"He was impaled by a metal rod..." Derik said. "He's in surgery, but they're pretty sure he's going to be paralyzed from the waist down."

Even though I had been upset with my father after leaving, I couldn't deny the relief I felt to know he hadn't died. He had come back time after time, and rescuing my girlfriend would definitely earn him brownie points, but there were still facts that I couldn't ignore.

He had still left, and I wouldn't be able to forget that.

But he was alive, at least for now, and that meant more to me than I would admit.

I slumped into my hospital bed. "Melissa... what happened to her?"

"From what I gathered, a lot of smoke intake and third-degree burns," he said. "Apparently some debris fell on her and your father when they were still in the warehouse."

I could picture the scene in my head, and it wasn't pretty. It made me angry. It made me wonder if Paige was really dead. How could we be so sure?

"Are you sure Paige is dead?" I asked.

Derik nodded. "The firemen pulled a body from the warehouse once the fire was controlled... It was her."

A part of me wished I could see it, just to make sure. A part of me needed proof, like I required closure from it all, but I would have to trust their word.

But once I came to terms with what Derik had said, I began to cry.

The tears seemed to come from the depths of my soul. Like they had been waiting for this very moment to show themselves.

Paige was dead. Anna was alive. Melissa was alive. We were damaged but we were breathing, and that's all that mattered to me. We could deal with the damage later.

The relief caused more tears to stream down my face as I tried to wipe them away. I hadn't realized how tired and emotionally drained I was until now.

It was all over.

Derik hesitantly reached out and pushed a strand of hair from my face. Then he wiped some tears from my cheek. The affection caught me off guard.

"It's all gonna be alright, Alexa," he cooed. "It's over."

I continued to sob, as if my body was ridding itself of a poison that had lingered for way too long. I choked on air as I cried into my hands. Honestly, I was grateful Derik was here with me. Going through this with anyone else wouldn't have been the same.

He scooted closer and pulled me into his warm chest. We had never embraced like this before, but it felt so natural. Neither one of us were affectionate or emotional, but maybe we had grown as people. After everything we had gone through together, it was hard not to change.

But as Derik held me close to him, I realized this pain was only temporary. In a day or two I would begin to heal. Once I saw Anna and Melissa, the pain would begin to fade, and we would move on, together.

We would heal together, as a family.


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