An excerpt from the personal diary of Ellie Duberry Sprague:
When I went to school to become a writer, I never thought this was what I’d have to put down on paper. You could easily call this the worst day of my entire life.
But that isn’t where I wanted to begin…
Upon meeting Holden, I felt my life shifting off course yet I did not resist because it was so, so pleasant. He was easy to talk to with a sincerity in his eyes you don’t often see in a newcomer to Winchester. It’s not that people who visit the island tend to be standoffish. It’s quite the opposite. The residents of Winchester don’t usually take kindly to outsiders. Most of the people on the mainland know this and don’t bother us except to buy our crops and other goods.
It was different with Holden, for the most part, because we were expecting his arrival. His grandparents Matthieu and Blue Larochette are prominent residents and he was coming for a three-month visit. Something happened in his life from which he needed a brief escape and I was all too happy to see him every free minute I had to offer my friendship.
He wasn’t very good at typical farm chores at first, but he was strong and a fast learner. I admired the tenacity in his blue-gray eyes when he was learning something new. As it so happened, I found out he was a ballet dancer and very physically fit, although the obsession he seemed to have with exercising didn’t always seem very healthy to me. Of course, I never said this to him because he was so serious about it all.
Now that I’ve seen him dance, I have a new understanding of the ordeal he puts himself through in order to perform this exquisite art. Hearing the symphony play and watching his graceful yet demanding dancing, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
I might be getting a little ahead of myself again, though.
After he left the island and returned to Fortress Rock, all I did was think about him. I wasn’t ready to be in a serious relationship yet and the thing I wanted most was to prove to myself that I could move to the city, take writing courses, and support myself. I know Holden was disappointed I didn’t contact him right away and for that I’m sorry.
The only thing I can say about that time in my life is that I was afraid of being tied to someone before I had the chance to meet other people and to be on my own. I had too much I wanted to do. This didn’t stop me from dating another man who was also in one of my classes. I suppose he was easy to date because neither of us were expecting anything long-term.
Besides, I had big, sweeping notions about romance. Whoever I ended up with would have to knock my socks off like no one ever had.
Then, one night, I saw Holden with Zelda. They were so smooth on the dance floor, laughing and snuggling up to each other. I will admit my eyes were turning green that night. It was then, I realized how much he meant to me. But the man I was dating seemed to have become more serious about me. He didn’t deserve to be hurt because of my thoughtlessness, so I kept my feelings to myself.
For as long as I could, that is.
It was only a few months later that Holden took me to the opera house and showed me around. He even danced for me while I stood in the wings. Everything he did wooed me just as I had always dreamed and wanted. It was that night we both realized how much we loved each other and needed to have a life together.
After we were married, Holden was so excited about our honeymoon. He kept all the details to himself, not wanting to spoil it for me. It seemed like everything he did was focused on my happiness. He had a way of making me feel spoiled but worthy all at once. I could only hope I would be just as good to him as the years went by.
Speaking of our honeymoon, I could not have been more delighted. My new husband had taken care of everything! The Christmas cottage was more than charming and the heavy snowfall gave me the feeling of living in a snow globe. If only we could stay here forever, I kept thinking as we built a snowman, took walks, snuggled before the hearth, and spent long hours in each others’ arms.
But my dream vacation was to become a terrifying nightmare before my very eyes. During the trip, Holden seemed preoccupied and even paranoid at times. He often heard sounds that I could easily explain away by wind, animals, or branches tapping the windows. His feelings of isolation and unease were furthered by the fact we couldn’t get a phone signal.
At one point, he even suggested we cut our honeymoon short and make our way to town. As I had done since the beginning when he first thought he’d heard something unusual, I brushed his anxiety away, thinking he just had some strange jitters. He just needed to relax and enjoy our time alone before we had to return to the real world.
During our walk this morning, I tried to distract him so that he might return to his normally easy going self. It was difficult, but before long, his arm was around my waist and we were both laughing and dreaming of our baby’s future.
“I thought you were set on Kyle or Bree?”
I grinned at him and shrugged. “I love those names but they aren’t quite right for our baby.”
He tightened his arm around me lovingly as he gazed into my eyes. “How about Kai or Bea?”
When he looked at me like that, so tenderly and in love, I couldn’t help but agree. “Yes, I like those.”
Nodding in a very pleased with himself way, he kissed me.
If only that kiss could have lasted forever.
All at once, a piercingly loud firecracker noise echoed, ringing unbearably in my ears, and Holden’s body was jerked backward, thudding onto the ground beside me. Gasping, I could only stand there at first as still as a statue. One moment, we’d been laughing and discussing our future baby’s name, in the next, I was bewildered, gazing at my husband who was lying on the ground. His eyes were closed and blood began running from a wound at his hairline.
Slowly, the realization he was injured began to hit me. I sank to my knees next to him, my hand over my face.
Shaking his shoulder, I half yelled and half cried, “Holden! Open your eyes! Can you hear me?”
There was nothing, no response, no acknowledgment of any kind. More tears welled in my eyes, nearly blinding me. What if he was dead?
Then, I saw a small cloud expelled from his mouth which was slack and open slightly. Alive. He was alive.
I gasped again, my brain too sluggish to think of what I should do. My heart pounded against my chest, my pulse raced. Looking around us wildly, my eyes fell on our car. I had to get us out of here and to the hospital.
Racing to the vehicle, my feet sliding in the snow and nearly falling twice, I yanked on the door handle as soon as I reached it. The door squeaked on its hinges as it was flung open. Keys! Where were the keys?
My panic rose and I could taste the bile in the back of my throat as I frantically ran to the house, sliding all over again in my attempts to be fast. The keys were on the coffee table and I scooped them up, barely stopping for a breath before dashing back to the car. Fumbling with the keys, I finally got the right one into the ignition and turned it. The motor made a sick sound as if it was trying to turn over but just couldn’t manage it.
“Come on, come on! Work!” I yelled in vain. “Please!”
I hit the steering wheel with my fists, then turned the key once more.
What am I going to do? my mind screamed inside my head.
I jumped out of the car and could see Holden was still motionless in the snow. Then, I felt fat snowflakes land on my nose and tickle my eyelashes as they began floating from above.
Sobbing again, the trouble we were in sank my heart, filling it with despair. What was I to do now?
I returned to my husband, kneeling next to him again, my jeans now soaked. He had been shot. Who would do that? I began to worry the assailant was still present, hiding somewhere among the trees even though, try as I might, I couldn’t see anyone. What if they opened fire again?
Willing myself to calm down (which only partly worked), I made a mental list, already going through the steps I knew I must do.
Get him inside.
Try to call for help.
Try to stop the bleeding.
Try to wake him up.
Take anything wet off of him.
Try, try, try.
I repeated this mantra to myself as I followed the steps. At the moment, he was alive and I knew if I entertained the thought he might die, I wouldn’t be able to go on.
Getting to my feet, I grasped him under the arms and lifted as best I could. He was so heavy. As his head lolled backward, he groaned, but I took that as a sign that he could be helped. He would be okay. Slowly, panting for breath under the strain, I began to drag him, inch by inch toward the cottage door. I had a fleeting thought that this wasn’t good for the baby, but at that moment, I pushed such things from my mind. My husband was not going to die. He would be okay.
I’m not sure how long I struggled to pull him along. When we finally made it to the door, I used my remaining strength to heave him over the threshold and inside. We rested there for a few minutes and I had just enough room to close the door against the cold. Turning the lock, I peered through the window. I didn’t see anyone but my view was obscured by the frost on the windows and the steadily falling snow.
All I wanted at that point was to cry yet I knew if I started, I wouldn’t be able to help Holden. Exhausted, I leaned over him again. His eyes were still closed and he wasn’t responding to my voice at all. He was still bleeding from the wound at his hairline and I knew I had to get that under control.
“I need to move you again, baby,” I said to him, “I’m sorry.”
It took an agonizingly long time for me to pull him across the floor near the hearth. Once he was situated, I tried to put a cushion from the couch under his head. When I lifted him to slide it underneath him, he groaned again. Not wanting to cause him further discomfort, I gave up on the idea. Frantically, I then searched the cottage cabinets for a first aid kit, which I found. I grabbed all of the towels from the bathroom and returned to him.
Quickly, I shoved some more logs into the fireplace, then I dropped on my knees. Blood was also pooling on the floor underneath him. Reaching my fingers behind his head and moving as carefully as I could, I found another wound. The bullet must have exited there since his body had fallen backward. Gingerly, I turned his face so I could press gauze squares against the wound. I didn’t know how to get it to stop so I taped some of them there and then rested his head on some towels.
With the wound at his hairline, I pressed towels against it, holding down as hard as I could.
“Holden, baby, can you hear me?”
Again, there was no stirring, no response. I sat back on my haunches, my hands covered in my husband’s blood and pulled out my cell phone. No signal.
I was afraid to stand or to turn on the lights because I didn’t know if the shooter was still there or not. There were strange noises all around the cottage and I couldn’t be certain now if they were caused by the wind, branches, or someone who meant us harm.
Sticking to my self-made mantra, I pulled Holden’s wet coat and gloves off as gently as I could. It worried me that he wasn’t groaning anymore when I moved him about. Had he lost too much blood? Had the bullet caused too much damage?
Tears spilled out of my eyes even though I tried to stay strong for us. The situation seemed hopeless. No one was expecting us home yet, so they wouldn’t miss us for a couple days and by then, it might be too late. If only I had a signal.
If only this hadn’t happened.
Hours passed and it grew dark outside, the snow falling harder than earlier. Holden hadn’t responded with even a groan for such a long time and I was trying so hard not to fall into complete despair.
Suddenly, I thought I saw something bright flash and then disappear. I couldn’t be at all certain what it was. Perhaps a flashlight or I’d heard some guns had scopes that reflected like that. But it was nighttime, so I wasn’t sure if that was possible. Daring to leave Holden for a moment, I crawled across the floor, staying as low as I could, to the window.
As before, I couldn’t see anything at all…
An excerpt from the personal diary of Rosetta Sprague:
As a child, I knew a lot of things, the most important being that Holden and I shared a special gift. Shelly Bingham, a close friend, and colleague of Mother and Father knew this and attempted to demonstrate to us how to use that ability. If you were to ask my poor brother, however, he would not refer to this as a gift at all. He might not say anything, and instead, roll his eyes and deny its existence.
I have endeavored on many occasions to help him see the light on this matter yet now, I am convinced it has all been in vain. It is difficult to fathom how someone who is as psychic as he is would abandon any effort to use it. In the past, he seemed to have no stomach for it. I thought he might outgrow that phase but here we are in a dire situation.
It may sound as if I am placing blame on Holden for what has happened. Well, I do not! I love him more than I love anyone else on this planet. I am sure I always will as he is a part of me. My other half.
No, the shooter is to blame and there will be a reckoning for this, believe me. They will pay and it won’t be pretty.
Still, Holden should not have ignored what Ellie termed his “gut feeling.” That sounds disgusting but I understand what she means by this. He has rebuffed any conversation regarding our psychic ability, so instead of listening to his intuition, he now lies in a state near death.
I had an uneasy feeling, all that day that I was certain was in reference to Holden. We have a special connection that can never be broken and while I aspire never to intrude into his thoughts, I could not help but be aware that something was not right. In fact, it felt as if he was invading my mind which was not like him in the least.
It wasn’t until the Leader of the Free World had finished his press conference, though, that it hit me full force. I was sitting in my office at my desk when all of a sudden, I had a blinding headache. It began at my upper right forehead and radiated to the back. It was unrelenting as it was sudden and I thought I might vomit. Panting, I put my hand to my forehead. It felt as if my entire skull had been ripped open.
After the bulk of the pain subsided, I did not waste a moment. Quickly, I called Shelly. Thankfully, she answered right away.
“Yes, I am concerned about Holden.”
“I am, too. My advice is to go to him as fast as you can manage. There has been an accident or something. I’m not sure.”
Yes, I thought, he has been injured.
Fighting back any irrational thoughts I might have regarding worry or fear, I hung up the phone and called the police. One might wonder how I was able to make them believe me. The simple answer is that I have friends in the police department with whom I’ve worked before.
After I made arrangements with the police, I hurried to my car.
Once we arrived at the cottage, I was very anxious to see Holden face to face. Even though I tried to hold back such feelings, dread had begun to build in me regardless. As I trudged through the deep snow drifts toward the front door, I knew in my heart, he was merely clinging to life.
When I reached the front door, I could see Ellie crouched next to it, trying to see outside. She jumped when she saw me, then reached up her arm to unlock the door. As soon as I entered, I helped her stand. Her breath was coming in gasps and her face was tear-stained.
“I can’t believe you’re here!”
“Shh… shh… it’s all right. There is an ambulance right behind me – you will be able to see their lights at any moment. Where is he?”
Nearly collapsing in my arms, she shakily pointed near the fireplace. My brother was lying on the floor and it was obvious this was even more serious than I could have imagined. For the first time during this entire ordeal, it struck me as surely as if I’d been slapped that I might have to live without him.
Rushing to his side, I dropped heavily next to him, grasping his hand between mine, tears springing from my eyes. “Holden, I heard you. I heard you!” I sobbed. “You’re going to be okay! Please, hold on! I cannot live without you!”
Ellie was hurrying the paramedics over to us, panic ringing loudly in her voice. As if in a nightmare, I slowly stood, Ellie and I holding each other, as the paramedics fought to save my brother’s life.