In the Stacks: Part 5

Rowan drove aimlessly for what felt like hours. He was trying his hardest not to panic, and Maddie was staring at him with wide eyes. He didn’t know what to say to her. Obviously he couldn’t turn back now since both the man and his brother knew who he was. He knew that he had to figure out what to do to help this girl, but he didn’t even know where to start. He was so frustrated and scared that he couldn’t voice these things to Maddie.

All she could do was sit there and assume that he would throw her out of his car at any moment. She knew the trouble she had gotten him into, and she felt terribly about it. There was nothing she could do to help, so she felt useless.

Eventually, Rowan decided that he had to stop driving at some point. Regardless of his fears, he was starting to exhaust himself worrying. He decided that he had no choice but to return to his apartment. He was so tired that, at this point, he didn’t really care that the brothers might be following him. He needed to rest.

He turned his car around and headed back towards his apartment. When he got back, he and Maddie walked tiredly up the stairs. They looked around them at all times, knots in their stomachs the whole walk from the car to his front door. Both of them collapsed on the old, worn couch and sat quietly, lost in their own thoughts.

It was Maddie who broke the silence first. “Rowan, what are we going to do?

Rowan looked over at her. He was going to answer with a simple ‘I don’t know’. However, he stopped and looked at her suspiciously. A thought had just occurred to him; why hadn’t she called her parents yet? He remembered thinking that before, but she still hadn’t even brought up anyone in her family. He eyed her suspiciously, wondering if he should even ask.  After a few moments, he decided that he had every right to be wary. He did not know this girl, and at the moment he kind of resented her.

“Hey Maddie,” he said hesitantly. “Why haven’t you tried to reach out to your family? I meant to ask you sooner, but everything happened so quickly, it slipped my mind.”

A dark shadow seemed to cross her face. She remained silent, as if she didn’t want to answer. Rowan and she sat in awkward silence for a few moments, but this was one instance where Rowan was not going to back down. The longer she remained silent, the more suspicious of her he got. He thought he saw sweat start to form on her brow, as if she was nervous, but he looked away when she glanced at him.

Eventually, though, she broke the silence. She spoke, rather sadly with just a hint of anger. “My parents don’t want to have anything to do with me. I made some decisions about 5 years ago that they didn’t agree with, and they chose to disown me. I have been living on my own and paying for my own school since then. That’s why I can’t call them.”

Rowan just stayed silent. He didn’t know how to respond, and now he felt like an ass for even asking. No, he told himself. I have every right to ask her whatever questions I want, considering all the trouble she has gotten us into. Maddie was even more silent then him. She was stock-still and it seemed like she was holding her breath. Never once did she make eye contact with him. About 15 minutes passed before anyone spoke up again.

“Rowan, I know you are feeling suspicious of me. I can feel it, but I promise you I am telling the truth. If you think I have anything to do with those two creeps, I can promise you that I don’t. Why would I put myself through all of this?”

And now, Rowan felt like an ass again. He apologized. “Look, I’m sorry. I am just beyond stressed and anxious right now, so any small thing sends me into emergency mode. I still want to help you. And I know that no one would put themselves through what you have been through.”

Rowan realized that it was now 9:00 PM, and they still didn’t know what to do. They decided to sleep on it, though Rowan felt that he would get very little sleep for the second night in a row. They stayed up for a bit watching TV, trying to relax enough to get tired.

Rowan must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing he knew, he was being shaken awake by Maddie. It took him a second to orient himself, and he quickly realized that he must have fallen asleep in the living room again. It was still dark in his living room, so he glanced at his phone to check the time. It was 2:34 AM.

“Maddie, what the hell? Why are you waking me up right now? Is everything okay?”

In the small streams of light from the street lamp outside that slipped through his blinds, Rowan could see that Maddie’s face was chalk-white. Her eyes were round and frightened. They stared at eachother for a while, and Maddie just walked away without saying a word.

Rowan was terrified but exhausted, so he got up to follow her back to his room. He spoke frantically to her. “Maddie! What were you doing? What do you want?” But she ignored him and made her way into his bed. He stood in the doorway dumbfounded. And then he realized that she must have been sleep walking. She was completely unresponsive, and she was walking as if she was unsure where to go.  He had never seen anyone sleep walk, so he was definitely surprised by the whole ordeal.

Quietly, he stumbled back into the living room since it was still too dark for him to see. He laid back down and tried to drift off to sleep, but he tossed and turned for an hour before he finally could. The whole night, though, the image of Maddie’s wide, unblinking stare kept flashing in his mind.

When he woke up, he was groggy and still felt extremely tired. He opened his eyes, half scared that Maddie would be staring at him again. However, she shuffled into the living room, her eyes half-closed with sleep.

“Hey, Rowan, how’d you sleep?” she asked with a yawn.

“Uhm… Maddie do you remember coming in here last night?”

“What? No; once I went to sleep, I was out cold. Why?”

“Dude. Well are you a sleep-walker? Because you came in here last night and really freaked me out.” Rowan was shaking now, the memory scaring him all over again.

Maddie looked at him, confusion written all over her face. She claimed that she had never done that before. When Rowan asked her another question, Maddie seemed to get really annoyed. “Look, can we please stop talking about what happened in my sleep? I have never been a sleep-walker and I don’t remember coming out here last night!” Immediately she covered her mouth and her eyes looked fearful. “Rowan I am so sorry. I am just really stressed out right now because I don’t know what to do.”

Rowan was surprised by her minor outburst, as this was the first time since he helped her that she had shown any emotion besides fear. He let it go, since he knew traumatic experiences can cause people to exhibit really weird behaviors. Against his better judgement, he tried to believe her. Something didn’t sit right with him, but he couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

Instead he changed the subject. He asked her if she had a place that she wanted to go, considering she hadn’t been home, seemingly in a long while.

“Actually, can we go by my bank? When I was kidnapped, I am pretty sure he got rid of all of my money and identification.” Rowan agreed that that would be a good place to start, that way she could buy herself some clothes. “Yeah, my parents gave me a lot of money before the school year started.” She said this as she walked away, not looking at him.

With her back to him, Rowan looked after her as she skipped into the restroom. His mouth was open slightly. Hadn’t she said before that her parents had disowned her? His heart started to pound, and his unease hit him again like a truck.

Shit, he thought to himself. I really don’t know anything about this girl. He realized that he was digging himself into a hole that he didn’t think he could scratch his way out of.

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