The day I was released, it was a beautiful fall day, the air crisp and perfect. Max was waiting in an old Honda that had seen better days. I didn't care, it had been a long time since I even rode in a car. He took my bags and tossed them in the trunk and I jumped in the front seat. 

Nobody spoke until he entered the freeway, his face turned to stone and he said "neither one of us are welcome back there, we will have to park somewhere else" he didn't take his eyes off the road. "What about that little lake my parents had their 4th of July parties?" I suggested. He nodded "I was actually just thinking the same thing" now he smiled, glanced over at me and took my hand in his, interlocking our fingers. "We always had chemistry, if things hadn't gotten...bad" he paused and cleared his throat. I squeezed his fingers gently and smiled "I know" I whispered. 
"So why now? What made you put this in motion now?" I asked, changing the subject. He furrowed his eyebrows and said "God, Gabs did they actually brain wash you in that loony bin?" "Max, please don't call it that" I said, looking down at my hands, and trying to think. What did I forget about? I shook my head "I'm sorry, they pumped me full of drugs and lies so I would forget what they convinced me were fantasies I made up for the attention". 

"Do you remember the night Luke wandered off and I spent the night on your floor?" He asked staring straight ahead, he face was stone, I couldn't read any emotion. "Yes, of course I remember" still confused. 
"Gavin was found that morning, and my parents didn't even wait until he was in the ground to pack up and leave in the night. I snuck out to tell you we were leaving. I thought about running away and letting them leave without me. I'm sure they would have just left..." he trailed off. I had completely forgotten that last night. We had made a pact that night, he would come back for me, no matter what. I guess I lost any hope I had after they locked me up. 

20 years ago...3am

I was laying awake in bed, my face stained with stale tears, I couldn't cry anymore and resigned to staring at the ceiling. Everything was uncertain, I was pretty sure I would never again see the one person who would believe me, the one person who was by my side. 

There was a soft rap, rap, rap on my window. I hesitated a moment, then jumped off my bed and ran to the window, pulling the shade "Max?? Is that you??" I whispered when I pushed open the window, a moment later, Max jumped to my floor. "I can't just up and leave without saying good bye" I smiled "good, I was hoping I would see you again before they drag you away" I gave him a quick hug, as I pulled away from him, he wrapped both arms around me in a bear hug.  Fresh tears streaked down my face. "Look what you made me go and do" I punched him playfully in the arm. "Gabs, make me a promise" I stepped back and looked at his face, it was hardened, I could see the man he would grow up to be in that baby face I loved.  "Anything" my voice was barely a whisper now. "That you won't go into the woods, looking for Luke or whatever that thing is, by yourself. I will come back for you, I promise, then we will find our answers together"  now he was staring straight into my eyes, it was actually making me uncomfortable but I can't remember why, maybe it was the haunted look in his eyes, he didn't seem to be present. "I promise" his face cracked a bit and a sheepish grin formed as he lifted his hand, sticking out his pinky "pinky swear?" I looked at his outstretched arm "pretty sure we out grew that in elementary school, but why not?" I teased and we shook pinkies. That was the last time I saw him, well until now anyway. 

Present Day

"I remember now," I smiled and he said "I'm back for you now, let's go find Luke and that thing or at least find some answers" he turned down a dirt road and the Honda jumped from pothole to pothole, I hung on to the arm rest "are you sure this thing won't just collapse right here?" I teased and Max laughed "she'll be just fine" he said, patting the dashboard gently. 

We finally parked in the little paved patch they call a parking lot, nothing had changed, it was like I never left, I half expected to smell the aroma of meat cooking on a grill and hearing splashing and yelling from the beach. 

I looked around and found Max standing by the tree line behind the designated camping spots. He turned and yelled "we can go in over here!" I started heading toward him in a half jog half walk. When I caught up to him, he was pointing toward the water "see that?" There was an island in the distance. "I think that might be where it hides, when I looked over old surveyor maps of the area and there should be an old barn on that island, the only building left standing after some pretty nasty storms wiped the rest of the buildings out." 

"Max, I hate to state the obvious, but how exactly did you plan on getting there? I completely forgot to pack my BOAT"
"I'll show you, c'mon!" He waved his arm, motioning me to follow. He was almost giddy. 

I was starting to get uneasy, there's no way he could know all this from some surveyors map. I watched him carefully, something didn't seem right. Max disappeared from my sight for a few minutes, then reappeared in a small paddle boat yelling "c'mon!" Is this guy for real?  How long had he been meticulously planning this out? This was doing nothing to ease the growing anxiety in my chest. 

I took a deep breath and headed down the hill...

Published by Liz Zemlicka