“Don’t be a pest Diana, go play with your friend,” I gestured at Lily Kennels.
Diana rolled her eyes at me, slumping back to Lily.
“Dad… why did we need to bring them along?” I made sure to speak softly.
“Geez Abby… it’s only one day… can’t you adjust?”
“No,” I snapped, folding my hands.
“Behave,” He warned.
If only my little sister hadn't been BFF’s with the sister of an annoying jerk.
Tony… ugh, I hated him. Ever since we were little he’d tease me, steal my jacket and throw it in the boys bathroom. I’d cry, wail… complain to the grown-ups but I stopped doing that. He’d just call me a snitcher or crybaby.
Now my parents force me to ‘hang out’ with that obnoxious boy.
I ignored him, scrolling through my phone.
“Hello?” He called louder, my eardrum hurt.
“WHAT!” I realized that he’d made me speak.
He chuckling under his breath.
“Leave me alone,” I yelled, then regretting it immediately. My mom’s face hung a depressed sigh.
“Sorry, thought you were someone else.”
“Sweetheart, I know how you feel… just… play nice.”
“Also, can you take care of the kids while Richard and I go find a good fishing spot… see if the fish are biting?” I liked that she included Tony as ‘kids’.
“Gladly,” I was grinning.
“Thanks,” She placed a small kiss on my forehead and handed me her travel bag that she’d loaded up specially for our camping trip emergencies.
“Call me if anything goes downhill.”
I nodded, taking the heavy sack.
“She left, going to find some fishing spot.”
“Can I have a marshmallow?” Diana used her puppy eyes. I shook my head, her face fell.
“Not until dinner,”
“God…. you sound like mom.” She ironically added.
“Whatever, just play with Lily but don’t wander too far.”
“I’m not a baby you know.”
“I… I know that.”
“I’m just a year younger than you,” She walked away before I could react. I never realized Diana felt that way. Sure I might tease her a bit but do I treat her like a baby?
My focus reverted back to my phone. I attached my earplugs on my ears, slowly mouthing the words my favorite music produced. I was in my own world now… no pesky little sister… no bossy parents and especially no rude guys.
I was so engrossed into the music I didn’t hear Tony call out my name. He tapped lightly on my shoulder, indicating our surroundings. I didn’t realize what he was saying but then I understood… the girls were missing!
“Diana… Lily, where are you? It’s been five minutes and I still haven't found them. Mom would kill me if she found out I lost them.
“Why didn’t you stop them?” I yelled at Tony’s face. He kept quiet, calling out their names like a mantra yet we didn’t get a response.
“I didn’t pay attention,” His eyes were wide, I almost thought they looked scared.
“Well… now we lost them, thanks to you.”
“Hey! It’s not all my fault, you didn’t care about your sister to keep an eye on her,” He complained. I was taken back, tears rolling down my cheeks but I continued to search without fruitless attempts.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find them.”
The light around us began to dim. It was dusk… my parents would have probably returned to camp and freaked out to see the empty campsite.
“I’m a terrible sister, mom shouldn’t have made me in charge,” I muttered, sitting on the nearby rock. I was exhausted, my legs gave up yet my heart couldn’t. Diana… she was my best friend, my little sister, my life. I couldn’t imagine how frightened she’d be. I knew Tony felt the same way about Lily.
“You're the best sister Diana could ask for,” He placed a hand on my shoulder. Surprisingly it calmed me.
He helped me to my feet again. The vegetation was increasing the more we walked away from base camp.
I checked my phone for the time to realize I had no signal… just wonderful.
“You got a signal?”
He checked his.
“Nope, we’re too far I guess.”
“I hope they're ok.”
“Yeah… don’t take the whole burden on you.”
I nodding shyly.
“What’s the sudden chance?” I mocked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Oh… I don’t know, maybe I realized she’s more than I thought she was,” He winked.
I blushed, staring into the sky that darkened with every breath I produced.
We walked side by side. Admiring the beauty that only came out in the dark.
He brushed his hand on mine, smiling softly. I wanted to keep this moment forever, keep repeating it.
“What’s that?” His focus shifted back to our mission. I looked to meet his glance.
“I think… it’s a cave?” I could barely make out the stony structure.
We looked at each other in shock.
“Oh no, no way did they go in there,” I mumbled.
“I know my sister… she’s definitely curious,” He bend down and picking a small hair clip.
We ran inside, our weak voices echoing through the walls. Water dripped from the ceiling, it was getting darker faster inside. Bats began to wake up to our footsteps.
“You think they’re here?” He asked.
“Positive,” I really hoped I was right.
“You got a flashlight in there?” He pointed to my backpack. I shrugged, removing the flap and digging out an old flashlight.
I handed it to him.
“Should we spread out?” I suggested.
I covered my eyes as he shined the flashlight on my face.
“It’s not safe… we’ll stay together,” He countered.
I nodded, glad that he cared about my safety.
My shoulders ached from carrying the heavy bag. Sharp jagged rocks teared our pants but we continued to walk forward not knowing the consequences. We had low oxygen levels. My breathing became less abored.
“Yeah… I’m just… what if…” He placed his finger on my parted mouth, shaking his head.
“It’s ok,” He muttered each syllable slowly.
I shivered from the cold, I felt shivers through my spine. My teeth chattered from the lack of warmth.
“Maybe…” He stopped, motioning for me to keep still.
I gave him a confused look then I understood. Someone was crying, it was very low but I could hear them. I heard soft murmurs being produced from behind the big rock.
I wiped my tears, walking ahead.
They turned around at the sound of my voice. Poor girls, they’ve been sitting here. Crying. I hugged them, comforting them that everything’s good now.
“Why did you leave?” I demanded after they were able to speak correctly again.
“I… I’m sorry Abby, we wanted to explore and kinda stumbled here?” They mumbled, looking at each other and hanging their heads.
“Sorry,” They finished.
“Well… you’re both in trouble but… we better get out of here first,” I locked eyes with Tony. Keeping my hands secured into theirs so they don’t escape again… not that they will ever dare.
“Do you know which way to go?”
My mouth dropped. I shook my head.
We were lost…
“I’m hungry,” Diana complained. Her tummy rumbled in unison.
“I think I’ve got some food in here,” I handed her a granola bar from the bag. She made a face but took it anyway.
“Tony? Any luck?” He had been trying to get a signal but so far no luck at that.
“No… dang it,” He whispered, I winced from his tone.
“What time is it?” Lily’s been the most quiet one, I forgot she was even here.
“Let me check… it’s 9 in the morning.”
“Sleep,” I instructed. She obeyed immediately.
I rested my head against the hard surface, tears dripping down my cheeks.
“Don’t cry… we’ll get out… somehow.”
I looked at his eyes, they were filled with more hope than mine. Yet, I couldn’t believe him.
I closed my own eyes, letting the darkness sweep in.
“Ow… it hurts so much.”
I took a deep breath, bandaging Lily’s scar on her shin. She had tried to climb up the rocks but got hurt instead.
“Shh… it’ll be fine,” I cooed.
Tony smiled, seeing me take care of his sister.
“Thanks,” He mouthed.
“I’m not doing this for you.”
He grinned, “Whatever.”
Life’s not fair.
I never really experienced that… until now. We’ve been cooped up in this cave for more than three days.
We were running out of daily essentials, supplies getting low. Diana was sick from drinking water produced by the caves. She’s been moaning about stomach aches.
I felt completely crushed. My sister was in pain, Lily was injured and we were never getting out of here. I’d promised the girls we would be safe but I needed some reassurance myself.
Tony had been awfully quiet the past hours, reading his comic book as if nothing had happened.
I seated near him, peeking at what book amused him.
“Oh hi,” He closed the book, his eyes down.
We kept still, Diana and Lily were sleeping. Their soft snores echoed through the walls.
“I’m… I’m so sorry,” He whispered, “I can’t figure out where to go from here.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I should have been nicer to you… I’m deeply sorry for treating you so badly.”
My face heated up.
“Will you ever forgive me?”
“Yes,” I breathed. We’d become super close to each other these past days.
“Thanks,” He went back to reading.
I settled near my sister, brushing her hair from her forehead and placing a kiss.
“I’ll make this right… I promise”
“What’s that noise?”
“Lily… it’s just a bat,” Tony answered her. She huddled closer to her brother, her wound was getting infected to the lack of cleanliness.
“Don’t worry Lily, we’re here.”
I smiled at Diana. She’d been very supportive of her jumpy friend.
“Tony,” I pronounced his name, it felt weird to be… friends.
“I’m going to walk for a few minutes… see if I can spot an opening.”
“I’ll be fine.”
He nodded but his eyes showed fear.
I stumbled to walk forward, my clothes were soiled, we hadn't had a chance to change our clothes since the first time we entered the cave. How I’d taken all those essentials for granted, now when I needed them they aren’t available.
My Nikes were not fit for this kind of adventure.
I felt Tony’s eyes behind my back as I took unsteady steps.
The next second I heard his name call out in alarm, I didn’t know what was going on until everything became dark.
“Are you hurt?”
“No, no I’m good… at least I think.”
“I can’t reach you, the rocks trapped you…” His voice faded.
“I’m here,” He shoved his hand inside the small crack. His hand was bleeding when our hands joined.
“I’m here,” He repeated.
“Comes with the job,” I heard him cough up a laugh.
I stayed near him even if I couldn’t see him. I was disconnected from them but they were still here for me. Diana yelped when she found out.
“I’m scared,” Diana whimpered.
“We all are,” Lily added.
“Tony… will we ever get out?” I heard Diana ask.
“I... “ He didn’t respond.
He wanted me to answer… he wasn’t confident either.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready to admit the truth either. We all were young, we haven’t even had a chance at life. Will we die? Will our death be a mystery always? What will our parents do? Our life? Was it destroyed?
I felt nausea hit me. I closed my eyes, holding onto his hand. The only thing that kept me alive.
“Lily are you okay?” I woke to the sound of Diana’s faint voice. She was sobbing.
“What's… wrong,” My lack of oxygen had made my voice into a whisper.
“Abby! You're awake?”
“Yes, what's… what happened?”
“Lily’s sick… home sick, don’t fret... Diana’s a natural.”
“Diana? At what?”
“A doctor, didn't know Mrs. Bossyboots had some skills,” I wheezed a small laugh.
Laughing felt so good. I could almost taste freedom.
A dim light shimmering just above me, if I hadn’t paid attention I never would have guessed there was a light source.
Curious, I stood up. My heartbeat quickened, I felt the whiff of clean air in a while. I’ve gotten used to the mucky oxygen that just a % cleaner would feel like heaven.
It took all my might to stand straight. My toe-fingers were numb from sitting so long in a cramped area but I managed.
“I see an opening.”
I heard Tony’s subdued footsteps.
“Up,” I trailed off, “I’d have to climb.”
“It’s… too risky, I can’t bear to lose you,” I felt my face blush.
“Tony… it’s our only chance.”
“To get yourself hurt or... killed?” He demanded.
“I don’t have to take your permission,” I muttered.
He fell silent, not able to counter my response.
“Please,” I felt the pain in his voice, “Don’t.”
I sighed, “I’ll be careful.”
I’ll be fine
Think of the outcome
I can do this
Think of Diana and Lily
I can’t let them down
My teeth clenched tighter together as I arched my way up. I’d tried all night. I had lost my footing a couple of times, bruising myself but nothing severe. Tony hadn’t spoken to me since our little argument. Diana kept tabs on me, making sure I was ok.
“You don’t have to do this.”
“I’ll be ok,” I said, keeping my left foot near a sturdy rock. I hoped rock climbing lessons paid off.
“I can’t bear…” She stopped.
I didn’t notice her whimper.
I kept an eye beyond.
We’ll be saved.
I steadied myself on a glassy rock, my limbs were wearing out. My hand were bleeding from placing them on sharp, jagged edges.
My breathing was shallow, my heart was racing.
But I’d made it.
We’ll be free.
The sky seemed much closer now. I didn’t realize that I’d fallen asleep on the rock. I could feel the breeze from the nearby ocean, the smell of salt water hit me instantly, calming my nerves.
“Are you ok?” I almost smiled at the mellow voice of Lily. She had kept a brave face during this whole mess.
“I’m better than ok.”
“Abby? Whats the matter?” Diana asked.
“Oh Diana, we’re saved!”
“Abby, you didn’t,” Tony.
“Yes, I did it.”
“How will you get off? Jump?”
I could feel him rolling his eyes.
“Have some sense.”
“Gee, thanks for the wise words,” I sarcastically added.
I explained my plan to them, telling them to stay put while I bring help. Tony was stubborn but agreed anyway.
“Good luck,” Lily and Diana chanted.
“Don’t get yourself killed,” I rolled my eyes at Tony’s comment.
It was the first time I climbed outside, the opening was narrow but my slender body managed to fit through perfectly.
The air outside helped me regain some strength… I’d need it. After what was coming.
How would I ever cross it?
I wasn’t much of a trained swimmer, only took a few lessons that mom’s friend offered to take for free. I’m afraid she didn’t include how to jump from a cliff, straight into a roaring ocean that is ready to swallow me whole.
I trembled from the cold, just beyond I spotted the forest… the campsite… mom and dad.Taking a deep breath, I lunged forward. Diving in.
I choked out the excess water. My body was dripping wet and I was freezing. My bag… I’d left it back with Tony. My phone. Just great. I had been cut off all kinds of communication.
I walked forward. That was all I could do. Just walk. I knew my parents were probably gone home thinking we were missing, never to be found. Maybe they thought we ran away. I didn’t know. I was clueless.
My adrenaline pumped faster, my head dizzy. My eyelids shut. My body drooped and I fell to the ground.
“Is she alive?”
“Yes, her heart is beating.”
My eyes stirred up from the unfamiliar voices around me. I felt a secure hand pull me up.
“Where… am I?”
“Don’t worry, you’re safe.”
I rubbed my eyes, forcing on the voices.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Dr. Mendoza, this man brought you here, says that he found you lying faint in the camping grounds.”
I caressed my head, looking at my savior.
“Thank you,” I mouthed.
“Where are your parents sweetie?”
“I… I don’t know.”
“Sarah and Richard Maxwell.”
“What a coincidence.” I gave a puzzled look.
“Ten years ago a young couple with the same names had lost their children and some friends of theirs, they were really devastated.”
I felt a limp in my throat at the mention of them…. wait… 10 years?
“What’s todays date?”
“Why it’s the 12 of October.”
“The year?” Dr. Mendoza looked confused.
I gasped. It had been 10 years.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes,” I thanked the doctor, setting off into the unknown. 10 years… how am I the same old me? How had time ticked past so quickly that what felt like days was actually years.
It was something supernatural.
Then it striked me.
If just spending a day there was equivalent to a year… then… how will they ever get out of that time loop. I’d never see them.
I felt tears prick my eyes.
What would happen to them.
I walked forward.
“I will, I promise to find a way.”