Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Storm Past. Chapter Four: It Ends Here

Today's post is the final chapter of an ongoing story. This is a piece crafted by a large group of writers, each author adding to what the last writers have contributed. The idea is that we all write the story but no one controls it. The challenge is for each writer to expound on or change the plot, putting their own stamp on the piece, while maintaining the cohesive integrity of the story.

Progressive Story Project | | #MyGraphics

  If you haven't read the previous installments or just  need a refresher, click here before reading on:

 Chapter one: Darkening Skies
Chapter two: Where There's Smoke
Chapter three: Worlds Collide

Storm Past, a Progressive Story Project | | #story #fiction

Up to date? OK, picking up the story where we left off:

Chapter Four: It Ends Here

Michele of Follow me home
Wrapped in the safety of Chase's arms, Maria laid in bed rehearsing every scenario possible in her head. She knew that come morning, her world would never be the same again. What could she say to her husband that would ever make sense? How would he react when she told him she took someone's life and then tried to cover it up? How could she ever spin any of her past and still end up having Chase still love her? She imagined him hating her every single time. She pictured her beloved husband picking up their perfect son and leaving her. Would they do it right away? Would they wait until she was arrested for murder? For arson? For fleeing a crime scene? It all made her breathless. She needed a drink of water. She needed air.
Walking through her dark kitchen, Maria felt comforted for the first time by the night. These were the precious hours she had left as a wife and mother. She held onto the silence as if it were a gift she'd soon have to give back. While reaching for a glass, Maria caught sight of a figure outside her window. He looked vaguely familiar. Searching her memory, Maria finally recognized the man as the home insurance representative she met earlier that evening. Would he still be working this late? Why was he in her yard? Moving closer to the window screen she noticed that he wasn't alone. He was arguing with someone.

"I told you it was an honest mistake!" the insurance rep said in a frustrated voice. "I thought the plan was rock solid. I was so sure!"

"Well, you thought wrong! You . . . you . . . idiot!" a second man said in a scathing voice. Maria froze she was paralyzed with fear. She could only feel her pulse in her head. That voice. It couldn't be. Could it? She forced her hands onto the sink for balance. Stretching her body as close to the window as possible, Maria could just make out the stranger's face. It was the monster from her past. It was Jeffrey.

"Do you know how long I've planned this?" Jeffrey seethed as he continue to scold the insurance man. "YOU! . . . You burned down the WRONG house!"

Maria gasped and was afraid for a moment that the men heard her. None of it mattered though, because just as Maria covered her mouth, the kitchen light turned on. It was Chase.

 Anna-May of Silence of the Mom

The men looked up, shocked by the light that just turned on. Maria froze, hand still covering her mouth. Chase came up beside Maria just after Jeffrey disappeared, but the insurance adjuster was staring at them. Chase immediately went outside.

"What the hell are you doing outside our house in the middle of the night?" Chase hissed at the man.

"Sorry, just finishing up from earlier. I have to inspect the surrounding houses, see if they give me any clues as to what might have happened. I'll be on my way now. Sorry to bother you." The guy was stumbling all over himself, but never took his eyes off Maria.

"What on earth could he get from looking at our house in the middle of the night? Something's not right with that guy. My spidey-senses are tingling . . . Hey, are you okay, baby?" Chase asked Maria as he wrapped his arms around her trembling body.

"I, I'm fine." She said as she turned to walk away. She couldn't believe that Jeffrey was outside her house. How had he found her? How had he survived that fire all those years ago. He was back to seek revenge and he didn't care who else he hurt in the process. He must know she was married and had a child.

Chase took hold of her arm. "Please don't walk away from me. You have to talk to me. Please tell me what is going on. I can't stand being shut out like this."

Maria looked into his eyes. She knew he was hurting, that he could tell something was wrong. This was it, she had to tell him. She had to come clean about it all and pray that he didn't leave her. Even if he didn't understand.

"I have to tell you about something that happened a long time ago . . . " she said, as she sat at the kitchen table.

"I was married before I met you. His name was . . . Jeffrey." She shuddered as she said the name. "I was very young when I met him and he was so good to me: he opened doors, bought me gifts and called all the time from his business trips to tell me he was thinking of me."

 "We ran off together and got married. I hadn't realized how often he was away for work until we were living together. He'd be gone for days at a time and I would miss him so much, but when I called he never answered his phone. He would text me back to say he was in a meeting or with a client, but I started to get suspicious."

"I honestly thought he was having an affair, but when he'd come home he was so loving and so responsive to me. I put those thoughts away to focus on being the best wife I could be. And then things changed. We moved suddenly to a new state. He said it was for work, but he seemed so stressed out about it and it was so abrupt."

"His attitude changed when we moved too. He began acting suspicious of me and asking where I'd been while he was gone. I was only trying to make friends, but he insisted that I stay home. He took my cell phone and insisted that I be home to answer the landline whenever he called. I wasn't trying to antagonize him. I only tried to ask how I was supposed to take care of the house for him if I couldn't leave the house." Maria took a deep breath before going on. "I certainly wasn't expecting him to strike me just for asking about groceries!" And she broke down in sobs on Chase's  chest.

 Melissa of Home on Deranged

As she inhaled deeply, bringing the sobs under control, Chase took her face in his hands and said, "I don't want to hear the rest of it. I don't need to hear the rest of it. I trust you, Maria, and I know you, and that's all that matters." As he finished the sentence, he pulled her into a kiss, one filled with passion as well as comfort. A kiss that answered the question burning in her mind: Chase would never leave her. He would never hurt her, and he would never take Ryan away from her.

Chase pulled back, wiping the tears from her cheeks. A small smile broke across his face as he whispered, "We'll take care of this. Tonight."

He rose from the table, picked up his cell phone and dialed a number. "It's happened. No, she's still here. Right, I'll see you in 20 minutes."

Maria's eyes widened. There was a touch of fear in her breath as she spoke. "You . . . you . . . what are you doing?" He smiled at her again, only this time it didn't touch his eyes. "We all have secrets, Maria," he said. "Lawyers know how to keep them well. I've been waiting for Jeff to reappear for years. After he killed my cheating wife in that damned cabin of yours, I checked the body in the morgue for myself. I knew he was coming and I knew I had to find him."

She sat in stunned silence. "But, how did you find me?" Chase let out a long sigh. "You made a mess of things that night, and I lost you for a bit when you went in the water. Luckily, you walked in a straight line, which made you easier to track." He explained how he showed her picture everywhere in the small town she found. "A new woman in town? With no family to speak of? You weren't as well hidden as you thought, he said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Who are you going to see in 20 minutes?" she asked,almost in a whisper. He turned, a look of grim determination on his face. "The last piece of this puzzle," he said. "The closure that we've both been seeking."

Karen of Baking In A Tornado

Shocked, confused and betrayed at the thought of having built this life with Chase without having known who he was, and yet terrified of losing him as a result of whatever his plan may be, Maria sank to the floor in a daze. Despite the roaring in her ears, she heard it again: "ominous."

Maria woke with a start. She shot up in the bed only to be jerked to a stop. She looked down at her wrists, they were cuffed to the bed rails. Thick leather cuffs held her in place.

Fearfully, she looked around. Sparse. Locked door, soft walls, little furniture and what there was clearly had been bolted in place. Nothing metal. Nothing sharp. One person standing in the corner looking at her. Someone she hoped never to see again.

"I don't belong here," she thought.
And then a second voice, also in her head, "yes, you do."
. . . Jeffrey . . .

Dr. Enas Tonro spoke in a soft and calm voice: "It's OK, Marlee. We will take good care of you again, get your meds regulated. This is just a setback. It happens."

"Maria" she corrected.
"Marlee" he responded firmly.
"Where is Chase, Ryan?"
"There is no Chase, Marlee. No Ryan."

 That's when she heard it again. Softly at first, but it built to a roar:

"Ominous." That word kept going through her mind. She could not get it to stop. It was in her head, over and over again in a constant loop. If it didn't end soon she would lose her mind.

Unless she already had.

It's an honor for me to not only thank those who added their voices to the crafting of this story, but to highly recommend that you visit their blogs:

Lydia of Cluttered Genius
Steena of The Angrivated Mom 
Michele of Follow me home
Anna-May of Silence of the Mom
 Rabia of The Lieber Family Blog
Melissa of Home on Deranged

and me! 

Baking In A Tornado signature | | #MyGraphics


  1. Oh my word!! Totally not what I was expecting! Melissa threw me for a loop, but then you really caught me off guard! Methinks you ARE a tornado!!!

    1. Me thinks I'm a very lucky woman to have such talented and generous friends!

    2. I was wondering if anyone would catch that. You're the first!

  2. Holy Wow!!! I was definitely not expecting! Nicely done!

  3. Replies
    1. I'm so glad. I've really been stressing about the ending.

    2. Melissa, what was the missing puzzle piece???

    3. Bwahahahaha....oh, wait...let me search my notes....

  4. Amazing! I would never have figured it to end like that! This was such fun, I can't wait to do it again!

    1. Yes, amazing. Everyone did such a great job. Thank you.

  5. Yow! Mind blown! Tons of fun and congratulations to all!
    Love it!!!

  6. Say WHAT?!?!?!
    NOT the ending I expected. Wow, just wow.

  7. Perfect ending - I hated it! Really, you ended it perfectly but it wasn't the touchy feely I was expecting. I bet you had fun doing that and shocking us all. I'm in for next time - what a great story - congrats to all!

    1. No, touchy feely would have been way too expected. Couldn't go there, although I really was nervous about disappointing everyone. Thank you for joining in. Loved doing this.

  8. EPIC PLOT TWIST FTW!!! You nailed the ending. Bravo everyone!

  9. Oh wow… what goes around, comes around. And sometimes one simply goes crazy ;-)
    What a great story with so many unexpected turns!

  10. So, she wasn't the stalker, only a bit crazy (or not). What a special project; thanks for letting me participate. Love the PLOT twist :)

    1. It would not have been the same without you. Thank you for always being there for me.


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