Instead of using the main roads, Jake drove through a strawberry field and the dairy queen parking lot before turning onto the dirt road that led to the back of the hospital.

“Jake, I don’t think she’s breathing!” I shouted. I couldn’t feel air coming through her nose, and I couldn’t see her chest rising.

I wished the hospital were closer.

Jake accelerated Bethany’s car to speeds his old truck could’ve never come close to. He reached out and grabbed Georgia’s hand. “We’re almost there baby, hold on, Gee.”

She wasn’t responding anymore.

“Dear God... what has he done?” Bethany cried from the back seat.

Jake managed to turn the thirty minute ride to the hospital into a little over ten minutes. They were still the longest ten minutes of my life.

The SUV was barely in park in front of the hospital when Jake hopped out and ran around to my side opening my door, removing Georgia from my lap. “Daddy’s got you, baby girl. Daddy’s got you. You’re gonna be okay, Gee.”

We ran through the sliding doors to an empty waiting room and an even emptier reception area. Jake burst through a door marked Hospital Staff Only and I followed quickly. We ran until we saw a group of nurses sitting around a vending machine. “We need help!” he roared. “Get a fucking doctor now!”

The nurses sprang to life when they laid eyes on my lifeless daughter. One wheeled out a gurney while another paged a doctor. He arrived seconds later and helped us lay her on the gurney. “She was shot. That bastard shot her,” I told them. Somehow I didn’t think it would be as obvious to them as it was to me.

They placed a mask over her face with a blue ball pump attached to it. Then they were running, the nurses wheeling her down the hallway and squeezing the pump while the doctor shouted more instructions. They disappeared behind a set of double doors.

When we tried to follow them through, another nurse stopped us. “Let them help her,” she said, halting us with her hand.

“Get out of my fucking way!” Jake yelled. The nurse held her position, even under Jake’s intimidation.

“They can’t help her with you hovering over her, sir,” she said calmly. “Please, have a seat in the waiting room. The second we know something, I will come tell you myself. I promise.” It was a fight we couldn’t win. I needed to be in there. I needed to tell her it was all going to be okay. What if it wasn’t? What if the last thing my baby girl saw was the doctor and nurses working over her? What if her last feeling in life was fear?

We relented, but only because we didn’t have any other options. The nurse led us to a small room with a worn-out pink love seat with frayed edges and a faded white wicker coffee table. Instead of magazines, there were bibles scattered on the table, in three different versions. A beige phone hung on the wall with a long tangled cord dangling beneath, and a rotary dial that had no numbers.

Bethany met us in the waiting room and started dialing on her phone, “I’m going to call Cole. He needs to find Owen and lock him up before he does anything else.”

Jake swept the bibles onto the floor and shook the table. “He needs to do more than fucking lock him up. He needs to put the motherfucker down!” Bethany flinched, nodding and running toward the entrance as she barked orders into her phone.

I sat on the couch and held my head in my hands. I couldn’t lose my baby. She was my reason for being. I loved her more than I thought was possible for anyone to love, not just myself.

“What the fuck happened?” Jake asked, pacing the room.

“It’s my fault,” I said. “I should have protected her.”

“It’s not your fault he’s fucking insane.”

“If I would have just told you the truth, if you would have known…”

“What truth?”

“The truth about Georgia,” I said. “The truth about Owen.”

“The pictures,” he said.

Then, I remembered the black and white photos he’d dropped earlier. They were the pictures I’d taken after Owen raped me. The pictures I had taken for Jake, to fuel his hatred of Owen.

It was fitting for Jake to be the one who found them. I should have just been brave enough to show him all those years ago. We wouldn’t have been waiting for news if my daughter was dead or alive if I could have just sucked up my fucking self-pitying bullshit and told him everything.

“Yes.” There was no more denying. No more reasons to keep it to myself.


“The night you left.”