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The Green Heights

Zhila Berenji

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A high school senior, Julia Brooke, is thrust into a love triangle between two wealthy brothers whose rich lifestyle challenges her simpler upbringing. The younger of the two brothers is dying of cancer. Throughout her journey, a mysterious stranger reveals more and more to Juila. She experiences heaven and hell as she searches for a way to be with her true love for eternity. Outsiders are calling her a Saint, earthquakes are destroying cities, and Lucifer is taunting her. The love she feels for the second brother, and for her father who wants her to survive and to be happy, keep her struggling to do what she knows she must. She stands between the Light and Darkness where she is the one person who can save the world from destruction. Only she can bring balance to the chaos. Is she willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?

Silkhaven Publishing, LLC

Copyright (c) 2018, Zhila Berenji

MOBI Ebook ISBN: 9781948997041

EPUB Ebook ISBN: 9781948997058

Paperback ISBN: 9781948997065

Library of Congress: 2018941808

(V1) May 15, 2018

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. All of the characters, organizations, places and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are fictitiously used. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the author Zhila Berenji or Silkhaven Publishing, LLC with the exception in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Printed in the United States of America.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or via any other means without the permission of Zhila Berenji or Silkhaven Publishing, LLC is illegal and punishable by law. To obtain a copy of this story, please purchase only through authorized electronic or print editions. Do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials or their illegal distribution in any way.

Acknowledgments

Seven years ago, I stepped into the world of writing. It is solitary work, but even the most famous writers in history could not have succeeded without help from others.

To my father, Hormoz, and my mother, Kheirieh. All my life I have wanted to do something big. And I did. I wrote a novel and now I would like to dedicate it all to you. I love you so much and thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there for me.

Shida, my sister, I have never told you how much your opinions mean to me. I’m so grateful and so lucky to have you in my life. Without you, sister, Zhila Berenji the writer would not exist.

Thank you to my lovely sisters, Samira, Parvin, and Jaklin, and my beloved brother, Samir, for your support. I’m so happy that I have had you all by my side. You and your children are the best thing that has happened to me.

Maryam, thank you for believing in me and sharing my dream.

To my favorite nephew William whose encouragement was all I needed to finish this book.

Shannon Bailey, your feedback has inspired me to become a better writer. Thank you so much, professor, for being the most influential person in my life.

Regina Morris, my mentor and my agent, your honest opinions have made this book possible. God bless you, Regina. Without you, my friend, I would have never continued to work on this novel.

Special thanks to my editor, Helen Novielli. I really appreciate the time you spent on my manuscript. You are so kind, and I must confess I’ve learned a lot from you.

To Silkhaven Publishing Company. I really appreciate your help and your service. It was my honor to work with you.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

The Phone Call

The Saddest News

Love Beyond Understanding

Jonathan, the Bind

Devotion

Confiding

The Isle of Light

The Party

See You Later

Return

The Prediction

Feeling Normal

The Bar

It Was All a Dream

The Kidnapping

Edward and I

My Personal Chauffeur

The Rift and the Moores

Green Heights

The Grave

L.J. Lake

Lucifer

Liam John

About the Author

The Phone Call

Tired of biology homework, I yawned and lay down, sprawling on my bed. Just as I began drifting off, a mysterious, annoying feeling overcame me. As I lay semiconscious, time slipped away and I struggled to stay on the surface so I would not drown in my profound fears.

As I floated in that stage, my cell phone buzzed. It continued to ring, pulling me from the depths of my dream. My heart pounded as I recognized the number. The clock read 12:50 am. I repeatedly shook my head slowly to rid myself of the euphoria pushing me to avoid the call.

“Hello,” I answered in a dry voice, thirsty for a few drops of water and a gulp of air.

“Wake up sleepy head. I need to tell you something important. Hurry and come over, Julia. Meet me at the lake,” Liam, the love of my life, said sadly, and then quickly hung up before I could respond.

He had never called me at such a late hour. What could possibly have happened during the day to demand that we meet in the middle of the night? It was already 1:00 am, and my brain felt too groggy to think.

With thoughts of this phone call still rolling through my mind, I went to my walkin closet. It was a night in February and that certainly indicated more layers. Dressed and ready to leave, I managed the rest of my exit in complete silence even though I was in a hurry. My father's room was next to mine, and any disturbance might wake him. Being a history professor at Stanford University had bred him to be a morning person, and because of that he usually chose the earliest classes. I grabbed my bag and rushed quietly from my bedroom. I opened the front door and glanced around the empty streets. Liam knew of my obsession with sleep, so why would he phone me at such an hour? With no choice, I ran toward my car, got in, and then slammed on the gas pedal.

A deep silence and dark peace had filled San Francisco and flashing lights blinked in the distance as I sped down the road. As the still of the night spun in my mind, I reviewed my day. I searched for any moment that could have caused stress to Liam but found nothing. Since I was sure that my day had nothing to do with his phone call, dozens of horrible possibilities attacked my thoughts. No matter how hard I tried to think clearly, the problem still had no resolution. I had a very bad feeling.

Eventually, I caught a glimpse of Pine Valley, the gorgeous land owned by Liam's family. The numerous garden lights were illuminating making everything visible in the dark. Like millions of shining gold nuggets scattered in a lush meadow, many citrus trees full of fruit circled the area giving me a sense of awe. The variety in size and color reminded me of how powerful my Lord God could always be.

I drove up to the estate’s gate and punched in a security number. I then drove down the paved driveway to the magnificent threestory house that exuded a life of luxury. For me, the high walls of this manner would always represent a jail. What could one gain among this gilded cage but a sentence to loiter for years? Manners and movements had already been mapped within these ramparts, so where would I fit into this picture? My whole life, I hated to stand on pompous ceremonies. Money was everything for this family. I only tolerated them because of my love, their son. Liam opposed most things his parents believed in. Otherwise, their lifestyle of living in pleasure only to die in an ocean of nothingness, bored me.

Richard Moore, Liam’s father, built his wealth on exporting goods to foreign countries. It kept him busy and only a parttime father. His mother was no better.

Liam had two older brothers, Edward and Gilbert, who by day were company men in ties and suits, but masters of partying lavishly at night. Unlike his brothers, their fun and businesses did not interest Liam.

When the Stanford Medical University accepted Liam and I for the fall semester, we decided to marry towards the middle of the year after high school graduation.

Liam was outside the house. To meet him I passed the paved driveway and entered a very narrow stony path. Down this gritty route there was a lake, a place known to everybody because of Liam and me. Almost every weekend, we had a scheduled rendezvous. There we boated, swam, or even fought. Hence it was called L.J. Lake.

Getting close to my destination was enough to set my heart booming. I was confident Liam would be waiting for me down the road. I pictured him telling me the news that had left me feeling horrible since his call. As I was about to stop the car, the screech of a flat tire startled me. I shut off the engine and hastened out, knowing that my soul mate heard the sound as well. Eyes wide open, I wandered around hoping the night would end peacefully and its darkness would dip behind the horizon once more. Meditatively roaming, a shard of convulsive fear, of loneliness, provoked my thoughts, but a nice smell coming from the distance pushed it away. Liam, my heart, my god on earth, the only love in my eyes, was approaching from behind. Suddenly the abhorrence faded away and my pain became thin and weak.

With joy, I turned and walked in his direction. Like two crazy lovers who hadn’t seen each other in years, we hugged and drowned in an ocean of kisses. After a while I felt him groping at my dress, trying to reach underneath. He had obviously lost his control. His emotion was barely in check. I was upset and I shoved him two steps backward, imploring, “What is this, Liam? You've promised to honor my abstinence. You told me that any further intimacy would happen after marriage.”

He mocked me, “Marriage.”

I looked into his eyes. “Yes, Liam, marriage. You know me. I have no respect for sex before that.”

He scoffed, “Wake up, Julia. This is 21st century.”

“Of course, you don't have to remind me. I'm just like your mother: old fashioned in those matters.” I continued, with a straight face, “Tell me. This isn’t a booty call, is it? This is far above your dignity. And you know that I would never let my curiosity get away from me.” My voice trembled but I managed to continue, “So control yourself and say something, because I have a very bad feeling tonight. What is it, Liam, that troubles your mind?’’ I began rubbing his hair, waiting for his response.

He stole a glance at me then turned his face away. “Don't push it.” He let out a long sigh of despair, “Julia, my heart, now it is 2:30 in the morning. Let me change the flat tire. My parents wake at down. I don't wanna Catherine see us.”

My love was in disarray and in our closeness I could sense that in him easily. He walked toward me, gesturing for the keys. I gave them to him and followed his steps with my eyes. He opened the trunk to get the spare. Apparently, he was ignoring me again. I stood behind him and tapped his right shoulder.

“Hello is somebody there? I guess a total freak called a while ago mentioning he had something important to say,” my voice quivered with outrage.

“You see me, I’m busy with” While he was looking at me innocently, I wouldn't let him finish his words.

“Stop toying. Your hypnotic eyes have no effect on me.” I swallowed my fear, “Tell me the truth. If this isn't a booty call, then I assume somebody else is involved. Who is she, Liam? Is she from here?” I fired off the words. I broke his calm. A dark smile lined his lips, breaking some walls so I could see him crystal clear. But I needed more. A grin wasn’t my answer. I wanted him to open up in an emotional revelation, so I continued my course of action. However, this time I stabbed deeper.

“Is she pregnant?” my chest tightened, challenging him again.

“Come on, Julia Brooke, don't be dramatic,” he shook his head.

I derided his act by pushing him backward, saying, “You were defiant in that phone call, determined to share a secret. But somehow this punctured tire has become an excuse for you, making you give up the idea of telling me. You go ahead and keep up the silent treatment. I'm known for my obstinacy, in case you haven't noticed. If you're selfish in that way, I'm stupid enough in this way,” my heart accelerated while I clumsily walked away.

He stopped working on the tire, followed me, and grabbed my shoulder, “Where are you going?”

I paused, turning fully on him, seeking his eyes. But then I gazed down and shot back, “I'm going to your home to wake your family and tell them that you brought me here only to have sex with me. And you know what a religious bigot your mother can be when it comes to this subject. So stop keeping me in the dark.”

Of course, I wasn't serious. But, thanks to good acting classes. He was one of my biggest fans. Ready for another scene, I turned to face him again, hoping this time the secret would be uncovered and the black clouds forming in his mind would break up to reveal their color perfectly clear against my stormy sky.

“Look me in the face when you speak to me.” He paused and then full of confidence he continued, “If you wake them, Julia, you'll lose my heart. Forever.”

I felt I was in a roped square ring with thousands of hands punching me on the head. I took a few mental steps around, studying and staring at him questioningly. I realized that not being told anything was my worst fear that night. Like thunder in an infinite space looking for any object to hit, my heart was booming out of my chest. I exhaled heavily and forced him to swear to tell me the news some other day. He jumped behind me and clung firmly to my body, pulling me down to sit with him on the ground.

“I will tell you everything. You just give me time and a bit of trust. Don't say a thing to anybody about this meeting. You’re not ready to know anything yet. I was dead wrong when I called you earlier.” He embraced me and said, his voice earnest, “I love you more than anything in the world.”

For a few moments, I sat in eerie silence. Then I freed my body from his strong arms, and faced him again. He was still sitting on the dirt, his eyes blinking slowly, begging me to stop interrogating him.

With a Mona Lisa smile I got closer to him, intertwined our fingers, and helped him to stand up, “You have my entire life and all my faith if this is your only plea. But keep in mind that I deserve to know. It is unfair keep me out of the picture.”

The darkness of the night hadn't given way to light yet, so I still had time to leave the lake. Before going, I sat in my car and waited briefly, staring at him with an unspoken complaint. Hopefully my innocent eyes would change his mind. As he met my gaze, I entreated him even more gravely with another look, but he showed no response. I looked at the blackness covering the horizon and immediately realized nothing would affect him whatsoever, not even the purity of my expression. With no emotion on my face, I waved goodbye to him. Being kept in the dark, especially by someone with whom I was undeniably in love, really annoyed me.

It had been a long night and now I was in front of my house. I opened the door and stealthily walked toward the stairs. I was thirsty but my exhaustion kept me from doing anything about it. I went straight to my room, laid on my bed once more, and thought about Liam and his mysterious secret. How could I make him confess tomorrow when I had done my best and worst back at the lake that hadn't worked? I ensured myself that something horrible had happened during the day and as a devoted girlfriend it was my absolute duty to stand beside him no matter what. Otherwise, I couldn't help with whatever he so obviously was afraid of. Sooner or later his secret would be revealed. He had to shed light on the definite trouble I had noticed in his face tonight and the sadness he carried in his voice when he phoned me.

The Saddest News

I didn't sleep a wink. Spending the night in such deep loneliness made me feel a wave of great pain. But being left in the dark was more serious than the desolation itself. How fervently I hoped the night before had been a pointless joke and that things would today look as good as possible. As I got out of bed, I heard voices.

“Wake up student. You've school to attend,” my father called from downstairs full of energy. I heard him grab his car keys and leave in a hurry. He left while I was in desperate need of somebody to talk with. But what could I do? When my mind is troubled, I prefer to be alone and suffer inwardly. I changed and rushed out of the room for another day. As I headed downstairs, a picture of my mother, Annabel Brooke, caught my eye for a second. I felt I could stay a bit and talk with her. I surveyed the frame, imploring, “I don't believe in life after death, but somehow I can sense that you always listen to me when I need you the most. Just as I came into the world, you were gone. However, I was told that my heart is full of your love and kindness. Please, mother, help me. Make Liam tell me what's going on with him. I'm desperately begging you.”

Like a lighthouse leading boats in the dark, I hoped this prayer could steer my clouded mind. Lost in my thoughts, I walked toward the door, but a sudden ringing stole my attention. I answered nervously, “Hello.”

“Please come,” Catherine sounded urgent.

Another perplexing phone call had my mind spinning in loops. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t break free. The unexpected drama dragged on and my day was now as bad as my night. Once I was in my car, my anger was at a breaking point. I snuck a quick look at my watch and realized my biology class was about to start. I thought it would be better if I were absent today. My only excuse for this matter would be the Moores. This family and their son had dragged me reluctantly into a crisis. Perhaps they were experiencing massive financial difficulty with the IRS. Rich people always do, and maybe last night's phone call was all about that. I had to get to Pine Valley as fast as I could.

As I pulled into the driveway, I felt as though the forty minute drive had taken me twenty hours. I saw Liam's car, and turned to the right, parking next to him. As I stood at the front door the remains of last night's fears turned into a dagger, butchering my heart cruelly. I took a few deep breaths to get rid of all the stress and I shook my body. I felt better and pressed the bell, waiting for somebody to open the door. Gilbert opened it, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, “We need your help.”

“What for?” I mumbled suspiciously.

He grabbed my hand and led me to sit in the living room. The Moores enveloped me, except my Liam. I looked for him in the group but there was no sign of him at all.

“Where is he? Is he at school?” I asked quietly.

Richard, confident as usual, broke the circle and came to me, “You don't know where he is, do you?”

“Well, how could I? I haven’t seen him since yesterday at school,” I said, sweating.

I repeated my question, this time more firmly, “Where is my Liam?” Seconds went by and nobody answered. Finally, Richard took my hands and said, “Liam isn't in his room.”

I angrily looked at the Moores. They stared back at me the same way. I was speechless, not knowing what happened to the love of my life.

“Seriously? You’re saying he just vanished?” I asked, my muscles tense.

The oldest brother, Edward, turned to me and winked, “His bed is made.” He kept talking while pointing at a closedcircuit monitor, “Look.”

It was my car passing the house and going down toward the lake. The timestamp showed 2:00 in the morning and today's date. This evidence gave me away. Obviously the Moores were up to something bad against me. I could see that in each of their faces. I was silent but furious. I gathered myself together immediately, though I was still reeling from this great pain. Catherine rushed over to me, humbly asking, “What did you do last night? Did he say something to you? Tell us the truth.”

“The truth is you’re having problems with the IRS, aren't you, Catherine?” my mouth dried and I lost my voice.

Richard eyed me a bit, then spat back, “You speak gibberish, Julia.”

The nicest brother, Gilbert, who was at the time so calm, broke his silence, “Julia, we still need your help. What happened between you two last night? Obviously you were here at Pine Valley but we couldn't track you leaving. We've checked the lake already. His boat is there, but there’s no sign of him.”

“I left here using Highway 680. Probably it was around 3:00. Sorry, I don't remember the exact time. I was sleepy.” I stared down, avoiding their judgmental eyes.

Everybody was silent. There wasn't any alternative except attempting to open up to them. Otherwise, my situation with the Moores was only going to get worse. A sudden buzzing distracted me. It was my cell phone. Tears of happiness gently rolled down my cheeks. With a glow of pleasure I answered, “Hello Liam.”

“I see your car. What are you doing here?” my love sounded curious.

Footsteps outside stole everybody's attention. Now all were staring at the entrance. Someone shook the knob then slowly pushed the door open. Abruptly Liam appeared. He gave his family a secretive look, but the look he gave me was so different and elegant.

“Liam, where have you been?” Richard said with a bitter smile before walking to him.

“I spent the night in my boat,” Liam replied, his eye contact lasting only for a second.

“In the boat and all the time by yourself?” suspicious looks turned my way. Edward laughed and, staring at me, continued speaking to his youngest brother, “Julia deserves to be a part of your diabolical game, Liam.”

“Shut your trap, dickhead,” my love riposted through narrowed lips. Then he grabbed me and said, “Don't worry about him. He likes to mess with your head.”

“Don't talk that tone with your brother, Liam.” Catherine sounded upset.

Giving his mother a military salute, Liam mocked her, “Yes, Mommy.”

“You're like a dog with two tails. What's up, bro?” Edward asked, firm voice.

“I won the jackpot,” Liam said then laughed.

Everybody was quiet. They didn't laugh at Liam's joke. Gilbert broke the silence, playing Sherlock Holmes, “I don't get it, Liam. We called you several times while your boat was ashore. How could you not have heard any of our screams?”

“I slept like a log,” standing perfectly straight, Liam answered and walked toward the upstairs.

Catherine was silent, but as my love went upstairs she turned to me, “What about your school?”

“One day is not a big deal.” Instead of me, her last born son replied while looking at me from the upper floor, “Julia, would you please come to my room?”

As I gladly moved, a hand suddenly grabbed my arm, preventing me from climbing the stairs. It was Catherine's. She stared at me peculiarly. “Perhaps one day we should sit and have tea together. How about this weekend? Tomorrow morning?” I couldn't pay attention to her request. In fact, like everybody else, she, too, had the wrong idea about me and her son. Their father seemed to be the only one who looked at the situation differently.

“Go up, Julia. He's hiding something. When he opens up, you come to my office and tell me what's going on,” Richard demanded.

While my heart's beats were leaping unexpectedly, I reached the second floor. I trudged toward his room, sneaking one last look downstairs. The Moores had already gone. I knew in my bones that their son was struggling with a colossal plight. I moved slowly. How I wished that instead of me and my shadow I had a true friend to whom I could openly talk about my fears. At the moment, the silence of the home was deafening and suddenly I became afraid of everything that surrounded me. As I stepped toward his room, a gloomy thought came to mind that Liam might be very sick. But I was about to face him and in that case I had to reign in my imagination. A mysterious whisper inside me begged me to leave the mansion. However, my ego, curious as usual, wouldn't let me. I needed to know. As I turned the doorknob, my head was full of God's name.

My love was standing in a corner. My excitement was immense. With a smile, he invited me in. I got closer to him and like somebody dying of thirst, I kissed him over and over. He gave up and stepped back a little, eying me furtively. I responded with the same look.

“Now what, Liam?” I asked with a trembling voice.

He smiled again and threw himself onto the bed. He seemed so tired. He turned his face to me.

“Did any of the Moores hurt you?” His voice was soft when he asked.

“Who could dare, while your name is imprinted on my forehead?” Standing firm and tall, I continued, “Except your brother, Edward. I think he's flirting with me.”

Liam’s eyes widened, “Did he do something to you?”

“No. He sometimes winks at me. I don't know the meaning of his wink. Toying? Joking? Habit?”

“People wink at each other all the time. It's a reflex and it's harmless,” Liam said, the corners of his lips curved upward.

“And since last night, you keep showing me those cheesy smiles,” I liked teasing him, reminding him of the main subject.

“How about I hand you something serious?” he responded jokingly. With a lowered voice he continued, “Do you wanna spend your spring break in a castle in London?”

“I'm baffled with a capital B. First it was your mother's call. And now it's your turn to start talking nonsense.”

“I want you to forget about everything and say yes to my offer,” he implored, still lying on his bed playing with his chin.

I stood in a corner and inhaled desperately before continuing, “I can't forget. You give me proper answers to all my questions and I promise I'll think about London.”

“What answers do you want from me?” he responded loudly. “You're annoying today. Shut down your curiosity and imagine the fun that we're going to have in London. You really want to know the truth? Well the truth is that yesterday I killed somebody. It was a coldblooded murder. You should have seen it! I guess that explains my late phone call.”

“Silence, that's fine. I can play that game too. But you must know that I'm not gonna go to London.” I sighed and whispered to myself, “What's wrong with San Francisco for spring break?”

“Why are you giving me such a hard time, hah? The castle is my wedding gift to you. I wanted it to be a surprise,” he said, getting off the bed and staring out the window.

“If it's a surprise, why bother telling me now? We're not married yet, are we?” I questioned him, running my hands through my hair. “I'm still confused about the call.”

“I told you. I killed somebody,” he replied, making a face at me.

“Do you have any idea what has happened to me since last night? How could you? And who am I to ask?” I scoffed. “You're Liam Moore and I'm just stupid, poor Julia.”

“But we all are fine now, aren't we?” he said, scratching his nose.

“This can't be real. Whatever you're saying is a pack of lies.” My voice cracked and my hands balled into fists. “You're hiding something, dumbass. Say it.”

“Julia, my heart, what is going on with you? What's up with the anger?” A smirk played on his cheeks.

“I'm leaving every doubt out of the equation now. All I need is just any fucking word about last night's phone call, nothing more or less,” I said honestly.

He walked over to me, his jaw tightening. “You promised you'd give me some time.” His eyes pierced into mine and I could sense his pain. “I'm counting on you.”

“You're unbelievable,” I said, nodding. “I'm able to recall my words; you don't need to refresh my memory. I can wait.” I was calm, staring at him, “But you owe me some explanation. The trip to London. What's gonna happen there, Liam?”

“Since neither one of us believes in church, let's run away. Elope,” he said it like he meant it, but the lines in his visage told me otherwise. “I'm joking. I'm gonna marry you in front of a thousand eyes, Julia. Don't you wanna be Mrs. Moore? I'm dying to be called your husband, wife.”

It seemed he wouldn't confide in me after all. To my disappointment, he insisted on carrying on with his stubbornness until my trust in him, which had been so strong, was ready to fade away. A part of me demanded that I stay and continue talking but my worried mind kept encouraging me to run. And that is precisely what I did.

I left the mansion as I had come, with a hundred questions, and now with a thousand more. Somehow I felt instead of blood, my heart was pumping boiled water through my entire body. I pulled to the side of the road and sat there for hours. Now, like a shower of bullets, a barrage of doubts was unleashed in my head. To ease the stress, I squeezed my eyes closed and kept them shut. Like a wounded bird, I struggled at first but then my thoughts became calm again. I cast an inquisitive look at my surroundings. Cars were speeding by. One cast his headlamp on my face, but all my attention was focused on Liam's last words. I stared behind me, watching the lights of Pine Valley cast shadows on the lake.

Driving without a destination in mind was bothering me. My heart bled for Liam, but my mind was full of anger. Making one Uturn couldn't be that hard, but I knew I would just hear more of the same lies. For the sake of true love, I would ultimately have to confront him again, and he would have to explain many things to me. He at least owed me that much, and so, I turned back.

In my mind, I believed when a deed was done impulsively, regret wouldn't do any good whatsoever and sorrow would be completely useless. I kept driving toward Pine Valley until I saw Liam in his car driving on the other side of the road. I stopped and so did he. He then Uturned and parked behind me. I got out of my Corolla and furiously walked toward his car. He lowered the window. Part of his face was still secretive, the other was very confident.

“Julia, my heart, you left me and ran. Why did you do that?” As he stared at me, I felt absorbed in such a way that I wanted to give up my temper and drown him in a limitless ocean of kisses.

“Who cares?” I responded quickly yet still hunted for his lips.

“I care, and I care too much,” he answered as fast as I did. “Are you coming back to Pine Valley?”

“I have nowhere to go. Can't you see? I'm driving around pointlessly.”

“Follow me, Julia,” he demanded.

“To hell? I'm fed up with this infernal game of yours,” I replied, then inhaled heavily with exhaustion.

“Have faith in me. You don't wanna miss this one.”

Minutes ago I was going to explode, but now the plan had changed. Only God knew how stormy I was. I promised myself that I would follow him under one condition: Liam had to explain many things to me. Otherwise I would swear on my mother's grave and all I hold dear, that tonight would be the last time he would ever see my face. So, I made my decision. The trip was so long that I began to question my choice. We drove for almost an hour. Unexpectedly, he parked in front of a big, gorgeous house. I parked my Corolla across the street and got out. The landscaping was pristine. I stood beside him. With a smile, he grabbed my head and kissed me on the cheek. Then, clinging to my body from behind, he whispered into my ear, “Welcome to your home Ms. Julia Brooke, not yet Mrs. Moore.”

This time he didn't fail to astonish me. The home was so Liam and Julia. Truly, I was impressed. In a very soft voice, with delight in my eyes, I responded, “I'm infinitely in love with you.”

“I couldn't pass this one up. Admit it, Julia, this is your dream house, isn't it? No high walls, just many windows so you can enjoy the outside view whenever you want. I know how you obsess over nature. The name of the area, Green Heights, blows your mind away too. I already love it.” He inflamed my feelings in a certain way while holding me.

“Will you take me inside to see it?” I asked, repeating to myself, Green Heights. I laughed, opened his arms, and ran to the house.

Inside, it was even more beautiful. I stood in the middle of the dining room while Liam pretended to be busy with the fireplace. Out of curiosity, I called him over. He turned to me and said, “Please don't say no. I'm begging you.”

As a response to his plea, I gave up my temper and kissed him instead. He took a few steps back and uttered in surprise, “Kiss? I'll take that as a yes.”

“I wanna see every part of the home. Let's go up, Liam,” I said to him in a glorious moment and quickly went upstairs. Breathless, he rushed after me. After taking a brief tour around, we were standing in the master bedroom.

He grabbed my hips again, panting, “We're alone. Let's get naked and have sex… Finish what I started last night,” his voice had a strange magnetism.

With a quick movement of my hands, I pushed him toward the wall, but the strength of his arms caught me off balance. My muscles became feeble and weak. Liam now was all over my body. Oh dear God, his eyes and the warmth of his palms burned me up. The more I resisted, the further he wanted to go.

“This is the second time you're sexually harassing me today. Don't be stupid. Think about our families and the shameful consequences, Liam. Don't you ever expect me to be silent about it,” I stopped him and he didn't dare continue. I said, “After marriage, you'll have me always.”

“I won't be around always,” he replied, licking his lips.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I shot back.

He eyed me with scorn but he knew I'd always fall under the influence of his youthful charm and his hypnotic look. Then he whispered, “I mean nobody's life is eternal, Julia. Don't push me away. That will be my certain death.”

“I'm yours, but not until after our marriage. Definitely not now and not under these circumstances.” I shoved him away and stood on my feet, begging him again, “Liam, my love, confide in me. Purge. What is it that makes you push me this way?” my voice was soft. “Say something.”

“I don't know what's happening to me. Perhaps I can’t wait any longer. Your beauty is my greatest downfall, Julia,” he moaned, moving toward a corner, broken.

“Who knows about the house?” I stood beside him.

“Only you, me, and no nobody else,” he stammered then sat on the floor, unmoving.

“I know you. There must be a reason behind your chaotic actions. I promise you that I won't ask about the details you mentioned earlier today about marriage and going to London. I only need you to talk with me about last night’s phone call,” I rested as he did. In my bones, I sensed that he wouldn't tell me anything, yet I gathered myself and made another attempt. This time I was ready for any lie because I felt sure he was about to fabricate another story.

“Oh Julia, you are so pretty. I want you. Please let me have my biggest joy first,” he rudely tried to distract me.

Sometimes the silent treatment is understandable, but in many ways it can only be used to deceive. Some people remain quiet because they believe in destiny. A few are disappointed and afraid of everything, even their own shadows. Many perhaps don't have courage to speak loudly. But what was it about my Liam? Why did he suddenly decide to toy with me and be secretive? At that moment I eyed him cynically. He was pretending to be normal but I knew him perfectly well. In fact, by approaching me, he intended to inflame sexual desire in me, but the closer he got, the faster his heartbeats told me otherwise. How could he treat me in such way? What was the purpose behind his alter ego which forced him to think so little of me? I couldn't let him break me easily. I stood, “I'm leaving.”

“What's the rush? He left the corner. Trying to make his final move. He unzipped my hoodie.

I zipped it and in an impulsive action pushed him away. But, like furious waves attacking a coast, once more he stormed at me.

“Don't touch me. This cannot be real and you're not that miserable,” my voice trembled, reflecting the sad echo of the walls. He played deaf as he prepared to strip. He sat in front of me and grabbed my hands, saying, “I told you I won't be around always, didn't I? Which means I don't have much time. I can't be more specific. Please, Julia, try to understand me.”

I stared down, saying, “You're scaring me and I can't bear this any longer. Speak or I swear to God you'll lose me until the final moment of your life.”

“I'm already at that point with you, Julia. If you're smart enough, you see that. And by the way, this stare tactic of yours is useless. It won't work. Look me in the eyes when you talk to me,” he said, rubbing his hair.

This was a leap in the dark. I felt I was breathing under water and my fragile heart could not take it anymore. As much as I was outwardly silent, I was stormy inside. He thought he had won me over and his naked body might take me down into a nice warm intimacy. Seconds passed, tearing me apart. He invaded my space. As cold as ice, I welcomed him. When eventually he realized I wasn't into it, in a very quiet voice, he spoke into my ear, “You're gonna play with me whether you like it or not.”

“God, will punish you, Liam,” I sighed, expressing my sadness.

“Unfortunately, I don't believe in Him, Julia.”

“Well, I don't believe in sex before marriage, either,” I yelled. “How many times should I remind you of that? If you continue, my curse will send you to the lowest part of hell.” Though I didn’t have faith in the afterlife, scaring him that evening was my last chance. I screamed, “So, stop doing this to me.”

“Don't trouble your mind, my sweetheart. I'll be experiencing hell very soon here on earth,” he mocked me. “Since when you believe in eternal punishment? As far as I know, you don't accept life after death.” He kept on, but this time, he was serious and unfamiliar. “It has been a long day and you couldn't drag the wanted information out of me. So be prepared, Julia. I have a disease and it may not be treatable.”

Each corner of his face painfully and desolately angled. At the moment, he seemed like he was carrying a mountain of grief on his shoulders. His naked body now was still and stony. I didn't know why, but somehow I thought he was ashamed of me. Seconds didn't pass anymore. Since the coldness of death was involved, time was also meaningless. And now that everything was obvious in his eyes, why would I dig deeper? His life was about to be tangled in a massive disaster. What else could be happening in his heart while, from now on, there would no longer be a boundary between his past, present, or his future. All would be one.

Tears in my voice, I responded to his big confession, “This feeble act of yours is a lie, another excuse to feed your inflamed sensuality, no matter what, even if that means playing with my feelings.”

“I'm not lying. Julia, my heart, you know me when I'm so honest with you. I have cancer,” he delivered the saddest news, the corners of his mouth drooping.

A sudden pang within me shaded all my emotions, pushing me into a battle of denial and belief. I wished I was dreaming, but I knew the dark side of my unfettered imagination couldn't have taken me that far. I looked over to the door, measuring the distance to an escape. He slowly moved over to my spot. I pulled back, regaining my strength, and in a voice that was obviously bereft of life said, “Don't get close. Stay where you are.” I burst into tears. He stayed in his place, inactive, staring at the only girl he had truly known since his freshman year in high school.

Eventually, I made a feeble move toward the door, but the pain of uncertainty stopped me from running. My desire to know more had already faded away until I had lost every ray of hope. Now was the perfect time to break free. Without hesitation, I bolted from the house. My car was still parked on the roadside. I jumped in, pressed the gas pedal, and rapidly sped away, leaving Green Heights.

Love Beyond Understanding

A fake sickness helped me to stay at home for another two days. After that, being away from school did not make sense any longer. If I wished to hole up further, my excuse had to be acceptable, and since I wasn't in the mood to lie, reluctantly I got out of bed. With no energy, I trudged across the room. Things looked so inexplicable. Like flotsam bobbing in a remote sea, my chaotic mind was swaying from side to side, picturing Liam lying on a bed, struggling in his last moments. I was on the verge of a breakdown. I looked in the mirror. I had been crying the whole time and my eyes were puffy. Suddenly the phone rang. My father answered. I heard him saying, “Which hospital, Gilbert?”

Apparently, the sad news had gotten around finally and soon enough, would reveal my real reason for being absent from school. A gentle rattling of the doorknob drew my attention. Before opening the door, I took a very deep breath and prepared to face the inescapable tragedy.

“Liam is in the Moores Hospital,” said my father, trying to sound normal.

The familiar crowd was present in the room. I felt alone and nothing mattered to me anymore. It was just me, the lover who was losing interest in life second by second. My poor Liam stared at me nervously. I gave him the same look while I was in need of longer moments to express my thoughts or even convey my sorrow to him. But how could I when my own vital signs weren't functioning normally? The surroundings were worthless and existence felt empty. There were no shafts of sunlight whatsoever; my life with Liam had begun dark and cloudy.

I told my father that I was going to spent the night in the hospital. Being in close proximity to Liam was my only aim that evening. The gathering dispersed, and a nurse walked into the room. I asked her if I could stay the night. She didn't mind. I asked if their policy would let me sleep in his bed. She smiled, and I took that as a yes.

“Scooch over and let me lie beside you,” I demanded.

“You're not scared of me anymore, are you?” Liam moved a bit to the right side.

“Why would I be when I'm so madly in love with you?” I embraced him warmly then put my head on his chest. Trying to calm him down, I continued chatting, “Oh God, how your heart is beating!”

“I doubt that,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I questioned.

“My heart is not that strong anymore. The inevitable will happen, Julia,” he responded confidently.

“But for me it is going to be a beginning. I can sense that,” I spoke with enthusiasm.

“Beginning of what?” his brows tensed.

“The birth of a powerful love that knows no boundary. The start of a captivating story which doesn't have a final chapter at all,” I paused, giving him time to process the concept.

“Julia, I don't want you to live in fantasy. Be more realistic and accept my fate. I'm doomed,” he tried to make me understand his inescapable future.

“You know that your love is my weakness, so don't expect me to let it go without fighting. I won't stand by and watch you wither away or wait for last your day like it's inevitable. There are options and I like options. There is new research and largely untested medication. I won't be silent because you say I should. I don't know about your family; they might say no to my resolution. But keep it in your mind, and I'm saying this with all the feelings I carry in my heart, Julia Brooke won't let you down. I promise you'll live long enough to see that with your own eyes,” I exhaled deeply, then, with a cheerful voice, continued, “You're aware of my obsession with sleep, so instead of talking about the future, help me fall asleep. Let me just lie on your chest and leave tomorrow in tomorrow's hands.”

“The problem is that my tomorrows are so limited. I'm not going to be a guinea pig under any circumstances,” he said as he squeezed me more firmly in his arms.

“Of course you won't. We're eighteen and both are strong. We fight the cancer together,” I quickly threw back.

“It's pancreatic cancer, the number four deadliest disease in the world. One day, and I hope it's not gonna be in the near future, I'm going to die. There's nothing in the entire universe that can keep that from happening, so please stop and help me get through this.” His heartbeat quickened.

“I can only help you if you promise to consider any treatment, any option. People can't be blamed for having hope. Also, it's too early to make any predictions,” I shook my head.

“Fine, if that's what you want. But don't hang on to it for long. I don't live up to expectations. I know I'm selfish that way.”

After a long conversation, we finally closed our eyes and clung together tightly, not just to each other, but to life. That night was the first time Liam and I shared a bed.

*****

Time passed quickly and my days were unrecognizable. Liam’s cancer was advanced and I was told it was stage two. The doctor had notified his family, “Your money will help me find a way to stop the disease at this point. And if the chemotherapy is working, it'll add another three years to his life. Who knows what new studies will be conducted during this period? Science is unpredictable.” Everybody was relieved except for me. No wonder; I wanted him to enjoy life much longer.

It was now April, and I was looking ahead for any ray of hope to blow life into my wounded soul. Sitting for hours behind a computer, I found many places that were offering different and new ways of treatment for this particular cancer. However, each time I talked to Liam about it, I faced another refusal. Time was flying right before me and I was running low on options. To prevent progress of his disease, I could resort to cryogenics even if it meant it would stop my nights from falling and keep the sun from shining. To reach inside him, I might yet go further and pray to be empowered with an ability that would lead me into his heart so that I could tear away his stubbornness. But how would that be possible since I felt the battle over his treatment was like a battle between two enemies, one in which neither would accept defeat? And, to make matters worse, his family was taking his side, standing firm against me. They wouldn't allow me to speak, not even for a second, about any new therapy or any trial medications. From what I could see, they had already given up on him and his death now was just a matter of time. The days were very dark. I was demoralized and my body wasn't functioning normally. The air was poison in my lungs and food tasted bitter and harsh in my mouth. My mind was chaotic and fragile. Emotionally I was on the edge, ready to collapse and break into a million pieces. In every minute that passed, fate seemed to have tossed me into a boat that would never reach a shore.

One weekend, while we were busy on the beach having a clambake for one of the nursing homes he supported, Liam, as usual, approached me from behind. I turned and kissed him. He took my hand, sat on bended knee, and from his pocket he pulled out a very beautiful ring.

“I know it should be all diamonds, but you know how much I like gemstones. Green is your favorite color and that makes emerald my choice. The stone came from Egypt. So, Julia, do you like it?” He was proposing indirectly.

He looked pale and drawn but more stunning than ever. The partygoers stood in silence, waiting for my answer. I looked at the beach. The ocean was marvelously calm and amazing. Then I turned my face toward him, staring. How could I refuse and say no to those green eyes when I was ready to give up my life for them? I had mapped out my future with him so perfectly, even though it wasn’t happening as I wished. So, while I was crying inside, I said, “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“More than anything in the world,” he gazed at me as he stood.

“So be it, if this is your dream, Liam Moore,” I said, rubbing his cheek.

*****

Instead of seeking a treatment for his disease, the Moores were engaged in preparing for our wedding. They seemed completely happy, dipping in and out of their boundless serenity and their absolute dominion. In reality their grief must have been hidden somewhere within their luxurious walls. As far as a possible cure for Liam was concerned, they deliberately ignored all my offers as if I were totally ineffective and only considered chemotherapy. Even with this, they demanded that whatever was arranged had to be done so with formality and in secret, no exceptions. For them, appearances were too important. Even in their mourning, they had to dress the part and feel their pain later. And since money was the ultimate prosperity, in their eyes, why should they be grieving at all? In such matters, wealth would buy them tranquility and be their great comfort. If I was right, when Liam's final day did approach, they would only think about aspirin and how many they would be allowed to take so their stomachs wouldn't be upset. I, on the other hand, amid their fancy furnishings and conversation pieces, found tears my only friend. In those very dark moments, I looked for any crack that would empower me to share my agony with anyone in that crazy family. But one step ahead shoved me ten steps behind, and that was because of my undying love for Liam, whose eyes and voice would bring me nothing but equanimity

After two weeks of preparation, the big night happened. People arrived at the wedding. It was happening outside the house near L.J. Lake. I was ready to walk down the aisle, but my heart beat erratically with marriage upon me. I felt discontented. I presumed the lack of happiness was obvious, and thus, I did my makeup quite well. I left Liam's room unwillingly then called on my father, knowing that he would be waiting somewhere downstairs. At the end of the aisle, the love of my life was standing imperturbably with his brothers and a judge. As I was the center of attention, I clung to my father's arm and smiled faintly so my misery was hidden from those present. Then I was left standing directly before Liam's eyes. While I was motionless right in front of them, I wished I had been gifted with a magic power that could let me sink into his tears for all eternity. Our marriage ceremony began.

I gazed lovingly at Liam and him at me until, with a ray of ecstasy, we were profoundly bound as one. His green eyes invited me to a fiery intimacy. I answered eagerly but it seemed he wouldn't be satisfied. He deliberately continued gazing at me, showing me his dominance over me. He whispered, “Let's vanish. Nobody's watching us.” I couldn't reply. I stared at him. Suddenly I remembered his cancer and his measured time with me. Now that I was his wife nothing could hold me back from my solution: research hospitals. If he would stand against me, I would continue fighting until he gave up and chose to believe in the efficacy of my resolution. Having that thought in my mind, I grabbed him, and we danced as if to show everyone that we were the happiest couple in the entire universe.

Everybody was partying, except Edward, who, with a cigar in his mouth, was watching me nonstop. I stared back at him, questioningly, but, he refused to look away.

“Get it off of your chest whatever it is,” I said, as I walked over to the oldest brother while Liam was with others.

“You look stunning,” Edward returned, smiling.

“You could have said that in front of Liam,” I responded as I left him.

He grabbed my wrist and said, “Please, Julia, give me five minutes of your time.”

“Tick tock, one minute's gone,” I quickly freed my hand and rubbed it.

“You could drop the act and try to be yourself. It is so obvious,” he replied.

“I don't need advice from someone who's terribly alone and doesn’t know jack about love. Being solo is eating your brain, isn't it?” I invaded his personal space, staring at him.

“It is not gonna last forever. After him, it'll be my turn with you,” he retorted, a cheap shot.

I took his hand and walked him far from the party. Then, free from any eyes, I slapped him hard. He gave me a meaningful smile, massaging his cheek.

“First, over my dead body. Second, I despise you. In fact, you disgust me. Stay away from me or I swear I'll take you down,” I said, jabbing my finger at him.


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