Chapter one - Secret message
Sometimes, Amelia would act in this strange way. It was as if she existed, but wasn’t really there in the present. As if her mind was somewhere else. She seemed to always be waiting for something. Something she didn’t know, at least not fully understood. Always listening to everyone around her, as if she was waiting for someone to give her a sign. And always glancing at something behind her when they walked on the street. And when she went to bed at night, she was still listening. In her sleep he would hear her talking, always longing for something – or someone. Some nights, she would end up crying. And he would never know what to do or say. She didn't seem to notice him. She was like the smooth summer breeze. Warm, but distant. She never calmed down, just continued searching, longing and waiting. Waiting for what? Jacob had loved her. He knew he had, and that he still did. But he had never understood her. And now, she was gone.
* * *
Jacob knew his fiancé very well in most ways. He knew how she liked her eggs, he knew where she worked and he knew some of her friends. He knew her personality. Mostly. But there was some moments where she seemed to grow distant. As if her mind was somewhere else. Maybe she was thinking of some former lover? This had kept him awake for many nights, but no, it seemed deeper than that. Like she was waiting for something to happen. Something extremely important. Something she did not look forward to. When he asked her she'd answered vague and mysterious. As if she was keeping something from him that she really wanted him to know.
He shook his head as he walked slowly down the park. It was late autumn, and the air had a sharp edge to it. Around him hundreds of dead leaves were falling, dancing in the November wind as they slowly made their way to the dirty ground. Jacob wrapped his grey coat tightly around him. He sighed and glanced at his watch. It was nearly four, and twenty four hours since he found the apartment empty. He'd been with the police, but they'd just told him to wait, and call them if she didn't come back within the next day. They probably thought she was spending the night with some other man. They must get these kind of calls every day. He watched his feet make their way down the road. While the logical sense in him thought of this as probable, a part of him knew this couldn't be true. Or maybe that was just his hope speaking.
Jacob made his way through the park slowly, not wanting to reach his apartment just yet. What if she still wasn't there? He caught himself staring at every dark haired woman that walked by, making sure none of them were Amelia. He was scared of finding the apartment empty, but anxious to see if she were there. But he thought the last part unprobable. She would have called, wouldn't she? He felt his eyes moisture. She was really gone, and he had no idea what to do. He would have to call the police first thing in the morning if she didn't come back soon.
As he reached for his keys to unlock the door, he could feel the tension rise within him. If she still wasn't there it would be some kind of a confirmation. There would be no question any more. His expectations were low. There was no light in the windows, no movements could be seen or heard. He took extra time unlocking the door, and slid silently inside, turning on the light as he went.
«Amelia?» he called. And as nobody answered, his hope disappeared completely. Jacob walked slowly into the kitchen, sat down and lay his head on the kitchen table. He shut his eyes, trying to keep the tears from falling. It was of no use, and soon tears dripped to the table, leaving a dark spot on the blue cloth. He lay there for several minutes, unable to move, unable to think clearly. He had to call the police. He had to go look for her. He had to call her closest friends. But what was he supposed to tell them? He'd never met her family. She'd told him she didn't want to see them anymore, and he'd respected that without too many questions. Was there more to this than he'd first believed? New tears joined the old ones as he thought of this. Could he have prevented al this from happening? If he'd just asked some more questions, cared just a bit more?
Then he opened his eyes and strengthened himself. There was no use of sitting here in his kitchen sobbing when Amelia was missing. He was not going to be the one to stand by, watching as his girlfriend disappeared from his life. He straightened his back and looked around in the room, in desperate need for something concrete and useful to do. As he did this he could see a bit of paper lying half-hidden behind the coffee machine.
“That's strange,” he whispered to himself and got up. He walked to the kitchen counter and reached for the note. Why hadn't he seen this before? He unfolded the the tiny bit of paper with unsteady hands. On it was some text, which seemed to be written in a hurry. Hope fired inside him as he realised it was Amelia's handwriting, but as soon as he began to read it his face got a strained expression. This didn't look good.
I'm really sorry. Don't try to contact me. It can get you into some serious trouble. Do not, under any circumstances, call the police. That will only make everything worse. Please keep safe. Don't do anything stupid and heroic. What is done is done. He came this morning, and I couldn't refuse. You have to understand this – there was no way out. Please don't get mad. I promise I'll do my best to get back. I love you,
PS: Burn this note as soon as you've read it!
A long series of thoughts went through his head while Jacob read this, and even more so when he was finished. He took a minute so sort them out. If the situation had been another Jacob would probably have laughed of the last sentence, but now he felt that he would never smile again. What had she gotten herself into? What had Jacob gotten himself into? This was bad. Really, really bad.