Truth Be ToldBy: Holly Ryan
I lift my arms above my head to pull the drapes together, but I pause before I can complete it. There’s something outside, in the storm and behind my father’s tree, but I can’t quite see what it is from this angle. I lean forward to get a better look, closing the distance between myself and the window’s glass, which fogs in response to my breath.
I think I see someone standing behind the tree, near the road. There’s a figure there, standing motionless, shrouded in rain. From this view, it looks to be female; I think I catch a glimpse of long hair blowing in the wind.
What is someone doing outside my house, in the middle of the night? And in a storm?
I no longer bother with closing the curtains. Instead, I grab my robe from where I last laid it, slopped over the back of my computer chair, and head downstairs.
I take the long, spiral staircase multiple steps at a time, turning on a few lights as I pass. There was once a time when pulling a stunt like this in the middle of the night wouldn’t have been possible without me waking the help. My footsteps thud and echo in the tall ceiling. My butler, who lived with us for several years, had ears like a hawk’s eyes. He’d have been asleep at this hour, and I’m sure he would have joined me once he heard what was going on. He’d probably have come out, told me to go back to bed, that he’d take care of it himself. You couldn’t put anything past my security guard, either. It seemed like that man never slept.
It’s times like these that I question my decision to let them go – and not because I’m afraid.
Outside, the storm rages. Rain hits the pavement and creates a steady, deafening roar. It’s so thick that I have to use my hand to shield my eyes in order to see, as if I’m being blinded by the sun.
The stranger is still standing there. “Hello?” I call into the storm as I walk toward them.
I was right. It is a woman. She’s standing still, facing me as I approach.
She’s dripping wet, and her arms hang by her sides as the water runs down them. She had been looking down at the ground this entire time, but when I reach her she lifts her eyes and meets mine.
“Are you okay?” I ask. I’ve been out here for all of sixty seconds, and already I’m drenched, same as her.
She doesn’t respond to me.
I look for any sign of a car or someone else nearby. The street is empty, and so is the horizon. There isn’t even the glimmer of a headlight in the distance. We’re all alone.
Maybe she’s been drinking and she’s lost. I peer into her face. No, she doesn’t look drunk. But she’s obviously disoriented, and maybe even sick.
“Where did you come from?”
“Do you know where you are?” I give her a second to respond, but predictably, she doesn’t. “You’re in front of my house. I don’t think we know each other.”
I’m not sure the words register. Slowly, she raises her arm. Then, with a single finger, she points across the street. I follow her gesture, my gaze eventually settling on a flat horizon that’s somehow appeared in the distance. It’s the horizon of the ocean.
I freeze at the sight until I gather enough courage to look back at her, although I’m no longer sure of what I might see.
This time, she’s looking at me. “Wave,” she says, her voice monotone.
Suddenly, she’s different. Changed. She’s no longer unfamiliar; I now recognize that face. Her hair, which was at first auburn while blowing in the wind of the storm, is now blonde.
My jaw clenches. I want to speak, but I can’t. I’m interrupted by a flash of memory that appears in my mind.
It’s her same face, and it’s that same blonde hair, and those same deep, bright brown eyes. They stare at me, opened wide, before she cries out, “Help!”
I’m in the water. The metal of the maroon-colored SUV’s door feels smooth and icy as I desperately pull at the handle.
It doesn’t open.
I pound at the glass. I gouge at it with my elbow.
The water inside the car is rising. The water outside the car is rising, too, as the vehicle sinks further and further down.
I don’t stop trying. I can’t. When the water has risen so much that I’m forced to dive under, I do. And when I see her there, still struggling, I struggle with her.