Category: fanfic

Out of Time, Bonus Chapter

It
had been ten months since that fateful night when Raul had sacrificed his life
to save Lily’s. For weeks afterward, she was overcome with grief and sadness.
That quickly changed, however, the moment she discovered that she was pregnant.
This news gave her a renewed sense of purpose and drove her to find the will to
go on.

In
the months leading up to the baby’s birth, Lily became acquainted with the
representative of Raul’s estate, a man named Diego Garcia. He had flown out
from Spain to collect and transport Raul’s remains back to his homeland for
burial after having been contacted by the local authorities, who had found his
name and contact information in Raul’s wallet. The shocked look on Diego’s face
at their initial meeting coupled with the news that Raul had left all his
worldly possessions and substantial wealth to her left her feeling both
perplexed and astonished at the same time. Nevertheless, knowing that neither
she nor her baby would ever want for anything gave her some piece of mind as
she contemplated the future without Raul.

Lily
went into labor a week before Christmas. Both her parents were in the delivery
room as she welcomed her son, Arturo Raulez, into the world. Tears of joy fell
from her eyes as she cradled her nearly 8-pound baby boy in her arms. She kissed
his forehead and marveled at the child that she and Raul had created together. He’s perfect, she thought with great
pride. Just like his Papá.

Less
than twenty-four hours later, Lily and Arturo were discharged from the hospital
and went home with her parents. In the days leading up to Christmas, she
received a call from Diego to inform her that his grandfather, Alfonso Garcia,
was in the United States and that he was eager to pay her a visit. She readily
agreed to the meeting and was told that the elder Mr. Garcia would likely
arrive at her doorstep on Christmas Eve.

Alfonso
arrived promptly at five o’clock in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. He was an elderly
gentleman with snow white hair and kind eyes. She greeted him warmly and
invited him and his daughter, Sofia, into the living room. After a few minutes
of light banter and pleasantries, Lily’s mother came in and set a tray with
coffee and Christmas-shaped cookies on the coffee table. Early on in their
conversation, Alfonso asked if he could see Arturo. Lily nodded and went to the
nursery to see if her son was awake. She quietly stepped into the room and then
gently picked him up when she saw that he was.

Alfonso’s
eyes lit up like a Christmas tree the moment his eyes fell upon Arturo. After
sitting down next to him on the couch, Lily loosened the swaddling clothes around
her son’s face and leaned forward in order to give the elderly gentleman a
better look at her son. Alfonso’s smile broadened as he gazed at the infant in
Lily’s arms. “There’s no mistaking this child’s parentage. He is a Banu Gomez
through and through. That is plain to see.” He brushed the child’s cheek with
the tip of his finger before continuing. “My family has had the honor of
serving Don Raul and his family since the Spanish Reconquista. Although I
grieve his passing, it is good to know that he is finally at peace after all
that he has suffered.”

Why did he say that? What does he know? These were some of
the many questions that were swirling through Lily’s mind as Alfonso spoke.
Nevertheless, she chose to bide her time before peppering him questions and
instead asked, “Will you be staying here long?”

Alfonso
shook his head. “I’m afraid not. As you can see, I’m quite old and am not in
the best of health. Truth be told, my doctors advised me not to come to the
United States, but my curiosity about you and the child led me to reject their
recommendation out of hand and make this trip to see you anyway.”

Intrigued,
Lily decided that now was as good a time as any to delve into what Alfonso
might know about Raul’s history. “Your grandson, Diego, told me that you were
the one who could shed the most light about who Raul was and where he came from.”
Alfonso nodded. Lily continued. “We didn’t know each other very long before he
died and, to be honest, he only gave me the vaguest of pictures of his
background and history. Even your grandson seemed reluctant to tell me what he
knew.”

Alfonso
sighed and glanced at his daughter, who gave him an encouraging smile. Just
then, Lily’s mother came in and offered to take Arturo off her hands. Lily said
yes and gently handed her son over to her mother while Alfonso took a sip of
coffee and gathered his thoughts.

Once
Lily’s mother had left the room, she asked, “I want to know everything.”

“Yes,
yes,” Alfonso replied with a wistful look. “I will tell you what I know. But
before I do that, you must promise me that you will keep an open mind. What I
am about to tell you is a tale that has been passed down in my family for many
generations. I was not fortunate enough to have met Don Raul myself, but my
padre told me that he did meet him once before I was born.”

How was that possible? Lily thought as
she squeezed her hands together until her knuckles turned white. She took a
deep breath to calm her increasingly frayed nerves and to ease the tension in
her body. Like he said, just keep an open
mind and see what he has to say before you decide whether you’re going to
believe him or not.

“Are
you all right Lily? You look a little pale.”

“I’m
fine, thank you,” she quickly replied. “Please go on.”

Although
Alfonso did not look completely convinced by her assurances, he cleared his
throat and said, “When I was a young man, my padre told me about a young
Leonese noblemen who lived during the Reconquista. He was the son of a count
from the House of Banu Gomez and married a beautiful Castilian noblewoman named
Inés during the reign of King Alfonso V of Castile and Leon. They had only one
child, Estela, who lived past infancy. I was told that both his daughter and
wife met their end in Cuéllar after he had been sent there by the king to
repopulate the town.”

“How
did they die?” Lily asked, eyebrows raised.

“Estela
died of a fever. As for Doña Inés, I was told that a witch tricked the nobleman
into making a bargain with her in order to keep his wife’s safe in the face of
an impending attack upon the town. Unbeknownst to him, the witch had instead
placed a curse on him in order to avenge the death of a kinswoman who was
murdered by those he had appointed to administer the town during his absence.”

Lily’s
eyes widened as she stuttered, “What did she do to him?”

Before
responding, Alfonso bowed his head, removed his eyeglasses and rubbed his eyes.
“She condemned him to encounter Inés over numerous lifetimes only to watch her
die again and again at the hands of the same man who had slain her with his bow
and arrow in Cuéllar.”

Lily
blinked and sat there, still as a statue, as the implications of what she had
just been told began to sink in. It can’t
be true. Things like that just don’t happen in real life.
Still, she asked
him the question that was uppermost in her mind. “What was his name?”

Alfonso
looked at her solemnly and said, “I think that you already know.”

For
a moment or two, Lily was too shocked to speak. Finally, she said, “You don’t
really believe that my Raul was the same nobleman you just spoke of, do you?”

Rather
than replying to Lily’s question, Alfonso said, “I brought something for you.”
He then turned to his daughter Sofia, who rose to her feet and left the room.
“I think it might prove more persuasive than anything that I could possibly say
to you in this regard.” When Lily nodded, Alfonso continued. “It’s a painting
that has hung in my ancestral home for centuries. But now that Don Raul has
finally been laid to rest and left you as his heir, I thought it best to give
it to you.”

Within
minutes, Sofia returned with the painting in hand. It was enclosed in a box and
was being carried in by both Sofia and Lily’s father. They propped it up
against the wall by the fireplace. Lily’s legs were shaking when she stood up
and walked toward it.

“Would
you like me to open this up for you?” Lily’s father asked. She said yes and
then patiently waited while he went to the garage to get a box cutter. When he
returned, she took a step back and watched with a mixture of anticipation and
trepidation as he opened one side of box and then slowly slid it out with
Sofia’s help.

The
painting was draped in a crimson velvet sheet. Lily asked them to place it in
front of the coffee table. Her palms were sweaty as she once again sat down
next to Alfonso and contemplated what she might discover upon lifting the sheet
from the painting.

“Don’t
be afraid. There is nothing to fear,” Alfonso said as he gently placed his hand
on her arm. She responded with a weak smile and a nod.

“Here
goes nothing,” Lily said under her breath as she leaned forward and reached for
the sheet. Slowly, she pulled it away from one corner of the painting and gasped
when she uncovered Raul’s visage. His portrait had an eerily lifelike quality
to it which caused her to shudder at first. But then, when she moved in for a
closer look, she realized that she had nothing to fear. He looked exactly as
she had remembered, with his dark brown hair and piercing gaze. She pulled the
sheet back further and saw that he was wearing a suit of armor and was standing
with one hand propped against the edge of a rather ornate-looking chair while
the other was placed on his hip. It was then that she caught sight of a
feminine-looking hand resting against the arm of the chair. Inés, Lily thought with trepidation
before pulling the rest of the sheet away to reveal the painting in its
entirety.

“My
God,” Lily uttered softly as she brought her hands to her face. “She looks…”

“Exactly
like you,” Alfonso said. At that point, Lily fell to her knees and wept. This
was all too much for her still fragile heart to take. Still, she did find some
comfort knowing that Alfonso was there with her and understood the pain that
she was feeling.

Once
her tears finally subsided, she remained seated in front of the painting and
tried to take it all in. At one point, she pointed to the necklace with a
silver cross around Inés’ neck and said, “That’s beautiful. Did he give it to
her?”

“If
my memory serves me correctly, I believe that it was one of the many presents that
Don Raul bestowed upon his wife during their marriage.”

“He
spoke of her only once,” Lily said softly. “I could tell from the sound of his
voice that he loved her very much.” She paused, then asked, “Do you think that
he’s finally at peace?”

“Yes,
I do,” Alfonso said, his voice thick with emotion. “I believe that you had a
lot to do with that.”

Lily
began to tear up once more as she placed her hand over his and said, “I wish
there were words to express how much your coming here has meant to me.” She
then looked over at the painting, adding, “I’ll treasure this for as long as I
live.”

“It
was my pleasure,” Alfonso replied, smiling. “If I or anyone else from my family
can ever be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank
you. When Artie is older, I’d like to take him to Spain. Maybe, if it’s not too
much trouble, maybe you or someone in your family could take us around to
Raul’s ancestral homes and tell him about his family’s history.”

“It
would be an honor to do that,” Alfonso replied. “Just let us know when you are
ready to come to Spain for a visit and we will take care of the rest.”

Later
that evening, Lily was still thinking about all that Alfonso had said to her as
she lay in bed. Slowly, she drifted off to sleep…

Some
time later, she awoke with a start and found herself lying in a strange,
darkened room lit only by a single candle flickering on a wooden nightstand.
Her eyes darted back and forth as she raised herself onto her elbows. Almost
immediately, she felt a pair of warm, strong hands grasp her shoulders.

“Lie
back down and rest,” said an achingly familiar voice in her ear.

Lily’s
breath caught in her throat as she struggled to orient herself and make sense
of what was happening to her. “Where am I? Is the baby all right?”

“Estela
is fine. She is with her nursemaid, Mencia. She was sound asleep the last time
I checked, as should you be.”

“Raul,”
Lily croaked. “Is it really you?”

“Were
you expecting someone else?” Raul teased. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, mi
amor, but alas, it’s only me.”

Lily
raised her hands to his face and stroked his cheek. “It is you. I can’t believe
it.” She began to weep.

“Don’t
cry,” Raul replied as he wiped away her tears and laid down next to her. “It’s
Christmas Eve and we have much to be thankful for. God has blessed us with
health, prosperity, and, most importantly, a beautiful daughter to love and
care for.”

“I
love you, Raul.”

“And
I, you,” he replied as he raised Lily’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “You
and Estela are my life. You have given me more joy in the short time that we’ve
been married then I ever thought was possible.”

Lily
laid her head against his shoulder and breathed him in. “If this is a dream I
hope I never wake up.”

Raul
smiled and nuzzled his face against her neck. “Do you want your present now or
in the morning?”

“You’re
all I could ever possibly need or want,” Lily insisted. Raul placed a finger
over her lips to stop her from saying more and then ordered her to close her
eyes. She readily complied. Soon afterward, she felt him slowly unfurl her
fingers, one by one, before placing his gift in the palm of her hand.

“Open
your eyes.”

Lily
brought the tiny and relatively lightweight object in her hand up to her face
and gasped as soon as she realized what it was: a silver cross and chain. She bit
her lip and closed her eyes in a futile effort to keep another round of tears
from falling from her eyes. “It’s lovely, Raul. I don’t know what to say.”

“It
belonged to my mamá. It was one of her favorite pieces of jewelry. She gave it
to me near the time of her death and urged me to give it to the woman I loved.”

“Oh
Raul.” That was all Lily could manage to say as he took the silver cross and
chain from her hand and placed it around her neck.

“You are so beautiful,” Raul exclaimed with
eyes filled with love and devotion.

For
a moment, his words appeared to have robbed her of both breath and speech. But
as the minutes passed, she began to sense that her time with him was now
growing short. At that point, she clutched his arm and said, “Don’t leave me.
Ever. I don’t think I could bear it.”

Raul
smiled as he tipped her face up to his and said, “I’ll never be far, mi amor. Just
close your eyes and think of me and I’ll be there.”

When
Lily awoke early the next morning, she was back in her bedroom. She sat up and
reached for her cell phone to see what time it was.  The time and date on the screen was 8 a.m. on
December 25. It was Christmas day. She sprang out of bed and headed straight
for the nursery. When she stepped into the room, she found her mother sleeping
in a cot next to Arturo’s crib. She tiptoed up to him and picked him up before quietly
exiting the room so as not to wake her mother up.  

The first
thing she noticed upon entering the living room was that the painting was now
hanging over the fireplace. Just then, her father walked in from the kitchen and
came up beside her as she gazed at Raul and the woman who looked like her
doppelganger. “I hope you don’t mind that I put it up on the wall.”

Lily
shook her head. “No, not at all. That’s the perfect spot for it. Thank you.”

After
taking a sip of coffee from the mug in his hand, he said, “That’s a pretty
necklace you’re wearing. Where’d you get it?”

What necklace? Lily thought and looked
down at her chest. Her jaw dropped, and her eyes widened in surprise at seeing
the silver cross that she had dreamed Raul had given her hanging around her
neck. “It belonged to Raul’s mother,” she stammered.

“Really?”

Lily
nodded and pointed to the painting, adding, “Do you see that woman in the
painting? She’s wearing the very same necklace that I’m wearing now.”

“Well,
I’ll be damned,” her father replied. He scratched his head while his eyes
darted back and forth a few times between the painting and Lily. “I can’t get
over how much you and that woman look alike. If I didn’t know that this piece
of art was hundreds of years old, I would have sworn that that woman in the
portrait was you.”

Maybe I was her, Lily thought as
Alfonso’s fantastic tale once more came to the forefront of her mind.  In
another lifetime.

Lily
and her father remained standing there in companionable silence for a little
while until he decided to excuse himself from the room. Once she was certain
that he was no longer within earshot, she pointed to Raul and said, “Look
Arturo. Do you see that man in the painting? That’s your Papá.”

While
looking down at her son, she thought about all that had happened to her in the
last twenty-four hours. Although her rational mind urged her to dismiss
Alfonso’s story as the stuff of fairy tales, there was another part of her that
felt that he had told her the truth. And wasn’t Arturo’s very existence proof
enough that the Raul in Alfonso’s story had really existed and had loved her in
this lifetime?

In
the end, Lily concluded that there were certain things in this life that simply
defied explanation. All she knew and cared to know was that the brief and
intense love she had shared with Raul had been real and had produced a son for
her to love and cherish in his absence. For her, that was answer enough.

Now
that that question was settled in her mind, she once again turned her attention
to the painting. With tear-filled eyes, she looked up at Raul’s face once more and
said, “Merry Christmas, mi amor.”

Travelers, a Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez-…

Tomas awoke with a start. His head hurt
and his muscles ached as he sat up and stretched. He felt like he’d just been
in a train wreck. His foot brushed against a mound of dirty clothes after
swinging his legs to the side of the bed. He kicked them aside in disgust and headed
straight for the medicine cabinet. He needed aspirin, and quick. Once there, he
shook the medicine bottle. He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard at least
one or two pills clanging around inside it. He then swiftly unscrewed the lid
and popped it in his mouth, swallowing it whole. That should do it, he thought and gazed at himself in the mirror. With
his pasty white skin and bloodshot eyes, he looked like death warmed over.  He bent over the sink, splashed cold water on
his face and then went back to his room. He stopped in front of his closet. He ran
his hands through his hair as he stared at a nearly empty row of hangers. He
reached for a black short-sleeve collared shirt with white stripes and picked
up a pair of jeans off the floor. He raised the latter to his nose and took a
sniff. Good enough, he thought and
put it on.

The kitchen was also a mess. Dirty
dishes were piled high in the sink while containers of Chinese food and pizza
boxes were strewn along the countertop. He opened a few cabinets and the
refrigerator door. Empty. He cursed as he slammed them shut, one by one. He closed
his eyes and counted to ten. It didn’t help.

“Fuck it,” he said and eyed the front
door. He swept up his car keys and wallet off the folding table he used to work
and dine on and kicked the trash can on the way out.

A cold gust of wind greeted him as he
stepped outside the front door of his apartment. He shivered and looked up at
the sky, which was gloomy and gray. The neighborhood was eerily quiet and
deserted. He looked to his right and saw that a dense curtain of fog was slowly
beginning to envelope his apartment complex. He quickened his pace. After
hopping into his car, he locked the doors and peeled out of his designated
parking space.

He had no idea where he wanted to go or
why. Just drive, he thought as he sped
through rows of empty streets and shuttered businesses. When he got to the last
stop sign in town, he spotted a girl in her twenties standing by the side of
the road with her thumb up. Although he had been warned of the perils of picking
up hitchhikers, he thought that she looked harmless enough. He pulled his car
over.

“Where are you headed?” Tomas asked as
he rolled down the passenger side window.

The girl was wearing a white t-shirt and
shorts and had wavy, brown hair and hazel-colored eyes. She bent down and
leaned her arms against the window frame. “Anywhere but here. Can you give me a
lift?”

“Sure. Hop in,” he replied. “My name’s
Tomas. What’s yours?”

“Julia,” she said with an outstretched
hand. He responded in kind. Strangely enough, the sensation of her hand in his
felt oddly familiar.

“Have we met before?” Tomas asked. Julia smiled
and looked away as she withdrew her hand and then placed her purse at her feet.
I guess that means no.

They sat in companionable silence for
the next few minutes as the windy two-lane road stretched out before them. The
clouds above them were dark and murky. Tomas found himself wondering if it was
going to rain.

Just then, two cars, one red and one
black, zipped past them. The red car had a license plate which read “CATCHME.” He
snorted in amusement and then glanced at Julia, who had a visibly strained look
on her face and was clenching her fists as she watched the cars pull away and
disappear into the mist.

Tomas tried to think of a way to put
Julia’s mind at ease. “It’s probably just a bunch of teenagers out for cheap
thrills. Don’t worry. I’ll keep my eye out for them.” He then knocked on the
top of his dashboard, adding, “I’m a very safe driver. No accidents or tickets.
Ever. We’ll be fine. Promise.”

Julia glanced in his direction and seemed
to visibly relax. “I trust you.”

At that moment, light rain began to fall
on the windshield. Tomas turned on the wipers, defroster and was about to
switch on the lights for better visibility when a large semi-truck came
barreling around a blind curve into his lane. He honked his horn and gave the
middle-aged truck driver who was wearing a black and red plaid shirt and white baseball
cap the finger. He then pulled his car to the shoulder of the road to avoid
being stricken, hit the brakes and brought the car to a dead stop.

Meanwhile, the other driver rolled down
his window as he drove by and yelled, “Fuck you too asshole.”

Tomas scowled as he slammed the palm of
his hand against the steering wheel and watched the semi fade from view in his
rear-view mirror. After taking a long, slow breath to calm his nerves, he turned
to Julia, who was white as a sheet, and asked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Julia said in a tremulous
voice. “How about you?”

Tomas sighed. “Have you ever had one of
those days when you wish you’d never gotten out of bed?”

“That bad, eh?”

“So far, meeting you has been the only
bright spot in what’s been a totally crappy day so far.”

“Have you heard the saying ‘Misery loves
company’?” Tomas nodded. Julia continued. “Then I guess we were destined to
meet.”

“What’s your story?” Tomas asked,
eyebrows raised.

Julia pursed her lips and shook her head.
“It’s complicated. You sure you want to hear it?”

Tomas glanced at the digital clock on
the dashboard and said, “I’ve got time. At the rate we’re going, we won’t hit
the next nearest town for at least another half hour.” Truth be told, he was in
dire need of a distraction and thought that listening to Julia’s troubles would
take his mind off his own issues. Still, he didn’t want to make her feel like
he was putting her on the spot or trying to stick his nose into her business, and
so he said, “It’s totally up to you. We could just…”

Before he could finish his sentence,
Julia replied, “Where’d you like me to start?”

Tomas shrugged. “Wherever you want to,”
he said, then paused. “How about telling me how you ended up where I found you.”

Julia nodded. “I moved here for my
boyfriend. He got a teaching job at the local high school here in town after we
graduated from college.”

“I see,” Tomas replied. A boyfriend, huh? I should’ve known.

“We rented a one-bedroom apartment in the
Whispering Palms complex just off State Street.”

“You did? I’ve got a place there too.” Maybe that’s why she seems so familiar.

For a moment, Julia looked like she was
unsure of what to say next. Finally, she said, “We had things all planned out,
you know. We came here thinking we could start digging our way out of all the school
debt we’d accumulated and build up a little nest egg before we got married. Neither
of us was making much but we got by, and we had each other. That was the
important thing.”

“Sounds like the two of you were a match
made in heaven.”

Julia shook her head. “It didn’t start
out that way. I was kind of seeing someone else the first time he asked me out
and so I said no. And then I saw him again a few weeks later. By that time, I’d
broken things off with the other guy I’d been dating and so I invited him out
for a cup of coffee.”

“I assume he said yes.”

Julia snorted. “No. Not at all. He
turned me down flat.”

Tomas smiled. “Good on him. I probably
would’ve done the same thing.”

“Luckily for me, he eventually came
around and decided to take a chance on me. After that, we never looked back. At
first, some of my closest friends and even my mom was concerned that we were
getting too serious too fast. I told them all that I knew what I was doing and
not to worry.”

“So, what happened?” Tony asked. If everything between her and her boyfriend
was as perfect as she’s making it sound, what was she doing standing alone by
the road trying to hitch her way out of town?

Julia’s lips quivered and her breath
hitched as she rested her head in her hand and stared out the window. And then
a single tear ran down her cheek. She wiped it away and said, “He doesn’t
remember who I am. There was an accident and…”

Tomas reached out and touched Julia’s
hand. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to.”
When she turned to him with a faint smile, he added, “We’d better get back on
the road. I have a feeling that the weather’s going to get a lot worse tonight
before it gets better.”

As the car’s lights illuminated the
surrounding area, Tomas looked to his left and then glanced into the rear-view
mirror to make sure that the coast was clear before he merged onto the road. He
nearly jumped out of his seat when he caught sight of the truck driver who had
just ran him off the road minutes before standing and waving at him from behind
his car. He swung around to make sure that he wasn’t hallucinating and saw nothing
there but blackness and weeds.

Relieved, he turned back around and
slowly re-entered the road. In the ensuing silence, he took the time to gather
his thoughts. Everything about this day seemed wrong. From the moment he’d
opened his eyes to the second he’d nearly been run off the road, he’d felt like
he’d been cast adrift in a world which didn’t make sense with only the beautiful
and troubled stranger sitting next to him to keep him anchored to reality.

Soon enough, the stretch of road that
Tomas and Julia were on began to ascend into a mountainous area with monstrous
sized trees and steep embankments. For a second or two, he pictured his car
veering off the road to his death and then batted the thought away. But it wasn’t
long before it became apparent to him that he wasn’t the only one in the car
dealing with troubling thoughts.

As the minutes passed, Tomas sensed a
growing unease in Julia. He could see it in her face and hear it in her
breathing as she began to rock back and forth in her seat. What’s going on with her? he thought as he debated whether to re-engage
her in some more conversation. But just when he’d screwed up the nerve to open
his mouth and speak, the sound of screeching tires and roaring engines coming
up from behind made him pause and glance into his rear-view mirror. From what
he could see, it looked like there were two cars driving nearly parallel to
each other at breakneck speed. Absent a miracle, he was sure that the car in
his lane was going to rear end him. He looked to the right to see if he could
pull off the road once more to avoid a collision but saw, to his dismay, that
there was no shoulder this time to pull off onto. What other, if any, options
did he have? Knowing that time was running short, he gripped the steering
wheel, stepped on the gas and prayed.

Tomas looked again into the rear-view
mirror. This time, the car directly behind his was moving over into the
opposite lane of traffic. He said a prayer of thanks as he watched them pass.
But as they began to disappear into the night, he caught sight of the license
plate of the car that had been in his lane and froze. “CATCHME,” it read. That can’t be right, he thought as he
struggled to convince himself that he wasn’t losing his mind. In the meantime,
he spotted a lookout point and immediately pulled over.

Tomas felt Julia’s hand on his arm as
soon as he turned off the engine. He looked into her eyes and wanted to cry.
She reached over and touched his cheek with the back of her hand and said,
“It’s okay Tomas. I’m here.” He kissed her. She kissed him back. He pulled her
close. They made love.

A little while later, Tomas started up
the car and crept back onto the road. He stole glances in Julia’s direction while
working though the jumble of thoughts and feelings that were running through
his mind and heart. He was in love with her, of that he had absolutely no doubt.
And even though she hadn’t said it outright, the way she’d kissed and held him made
it patently obvious that she felt the same way about him too. But what about her boyfriend? The
thought of this nameless and faceless person in Julia’s arms filled him with
jealously and guilt.

After a long period of silence, Tomas
finally spoke up. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me…I hope this doesn’t
screw things up between you and your boyfriend.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not,” Julia
replied matter-of-factly. “I was a perfectly willing participant. You have
nothing to apologize for.”

After careful consideration, Tomas said,
“I like you. I like you a lot. I felt a real connection to you from the first minute
I saw you.”

“I felt it too,” Julia said as she
placed her hand over his.

“So, what are we going to do about it?”
Tomas asked. He didn’t want to let Julia go or give her up without a fight. Whatever it takes, baby. Just say the word.

As if she had read his thoughts, Julia
replied, “I promised myself a long time ago that I’d do whatever it took to make
my relationship with my boyfriend work. I mean to keep that promise. I owe him
that.”

Tomas nodded and said no more. Time to move on buddy. And don’t even think
about trying to argue with her.

It was raining harder now. It was difficult
to see, even with the windshield wipers at their highest setting. He stepped
off the gas and watched as the speedometer needle dropped from 25 mph to 20 and
below.

And then, out of nowhere, Julia shouted,
“Stop the car. Stop it NOW!”

Tomas glanced at her and then looked
forward. He blinked again and again. What
the fuck?
his mind screamed as he tried to wrap his brain around the notion
that the man in the red and black plaid shirt and white baseball cap was standing
there in the middle of the road. He jammed on the brakes, veered to the left
and prayed that no oncoming cars were near. We’re
too close,
he thought and braced himself for impact. But when his vehicle
finally came to a complete stop, the man was nowhere to be seen.

With his heart thundering in his ears,
Tomas looked at Julia and asked, “Where did he go?”

“I have to go now,” Julia replied and
placed her hand on the door handle. “I can’t go any farther with you than
this.”

Tomas grabbed her arm and said, “That’s
crazy. You can’t leave now. We’re out in the middle of nowhere and…and it’s
pouring outside. You’re going to get drenched out there.”

“Let me go.” Julia was crying now. She yanked
her arm away and picked up her purse as she stepped out of the car.

For a moment or two, Tomas was too
stunned to move or speak. What do I do
now?
He raked his hands through his hair and tried to think. He looked down
and saw Julia’s cell phone lying on the car floor. He picked it up and accidently
pressed the Home button. The lock screen appeared. What he saw shook him to his
core. It was a picture of Julia…and him.

In an instant, it all came flooding back
to him: two cars speeding past his in the pouring rain, the red car with the
license plate “CATCHME” swerving out of control on the slippery, wet red road, and
the semi-truck veering into his lane and hitting his car head-on. Worst of all,
Julia’s screams. Oh God!

Tomas got out of the car and screamed
Julia’s name over and over again until his voice was hoarse. “Where are you? I
remember now. Please come back.” He dropped to his knees and buried his face in
his hands. He started to cry.

Suddenly, the rain stopped and the
howling wind ceased to blow. All was still, save for the sound of a wolf
howling in the distance. It was then that Tomas felt the gentle pressure of
Julia’s hands on his shoulders. He turned and looked up at her.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tomas’ tone
was neither accusatory nor angry.

“Would you have believed me if I did?”

Tomas paused, then asked, “So are we…”

Julia nodded and knelt down beside him.
“It happened so fast. There was nothing you could’ve done to avoid it.”

“Do you know where we are? It doesn’t
feel like heaven or hell.”

Julia sighed. “I think we’re somewhere
in between. I saw a light right after it happened and heard a voice calling out
to me. I started to walk toward it and then realized that you weren’t with me.
I looked around and saw you walking away. You seemed so lost, and so when the
voice beckoned me again to the light, I begged for more time. I couldn’t move on,
not without you.”

Grabbing hold of both her arms, Tomas
asked, “How many times have you had to live through this nightmare?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Julia replied and
wept. “You would’ve done the same thing for me.”

Tomas hung his head in shame. “I’m so sorry
baby…for everything.”

“It’s okay. We’re going to be alright
now. We’re together. That’s all that matters. It’s all I’ve ever cared about.”

Tomas nodded and buried his face in
Julia’s shoulder. Moments later, he began to feel something warm and bright
envelope them both. He looked up and gazed in wonder at the sight unfolding
before his eyes.

Julia smiled and rose to her feet. She
looked over at the light and held her hand out to Tomas. “It’s time. Are you
ready?”

Tomas nodded as he stood up and placed
his hand in hers. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

And so they went, hand in hand, into
eternity.

The End.

Video of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez as…

Video of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez as Ines and Raul for the #RicHaiz fic #RoseofCastile

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes…

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes from Part 12 of #RoseofCastile, the prequel to the #RicHaiz fic #OutofTime.

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez …

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez as Ines and Raul for Part 11 of the #RicHaiz fic #RoseofCastile

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes…

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes from Part 11 of #RoseofCastile, the prequel to the #RicHaiz fic #OutofTime.

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez …

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez as Ines and Raul with their daughter Estela for Part 10 of the #RicHaiz fic #RoseofCastile

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes…

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes from Part 10 of #RoseofCastile, the prequel to the #RicHaiz fic #OutofTime.

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez …

Photo of Hailee Steinfeld and Ricardo Gomez as Ines and Raul with their daughter Estela and King Alfonso VI for for Part 9 of the #RicHaiz fic #RoseofCastile

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes…

Hailee Steinfeld & Ricardo Gomez, quotes from Part 9 of #RoseofCastile, the prequel to the #RicHaiz fic #OutofTime.