Soldiers of Pearl 2: Healing Souls

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer

Prologue




She said writing down my fears, talking about the things, events, and people that scare me, may help to take them away or minimize their power so I can move on with my life. Others, some women in the shelter I’ve become friendly with, say by talking about those fears, by writing about the people and things I am most afraid of, can actually bring those things, those people more power over me.

I’m not sure what I feel, except that the constant ache, the pain in the pit of my stomach never lessens. It doesn’t matter what happy things I see before me or even pretend to engage in, I still have that sensation in my gut. If I think about it and try to make it go away, the pain leads to my chest and the anxiety attacks begin.

I’m weak.

I always have been. I accept that, and maybe that’s where I went wrong.

I think when I was born God didn’t give me that inner strength, that self-confidence and determination Arabella has.

I wish I were more like my sister.

She tries so hard to help me get stronger. But I don’t have her spirit, her drive, and her enthusiasm toward life’s potential.

I try to loosen the strings. Try to make decisions, take some chances without Arabella’s insight or guidance, but it’s hard. I’m so scared and the feelings of insecurity are more than taking their toll on me. It’s depressing, sickening, and I’m fed up with it.

I focus on Liam and Julia. My babies, they are my life and my everything.

I cannot ever fail them again. They are two good things, miracles that came out of such a dark, abusive relationship.

They represent my past. Yes. But they are my present and my future. Without them, there is nothing. There is no reason to go on with life. If it weren’t for them I would have ended my life years ago.

I wish things had been different. I know it sounds so cliché but it’s very true. If I knew then what I know now, my choices would have been very different.

I never would have fallen for Anthony’s charms and commanding personality. I liked how tough he was, how he ordered and people jumped. He was sexy, charismatic, and had an amazing body. When he held me in his arms I felt safe in the beginning. I was petite, and he was so big it made me feel feminine and cared for. I even liked how firm he was in handling me, but not in the abuse I sustained from those hands I once craved to be touched by, and caressed with.

He ruined me in so many ways it made me sick with disgust in myself. I could never trust a man again. I could never allow one so close they could use me, manipulate me like Anthony had done.

Camille helped me to realize that I was searching for that father figure in my life, a man to lean on and be protected by because I didn’t have a father. My dad took off on us when Arabella and I were little. But not little enough to forget the yelling, the fighting between him and Mom, or the way he treated her.

I used to think that love was just like in the fairy tales, the stories about princesses. I wanted that, and I think I held on to the ideology that if I opened up my heart, if I gave all of myself, to Anthony, then he would be that prince, that man of my dreams. I was never so wrong in my life. The reality hit me hard again. I am weak. I am easily manipulated, and I just can’t have a normal relationship with anyone. Being alone is the best place for me to be.

I may never fall in love. I don’t want to because I’ll always have that sensation in my gut saying that that person wasn’t being honest, forthright, but instead using me. I may never even be able to date never mind become intimate with a man again out of fear of abuse, and so much more, but I will always have my babies to love and to care for. Arabella saved our lives, but it’s up to me to save our future.

I need to change for them, for me and start over. I have to show Arabella and Mom that I’m stronger now and capable of handling a job, a commitment to my life, and making it better for Liam and Julia.

I pray every night that the police find Anthony. But knowing he is free, out there hiding, possibly lurking in the shadows, keeps that pain in my gut, the anxiety and fear burning strong. I will not let him take my children away from me. I must get stronger. I must continue to work to find the strength within in me to live on, to protect my babies, and ultimately, to be free. I need to. I have to. He cannot win.

Cora lifted her head up from the pages of her journal and looked at the lake, the beautiful park in the center of town. She released a long sigh. Heart heavy, that sensation and fear that was eating her alive, burned within her. She closed her journal and looked out toward the lake. She was sitting on the bench in town. Liam was in preschool across the street, and Julia in kindergarten. They both attended the morning sessions so it gave her time to work on her journal like Camille had suggested she do for therapy.

It had been a year since Kever and Anthony crashed into the truck Arabella was driving on the way into Turbank. It was a whole year of therapy, terrible headaches, continued nightmares, anxiety attacks, and living in fear. All because Anthony got away and she nearly died from her head injury and, of course, her weak personality.

She sighed as she looked around, absorbing the people, all the families walking around and men pushing strollers, women smiling and enjoying their men’s company. This town was perfection, and she felt imperfect. But there was no place to go, to leave to. She was living in constant fear, and would continue to until Anthony was captured or killed. She was tired of this life, of being exhausted and feeling like some sort of zombie in her everyday activities. The stupidest things bothered her. The sound of something crashing to the floor. The loud honk of a horn, the blare of sirens, the insecure feeling of panic she had in crowds of people, even small groups of people. I’m tired of it. I’m so damn tired of it.

She was okay around Arabella and her men, but kept her distance. She sat with the wall to her back so she could keep an eye on everything around her. Even now, she chose the bench in front of the tall, solid tree. The one nearest to the playground where people were so in case someone tried to grab her from behind she could scream for help. She closed her eyes and prayed that the children were safe. She wanted to watch over them constantly and that was why she came here, and sat close to the schools. She felt the tightness in her chest, the sense of anxiety of not knowing if the kids were really okay. The only thing to make this sensation go away was to see for herself that they were fine. But she couldn’t go into the school and ask to see them. The staff would allow it. They were so understanding, but it wasn’t good for Cora to allow the anxiety to remain in control. She needed to get a grip.

She looked in their direction and spotted deputy Cason Parks. He was walking up toward her and she closed her eyes, felt her chest tighten. Does he have bad news for me? Wouldn’t Rex or Reno come tell me if something was wrong? She swallowed hard. Everything about this man made her nervous. He always came around when she was in town. He even visited Arabella’s place. Did he not trust her? Did he fear her causing a public scene with one of her anxiety attacks? A few months back, initially after the attack, Cora had a few spells. With counseling and building up her self-confidence those anxiety attacks were lessening. She wasn’t fragile like people said. Anger pooled in her belly.

“Good afternoon, Cora,” he said, and she looked up, lip quivering, she bit it to stop it, and he crunched his eyebrows together. The man was very attractive, with blond hair, cut neat and tight, and blue eyes, the color of a summer sky.

“Afternoon,” she whispered. She was instantly nervous, heard the quivering in her voice. She couldn’t help it. She was fragile, weak, and he was intimidating, strong, and of course extremely attractive. One of the women, Gina, from Francine’s restaurant, had her eye on him and his friends, Asher, Avery, Beau, and Blade. Blade and Beau were hard, older men. They caused some kind of reaction in her every time she saw one of them. She couldn’t quite describe what it was. Her belly kind of tingled, her palms became sweaty, and she felt nervous. Cason in uniform doubled the sensations.

“I saw you up here, writing, and thought I would say hello, and see how everything was going. How are the kids?” he asked, leaning his hand on his gun and holster as he watched her, Stetson and all. It hung low over his brow, slightly hiding his blue eyes that roamed over her slowly then back to her eyes. He didn’t quite smile. It was like he was gauging her reaction to him. She could smell his nice cologne. That did something to her too. Made her have a small ache of attraction, and she swallowed hard, dismissing her own stupidity. Been there, done that, got the scars to prove it.

He was an attractive man all around. So why was he talking to her?

“Yes, just waiting for the kids to finish up from school.” She twisted her fingers together and then pretended that he didn’t make her nervous. He did. All men did. That was one obstacle she would need to overcome if she wanted to better her and her children’s lives. She would need to better adapt to society and all types of people. Just keep her heart locked up and her naiveté under control. Bad people preyed on the weak, and she was tired of being on the list of easy targets.

He squinted his eyes at her.

“They have a couple more hours of school, don’t they?”

She pulled her lip between her teeth and lowered her eyes as she wrung her hands together.

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