Sophie was reclined on her bed, a book in her hand. She had been re-reading the same line for quite some now. She just couldn't seem to concentrate. What could the evidence be, she thought. A scarf? A shoe? A knife? She shook her head, trying to clear her mind of those thoughts.
"Dinner!". Sophie sprang to her feet at the sound of her mother's voice. The aroma of homemade chili and cornbread wafting under her nose as she entered the kitchen. "Can you set the table?" Mrs. Duvall asked Sophie. Sophie nodded, grabbing the bowls off the counter along with some utensils from the drawer.
Once she had meticulously place every bowl, spoon, and knife on the cheery stained table they sat down, said grace, and dug in.
The usual discussion ensued, things like "how was your day?", "did you hear about Walter?". But Sophie was miles away. Which wasn't abnormal for her since Olivia's disappearance and re-appearance.
"And then I went down to the courthouse to change my name to purple toenail" Ted sarcastically announced. Sophie jerked her head up from her bowl. "Sophie, what's up?! You've been completely zoned out ever since we sat down" Ted asked. "I'm just pretty tired, I didn't sleep well last night" she lied. "It was probably something you ate" he replied.
"So how's the business coming along?" Mrs.Duvall asked, taking a heaping spoonful of chili. "Not bad, not bad" Teddy answered. "Who will be working with you?" Mrs. Duvall inquired. "Let's see, some friends from Delaware, a few from college, Henry from church, that's about it so far" he told them, counting them off on his right hand. "I was wondering if you'd be interested in helping your big brother" he said, addressing Sophie. "Um, sure. How exactly?" she answered, leery of what her brother had in mind."Well I have a ton of papers and stuff to organize tomorrow after church" he explained. " Okay, I don't have anything to do tomorrow anyways" she said as she took a swig of water. "Great! We'll pick lunch up on the way" he replied. Sophie smiled cordially. She could see her mom beaming down at her bowl.
Carol had been in unusually high spirits since her son's return. Sure, she was happy that he had been flourishing in his PR firm in Delaware, but the fact that she rarely got to see him really ached at her. Not that she ever let anyone see that, particularly her children. Over the years she had become quite adept at keeping her emotions in check, for the sake of those around her.
"So how's your classes going dad?" Sophie asked, hoping that would rouse him to discussion. "Let's just say, there are those who who come my class prepared and those that expect me to force-feed the scriptures to them. My classes consist of mostly the latter". Sophie nodded.
That was her father's biggest complaint every semester. He would whine, grumble, and be generally amazed at how unprepared most of his students were. One year he even had a student, who wasn't doing well by any standards, say that the only reason he wanted to become a minster was because he thought it was an easy job. To which Mr.Duvall responded by laughing exuberantly.
But every once in a while there was a student that surprised him. For example Kurt Henderson, a native of Iowa. Mr.Duvall was so impressed with his zeal and understanding of the Bible that he took him under his wing, helping him acquire the position of youth pastor at the Duvall's own church last year. Truthfully Sophie and her brothers were a bit resentful of their father's close relationship with Kurt. But Sophie had warmed up to him as she got to know him more. She couldn't really blame her father knowing he had always wanted to have one of his children go into some form of the ministry.
"Why don't you just go ahead and retire? You've been talking about it for months" Carol interjected. "Because, what would I do? Garden? Besides I still have one child to put through college" he said, through a mouthful of cornbread. "That's true" she replied, reminded that her youngest would soon be gone.
"How's Olivia?" Ted questioned. Sophie swallowed and then proceeded with her answer. "Good, I guess. They found some possible evidence".
"Something tells me you're not very interested in the movie" said Meredith, rolling her eyes playfully at Lars as he nibbled at her neck. They were thirty minutes into the movie and Lars had barely glanced at the t.v. screen. It was an indy film. Boy goes to college, meets a girl from London, she moves back, he goes after her, he falls in love with her London roommate. Sub-par acting, but breath-taking scenery.
"What can I say? Everything seems so boring in comparison to you" he gushed, letting his forefinger trace the line of her jaw. "I can't agree with you there" she replied, faking a modest tone. "So what did you do today?" she asked. "I sat here, cried my heart out that you weren't here, and ate potato chips" he teased. "You're so funny". "Actually I had classes to teach until about twelve-ish, but later I did eat potato chips" he informed her. She laughed amusingly. "What about you?" he asked, resting his chin on his hand. "I went shopping with Sophie, Carson, and Olivia". "Oh really? How is Olivia?".
Meredith pondered his question thoroughly. The truth was she hadn't the slightest clue how to answer. One minute she behaved as though nothing had happened. The next, she was dodging questions and being defensive like they were putting her on the witness stand. But then again she had always been elusive. Why would they expect things to be different now? Especially with such a delicate subject.
"She's Olivia". Lars didn't seem very satisfied with that answer. He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by his phone chiming. With an annoyed look on his face he pulled his cellphone out of his pocket. He quickly glanced down at the caller I.D. on the screen, and hung up. "Who was that?" Meredith questioned. "My mom". Meredith raised her eyebrow at him. "You hung up on your mom?". "It's no big deal. I'll call her back later". Lars reached across Meredith for the remote, turning the volume up. "Now let's get back to the movie" he announced, grinning warmly. Meredith smiled in return, and laid her head down on his chest.
She tried to focus on the movie but she just couldn't. What kind of guy hangs up on his own mother, she thought.
Sophie turned the shower knob off, hearing the last drops of water drip rhythmically. She stepped out and wrapped the tangerine towel around herself. Dinner had ended roughly two hours ago. Her dad and mom were studying their Sunday school books for tomorrow, and Ted was out catching up with friends, so the house was quiet.
She tip-toed to her room, her parents' voices coming from downstairs. Once she was in her room she shut the door. She strolled towards her drawers, searching for some comfortable clothes. When she found what she was looking for she pushed the drawer back into place. She flung her towel onto her bed her and slipped her sweats onto her cold body.
He mind kept drifting back to Olivia. It took all her energy to not let herself call over there and ask about what they found. They didn't need her prying into to their personal affairs. If she wants me to know she'll tell me, she told herself.
She walked out into the hallway, grabbed a towel from the linen closet and proceeded to towel dry her hair. As she scrunched her hair in the fluffy towel she slowly opened her blinds. She eyed the Webbs' gravel driveway. Ian's car was there. She speculated as to how long they had been back. One hour? Two hours?
She snapped her attention back to her room. He eyes fell upon her ballet vocabulary book. That should get my mind off of things, she thought. She picked it up along with a ball point pen and a notebook. She leaned back on her bed and flipped to a fresh piece of paper. She read. She wrote. But it was purely mechanical. She couldn't even try to absorb the words. It was like a rubber-ball being thrown at a wall. It made contact, but it didn't stick.
After about an hour she just gave up. She drowsily slid off her bed, hoping a little exercise would help. She laid back on her pink rug, her legs to the window. She sucked in her abdomen and crunched upwards. One, two, three, she counted in her head. She steadied her breathing to the timing of her crunches.
Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty. She rolled over and stretched her stomach muscles out. She leaned back into child's pose, inching her finger-tips forward. A glass of milk would be great right now, she thought. She sprang to her feet to close her blinds, rolling her neck in a circle. When she peered out the window she was startled to see someone standing at her mailbox, staring, directly at her.
"How could you? I trusted you!". Carson was sitting on the living room sofa eating popcorn and watching absolutely predictable soap operas. Her parents were out on their weekly date night, and her brothers were upstairs glued to their video games. She had called Lars earlier, hoping his parents had left already. But he didn't answer. She guessed they must have a lot of catching up to do. Besides who would she get to watch her brothers. It would be pretty hard to explain to her parents why she wasn't there when they got back.
She went into the kitchen to re-fresh her popcorn supply when the doorbell rang. She backtracked to the front door. She peaked out of the peep-hole. Sophie. She unlocked the door and swung it open. She watched Sophie strode into her living room, her eyes pointed straight forward.
"Hello?" Carson mumbled, waiting for some sort of explanation. Sophie squared herself towards Carson."Hi" she spoke. "Is that all? You just came by to say hi". Sophie shook her head. "Sit" Carson motioned to the sofa. They sat down on the sofa. "I think someone was watching me" Sophie blurted out. Carson's eyes grew big. "What? Where? When?" Carson asked. "I was in my room doing some crunches just before I came over here and I got up to close my blinds and I saw someone at my mailbox" Sophie answered. "That's all?" Carson asked. "Pretty much, except for the fact that he or she was staring up at my window" Sophie replied. "Well, that is sorta creepy. But I doubt that it's anything to worry about" Carson assured her. "Says you! You don't have some creep lurking around your house". Carson rolled her eyes. "How do you know it wasn't just someone passing by? Maybe it's not what you think". I just know". Carson rested her hands on Sophie's shoulders. "Soph, it's not uncommon for people to see things after a traumatic event. You have been a little jumpy".
Sophie shrugged Carson's hands off of her shoulders. "I'm not delusional" she protested. "Listen, I haven't told anyone but I think I know what might have happened to Olivia" she said, startled at the words flowing from her own mouth. "Are you serious? How?". "Ian. He said that Olivia had been involved in a cult, he told her to leave it but he's not sure if she did. Some of the members had become involved in witchcraft as well. That's the real reason we were in the woods the night we found her, we thought we might be able to find exactly where they met, we thought maybe it would help us find Olivia" Sophie explained.
"Do the police know?" Carson asked. "Yes and no" Sophie answered evasively. "What does that mean?". Carson folded her arms securely. "Ian, told them about the cult, but he left out that he might know who's in the cult". "And that is?" Carson waited for her response. "I don't know yet". "Why didn't one of you tell the police that part". "I have no idea! It seemed like a good idea at the time? Plus we don't have any hardcore evidence".
Carson gnawed impatiently at her thumbnail. "So you think someone from the cult is stalking you" Carson added. "Well it sounds a little insane when you say it" Sophie said, pushing her hair back. "I don't think you're insane" Carson assured. Sophie smiled sheepishly. "Thanks. I'm glad someone thinks so". "Who thinks you're insane?". "Me" Sophie admitted.
"Does Olivia remember anything about the cult?". Sophie shrugged. "I wouldn't know. I haven't asked" she admitted. Carson let out a deep slow breath.
"Would you like some ice cream?" Carson asked abruptly. She was already heading towards the kitchen when Sophie nodded yes. Sophie tagged along behind her. Carson brought a carton of cookies 'n' cream out of the freezer. Then she got two blue bowls and a pair of spoons.
"Do you think Olivia remembers things and she just doesn't want to tell anyone. Like maybe she's scared to tell" Sophie mused. Carson glanced up from her scooping to see Sophie leaning on the counter. "Whatever happened the police are bound to uncover it soon, with, or without Olivia's memory to vouch. As for whether she remembers anything, I can't say. She's always been hard to read". Carson went back to scooping.
Sophie pursed her chap-sticked lips together, a sign that she was either satisfied with Carson's response, or lost in a completely implausible scenario regarding Olivia. Carson shoved one of the bowls at Sophie before she walked back into the living room. Sophie picked the bowl up, cradling it in her hands, and followed her back.
"So what were you up to before I barged in?" Sophie asked, plopping down on the end of the sofa. "Eating popcorn, watching soap operas, missing you-know-who". "Why aren't you with him now?". "His parents are over. I'll see him tomorrow". Sophie nodded, shoveling a cold lump of ice cream into her mouth."What were you up to before you barged in on me?" Carson asked. "I actually went over to Olivia's house to see how she was after the scene at the mall. That's what I forgot to tell you". Carson gave her a puzzled look. Sophie swallowed another spoonful. "They found some possible evidence" she announced. "Like what?". "I don't know. I haven't talked to her since this afternoon".
Carson bit her tongue, preparing to speak. "How come you haven't told Olivia you know about the cult?" she asked. "I'm not really sure. I guess I thought it might cause more harm than good if she didn't remember about the cult". "What do think now?" Carson returned. Sophie clanged her spoon around in her bowl, listening to it's out of rhythm chime. "That maybe, it's worth the risk". Carson shot up from her place, taking both empty bowls into her hands. "Well whatever you do, I'd plan what I'd say to her extremely carefully" Carson advised, her voice trailing slightly as she walked into the kitchen. "Thanks, but I don't think I'll tell her too soon. Maybe if we're lucky the police have everything figured out by now" Sophie hoped, cracking her neck. "Amen to that" Carson interjected.
"You know what I think" Carson added, as more of a statement than a question. Carson took her place next to Sophie once again. "I think we need to get our minds off of Olivia, cults, and potential stalkers. And do you know how we do that?" Sophie shook her head cautiously, a slight smile spreading across her lips. "We watch completely over the top soap operas" Carson turned the volume up. "Yes! Something more dramatic than our own lives" Sophie replied, her fist in the air as though it were a triumph.
They let their minds become involved in the intertwining plot of the show. The maid had just stolen the lady of the house's diamond ring, when it happened. Crash! They jolted at the sharp shattering noise coming from upstairs. "What was that?" Sophie exclaimed. Carson swallowed hard before before she spoke. "Something tells me your stalker has gps".