I abruptly woke up when I heard thumpings from a window. Because of panic, I became sober immediately. I looked to my left and saw a woman outside the window who seemed to be in her 40s, continuously knocking to get my attention. While her other hand’s sticking a paper in the glass. When I carefully looked at the paper that is where I realized that it wasn't just a simple paper but a missing poster.

I looked in front of me and found out that the driver was gone. I wandered my eyes everywhere only to find him outside eating at a local eatery store. I noticed that the sky is getting dark , I guess it's 6 in the evening now.

I feel a sense of pity in her drastic situation. She seems exhausted so without hesitation. I rolled down the window and got a clearer sight of her face. She's extremely thin, and her eyes look so tired. I can’t help but worry about her state.

She's holding lots of papers in her other hand. "I'm sorry for disturbing you, Miss... But I'm just being hopeful, though I can tell that you're not from here -- but please take a look at this photo, she’s my daughter..." She handed me the missing poster and I took it without wasting time.

I looked at the poster intently. The photo shows a little girl with short black hair. She has light brown skin and an adorable beautiful face. She was wearing a light pink shirt with a rose on the hem and a mint plain bottom on the picture. Her mother said that it was exactly what she was wearing before she disappeared.

I shook my head in response, "I'm deeply sorry but I've never seen her before." I regretfully said. I can feel her emotions since I am a mother and have a daughter too. I don't know what I'll do if I'm in her situation.

"It's been three weeks since we last saw her. We already reported it to the police but until now, there is no news about her. We are always roaming around West Lake and even in different nearby cities from here, hoping to find any leads about her." She sniffed when her tears suddenly fell down her cheeks continuously. She tried to stop herself from crying but she's too overwhelmed by her emotions. I grabbed a tissue from my bag and gave it to her. She accepted it and thanked me before drying her eyes.

"Three months ago, a fourteen-year-old girl went missing and until now she’s still gone... police told us that maybe it’s the same case as our daughter. Maybe if that girl was abducted, there's a high possibility that my daughter was kidnapped by the same abductor of that girl too." She cried even more, "But I refuse to believe them... I just can't. I know that she's just around, lost, and waiting for me to find her." She said between her sobs.

My heart tightened because of pity in her situation. She apologized for breaking down but I assured her that she doesn’t need to feel sorry about it. I’m sure that if I’m in her situation I bawl my eyes too.

I took one last look at the poster. I learned that the girl is only ten years old, and that her name is Scarlette. I got her mother’s contact information. When I asked the woman’s name she said ‘Diana Garcia’.

"If I happen to see her I'm gonna contact you. I'll ask about my other acquaintances too." That's the last thing I said to her before we ended our conversation.

I heaved a sigh. I can never accept it if this happens to my child. It only shows how truly harsh the world is.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, I just took a little break. I haven't eaten since morning. Due to traffic I felt my stomach ache. But don't worry, it only took me five minutes and we're so near the Lake House." The driver explained as he got back in the car. I just nodded at him and smiled.

I couldn't stop myself from thinking about the two missing girls, so I felt the urge to ask the driver if he ever knows something about them.

After asking him about it I also flashed the missing poster at him. He just took a glimpse of it and shook his head as I saw a hint of disappointment in his face. "Goodness! It's terrible here on West Lake. Actually, missing persons aren't new here anymore. This place is famous for having the highest number of missing persons." He exclaimed.

My eyebrow raised in disbelief, "Really?"  

He nodded several times while his eyes were still on the road, "Yes, but if I'm not wrong. The abduction cases stopped a long time ago because the culprits were caught. In the 1990s the first maniac prick was caught and sent to jail, then the other one was from the early 2000s. I can’t remember the year clearly, but I know that they both have the same crimes. If there's another criminal here hiding and looking for someone to kill, then people of West Lake will be terrified for life again." He said crossly.

"I was also terrified those days too. It left a tremendous mark on me. My daughters were still young at the time of killings and we were living here. Because of the rise of missing cases, we have no choice but to move far away from here. Since every place that is near here was getting abduction cases too and it happened that they were the same criminals."

"Umm don't you think those two criminals are doing it again?" I asked.

He shook his head vigorously, "From what I've heard. The other criminal is still in prison while the other one is dead. He was killed by the inmates -- beaten to death. I can't blame them, he has the evilest crime here in our country. Killing many persons and him being killed only once is not enough to pay for all of his misdeeds. If I was there the day he was beaten to death, I might have helped them tortured him." He scoffed.

"So no, but I'm hoping that the dark history of West Lake will never repeat again." 

He continued telling me lots of stories from those two infamous killers of West Lake Province while he drove. They became familiar to me as he told the stories in detail. I'm not always watching the news so it took me some time to remember them. The one much familiar to me was from the 2000 era, I remembered how every person I met talked about how afraid they were of that man.

Because of his stories, I asked myself in my mind if I made the right decision to go here. Zack never mentioned anything about the past crimes of West Lake.

But, who will ever mention that to his friends? That dark past ended, and probably not important anymore.

I checked our group chat and saw that Gabby is the only one active in sending messages. He messaged us that he stopped at a convenience store near Zack's house, and is waiting for an hour now. 

I felt pity so I told the driver the address of the convenience store where he stays and decided to stop there as well. He told us that he has a suitcase and a backpack with him because he just came home from Saudi where he works. He also told us how exhausted and drowsy he is because of traveling.

It just took us a few minutes to arrive at the said convenience store. I didn't ask the driver to help me carry my bag anymore since it's not that big and I only packed a few clothes for myself.

I immediately saw Gabby inside the convenience store through the big glass windows. He's eating cup noodles while staring at nothing. He seems so far away.

He's wearing a black jacket and grey jeans. Even when I'm a little far away from him, I notice how he is twice his age. He's only two years older than me but because of the visible stress and dark circles underneath his eyes, he became much older for me.

I hurried to the convenience store after I paid the driver.

When I entered, there were only three customers including Gabby and a cashier. The cashier smiled at me and I just nodded and continued in Gabby's direction. Even when I was next to him he didn't notice me instantly, he's definitely lost in his thoughts.

He just noticed me when I sat next to him but it took him a minute or two before realizing who I was. His lips agape in awe and tried to speak but it only turned into mumbled.

"Lizzette Cruz?!" He exclaimed, a surprise still stuck on his face, I beamed and nodded several times.

"Dang! In all of our friends you're the last person I could ever think that will come." 

"It's been a while since I last saw all of you, especially you, and of course after knowing you'll come I instantly consider going. I also didn't come to our last reunion, so maybe it'll be fair to go now."

"So do I. I'm busy these days. Oh, I just got back home from Saudi, I rushed straight here also because... no one will greet me in the house anymore." He said, he faked his laugh but I can see a sincere sadness on his face.

Maybe that's the reason why he seems so exhausted. I never saw him like this before. I mean, Zack, Jackie, and him were always the jolly and happy-go-lucky guys in our group. So it's such a surprise and new for me to see him like this..

"I'm sorry for being dramatic, I just always get overwhelmed whenever I remember my family problems." He stopped and gestured to me if it's okay for him to continue talking about his problems with his family. Of course, I said yes. 

I just let him spill whatever's in his mind, "... She even said that she's going to take full custody of our kids and is going to appeal for it. Fuck, I'm working abroad and I rarely see my kids, then she dares to do that to me?! I know to myself that I didn't lack, when there are things they need I give it to them without thinking twice. But she still cheated on me and dared to threaten me to have all of our kids. I've never cheated on her! I never did anything wrong to her!" He exclaimed angrily, "After this reunion, I'm going to stay for a while at my brother's house for the meantime. Then I'm going to appeal to have custody of our kids with me, no matter how hard it'll be."

His wife cheated on her and wants to divorce him, for the stupid reason that she got tired of their long-distance relationship even when Gabby is only working there for four years until now. He added that they were perfectly fine before but one moment his wife just changed.

But her wife, after all, what she did to Gab she still wants to take their children away from him!

"I don't know what to say, Gabby, but I hope you can still fix—" He cut me off.

"No, I will not. Never. I'm tired of understanding her in all of her stupidity. I already made up my mind." He stated with such conviction.

I want to advise him to think more thoroughly about it. I pity him but I’m more concerned about their children. What will happen to them if they split? I'm sure that it'll have a bad impact on their children.

But I kept my mouth shut. That's his decision and his life. I'm not in the proper place to tell my opinion on their marriage when I'm also in a toxic relationship and never do something about it.

We talked a lot of stuff while catching up on all the things we missed in each other's life. Minutes passed and we decided to stand up after reading loads of messages from our group chat saying they're closer to the lake house now.

"They're near, good to know 'cause I'm so tired and sleepy!" Gabby stretches his arms after he says that.

"I think we should go now before they even arrive," I said in a rush. 

I've read on our group chat that they are all with Finn. I don't want us to be awkward if they fetch us here and we're in the same room. Although, I know that I can't keep avoiding him for forever.

"Huh? Don't you want them to just fetch us here? I don't want to—" He didn't have the chance to finish his words after I gave him a pleading smile and signaled him my reasons through my eyes.

Luckily he got it. All of them knew our past relationship. Maddy is the only insensitive person who doesn't care about our past. Whenever Finn and I are in the same room and notices that we're avoiding each other, she'll instantly yell at us and tell us to get it together. I understand that she just doesn't want our atmosphere to affect the whole group, but I truly hope to consider our feelings too.

We decided to ride a cab, the suitcase of Gab was put on the roof since it was too big and couldn't fit in. When we said ‘lake house’ the driver’s already knew where it was. Since Zack’s old house is popular in this small city province for being the only house in the middle of the lake. 

While looking at the view, I noticed how quite advanced West Lake is for being a city province when it comes to structures of stores and other community spaces. Every house has different designs, some are modern, suburban, traditional, but the majority of houses are cabins. Some look newly furnished but some look aged.

When we're getting nearer to the lake house, the houses we pass by are starting to get fewer and change to tall trees in every direction. Because of the cold breeze, I couldn't help but to clutched harder on my cardigan. Even when Gabby talked a lot throughout the ride, I still felt a little odd because of the vibes that West Lake gives me.

After some minutes we arrived at the Lake House. We told the driver to just stop here at the bottom of the hill. We don't want to disturb Zack's grandparents since it's late at night, we don't want them to get disturbed by the sound of the cab. It would be a shame.

We climbed the hill and we saw a bench placed under the tall tree just a little steps away from the house. We sat there to wait for the others, Zack's grandparents don't know us so it'll be weird if we knock on their front door without Zack with us.

I can see the view of the house even when it is dark outside. It looks nice, comfy, and well maintained. It doesn't look creepy and abandoned unlike what we always see in horror movies when a house is situated in a secluded area.

It will be very beautiful if the sun is up. It would have an impeccable view, especially the lake.

"I hope the sun is up, I'm sure it'll be more appealing," Gabby said with a delighted smile on his lips. I nodded at him and told him what I think about the place and the house too.

Only the crickets are creating noises. The lights in the house are off, maybe I'm right that Zack's grandparents are already asleep. It’s past 8 pm. even the houses' lights we passed earlier were off too, maybe in provinces, people sleep really early.

When I was about to direct my attention back to Gab, I came to a halt when I noticed something on the second floor of the house on the right window.

There is a tall shadow from the window, I furrowed and stared at it intently.

It seems like it is watching us because by the time it noticed me staring it quickly fixed the curtains and the silhouette started to fade.

I was quite frightened because of that. I don't know who it was because it was dark outside and I didn't have the chance to figure out who it was. But whoever it was, maybe it was one of the people living inside that house.

Maybe I was wrong when I thought they're asleep.

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status