Night had slowly started to set. The air was too cold, even for winter.
Abigail adjusted the rear-view mirror while gripping the steering wheel with her trembling hands.
She nervously glanced at her sister sitting in the back seat.
She turned her head towards the person sitting in the passenger’s seat, and nodded her head in her sister’s direction. Her dark chestnut eyes were pleading him to say something.
“Zoey, we don’t need to go if you don’t want to. You know that, right?” Christopher said in a soft voice, turning in his seat to face his wife.
“I know, Chris. And Gail, I’m fine! Stop being so worried about me. I just want everything to go back to normal. Can you guys do that?” Zoe answered, trying to keep her lips from quivering.
Chris and Abigail replied awkwardly, at the same time.
After about an hour’s drive, they pulled up in front of a gorgeously decorated hotel.
“I’ll catch up with you guys in a few,” Abigail said, as Chris and Zoe got out of the car.
Zoe was dressed in a beautiful white dress, reaching her knees. Her raven hair was resting just below her shoulders. She had the same chestnut eyes like Gail. But unlike Gail’s that had reddish streaks reflecting her feisty personality, Zoe’s eyes were much warmer with hints of orange tones. But today they were dark and held a storm of unreadable emotions in them.
Chris had worn a blue button-down shirt paired with black jeans. His ebony eyes were on Zoe, studying her face, trying to read her thoughts. Was she really fine?
“Don’t be long,” Zoe said with a small smile, her fingers digging into the gift-wrapped toy set.
Abigail gazed at the receding form of her elder sister and brother-in-law, before driving towards the parking lot of the hotel. Finding the last empty spot, she parked her black sedan.
She hesitantly opened the glove box, and stared at the Glock gun lying inside it. She had to close her eyes, to stop the bad memories from flooding in.
She banged the glove box shut and stared at the lone lamppost that illuminated the entire lot, till her eyes burned.
Abigail finally unlocked her seatbelt and got out of the car. After making sure the car was locked, she slowly made her way towards the banquet hall at the back of the hotel.
“Zoey! I’m so glad you came!” a female voice called out from behind.
“Mary!” Zoe smiled, as she turned to see her favourite cousin. Her face lit up when she saw Mary. “How could I not?”
Mary was cradling a chubby baby boy in her arms. She gave Zoe a tight sideways hug.
“So, how is the birthday boy? Do you like your party, darling?” Zoe cooed, tickling the baby’s cheeks. He responded with a loud giggle before hiding his face behind his tiny hands.
“I can’t believe how fast Jake is growing. He is already a year old!” Mary smiled, kissing her son on the forehead. She looked gorgeous in the yellow flared dress she had worn.
Zoe gave Mary a weak smile and just stared at Jake fondly. He was looking like a prince in his black baby suit. She hesitated. Mary saw this.
“What’s the matter, Zoey?” Mary asked, looking at her cousin in concern. She knew Zoe was trying hard to get over the trauma of losing her baby.
Being a mother herself, Mary could empathize with what Zoe was going through.
She just wanted Zoe to be happy.
Jake meanwhile, was rocking towards Zoe, trying to get her attention.
“Can I hold Jake, just for some time?” Zoe finally managed to ask.
“Of course, Zoey! You are his godmother, after all!” Mary answered. She gave Zoe’s arm a light squeeze.
“If I were you, Mary, I wouldn’t do that,” someone warned Mary.
The voice was of a young woman, the same age as them. She was wearing a blue sleeveless gown with dramatic feather details, that would've better suited a ball, rather than a kid’s birthday party.
“And why wouldn’t I do that, Savannah?” Mary asked sharply, turning to face her least favourite cousin.
“Call me Ava, darling. You know that name makes me sound like some farmland!” Savannah corrected, giving Mary a forced smile.
“Why did you say that?” Mary repeated, through gritted teeth.
A small crowd had gathered around them. Everyone was muttering, trying to find out the reason for this sudden argument. Savannah didn’t care, she just loved the attention.
“Remember how a few months back Zoey here was going on and on, raving about how her life was going to be complete with the arrival of her baby. But, I cannot see any baby here,” Savannah hissed, mocking her cousin. “So, where is your baby, Zoey?”
“Well, I know the answer to that. Even God knew that you would’ve been a pathetic mother! So, he spared your child of having to bear the pain of it!” Savannah smirked.
She had hated Zoe since they were kids. Zoe had always been the apple of everyone’s eye. Even Savannah’s parents adored her.
She thought that it was because Zoe was more intelligent than her. She had failed to realize that Zoe’s kind nature was the reason she was loved by all, and it was Savannah’s vanity that had driven her away from everyone.
A gasp went out in the crowd when Savannah said this.
Even Mary was too stunned to say anything. She knew Savannah was a bitch, but she didn’t think she was capable of being so insensitive.
Zoe just stared at the white-tiled floor, her vision suddenly blurry. She felt as if her heart had been ripped out of her chest, all over again.
She pushed through the crowd and ran as fast as she could. She just wanted to get away from these people.
Abigail forced a smile when she saw her cousins waving at her. She waved back at them and headed straight to the bar. Luckily, she was the only one at the bar counter.
Abigail hated any form of family gatherings. They were like those pathetic kitty parties, where people with no life gathered to gossip about other people’s problems. She was grateful that her job allowed her to attend only a handful of such gatherings.
“What can I get you, love?” the young bartender asked, giving Abigail a wide smile.
“Coke or anything soft will do?” someone answered from behind her. “Am I right, Gail?”
Abigail just stared at Chris as he took the seat next to her. She nodded at the anxious bartender, who was waiting for a reply.
“By the way, did Zoey tell you?” Chris asked a few minutes later. He was circling the rim of his wine glass, with the tip of his finger.
“Tell me what?” Abigail said. The bartender placed a tall glass of Coke in front of her on the counter.
“That we are moving out, next week,” Chris answered bluntly. “It was Zoey’s idea.”
“Hers or yours?” Gail smirked. She sipped on her Coke as she spoke.
“Yes, it was my idea,” Chris answered.
“You bet it was,” Abigail muttered, staring at the wooden bar counter.
“Does it matter?” Chris asked, his voice growing louder. His grey eyes were glaring at Abigail. “I know what's better for Zoey. Your opinion doesn't matter. I love her and can protect her, unlike you!”
Abigail remained silent. She gripped her glass tighter, trying to suppress her anger.
Unfortunately, that was the one thing she was bad at.
“The truth stings, doesn’t it?” Chris hissed, standing up and staring down at Abigail. “You claim that you love Zoey more than me, but you just don’t care about her! You.... ”
“DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME, THAT YOU LOVE ZOEY MORE THAN ME!” Gail hissed, her eyes a fiery shade of red. This startled Chris and caused him to take a few steps back. The bartender almost dropped the glass he was holding, shocked at Abigail’s sudden outburst. “She is the most precious part of my life! I love her a lot and I don't need to prove that to you. You, who came just yesterday into her life! I.... ”
“Zoey! Wait! Zoey!”
Abigail’s voice trailed off, when she heard her sister’s name being called out. She and Chris both whipped their heads in the direction of the sound, only to see Zoe running out of the hall.
“Where are you going, Gail?” Chris asked, before he took after his wife. His voice was full of concern.
“I’ll be with you guys in a few minutes,” Abigail who staring at a smirking Savannah, said through gritted teeth. “Wait for me by the car.”
With that Abigail made her way towards Savannah. She deftly picked up a glass of red wine, from the tray of a waiter who was passing by her.
Without wasting a second and without even a hint of any regret, Abigail emptied the dark red liquid in the glass on Savannah’s expensive blue gown.
“The next time Savannah, it will be your Botox injected face instead of your Christian Dior!” Abigail warned before turning around and walking away.
Savannah just gaped from her disfigured gown to the receding form of Abigail.
Abigail placed the empty glass on the same waiter’s tray from earlier, and headed towards the exit.
He just stared at her, stunned.
Abigail was once again gripping the steering wheel, driving them back home. They had tried to talk to Zoe, but she just wouldn’t tell them anything.
Seeing Zoe’s tear-stained face, Abigail had wanted to go back into the hotel and choke the life out of Savannah.
But, she controlled herself.
Just then Abigail’s phone rang.
When she saw that it was her partner calling, she knew it had to be something important.
They were driving through the cliffs, with the vast blue ocean running along the mountains. The ocean was glimmering under the light of the moon.
Abigail stopped the car at the side of the road and took the call. She talked on the phone for about a minute before cutting the call.
Suddenly, Abigail threw her phone on the ground and violently started kicking at the small shrubs near her feet.
“What’s the matter?” Chris asked, as he got out of the car.
“Another fucking dead end!” Abigail yelled, staring down at the ocean. She was taking deep breaths, trying to calm herself.
As Abigail was about to bend down to pick up her phone, she heard a gun being clocked behind her.
Instinctively, her hand reached for the gun strapped around her ankle. And in one swift motion, she turned around and had her gun pointed at the assailant.
The person with a gun in their outstretched arm, pointed at Abigail was her own sister, Zoe.
“Zoey, wh -- what are you doing?!” Chris stammered.
“I just can’t take it anymore! I lost my baby... my BABY... because of her, Abigail, my OWN SISTER! Be... Because she had to play the bloody HERO!” Zoe yelled in between sobs, clutching the gun with both her hands.
“I’m sorry Zoey, I was just trying to protect you!” Abigail pleaded, as she dropped her gun on the ground.
“If only you would’ve LISTENED... just for ONCE... in your life, everything would have been okay!” Zoey hissed, her hands trembling.
“No, Zoey, it would not have! He would have killed you!” Abigail said, taking a step towards Zoe.
“At least then I wouldn’t hurt so much! STOP RIGHT THERE!” Zoe warned, stumbling backwards.
Chris was standing frozen in his place. He just stared at them, unable to do anything.
“If you want to kill me, do it. I love you no matter what, Zoey. But trust me, if you pull that trigger today, the only thing you will feel for the rest of your life is guilt!” Abigail had tears streaming down her cheeks, as she took another step further.
“STOP! DON’T TAKE ANOTHER STEP!” Zoe yelled, with her gun still pointed at Abigail.
“Zoey, listen to me... Please, don’t do this.... ” Abigail begged, taking a few more steps.
“STOP! JUST STOP!!” Zoe yelled.
A single gunshot rang out in the silent night.
Abigail clutched her stomach as she fell backwards, her eyes wide in horror.
“GAIL!” Chris yelled, running towards Abigail. The sound gunshot had brought him out of his initial shock.
He dropped to his knees, applying pressure on her wound. It was useless, blood just kept oozing out. “Oh my God, Gail! I’m so sorry! Everything will be fine, okay! Just hang in there!”
“No... Chris... You... have to go... Take... Zoey and go away... from here!” Gail said in between gasps. “Promise... me you’ll... protect her... ” Her breathing was irregular and thick beads of sweat had formed on her forehead.
Abigail felt about her jacket pockets, desperately trying to find something. She somehow managed to remove a card, and gave it to Chris. The card had blood smeared over it.
“Call... this number... He... will... help... you... ” Abigail said, pushing Chris away from her side. “Take Zoey... and go... Please... ”
“I cannot just leave you here!” Chris said, blinking away his tears.
“Getting Zoey... away from here... is important... Don’t worry... about me... just go... ” Abigail stammered, tears streaming down her cheeks.
Abigail was feeling tired now. She was finding it difficult to keep her eyes open.
The last thing she heard before blacking out, was a loud splash.