Welcome, dear readers, to episode 17 of our ongoing web drama, Cherry Hill!!
In episode 16: Zanzibar, heroine Amanda Fitzpatrick made her way to Jack Wilson's house to get to the bottom of a mysterious message left on her party line...
Read on as we resume our series...
Amanda looked at Jack in shock. His face had gone the colour of ash and a silence grew between them as loud as a drum beat.
"Jack, you're frightening me! What on earth is wrong? Do you know something about this Zanzibar?"
Without replying, Jack got up and shut the curtains. He walked past the children intently listening to a radio show in the living room, locked the front door, checked the windows, and then made his way back to the kitchen where he locked the back door.
Before sitting down, he reached into the ice box and pulled out an Old Vienna beer.
Taking a long pull on the icy cold drink, he looked across the table at the beautiful young woman he had vowed to protect and his heart filled with sadness. This was a moment he had hoped would never come. The Watchers had worked tirelessly to craft a life for Amanda that would be free from danger.
But with one word; Zanzibar, Jack knew all that had come to an end. THEY knew who she was, and as Amanda's assigned Watcher, it was Jack's job to let her know the truth about herself.
Amanda didn't know what to think, but as she observed Jack stalking around the house like a panther protecting his den, she began to feel more and more alarmed. Regretting she had said anything at all, she began to gather her handbag; determined to look up Zanzibar in her late husband Paul's Oxford Canadian Atlas when she returned home.
In a dimly lit corner of her memory, Amanda recalled reading about Zanzibar after Paul had dog eared its page. When she asked him what his interest in this far away place somewhere off the east coast of Africa was all about, he had brushed her off; but she remembered being intrigued by thoughts of warm nights and sweet spices.
Was there a connection between the atlas, Paul, and Zanzibar, she wondered, and what on earth was causing Jack to behave so strangely?
With all these questions swirling in her mind, ever so calmly, she rose from her seat, smoothed out the cheerful polka dot dress she was wearing, and picked up her handbag making the motions to leave.
Just then Jack turned to face her and with an intensity she could not ignore, held out his arm motioning her back to the table, "Amanda, please sit down. We need to talk."
"Jack, what is it?" queried Amanda, her eyes as big as saucers, "You're frightening me to the bone and my mind is swimming with questions about Zanzibar. Did you know Paul dog eared it in his Atlas without ever explaining why?
To her surprise, Jack reached across the table and never taking his eyes from hers, grabbed Amanda's hands. "Forget about Paul for the moment Amanda; have you told anyone else about the phone call?" he asked quietly, "The children? Your parents? Anyone?"
"No. No one knows about this but you. The phone call came in just before dinner and the voice on the other end told me quite clearly that the only one I can trust is you. Thinking it was all some kind of bizarre hoax I wasn't even going say anything, but something inside niggled at me and that's how I ended up here. Jack, what on earth is this all about?"
Jack looked at Amanda with a tenderness that caused her heart to make two small skips. "Do you trust me?" he asked, still holding her hands, and in that moment she knew, somewhere within the depths of her being, that she trusted him. Without reservation.
"Then before I can explain any further, I have to take you and the children somewhere safe. Gather them up Amanda, and we'll tell them we're going on a secret adventure."
Amanda walked into the front room and with a sense of new found knowing that this was the right thing to do, gathered the children. When the three returned to the kitchen, Jack opened the door to a broom closet and pushed a button inside. Before their eyes, a door in the floor began to slowly open, revealing a ladder that would take them to a dimly lit room beneath the house.
Amanda went first with Bobby and Sally right behind her. When they had all climbed down and were safely at the bottom, Jack took one last look at his kitchen, shut the broom closet door, and followed them to the secret room. Pressing another button, the door in the floor closed, and he looked at the three with a sense of pride. A lesser woman might not have followed him. But Jack knew better than anyone who Amanda really was and, armed with this knowledge, also knew the danger she was in.
Painting a smile on his face for the children Jack turned around and clapped his hands.
"Who's interested in an adventure even better than Superman?"
"We are!!!" chimed the children, as Amanda held them close, one under each arm.
"Okay, then," said Jack, "The first thing we need to do is pack some supplies. Follow me."
Jack pressed another button on the far right wall of the secret room and another door opened to a store house filled with warm clothing, hiking shoes, and camping supplies.
On another shelf were rows of potted meats and cheeses, tinned goods, biscuits, sweets, dried fruits, and several canteens.
"We'll need enough food for the four of us to make a two day journey on foot," Jack whispered to Amanda, "Can you pack this rucksack and fill the canteens? There's a water pump over by the far shelves. I'll pack another with survival gear. And when we get to our destination, I'll explain everything."
Amanda's head was swimming. Hidden doors? Secret rooms? A two day journey on foot?
Seeing the fear and uncertainty in Amanda's eyes, Jack's heart flooded with an unexpected feeling of tenderness. In that moment he re-affirmed the promise as her Watcher that he would keep Amanda safe at any cost, and gently touching her arm he brought his rugged face close to hers and whispered, "It's going to be okay, kid. I promise."
Will Jack and Amanda escape safely with the children? And what of Paul? Was he somehow involved with Zanzibar himself?
Stay tuned next week for the next installment of Cherry Hill and if you're enjoying the story, be sure to pass it on and share it with others!
Next week's installment: The Legend of the Lakes
Thanks a million everyone!
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