This is my first attempt at fan fiction. I welcome constructive criticism. That doesn't mean I will like it, but I would like to know where/how I can improve and whether or not I should even keep trying. Thanks for your patience.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.


By First Noelle

Chapter 1

My psychologist, Dr. Finch, has suggested from the start that I begin keeping a journal. I have resisted because I really don't want to dwell on the past. I have moved on with life and I don't really see any sense in going back over the traumatic events of this past year.

I've made some major changes in the months since Jackson Rippner stepped cleverly and elegantly into my life that night aboard the red eye flight from Dallas. I use those words deliberately because now, from the distance of many months, I can detach myself from the situation enough to be able to appreciate the mastermind intellect behind the man who terrorized me so competently throughout that night and on into the next morning.

Another reason I can detach so well from this is because Jackson Rippner is dead. The ambulance crew at the house looked very grim that morning, and shook their heads as they shuffled Jackson's body onto a stretcher and into the back of a waiting ambulance. "He's dead in the water, but we have to look like we're making an effort," one of them quietly told my father. We were told later that Jackson died before they reached the hospital.

The funny thing about a trauma like that: you can know something to be absolutely true and still doubt yourself. I mean, I saw Jackson Rippner's body after the shotgun blast. Various law enforcement officials later confirmed his death for us, from the local cops on up to Charles Keefe's people at the national level. In my rational mind, I know the man is dead. Even my father has no doubts about his death. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I expect to see Jackson Rippner around every corner I turn, in every crowd I pass through, and lurking somewhere within every shadow.

This is the nature, Dr. Finch says, of posttraumatic stress disorder. This is how it manifests in me. I don't have many of the classic signs of PTSD. For instance, I do not dream about the events of that long night. In fact my appetite is good and I sleep amazingly well. This surprises me because after I was attacked way back before Flight 1019, it seems I did not sleep for weeks. True, sometimes a specific snapshot memory will flash before my eyes, and I will feel briefly panicked, but it always passes and I make it a point not to obsess over either those memories or the feelings attached to them.

Dr. Finch seems to think some of those feelings need to be addressed, but I'm not sure I agree with her. It's when we discuss this aspect of the PTSD that she usually brings up the idea of a journal. She tells me that once I work through the memories and feelings, I will quit expecting to see Jackson just about every time I open my eyes.

But I'm fine, really. I have moved on with my life and I continue to recover. I took a month off from my job at the Lux Atlantic. Dad and I spent a lot of time together healing during that month. He continues to live in the house I grew up in, the house where so much violence took place last year. He says the happy memories of the past there outweigh the more recent, brutal memories. He respects my decision to continue living on my own even though it is hard for him. He wants to watch over me every moment and be there to protect me, but he has settled for going over my apartment with a security expert. I now have the most up to date security system on the market, and he comes over weekly to test it.

My life is well balanced now and I am content, if not happy. I see my psychologist weekly, I work out three times a week (I've taken up kick-boxing), and I have even gone out on a few official dates recently.

Matthew is the sous-chef at the Lux, and hopes to be able to open his own restaurant here in Miami sometime next year. He is brilliant and indisputably hot; he treats me with kindness and respect. I enjoy being with him. For now, though, it seems to make sense to me to keep things casual, and Matthew seems to respect that.

My job at the Lux is going very smoothly. I'm planning to go back to college in the fall to take some classes in hotel administration, and I recently signed up for a weeklong hotel management seminar. Because the seminar is being held at the Lux in New York, it has meant that I must board an airplane for the first time since the disastrous red eye flight.

I faced that an hour ago, actually, and very successfully, too. Armed with the little bottle of happy pills Dr. Finch insisted I take, and seen off just outside the airport by my father, Cynthia and Matthew, I made it through the gate, across the concourse, and onto the airplane without even so much as a racing heart.

Outside my window seat, it is a brilliant spring day. No one is sitting beside me. The closest passenger, an elderly woman engrossed in a book, is sitting two seats ahead of me. No one that I saw boarding with me or that I can see from where I am sitting even remotely resembles the man with the cold blue eyes that was the source of my terror so many months ago.

And so for the first time, I suddenly and truly believe that Jackson Rippner is dead. And while I feel sad for him, for the destructive choices he made in his own life that led him to that point, I can't help but feel relieved. I feel no guilt over his death. It is over and I can look to the future now.

I open this brand new spiral notebook; I take out a fresh Bic pen; and I begin my journal. I will not need the happy pills – this I know. And although I plan on avoiding the bathroom on this airplane as much as possible, I feel good. I feel strong and optimistic.

My psychologist has extolled the benefits of journaling to a point where I began to believe that it must be a tremendous psychological tool. It may even be a lifesaver for those in desperate need of saving, like those on the very edge of losing their sanity.

That is why I am putting pen to paper at this moment. My own sanity is hanging on by a thread. I am desperate. If this will save me, I'm for it.

Let me start by noting that at this moment I am not at a hotel management convention in New York City. I am in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

My stay in New York was brief - perhaps a two-hour tour of duty at the very most. But that was a good twenty-four hours ago. Right now I am sitting at a table in a very nice hotel suite and Jackson Rippner is sprawled in a chair across the room from me.