A/N: Sorry it's been so long. 2009 was a CRAZY year. I've had a LOT of family illness and hospitalizations PLUS I'm in my last semester of nursing school…..
Anyway, I just wanted to thank all of you for sticking with the story. Here's the next part, and I hope you enjoy it!
I sat there, staring at Christopher with wide eyes as he gazed back at me, wearing the same surprised expression.
What had I just done? Christopher can't know that I'm really Em. It's too dangerous and risky. I'm supposed to be Nikki. Nikki Howard. And that's it. I'm not supposed to be two people, not anymore.
I was forced to give up my old life. I couldn't be Em anymore. Not with Stark looking over my shoulder constantly.
Not when they threatened my parents with 2 million dollars and possible jail time. I mean, okay, you might think that if I told the press the truth, I would be able to come up with enough cash to pay the suit. Plus, Stark would probably be thrown into prison, instead of my parents. But there's a few problems with that idea.
The biggest problem is that I have no proof. I mean, yeah, okay, I'm living proof. But how can I actually prove what Stark did to me?
Option One: Hold a press conference. This would be a great idea, except for everyone would pretty much think I was a lunatic. Seriously, who's going to listen to a super model saying that she actually is carrying around the brain of just your average teenage girl who just happened to be killed during Stark's grand opening? People would probably think I was insane. They might try to lock me up. Which, could be good, in a way, I guess because at least then I wouldn't have to worry about how to avoid Brandon's kisses or how to get out of wearing this stupid diamond bra.
On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that the food they serve would definitely not be up to par with Nikki's finicky stomach. I mean, seriously, I'm still trying to figure out what foods I can eat or even want to eat. No wonder Nikki never had to worry about her weight. It's a nightmare.
Plus, if I was admitted, I'd never be able to see the love of my life ever again. And granted, it sucked seeing him and not being able to have him. But not being able to see him would be much worse.
So, clearly, option one is out.
At least until I have proof. Which I'm going to find. One way or another, I will prove what Stark has done, and I'll be able to fix my life. Well, not exactly. Considering the fact that my body will never be returned, and I'm stuck in Nikki's body. But maybe I can at least fix what little life I have left with Christopher.
Option Two: Let surgeons probe my brains in order to find proof.
I'm not really sure if this would even work. Would my brain even look different than Nikki's? Don't brains look the same?
Also, I've done the whole brain surgery thing once before, and the recovery time is awful. Aside from the fact that my last brain surgery lead to the worst day of my life: finding out that I was actually someone else. So it's definitely a no for the whole brain probing. One brain surgery is definitely enough.
Option Three: Run away and start a new life.
This would be great, except I currently have the face of one of the most well known models in the country, and possibly the world after all of these random international endorsements Stark is looking into. So it would be nearly impossible to start a new life, unless I had a new face. And I think plastic surgery might be almost as uncomfortable as brain surgery. I wouldn't exactly know. Well, Nikki's body might know. After all, these boobs do seem rather perfect for this body. I still wonder if they're completely real. But it's not like I can ask. That'd be rather embarrassing. Besides, even if she had the surgery, that still wasn't me. And I think that the whole plastic surgery recovery might suck almost just as much as the brain surgery recovery. Almost.
Besides, once again, this would entail leaving the love of my life behind, as he sits and mourns my death while plotting evil super-villain revenge on Stark.
Option Four: Pretend that nothing has happened and that Christopher is wrong.
The con to this is definitely that I'd be lying to Christopher. Also, it would be the fact that I would have to see him look disappointed.
Just staring into his eyes is making my heart flutter. His eyes are wide with surprise, but filled with hope and eagerness. I hate to crush his dreams and break his heart once again.
But, it would protect my family from Stark. Also, it might protect Christopher. After all, I still wasn't sure what Stark was capable of and what they were willing to do. I knew that my every move was being watched. Who knew what they were planning next?
Which is exactly why I chose Option Four. To pretend that I have no idea what's going on. It might hurt Christopher, and it might break my heart. Especially since I've waited so long for him to realize that it's me. But, in the end, I think it will be what's best for my family and for Christopher.
"I'm sorry, who?" I said, trying to change my eyes from surprise to confusion.
Christopher narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"I said Em," he said, slowly, trying to gauge my reaction.
"I'm not sure that I know who you're talking about," I said, looking away to stare at the ground.
I couldn't look Christopher in the eyes. First, I knew that it would be impossible to lie to him if I looked into his eyes. Second, I didn't want to see the disappointment that might flash across his face.
"Em, it's you, isn't it?" he asked, almost pleadingly.
My heart shattered into pieces as I heard the desperation in his voice.
"Christopher, my name is Nikki. You should know that," I said, still looking down as I played with my fingers in my lap, trying to stay calm, without being suspicious.
"But….what about the glow in the dark dinosaur stickers?" he asked, hopefully.
"Oh, umm…." I said, trying to think of an excuse. Why, oh why, did I ever give those to Christopher? It was so stupid on my part. I mean, really, what did I think I was doing? Did I want him to find out? Of course, I did. But now that he has, I don't want him to know.
I didn't stop and consider the consequences of what might happen if he knew. Now, after all this time, he's somehow figured it out and I'm stuck pretending that he's wrong.
Oh, Christopher, if you only knew how much I loved you. If you only knew that I was only doing this to protect you, because I love you so much. If you only knew how much I wish I could reach out and hold you. But I can't, because I love you.
"I just thought they were cool, you know. And I thought you might like them," I said, coming up with a horrible excuse.
If Christopher thought I was lying, he didn't mention it. Instead, he just asked another question.
"What about Journeyquest?" he asked again, still trying.
I felt my heart melt. I loved that Christopher really knew about the stickers. I loved that he actually remembered our conversation. It was one of the sweetest things a guy could ever do for a girl.
And, now, the sweetest romantic gesture any guy has ever done for me, and I have to lie about it.
"What about it?" I asked, trying to come off as indifferent.
"Um, the fact that you, Nikki Howard, play Journeyquest. And the fact that the level you mentioned reaching was precisely the level that Em and I were stuck on," he said, warily.
"I told you already, I'm not sure who this Em is that you're talking about. But I'm sorry that I happen to play Journeyquest, and I'm sorry that it doesn't fit into your view of what Nikki Howard should be. But, I am Nikki Howard," I said, finally looking up at him.
Christopher looked a little hurt, really confused, slightly suspicious, and quite overwhelmed. It was a very interesting facial expression to observe.
"Look at my face. Don't I look like Nikki Howard?" I asked, a little edgy. It broke my heart talking to Christopher this way, but I needed to protect him. After I found proof and found a way out of Stark's contract, I would tell him. And, maybe then, if the stars were aligned, we could be together.
"Yes…" he said, slowly, not understanding where I was headed.
"Okay. Listen to my voice. Do I sound like Nikki Howard?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Yeah, but…" he started, but I cut him off.
"Exactly. I look like Nikki Howard. I sound like Nikki Howard. Therefore, common sense would say that I am Nikki Howard," I said, trying to finish without crying.
The look of confusion and disappointment on Christopher's face made my heart feel as if it was being torn in a million different directions.
Please don't hate me, Christopher. As soon as I can figure this out, I'll tell you the truth. But, until then, I can't. You can't know. Not until I know you'll be safe.
"Okay, I get it. And I know it sounds crazy, but you just don't act like Nikki Howard," Christopher said, still trying.
When Christopher set his mind to something, he was definitely persistent.
"Oh, really? And how, exactly, does Nikki Howard act? I mean, you hardly even know me," I said, trying to get him to drop the subject.
"I know, but…" he said, still trying to come up with words. He was so desperate that it hurt me to watch. "You just. I'm not sure. There's just something about you," he finished, dropping his shoulders sadly.
"Look, I'm sorry that I'm not who you're looking for, Christopher. Maybe one day you'll find her," I finished.
Yeah, one day when I finally can prove what Stark has done.
"No, I won't. Because she's gone," he said, leaning against the wall and sliding down until he was sitting on the floor right next to me. He refused to meet my eyes, but he kept his eyes on the floor.
I swear I saw him reach up to wipe his eye, and I felt myself flinch. This had to be the worst pain I had ever experienced.
Do you have any idea what it's like to love someone and to know that they love you back, but to also know that you can't be together? And to know that by not being together, you're actually protecting them, even though you're killing yourself? Agony is what it is. Absolute, pure torturesome agony. It felt as if my heard was being seared with a jagged knife over and over again.
The room started to get fuzzy, and then was when I realized that I was crying. Tears were filling up my eyes and pouring down my cheeks. I looked over to Christopher to see that his head was in his hands and his shoulders were shaking.
I had never seen Christopher cry before, and it broke my heart. The worst part of it was that I was the reason he was crying. I could just say the words and make it all better, but I couldn't. Because doing so could possibly make it worse. I couldn't put his life in jeopardy. Who knew what lengths Stark was willing to go through in order to protect this secret?
So I resisted the urge to reach out and hold him, even though he was just inches away. Somehow, I resisted the urge to tell him the truth. I just sat there and watched as his shoulders shook from the pain. I began to hear myself gasping for breath, and I realized that I had begun to sob uncontrollably. It was no longer a slow flow of tears, but instead, it was loud, gasping sobs.
It was misery to think that we were both sitting in a bathroom floor sobbing over each other. We were so close physically, and yet we had never been so far apart. Our hearts were breaking, and the pain could easily be taken away if I just told him the truth. But at what cost? What would the price be if I told Christopher? The price could possibly be higher than I was willing to pay. So I didn't say anything. I just sat there.
I sat and watched as my tears hit the floor and mingled with Christopher's in a cruel, twisted dance of fate.
A/N: So the end of that was probably one of the saddest things I have ever written. I hope it was okay though. To be honest, I have no idea where this story is headed. I don't really have a plot. It's sort of just go with the flow. So I hope that it's okay.
I'm sorry that I haven't written much recently. Between family illnesses and my last semester of nursing school, I'm so overwhelmed. I hardly even sleep anymore, let alone write. But I've gotten so many amazing reviews for this that I just HAD to write more. I definitely plan to finish this. I'm not sure how long it will take, but I plan to do it. So keep reading!
Please let me know what you think. I've gotten a few new reviews recently, and that's the only reason I've decided to update at all. So your reviews really do count!
I hope you liked it!