Marian awoke later than usual the next morning. She figured it was probably from all the nerves she had had last night with Harold, then the party on top of it.
"Bye Mama! Bye Winthrop!" Marian called after she had eaten a quick breakfast. She dashed out to Harold's car. He was waiting patiently for her as she got in.
"Mornin'" Marian said.
"Good morning. Did I ever tell you how much I love that accent?" Harold said as he drove off.
"No, but thanks," Marian replied.
"Did you have fun last night?" Harold asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"Yes. Do you know why?" Marian asked.
"Because of the party Marcellus told me your friends had for you this morning?" Harold guessed.
"No-" she was about to tell him why, but he cut her off.
"Wait, wait, I know this. Did you wake up this morning, trip and fall down the steps, notice a large box with air holes in it on the ground, open it, and find a puppy?" Harold guessed again. Marian laughed at his answer and his serious expression.
"No silly. I was with you," Marian told him as he turned into the school grounds.
"Marian," Harold said as he got her bag out of the car. "I swear, you are one of a kind."
"Who said that's a bad thing?" Marian asked, pretending to be hurt.
"No one," Harold answered as she opened her locker. He took her books and started to lead her to the student lounge. Marian held him back.
"Harold, I'll meet you there. I need to talk to Zaneeta," Marian explained.
"Zaneeta Shinn?" Harold asked.
"Yes, she's always been like an older sister to me," Marian answered. "See you in a little bit." Marian went out to the light court in search of Zaneeta. "Zaneeta!" she called when she spotted her and ran over.
"Zaneeta, you're never going to believe this!" Marian exclaimed as she sat next to the older girl.
"You're dating Harold Hill," Zaneeta said.
"How'd you know?" Marian asked.
"Ewart told Tommy and Tommy told me," Zaneeta explained.
"Look at what he gave me. I'm never going to take it off," Marian said as she held up her wrist.
"Marian, that's beautiful. I'm so glad you met someone like him. He's a great guy. The bell is going to ring a few minutes. Keep me posted, okay 'little sis?'" Zaneeta said as she stood up.
"Sure thing, 'big sis,'" Marian said as she, too, stood up. She waved good-bye to Zaneeta as she exited the light court and wasn't watching where she was going. She ran head-on into someone.
"Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry," Marian apologized.
"Don't worry about it," a familiar voice said. Marian looked up into Harold's eyes.
"Hey, the bell's going to ring. How'd you know I was here?" Marian asked.
"Simple. I waited for you," Harold answered as the bell rang. Harold left Marian outside her homeroom with a hug.
The day went by slowly for Marian. The last bell finally rang and Harold showed up at Marian's locker three minutes later.
"Harold," Marian started as they walked through the halls and out to the front of the school. "Mama is coming in ten minutes. I have a dentist appointment. You don't have to wait. I know you want to pick up the scripts that came in today to the auditions. Thanks, by the way."
"Marian, I hate to leave you here like this," Harold worried.
"Harold, the reading team is practicing right inside. I'll be fine," Marian assured him. "I'll miss you," Marian said. "Sorry I can't go to the footbridge tonight. I'll see you tomorrow."
"It's alright. You bet you'll see me tomorrow at your locker." Harold said. "I love you." Marian's heart fluttered for about the millionth time that day at the way he said those three simple words. Harold leaned in and gave her a quick kiss.
"I love you, too. Bye," Marian said when they broke the kiss.
"I still don't feel right leaving you here," Harold said, fiddling with his car keys.
"Harold, I told you. The reading team is practicing just inside. I'll be fine," Marian assured him. "Except for the fact that I'll be missing you," she added sweetly. She looked up at him with pleading blue eyes, knowing that he couldn't resist.
"Marian," Harold began. Marian saw the twinkle in his brown eyes as he leaned down and gently rested his forehead against hers, his short, dirty blond hair brushing against her head. "Why do you always do this to me?"
"Because I love you. Plus, what would be the fun in it if it didn't make you this much more attractive and vulnerable?" Marian said. Harold looked confused when she said vulnerable. Marian giggled and closed the gap between them.
When Harold broke the kiss, he was smiling. He gave Marian one final hug before letting her go.
"See you tomorrow, Marian," he said.
"Bye, Harold," Marian called back. She watched him get into his car and drive away before she turned around. She could hear the faint voices of reading team members as she looked in at the empty commons area. Marian smiled when she heard a rustle in the bushes, thinking it was Harold's way of surprising her. Instead of feeling his strong arms encircle her waist, Marian gasped and cried out as she was pushed to the ground. This wasn't Harold! He would never do this! Marian tried to stand back up, but someone prevented her from doing so. She opened her mouth to scream again, but was foiled as a gag was shoved in her mouth. She felt the person begin to tie her ankles together. Working quickly, Marian discreetly unhooked the bracelet Harold had given and held it in her fist. She had an idea. She struggled as her unknown attacker bound her wrists together, but it didn't work as the attacker hit her to make her stop. Marian finally accepted the fact that there was no escaping as she was dragged away, but not before she subtly dropped the bracelet. At that moment, Marian would have done anything to be in Harold's arms, not that she wouldn't have done anything in normal circumstances either.
"Did someone scream?" Zaneeta asked. She was inside at the reading team. She had actually talked her boyfriend, Tommy Djilas, into joining.
"Why don't we go see," Mrs. Dunlop, the reading teacher suggested. She followed her team members out to the commons and out the front door of the school.
Tommy rushed to Zaneeta's side when she cried out.
"Zaneeta, what is it?" Mrs. Dunlop asked.
"Marian's bracelet. Harold gave it to her. She never goes anywhere without it," Zaneeta answered. She was holding up the gold bracelet.
"Are you sure?" Mrs. Dunlop asked, beginning to sound worried.
"Yes. Marian showed it to me herself. She thinks of me as an older sister," Zaneeta said, her voice getting cheery when she said the last part.
"Alright. Tommy, call Constable Locke. We'll scour the area," Mrs. Dunlop ordered.
Five minutes later, Constable Locke and part of his force had arrived. He was talking to Zaneeta, who retold her story for him just as Mrs. Paroo pulled up. Constable Locke's deputy explained the situation to her and she burst out in tears as Mrs. Dunlop tried to comfort. It turned out, Tommy had called Harold, too. He arrived seconds after Mrs. Paroo and got the story from Zaneeta.
"Harold, it's not your fault. We'll find her," Zaneeta attempted to comfort the eleventh grader.
"Harold!" Mrs. Paroo called through her tears. Harold, Zaneeta, and Tommy quickly went over to her. "All of you will stay at my house until we find Marian. Please?"
"Thank you, Mrs. Paroo," Harold said. He looked crestfallen as went over to ask Constable Locke for Marian's bracelet.
"Oh, thank you," Zaneeta said gratefully. She was worried about Marian, but knew Mrs. Paroo and Harold would need comfort. She and Tommy were it.
"Of course, Mrs. Paroo," Tommy agreed. Harold forlornly walked back over to the group.
"Zaneeta, Constable Locke said you had Marian's bracelet," Harold began. Zaneeta delicately set it in his hand.
"Let's get home," Tommy advised. "We'll be of more use after some rest." Everyone else agreed. Tommy offered to drive Harold's car, since Harold himself was in no condition to. Zaneeta would drive Mrs. Paroo's car.
"Meanwhile, Marian had been brought to a three-floor house. She was taken into a small, dark room. She gasped when Gracie and Olin emerged from the shadows along with three men she had never seen before.
"I warned you, Marian," Gracie hissed as she pinned Marian against one of the bed legs. Olin handcuffed her to the leg and kicked her before backing away. This was Gracie's plan, not his. "Marian, don't count on ever seeing your precious Harold again," Gracie snickered. She punched Marian hard in the stomach, the… well pretty much everywhere. "Olin, you and you're buddies can have your fun now. I'll be back later, Marian," Gracie laughed as she walked out of the room. Marian closed her eyes as Olin and the men moved in on her.
The next few days were horrible for both Marian and her friend. Harold was probably the worst. Tommy and Zaneeta had to force him to sleep or eat or even go to school. They had never seen him like this. Mrs. Paroo was a little better. As long as they kept her busy, she didn't really do anything drastic. Winthrop still thought Marian was at a friend's house. The school wasn't the same either. All the teachers missed Marian and barely taught. Marian's friends would start crying in the middle of a class. Marian, on the other hand, was being… being… I can't even find a word for it. She was being beat on every day by both Gracie and Olin and his friends. Gracie was throwing verbal things at her, mostly about Harold not caring, and making her cry herself to sleep, if she even did sleep. She didn't think she could take it much longer. What had she done to deserve this? She had found someone who really cared about her and she cared about them, and this what she got.
Finally, two weeks later, two horrible, sleepless, sad, weeks later, Constable Locke got a lead. He allowed to Harold, Zaneeta, and Tommy to go with him. Mrs. Dunlop would stay with Mrs. Paroo and Winthrop. The three teens took two cars. Tommy drove his car, while Zaneeta drove Harold's car. First, Constable Locke stopped at the mayor's house. He asked to search Gracie's room. Harold's heart filled with hope when, on Gracie's dresser, he saw Marian's necklace. It was the one she was wearing the day she went missing.
"Mayor and Mrs. Shinn, I believe your daughter may be behind the disappearance of Marian Paroo," Constable Locke broke the news to them.
"Why this is preposterous. Four score and seven-" Mayor Shinn began.
"George, shush," Mrs. Shinn interrupted him. "Why?"
"Gracie tried to attack Marian more than once when she started dating Harold here. Alma and Katie reported that she always talked about getting even with Marian and winning Harold." Harold nearly laughed out loud as Constable Locke said this.
"I believe you. Do whatever you can to help Miss Marian. She is a fine young woman," Mrs. Shinn said. Then, she saw Harold's crestfallen expression. "Oh, Harold dear." She drew him into a hug. "It will be alright. I will do everything in my power to help you find Marian."
"Thank you, Mrs. Shinn. Thank you very much," Harold said. He had always liked this woman.
"Kids, I just got radioed that Olin Britt, Gracie Shinn, and some hired men have been picked up. They'll be in jail until Marian is well enough to identify them, if we find her. Olin gave us an address, but it might be false. Let's go," Constable Locke said.
"Good luck!" Mrs. Shinn called.
"Yes, good luck!" Mayor Shinn agreed as the squad car drove away.
Any earlier hopes Harold had dissipated when they pulled up in front of the dark, gloomy mansion.
"You guys stay here," Constable Locke ordered as he entered the house with his squad. Harold started pacing.
Constable Locke found a small door and decided to check in there first. He happened to be right on the money.
When Marian heard the doorknob, she started crying again. She bruised and battered and beat up. She had had enough. When she saw Constable Locke, she still looked wary, but allowed him free her. As soon Constable Locke removed her gag, Marian jumped up. She had to find Harold. As she neared the front of the house, she slowed down. What if Gracie and Olin had escaped and Constable Locke didn't know about it? What if they were outside right now, waiting for her? Marian took a deep breath and opened the door a bit. Her heart leaped in joy when she saw Harold Hill pacing worriedly. She was halfway to him and he still hadn't noticed her. As she walked, she said,
"Harold," in a barely audible voice. Harold immediately looked up. If anyone else had called his name that quietly, he probably wouldn't have heard it, but he heard everything Marian Paroo said. When he saw her, she was almost to him. Marian finally felt safe when Harold's strong arms wrapped around her protectively.
"Marian," Harold said quietly as he drew her closer to him. He could hardly believe she was back safe and sound. "Marian, I missed you so much."
"I missed you too," Marian replied. As much as Harold wanted to kiss her delicious lips, he resisted, knowing she was in no state for it. Suddenly, Marian felt her knees begin to wobble and she collapsed. Harold gently lifted her into his arms. "Harold," Marian said.
"Yes?" Harold responded.
"You're the reason I endured all that. There were times when I didn't think I could take anymore, until I thought of you." She leaned up toward him. Harold, knowing what she wanted, carefully pushed her back down before kissing her. As he gazed at her, he heard Zaneeta and Tommy calling his name.
"Marian, I think there are a few people who want to see you," Harold said as he turned, also noticing Constable Locke coming toward them. Zaneeta was the first to reach them.
"Marian! I'm so glad you're okay!" she cried as she hugged Marian. After glancing at Harold, who nodded, Tommy hugged Marian as well.
"Thank you so much, Constable Locke!" the three of them said in unison as he approached.
"Oh, you're quite welcome. Just doing my job," he smiled before looking at Marian. "How's Miss Marian?" he asked. He had always been close to the Paroo family and was glad Marian was safe and sound.
"I'm fine, Constable. Thank you," Marian said quietly from Harold's arms.
"Oh, Marian. You all head home now," Constable Locke said after hugging Marian and walking off.
"Zaneeta," Harold began hesitantly. "Would you mind driving my car to Marian's house. I don't want to leave her alone."
"Of course," Zaneeta said as Harold gave her a grateful smile. He followed Zaneeta to his car and slid into the back seat with Marian. She was lying on the seat, her head resting on his shoulder.
"So Marian," Zaneeta said. "Do you know what we had to do to Harold for the past few weeks?"
"What?" Marian asked her.
"We had to force him to eat and sleep, he was so worried about you. He was vulnerable," Zaneeta answered in an exaggerated whisper. Noting Harold's puzzled expression, she and Marian burst out laughing and high-fived.
A few minutes later, Zaneeta stopped the car in front of the Paroo home. Harold waited until Zaneeta and Tommy had driven off before taking Marian into the house.
"Mrs. Paroo! Winthrop!" he called out. As soon as Mrs. Paroo heard his steady voice, she knew Marian was alright.
"Marian!" she called in relief as she ran into the room and hugged her daughter. "Harold, why don't you take her into to the parlor? I'll call Dr. Washburn." Dr. Washburn was Marcellus's father. Harold obliged and, after carrying Marian to the room, gently laid her on the sofa and laid next to her. A few minutes later, he heard Marian's even breathing and looked down. She had fallen asleep.
Forty-five minutes later, Dr. Washburn arrived. He and Mrs. Paroo walked into the parlor to see Marian asleep in her boyfriend's arms. When Harold offered to wake her, Dr. Washburn asked,
"How long has she been asleep?"
"About fifty minutes," Harold answered.
"Let her be for another ten minutes," Dr. Washburn instructed. Harold had no problem with that as the two adults sat down and Winthrop came into the room.
The four kept up steady conversation for the next ten minutes until Dr. Washburn asked Harold to wake Marian. Harold gently placed his hand on Marian's shoulder and shook her lightly. When Marian's eyes opened, they met Harold's smiling face.
"Marian, Dr. Washburn is here," Mrs. Paroo told her daughter. Marian smiled at him as he walked over to her.
"Hi Marian," Dr. Washburn said. After he had checked her over, he said, "Rest for twenty-four hours and you should be as good as new, with a few bruises."
"Thank you, Dr. Washburn," Mrs. Paroo said as she escorted him to the door.
"You are quite welcome. Good-bye now," Dr. Washburn said before walking to his car and driving away.
"Harold," Mrs. Paroo said as she entered the parlor. "You're welcome to stay tonight if you wish. I assume you have what you need, being you've been here for the past two weeks. I think Marian will go back to school on Monday."
"I'd love to, but I must…get home," Harold said the last part quietly. Marian looked at him and saw the sadness in his eyes, but refrained from saying anything, as her mother was still there. "I need to be home by ten tonight."
"Oh, that's fine," Mrs. Paroo said before exiting the room.
As soon as she had gone, Marian looked at Harold.
"Harold, something's wrong," she stated simply.
"What? No," Harold attempted to protest.
"I saw it in your eyes," Marian insisted. Harold gave a resigning sigh and leaned back.
"My parents are explorers. When I was eleven, they left to visit the world. I doubt they'll be back any time soon," he began. Gently pushing Marian away when she hugged him, he continued. "The butlers and maids and cooks have moved in. I treat them like family. There are two, though, that I think of as my parents. Mr. and Mrs. Karwyle. They've always been there for me. They've come to every sports game, every play, every thin that's happened. I think I'm going to start calling them mom and dad soon. When your mom talked about how I'd been 'living' here for the past two weeks, it brought back a memory, but it's fine now," Harold finished. This time, he let Marian hug him.