While Reese Vanderburg drove up the hill to deliver baby Nathalie to Kate and David, Zachary took a morning walk to the Vanderburg mansion.
He was about to ring the doorbell when suddenly someone maniacally laughed inside the house, it must have been Amanda’s grandmother Catarina. In that very moment Zac’s finger was literally touching the bell, one gentle movement and he’d have to run away like a little prank-making kid. He smiled to himself at that thought as he walked towards the road.
He picked some pebbles from the ground and began throwing them at Amanda’s window. After a few unsuccessful attempts, one stone finally hit the window pane.
“What are you doing here?! They will see you!” Amanda called at him from a window on the first floor.
“I need to talk to you. It’s important,” Zac called at her as silently as he could.
“Fine, but use the back door. Oh, and avoid the third step, it creaks awfully,” she told him and carefully closed the window. Zac managed to reach Amanda’s bedroom unnoticed.
“Oh, wow! You could work as a burglar,” Amanda giggled when Zachary stealthily entered the room.
“Was that supposed to be a compliment?”
“It was a compliment!” Amanda smiled and hugged him. “ You have no idea how happy I am that we’re together again,” she whispered in his ear. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I have missed you too, Mandy.”
“So, what is it that you have to tell me?” Amanda curiously asked Zac as she gently pulled away from his arms.
“I’m not going back to the University, Amanda. I want to be with you, just you. You’re the only thing that matters to me.”
“Zac… You know I want the same, but-”
“There’s no but, Mandy. If we want to be together, noone can stop us. Neither your grandmother.”
“Oh how I wish we could just run away from her!”
“That’s exactly what we’re going to do! It will take her forever to search every little corner of this world. She’ll die before she can find us!” Zac said enthusiastically.
“That sounds like a perfect plan,” Amanda hopefully smiled at him when suddenly, she heard the front door close with a slam. She looked at Zac with a puzzled expression on her face.
“Do I have to hide?” Zac asked her in confusion.
“No, no… I’ll lock the door and you can escape from the window… in case.”
“Oh, sure, no problem,” laughed Zac.
“Reese! Come in here, sweetheart,” Catarina called at her granddaughter from the living room.
“Oh, it’s just my sister… I guess the night shift at the hospital didn’t go well… again,” sighed Amanda when she heard Catarina call at Reese.
“She never says anything, but my dad told me they are… investigating… you know…”
“Yeah… Dad thinks the doctors have something to do with her death, but they don’t have enough evidence.”
“I knew it! I knew Elisabeth could have lived!” Zac said furiously.
“Shh… We’re not alone.”
“Dad tells me one of the doctors was behaving very strangely every time they searched his office… but unfortunately, they haven’t found anything that could point at him yet.”
“Do you think that Reese… that she knows something?”
“I think she does, but… everything she said, the doctors denied. And, well, since she’s the lieutenant’s daughter… things get a little complicated.”
“And what does your father say?”
“He believes her, of course. Now they ‘just’ have to prove it.”
“So, as I understand it, there would be some theoretical evidence?”
“Exactly… and Zac, there’s not just that… oh… I shouldn’t have said that,” told him Amanda and bit her lower lip.
“What? What else is there?” demanded Zac.
“Promise me you won’t tell anyone. Nobody can know until the police makes an official statement. Neither your parents can know. It could cause problems to my father if this information got out, do you understand?” Zac nodded his head in agreement.
“Nathalie has a twin brother,” Amanda told him with a smile. “You’re a double uncle, Zac.”
“On the night they were born, Reese worked a night at the hospital. What I am about to tell you Reese didn’t tell anybody else, neither dad. It’s top secret.”
“Mandy, you’re starting to scare me… Is he… is my nephew alright?”
“Yes… in a way.”
“In a way?
“Something very peculiar happened that night. He died soon after he was born but then a miracle happened… Zac, your nephew came back to life.”
“I know, I know, it’s great!” Amanda exclaimed joyfully, but then suddenly, her face saddened.
“Mandy, what’s wrong?” Zac worried as he noticed the sudden change in her expression.
“He’s aging up very quickly, Zac.”
“Oh no… Does he have the premature aging disease?”
“Nobody knows. Reese cannot explain this to herself either. He was a dead baby when she left the maternity ward and then when she came back he was very alive and one year old already!”
“And where is he now? Is he safe?”
“They’re hiding him at the hospital. Reese hasn’t seen him since that night…”
“Oh no! What if they do something to him or take him away and we’ll never find him?! Amanda, we have to do something about this!”
“I’m sorry, Zac, there’s nothing we can do… but I’m sure my dad will solve this case soon,” Amanda tried to calm him down and put her hands around Zachary’s neck. “He always solves the case.”
“I hope you’re right, Mandy.”
As Zac and Amanda spoke about Nathan, they had no idea what was going on at the hospital distanced only fifty meters away. Doctor Simano erased every evidence of Nathan’s existence from the system, printed a fake birth certificate for the boy, hacked the computer and disconnected the surveillance cameras so he could bring his plan to an evil end – kidnap Nathan Loewe and leave the town, unnoticed. His dream of gaining scientific recognition within the Chamber of International Science was beyond the horizon. He was convinced that Nathan’s extraordinary DNA was the ticket to his long desired fame and fortune.
“It’s a nice day outside, wanna go out for a walk and discuss the plan?” suggested Zac.
“Sounds good to me,” Amanda smiled at her boyfriend and put on the coat.
Meanwhile, in the living room of the Vanderburg mansion…
“Tomorrow, Mr. Capp will come for a little engagement dinner party. It’s time to tell Amanda.”
“C-can I have a word in this?” Reese asked politely.
“Oh sweetheart, you know your word won’t change my decision,” Catarina wickedly smiled at Reese and then she looked at Renauld.
“You heard your grandmother, Reese. She’s the head of this family and she will be listened to,” told her severely Renauld.
“You can’t just choose a husband for her! The fact that you rule this town doesn’t mean you rule our lives!” Reese screamed at Catarina. “We live in the 21st century! You’re completely out of your minds!”
“Enough of this! I don’t want to hear another word!” Catarina commanded.
“Why do you have to be so mean, grandma?” Reese asked her with a hint of desperation in her voice.
“Mean? Do you really think I am mean? Oh, Reese, please,” she said, smiling. “Mr. Capp is out of Amanda’s league, but thanks to me, she’ll live like a princess!”
Princess? You guys are totally insane, Reese thought to herself when suddenly, she heard noises coming from the corridor.
As she looked up, she saw her sister with Zachary.
Oh, no! If they see Zachary… I have to do something! Now! Reese thought to herself.
“Mandy, I think Reese saw us,” said Zac as he noticed Reese looking at him from the living room. Amanda’s eyes widened with fear, because she knew Reese wasn’t there alone. The moment she heard her grandmother laugh, she panicked.
“Of course I do. You will feel loved all your life, Amanda, and so will I. I promise this to you. The old witch cannot stop me from marrying you!”
“W-what did you say?”
“Amanda Vanderburg, will you be my wife?” Zac asked her nonchalantly.
“Wait. A-are you proposing?” Amanda asked him, completely taken aback by his question.
“Well, I miss the ring, so let’s say it’s unofficial,” Zachary innocently smiled at her.
“Ahem, so I guess I’ll go get Amanda?” Reese asked her grandmother, hoping she’d stay sitting on the sofa.
“You better do,” told her strictly Catarina and to Reese’s enormous relief took a sweet from the box on the table, placed it in her mouth and leaned back in the sofa.
“I think Reese is coming in here! What do we do?” Zac asked Amanda.
“Follow me,” she took his hand and pulled him towards the winter garden.
“Maybe I should rather leave, Mandy. It isn’t really safe here at the moment.”
“I’m so sorry she’s causing so much trouble to us… we can’t even normally see each other,” sighed Amanda. “I almost wish she was dead.”
“Don’t say that. You’ll see that everything will be alright. Meet me by the church on the morning when all the snow has melted away.”
“Will you marry me then?” Amanda teased him.
“I will marry you then,” he whispered in her ear as they hugged.
“I love you, Zackie.”
“I love you, too, Mandy.”
And with that said, Zac left leaving Amanda alone to the ill will of her grandmother. The moment Amanda returned inside, she found Reese waiting for her.
“Hey sis, what’s up?” Amanda asked her twin happily.
“Grandma wants to see you. They’re waiting in the living room.”
“I’ve already told her I’ll never marry him.”
Before Reese was able to say something, Catarina stormed in the winter garden.
“There you are!” she called at the girls.
“Reese, I’m going to run away with Zac. I’m sorry. Please don’t tell anyone. I trust you,” Amanda whispered to her sister knowing Catarina would send her away and she’d not get any other chance to share the plan with her.
“But…,” Reese wanted to protest, however given how little time they had left together, she decided not to. “Be careful, sis. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” told her Amanda and really wanted to hug her sister, but that could alert Catarina so she just whispered a silent “Bye.”
“Bye,” Reese whispered back.
“Reese, would you, please, leave us alone? Thank you,” Catarina commanded and turned all her attention to Amanda.
“Mr. Capp is excited to finally meet his future wife, so I have allowed myself to organize your engagement dinner party for tomorrow’s evening. I deeply believe and recommend you agree with his generous offer,” Catarina said to her eldest granddaughter as Reese silently left the room, feeling very sorry for her twin.
“You have allowed yourself? How kind of you, grandmother,” Amanda said sarcastically. “It seems to me your memory doesn’t serve you well anymore, because otherwise you would remember that I have already told you I would rather die than marry that old bachelor.”
“How dare you speak to me like this! You will do as I say or-”
“Or what, old woman?! What are you going to do?” she teased her.
“You will marry him even if I would have to drag you to the altar myself!” Catarina hissed at Amanda, clenching her hands into fists.
“I will never marry him! Finally understand it! I’m not letting you to toy around with me like you did with my mother, you wicked old witch!”
“How dare you call me that! Where are your manners, young girl?! Who do you think you are?!”
This isn’t going to end well, Reese thought to herself as she listened to their argument.
“Who do YOU think you are! Just look at yourself. You’re such a ridiculous sad person. I’m truly sorry for you, grandmother,” told her Amanda and ran towards the terrace.
“Where do you think you’re going?! Come back this instance! I order you to come back!” Catarina hysterically shouted after her.
Amanda ignored the words of her grandmother, jumped over the wall and ran away as fast as her legs could carry her.
“You cannot run away from me, Amanda! I will find you wherever you go!”
Amanda has never ran this fast in her life before, she came running to the church in less than five minutes. Still panting, she dialed Zac’s number.
“Zac! ZAC! You have to… get here!” Amanda exclaimed, her breath coming in gasps.
“Mandy! What happened?! Where are you?”
“I’m… I’m at the church… My grandmother… and I… we had an argument and… I ran away!”
“Yes! We have to leave the town!”
“You don’t understand, it’s not yet the time!”
“Well, it is now. Please, don’t keep me waiting, Zac!”
Dear Mom and Dad,
This will come as an unpleasant surprise, but I’ve decided I’ll not continue my studies at the University. Journalism isn’t a thing for me anyway, you know how much I love science fiction… I’m sorry if I disappointed you, because I know how much you both care for me. I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye in person, but maybe it’s better this way anyway. If you knew of my intentions, you would have probably tried to convince me to stay. I know you always told me that there’s a reasonable solution to everything, but I know there’s none this time.
I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first, but I had to borrow some money from our family safe. Don’t worry, I will give it back eventually. I left my phone on my desk, but I’ve got all your numbers. I’ll contact you once it’s safe. I’m really really sorry, but this is the only solution.
Finn knows I love Amanda with all my heart and that she’s the love of my life. Unfortunately, there’s Amanda’s grandmother who has been trying to prevent us from seeing each other all these years, she’s also the reason why Amanda didn’t go to the University with me as we’ve planned…
Catarina Vanderburg will probably eventually show up here searching for Amanda. Be wary of her, she’s an evil person… probably got something to do with dark magic!
Once you’re done reading this letter, burn it. I don’t want any evidence left behind.
Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me and Finn. We couldn’t have wished for better parents. Please don’t worry about me and Amanda, we’re gonna be fine.
Love you, Zac
While Zac was writing the goodbye letter to his parents, Amanda sat on a marble bench by the old cemetery and nervously waited for him. Zac didn’t have enough time to pack his things, but he remembered to pick the genie lamp from the toy box in his and Finn’s bedroom.
“I hope you didn’t think I would leave you here, Tenille,” he spoke to the genie inside the lamp, gave one last look at the bedroom and hurried to meet Amanda.
As she opened the heavy wooden doors of the church, Amanda Vanderburg was one step closer to her freedom. She felt guilty for running away from her family, but if she had stayed she would never be able to spend her life with Zac. As her grandmother said herself, she would drag her to the altar and force her to marry old Mr. Capp. Amanda felt sorry at the thought of never seeing her family again. She would have to wait until her grandmother died before she could come back. Fortunately, she managed to say goodbye to her twin sister Reese, who was by far the closest person to her and whom she could trust.
Elisabeth’s imaginary friend Hesper has been living in the church ever since the day he ran away from Dr. Simano’s Sanatorium. After Elisabeth’s plan collapsed like a house of cards, he had to find a hiding place where he would be safe.
Reese will probably find a good occasion to tell the truth to mom and dad. I hope this will finally open their eyes, Amanda thought to herself as she walked towards the statue at the far bottom of the church nave. She sat down on the creaky wooden bench and listened to the deathly silence. Hesper knew every corner of the church as well as its every sound by heart so as soon as he heard the creaky noise he headed down the stairs to see who has come to seek the Lord.
“Nowadays, young souls who seek the Lord are few and far between. What brings you here, Amanda?”
“How do you know my name?” Amanda asked, surprised.
“I would have to feel mortified right now, if I didn’t recognize the granddaughter of Her Royal Highness Cararina Vanderburg.”
“Oh, please… She’s nothing more than an old hag,” Amanda laughed contemptuously.
“I deeply believe you have a good reason to call her that way.”
“Amanda!” Zac called at her from the other side of the church.
“Zac!” Amanda turned her head around, stood up from the bench and ran towards him.
Please never leave me again, she thought to herself as Zac’s arms wrapped around her.
“I will never leave you, Mandy. You can count on me,” Zac whispered to her as if he could read her thoughts.
“So, what do we do now?” Amanda asked him as she looked at Hesper lighting the candles by the altar.
“Well, earlier today I asked you a question, but I still didn’t get the answer,” he smiled at her.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Do I take it as a yes?” Zac teased her.
“Yes,” she said and placed her hand in his. “Let’s do this… but wait…,” Amanda suddenly hesitated for a moment. “Don’t we need witnesses?”
“I’ve thought of that, don’t worry,” he winked at her and took out the genie lamp from behind his jacket.
“Zac, what is that?” Amanda asked, dumbfounded and watched Zac walk towards Hesper with what looked like an old lamp in his hand.
“Hello Zachary. I have never thought I would see you here,” Hesper happily smiled at Zac. “You remember me, don’t you?” he asked him when he noticed Zac looked a bit confused. “I used to go to school with your sister, may the Lord bless her soul.”
“Oh, right! I thought you were familiar!” Zac exclaimed in a pleasant surprise.
“What is it in your hand?” Hesper asked curiously.
“It’s a… our witness.”
“Witness?” he raised his left brow.
“Yeah… Amanda and I… We’d like to get married. Is that possible?”
“Well, it would have been better if you had let me know in advance, but since there’s nobody else in here I believe it shouldn’t be a problem, unless…”
“Unless there really is someone hiding in that lamp of yours,” laughed Hesper.
“Actually, there is,” Zac told him triumphantly and cleaned the lamp with the sleeve of his jacket.
The next moment a cloud of sparkling dust surrounded the lamp and Tenille appeared standing in front of them. Amanda and Hesper were both utterly captivated by her unexpected apparition.
“Finally you’ve remembered about me,” Tenille yawned as she stretched her back. “Where the hell are we?”
“Mind your language, blue lady, you’re in a church,” told her Hesper severely, but he sounded rather funny the way he said it.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you or anybody,” Tenille apologized. “So church, huh? Does it have to do something with your wish, Zac?” Tenille asked him as she looked around.
“Ahem,” Zac cleared his throat. “I wish for wedding rings for me and Amanda,” Zac expressed his second wish.
“Rings? Are you serious? Like REALLY serious?!” Tenille called out in disbelief. “After all this time you ask me for… rings? Something you could have acquired yourself? You must be joking,” Tenille sneered, feeling slightly offended.
“You’re right. I could have, but I haven’t. No time for that.”
“Well, at least you got yourself a pretty girl there,” Tenille smiled at him and looked at Amanda. “If you’re really sure about your wish, Zac, then let’s not make the bride wait any longer. How do you imagine the rings?”
“Simple wedding rings. Please, nothing too fancy.”
“What about a nice diamond for the bride?” Tenille asked Zac while she was still looking at Amanda whose face suddenly lit up with desire. “I bet she wants a diamond, my friend,” she said to Zac while winking at Amanda.
“Fine, let her have a diamond ring then, it’s not that it really matters anyway…”
Zachary Loewe and Amanda Vanderburg were secretly married by Elisabeth’s imaginary friend in the presence of an unusual witness and a bunch of church mice.
Amanda got the diamond ring…
… and Zachary got his long desired kiss as a married man. The newlywed couple was at the peak of happiness. And they didn’t have the slightest idea that Amanda’s ring wasn’t just a common diamond ring… it was magical.
“You still have one last wish, Zac. I hope you’ll think that one through,” Tenille thoughtfully smiled at him.
“Actually, since I already have everything I could have wished for, I’ll wish something for you, Tenille.”
“What do you mean by that? You cannot set me free, you know it.”
“In a way I can,” he smiled and looked at Hesper. “I don’t know much about this fellow, but I think he’s a good person if Elisabeth used to hang out with him. Something tells me you two should stay together. I’m sure you’ll get to like each other pretty quickly.”
“What?” Tenille and Hesper said with one voice and looked first at Zac and then at each other. The moment their eyes met, the glance that flickered between them was a wordless message of understanding. They were both so different, yet the same.
“So… if neither of you have anything to say, we’ll be on our way,” Zac interrupted the hypnotic connection between them.
And so Zachary and Amanda Loewe left Monte Vista as did Dr. Gino Simano with Nathan earlier that day, leaving Hesper and Tenille to the silence of the church walls.
A new page in the book has opened in front of all of them. Only time would tell how good the story they were about to start living was going to be…