Henry stroked her head and said, "You'll see, Abby. I had to do this for you, for us. It's the only way we can be together forever."
Abby squeezed her eyes shut and fisted a handful of her blanket to keep herself from screaming. She tried to think of a way to get out of this house and off the island, but she couldn't get her thoughts in order. Nothing made sense anymore if Henry Dunn was a murderer.
Henry sighed and said, "I love you. I've always loved you. All of this was for you."
She bit down on her lip and refused to cry. All those people, her dad and Henry's brother and their friends...all dead and gone because of her. Because she couldn't see her best friend for who he really was.
"I'm not a monster, Abby. I'm still the same guy. I'm still me," he replied. Henry's hand stilled in her hair and he added, "Wakefield wanted me to kill you. He wanted me to choose him over you, but it's always been you, Abby. You've been my whole world since I was six years old."
Henry leaned over and kissed her forehead, his lips lingering on her skin, and she no longer found any comfort in that closeness they shared. He let out a huff of a breath and said, "You're safe. I could never hurt you, Abby. I love you."
He stood up and moved toward the door. She could hear him shuffling his feet, the way he always had when he was nervous, and the door opening and closing behind him. She heard the familiar click of the lock. And none of it mattered because Henry Dunn had managed to destroy her in a way that John Wakefield had never been capable of.
Abby kept her eyes shut and prayed for it all to be over.
The press had been barraging her with calls and emails, looking for exclusives from one of the few survivors of the massacre on Harper’s Island. She understood the fascination, and as a writer, she could even understand the allure of such events from a storytelling perspective. It was a bizarre tale with twists no one would expect and an ending straight out of a movie.
The problem was, it wasn’t some story to her - it was her life and the victims were people she cared about. She wasn’t sure she would ever find the right words to explain away what she had witnessed on that island. She found herself feeling like those idiots she used to mock when she saw clips of them on TV: neighbors who could only ever say how nice and quiet so-and-so was, and certainly it couldn’t have been him with five girls locked in his basement.
Henry’s part in things had blindsided her. She wondered what it said about her that she had been able to believe her father was capable of murder and, while she hadn’t really thought Jimmy was involved, could see why others might. But when it came to Henry, if she hadn't been there herself and witnessed the boy she had known disappear into madness, she never would have been able to accept it. Not Henry, never Henry. She had always thought Henry was the heart of things, the center that people were drawn to because he was a good person, and it turned out she had been so very wrong.
Abby felt stupid and wrong for mourning him. He had committed atrocious acts and murdered innocent people that he claimed to care about. It made her sick to think about, made her feel like a puppet whose strings were pulled by Henry, but she constantly replayed the look on his face as he died. She had killed him in self-defense, and most of the time she knew that he would never have let her and Jimmy walk away, but every-so-often she tried to figure out what she could have done differently. She laid in bed and remembered the way Henry called out to her as he fell to his knees and how a part of her, even then, wanted to be there for him.
How did she explain to the world that, despite everything, she missed her friend? How did she make sense of the fact that the one person who she would have counted on to help her through this mess was the one responsible for it all? And why did she miss a person capable of such horrible acts?
“Maybe you should write the story of Harper's Island yourself,” Jimmy had suggested one night.
“You don’t have to publish it or anything, but you’re a writer, right? So tell your story. Maybe it’ll help you figure things out,” Jimmy said.
“Maybe I don’t want to,” she had responded before storming off. And not for the first time since everything happened, she found herself reaching for her phone to call Henry and get his take on things.
And god, she selfishly hated Henry in those moments because she needed him and he had ripped apart everything. They were supposed to have each other’s backs.
Henry Dunn was supposed to be in her life forever.
Abby wasn’t surprised to find Henry standing in the funeral home staring blankly at the closed caskets, but she was thrown for a loop to find him with a flask in his hand. She tried to push past the discomfort and memories that flooded into her brain from not too long ago of her mother’s funeral. No one liked funerals, especially the kinds that came unexpectedly, but this was about Henry and she could be the friend he deserved.
“Maybe the truth of life is that we can only depend on ourselves, that everyone leaves, whether we like it or not,” Henry stated, turning around to look at her and causing her to jump slightly.
“I came to check on you.”
“Uncle Marty and JD left. I said I’d get you home when you were ready.”
“Home…” he scoffed.
“Henry,” she replied, unsure what else to say. There were no words for what he was going through and as precious as words were to her, she knew how little they could mean at times like this.
“Thank you for coming,” Henry said, reaching out and taking her hand.
She smiled at him and replied, “Where else would I be? My best friend needs me.”
“It means a lot.”
“I’ve got your back. You’ve always had mine.”
“I feel like I should be more upset, but I’m not.”
“Could be shock,” she said.
“I don’t know. I’m sad and worried, mostly about JD, but I’m okay.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Abby replied. She squeezed his hand and added, “Don’t try to make sense of things right now. It won’t work and you’ll make yourself crazy.”
“Speaking from experience?”
She nodded and responded, “Grief messes with you. One minute you feel strong and capable and an hour later you’re clutching your head in your hands because nothing is right with the world.”
“Really looking forward to that,” Henry replied dryly, taking another sip from the flask, his face puckering like he had sucked on a lemon.
“It sucks, but I was lucky. I had this annoying, pain-in-the-ass best friend that wouldn’t leave me alone no matter how much I tried to push him away.”
“Sounds frustrating,” Henry commented, cracking a small smile.
“Totally. He was like ‘I’m here for you’ and then he would just be there for me. Bastard,” she replied exaggeratedly. She nudged him in the shoulder and said, “You’ve still got family, Henry. I’m not going anywhere.”
He hugged her and replied, “Promise?”
“I promise to always be there for you too,” Henry replied.
"I'm going to hold you to that," she said. She motioned to the door and asked, "Ready to get out of here? Tomorrow's going to be a long day."
He nodded and said, "I don't know what I would do without you."
Once, right after everything happened on the island, Jimmy asked her if she had any idea about Henry, as though hindsight might make everything clear and wrap up the massacre with a tidy little bow. She understood the need to try to make sense of things, but Abby’s memories were now a muddle of tainted conversations and self-recrimination. She had no way to process that evil version of Henry Dunn from the island. It didn’t compute or fit with any of the images of him filed away in her mind. Maybe that was her fault, maybe she had let her best friend down in the worst way possible – not seeing beyond the mask he wore for the world – and if she had been a little more astute, maybe all those people wouldn’t have died needlessly.
Even now, there were two Henrys vying for a spot in her head. The kind, loyal boy she had grown up with and always counted on, who was constantly at odds with the broken man with crazy eyes chasing her through the woods, claiming he loved her. She had nightmares of him reaching out for her as John Wakefield snatched him away into an abyss. She would wake up shaking and crying, and start playing over every conversation, every email, and every shared moment, searching for clues of what was to come.
Abby constantly wondered if it all could have been avoided if she had done one thing differently.
“This is almost tragic,” Henry stated, coming into her apartment, dropping his bag, and pointing to the half-dead poinsettia plant with an ornament hanging off it. He shook his head and said, “Do they not have trees in Los Angeles?”
“Who has time for that? Besides, it’s just me and Doris the cat,” Abby replied.
“You could go home.”
“Henry, we’ve had this conversation,” Abby stated, picking up his bag and taking it into her room. She waved her hand and said, “Welcome to my humble abode. You take the bedroom and I’ll sleep on the couch.”
“What? No. I think we can share.”
“You and I have been sharing a bed since we were little kids. This is definitely bigger than your crappy twin with the pink canopy,” Henry stated.
“I’m not sure your girlfriend would appreciate you sleeping with another girl.”
Henry rolled his eyes and said, “One of the things I love about Trish is that she understands what you mean to me and isn’t threatened by it. She knows nothing would happen.”
“Gee thanks,” she said with a laugh. He looked ready to fumble out an apology and she waved him off. She said, “I figured we could go to Venice Beach, grab some food and I’ll take you to my favorite bookstore.”
Abby noticed him glance around the place before ducking his head and pulling a clean tee-shirt out of his bag. She sighed and said, “Say it, Henry.”
He twisted up his tee-shirt in his hands and shook his head. After a few seconds of quiet, he turned to look at her, studying her in an appraising way that probably should have freaked her out, but never really did when it came from him. He said, “I worry about you. You’ve isolated yourself from everyone that cares about you.”
“Only because I wouldn’t let you,” Henry countered.
“And I’m glad for that,” Abby admitted. She grabbed his hand and squeezed. She said, “I did luck out in the best friend department.”
Henry laughed and brushed the hair back off her face. He said, “I did pretty well too.”
“You totally did. I’m a not-at-all famous magazine writer with tons of really bad drafts of never published books. I've got daddy issues, anger and guilt about my murdered mom, and severe trust issues. It surprises me that the rest of the world isn’t rushing to spend time with me."
Henry hugged her and said, “I wish you saw yourself the way that I do.” He chucked her chin and added, “You deserve to be happy, Abby.”
“I have my moments,” Abby replied. She pulled back, wiped at the tears she refused to shed because this was supposed to be a nice visit, and smiled. She ducked her head when Henry continued to stare at her, looking like there was something he needed to say, but when she lifted her head back up to meet his gaze, the moment had passed. She said, “Clean up, call your girlfriend to let her know you arrived safely, and we’ll head out.”
“I’m really glad you’re here.”
“Me too. I’ve missed you.”
Abby tried writing her story several times, always chucking her notebooks in the garbage, unable to stand to even revisit the drivel that poured out of her. It always came back to the why of it all. She still had no idea how Henry expected things to play out. She clearly understood what John Wakefield wanted to happen. It was easy to figure out that a psycho like Wakefield only felt alive surrounded by death and destruction.
Abby knew there was more to Henry. She had witnessed compassion and kindness from him over the years. The first time they had met was because he had offered to share his ice cream with her when he found her crying over her spilled cone. She could vividly recall the boy who had saved a small turtle from the local boys that were poking it with sticks. She easily remembered him holding her hand throughout her mother’s funeral and sitting by her side quietly afterward, never trying to get her to talk. She replayed conversation after conversation with him where he was nothing but sweet and caring, talking about the world in a way that Abby wasn’t capable of.
Had it all been an act?
When Henry had Abby locked up in that house, he had stroked her hair and told her that he wasn’t the monster she thought he was, that he was still the same guy she had always known. Abby had remained quiet at the time, not wanting to encourage him and completely thrown by everything that was happening. He might as well have let John Wakefield kill her because Henry’s betrayal had already torn her in half. Henry had sighed when she remained silent, leaned over and kissed her forehead, and said, “You’re safe. I could never hurt you, Abby. I love you.”
Abby wished she could see Henry as nothing but a monster, write him off as an evil son of a bitch, but it wasn’t that simple. Henry had done monstrous things on the island, but that wasn’t all there was to him. Something had gone fundamentally wrong with him at some point and she probably should have seen it, but there was someone worth knowing lost inside that insanity.
Abby had never known it was possible to hate someone with everything she had and still feel gutted by how much she missed him sometimes.
“I think we should go back to the Island together. Stay for a weekend,” Henry stated, turning on his side to face her.
Abby shifted around until she was facing him, her hands under her head, and said, “I don’t think I can do it.”
“Don’t let him win, Abby,” Henry replied.
“He already did. My mother’s dead and isn’t coming back,” Abby argued.
“But you’re still here.”
“Not sure I have the time. Coming up here to Seattle was enough of an ordeal with my boss,” she replied. Abby knew Henry could smell her bullshit from a mile away, part and parcel of knowing someone so damn long, but he didn’t say anything. She let out a slow, deliberate breath and went on, “I’ve thought about going back to the island, but why? There’s nothing left for me there.”
He said, “My best memories are on that island with you.”
He shrugged and said, “It’s true. Sleeping out on your deck under the canopy of trees and the night sky, or fishing with your dad, or just chasing each other across the island. We had fun together.”
She took his hand and intertwined it with hers, leaning forward to rest her forehead against his. She said, “We still have fun together. You’re my best friend and that’s not going to change.”
Henry sat up, leaning back against the headboard, and brushed his fingers through Abby's hair. He smiled sadly at her and said, “Things have been crazy lately. And I feel like the world is spinning out of my control and I guess I want to hold onto what matters most.”
She sighed and studied him. She said, “I’m sure you and Trish will work things out.”
“That’s not…that’s not all of it. Hell, not even most of it.”
Abby sat up and said, “I totally suck at this part of best friend duties. I think this definitely falls more into Sully’s area of expertise. We can take you out to a bar, get you wasted and talk about what bitches all women are.”
Henry laughed, the seriousness of a few seconds ago gone from his eyes, and he replied, “Sure. While we’re at it, we’ll find me a girl that looks like Trish for me to bang and dump.”
She slapped him and said, “Ew. No. That is not who you are.”
“How can you be so sure?”
She shrugged and said, “I just am. You’re one of the good ones, Henry, and any girl that would let you go never really deserved you in the first place.”
He nudged her in the side and asked, “How come you and I never got together?”
“When I was fourteen, I kept waiting for you to take the hint, but you were too enamored with Trish even back then.”
Abby laughed, her face flushing slightly, and ducked her head. She said, “You came back for the summer and you had this growth spurt and you were quite…cute. I threatened to break Nikki’s arm if she asked you out.”
“Why did I not know this?”
“Because it’s embarrassing.”
“Is that why you avoided me for the first three weeks of the summer?”
“I thought you had figured out that I had feelings for you and were avoiding me. So when we finally started talking again, I didn’t want to mess up our friendship. I can do without a lot, Abby, but I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”
Abby rested her head on his shoulder and said, “Better this way. I’m a train wreck and if we had gotten together, I would have found a way to mess it up. And I wouldn’t know what to do without you either.”
Henry clapped his hands together and said, “No more moping. Let’s go meet up with the boys and have some fun.” He patted the top of her head and added, “And don’t think I’m dropping this going home thing. You can’t avoid it forever.”
“Nope. I’ll find a way to get you back to Harper’s Island. Mark my words,” he replied, hopping off the bed and yanking her up behind him.
It figures that it was nine-year-old Madison who provided clarity for Abby in a way that no one else could. The four survivors had been thrown back together for further questioning by the FBI as they prepared to close the case of Harper’s Island. Abby had offered to take Madison for a soda while Shea dealt with the release of some of her father and sister's belongings that had been kept as evidence. Madison had taken Abby’s hand and said, “Mom says Henry was sick and it made him bad, but I still miss him sometimes the way I miss Aunt Trish, Grandpa, and my dad. I know I shouldn’t, but Henry would buy me books and sit and read with me while the rest of the grown-ups ignored me.”
Abby had hugged her and said, “It’s not wrong to miss him. It doesn’t mean you're okay with what he did, or that you even forgive any of it – it just means you’re mourning something you lost.”
“Mom hates him.”
“So do I,” Abby replied. She pushed the hair back out of Madison’s face and added, “But I also miss him all the time.”
The next day, after she had flown back to Los Angeles, she sat down in the café across from her apartment and started to write. She realized she was ready to let go and live her life. Henry had once told her that she couldn’t spend the rest of her life caught up in the tragedy of her past. She wasn’t sure she would ever understand what had happened to Henry, the boy she had grown up with and loved like a brother before she ever knew they were related, but she needed to try to deal with it.
Abby wasn’t sure anyone would actually like what she had to say about the ordeal. For her, it would never be clear-cut or easy. There would always be a part of her that wished she could have saved Henry on that island as much as any of his victims. And there would be another part of her that would never forgive him.
She took a sip of her coffee and started writing, “I once told Henry that I wished he could live on Harper’s Island with me forever, just the two of us, and, in a way, that is how it will always be. I’ll never be able to think about Harper’s Island without thinking of my best friend, Henry Dunn, and what he devolved into."