The cold, jagged blade pierces the delicate skin of her belly. She doubles over in pain; tumbles right off of the bed and onto the hard cement floor face-first. She tries to lift her head to scream, but the effort is far too great, and no words form. Her breaths are just shuddery gasps.
The other two inmates snicker mercilessly as one pockets the bloodied shank. They waltz out of the cell; not a care in the world.
She struggles to pull herself upright but she’s too tired. So, so tired. She needs to rest; close her eyes, if only for a moment. Yes, just a moment ...
“Fancy Face. Hey there, Fancy Face, wakey-wakey,” a very familiar voice calls to her from somewhere nearby. “C’mon now, honey. I need you to open those beautiful green eyes of yours, and look at me, alright?”
She slowly opens her eyes. The cell is awash in blinding white light and she blinks rapidly against the brightness. She lolls her head to the side and spots a figure kneeling at her bedside. When did she get to the bed? Wait, forget the bed. Is that --
“Bo!” She cries out as she gets a better look at the familiar, handsome face that still haunts her dreams every night. “Oh my … Bo, is that really you?”
“It’s me, sweetheart,” he says. He offers her a great big smile; moves to run his finger down the curve of her cheek. “Hello, Fancy Face.”
“Brady, oh god, Brady!” Giant teardrops roll down her face as she claws her way across the cheap, thin mattress. She throws her arms around his neck; hugs him as tightly as she can. She doesn’t feel the pain in her body anymore; she just feels him -- feels those familiar, strong arms cinch around her waist; feels the scruffy whiskers on his chin scrape her face.
She touches his tousled, soft, brown hair; traces the shells of his ears, moves her hands to squeeze his muscular, broad shoulders. He feels so real.
“It’s really you, Bo, it’s you!"
She presses her lips to his in a hungry, desperate kiss. He returns the kiss with equal fervor as she sags against him.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she whispers into his mouth. She tucks her head into the crook of his neck, holding him close. “Am I dead, Bo? Is this heaven?”
“You don’t really think heaven is a crappy, smelly 6-foot by 8-foot prison cell, do you?”
“How can it not be heaven when you’re here with me?”
He smiles gently. “Well, it’s … let’s just say, it’s somewhere in between. You’re not dead, Hope. You actually have a choice, and I’m here to help you make the right one.”
“You mean … I get to choose between life or death? Well, if death means I can be with you, then of course I will choose that. I miss you with every piece of me.”
“I miss you too, Hope. More than words can say.”
“I sense a ‘but’ coming,” she says mournfully.
“But it’s not your time.”
“It’s not your time, Hope. You have too much living left to do. There are so many people who need you, who love you, who depend on you. If they lose you, they’ll fall apart.”
“I did fall apart when I lost you,” she admits. “I was half-mad with grief and there was this intense rage inside of me I had never, ever felt before… I went after Stefano with a gun. I didn’t care about anything anymore; I just wanted his evil eradicated from the world. That’s how I ended up in here.”
“But things worked out the way they were supposed to, right?” Hope says. “Because I’m here with you. Where I belong. I choose forever with you, Brady.”
“No, Fancy Face … not yet.”
“Think of the despair you felt -- the rage; the hurt; the pain that consumed you when you lost me so suddenly. You don’t wish that same kind of anguish on your loved ones left behind, do you?”
“Of course not, but Bo--”
“Hope, not only were you hurt tonight, you lost your freedom; you lost the chance to be close to Shawn D., Ciara, and Claire. Our daughter and granddaughter are both so young and they need you; they need the kind of guidance and love only you can offer them.”
Another tear squeezes from the corner of her eye. “Have I disappointed you, Bo?”
“Hell no. There’s nothing you could ever do to disappoint me.”
He gingerly busses her forehead. “Our family members need you, Hope. Your friends need you. So does the rest of Salem. They need your protection and your caring. You’ve got to live, Fancy Face. There is so much left for you to do.”
“I miss you, Brady. I’ve put up this façade, this front that I’m alright, that I’m strong, but it’s a lie. The only time I feel at peace is when I’m with -” She breaks off. “Never mind.”
“No, finish that sentence, Hope.”
“I was going to say I feel peaceful again when I’m with Rafe.”
“I’m glad... He’s one lucky SOB to get to be loved by you, you know.”
Hope sniffles. “Love … I don’t know… I care about him so much, but -”
“It’s love, Hope. I know the signs. You don’t have to hide from the way you feel.”
“But I love you too, Bo. I love you with everything I am and everything I ever will be. I don’t want you to go.”
“I know, but I have to. And for the record, I love you too. A helluva lot. You’re my soulmate.”
“And you’re mine.”
“Rafe’s a good man, Hope. I knew before I died that he’d be good to you; that I could trust your amazing heart in his hands. Plus, if he ever messes up, I will haunt him!”
Hope laughs, nuzzles his cheek. “You really won’t let me go with you?”
He shakes his head. "You’re needed here now, but someday… We’ll be together again. You can take that to the bank.”
“Yeah, Fancy Face?”
“Is - is Zack -”
Bo nods, cupping her face in his hands. “He’s up there, Hope. He’s with me and our many family members long past, and he’s happy. He’s free and he’s strong and can roam eternity to his heart’s content without fear of danger or hurt.”
Hope buries her face in the stiff fabric of his leather jacket for a moment and allows that knowledge to truly sink in. Her baby, her sweet little baby boy, is with his daddy and he’s happy. What more could she ever ask for in the whole world?
Bo presses a kiss to her forehead. “Fancy Face, it’s time,” he says gently. “It’s time for me to go and for you to-”
“Don’t go yet, Bo. Not so soon. Please,” she implores.
“I’ve got to, Hope. It’s time for me, but not for you. We’ll be together again, someday. I promise. For now, you need to live. No, you need to thrive. You need to be the strong, beautiful, amazing woman you’ve always been… Fancy Face, promise me something.”
She nods. “Anything.”
“Promise me that as soon as I’m gone, you’ll wake up and fight this. Fight like hell to get out of this cell and find help. Promise me you’ll live again.”
Hope stares at him, kisses him gently one more time. She tastes salt on his lips. He’s crying too. “I - I promise,” she says.
He brushes her cheek. “Goodbye, Fancy Face.”
She awakens on the bed just where Bo had placed her. She feels immediate pain in her stomach, but also a surprising new resolve in her heart. She is determined that not only will she get out of here; she will live. No, she will thrive, just as he wanted her to.
She will make Bo so proud.