Another update!

Posted: June 22, 2010 in June
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I am at 56 pages typed! Holy crap!

“I have the girl you love, and unless you do as I say you’ll never see her again,” I hear a man say as I sit in a darkened room. I can’t see my attacker. I don’t even know who he’s talking to. And then my worst fears come true. I hear the person on the other line.

            “Who do you have?!” I hear him say. I recognize the voice immediately. It’s the voice of my best friend.

            A voice from nowhere laughs hysterically. “He doesn’t even know who you are!” The man keeps laughing as I hear my best friend panic and start breathing loudly. I can tell he’s worried, but how can he not know who I am.

            I can’t find my voice to protest. I don’t even know if I’ve been gagged. I can just feel the pain of his desperation of not knowing who the man has.

            “Please! Who do you have?” he pleads. “Please tell me! I’ll do anything!” But it’s too late; I can feel the cold end of my life coming. The pain swells and I can feel the wet trail of tears streaming down my face.

            “He doesn’t even know who you are,” the man says harshly. “And you can’t even find it in yourself to tell him, pathetic.”

            But he’s right. I can’t find my voice in all the pain that’s filled my body. The pain and sorrow has crushed me completely.

            I feel the cold hard end of some weapon prod me. “Tell him your name.”

            But I still can’t find my voice. I can’t make a sound at all. I just sit and wait for the end knowing I have nothing to live for anymore.

            “Please tell me who you are!” he screams.

            “You won’t even tell him knowing you’re going to die if you don’t?” the stranger asks.

            All I can do is shack my head no. I don’t think I could ever hurt him so much as to let him think it was his fault that I died. I want it to be my fault.

            The stranger raises the gun to my head and pulls the trigger. I hear the bang, and one small hint of someone yelling no. It’s ended, gone forever. I can’t hurt him anymore.

            “Where am I?” I meant it as in heaven or hell. The answer I got surprised me thoroughly.

            “Oh my gosh, we thought you’d never wake up,” a lady said. I didn’t recognize the voice though. “You’re in Phoenix General Hospital sweetie,” she told me.

            I hadn’t opened my eyes yet, I didn’t know if I wanted to see where I was before. Now I snapped them open. The lady I talked to was an older woman in a nurse’s uniform. She had soft blond hair with touches of gray in it. She was probably in her mid to late forties. I could see the smoke lines around her mouth, a smoker. Surprisingly it didn’t look like it had affected how she looked, much.

            “Oh, your eyes are so pretty,” she gushed, “such a beautiful shade of blue.”

            “How did I get here?”

            “Well, you were shot. The police got there quick enough that they were able to find you there, but you were alone. Someone shot you in the head behind the ear. But somehow it didn’t hit your brain. They were able to save you. But we had to shave off your beautiful hair,” she said sadly handing me a braided ponytail. I guess it use to be my hair. I looked at it, confused. “I was the one who shaved your head. I couldn’t just shave it all off and not leave some of it for you to remember,” she smiled. “It still hasn’t all grown back; we had to keep shaving your head just in case we had to go back in.”

            “Why would I want to remember this?” I asked blankly. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I wasn’t really sure what she meant by “remember”.

            “No, so you can remember your hair!” she laughed. “By the way I am Marie Allen. If you need anything, I am the one to call,” she winked.

            “Um…thank you,” I said. There was one thing that bugged me; I couldn’t remember anything before I woke up in the dark. “Um…can I ask you a really weird question?”

            “Sure honey,” she said a little anxious.

            “Um…who am I?” one of the many questions being listed in my head,

            She sighed sadly. “See that’s a question I can’t help you with. We didn’t know your name or anything when you came in. The creep that took you also pocketed your ids or anyway to identify you. He even burned off your finger prints,” she said her face twisting up in a mask of imaginary pain.

            All that she was telling me finally caught up with me. “Wait, what?! I was shot! How? When? Why?” the words exploded from me.

            “Sh…it’s okay. Temporary memory lost is normal,” Marie explained. “You were shot, we don’t know by whom or for what reason yet. But the police are working on that. For now we just need to focus on simple things,” she smiled, “Do you remember what month or year it is?”

            I thought about for a while, I kept drawing blanks. I could remember the names of months and days, all the small things, but what day, month, or even the year wasn’t coming to me. “No, I can’t remember.” I was getting scared.

            “It’s okay,” Marie soothed me. “We’ll try again later. Can you move any part of your body?” she started looking at my hands then moved to my feet.

            I could wiggle my fingers and toes a bit, that was it. I didn’t want to be in the hospital anymore, the sight of the tubes and such in me made me fill sick. Marie having me trying to move my body got me thinking. She thought I would never wake up, that wasn’t a figure of speech. I’ve been out for a long time.

            “Marie, how long have I been unconscious?” I asked her suddenly.

            She sighed loudly and looked at me with a very serious look on her old face. “Honey you’ve been out for a year,” she said.

            “What?!” I couldn’t believe it. “How can the police be looking for my…my…” I couldn’t think of the correct term for it. The person wasn’t a murderer, not yet.

            “Your shooter?” she suggested.

            “Yeah, how can they still be looking for him? It’s been a year. They won’t find him now,” I said sadly.

            “Don’t loose faith hun’, they’ll find something,” she sighed. I could see she was very attached to my situation. Maybe she’d been the one looking after me this long year. Maybe she lost someone or something.

            “Marie?” I asked softly.

            “Yes, dear?” she smiled.

            “Why are you so nice to me? It can’t be in the job description to be nice to just some stranger that just barely woke up.”

            “Ha ha…no I guess it isn’t,” she smiled. “I never had a daughter, I guess that’s why,” she said quietly as she walked out.

            I suppose she was right about me being like a daughter. For a year she’s taken care of me like I was a baby. And now I can talk. The thought made me laugh. A baby in…in…how old am I? Another question I couldn’t answer on my own.

I tried to remember what happened before I woke up. I didn’t remember anything. I didn’t remember pain or being scared or any of it. I didn’t know anything about myself. I couldn’t see my face, but by the look of the rest of my body I couldn’t have been more than twenty-five. I knew I was older than eighteen, but I wasn’t sure.

It was dark when I woke next. I was breathing hard, like I’d been running my fastest. The monitors were going crazy, beeping so loudly. I tried to calm down, but I kept getting flashes of the dream I had. It had been dark. I didn’t know where I was. I heard a man laughing maniacally. I couldn’t see anything; I didn’t know what was going on either.

Even though I was trying to calm down I couldn’t, remembering the…the…the nightmare made it impossible. My heart monitor beeped louder and louder. I couldn’t calm down; I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I could only hear the man’s laughter.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Marie asked running into the room. She flipped on the lights and I was able to calm myself a little bit more. She stood by the bed checking my monitors and making sure I didn’t hurt myself. “My, you nearly pulled out your I.V. What happened?” she looked worried.

“Nothing, just a bad dream,” I said blankly.

“You don’t look good. What was it about?”

“I…I don’t know,” I stammered. “It was just dark and then there was a man that I couldn’t see, and he was laughing and I didn’t know why,” I noticed the emotion in my voice and the wetness of my eyes. I tried to control my emotions. Why would this dream cause me to feel so…scared?

“It’s okay, honey. It was just a dream,” Marie said hugging me like a little kid.

Days passed in the same motion, Marie coming in to talk to me, never getting any closer to who I am or rather who I was. I sat in silence for hours for a lot, just trying to figure out what happened and sort through things. Not knowing what to do or what happened and why killed me the most.

My nightmares got worse too. Each night the same nightmare, again and again and again. The first night with just the man laughing seemed to only be the beginning of the story. I didn’t know who he was or why he was laughing so evilly, but he kept coming back to haunt me. Soon my nightmare started getting more and more detailed. I eventually could see the extreme dark of a room that was foreign to me. I could only really make out the outlines and shapes of things like chairs and a table. Then there was the cold, like it was winter or very damp and cold, like a cave or something.

“Okay honey. It’s time to start your physical therapy,” Marie said as she walked into my room looking kind of sad.

“What’s wrong? Isn’t it going to be a good thing that I will be able to walk again soon?” I asked.

“Yes dear, but this part of my job always kills me. Having to just watch while some poor little thing struggling so much,” she said frowning.

“Don’t worry Marie, it’ll be okay. Sure it will be hard at first, but I’ll get it eventually,” I smiled. I didn’t anticipate that my physical therapy would include a lot of falling and being reacquainted with pain and bruises.

It took me a very long time to just be able to grip the metal bars to support myself, with someone holding me up. I continually got more and more frustrated with myself. I knew I could do this. I had to. It had been weeks of this torture. I was just so tired of it.

“Honey, are you okay?” Marie asked as she helped me off the ground, again.

“Yeah,” I said fighting back the tears of pain. I looked at my hand and could see where I tried to catch myself on it. I only accomplished tearing my nail off. Blood was oozing out of my finger, pain pulsing through it.

“Oh no,” Marie sighed. “Not again. How many is this then? Three?” she asked counting to herself as she wrapped my finger in gauze.

“No, this is the first one to actually take the nail off,” I said calmly. I had gotten use to having to deal with self inflicted pain by now. I fell a lot.

“Honey, are you getting enough sleep?” Marie asked. It seemed like a very random question to ask right now. “Your eyes look really dark and tired, like you’re not getting enough sleep,” she explained.

“Um, I really don’t know. I have nightmares every night.”

“You never told me that,” she said alarmed.

“Why should I bother you with my stupid dreams,” I said calmly. “You don’t need to see what goes on in my head,” I assured her.

“No, honey. Those nightmares could be something that’s happened to you before…the accident,” she said. She stopped to think of the right word for what happened to me.

“Marie, we both know that this was no accident,” I said pointing to my head.

She only sighed. Somehow she had forgiven the stranger who shot me. Personally I felt obligated to hold a grudge. I decided to change the subject; she didn’t like to see me thinking about what happened too much.

“Marie, I think we should come up with a name for me,” I said feeling really random for saying something so stupid. I really didn’t care much about a name. She could call me Honey or Stupid, or well really anything. I would answer. Then I thought about this question. What if she got upset with me for wanting a real name? Would she think I didn’t like her calling me Honey? Truthfully I felt like a dog, just having sort of a nickname.

“Okay,” she smiled. She didn’t seem offended that I wanted a name, but pleased that I was just thinking about something else rather than my “accident”. “What should we name you?” she thought out loud. I really didn’t have any ideas of names that I wanted, I’d never really thought about it.

“Why don’t we call her Mary? It’s a common name,” another nurse asked. There were at least five other nurses in the physical therapy room with us and they all had been listening.

“No, that names to bland for this girl,” another nurse who’s name tag actually read Mary said. “We need something spicy for her,” she smiled.

“Sam,” another thought to herself.

“No, still to plain,” Mary said again.

“Why don’t we call her Sway,” a younger, quieter nurse asked. “It’s not a common name, and she sways a lot when she tries to walk.”

“I like it,” Mary said loudly.

“What do you think honey?” Marie asked me.

“Sway?” I thought to myself for a second. “I like it,” I smiled. I hadn’t realized how much actually getting a real name of my own really meant to me. It seemed like some of the lost pieces were coming back.

“I have the girl you love, and unless you do as I say you’ll never see her again.” It’s dark again, too cold and depressing. I feel the same uncertainty of what’s gong on and where I am. “I have the girl you love, and unless you do as I say you’ll never see her again,” I hear the man say again. “Pathetic,” I start to feel my breath accelerate.

“He doesn’t even know who you are,” the man says harshly. “And you can’t even find it in yourself to tell him, pathetic.” No, no, not again. I can feel the depression closing in on me again, the pain taking over my entire body. My breathing is too rapid; I can’t get enough air in.

“Please tell me who you are!” I hear another man screaming. I can’t concentrate anymore I can only feel the despair filling me. I feel the cold hard end of some weapon prod me. My breathing is out of control; I can’t slow it down. My breaths come in sharp painful gasped. The stranger raises the gun to my head and pulls the trigger.

“NO!” I scream sitting up in bed. My breathing is still out of control. Out of the corner of my eye I can see a dark figure. I hear the man laugh. “No, no! He’s in my room!” I scream in my head. I see a letter opener next to my bed that Marie left. I picked it up and throw it at the man as hard as I could manage. Nothing happens though.

“Sway! What’s wrong?!” Marie practically screams as she runs into the room. She stops short of my bed though. She stares at the wall. I hadn’t answered her; I was staring at the wall where the man had been. He was gone, but the letter opener was stuck in the wall as deep as it could go. “Did you do that?” she asked. She didn’t seem mad which surprised me. I could only nod fearing that my voice would shake too much.

She didn’t say anything; she just stared for a long time at the wall and the letter opener. Then she turned and stared at me. I knew that I shouldn’t be able to do things like this yet. I had just started physical therapy and I couldn’t even walk yet. I shouldn’t be throwing things into walls. We both knew this, but we both didn’t know what to do. So we just sat in silence for a long time.

Marie eventually left. She waited for my heart monitor to slow down and for my breathing to slow. After I calmed down she just left without another word. She didn’t even ask me what my dream had been about.

What had happened? I saw him. He was here, in my room. I saw him. He was here. He had to be. He had to be…

“Sway, what happened last night?” Marie asked me the next day in physical therapy.

“I don’t know,” I said bluntly. I was having trouble walking again today. I’d fallen too many times to even want to get back up and try again.

“Sway, I know something happened last night. Why are you wasting your time pretending you still can’t walk?” she sounded angry now.

“I am not pretending!” I cried. I wanted to walk, I wanted to move on, I wanted to get my life back to some what normalcy.

            “Then walk, I know you can!”

            “I am trying!” I screamed.

            “Sway, you threw that letter opener into the wall last night, compared to that this should be so easy for you!”

            “I am trying,” I screamed again.

            “No, you’re not,” she said angrily.

            “How do you know if I am trying or not?! I am! I don’t like being stuck in a bed all day not knowing what happened or if I’ll be able to walk again!” My anger overflowed. I just couldn’t take this anymore!

            Suddenly she seemed to smile. What the crap is she like bipolar today or something? It only made me angrier. Then she seemed to realize that I didn’t understand. “Sway, look down,” she said happily.

            I sighed and looked down waiting for more depression to hit seeing that I still couldn’t walk. But I didn’t see that. I was standing, not sitting, but standing, on my own.

            “Oh my gosh!” I gasped. “I can’t believe it!” I screamed.

            “Try walking to me love,” Marie encouraged.

            I tried to walk, I took it slowly. I knew if I didn’t concentrate I would fall again. Slowly I moved my legs in her direction, making sure to move slowly enough that I wouldn’t trip on my own feet. I finally reached her, exhausted from the movement so sadly forgotten for so long.

            “I knew you could do it!” she cried as she hugged me. I could see tears in her eyes.

            “What happens now?” I asked unsure of what would happen when I could walk on my own.

            The frown only grew more. “Well once you are strong enough to take care of yourself, the hospital will release you,” she explained.

            “But where will I go?” I asked sitting down again.

            “That’s all up to you honey. No one has come to calm you as family, and we don’t have any records of you,” she explained while taking the IV out of my arm. She frowned even more; the smoke lines on her face became more and more noticeable. “Good news though, you don’t need this anymore,” she smiled pointing to the IV.

            I smiled a little then said, “What will I do?” I said aloud more thinking to myself than anything.

            I spent most of the rest of the day pondering the stupid question. If I didn’t have anywhere to go what would I do? I couldn’t just keep mooching off of Marie. I had no memory of what I had done before the shooting. I didn’t even remember any people.

            I went to sleep that night worried that I might never fully be independent again. I didn’t have a clue of what I could possible do to continue my life. If I could figure something out saving my life would have been a big waste.

            My nightmares had only been the worse part of my new existence. I always feared falling asleep. I never knew what was lurking in the shadows of my scarred mind.

            “Please tell me how you are?” I heard him pleading in my dream. I knew the voice immediately, I knew it was the man I loved, but I didn’t know who he was or what he looked like. “Who are you….who are you…” the question repeated itself over and over again inside my head like a broken record. It wasn’t the usual nightmare, but it scared me just the same, unknown things that I couldn’t account for.

            “But, who are you?” the question startled me. It hadn’t been asked by the man, but by me. It was the first time I had actually been able to speak in my own dream.

            “You know who I am,” he answered. I still couldn’t see his face, but the voice seemed to be burned into my mind now. I had to find him, had to try to find him anyway. He could be the key to finding my past that was locked away inside my head. “You know who I am…”

            “Ah!” I gasp as I sit up in my bed. I looked up to the clock on the wall. It was three in the morning. I was still drowsy from my lack of sleep, but my mind wouldn’t let me rest. “You know who I am…” his words continuously circled in my mind. His voice burned into my mind, so deep but it seemed almost musical. Like I had heard his voice so many times in my life that it was just something that was supposes to be there. Something I had to know.

            I had to find him. I had to try. I wouldn’t give up, I would find him. Even though he didn’t know who I was, I knew I was going to find him.

            I looked up at the clock now, I hadn’t realized I’d been spacing out and really thinking about the dream for so long. It was almost five in the morning. Marie would be in soon to check on me. Then at seven we would do more physical therapy. I didn’t dread physical therapy that much anymore, ever since I was able to start walking things seemed to get easier.

            “Sway, what’s wrong with you today?” Marie asked me while I absent mindedly walked slowly through the maze of bars used to help support us. They were white, but not bright and blinding. They were dingy from so many years of people struggling to get their mobility back. I felt bad now; I didn’t even try to support myself on them. I didn’t feel a need to. If I was going to fall, I was going to fall. But instead of getting discouraged I would just get back up.

            It had been a couple of days since I was able to walk on my own. I was exhausted now though. Not only from the physical strain but the mental too. I was probably getting four hours of sleep every night. But within those four hours were my usual nightmares playing over and over again. Deep blue and black bruises were always under my eyes.

            “Sway?” Marie asked again.

            “Huh?” I hadn’t been paying attention. For some reason playing around the support bars reminded me of ballet. Random thoughts like these came to my mind often. Sometimes they surprised me.

            “I asked if you were okay.” Marie said irritation coating her voice. I had become a teenager to her now in my child cycle. She would be mad with me for a while now. I wouldn’t tell her everything anymore. I use to discuss my dreams with her, but now I found no real point in telling her about them. They were the same dreams over and over again.

            Marie sighed loudly when I didn’t answer. “Sway, the hospital is going to have to kick you out soon,” she said frowning. “Do you have any idea what you’re going to do?” She sounded like I was a teenager getting ready to leave home for the first time.

            I wasn’t paying attention again though. I was mesmerizing myself with the thoughts of ballet. I tried to stand on my toes like the ballerinas would. “Ow!” I cried as a realized I should do that. I looked at my big toe and saw it turning bright red.

            “Sway! Listen to me!” Marie said sternly. “You need to figure out what you’re going to do! The governments only going to give you like five hundred dollars and that won’t last long,” she practically screamed at me.

            “Why are they giving me five hundred dollars?” The money part had caught my attention.

            “For getting shot. It’s an um…allowance or something like that. But only for this first time,” she warned.

            “Can’t I collect disability?” I asked. That had been my plan for some time; to go on looking for the man in my dreams, only getting bare minimum. I didn’t really eat that much and I could live in a cardboard box for I cared.

            “Well yes, I suppose you can, but I don’t suggest that. You shouldn’t live off of other people. You don’t need a handout,” she raved. Why did this sound familiar to me, like I’d heard it before.

            “Have you told me this before?” I asked.

            “No, I don’t think so. Why?” she sounded very confused by my random question.

            “I don’t know, it sounds familiar,” I explained.

            “Oh, well I don’t know. But you really should consider getting a job of your own. You’re smart Sway, I know you are. If you put yourself up to something, I know you could do it,” she said.

            This sounded a lot like a lecture I’d heard before from someone else. I didn’t like it. I had my plan, she should just accept that. If I didn’t want to work and just wanted to search for the man who matched the voice in my head, then that’s what I should do. I knew it would help me find more out about my past.

            “Sway, do what ever you want. It’s your life. You can live it which ever way you want. Just don’t come crying to me when you fall flat on your butt,” she said harshly as she stormed away.

            “Okay, I will,” I said to myself. I knew what I was going to do I just had to do it. I knew if I ended up on the streets begging it wouldn’t matter much to me. As long as I eventually found him I didn’t care much what happened to me.

            Marie was right; the hospital was giving me the boot. That very day the general manager of the hospital came to me and told me to get out. I was too much of an expense to keep. As promised the government gave me the five hundred dollars. I asked the person who brought me the check if I was able to register for disability.

            “Do you have any disabilities from the “accident”?” he asked me. I still hated how people considered the incident an accident.

            “Yeah I have troubles remembering things now,” I said slowly. I didn’t have troubles remembering, I could remember things perfectly, but I had to be able to get this.

            “Um…okay. Come in with me and we’ll test you for it.” I could hear the doubt coating his tone. I wouldn’t have to try really hard, but I would have to focus hard on what I was trying to do.

            The man, his name was Rodger (a typical kind of government name), took me to a headquarters for the Phoenix area of disability. They had me look at colors and numbers and try to remember what they were. “Um…red I think,” I said for the green card. “Five?” for the thirteen. Like I had thought it wasn’t hard to fool them. They decided to give me eight hundred dollars every month, but I would have to settle in one place in order to collect it.

I decided to rent a post office box in the Phoenix area to a phony address that did exist. I also bought a prepaid cell phone so I would have a phone number for the forms. Everything seemed to be going to plan, but I still needed to figure out where to start my search for this man I didn’t know. If they thought I had a permanent home here in Phoenix didn’t mean I couldn’t “travel”.

            My next stop was the police department; I wanted to see how far they had gotten on my case while I was out and see if they had any clue to where my mystery man was. My case had been closed a long time ago. After they had seen I would survive after the first month they stopped looking for my “shooter” along the few cold trails they had found. They didn’t even know my name, they couldn’t help me much. But they were nice enough to give me a copy of the files for my “scrap book”. I told them I was making it to try and figure out who I was. (Why was it so easy for me to fool all the federal people? They couldn’t think I was seriously that interested in figuring out who I was over who my “shooter” was.)

            I got a hotel room for cheap the first night out on my own. I wasn’t too worried about money, yet. The government gave me the five hundred dollars of allowance, know I realized it was because the police hadn’t done anything to help with my case at all, and had given me the first thousand for this month.

I read the file trying to find bits of information the police maybe missed. Nothing seemed to be anything important or popped out at me as significant. All that was there were the address and the date of the incident with a complete list of all my injuries. The date stuck out to me, January 10th, 2013, what was the date today? I couldn’t remember. I found the receipt from the check in desk down in the lobby of the hotel. March, 20th, 2014, just over a year…a year since he last spoke to me. Why didn’t I just tell him who I was? Why couldn’t I?

But should I blame him for not knowing who I was straight off? No, I won’t do that. I don’t know who he is or what he was to me…But the man said some boyfriend…Is he my boyfriend, well I suppose I should say was he my boyfriend…I don’t understand I a lot of this, but that’s why I am looking for him isn’t it? He has to know me…doesn’t he?

I mean why wouldn’t he? The man called him my boyfriend. If the man could know we were together or mistake us for a couple we had to be at least close friends…How else would someone make a mistake like that? Was it even a mistake? Could the man I am looking for have pretended not to know me for some strange unknown reason?

But why would he do that? He sounded horrified that I was being harmed. How could he pretend like that? Was he even pretending?

            The alarm clock went off now, playing some unfamiliar radio station very loudly. I had set it for five in the morning, I wanted an early start. I hadn’t realized I’d been reading the file and rereading it for so long. I hadn’t slept at all. “Great,” I mumbled to myself. “What am I going to do now?” I thought out loud. I suppose I could go back to the old warehouse where the found me. The file had the address.

            I jumped back onto the bed searching for the right paper in the mess spread across my unused in bed. “Where is it?” Did they have enough stupid and pointless papers in this file? “AH!” I said aloud as I found the right page. “1256 21st street…” I thought out loud. The name was unfamiliar to me. Or at least right now it was.

            The area where the warehouse was looked run down, the ghetto. Off from the main highways and about fifteen minutes from really anything. This would be a perfect place to take a hostage or victim. No one would hear you screaming over the machines, even if there was anyone here to hear the screams.

            My warehouse was at the end of the road, a dead end sign right next to it. I had to laugh at that one; the place of my demise, it was even labeled for me. It seemed no business would have anything to do with this warehouse now, after a “murder” like mine, no business signs or anything.

            The doors looked like they had tried to be locked, but someone had cut the locks and chains off already. “Hmmm…that’s convenient,” I said to myself. Either my attacker had cut this himself, or someone came investigating after it all had happened. I pushed the door open; it was heavy and rusted shut a little bit. I looked inside it was dark, just like the dreams. No windows whatsoever, no light could come in through the doors, they faced the wrong way.

            I walked inside, hoping to find a light switch or something, but after ten minutes of feeling my way across the walls I couldn’t find one and gave up. My eyes had adjusted to the lighting by now. I left the door open and only the first three feet in or so was dimly lit.

It was cold, just like the nightmares. Cold, quiet, dark…“I have the girl you love, and unless you do as I say you’ll never see her again.” The flashes of the nightmares cloud my mind. “I have the girl you love, and unless you do as I say you’ll never see her again,” I hear the man say again. “Pathetic,” I start to feel my breath accelerate.

“He doesn’t even know who you are,” the man says harshly. “And you can’t even find it in yourself to tell him, pathetic.” I can feel the depression closing in on me again, the pain taking over my entire body. My breathing is too rapid; I can’t get enough air in. I can only taste the nasty dusty, dry of the warehouse.

“Please tell me who you are!” I hear another man screaming. I can’t concentrate anymore I can only feel the despair filling me. I feel the cold hard end of some weapon prod me. I turn in a circle trying to find the stranger hurting me. My breaths come in sharp painful gasped. I know the end is coming, but I have to find him.

Suddenly it seems to get darker; the scene of the room changes and the only light seems to be coming from over me. I look up but there’s nothing there. I look back down at the floor then. But now there’s a chair sitting directly under the light. I am tied to it, but yet I am standing next to it looking at me. I see a movement now, in the shadows of the warehouse. It’s still too dark for me to see who the figure is, but I assume he is the stranger that shot me. I can only make out vague details like his height but I think all so he had long, greasy blond hair.

“You won’t even tell him knowing you’re going to die if you don’t?” the stranger asks.

I look at myself, as if I didn’t know the ending to this story. I see myself trying to see the stranger in front of me, but a look of despair and defeat is clear on my face. I can feel the pain echoing in myself, remembering again the sadness of knowing the man I loved didn’t know I loved him. And knowing he didn’t have any feelings to compare to mine.

I mirror myself now. I have the same look and feelings, but the same small sad tears are flowing down my face now too. I look up to see the stranger step closer, I see him raise the gun to my head, I see him almost frown, I see him pull the trigger. I look at myself; my head is a bloody mess. My blood races down my entire body and pools on the floor. In all of this I hear the angel’s voice on the phone, “NO! Don’t you dare hurt her!” I hear him slur a string of curses at the stranger. He had to be pretending to not know who I am then, to be so upset with the stranger. “How dare YOU! I will hunt you down and kill you myself with my bare hands!”

“I am not scared kid,” the stranger saws leaning over my body, assuming I am dead, looking at my face. He takes a lighter and starts to burn off my finger prints. I feel the scorching pain run through my fingers. I almost scream, but somehow hold it in while tears run down my face. “She couldn’t have loved you,” he whispers, “She didn’t say a word. I saved you a lot of trouble with this one!” he almost shouts.

“I didn’t ask for your help! I’ll get you both for this Keith!” the angel shouts.

“You should be happy, now there’s nothing standing in her way,” the stranger says. “You know she has a plan for you,” he says. “I suppose that doesn’t matter now. I’ll be seeing you soon, Lee.”

My “dream” fades out. I gasp. I hadn’t been breathing this whole time. Lee, his name is Lee! I can’t remember anyone named Lee. But I don’t care! He loves me! He loves me! I am breathing hard now, but I am so over come with joy at my discovery I don’t care now! He loves me! Lee loves me!

Okay, think now, I think to myself. “He called the stranger Keith…I suppose that’s a place to start. And Lee…I knew his name now. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I have to get some sleep, I suddenly thought to myself. I noticed the walls were moving around me. I had to get back to my hotel.

Everything moved in a blur, I don’t even remember most of the way back to my hotel. I remember running, running till my legs hurt and it felt like acid ran through my veins. I kept running though. Every time I tried to stop I could hear Keith’s laughter and see him calling my pathetic. I kept running, running, letting the pain burn through me, push me on…it seemed like my nightmares were chasing me.

I suddenly sat up in bed, sweat pouring off my face, I think even a few tears where hiding in the liquid. Was it all just a dream? It couldn’t have just been another nightmare…it had to be real. The memories, the sear pain of it all. I looked at the alarm clock next to my bed. In big bright red letters it read 5:30 pm, March 20, 2014. No it couldn’t have all been a dream. I left my room at about five in the morning that very day. I was out for about twelve hours. But I’d been asleep for some of it. Memories of the warehouse flooded back to me. “Lee…”I said out loud. It couldn’t have been another nightmare; it was too real, too painful.

I remember the pain and examine my hands. I could see the little scars the lighter left where my finger prints were burned. Never could I be me again. I couldn’t even figure out who me was. I suppose I should be happy I was unconscious when Keith did this to me.

But what did Keith mean by “she has a plan for you”? Who was she? I don’t think it could be me…could it?

But then also I couldn’t even be sure Lee loved me. He didn’t say he did. Keith only said I couldn’t have loved him. Why didn’t I say anything?! What did Keith mean by “nothing’s standing in your way now”? Too many questions to count, but the number one on my list was how was I going to find Lee? Surely he could help me. He had to be looking for Keith, but would he be looking for me? Did he know I was still alive? I couldn’t answer that one. But I knew someone who could.

The next morning I went back to the hospital. I had the front desk page Marie. She turned the corner and saw me. She came up to me quickly with a look of worry on her face. “What’s wrong? Are you alright? You look horrible, have you been sleeping?”

I just laughed a little. “Yes Marie, I am fine. Nothing’s wrong with my health. I am fine.” I reassured her. “I just needed to ask you a question if that’s alright?” I told her.

“Yes, honey. What do you need?” She seemed more like herself now, smiling and calm.

“Some information,” I smiled. “Is there anyway that the public knows about me? Newspaper articles, T.V., anything?”

“Yes, dear, but I am not sure if I should tell you…” she said hesitantly.

“Why not? Did it not help?” I didn’t know what I would do if Marie couldn’t help me.

“Alright, against my better judgment I am going to show you,” she said taking my hand and leading me down a corridor. She took me to the nurses’ room, full of lockers and changing rooms. She went start to her locker and pulled out some papers. “Alright, this is everything,” she explained. “The newspaper articles…and a letter we got after about two weeks…” she said. The articles had been put in protective pockets and the letter looked like it had been read many times.

“Where’s the envelope?” I asked.

She sighed. “It didn’t come in an envelope. The boy that brought it left it at the desk. We don’t know who he is. I am sorry honey it’s all I have that can help you,” she smiled.

“Marie, you have to get me the security tape for that day!” I begged.

“Sway, I can’t do that,” she said firmly.

“Please…” I whispered. I was begging. I need to get that tape. If I could just see him maybe I would remember!

“Honey I could get fired,” Marie said softly. “I only have three years left until retirement; I can’t screw it up now.”

“Please, Marie. You have to help me…I have to find him.”

“Sway, go home and read the letter and the articles. Come back tomorrow and I might be able to help you. Might,” she said firmly emphasizing that she might be able to help, but probably won’t.

I went home and sat on my bed, just staring at the articles and the letter. I was scared to read the letter really. What if he said he never wanted to see me again? What if it wasn’t the right man? I decided to pick through the articles first.

They were just what were to be expected, full of information I already knew. Things like the date, how people had no idea who I was, and no leads on capturing the attempted murderer. There was nothing at all helpful to me, very depressing. The only think said that might have made him know I was alive was a small paragraph at the bottom of the last paragraph. It said that “the hospital had no idea who I was. If anyone could help identify me to please come in and tell Marie Allen.”

That must be where the letter came in. I didn’t want to read it. I was truly scared to see what this man could have said. The letter was worn and old. Marie must have read it a lot.

I opened it; I see why Marie read it so many times. She was trying to read it! The handwriting was so messy and scribbled out the writer must have been very upset or something when he was writing it. It said:

Please don’t tell her I wrote this. I don’t think she ever needs to see me again. She deserves much better than me. Don’t worry about her to o much. She can take care of herself. She doesn’t sleep much. Be careful of her dreams. They tend to tell her things. I hope they don’t tell her of me. I can never forgive myself for what happened to her because of my stupidity. If she wakes get her out of Phoenix.  Send her somewhere cooler. She likes the cold.  Don’t let her go after him herself. She’s too predictable for that.

I was crying by the end. It was Lee. I was sure of it. Only he could write something so depressing and loving at the same time. I remembered him more now. The way he was always so depressed yet happy at the same time. The way his writing could make you cry, laugh, and love him all at the same time. It seemed during all of this I could just feel the scares on my heart pulsing. Did he break my heart? Wasn’t he just trying to protect me? Or was I just too stupid not to listen to his warnings?

I looked at my phone now. No one called me. I hadn’t given anyone, not even Marie, the number to my cell phone. I don’t know why I looked at it. I opened it. I hadn’t really changed anything on it from the original settings. I hadn’t even taken any pictures with it.

I went to my contacts page. No one was there. No emergency number, no friends, nothing. I found the number on the papers that had Marie’s extension at the hospital. If anything did happen to me she should probably be the one to find out. She was like a mother to me…

I closed the phone and realized it was getting fairly late. I didn’t want to do the all night schedule again. I was still exhausted from the nights before. I was about to climb into bed and try to fall asleep when something shiny caught my eye.

It was the letter Lee had given the hospital. It had a sticker on it that was used to close it. It had a larger golden W on it. Had he done this on purpose? To try and give me clues? The only hotel I could think of that had a W like this one was the Windermere Hotel. I had to find the right hotel now.

I jumped out of bed and found the phone book in the first drawer of the nightstand by my bed. I flipped to H for hotels and searched. The Windermere only had two hotels here in Phoenix. Surprising. I would have to check them both. But how? I only know his first name, or at least I think it’s his first name. It could just be a nickname. I would have to think this one through.

The next morning I went to the first Windermere. I choose the one between the hospital and the warehouse first. The other hotel was on the far side of town.

I pretended to be a guest and sat in the lobby pretending to read a book. I watched the employees, watched how the clocked in, how they talked to each other, how they did everything. “Amazing that they put that big mirror right behind them,” I thought to myself. Behind the desk and where the employees stood there was a huge mirror. I suppose it was to monitor guests or something. Maybe they just thought it looked pretty. It was just a regular mirror, flat, not rounded like the surveillance mirrors. I would have to find out more about that one.

Opportunity came in from of a coffee and smoke break for most of the workers. I walked up to the desk where one single young man was left to watch the lobby. “Excuse me, but I’ve been wondering, what’s that big mirror back there for? It’s just so pretty!” I gushed.

He blushed a little, embarrassed about something. “Yes ma’am it is very pretty. Honestly though, I don’t know why the owner put it out here!” he complained. “The big thing doesn’t stop until the floor, and I keep tripping over it! All of us do!”

“Oh, I am so sorry. Did you hurt yourself?” I asked running my hand up is arm. His blush got even bigger then.

“Oh no ma’am, I am fine,” he explained trying to make his voice deeper.

“Oh, well I suppose it takes more than a silly big mirror to hurt a big, strong man like you,” I smiled. “That is very odd though,” I continued. “It doesn’t serve any security purpose?” I asked acting as if the mirror were the enemy now.

“No, ma’am it doesn’t. I asked that too, but…” he trailed off.

“Hmm…well that’s a shame, if it’s just a mirror they should move it out here somewhere,” I said motioning to the lobby. “Well I suppose I should let you get back to work…”I smiled. I walked towards the door without another word, feeling him stare after me.

Well at least I got the information I needed. I didn’t like resorting to the flirting tactic. But at least it worked. I wonder if it would work again…I turned suddenly surprising myself.

“I am sorry but I am wondering if you can help me with something else,” I said batting my eyelashes.

“Y…yes?” he stuttered.

“I am trying to find someone, he’s my cousin, and he stayed in this hotel about a year ago,” I said sadly.

“Oh, I don’t know if I cold help you with that,” he says embarrassed again.

“Please,” I ask acting like I am begging.

He looks at the clock behind him, then turns back to me. “Okay, but you owe me,” he said looking at the computer. “What’s the last name?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I know his name is Lee, it was around January 10th,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, “makes things a little difficult.” He was typing furiously now. I hadn’t even looked at his name tag yet, it was bright and flashy with the name Milo shinning at me.

“Okay!” he said loudly, scaring me a little. “There’s only one man with the first name of Lee who stayed here during that week,” he said sounding proud of himself.

“What age?” I asked. That was the only thing I could really count on.

“Um…paid with a credit card, drives license says twenty-three.”

“That’s him,” I mused. “Can you print it for me?” I asked.

“Sure, but what are you going to do for me?” he asked.

“How about a dinner?” I asked.

“And a movie,” he said.

“Okay,” I had to just smile at this. I hated to have to flirt my way through this but it worked very well.

“So, what is your name?” he asked as the printer slowly printed my glorious information.

“Sway,” I said slowly.

“That’s a weird name,” he commented. “Sway what?”

“Just Sway,” I smiled.

“How does that work?” he asked handing me the form.

“Maybe I’ll tell you about it on our date,” I smiled.

“Okay,” he smiled. I barely could focus for some reason now, his smile was so bright and he was awfully cute…He handed me a card then. It was a card with the hotel information on it. I flipped it over and found that he had written his cell phone number on it. “Call or text me sometime,” he smiled.

“Okay,” I hesitated for a moment wondering if I really wanted to do this. I walked away then for real, thinking about how this had happened. But did it really matter? For a moment I felt a giddy sort of butterfly feeling in my stomach, but it passed quickly on to excitement.

I practically ran back to the hotel. Finally I was moving somewhere in finding him! I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to just find him! It would be so great!

I started to get filled with self doubt. What if Lee didn’t want anything to do with me now? What if I wasn’t the same person to him? What if I didn’t find him…? I couldn’t think of that stuff now! I had to find him! There was no question that I wasn’t going to.

“Okay,” I said to myself aloud. “Where to start?” I had overwhelmed myself. Thoughts of finding the last piece to my memory floated through my head. “Okay, focus. Let’s start with an address…” I thought out loud.

I dug through the papers and found the credit card number. Underneath it was the man’s name, Lee Karol. My breathing seemed to come in gasps and was labored as I read down the paper. He lived in a town called Sulfur Springs, I had never heard of it. I was getting so close to finding him! I could barely breathe.

And then the shiny foil from the business card caught my eye. Milo, should I even text him? I didn’t want to call him, I didn’t know if my voice would give anything away to him. I suppose I should, he did help me get the information I needed even though he could have been fired. And I had to admit that I thought he was cute. I guess one date wouldn’t kill me…he did help me…

It was about five o’clock in the afternoon now…I was just sitting on my bed, staring at the phone number. I noticed his handwriting was very neat and elegant, looping in and out of it’s self.

I finally just typed the word hi in a text message and sent it to him. I felt somewhat stupid; I didn’t even write who it was or anything. He probably wouldn’t even answer.

My phone startled me when it went off a few moments later. I had a new text message. For a moment I just stared at my phone. Could this really be happening? I couldn’t just ignore it now. I had taken the plunge by sending that first message.

I flipped my phone open and looked at the message. It said, “Hey, this is Sway right?” He actually remembered my name? I thought he would have forgotten it by now.

I typed, “Yeah, umm…hi.”

“So are we still on for our date?” he asked.

“Sure, when?”

“When is good for you?”

“Whenever, I don’t care.” I felt almost mean about my last message. Did I sound cold or hateful?

“Okay, I am off tomorrow night, how about then?”

“Sure,” I almost couldn’t believe I was doing this. Why was I doing this? It made no sense to me.

“Okay, should I pick you up or meet you somewhere?”

“Uh…I’ll meet you somewhere…” I really didn’t know if he should know I was living in a hotel…

“Okay.” Was it really going to be this easy? It can’t be. No awkward questions about my past, no random things…

I didn’t know what to do now; I didn’t feel like going on with my research on Lee. I didn’t even want to watch TV right now. Everything seemed pointless.

Again my phone scared me when it went off. I flipped it open to find another message from Milo. “I am sorry, I am really bored…what are you doing?”

Odd, I guess this was better than just sitting here…”Nothing, kind of bored myself…”

“Haha yeah I guess it’s just one of those nights. Nothing to do…”
            “Yeah, like nothing seems interesting to do…”

“Haha yeah. What are you thinking about?” Were the random questions starting?

“That’s kind of random…Ummm…nothing really. I guess wondering what I am going to do. You?”

            “Yeah I am kind of random like that. I am thinking about that stupid mirror. Haha!”

            That made me laugh a little. “That’s funny to be thinking about…”

“Yeah I guess so…So who was this guy really?”

            Crap, the question I had been dreading. I really wasn’t sure how I was supposed to answer this…so I just went with it. “Well I really don’t know. I can’t remember anything that happened before last month…I got shot…” If this didn’t scare him away I don’t know what would. Honestly it wouldn’t really bother me if it did.

            A long time passed, I thought maybe he had finally given up. Surprisingly I felt kind of alone suddenly. What if I am just chasing a ghost? Maybe I should start over…not worry about the past. And then my phone went off.

            “Really? What happened?” I think I was glad I couldn’t see him; I don’t think I could handle the facial expressions.

            “I don’t know. The police never caught the guy that shot me. The man I am looking for is supposed to be a friend of mine…”

“So you don’t remember anything. No name, no childhood memories, nothing?”

“No, I don’t know anything about myself.”

“Wow, that’s insane…”

“Yeah. Can you do me a favor?”

“Umm…Sure?”

“It’s nothing bad…I just want to hear about your life. I don’t know what a normal life is like…”

“Oh! Umm…I don’t know my life’s not exciting or anything…”

“It’s okay. I just want to know what a normal life is like…” I explained. I had no idea how a person was suppose to grow up…no memories of parents or siblings, I had nothing to go on…

For hours we talked into the night about Milo’s childhood. He had lived in small Arizona towns most of his life, but decided to go to Phoenix to live with his uncle when his father kicked him out at the age of sixteen. His real name was Milo, but he didn’t like it because he was named after his father. He had one brother that was older than him whom he hadn’t seen in five years now. His mother had left his father went Milo was ten. I couldn’t blame her much though when he described his father as a very mean drunk who would often beat her, his brother and Milo mercilessly (for some reason though she didn’t take her children with her). Milo hadn’t seen his mother in eleven years, he didn’t even know if she was alive.

His happiest memory of his childhood was when he lived with his uncle, his mother’s brother, in Phoenix. His uncle had given him freedoms he never knew with his father. He was allowed to play sports, go on dates, and even stay out as late as he wanted as long as his uncle knew where he was.

After he was done telling me about his childhood we went into what he liked now, his favorite color (which was red), his favorite movies, favorite music (most of which I though was rather boring), and other things of the like. It was getting a little late by the time we got through with all of his favorites…I didn’t know what to say now. I had all of the information I had asked for. I didn’t know if he wanted me to just stop talking to him or go on…He couldn’t really ask me questions about myself, I didn’t even know the answers…

“So do you really think you’ll find him?” he asked after a long pause.

“I hope I do…” I didn’t want to give away too much…what would he think?

“What if he isn’t what you think he is?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t expect much out of him, I just think he’ll help me get more information about me…” I was lying…I knew I was…I really wanted Lee to be my lost link. I hoped he still loved me…I hoped he wanted to be with me…I hoped, I didn’t know if I was hoping for the right thing yet, but I hoped.

“Okay…I hope it works.”

“Yeah, me too…” A change of subject was needed now. What could I talk about? “So what movie do you want to see tomorrow?” This wasn’t the best subject changer, I had no idea what movies were playing right now.

“Oh, there was this comedy I wanted to see, I hope that’s ok…”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I really don’t know what’s playing right now anyway…”

“Haha! That’s okay. Are you sure you don’t want me to pick you up somewhere?”

He was persistent. I guess there’s really no harm in him knowing I was living in a hotel room. “I guess you could pick me up…” Was this a bad idea?

“Okay, where?”

“Ah…the Motel 6 on Main Street…”

“Okay, I’ll pick you up at seven. Nothing too fancy…”

“Okay, see you tomorrow…”

I suppose I should try to get some sleep, I thought to myself after Milo had said good night. I was tired. I could sleep easy now, I finally was moving in a direction in finding Lee. I was going to find him…

It was about midnight when I finally laid down in my bed. The room was dark, probably the darkest I had seen it. I hadn’t been sleeping much; I always had the light on working on something. Finally a night I could just sleep, I didn’t have to worry about anything. It felt so nice just to lay in the bed finally ready to get some sleep…I drifted off in seconds.

My dreams were off tonight, not the same nightmares from before, new things. I could see flashes of light, hear gun shots. I could feel the cold steel in my hands. The surge of power racing up my arm from shooting the gun…I could also hear screaming…“Zoey, he’s coming, run!”

I sat up in bed again gasping, sweat pouring off me. What could this mean? Had I been a criminal? Did I kill someone?

I don’t think that could be it, I thought to myself later. If I had been a criminal the police would have arrested me. They would have known I was a criminal. What could it mean though? The gun shots…the scream. I couldn’t even tell if it was a woman or a man screaming…

Then I remembered what the person screamed, “Zoey, he’s coming, run!” Was my name Zoey? I rather liked the ring of it…but was it really me or had it been someone else? If it had been my name could I still be Zoey or should I stay Sway? I couldn’t be sure I was the same person…I had to find Lee…He had to help me.

I lay in bed for only a few more minutes and I was asleep again. I had never been able to fall asleep so quickly after a nightmare. Maybe I was curious to try and find out more from my dreams.

The nightmare was the same with only small differences. Still the same cold metallic feeling to it. It seemed smoky almost. Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots. Things swirled just like the smoke. I heard music, some sort of pop song. I smelled the smoke; it smelt almost sweet but had the bitter bite of cigarettes and cigars. The room was dimly lit and had a red tint. I could see my face in a glass; it had some shiny liquid in it. I took a sip, the liquid burned my throat, but the taste was somewhat sweet. That must be the sweet smell.

The room moved around me…swirled more and more. I felt sick. I could barely see the glass anymore. I smelled cigarette smoke again, but it was if someone blew the smoke right into my face. I felt my body relax and come in and out of consciousness. Something pulled at my arms. I heard a door open and close; I could feel cold fresh air in my lungs. I hear a click from a gun…

“No, I need her alive,” a woman said.

“AH!” I sat up in bed again. I looked around to see where I was. The same old motel room. It was getting lighter in the room. I looked over at the alarm clock, 5:30 a.m. I took more deep breaths. How could this still be happening? I found him practically. Why was I still having these nightmares?

I spent my day in a cyber café, looking up Lee’s address. Sulfur Springs wasn’t even a town. It was a region in southern Arizona. There were probably thirty people within its fifty mile area. Finding him would be harder than I thought; any map site I went to had no directions for the area. I looked up the address to see if the road name would even register. It did, the address was the post office in Sulfur Springs. I was amazed now that the credit card had even had the address. How could it just be the post office, why not a P.O. Box? Could he be the post master of the area or something?

I also ran searches on Lee Karol in general. The most I could get for the small area were old police reports; excessive speeding tickets, sent to drivers school, reckless endangerment to his younger siblings when driving (I guess he raised them)…Nothing of extreme like murder…So he was a driver, I wasn’t sure if he could be called a good or bad driver. If he got caught that made him bad I suppose, but the speed…

I did a search for Keith. It proved impossible, there were at least ten Keith’s in the area, maybe. The general word brought up so many things it was stupid to have tried. The police reports were of little help. The small town had at least fifty different reports for “Keith”. Most of them were last names. The only thing that caught my attention was one person’s number of filed reports. A Keith Mulls had sixteen reports of disturbing the peace, five of domestic violence and was arrested for a couple of years after his wife pressed charges. Seemed I had found my shooter. He seemed to fit the personality for it.

I did one last search in the small town police records, Zoey. The search was so indirect I had to run it three times before the site would just tell me there wasn’t anything listed for “Zoey”. That must mean I didn’t have any family there, if anyone had posted a missing persons report it would have been family.

I left the café at around four after seven hours of searching. I just didn’t want to search anymore. I didn’t feel like finding rejection everywhere I looked. I had three hours to cheer myself up so I wouldn’t be a total wreck when Milo came. 

            Seven o’clock came, it went. Milo never showed. No messages, no calls, nothing. I didn’t want to be the weird girl that called or wouldn’t leave you alone after you stood her up, so I didn’t do anything. This day just didn’t seem to ever have a happy ending. What did I do wrong? I found myself thinking. I had to have done something wrong to deceive this…

            I fell asleep that night only to dream the same nightmares, the same dreams distorted, and to have new nightmares. Images of me sitting alone in a corner; the walls are a pale blue, but look almost dark. It’s cold again. I am alone. I try to text anyone really, but nothing will send…no one will respond. Cold, I can feel the ice water crawling up my skin.

            The water rises over my head and despair fills me. No one to safe me now. No one to safe me from drowning in this despair. No one can even safe me from myself…

            Alone again…what am I ever going to do…I guess I could just go on with my search for Lee. It’s really the only thing I can do now. Move on from Phoenix and head south. But to where? I had gone back to the cyber café. Now I was just looking for an escape. Any large city close to Sulfur Springs…

            I felt so odd going through Google Maps, looking at all the possibilities…it felt like I’d done this before. Sulfur Springs wasn’t a spring at all, it was desert. The only town remotely large close to it was a town called Bisbee. It had been a mining town, but when all the miners left the hippies took it over. It was a good sized town. It looked amazing to me; so old, yet so new. This was going to be my new home.

            I went straight to the post office to get information for when I got a new mailing address. They were even nice enough to call the Bisbee office for me and request a post office box for me. Everything was ready for me to leave. Nothing could hold me back here, not even Milo. I checked out of the motel, the room was empty. I didn’t have many things to begin with: a backpack with a weeks worth of clothes in it, my information on Lee and all the rest, and my phone charger. Nothing left here for me.

            I got on a bus going south; I didn’t have time to get lost trying to find Bisbee. I was lucky that there was a direct bus to Bisbee; it was a large tourist attraction. Now I just had about six hours to be by myself; only me and my mind, surely a deadly combination.

            I sat in the back of the bus watching how everyone else acted, what they did, how they looked at each other. I was mesmerized by a young couple who looked so tempted to kiss each other, but knew they should on account of the girl’s mother sitting next to her. The way they stared into each others eyes with such longing, the light touching their very souls captured my every attention, for a while.

I watched the landscape pass by me so fast it made me dizzy. Nothing changed much, desert, bushes, no grass, dirt, wind; what an ugly sight. Then something miraculous happened. The scenery changed into mountains, and grass, not very green, but beautiful. Twists and turns in the road, hills everywhere; such beauty. Over the hills I could make out the city lights in the darkening sky. Excitement jolted through me.

The bus stopped and all of the passengers got out, I stepped out last. I didn’t have to go digging for luggage so I started to walk around. The buildings were amazing: some looked as if they had been built right on top of each other. The city was split into three parts; Bisbee, Old Bisbee and Warren. I was in the area called Old Bisbee and it thrilled me. It was full of odd people; no one looked like a stuffy businessman or snooty librarian! They all wore just casual clothing like me. There were Goths, punks, hippies, and just regular people. I loved it.

I walked through the streets looking at all the shops for tourists. It was amazing all the old buildings had been redone, but still had the classic look to them. I knew I was going to love this place.

I walked up the hills of Old Bisbee until I noticed my stomach growling. I hadn’t eaten in awhile. I probably should find somewhere to get some food. I walked around more trying to find something that sounded good. I found a place called Bella Roma Pizza. It was probably the best pizza I had ever had. Better than any delivery I had gotten.

I sat in the small room of a restaurant watching the other people walking in, ordering, waiting, walking around, coming back, getting their pizza, and leaving. Everyone seemed so free here. As if they had no schedules or responsibilities.

            Some young guys came in. It looked like they were getting pizzas for a party or something. I sat and watched them for a little while. One of them was really good looking; short messy brown hair, about five foot ten, looked muscular, he wore skater shoes and I could see rips in his dark jeans. He had dozens of scars running up and down his arms; he was either very adventurous or very clumsy. And then he turned at looked directly at me. His eyes were the most beautiful milky brown I’d ever seen. He smiled.

            My heart skipped a beat when he started to walk over to me. I could feel the electricity running through me. Could I be getting lucky and have found Lee this easily? I knew this wasn’t the right town but I hoped.

            “Hi,” he smiled, his eyes twinkling a little.

            “Hi,” I smiled; it seemed so natural to smile now. Maybe it was this town. I don’t think I had stopped smiling since I’d got here.

            “I am waiting for my pizza, mind if I sit here and kill some time with you?”

            “Sure,” I smiled. Did I just answer that question right? I thought to myself. Oh well he’s sitting down! The butterflies flew into my stomach again.

            “I am Jace, call me Jace. What’s your name?” he asked.

            “Zoey,” I smiled. I hope this isn’t another thing like Milo. I thought.

            “Cool, where you from?”

            Oh no! Where was I from?! I panicked a little in my head. “Phoenix. You?” Other than the silent panicking in my head this was pretty easy. Why? I’ve never gotten along with someone this quickly…at least not without trying.

            “Here,” he smiled. “So why are you in Bisbee now?” he laughed.

            “I am moving here.”

            “Sweet. Do you know anyone here?” He seemed really interested now…I wonder why…

            “No, I don’t know anyone here…” I smiled anxiously.

            “Oh,” he laughed. “Well do you need someone to show you around?”

            This definitely isn’t another Milo. Jace is way too playful and in person. “That’d be great,” I smiled. “Do you have anyone in mind?”

            “Well as a matter of fact I do,” he smiled. “But before he takes you on your tour of Bisbee he likes to get to know you a little,” he winked.

            “Okay,” I laughed. “What does he want to know?”

            “How old are you?”

            “Well how old is he?” I asked smiling making sure I wasn’t hitting on a sixteen year old when I was probably around twenty myself.

            “No answering with questions,” he laughed, “and he’s twenty,” he smiled.

            “Okay, I am twenty,” at least that’s what I think…I smiled.

            “What’s your favorite food?”

            “Right now, this pizza,” I laughed.

            “Well it is the best pizza around,” he smiled. “What’s your favorite color?”

            “Umm…” What was my favorite color? “Bright green…I really don’t know. They’re all pretty nice,” I giggled. Oh my god I just giggled…I thought to myself. What am I doing?!

            “Your laugh is really cute,” he said randomly. “Yeah, they’re all pretty nice, but yellow, yes yellow has to be the best. Yellow and black,” he smiled. His pizzas where ready then. I saw a look of annoyance cross his face. “Hey I am going to a party right now. Are you doing anything tonight? Would you like to come?”

            “Um…sure,” I smiled getting up from my seat. He’s so spontaneous…I think I like it. I didn’t know anyone besides him really in this town, but I was already having more fun with him than anyone else I knew.

            Walking with his pizzas in one hand and my hand in the other, Jace led me through the winding streets of Bisbee. It was early April and somewhat chilly outside. I really started to regret not having a jacket with me. In Phoenix it had been hot, but in Bisbee it was cold and chilly. Jace noticed me shivering and started walking faster and told me the building was right around the corner.

            True to his word there it was; a dark, tall building that you could hear music pulsing from. Lights in the windows were going crazy. I started to get nervous and think that maybe I shouldn’t do this. Of course Jace noticed my hesitation. “It’s okay,” he whispered in my ear. “Just stay close and don’t loose sight of the drink I give you,” he said emphasizing the I part.

            “Okay…” I stammered.

            “It’ll be fun,” he smiled. “If you aren’t enjoying it just say something and we can leave,” he added seeing my worry. And then he pulled me inside.

            It was insanity inside. People dancing, people going crazy it seemed. But the music, oh the music seemed to draw me in, loud and long techno and electrica songs, underground dance music. Jace noticed my reaction to the music and set the pizzas down and immediately pulled me to the dance floor. We danced for hours it seemed. It felt like I could do this forever. Somebody turned on the fire sprinklers and water ran down my face sending tingles down my spin.

            I loved the lights. Sometimes they would blind me, but more often they lit up the room so beautifully that they seemed to encourage us on in our dancing. Black lights send strange glows up and down us, the strobe lights spinning me around and around, Jace always there smiling at me. Passion and adrenaline burning through my veins and making my head swim. 

            Eventually I noticed the amounts of people leaving. Jace started to slow down our dance, the music growing softer and slower. We slow danced in a circle while everyone else started to leave more quickly.

            “What time is it?” I asked noticing the darkness out side.

            “About two a.m.,” he smiled. “We’ve been here for about five hours. You’re quite a dancer,” he laughed.

            “Oh, thanks, I don’t know abut that…” I had no idea if I looked like a complete idiot or not dancing. The music just took over my body.

            “You looked amazing,” he whispered. I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Why is he being so nice to me? I barely know him. We’re dancing together like this and we met only a few hours ago…”You still look amazing.”

            “Thank you,” I whispered. “Jace, why are you being so nice to me? You barely know me…” I don’t know if I could take anymore disappointment from people. I had gotten plenty of that since I woke up…

            “I guess I am just a nice guy,” he said after a moment of thought. “Are you ready to leave?” he smiled. He looked really tired himself. “Oh I haven’t even asked if you have a place to stay!” he sounded angry at himself.

            “Oh yeah. I forgot about getting a hotel room…” Great, now I have to walk all the way back down there.

            “That’s a long walk back down, and it’s colder outside,” he said slowly as if really seeing if I wanted to go back. I had no other choice really though.

            “Well we had better run then,” I winked.

            “I have a better idea; my house is just down the block. It’s a big house, you can crash at my place tonight,” he sounded too tired to really be hoping to get lucky tonight.

            “Okay, I guess I really didn’t want to walk back down in the cold anyway,” I smiled.

            His house wasn’t just bug, it was huge. A three story building that had at least four windows on each floor on each side of the building. There were five bed rooms and he was the only one using the building right now. He gave me a room at the end of the hall on the third floor with a window facing north with a view of the hills. “If you need anything my rooms at the end of the hall,” he yawned. “Oh bathroom’s the third door on the right.”

            I turned around in the room taking its features in. It was huge. The walls were a beautiful brown color, like Jace’s eyes. The bed was very large and was a four poster bed. The drapes of it were pulled back exposing the mattress. I turned back to face Jace and saw him watching me, smiling.

            “Oh,” he exclaimed remembering the clothes in his hands. “Uh…you can wear these. Their not anything fancy but their clean and dry,” he smiled.

            “Thanks,” I smiled taking them and looking at what they were. It was a white tank top and a pair of striped boxers, his of course. They were warm, like he had gotten them from a dryer.

“Well good night,” I said, exhaustion taking over me.

“Good night,” he smiled walking through the door and down the hall. He stopped half way down the hall and turned to face me again. He only smiled and then continued walking.

As soon as the door was closed I started stripping of my clothes and then suddenly standing half naked smelling his. I couldn’t even identify the smell, it was just something so good, so sweet…I put the tank top on and found it actually fit fairly well, somewhat loose though. The boxers were a little baggier than I would have liked, but they felt good on my cold body.

I turned off the lights in the room and found it rather dark. I usually liked the room very dark, but being in a new place must have made me uneasy with it. I opened the door to let the moonlight from the hallway in too. I could see Jace’s door open too. I could even hear the soft piano music he had playing. It was so soothing.

I climbed into the bed and pulled the rope for the curtains to close. The bed was so soft and warm; the piano music drifting from Jace to me. The smell of the sheets and the shirt I wore mixing intoxicated me. Sleep was a welcome guest for me tonight.

Dreams of lights and music swirled through my mind. I could see Jace and I dancing, the water running down our faces. His eyes seemed so bright, so beautiful…Black lights send strange glows up and down us, the strobe lights spinning me around and around, Jace always there smiling at me. Passion and adrenaline burning through my veins and making my head swim. 

I woke up listening to rock music I hadn’t heard before. For only a moment I panicked not knowing where I was, but somehow the smells and sounds seemed to bring the memories of dancing with Jace back to mind. I smiled a little and got out of the bed, the sunlight from the open windows blinding me.

I followed the music down the hall into Jace’s room. The music was rock, and I had no idea who the band was, but I knew I liked it. The whine of the guitar and the rhythm of the drums sent shivers up and down my spine. Suddenly I remembered Jace and looked around trying to find him.

“Oh good you’re awake,” Jace said from the door behind me. I spun and looked at him. He had a plate of food in one hand. I felt slightly awkward wearing only the boxers and the tank top he’d given me seeing how he was already fully dressed. But a smile was on his face as always.

“What time is it?” I asked feeling the blush on my face seeing his eyes take me in.

“About ten,” he smiled as he walked to his bed. “Oh, this is for you,” he said remembering the plate. He motioned for me to sit on the bed next to him and handed me the plate.

“Oh, thanks,” I said as I sat down. The plate was full of scrambled eggs with cheese and chilies. I could feel my mouth watering, it looked so good.

“Yeah you slept a lot,” he commented as I started eating.

“I guess I was more tired than I thought,” I smiled. “When did you get up?”

“Around eight-thirty,” he smiled. Explains how he’s already dressed, I thought. “Oh, I hope my music didn’t wake you up,” he frowned remembering it as a very screamo song came on.

“Oh no, it didn’t. I really like it,” I smile. “Wow this is really good!” I said after I swallowed the first bite of my eggs.

“Thanks,” he smiled. “I wasn’t really sure what to make you…I am glad you like it.”

“No, it’s like some of the best eggs I’ve ever had,” I said as I tried to control myself and not eat all the eggs too quickly and then lick the plate.

He laughed and smiled as he watched me finish eating. “So it’s Friday and I don’t have work until five, what do you want to do?”

“Where do you work?” asked somewhat distracted by the thought.

“A place called Café Roka. I cook there,” he winked.

“Oh, cool,” I smiled. I really didn’t have any clue what I actually wanted to do, I knew I could ask him to drive me to Sulfur Spring and try to find Lee, but I didn’t really want to do that…not today. “Um…I don’t know what I want to do. What do you usually do?” I asked. He’s always smiling, I thought to myself. If he isn’t it’s always in his eyes…that’s it! That’s why his eyes are so beautiful! They smile!

He smiled big at me then. “I go skating.”

I felt a sudden lurch in my stomach. I didn’t know if I had ever gone skating before, but I know that I am extremely clumsy. I could trip on a flat surface…

Jace saw the panic cross my face, his gorgeous eyes caught everything. “It’ll be fun. Don’t worry,” he smiled. “Here you can wear these,” he said handing me a tee shirt and a pair of shorts.

“I don’t know. I am extremely clumsy…” I smiled weakly taking the clothes.

“Don’t worry,” he smiled again.

We drove to the skate park in his older blue Chevy truck listening to his music the whole way. Some of the songs I seemed to know but others I had no memory of. “I am I educating your taste in music?” he smiled. I hadn’t realized he was watching me as I listened to the music.

“I guess you are,” I laughed.

“Well here we are,” he said as he parked next to a small fenced area. I could see concrete ramps that had been spray painted with sayings and pictures. A wave of panic washed over me again. “Don’t worry its fun. And I promise I won’t let you get hurt too bad. But everybody falls, so don’t feel bad when you do,” Jace said to me as he opened my door. The feeling of panic never really left me however. I could feel the nervous muscles bunching in my stomach.

“Okay,” Jace said to me. “This is the nose, have it in front,” he told me showing me the end of the skateboard that had a big chip on it.

“I take it that’s from you?” I said pointing to the gash.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “Like I said, everybody falls. Even those of us who’ve been skating for a while,” he winked at me. “Okay try standing on it.”

“Okay…” I said as I started to stand on the board. I had only one foot on it when it shot away from me and I fell. Jace caught me and laughed a little.

“Okay try again,” he said after retrieving the board.

I tried again but fell again. I looked up and saw Jace smiling trying to hide his laughter. “You’re enjoying this aren’t you?” I smiled.

“Oh extremely,” he laughed.

I got to my feet slowly feeling the pain in my left hip from landing on it. “Okay, here give me your hands,” he said walking to stand in front of me. He held his hands in the air just in front of me. I gave him my hands and intertwined my fingers with his. It felt like he shocked me. “Okay try getting on now,” he whispered. I tried getting on the board again, it started to twitch underneath me but Jace’s steady hands kept me up.

I smiled big. “I did it!”

“Okay I am going to give you a little push now,” he smiled.

“No!” I gasped. But it was too late. His hands left my back and I rolled forward a few feet then fell.

“Wow, are you okay?” he asked rushing to help me up.

“Ow, yeah I think so,” I said feeling my hip twinge with pain. I looked down and saw a spray paint chalk outline of a dead body holding a skateboard on the concrete right in front of me. “Well that’s encouraging,” I said aloud.

“Isn’t it?” Jace laughed. He jumped down and laid on it looking dead for a moment. I laughed seeing the smile cross his face.

“What the worst injury you’ve ever gotten from skating?” I asked slightly curious.

“I’ve gotten a couple of concussions, no broken bones though,” he said a look of thoughtfulness crossing his face. “Okay, let’s try again,” he smiled.

For hours we skated. I eventually got the hang of it and could skate a little. The most I could do was turn and skate a little way, but tricks were out of the question for today. Jace showed me some of the things he could do. He could go on the ramps and do a power grid, which looked like he was just turning mid ramp and made it sound like he broke his board. He caught me so many times but my body just hurt from falling so much.

“You’re doing great for someone who’s never been on a board before,” he smiled.

Around four Jace said we had to go home so he could get ready for work. “Oh, yeah I forgot you have to work…” I said drifting around him on the skateboard, which took me hours to learn how to do.

“Don’t you have to work too?” he asked.

I should have kept my big mouth shut, I thought to myself. “Uh…no I don’t have to work actually,” I smiled.

“How did you do that?” he asked looking up at me.

“I am on disability…” I whispered. I didn’t know how he’d take that, I really hoped he wouldn’t be freaked out by it.

“Really?” he didn’t sound worried by it. “Why? You seem to function fine,” he winked.

“I was shot,” I admitted. I guess I would’ve had to tell him eventually.

“Oh man,” for the first time I saw a true frown cross his face. “Why? Was it an accident or what?” he sounded truly worried.

“People called it an accident,” I said as we climbed into his truck.

“But you don’t think it was?” he asked starting the engine.

“I know it wasn’t,” I said. I didn’t really like talking about this, but I suppose Jace should know this part of me.

Surprisingly he didn’t push how I knew it wasn’t an accident. “Did they catch the person that did it?”

“No.” Should I tell him that’s why I am down here? To find the only person in the world that might know what happened to me and why it happened…that wouldn’t sound crazy at all!

We drove in silence for a little while; he looked like he was deep in thought, probably trying to figure out why I got shot. But I was struggling with the war in my head of whether I should tell him or not. Eventually I just couldn’t take it anymore. “Jace,” I whispered, “that’s why I came here. I came to find a man that knew me before it all happened,” I sighed. “I can’t remember anything that happened before I was shot, that’s why I am on disability. They think I have memory problems,” I explained. “But I don’t,” I added quickly.

“I am sorry Zoey,” he said. Oh god! He’s going to say he doesn’t think he can deal with something like this! I was wrong this is exactly like Milo! “I am sorry that happened to you,” he said looking over at me as he parked in front of his house. “Who are you looking for?” he asked quietly.

“His name is Lee Karol,” I wasn’t sure what to do now. What if he doesn’t want anything to do with me after this?

“Karol? Like from Sulfur Springs Lee Karol?” I could see the worry in Jace’s eyes.

“As far as I know yeah,” I said slowly.

“Zoey, you don’t want to get involved with him,” Jace said sternly.

“Why?”

“Because he’s trouble. He hangs out with the wrong kind of guy. A guy named Keith Mulls. He’s violent and unpredictable. Karol isn’t much better,” he sounded angry with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told me to leave. “Promise me you won’t ever go looking for them,” Jace said to me taking my hands in his. “Promise me no matter how much you want to learn about your past you won’t go after them.”

“I don’t know if I can make that promise Jace,” I whispered.

“Why can’t you?! I don’t understand Zoey, you don’t seem like the kind of people they are! I’ve seen them, I’ve hung around them! I never had seen you before I met you yesterday!” he yelled.

“Jace, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t even know right now if I want to find out who I really am,” I said quietly.

“Zoey, how do you even know you’re looking for Karol? You said you don’t remember anything from before,” Jace asked me suddenly.

“I don’t remember anything. I…I have nightmares of what happened…” If he didn’t think I was crazy before then that should do it…

Jace could only look at me with an astonished expression on his face. “Come on, I need to get ready and think,” he said getting out of the truck. 

“Jace…” I whispered. He wouldn’t look at me, he just walked to the door of the building unlocked and walked away inside. I replayed the conversation in my head over and over for some reason. I didn’t understand why I had told him about that. I didn’t understand a lot about Jace, like why he had told me he and hung around with Karol, or had never seen me before yesterday. I really didn’t really care about that now though. I didn’t like having Jace mad at me. I don’t know what it is about him, but he just seems right to me…

I walked through the house looking for him; I didn’t know his routine for work so I wasn’t sure where he’d be. I found him in his room. “Jace?” I said in a small voice.

            “Yeah? Hey have you seen a black belt?” he asked as I walked into the room.

            I turned around and saw two black belts lying on the floor next to his bed. I walked over and picked up both. “Which one?” I asked taking them to him. He took one and put it on and then he slowly looked up at me, a frown on his face and the smile gone from his eyes.

            “Listen, I am sorry I yelled at you,” he said quietly. “I just don’t want you to get hurt again…”

            “It’s okay. Your right I shouldn’t you looking for them. It’s way too dangerous for me,” I said looking down at my feet. “I…I promise…” I whispered.

            I expected him to sound very smug and triumphant because he had won the “battle”, but instead he sounded sincere. “Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me,” he said as he walked the small space between us and hugged me tightly.

I saw the clock behind him on the wall then. It was four-forty five, he better go, I thought to myself. I backed away from him and went to leave. He caught my hand then. “Where are you going?” he sounded worried that he had done something wrong. His hand on mine felt so warm, my skin must feel like ice to him.

“It’s almost five; you better go to work…” I fumbled with my words. “I was going to my room…” I said loosing my train of thought looking into his eyes. Was it just my imagination or was he leaning in closer to me?

He was only inches away from my face, “Okay, I’ll see you when I get home.” He smiled and kissed me on the forehead. I am still not sure what cologne he wore but it was ecstasy for me, like nothing I had smelled before. And his lips were so smooth; his breath raising shivers through my entire body.

Once he pulled away I asked, “And when will that be?” I could scarcely breathe.

The smile grew on this face and in his eyes. “At latest two; hopefully around midnight though.”

“Okay, I’ll see you then,” I smiled and started walked down the hall towards my room. I stopped to see Jace still holding my hand. Slowly he let my fingers slip through his.

I heard Jace close the door of the building and start his truck. I listened to him drive away. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do while I waited for him to come home. I walked through the house exploring a little while I could.

I knew where the kitchen was but other places were a mystery for me. I walked down to the first floor and found a laundry room. “Oh good!” I thought out loud. My pack had gotten wet at the party and all my clothes smelled like wet plastic. I found the soap and washed all my clothes; I didn’t have much so it didn’t take too long.

I decided to take a shower myself. I felt slightly grimy and nasty from skating today. In the upstairs bathroom I started the water and started taking off the borrowed clothes. I had bruises and scarps all over. I was a little sore from falling so much. The bathroom had a floor length mirror and I paused to look at all the cut and bruises. I noticed other things though. My hair was starting to grow longer, falling past my shoulders now. It wasn’t blond like the braid Marie had given me. My hair was growing brown, brown like Jace’s eyes; sparks of gold and bronze everywhere.

I could also see old scars on my back, arms, and legs. I couldn’t remember what they were from. They say scars hold memories of past stupidity; I suppose I am lucky I can’t remember. I counted how many I had, twenty-eight. “Wow,” I whispered to myself. “What have I been up to all these years?”

The shower was warm and felt good on my sore muscles. When I stepped out of the warmth of the shower I quickly found the tank top and boxers Jace gave me and put them on. My clothes were still drying.

I started to walk around the house again. I was bored now. When will Jace be home? I looked at the clock in the kitchen. It was nine now. It startled me to realize I’d been wandering around that long. I still hadn’t seen the whole house. I suddenly felt extremely tired though. I didn’t have to see the rest of the house. I wanted to be awake when Jace got home.

I went up stairs then and found my way to a bed. It was colder than I remembered. I opened my eyes a little and realized I was in Jace’s bed. But I felt too tired to even want to get up and go to my bed.

Sleep took me. My dreams were all nonsense. Wispy and smoky, I saw Jace, and the sun. I felt the warmth of it. I could feel the smile on my face. I felt like I was flying in a sense. I could see the ground all around me and feel the slight breeze blowing through my hair. I was skating. Then the ground came up to meet me and I felt Jace’s hands catching me. He looked down at me and smiled. “Wake up…”

I felt my eyes slowly open, sleep clinging to me. I could see the soft light of a lamp and hear soft music playing. Then I saw Jace coming out of the bathroom. His chest was bare, the muscles visible in the soft light. I rolled over on to my stomach and sat up on my elbows. “Hi,” I smiled.

“Your hair looks like a haystack,” he laughed. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah,” I smiled. “How was work?” I said as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

“It was okay,” he smiled. “Boring without you there,” he winked. He leaned over and hugged me. He felt so warm; I noticed my cold skin and shivered. “You’re freezing,” he said wrapping his arms around me more.

“Yeah, I hadn’t noticed,” I laughed.

“Sorry, I left the window open in here before I left,” he said worry all over his face.

“Don’t feel bad. If I had been conscious I would have closed it,” I smiled. I saw something in his eyes, like something mixed into them; cream in to honey. Then something else crossed his face and he released me and sat back.

“Zoey, I won’t be here tomorrow,” I could hear the sadness in his voice. My mind started to back pedal, was he leaving because of what happened today? I thought that was over and done with.

“What? Where will you be? Why won’t you be here?”

“I have this thing tomorrow, and I can’t miss it,” he said reading my eyes. “I hadn’t told you yet, but I am in the Marines. I have training tomorrow…” I could feel his eyes scanning me face.

“What? When did you join the Marines?” I didn’t mean for it to sound so acidic, but for some reason I just didn’t feel right about this. I didn’t like him being in the military…it scared me.

“Listen to me,” he said pulling me across the bed to him. “It’ll be okay.” I didn’t want to look up at him. He took my chin in his hand and lifted my face so had to look at him. “I’ll come back don’t worry. It’s just training. We work out, get a little mental training and go practice firearms.”

That didn’t make me feel any better. I could feel an empty hallow space forming in my stomach. He’s leaving some day. And he might not come back…I felt a small tear streak it’s way down my cheek. I tried to look down before Jace’s gorgeous eyes could see it, but I didn’t move fast enough.

“What? What’s wrong?” worry coating his voice.

I hesitated for a second trying to find my voice. “When…when do you… leave?” I finally forced myself to say it out loud.

I saw the light fade in and out of his eyes. I suppose he’d never really thought about that. “I leave in a year…” he finally said. “Zoey, I am not going anywhere for a year, don’t worry,” I saw the smile come back into his eyes and a small one cross his face.

I couldn’t say anything more. I didn’t want to talk about this. What am I going to do? He obviously wants this…I just looked down, feeling the icy chill going up and down my body.

“Zoey,” Jace said taking my chin again. “I will never leave you,” I saw the smile cross his face again and saw it glistening in his eyes. And then he surprised me. Before I could react he was kissing me on the lips. He hadn’t done that. He’d kissed my forehead when he left. But now he was really kissing me and holding me in his arms like a little kid. Thoughts swirled in my head but I had enough control to not act upon them. I really didn’t need things to get weird for us.

For hours we sat like that, he held me in his arms and would smile down at me. Eventually we moved and were lying down. He moved so my head was on his stomach. I rolled over and started tracing the lines and curves of his muscular frame. I felt him chuckle a little at times when my fingers would tickle him. I suddenly remembered that he was going to be gone, a wave of despair hitting me, but when I looked at his eyes I heard his words again, ‘I will never leave you.’ 

            I crawled my way up so I could be lying next to him face to face. “Jace,” I started my fingers absently tracing his arms now. “When will you be back tomorrow?”

            “My training ends at two, it’s an hours drive back though…and I have work tomorrow night too,” he frowned. He looked at me and saw the question in my eyes. “I have to leave here at six in the morning.”

            I felt my body fall with the final sigh of my despair. I looked over at the clock again. God what is my obsession with time?! I thought to myself. It was two a.m. I looked back at Jace and saw the circles forming under his eyes. He had four hours until he had to leave. “Get some sleep,” I smiled. I cuddled into his chest and heard him laugh.

            “Good night, love,” he whispered into my hair before he kissed it. Within a few minutes my head was rising up and down with the steady rhythm of his breathing. He slept so soundly, but I couldn’t sleep at all. My mind couldn’t quit working.

The marines…why would he do something like that? I thought he’d be happy with this life…I know he can’t work at the café forever, but I thought he’d want to stay here…what will I do when he leaves? I probably won’t be able to go with him to where ever they send him…what will I do if he gets hurt? My fingers started tracing his stomach again. He stirred a little and tightened his hold on my waist. Why does he seem to love me so already? We barely met yesterday…though today was probably one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Do I love him? The question popped into my brain so suddenly it took me by surprise. Did I really love Jace?

You should, a little voice in my head said. He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to you in a long time. And what’s there not to like about him? He treats you like your something of value instead of a piece of ass for sale and he’s gorgeous…

And he’s probably the most amazing person I’ve ever met, I thought agreeing with the voice.

Suddenly memories of my “accident” flooded my brain. “Who do you have?!”

 “He doesn’t even know who you are!”

“Please! Who do you have? Please tell me! I’ll do anything!” Bang.

Jace would know exactly who that scum had taken, the voice in my head argues.

Yeah he really would. And he wouldn’t wait for me to be shot to take action. He wouldn’t have let me be taken in the first place…

Exactly! Forget Lee. He had his chance; he lost it when you were shot. He left a note telling you to forget him. Take his advice. The voice was right…I was right. Jace is the kind of person that is right for me. He’s what I need…what I want. And deep down I knew I did love him. Why else would I still be here?

I looked at his face now. He looked extremely happy and relaxed. I sighed and lay my head back down on his chest. This time I tightened my grip on him. I knew he was just the right choice. And with that in mind I finally fell asleep to no dreams.

I felt Jace stir again and woke up to find him lying underneath me fully awake. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

“It’s time for me to get up,” he said looking up at me. “I didn’t want to wake you up though,” he smiled. “I guess I don’t have to worry about that.”

“Nope, I am awake,” I smiled leaning in to kiss him. I felt him smile even more, if it was even possible. And then he sighed.

“Okay, I need to get ready,” he said leaning back.

“Oh, right,” I said moving so he could. I glanced over at the clock it was five-thirty. Wow, for getting two and a half hours of sleep he looks amazing. I sat and watched him move through out the room gathering up pieces of clothes and stuff them into a small pack. He noticed me watching and smiled.

“I have to take work out clothes then hiking boots,” he explained.

“Why?”

“The hiking is apart of the firearms training.”

“Oh…” I said letting the o shape of my mouth be exaggerated. He laughed and walked over to kiss me. I could spend my whole day just kissing Jace; he was always so gently with me, and his lips were so soft. But his smell was always so intoxicating to me. What is it? What make him smell so amazing? “Are you wearing cologne?” I suddenly asked.

“Um…no,” he answered, a puzzled expression on his face. “Should I?”

“No, you smell amazing already,” I smiled pulling him in for another kiss.

“Okay, need to go,” he said frowning as he pulled away from me.

“Okay, I’ll see you this afternoon then,” I smiled.

“Yeah, I don’t know what you can do while I am gone though. There’s some movie, but…” he trailed off.

“Don’t worry, I am a big girl. I can entertain myself,” I smiled.

“Okay,” he said leaning into kiss me again. I made this one last as long as I could. He chuckled then kissed my forehead and left.

“Be careful!” I yelled after him.

“Okay!” I heard him laugh from down the stairs.

I looked at the clock then, five-fifty five. I groaned. I started to stand up and felt screaming pain surge through my hips and back. “Ow,” I said out loud as I slumped back into the bed. I lay there absorbing everything; the smell (god how I loved the smell!), Jace’s room (which was neither clean nor dirty, just well…random), and the sounds (I hadn’t noticed it was raining). I was mesmerized by the sound the rain made when it hit the glass of the windows. It was so soothing…I started to notice my eyes slowly close.

The sound of thunder woke me up with a start. I hadn’t been dreaming but there was sweat across my forehead and I was breathing heavily. “It’s just thunder…” I heard myself say. But as I looked up I wasn’t in the same room. It didn’t even look like the same town. The pretty hill side view from Jace’s room had been replaced with city, gray and ugly.

“Oh, that wasn’t thunder,” I heard a voice say. I turned suddenly to find John sitting at a table staring at me. There was a woman with him I’d never seen before, but I seemed to know her.

“How’d you two get in here?!” I heard myself say.

“Doesn’t matter,” said the woman. “You’ve become a problem Zoey. We need you to disappear,” she smiled.

“Oh, is that supposed to mean you’re here to kill me?” I laughed. “Well good luck!”

“Keep it, I don’t need luck,” she laughed. She held up a syringe then. It was empty.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“This needle use to have Botox serum in it. Do you know what Botox is?”

“Yeah it’s a toxin that paralyzes,” I remarked, “which would explain why I can’t move…” I observed trying to sit up.

 “Precisely,” she smiled. “See I didn’t need luck, I only needed this needle and a deep bathtub.”

“What?!” She’s going to drown me! “What exactly did I do to be a “problem” to you?” I asked not caring that my voice was losing control and cracking here and there.

“You are way too close to Lee for my liking,” she frowned. “I need him to have no distractions. In our line of work that can be deadly,” she smiled.

“LEE?! This is about Lee?” I shouted at her as John got up and started walking towards me. “Ashley, you know that we’re just friends! You of all people know that! How could I be a distraction for him?!” So I do know her…

“It’s too late Zoey…John pick her up,” she said motioning to me. She got up and walked to the bathroom. John walked over and picked me up effortlessly and followed her into the bathroom.

Ashley was right she didn’t need luck, she need a big ass tub. I watched in horror as she turned on the water and had John lay me down in the tub. I fit perfectly in the bottom of the tub. The walls were high enough that I would have no chance of climbing out.

“Well you’re not going to enough waste hot water to drown me?” I spat up at her. The water was freezing and numbed me feet.

“No,” she laughed. “Why waste hot water on a cheap whore?” she said over her shoulder as they walked out of the room.

“I am not a whore!” I screamed at her as she shut the door. “Shit, shit, shit!” I said out loud as the water started to rise. How was I going to get out of this!?!

They say that you’re not conscious when you actually die from drowning, that you pass out long before the actual death. They were wrong! The water was slowly rising past my ears and would soon be at my mouth. I am going to die… I thought to myself. The toxin was still in my blood stream and I wouldn’t be able to move for hours unless it wore off soon.

Ashley had done her homework. The toxin it’s self wouldn’t kill me but if it paralyzed me and I happened to be in the tub, well then it just looked like a nasty accident. And if she had made an appointment for a Botox treatment for me earlier then she’d be off free with murder. “Smart little bitch…” I said. The water slowly creaped past my chin and over my mouth, I could only take in a few shallow breathes before it covered my nose.

So this is how it ends. I’d really hoped I’d die some other way. Of all the deaths that Ashley could hash out drowning is he worst, for me. I can swim and there of am afraid of water. Who knew I should have feared bathtubs…I could feel my lungs begging for breath, but I knew breath would not come to the rescue for them, and no one would come to the rescue of me…

“AH!” I gasped as I woke up. Jace was there trying to contain me.

“It’s okay, you’re not drowning,” he said softly.

“What?” I asked. I was extremely confused. I looked over at the clock, it said seven a.m. But shouldn’t Jace be at his training? And how’d he know what I was dreaming about? “What are you doing here?”

“I got a call when I was half way to base; my training was canceled because of the rain. I came in here and you were asleep, but you started…freaking out and saying things like ‘she’s going to drown me’,” he said a look of worry creasing his brow.

“I am fine,” I sighed. “But a nightmare…” More like a memory…

“Okay…” he didn’t sound convinced. “Well are you hungry?”

“Not really,” I admitted. I have to get distracted. Get this out of my head. “So…if you don’t have training what do you want to do?” I smiled.

“Ah…well it’s still raining so we can’t go skating. We could watch some movies. And even if you’re not hungry I am making some food cause I am starving,” he smiled.

“Okay,” I laughed. I moved to get up but lost my balance from the pain in my hips.

Jace caught me. “Are you okay?” he asked concern in his voice again.

“Oh, yeah, I am fine,” I smiled. “Just sore from falling so much yesterday,” I laughed.

“Oh. Okay…” I could still see the worry in his eyes. The smile wasn’t there at all. I took his hand in mine. For the first time it was freezing, more so than mine. I was always cold, but Jace was always so warm.

“You’re freezing,” I frowned.

“It’s cold outside,” he said. I pulled him into a hug, feeling his cold hands linger on my spine. I shivered a little. “Sorry,” he whispered pulling away from me.

“I am not,” I said loudly pulling him back to me. He laughed a little before my kiss interrupted him. I could feel the smile reappear back on his face as we slowly rocked around holding each other.

I tucked my head under his chin and held on to him laughing when he almost fell. I could hear his heart beating, and absently I started counting the beats, one, two, three, four, five…my counting got interrupted by a fierce grumbling from his stomach. I laughed and looked up at him, “We really need to get you some food.”

“Thank you!” he said smiling sarcasm coating his voice.

“So,” I said walking to the refrigerator, “what do you want to eat?”

“You don’t have to cook for me,” he said. “I can do that.”

“No I want to,” I smiled.

“Um, okay,” he smiled. “Surprise me then.”

I smiled and looked into his fridge. Eggs, milk, cheese…what could I make? I looked over at him for some sort of clue, but his face revealed nothing. I looked around to find cupboards. I opened those and found boxes of cereal and pancake mix. I spun around in the kitchen again and saw skillets, bowls, and measuring cups. I could make pancakes…but I don’t see any syrup…that only leaves cereal and eggs. I thought to myself. I decided on eggs and thought I could be inventive. I grabbed a bowl and started whipping eggs up in it. I added a little milk and some cheese. I gazed back into the fridge and found chili. Right on!

The whole time I was preparing the eggs Jace sat and watched me, a huge smile on his face. His eyes seemed to absorb me. Taking me in like he’d never seen me again after this. The smile was back in his eyes and all worry seemed to have disappeared. Things of that sort never did seem to both him for very long.

I handed him a plate of cheesy chili eggs and took my turn to watch. I gazed at him. He ate swiftly but still with manner. His eyes would drift to me now and again, as if to make sure I was still there; like I would ever think of running away from him. I wonder what he would do if I ran away from him. Probably chase after me, I thought to myself. I knew he could out run me easily. I felt the smile cross my face again.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked, walking to the stove to get more eggs.

“Nothing really,” I said. I don’t think he’d like what I was thinking about…I can just imagine it, “I was thinking about running away from you.” Yes that would go over well. “Well I take it the eggs are good?” I giggled.

“No, they’re terrible. But I am just so hungry,” he said without looking up. I frowned and felt slightly mad now. “I am kidding,” he said softly. “They’re amazing.”

“Thank you and that wasn’t funny,” I smiled.

“I am sorry,” he said sitting back down at the old table.

“I guess I’ll forgive you,” I smiled.

“Oh good!” he said a smile flashing across his face. “So are you going to tell me what you were thinking about?”

“I don’t think you’d like it…” I said.

“Try me,” he smiled.

“Well, I was thinking about what you’d do if I ran away from you.”

“That’s an easy answer,” he chuckled. “I’d go after you. I don’ see why you didn’t want me to know that,” he said laughing.

“I didn’t know how you’d respond,” I said defending myself.

“Well would you come after me if I ran away from you?” he smiled.

“Of course, but that’s different.”

“How?”

“I don’t know, it just is,” I said. I didn’t want to tell him it was different because it was him that ran away and not me, it was my reason but it didn’t sound like a very good one…

“Okay…” he smiled not totally convinced. “Well what movie do you want to watch?”

“I don’t know. What do you have?”

“Have you seen Phantom of the Opera?”

“No, at least I don’t think so,” I said smiling. It seemed like everything that I didn’t remember was a big joke to me now.

“Okay, we’ll watch that.”

We lay on his bed while the movie played, the rain splattering against the window. Amazingly Jace was able to make the room dark enough for the movie in his three window room. The television screen wasn’t very big, but the atmosphere was perfect. His room was painted a soft gray brown; it reminded me of marble pillars almost.

Against all my wishes I cried at the end of the movie where Christian and her lover leave the Phantom behind. I just felt so bad for Gerard Butler Phantom. It is so sad that everything revolved around the look of a person.

“Why are you crying?” Jace suddenly asked.

“What? I am not crying,” I said trying to wipe away the evidence before he could see.

He stopped my hand and wiped at my tears with his fingers. “Really? I could have sworn you were,” he smiled. “What’s wrong? They got away from the Phantom. It’s a happy ending,” he smiled.

“I know that,” I whispered, “but the poor Phantom. He’s loved Christian for all those years and just because he has scaring on his face he’s a monster to her.”

“No, I don’t think it’s that he’s horribly disfigured. I think it’s that he’s slightly insane,” Jace pointed out. “I mean really you’d still love me if I was disfigured, right?”

“I never said I loved you,” I pointed out.

“Yes, but I think you do love me,” he smiled.

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“The way you look at me. And honestly why would you tolerate me this long if you didn’t at least think I was cute?”

“You realize you just contradicted yourself right?”

“How?” he sounded confused.

“You asked me if I would still love you if you were disfigured, but then you said I stick around because I at least think you’re cute.”

“Oh…right…Well don’t try to hide it! You think I am hot, right?” His voice cracked a little at the end. How sad, I thought to myself. The most gorgeous guy I’ve seen gets self conscience when it comes to what I think.

“Well what do you think?” I asked sarcastically.

“I don’t know. Do you?” His eyes seemed to melt into his head. I didn’t answer for a long time, too mesmerized to look away. “Well?”

Reality came back to me and I remembered he asked me a question. “Of course I think you’re good looking,” I reassured him. Do I want to ask him what he thinks about me? Probably not…

“Well I think you’re beautiful,” he whispered like he could read my mind so easily.

“Thank you,” I whispered turning my face away from him. I could feel the blush burning my cheeks. “Well the movie’s over. Now what should we do?”

“What time is it?” Jace asked kissing my neck.

“Three,” I said breathing deeply so that I wouldn’t explode in giggles while he kissed me.

“Hmm…I have work at five,” he frowned. “I better start getting ready.”

“Okay. What do you need to do? Can I help?”

“Well unless you want to wash my back for me I don’t think so,” he smiled walking toward the bathroom. He waited at the door to see if I was going to follow him in. I sat on the edge of the bed looking at him playfully.

“I think you can handle that by yourself,” I said after a few seconds. 

“If you say so…” he frowned as he walked into the bathroom.

“I do,” I smiled to myself. I lied back down on the bed. What was the dream about? Who was the woman? Why did she want to kill me? It was over Lee. And what line of work was she talking about? How was I a distraction? The “accident” came back to me. John said, ““I have the girl you love…” So Lee loved me. But the letter he left said for me to forget him…The woman’s name was Ashley…But who was she…

“Well I am off,” Jace said walking out of the bathroom fully dressed.

“Already?” I asked. He couldn’t have been in there more than five minutes.

“Yeah it’s four-thirty,” he smiled. “I’ll be back later.”

“Okay.”

Again I listened to his truck start and drive away. I walked back to my room. I need to just sit and think quietly for a while about this dream. What could it mean? I lay down on the bed. It was so soft and comfortable. Within minutes I was asleep.

I didn’t have the same drowning dream. Instead I could feel the water rising up my body. The cold inkiness sending shivers up and down my spine. I could see the light reflections criss-crossing the surface. I could hear the water starting to spill over the edge of the bath tub. How could I have ever survived this? What was the other sound that I was hearing? It sounded like a phone ringing, but distorted.

A loud bang woke me up. Jace must be home from work. But that wasn’t the sound of the door shutting. It sounded like a very heavy object had fallen and smashed into the floor. I got up and walked to Jace’s room to see what made the noise. 

            I walked into his room. On his bed was a bag and he was filling it with clothes. The loud bang had been a box of books falling from his closet. “Jace where are we going?” I asked.

            “Not we, just me,” he answered from his closet.

            “Where are you going? When will you be back?” I didn’t like that he was leaving. Something was wrong again. Did I do something to annoy him that much?

            “Maine.” His voice was totally dead, no emotion whatsoever.

            “Okay, but when will you be back?” I could feel panic rushing through me. What’s going on?

            He sighed and turned around to look at me. “Zoey, I am not coming back,” his eyes and face were hard and set. Has he been practicing this? I wondered to myself.

            “W…Why?” I stuttered a little in unbelief.

            “Listen it was fun while it lasted, but I have to get out of here. Do something new.”

            “Like what? And why Maine?” I started looking around the room more. Everything was disheveled. Clothes thrown everywhere, music lying about, the clock was even turned side ways. It said it was almost ten.

            “My dad and girlfriend live there.”

            A line from a movie I didn’t remember flashed to my mind, “The cabin has lost pressure.” I felt like I had been hit in the stomach. I couldn’t think. I played his words over and over again in my head, “My dad and girlfriend live there.” This can’t be happening. I’ve been here with him for a week. He’s kissed me, hugged me. There was never any mention of a girlfriend. Or had I missed it in the swirl of my extreme happiness. I don’t think I would have missed that. And why would he have been leading me on like that if there was a girlfriend two thousand miles away? I couldn’t breath.

            “Zoey?” He had his back turned to me, packing again.

            “Girlfriend?”

            “Yeah, we’ve been together for a while. She was here for Christmas,” he sounded so happy.

            Breathe, breathe. This has to be a joke. It can’t be for real. Oh god! The happiest you’ve ever been and it’s all…dead.

            “Zoey, listen I’ll stay in touch. You have my cell number. And if I get a new one you’ll have it,” he smiled.

            Is this all a game to him?! I can’t believe he’s doing this! “Jace, why are you leaving?” I could barely keep my voice together. I didn’t know if my face was a blank slate or if every emotion I was feeling was showing on it.

            “I told you, I want to do something new. I just need to get out of here.”

            “When are you leaving? You can’t be leaving tonight…”

            “Actually I am. I am flying out of Phoenix at midnight.”

            “Did…did I do something to…” I couldn’t finish.

            “Of course not Zoey,” he laughed.

            “Then why are you leaving me?! Why didn’t you tell me you had a girlfriend in Maine? Does she know about me? I suppose not seeing how I had no clue about her!” I screamed.

            “Zoey, come on…” Jace started.

            “No! You come on Jace! I don’t understand what you’re doing this for! You never said anything about a girlfriend! You kissed me! You…you…you lead me on! How the hell did you think I was going to react?”

            “Like this. I knew you’d try to stop me. That’s why I didn’t tell you sooner,” he said flatly.

            “How long have you been planning this?” I cried.

            “Not very long. I barely booked the flight when I was at work.”

            “When did you intend to tell me if I hadn’t of come in here? You would have just left when I was sleeping? Leave a note? Would you have even told me about this other girl?” I stammered.

            He didn’t answer me. His bag was full and he started to walk away from me to the door. “Zoey, I am sorry, but I have to leave. I don’t expect you to understand. I’ll text you later.” And he vanished out the door.

            I crumbled against the wall of his room. The tears came, slow at first and then followed by sobs that rocked my body. “No. No. No…” I sobbed louder and louder. After a few minutes I stood up still sobbing.

            “Jace! Jace!” I screamed it at the top of my lungs. But of course he was gone. I ran through the house to the front door. His truck was gone. A small car was all that was left in his drive way.

            I can go after him, I thought myself. I could find him at the airport. I could stop him. Talk sense into him. Bring him back.

            And then what? The old voice came back to fight me. He obviously doesn’t like you anymore! He went to the arms of his “girlfriend”. You really think you can compete with the girl he really wants.

            But maybe I could. What if I could get him to come back…?

            And what would you do at the airport? All you would do is find him and make a fool of yourself. You’re emotional and unstable at this point. You’re done. Accept that now.

            No. I am not done. He said he’d stay in touch.

            Right. You really think he’s going to do that? You’re even more of a fool than it appears!

 

            I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the room Jace had given me, to heart broken to even look at his door and not burst into tears. I just sat in the middle of the bed, quiet little tears escaping down my cheeks. I sat and stared at my cell phone, waiting for it to ring. He’ll text me, he’ll text me. I know he will.

            No he won’t.

            Shut up! I thought to the ugly little voice. Thoughts and memories of the past few days came back into my mind. I could have spent months, years in this life. I was so happy. I looked at a clock that was in my room now. It was hanging straight on the wall. It said it was 11:58. Two minutes. Breath, breath…I thought to myself as the tears started to stream again. I could feel the empty pangs of pain in my chest. I lay down again on the bed.

            11:59, He’s gone. He’s gone. He’s gone. He’s not going to come back. Get over it! He had you for days. If he wanted you he’d be here right now!

            12:00. He has his new start. Go find yours. I got up off the bed. I looked around at the small room. All my clothes were still in my bag. Leaning against a chair were knee high black boots and a little black dress. I walked over to the chair and found a note. It said:

Zoey,

I saw these when I was going to work and thought of you. Beautiful things for a beautiful girl. I love you and can’t wait to see you in these.

Love Jace

            Bastard. I wonder if he wrote this before tonight and I haven’t been in here enough. How could he just leave? I walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. My hair was long and brown, the color of Jace’s eyes.

            Suddenly something snapped inside of me. I hated my hair; I hated anything that reminded me of him. I looked around the bathroom for some kind of tool that could be useful to me. In the medicine cabinet I found an extremely sharp razor that cut me when I handled the blades too roughly.

            Fingers bleeding I looked up into the mirror. I could see my face looking back at me, but there were some very different changes to it. Streams of black ran down my face where my eye liner had run with my tears. Instead of the smile that Jace had resurrected there was a flat line. Suddenly he came back into my mind. I could picture him perfectly, right down to his brown eyes that had gold mixed in somehow, the same color of my hair. With his perfect face still in mind I said aloud, “I’ll never forgive you, never.”

            With my fingers still oozing blood I hacked at my hair with the razor blade. Long pieces fell to the floor, surrounding me. They eventually became shorter and shorter. I stopped to look at my progress. My hair was short, very short. I had cut it to about two inches all around my head and the longest part was my bang that still reached my chin. There were streaks of red were I had left my fingers had lingered too long on some strands.

            The smell of my blood on my bang swirled around my head. My stomach started to twist inside me. Uh…I can’t stay like this, I thought. I looked at the shower. That’s a good idea…

            After standing under the water until the hot water ran out I decided to get out. I looked around the room and wished I had just started driving when I had the chance. I have to get out of here…I thought to myself. My bags were packed, as if I had ever unpacked them. My eyes fell on the little black dress and boots.

            They were so beautiful. I might as well were them, I thought to myself. The dress was so soft. There was only about five inches in between were the dress ended and my boots began. Only little spaghetti straps held up the dress. Beauty…right, I scoffed to myself. I have to get out of here…

I grabbed my bag and walked down to the small garage were the small blue Honda car sat. I grasped the door handle and prayed it was open and the keys were inside; if they weren’t I had no idea where he would have put them. Okay…come on. Open the door…I thought to myself. You can leave. It’s not like there’s anything else here for you…I lifted the handle up. The door opened.

Okay now what? If the keys aren’t inside then were would they be? What if the car doesn’t even work? I can fix it…I thought to myself as I sat down in the drivers seat.

I looked in the ash tray, nothing. I looked in the glove compartment, nothing. I looked under the seat, nothing. I looked everywhere; I couldn’t find any form of key to start the car. I am never getting out of here…I thought to myself. I slumped back into the seat and let my eyes wander. They fell on the sun visor.

I could see some kind of bulge from underneath it. Could that be where he put them? That’s stupid. I thought as I opened it and the keys fell into my lap. There was also some paper card floating down. What’s this? His license…I wondered as I reached for it.

It was upside down when I picked it up. I sat silently staring at it for a few moments. Do I really want to see a picture of him…now? Maybe I should just let it go…forget about him…

Oh come on! You’ve never been one to let mystery be kept secret! The little voice in my head said.

Very true…Okay…1…2…3…I flipped the card over. All I could do for a few moments was sit and stare at his picture. I knew the picture had to be a few years old. He looked younger, smaller, even paler. It was Jace.

I could feel my eyes starting to water a little at the edges. He’s gone. He’s gone. Just let him go…I thought to myself closing my eyes. I opened them again and studied the license more thoroughly. The license was old. It expired in 2007. Interesting…I finally let my eyes fall onto his name. Jace Lee Karol. “My god!” I whispered. Who are you Jace? I thought to myself.

I just sat there forever and ever. I stare at the card. The name burns into my mind. The voices, they’re all the same. “Zoey, you don’t want to get involved with him,” Jace said sternly.

“Why?”

“Because he’s trouble. He hangs out with the wrong kind of guy. A guy named Keith Mulls. He’s violent and unpredictable. Karol isn’t much better. Promise me you won’t ever go looking for them. Promise me no matter how much you want to learn about your past you won’t go after them.”

“I don’t know if I can make that promise Jace,” I whispered.

“Why can’t you?! I don’t understand Zoey, you don’t seem like the kind of people they are! I’ve seen them, I’ve hung around them! I never had seen you before I met you yesterday!”

“I never had seen you before I met you yesterday.” What did he mean? ”Who are you Jace?” What am I suppose to do now? I think to myself. Jace can’t be Lee. There’s no way. Is there? I can feel my phone in my pocket. I can feel it weighing me down to earth. I can feel the tiny cracks in my chest. I can feel the fire on my finger tips.

Without thinking I grab my phone out of my pocket and start dialing. Before I can wait for the first ring to be complete I hang up. No, no, no. It’s over. I am not going back to that. Move on, move on.

I wipe my eyes. I put the keys in the ignition. I start the car. I drive away. I have nothing but my small bag of clothes again. I don’t have a name, I don’t have a goal, I don’t have anything. I just drive. I drive away and the lights of this town are going out in the darkness. I see them in the rear view mirror. I watch them disappear. I watch as new lights appear on the horizon, new cars, new people, new life. I watch as I let go of all that was past. I watch as that part of my life just dies. I watch as the holes in my chest just dissolve into nothingness. I watch as everything I knew is gone. I watch as something else comes to life inside me. I watch as the stars and moon seem to catch fire in the sky. I watch as Bisbee, as the road, as Arizona, as everything just disappears. I watch as I leave everything I ever could have known behind. I watch as I never look back.

            “Dema,” says the director behind his desk. “Was it necessary for this mission to end up so bloody? You target was Charlton. Not the whole building.”

            The usual chew out I get for being throe. “Yes director, Charlton was the only target, but the building was crawling with his men. How else was I to get into his office if I didn’t handle his men as I did?”

            “Yes, yes. I know your usual story, but how am I suppose to trust your judgment when you’re a wild card factor?” he asks me. I don’t know how to answer him. Sure I am a wild card now. Sure I’ve lost it all. I’ve hit bottom. I’ve nothing to lose.

            “Do you remember when you first came to our organization? You were broken, alone, and wounded. Normally we don’t take older applicants, but yours was an unusual case. You had strong survival instincts and the will to live. And of course there was you’re unusual ability to learn so quickly. We would have been fools to not accept you. But…”

            “But even though I am an expendable resource I am still your number one agent,” I say finishing his thought. “But even though I am your number one agent, I shouldn’t be allowed to go gallivanting as I please. This organization does have a reputation to uphold,” I add seeing him ready to continue his thought. I’d gotten this speech many times. I’d practically memorized it. I smiled at the director. “May I go now?”

            “Yes, seeing that you’re not going to listen to me.”

            About three years ago I had found the “organization” as the director calls it. The rest of the world doesn’t really know it exists, but governments call us the Specialists. When things are out of control for them, we come into play.

            The director was right though, I am a wild card factor. I had come to the organization broken, alone, and wounded. After everything that had happened I really didn’t listen to anyone. I’d gotten into a lot of random fights which had ended in a lot of nights in jail. I was suppose to appear in court to determine if I was a threat to society, but when the government saw that it was I, they decided to put me to use. I had wasted a lot of the welfare money that I really shouldn’t be collecting. They gave me another test for memory and a test for social skills. Of course this time I didn’t lie. I didn’t care anymore. They could have thrown me in prison for all I cared. They decided I could be of more use than wasting tax money.

            So here I am now, working as a gun for hire. I “specialize” in search and destroy and sniper missions. In all reality I am no longer even really a citizen of any country. I am a ghost. I have no record, I have no name, and I have no home. The director and all of the agency calls me Dema, they don’t even know my real name, and I am fine with that; I don’t even really remember it myself. The instructors that trained me from hand to hand combat to long distance warfare called me that. They were Russian and said that it was a play on words for English as well. “A name that make you sound the way you fight, like a Demon.”

            Most people would wonder why a twenty something would become an assassin, why would I like killing people. What else am I to do? When you’ve seen and been through what I’ve been through you don’t get many job offers that aren’t government related. It was field work or a life behind a computer screen. I couldn’t do that.

Ever since I started my work as a “specialist” I haven’t had a whole nights sleep. Every night I have the nightmares. They aren’t anything specific, those stopped awhile ago. It’s all feelings and emotions. Only certain things set me off. It’s mostly music. Back then there was never a moment when we didn’t have music playing. I call them music memories. I hate them. There isn’t a day that I don’t remember his face, the pain he caused as well. But I suppose not sleeping isn’t a very big problem for me. My job doesn’t allow much off time… What’s a night of sleeplessness when you don’t really sleep anyway? But again that was my choice. I choice it all; how much I’d work, how long, even what kind of cases I’d work.

Even inside this organization where secrets are our business, I am the least known person. Most of us came when we were young, they grew up here. But I am the exception. I came here a bloody mess inside and out and even when the others my age tried to take me into their circles I just couldn’t trust any of them. I don’t trust a lot of the people here. They don’t seem like real assassins to me. They socialize so easily with each other; they talk, date, form relationships that could end them if they’re caught off guard on a mission. I can’t trust any of them with my secret anyway. I’ve never told them the story of what happened before I came here. They even formed a counseling group so we could all get our emotions out in hopes I’d let go. I haven’t.

The director keeps telling me I need to loosen up, have fun. I can just remind him that I am loose enough. If I was anymore then he’d have more and more problems with me. I wouldn’t be the agent I am.

“But we can all tell, this isn’t you,” he would say. “It’s like you’re holding back. Like you don’t want to even try being in society.”

“Why would I want to be in society? Our organization deals with people who get too casual with being n society. They’re only letting people steal pieces of them,” I would say flatly.

“I am sorry you see it that way. But don’t you think that it’s nice when a person can just be casual, themselves, around another person? After a mission most of the agents here take a day off and just has fun with other agents. You keep working mission after mission. You’re going to burn out if you don’t take it easy.”

I guess this is his way of saying, “Go on a date,” or something close to that. But that’s not an easy task for me. Not even the organization can tell me how old I am and even if I am twenty-something I don’t act it. I have my rules. I have my reasons for following them.

Rule number one: Don’t ever get close to another being; person or animal. It only leads to disappointments or pain. (I already have enough of that…)

Rule number two: Don’t lose track of your goal/mission. If you lose focus you lose your mark and therefore money, (the whole reason of being an assassin).

Rule number three: Be prepared. This doesn’t mean only be prepared like a boy scout. It means be prepared in all aspects of life. When you’re going on a mission and think to yourself, “This mark is known to run or disappear or whatever…” that’s when you bring your high powered rifle, tracking device, and a disguise. It you lose your mark change your look, already have the tracking device planted on something you know the mark won’t leave behind (mark itself, cell phone, iPod), or you go the sniper way and cap him when he won’t see it coming.

Rule number four: Don’t trust anyone, but don’t lose confidence in yourself. If you rely on no one but yourself then you won’t have to be distracted by waiting for another person, but if you lose your groove then you lose your mark.

Rule number five: Be discreet. If a person finds out you’re an assassin, you’re boned. If another assassin makes you (realizes you’re there, in the middle of action), you’re capped. If you’re mark sees you coming, you’re broke.

The five basic rule of being an assassin, break these and you’re as good as dead. Maybe I apply them too much, but I’ve seen what it’s like on the other side of the barrel of the gun. And besides I can’t afford to lose another piece of myself.

I am in my room, cleaning my gun. I don’t know what to do really at times like this. I can’t just be left with my thoughts; they don’t help much. I have to be doing something or I’ll lose my mind.

My room is small, just a little square with enough room for a bed, table and some work out equipment. The walls are an office building gray. I’ve asked the director if I can draw or paint on them. He keeps saying no. I bet it’s because he doesn’t except me to life long. I think it’s funny that he should worry about that. I have rules to stay alive, but at this point I am ready for the end. I have nothing to lose. My attitude for life is blunt; bring it on. That old say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, I live by that now.

I am sitting on my bed with my gun, I’ve finished cleaning it, but I don’t know what to do now. I just look at it. I’ve memorized this gun, my MX5. It’s like it’s and extension of my arm. I push the trigger just enough and bang. I can kill a person in so many different ways with this small hand gun.

Bang, bang. My thoughts are interrupted by the bangs coming from my door. Automatically my hand raises and I aim the gun at my door. “Who is it?” I ask.

“It’s Connor,” an Irish man says as he slowly opens the door a little. “Is it okay if I come in?” he asks seeing my gun.

“Yeah,” I say lowering the gun and looking down at it. I’ve known Connor since I’d first come here. He has been my sparing partner for these three years now. Connor was what they called “born” into the organization. His parents had been agents in the Ireland office, but after he was born they were killed. So when he turned twelve the director let him stay in the organization but moved him to the D.C. office.

Connor was also my new counselor of sort, thanks to the director. Connor has liked me from the beginning. He wasn’t that bad looking either. If I was willing to be in a relationship he would be on the very top of my list. He had everything a girl was looking for; looks, charm, an amazing Irish accent and he actually cared about you. The director told him to check in on me often. (Talk about a nosy director…)

“Dema, when are you going to tell me your real name?” He’d really been pushing this lately. I think it’s because he thinks it will make us closer…

“Connor I would tell you if I remembered it,” I sighed.

“You’ve said that before. How do you not know what your name is?”

“Connor…”

“Sorry,” he’d learned not to push things with me. He might be the only person that I can really call a friend here, but I am not sharing my whole story with him, no matter how much he asks me to.
            “I am sorry, I am just not…all here right now.”

“Yeah, I understand.” I hate doing this to him. I don’t mean to be hurting him by sealing myself off from the world. I actually intend to help him by doing this, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe I am just being selfish, but I could never let the pain I’ve felt happen again, not to me not to anyone because of me.

“Are you coming to dinner?” he asked me after a long pause.

“I am really not that hungry,” I say looking up at him.

“Dema, you have to eat something. You haven’t eaten in two days,” his voice seemed to shake at the end. I could see worry in his eyes, his upper lip fade from peachy pink to pale white. That only really happened when a person was in pain or sick. I didn’t understand Connor sometimes. He was so in control around everyone else, but when it came to me it was like he was trying hard to stay in control of himself. Like there was something nagging at the inside.

“Okay. Let’s go,” I said still looking at him. I’d gotten too good at reading people. It was easy to manipulate them now. I could see when a person was lying, when they were trying too hard, or when they were sincerely try to tell the truth. It seemed like sometimes people were all too predictable too. Connor had been around me so much I could practically read his mind now. If I hadn’t agreed to go eat dinner he probably would have gone into the whole speech how I’d been dropping weight ever since I’d gotten here. How I wasn’t that big anyway and how I probably weighted ninety pounds right now. The truth was I didn’t care about things like this. I’d gotten so caught up in my nothingness I would forget simply things like eating.

I sometimes find myself checking Connor out. I stop myself of course, but I can’t help but wonder would it really be that bad if I tried something new?

Yes, it would be bad!  My mind will scream at me. Don’t you remember what happened last time? Connor will be no different than that.

Yes, but last time was three years ago…Connor’s different. I know he cares about me….

All guys are the same.

Connor’s the exception. It’s not pretend

Really? What about when you were crying on the floor screaming? Was that pretend?

No…but the other end was. He had no real feelings for me. I know that now…

Do you really? Did he really just have no feelings for you or did you do something to make those feelings disappear completely?

No I did not! It wasn’t my fault! I had no idea what was going to happen! This is different! I’ve known Connor for three years not three days!

“Are you okay?” Connor suddenly brings me back to reality. I had stopped walking as we waited in line to give our order for dinner; I guess I just spaced out.

“Yeah, I am fine,” I whisper. Connor doesn’t say anything; he just reaches up and whips away the traitor tears that have escaped.

I really need to stop having self battles in public. People must think I am crazy. Maybe I am… 

I can feel Connor’s eyes boring into the back of my head. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. I’ve gotten use to it. I don’t like having a constant audience, but it’s apart of my life now. I really don’t mind Connor anymore, I suppose. I wonder if he gives me this much attention because the director asks him to or if he just…likes me enough to care. I really want to just get over this now. Just so I can feel normal again. But I suppose I’ve never really been normal.

I am finally left alone for the night. I don’t know what to do know. I’ve cleaned my gun five times in the last three hours. My room is spotless, and I’ve practically scrubbed the paint of the walls. I have nothing to do but try to sleep.

I lay on my bed, half hoping for sleep half hoping for the fire alarm to go off. Eventually I doze off. It’s light sleep, those hours of half awake half asleep that I live off of. I have dreams again, but they’re not the same old painful memories surfacing as nightmares. They’re new. They maybe memories, but they’re definitely not nightmares. I can hear laughter, I can see a swirling mist of color and I can smell grass. It’s so green and sweet and bright. Then I can see someone walking towards me. I can see the contrast of blue jeans to tan. I can see that it’s Connor. He’s walking toward me smiling, his short brown hair bobbing up and down as he swiftly crosses the grass. He doesn’t have a shirt on and I can see his definition in amazement. He stands in front of me, just smiling down at me. I can feel his rough but smooth hands gently rubbing my arms.

“Connor?” I whisper.

I gasp loudly as I fly up in bed. Oh my god! Did I just have a dream about Connor! Wait, why am I freaking out? That was a good dream wasn’t it? I start to relax again and look at my clock. Wow, six a.m. I actually slept through a whole night…I got up from my bed and crossed to my desk where a mirror hung. I studied myself for a few moments. The shadows under my eyes weren’t so noticeable now. I looked like I was on recovery from an illness; a little color in my cheeks, my eyes shining instead of cloudy. I am I really okay now? After three years? I thought back to that day. I remembered crying, I remembered the gaping hole in my chest, I remembered the pain, and then I remembered the numbness. Why not? At least Connor cares about me.

My breath caught inside me as Connor knocked on my door.

”Dema, are you awake?”

“Um…yeah, one second,” I scrambled. I quickly fixed my hair and put something on. I opened the door and looked up at Connor. 

“Hi,” I stammered.  

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, why do you ask?”

“You seem worried,” he said slowly.

“Oh no, I am just a little scrambled. I woke up late.”

“Oh, well do you need more time to get ready?” he asked looking at the old black t-shirt and tight pants I put on so quickly.

“Um…no I think I am good,” I said trying not to look at him too much.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” I could hear him trying to suppress a chuckle.

“What? Is there something on my face or clothes or something?” I asked starting to freak out.

“No, no. It’s just…you’re acting a little weird,” he admits. “Weirder than usual,” he adds when I look up with a smirk.

“Does it scary you?” I whisper darkly.

“Well not anymore. That’s more you,” he chuckles. “Come on, we’re going to be late for briefing.”

“What? Which mission?” I hadn’t heard anything about a mission coming up. We don’t know until we’re briefed, but usually you hear chatter about it.

“I don’t know. It just barely came in I think. No one knows what it could be,” Connor said looking back at me as he led the way to the director’s office.

“What do you think it is?” I asked as I caught up to him.

“I don’t know. Probably an ops mission or a sniper. What I don’t understand is why they’re sending both of us. Usually the organization only sends one agent at a time. It sounds as if they’re sending us both for this one,” he answered sounding a little worried.

“I am sure they just need us both for something special,” I smiled.

“Maybe,” he smiled down at me. Connor towered over most everyone. He was six four. I felt so short next to him. I found myself looking at his muscles wondering if the dream had done them justice.

“What?” he asked looking down at me still.

“What?” I asked slightly startled. Crap he noticed me looking.

“You were looking at me like you were spacing out,” he laughed to himself.

“Oh, sorry,” I smiled.

“What were you thinking about?”

“Oh, this dream I had.” Oh crap! Do not tell him about the dream! Do not tell him about the dream!

“What was it about?”

Shoot! Um…”I can’t remember. That’s why I was spacing. Trying to remember what happened,” I smiled. Please buy it. Please buy it!

“Oh, was it a good dream?”

“Yeah, it was.” I felt a little shiver run down my back. Breathe, breathe.

“Good. You look like you slept well,” he smiled as he opened the door of the director’s office for me.

“Thanks,” I gasp. Don’t get caught up in his eyes. Keep going, keep going. I had to keep reminding myself not to do something too stupid. I knew I’d get lost if I looked into his green hazel eyes for too long.

“Please take a seat,” the director said motioning us from behind his desk. He had his back turned to us and was looking at a file, the specifics I suppose. The director always did things like this, trying to show us that he was the one that was in control. It didn’t really work though, because we all knew he wasn’t the type for regulations. If he didn’t get checked on so much he’d never come into his office.

I never got jitters or excited or nervous about a mission, but knowing that it was different somehow made me just a little anxious. Don’t freak out, don’t freak out. If you show signs of anxiety they’ll pull you off the mission. Keep it together. If you spend time with Connor then you can figure out if you’re really ready for this. Just act normal. Nothing is certain yet.

“As you both have probably figured out by now,” they director started, “we have a special assignment.” He turned in his chair to face us setting the file open on his desk for us to see. “This is Patrick Collins,” he said showing us the photo of a middle aged man with dark red hair. “He’s an Irishman who is suspected in a drug ring.”

“Which ring?” Connor asked taking the picture from the desk. Connor gets really focused on missions like these. He doesn’t like drug lords or drug rings and it doesn’t help that it’s involving Ireland.

“It’s something new. We’re not sure exactly what it is. We’ve confiscated some of the drugs but it’s nothing we’ve seen before. It’s a hallucinogenic, but it’s very potent and causes paralysis when used. The dealers are calling it Recess.”

“Are they targeting anyone in particular?” I ask suddenly. “With something like that they could take out anyone.”

“No, there doesn’t seem to be a pattern,” the director states. “There may have been a plan once, but they seem to be just dealing it to anyone they can.”

“That’s odd. Did it start in Ireland or did it originate somewhere else?” I ask.

“No, it seems it came from the U.S. first. But there aren’t any sources here anymore. They’ve jumped to Ireland.”

“Where did it start?” Connor asks replacing the picture to the file.

“We don’t really know. It’s popped up in a lot of areas. But it’s all in Ireland now. That’s why we’re sending you two to Dublin. You’re going to stake out in an apartment building next to Collins home and watch for suspicious behavior or events.” The director turned his back on us again signaling that the meeting was over and we could leave.

“Why are we going in? I thought there was an Irish office,” I thought out loud.

“Dema after all the incidents with the Irish office it was closed. No one knows that we are sending agents into Ireland. The I.R.A. would be waiting for you. They feel we are oppressing them when we are trying to help them,” the director explains.

“Oh. Why are you sending both of us then? The organization always only sends one agent at a time for any mission,” I ask. This is the question Connor and I have been holding back this whole meeting. I want to know. If we’re going to be working so closely so suddenly I want to know why.

“We’re sending both of you because it’s a high risk operation. The I.R.A. won’t let you go in comfort. You have to be careful. So we thought sending our top two agents was best. Plus Connor knows Dublin very well, an element that you don’t have Dema,” the director smiled. He loved finding “elements” I didn’t have.

The I.R.A. was one of our biggest problems. The Irish Republic Army, they’d been fight for Ireland’s freedom from Great Britain for ages. They were ruthless and very dangerous. Flame throws, home made nail bombs that sent shrapnel everywhere, and lots of guns for snipers with deadly aim. Even with Connor being from Dublin and full blood Irish, it wasn’t exactly same. If the I.R.A. found out we were from the Specialist we’d be in extreme danger.

“When do we leave?” Connor asked bringing me back to reality.

“As soon as possible. Pack for a long stay. Collins is known to slip off somewhere for months at a time or for just a night. We never know how long he’ll be gone,” the director said as we walked out of his office.

“Are you nervous?” Connor asked me.

“A little, why do I look it?” I asked smiling.

“No, not really. But I am a little nervous,” he smiled.

“Really about what?”

“The I.R.A. We don’t want to mess with them. They are very dangerous. And they can be anyone. We won’t know if our landlord or if the neighbor is one of them,” he explains looking straight ahead. He was trying to keep his claim but let me know this was way dangerous. But we both knew that already. We’d seen freedom fighter work before. They didn’t have anything to lose and that made them even more dangerous.

“Yeah, that got me a little as well.” At least we know why we’re both going. One more person means more options for defense.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine, I’ll make sure of it,” he smiles as we come to my room.

“Are you sure you can handle such a responsibility?” I laugh.

“Ay, ye of little faith,” he grins.

“Okay,” I smile. “When will you be ready to go?”

“Ten, fifteen minutes tops.”

“Oh, well I’ll have to hurry to beat you,” I wink.

“Oh yeah?” he smirks. “I bet I beat you packing when I still have to run to my room.”

“Okay. Go!” I shout as I run into my room.

The director said pack for a long stay, but you really don’t have a lot to pack when you’re in this business. You pack clothes (which you usually don’t have much variation of anyway unless you sneak it), hygiene items (a big duh), and your weapons of choice. Personally I like to have a large variety of weapons. A few knifes, some large caliber guns, some lower caliber guns, a few hand guns just in case, and digital cameras, video cameras, thermal camera that shows heat through walls, and motion sensors (what’s a mission without surveillance?). The weapons we have shipped to us because getting them through customs and airport security is practical impossible. The surveillance equipment is simply. Pack it in a duffel bag and have a photographer’s I.D. or license.

It’s early March in now. Ireland will be cold. Not knowing how long we’ll be there I pack winter, spring and summer clothing. My surveillance equipment is always packed so that nothing happens to it. I am ready in seven minutes. I am going to win! I laugh to myself. I race out my door and rush to the parking elevator. Almost there, almost there.

“There you are,” Connor smirks as I screech to a halt.

“How’d you beat me? It’s only been like seven and a half minutes,” I ask in amazement. There’s no way. He has to be joking. Wait what were the terms of the beat? I don’t think we really made any…

He motions with his finger for me to lean in so he can tell me with a great big grin on his face. He whispers in my ear, “I am always packed.”

“Enough for months at a time?” I ask hoping he didn’t have everything.

“Yeah, clothes, weapons, and I knew you’d bring your own surveillance stuff,” he says with a cheesy grin.

“There’s no way,” I start to say.

“Okay, you caught me. The director told me last week I was going to be sent on a long mission. So I’ve technically been ready for,” he pauses to look at his watch. “Three days.”

“You cheated!” I accuse him.

“Not really. I didn’t set any terms for the bet. So I really didn’t cheat. I just beat you to the elevator,” he grins as he pushes the button for the elevator.

I can’t think of anything to say in response to that. He’s right he didn’t set any terms. I stick my tongue out at him and he just laughs at me.

“You know, I kinda like this new attitude of yours.” he says once we’re in the elevator. “It’s…interesting,” he laughs.

“Hmmm…Well in that case maybe I’ll keep it,” I smile.

“You know with the organization having ties to every government you’d think we’d have our own private jet,” Connor says as we wait in line at the airport to check in our bags.

            “What you don’t like flying coach every time there’s a mission?” I tease.

            “I don’t mind, but it gets a little tiring after a while,” Connor says looking back at the woman behind him ignoring her crying baby. “Why do women do that anyway?” he asks stepping closer to me so no one else would hear. “They just make it seem like they don’t care about their children.”

            “We talk about the organization like it’s nothing and you lean in to ask about women’s thinking?” I laugh. “I suppose it’s something to do with how doctors keep saying that if you don’t pick up your baby every time it cries it will stop crying and won’t be clingy,” I answer when he just kind of smirks at me.

“I can understand the psychology behind that, but then you’re in public and your baby’s crying you shouldn’t ignore it,” he comments. “And what’s the problem with being clingy?” he asks draping his arm around my shoulder.

I look up from his arm to him and he just smiles, waiting for me to shrug him off. But I don’t. “I don’t know. I don’t mind it much,” I smile wrapping my arm around him as well. I can feel him tight in surprise but relax. I look back up at him and see him looking very pleased with him self. “Connor?”

“All right,” he says dropping his arm.

“No, that’s not what I meant,” I say stopping his arm. “I was wondering what your “specialties” are?” I ask using air quotes so he’d understand what I meant.

“Oh,” he smiles. “Same as yours, but I speak seven languages and weapons and explosives.”

“Really? Which languages?” I had never heard him speak anything other than English.

“Including English, I speak Russian, Italian, French, German, Gaelic, and Spanish.”

“Wow. Why so many? Did the director make you learn all of those?”

“No, my ma insisted that I be well versed in all aspects of life,” he smiled.

“All aspects of life?” I ask a little unsure of what he was getting at.

“She made sure I could speak fluently in any language I was around, that I could fight fairly well in most martial arts and boxing, that I could stay focused under pressure, and that I take special care to ensure that I keep the best physical shape I can.”

“Smart woman,” I smile.

“Yeah, she really is amazing,” he smiles down at me. “Maybe we can go see her while we’re in Dublin.”

“What? I thought your mom was…” I didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t want to say dead and sound cruel or something.

“My real mother is, but after my parents were killed I lived with another family who were my parent’s best friends since they were in school. My unofficial god parents of sort,” he smiles.

“Unofficial god parents? So they knew your parents were specialist?”

“Ay, that’s why they were unofficial. It couldn’t be a known thing by everyone or they would have been in danger.”

“Oh, I am sorry I didn’t mean to sound…”

“It’s okay. I actually never knew my real parents. They were killed before I was old enough to remember them. Whenever I speak of my parents I am meaning my god parents,” he reassures me.

“Oh. Well that’s good to know. I may have thought you were going crazy,” I laugh.

“No, I am not crazy,” he laughs. “What about you?”

“No, I am not that kind of crazy either,” I smile.

“That’s good to know, but not exactly what I meant,” he says looking down at me. “I mean what about your parents? When was the last time you saw your parents?”

“Oh, uh…I don’t…my parents are dead,” I say quickly. What else could I tell him? I have no clue what he’d say to, “I don’t know my parents.”

“Oh, I am sorry,” he says frowning. Luckily Connor wasn’t one to push for things like this. He didn’t like when people did it to him. He didn’t say anything for a while. I hate it when there are awkward pauses. You know the person doesn’t know what to say and they’re just thinking about what you said, trying to find something else to say. Or in this case they’re trying not to make you feel bad, but they just can’t think quick enough to find a new conversation.

Connor’s arm is still wrapped around my shoulders and I can feel is heart beat. I can’t help but remember the last time I was this close to someone, counting the beats of his heart. I can feel the sting behind my eyes and my mind goes blank. Absently I start to count the beats to try to distract myself.

I start to lose track of the world and what’s happening around me. I become lost in the number of beats, 346, 427, 581…

“Hey, Dema,” Connor says shaking me a little with his arm. “Did you hear me?”

“What?”

“What’s wrong?” I can hear the slight worry but a bit of amusement in his voice. He must have said something and I wasn’t paying attention.

“Nothing. Just spacing,” I smile.

“You didn’t hear a word I said did you?” he laughed.

“No, I am sorry. What were you saying?”

“It’s okay. But before I tell you what I said, what were you spacing about this time? Was it your dream again?” he asks leaning in close to me again.

“You chose the oddest things to be secretive about,” I whisper to him.

“No I don’t. For all you know if I asked you out loud about your dream then people could think you had a sex dream or something,” he chuckles into my ear.

Yeah, a sex dream. Does dreaming of you shirtless count? “Yeah, that’s true,” I smile. “No it wasn’t my dream again. I was just spacing for no real reason this time.”

He just smirks at me like I do that a lot. “I said that you should tell me about your dream. It might help you remember.”

“No, I don’t think so,” I say quickly. “Why do you care so much about my dream anyway?”

“You seem to be in a really good mood, you slept well and it must be from this dream,” he explains. This must be what he was thinking about a minute ago. “So, come on what was it about?” He really seemed to enjoy this. Can he tell that this is uncomfortable for me?

“I am not going to tell you,” I say stepping ahead a bit so his arm falls off my shoulder.

“Alright,” he says catching up to me. “Then what shall we talk about on this long flight to Dublin. It is about eight hours.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Is it really eight hours? I didn’t think it was such a long flight. And we don’t board until like five this afternoon!”

“Yeah, it’s a long flight. Well since you can’t think of anything to talk about on the plane then I hope there’s a movie,” he said pretending to be disappointed.

“Oh I am sure you’ll think of something. If you don’t talk to me for eight hours I’d be amazed,” I tease rolling my eyes. “I’ve never seen you go eight minutes without talking.”

“Oh, you’d be amazed by some of my talents. Silence can be one of them,” he winked.

“I doubt that,” I smiled. “So where are we staying when we get to Dublin?”

“Well it depends on where Collins lives. The way the director explained it to me he lives in house in the South Dublin District. If we’re lucky his will be the house close to some apartment complexes. If not we maybe having difficulty.” I could see him trying to stay focused and think of an alternative plan if everything wasn’t going to work to our advantage.

“You mean we have no idea which house Collins lives in? If he’s even there?” This plan didn’t seem very well thought out. The director was sending us to Dublin when we didn’t even know if the mark was there?

“Sort of,” Connor shrugged looking down at me. “We have contacts in Dublin trying to find him.”

“What do we do if he’s not there? Just sit and wait?”

“I suppose so,” I could see he wasn’t looking forward to just sitting and waiting either. Connor was a man that liked action. He was always going or doing something. I knew that if we had to be trapped in a small room for long we’d both go crazy. “Don’t worry. It will all go smooth. Trust me.”

“Connor.” I never like it when guys tell me to trust them or not to worry. I don’t listen. You’d think they’d realize that when you just get more upset.

“It’s okay. I’ll take care of everything,” he smiled. “If we have to we can even stay at my parents,” he smiled. “And I know that they’ll love you.”

“Oh? How is that?” I asked coyly.

“I just know they will. What’s not to love about you?”

“Connor, it doesn’t matter if they like me or not. It’s not like you’re taking me there to meet them because we’re…” I stopped before I could finish my sentence, letting my voice die mid way through. “We’re on a mission,” I said looking down. Shit why did I just say that!? Isn’t being with Connor what I want?

He was looking down too when I looked back up. He stepped away from me. “Yeah you’re right. This is just a mission.” His voice was so flat, so dead.

“Connor, no. I…I didn’t mean it that way,” I said franticly.

Connor and I sat next to each other on the plane. True to his word he didn’t speak to me. We were only three hours into the flight and I thought I was going to die. This has to end! Resorting to the crayons the flight attendant gave out I scribbled a note down on my napkin.

(An outside note: This part is a note and suppose to have different fonts and purple and green colors. Sorry, for some reason they won’t show up right…)

I am sorry. I didn’t mean what I said. I meant that since we’re on a mission they don’t have to like me. But it would be nice if they did.

It didn’t sound that way.

I know. And I am really sorry.

It’s okay. I think they’ll like you. I hope you like them too…

If they’re anything like you I am sure I will…

I watched him as he read my last note. He looked up and smiled back at me. Oh good. I am forgiven.

“I love your choice of color,” he laughed.

“Well black or red just didn’t have that “please forgive me” look I was going for,” I smiled. “Your color seemed to fit you as well.”

“Thanks,” he laughed.

“What time is it?” I yawned.

“D.C. time its 8:37. Dublin time its 2:37,” he said looking at his watch. “Why tired?” he teased putting his arm around my shoulders again.

“No,” I smiled leaning my head on his shoulder.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I am really glad you’re like this now,” he whispered.

“Me too,” I smiled.

“Are you ever going to tell me what happened?” he whispered in my ear.

“Maybe some day when you’re all grown up,” I looked up and smiled at him.

“Hmmm…then I may never hear the story,” he laughed. “You know Dema just doesn’t suit you now,” he sighed. “Will you ever tell me your real name?”

What am I going to do? Tell him I don’t remember my real name or just make something else up. For all I know I really don’t know my real name…Maybe I should just tell him. As far as I know he’s always been honest with me. Why shouldn’t I be honest with him? “Connor, I…I don’t…”

“I know you don’t know what it is,” he frowns. “Dema doesn’t suit you anymore though. I’ll have to think of something now…” he muses.

“Okay,” I smile. “Let me know what you come up with.” I love how easy going he is. Why didn’t I just let him in before this? He’s never been impatient with me shutting him and everyone else out and now that I am opening up and letting him in he’s already there. He’s such a great guy. Why did he wait? He never stopped worrying about me…

“What do you think of Kylie?” Connor asks after a few moments.

“Kylie. I like it. It has a nice ring to it,” I smile up at him.

“That’s what I thought,” he beamed.

“Connor, why have you always been so nice to me?” I didn’t realize I was asking the question out loud until it was too late. 

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You’ve always been like this with me but I’d always push you away or I wouldn’t respond to you. Have you just been waiting for me to…change for three years?”

“Well I knew when I first saw you that you were different from the other girls in the organization. But as I got to know you I could tell something was wrong. So yes, I’ve been waiting three years to make sure you are human,” he smiled.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Why? Did you just want to see if I was an alien or…what?”

“Well though the idea of being the first person to capture a live alien living among people was appealing, I just liked that you were different from everyone else,” he said looking down at me. “And you? Why the sudden change of heart?”

I am not sure how to answer this. Should I tell him about how my dream made me snap back to life or just leave at I needed to change? “I am not really sure how or what or really what made me change,” I admitted after a moment’s hesitation. “I think my mind finally just let me know that I was ready for this and that I needed to change,” I smiled.

“So it was the dream,” he laughed.

“What?” I ask feeling slightly caught of guard. I didn’t accidentally tell him about my dream did I? I don’t think I did.

“For hours I’ve been trying to sort out what made you change so much over night,” he smiled. “I decided it had to be something that happened last night, when you slept so well. I went back through what happened last night,” he says walking me through his thinking. “I went to your room and asked you about your name, and when you didn’t give me an answer I said you had to eat something. You didn’t want to go at first and I was thinking I would have to drag you to dinner by your hair. Though I didn’t think I would get very far with that,” he frowned. “But you eventually came willingly. I decided that it couldn’t be any of that. Seeing how I do that practically every night. But it could have finally cracked the surface of your mind. So I assume that you dreamed about me,” he finished with a huge smile.

I couldn’t say anything. I just sat and looked at him with my mouth slightly open. His logic was perfect. And he was probably absolutely right.

“I am right? Sweet!” he says happily, satisfaction coating his voice. “So at least tell me, what was the dream about?”

“I am not telling you!” I almost scream. “That…you…no…You couldn’t have come up with that by just what’s happened today! Was that just a total guess pulled out of thin air?” I insisted.

“No, I’ve honestly been thinking about this all day,” he smiles. “So come on tell me what the dream was about,” he urged.

“I don’t think so,” I smiled.

“That good huh?” he winked.

“You know you’re making me regret ever having that stupid dream!” I hissed. “Maybe I shouldn’t be so willing to change,” I frowned.

“No, you’re much too cute this way,” Connor says leaning back in his seat like he didn’t really care about our conversation at all.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. I just looked over at him. He’d taken his arm back and was leaning back with his eyes closed. “That is a good thing you know,” he said opening one eye.

“Sure it is,” I said looking out the window. This is all going way too fast. What was I thinking? He’s not different from…before. He’s just like any other guy.

“Kylie,” he said softly. I can feel myself shutting down again. I don’t want this, but it seems like it’s the only way to survive. “Kylie don’t do this again,” Connor whispered. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I was a jerk.”

“Those all sound like excuses for me to forgive you,” I say coldly. “It’s not about forgiving you. It’s that I am not…I don’t need this, Connor. I am sorry.”

“Right,” Connor says sadly. “Well it’s 9:27. I am gonna try to sleep some. Try to sleep some,” he says sitting back.

It’s been three hours. Connor is breathing deeply and hasn’t stirred once. I don’t dare sleep. I don’t need my dreams to tell me things again. They may portray that I am ready for this but I know I am not.

I look over at Connor every once and a while. His eyes are moving around in his head. He’s dreaming. I wonder about what.

Oh god, what am I going to do? I am going to be alone with Connor for who knows how long. Why did I let things move so fast?

Who says you’re not ready for this? You thought back to what happened and there was nothing. You’re fine. No more pain. Not even any really bad dreams; nothing definitive, just your own worry. Connor’s been waiting for you to let him in for three years. He obviously cares about you.

I look back over at Connor, sleeping soundlessly. He has waited for me to do this for so long. I’ve only been thinking of what I am ready for or what I want. He’s only been thinking of me too…He’s right. This is a good thing.

I finally relax and start to fall asleep now. I look over at Connor again. He looks so peaceful. I can’t lean my head on his shoulder like before, so I wrap my fingers in between his. I feel his hand tighten over mine. This is a good thing. I think to myself as I drift off.

“We are making our final descent into Dublin. Please have your seats in the upright position and your seat belt buckled,” the all familiar warning of arrival wakes me up from a dreamless slumber. My head is spinning and I feel very groggy. I must have only slept two hours at most.

“Wake up,” I hear Connor whispering into my ear. It was more of a feeling than hearing him though; his breath tickling my brain.

I couldn’t help but giggle and squirm away trying to sleep more. I realized our hands were still intertwined. His hand was warm against my cold skin. It felt nice; somehow his rough skin feeling so soft and warm. I opened my eyes and looked down at our hands. His was a soft tan and had scars from work. Mine was soft white, with burns and scraps on my wrists.

I looked up at Connor then. He was watching me, smiling. “Look out the window,” he motioned.

I looked out and saw the greenest land of all. It was pure beauty. It was quietly raining and the dark gray sky seemed to fit the green so well. “Connor, it’s so beautiful,” I whispered.

“I am glad you think so. Welcome to Ireland,” he smiled.

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